Prayer for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Mothering Sunday)

Our mothering God, who daily feeds us out of your self with Jesus’ body and blood that we might find new birth in your Spirit: grant that we through our own gifts and labors might give life to your church, one people as you are One God. Amen.

For music: John Tavener’s “Mother of God, Here I Stand”:

 

Prayer for the Third Saturday in Lent

Our God of wayfarers, who led the children of Israel through the wilderness: grant that we, in the short sojourn before we cross over the Jordan to our heavenly home, might catch enough of your Spirit to forge the kind of love here that makes for joyous meetings there, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, the inimitable Neko Case singing “Wayfaring Stranger”:

Prayer for the Third Friday in Lent

O God of our uncertainties: as Jesus in the wilderness refused the comfort of turning stones into bread, grant that we might not too readily quench our thirst for your Spirit. Amen.

For music, Mary Rocap’s “A Half a Dozen Things.” She’s a singer-songwriter from Durham, NC, who used to sell our family the best eggs. She’s not LDS, but I’ve long thought of this song as capturing the spirit of the bloggernacle.

Prayer for the Third Thursday in Lent

O God, you who brood over the dark, roiling waters of our human failure to love: as Jesus came not to walk upon these waters, but to compass their depths, grant us the courage of your Spirit to face their fierce waves, that we might clasp hands in love with our sisters and brothers of the tempest, one people as you are One God. Amen.

For music, Leonard Cohen’s  “You Want It Darker”:

Prayer for the Third Wednesday in Lent

O God of judgment, before whose bar we must all appear: open our hearts with the grace of your Spirit to hear the stories of the people around us, that in them we might come to see Jesus incarnate and learn at last to love him by loving them. Amen.

For music, R.E.M.’s “New Test Leper”:

Prayer for the Third Tuesday in Lent

Our Creator God, you who breathed life into the clay from which we now make instruments of death: let the holy breath of your Spirit fall once more upon us, that in the brief space between our births and our deaths we might love one another in our beautiful fragility, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Iron and Wine’s “On Your Wings”:

Prayer for the Third Monday in Lent

O God of our mysterious life, who through your Spirit and the scandal of your Son’s cross reveals wild and unknown landscapes within our souls: grant us the courage to open our hearts to these unexpected beauties, that we might discover new ways of love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Björk’s “Jóga”:

 

Prayer for the Third Sunday in Lent

O God of our Sabbath rest: as we now find ourselves deep in the wilderness of our fast, restless with wandering, fill us with hunger for your Spirit, that our hearts may not rest until they rest in you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Greg Spero’s “No Rest for the Weary”:

 

Prayer for the Second Saturday in Lent

O God of our desert, where we have now long languished: in this valley of the shadow of death, may we yet commune with you in the Spirit, that, as our fast goes on and on and on, we might still be together with you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Wilco’s “On and On and On.”

Prayer for the Second Friday in Lent

Our hearts sing out to you, O God, in praise of the sunlight that warms our wandering; grant us the music of your Spirit so that we, dancing in the footsteps of your Son, might come into harmony with your glorious beams, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: the eponymous concluding piece from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:
 

Prayer for the Second Thursday in Lent

O God of the silent darkness, in which we sometimes feel ourselves lost, hearing instead of your voice only the echoes of our own prayers: remember the garden in which your Son prayed, and let the wings of the Spirit bear the sweet scent of his orisons to your nostrils, that we, the substance of the savor he sent up, might find access to you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: “Love’s Echo,” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:

 

Prayer for the Second Wednesday in Lent

O God of my prayers, to whom I call hour by hour, longing for the touch of your Spirit: grant that my heart might never cease to be faint with love for your Son, my beloved, who teaches me the dance of the One God. Amen.

For music, “Faint with Love,” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:

 

Prayer for the Second Tuesday in Lent

O God of our wilderness, in whose vastness we wander these forty days: as our fast fills us again and again with the baptism of your Spirit, let not those abundant waters quench our love for your Son, through whom our errant feet ever find you, our joy and our being. Amen.

For music, “Many Waters” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite.

 

Prayer for the Second Monday in Lent

Our God of delicious anticipation: as the first buds stoke our hunger for the spring, so may your Spirit teach us to thirst for your Son, in whose name we rejoice. Amen.

For music, “Rhapsody” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite.
 

Prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent

O God of abundant life, of feasts of fat things and wine upon the lees: unstop the richness of your Spirit as we approach the Lord’s Table this day, there to feast on the love you offer us through the great gift of your Son, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music this week, I’ll be using Patrick Hawes’s cycle “Song of Songs.” Here’s the first piece, “Love’s Promise”:

Prayer for the First Saturday in Lent

O God of pilgrims and all who wander: send us your spirit, which blows where it lists, that it may guide our feet into the unexpected paths where we never thought to seek the joy of your presence, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: “God is Love,” by The Innocence Mission.

Prayer for the First Friday of Lent

Our vulnerable God, you who weep because we do not love our own flesh: send the Holy Spirit blowing into our souls until we learn to see ourselves in Jesus’ flesh and blood; and from his gift let love of God and our neighbor spring eternal in our hearts until we become One People, as you are One God. Amen.

For music, here is the “Lacrimosa” from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, with Makvala Kasrashvili, soprano, and Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor:

Prayer for the First Thursday in Lent

Most merciful God, who sent your Son to meet our humanity through the abjection of the cross: grant your Holy Spirit to lift us up in our failures, as we try again (and again) to do as you would, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is Big Star’s “Try Again”:

Prayer for the First Wednesday in Lent

God of Gladness, whose very being is the circle dance of Father, Son, and Spirit: take us by the hand and lead our wayward feet as we learn the rhythms of your love, that we may move joyfully in the world as One people, through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

For the music, here’s Charles Mingus’s classic “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting”:

Prayer for the First Tuesday in Lent

Most longsuffering Father: as the wilderness of our fast carries us to the limits of our bodies and spirits, let the Holy Spirit lift us with the vision of our beloved Jesus’ body, wounded and stretched out for our sakes, that our memory of him may draw us into closer union with you, the One God, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is “Jesu Dulcis Amor Meus,” a chant text attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux:

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Prayer for the First Monday in Lent

Almighty God, bringer of water from stone: send your Holy Spirit like rushing waters onto the parched ground of our hearts, that we, once returned to blooming life, might flood the earth with grace and love too great to be contained, through the dear might of him who walked upon the waves, Christ our Lord. Amen.

Branching out a bit with the music, here is Gregory Porter’s “Liquid Spirit”:

Prayer for the First Sunday of Lent

O God, first Gardener of the world: in the winter of our fast, nourish us with the Holy Spirit, that come spring the bulbs buried in our hearts might bloom, Easter lilies to herald the glories of the resurrection, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is John Crum’s text “Now the Green Blade Riseth” set to the 15th-century French carol “Noël Nouvelet,” sung by the Arnold Singers from the Rugby School:

Prayer for the Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Our Father, whose glory shines forth in the myriad beauties of creation: grant that we might rejoice in our fast, not sitting in sackcloth and ashes, but breaking the yokes of injustice, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry; that we may learn, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to see the face of Jesus in every human being and join our hearts with theirs until we become One People, as you are One God. Amen.

For music, here is David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter of the New York Dolls) singing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”:

Prayer for the Friday after Ash Wednesday

O God, the Giver of all good things: as Jesus emptied himself and took the form of a slave so that we might eat the bread of life, so may we, filled with the Holy Spirit in the emptiness of our fast, provide a feast for the hungry and freedom for the oppressed, until the One God might be incarnated in us as One People, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is the Tabernacle Choir singing one of the greatest hymn texts ever: Charles Wesley’s “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”:

Prayers for the Beginning of Lent

I meant to start this yesterday, but I couldn’t get to it. I can’t manage full Lectionary posts this year, so instead I’ll write a series of prayers. I’ll aim for every day in Lent (including the Sundays). Music will be occasional. [Read more…]

Risky Religion, or, The Terrors of Love

Keep the commandments; in this there is safety and peace.
—Barbara A. McConochie, Hymn 303

The world’s a tumultuous place, no doubt about it: roiling with uncertainty. No wonder, then, that we seek safety. Mormonism has a strong discursive bent toward treating the gospel as the means to safety in a perilous world. Get on board the Old Ship Zion, we say, and you’ll weather the storm. The watchmen on the tower will warn of impending danger, and, if we heed their precautions, we can sleep soundly at night.

On the cosmic level, I believe that this is right, and in some more proximate ways as well: trying to steer clear of sin is probably a good idea. Even so, I think that the safety the gospel affords turns out to be more painfully paradoxical than we usually like to let on.

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Sunday Morning Poem: Henry Vaughan, “The Night”

I love this poem by the Welsh poet Henry Vaughan (1621-95), for its marvelous depiction of the mystical life. His phrase “dazzling darkness” owes to John of the Cross, the 16th-century Spanish mystic whose Dark Night of the Soul sets out an apophatic spirituality, and Vaughan, too, urges the night, both literal and metaphorical, as the place to find God (or, rather, to be found in God).

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Sunday Morning Poem: “Pied Beauty”

2016 was, well, a mixed bag, and 2017 promises to be no different. Perhaps this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins can serve as an inaugural prayer that we might discern God’s grace in whatever comes.

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Third Advent: Rejoicing and the Cross

2016 has been a hard year for many of us, bringing crises both personal and public, meaning that the tradition of rejoicing on the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) may not come easy. The awaited redemption that we celebrate today, when God “gives justice to the oppressed, / And food to those who hunger,” and finally “sets the prisoners free” and “lifts up those who are bowed down,” can seem very far away. Indeed, we seem to languish ever more irredeemably.

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Reflections on Empathy and Listening

Regular readers of BCC will have noticed that posts expressing women’s discomfort or anger produce intense comment threads. Almost invariably, a male commenter comes along and attempts to engage with the ideas that he sees operating in the post, only to find himself accused of not listening. Frequently, these male commenters respond by suggesting that women don’t want discussion, but simply want their feelings affirmed. Many threads have led to this impasse—to a “conversation about the conversation” instead of whatever the original post happened to be about.

As a man, I’ve struggled to know how to respond to these threads. Knowing the women of BCC has been the most morally transformative experience of my recent life, and I feel urgently the need to honor their perspectives, for which I am deeply grateful. And yet I’ve had a hard time knowing what to say beyond “thanks.” That’s important, to be sure, but as a form of engagement it’s rather inert. At other times, I’ve tried to engage by calling out mansplaining, by, you know, mansplaining to mansplainers about how mansplaining works, and these efforts have been neither helpful nor productive. I’ve even been modded!

I’ve come to believe that both of these responses—the bare thanks and the aggressive calling out—resulted from a lack of empathy on my part. I’d listened enough to know what mansplaining was, and I valued listening enough to believe that my BCC sisters’ voices were worth hearing, but I hadn’t yet learned how listening and empathy really work. No doubt I still have quite a bit to learn, but in this post I’d like to share some of what I’ve figured out this past while. [Read more…]