Prayers amidst turmoil

During what has turned into a very difficult day in the life of our nation, these prayers may be helpful to you. They are taken from pages 814-835 of the Book of Common Prayer. Some are slightly edited, and their numbers are retained here.

4. For Peace
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince
of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion
and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

6. For our Enemies
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love
our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth:
deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in
your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

18. For our Country
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our
heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove
ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will.
Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and
pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion;
from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend
our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes
brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue
with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust
the authority of government, that there may be justice and
peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we
may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness,
and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail;
all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

19. For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We
commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided
by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant
to the President of the United States, the Governors of the
States, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength
to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love
of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful
of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

20. For Congress or a State Legislature
O God, the fountain of wisdom, whose will is good and
gracious, and whose law is truth: We beseech thee so to guide
and bless our Senators and Representatives in Congress
assembled, that they may enact such laws as shall please thee,
to the glory of thy Name and the welfare of this people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

21. For Courts of Justice
Almighty God, who sittest in the throne judging right: We
humbly beseech thee to bless the courts of justice and the
magistrates in all this land; and give unto them the spirit of
wisdom and understanding, that they may discern the truth,
and impartially administer the law in the fear of thee alone;
through him who shall come to be our Judge, thy Son our
Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

22. For Sound Government
O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we
may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to
other nations of the earth.

To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors
of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative
authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their
duties.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our
laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and
foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to
fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.

To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding
and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and
justice served.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to
accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they
may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for
the well-being of our society; that we may serve you
faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name. Amen.

27. For Social Justice
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so
move every human heart and especially the hearts of the
people of the United States, that barriers which divide us may
crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our
divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

28. In Times of Conflict
O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us,
in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront
one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work
together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

33. For Cities
Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of
that holy City to which the nations of the world bring their
glory: Behold and visit, we pray, Washington D.C.
Renew the ties of mutual regard which form our civic life.
Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate
poverty, prejudice, and oppression, that peace may prevail
with righteousness, and justice with order, and that men and
women from different cultures and with differing talents may
find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

36. For the Oppressed
Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of
us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this land; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

39. For those who Influence Public Opinion
Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many
voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where
many listen and write what many read; that they may do their
part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and
its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

58. For Guidance
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and
light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all
our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou
wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save
us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see
light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The work God has given you to do

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – August 11, 2019 – Isaiah 1:1,10-20 – Trinity, Winchester

As Christians, we say that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but it’s not always clear exactly what that means.

There are many answers. For instance, scripture is a record of God’s interaction with God’s people over time. Through scripture we come to know God and who we are in relationship with God. Not only do we believe that its human authors were inspired by God to write what they wrote when they wrote it, we also believe that God inspires our hearing of it today. 

One of the specific reasons that I’m convinced scripture is inspired is because of its lasting relevance. Across time and culture, God’s word continues to inform our life together. For example, hear God’s words to us this morning from the mouth of the prophet Isaiah. (And, yes, I’m paraphrasing here…) 

“I’m tired of your sacrifices. I have had enough of your burnt offerings. I do not delight in the blood of your bulls. Your incense is an abomination. Your solemn assemblies make me sick. 

“I find your festivals burdensome. From now on when you pray I’m not even going to listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves! Start doing some good for a change.” 

In other words, God says, “I’ve had it *up to here!* Get yourselves under control!”

These words are hard to hear. For that reason we might be tempted to write them off as water under the bridge, a travelogue of an ancient people dealing with ancient problems. 

However, Isaiah’s prophecy is as relevant today as it ever was. Our hands are still full of blood. Not the blood of bulls but the blood of school children and innocent bystanders. 

We’ve tried to wash them, but rather than searching for the cleansing rivers of God’s grace, we opted for the tears of blameless immigrant children. 

Much like the ancient Israelites, our nation is at a breaking point. The question is, what are we as Christians going to do about it? As Isaiah says, the answer is much more than simply, “Go to Church.” We must also speak out—and act—in the name of God.

Mainline Protestants and Catholics in America often shy away from claiming the authority of God. We are nervous about the prophetic role of our faith. Our reticence to don a prophet’s mantel is not without reason.

Some people who call themselves Christians spend so much time damning people to hell that the rest of us have become conditioned to think that claiming God’s authority is a bad thing. In an attempt to seem relevant, the Church has forfeited its prophetic witness to fear-mongers and imposters. 

Perhaps the reason that many contemporary Christians are uneasy about claiming God’s authority is because they perceive themselves to be inadequate. They don’t want to presume to know the mind of God, only to find out they’ve confused their own desires with God’s will. 

This instinct is admirable—no one should mistake themself for God! However, you must remember that God created you, God called you good, and God entrusted you as a steward of his creation and his word. 

So, while you don’t have to call yourself a prophet, you at least ought to act like you’ve read them, and you must share their message with the world. 

Today that message is this: God is fed up with our sacrifices, our empty thoughts and prayers, our vapid rituals and festivals. Before you go preaching and teaching this message, understand that God does not criticize liturgical practices because they are bad in and of themselves. God criticizes them when they are unaccompanied by acts of justice and mercy. 

Valuing liturgics is fine, but valuing liturgics over people is not. 

Praying is a wonderful tactic for change, as long as you understand that true prayer is a way of life, one that informs the way you act in the world. 

By all means, please, come back next week to participate in the prayer book rites that so richly inform our faith, but remember: while keeping the liturgical calendar is important, it is not more important than how we treat the least of God’s people. Our participation in these liturgies rings hollow unless we also “rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.”

Today is not about bad-mouthing liturgy. It’s about realizing that, no matter how we worship, when we ignore the urgent needs of those around us, we sin, plain and simple. The good news is that God offers us forgiveness anyway. Although our sins are like scarlet now, they will become like snow. 

“If you are willing and obedient,” God says, “you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword.” 

We are tempted to hear this as though our own actions will determine whether or not we are forgiven by God. Such is not the case. We can never do anything to earn or to forfeit the marvelous grace of God. 

In these words God is not giving us an ultimatum, i.e. “Do this or else be damned for all time.” Rather, in these words God is assuring us that with a little help from the almighty, we do indeed have the power to make things better. 

Through Isaiah, God offers us a clear, honest, warning. If you do what I recommend, then your communities will flourish. Everyone will have the food, water, shelter, and love that they deserve as children of God.

If you do not live like I recommend, then your dire situation will persist. You will continue to live with the evil of inequality, fear, and guilt.

Today, and everyday, God invites you to repent and to commit ourself to what is good and just and merciful. You have the power to do what is right, not on your own accord, but because God works in and through you. 

I know that you already know this. You know it because you know Jesus. In Jesus, God showed us that our humanity matters. God makes divine use of even our frail flesh. What a blessed thing. 

I’m not exactly sure what I can urge you to do without risking tax-exempt status, so for now let’s just make it simple. What I’m saying is this: hear what God’s prophets are saying to God’s people, take advantage of God’s grace, and for God’s sake, do the work God has given you to do.