Writing God on Our Hearts

God, 


Today we got to talk about how 

We write God’s on our hearts

with the liturgy of the prayers we read

Mumuring, muttering, mumbling

Practicing, practicing, practicing

Faith….

Turning the story over and over in our brains

until it is written on our hearts.

We talked about the mystical change, 

the one that takes place when we start off 

talking about who we are

and how we are

angry

and sad

and joyful

and lamentful

and despondent

and we practice

our identity 

and our identity with one another

and our identity in you.

God, I’m practicing, 

With angsty prayers, and half finished stories, 

and moments of belatedness

Help me practice

so that I, too, my move towards you,

As you write your love upon my heart. 

Practice with me? Amen

Feel free to use/adapt/share with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Pandemic Resurrection

God. I’m doing the work of resurrection.

The stress has shifted from how do I mark time and God do I miss people to

I’m back at the races of triple scheduling and childcare & transportation needs exploding.

Is this what resurrection feels like?

Everything is returning back to normal; everything except for my priorities.

Everything is being re-examined, and I feel the ridiculousity of life as articles try to grab onto relationship evaluations with pallid and downright stupid questions.

It’s not about reciprocity or weight gain or worrying about having the right friendships and family.

It’s about who I missed, and what people can manage and how to be a better friend or family member.

What was it like for you Jesus when you came back. Did you need time to readjust?

Did you sit in the garden for a few minutes pulling weeds…

Thinking about what had radically changed in you life within the parameters of “getting back to normal.”

Is this why you waited to greet the women? Did you have to wait till your tongue could unstick from the roof of your mouth to speak.

Did you feel as socially awkward, unused to interaction and uncertain how to start, did you feel it as sharply as we do?

Were you far more burnt out out than you realized?

God as I sit in the abandoned Lord & Taylor

where in March 2020 my friends and I sat far apart in the lot trying to hear each other’ words, desperate to see other people—

as I sit here now

Now waiting…

waiting for my son’s vaccination, I know, I really know that this is actually what resurrection looks like.

Strange

And repurposed

And transformed into something you never imagined

And I know resurrection is worth it

Build us into the resurrection I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt/share with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

More Pandemic Resources here

Prescient God: Rainbows & Trinities

Today I think that the most prescient thing God ever did was to hang their rainbow in the sky.

God knew what God was doing when they hung up the bow after the storms

Knowing that we needed the reminder that every storm runs out of rain–as Maya Angelou put it.

Knowing that it would be claimed and expanded by all of God’s queer children, proclaiming that love is love is love is love and that God created a multiplicities of genders and sexualities–just like God created a rainbow with thousands upon thousands of hues and in-betweens.

We need rainbows, because God knew

Before sociological studies and microscopic and macroscopic science; before we did our Genesis job of naming all of the people, places and things of the world, you knew that very naming would make us create divisions.

Before we made elaborate charts to discover and explicate the mystery of the Trinity, God, you knew

You knew how much we need rainbows

You knew racism would be a stumbling block of sin,

that normalcy is a illusion of bigotry

that being neurotypical or not is a spectrum….which is another word for rainbow

and that gray can beautiful color, and sometimes we sit in the gray–

God I always imagine that the Trinity is gray, in between and a part of the rainbow world you created.

And God, you knew that you, the Almighty and Many Breasted God needed to symbolically and in all practicalities disarm Godself.

Promising never to send natural disasters as punishment.

Never.

And putting the most powerful weapon of the time, the equivalent of a gun, up. Forever.

Because if God can disarm Godself, then it is clear what we should do.

In the midst of horrific gun violence in the US, the state imbued violence in the United States and Colombia, and in the midst of border wars in Armenia-Azerbaijan, climate asylum and violence in Syria, and the oppression and apartheid conditions in Gaza.

God you know we need to figure out how to live in concert and beauty in rainbows–and how to first and foremost disarm ourselves as you did thousands of years ago.

Thousands of years ago.

God, thank you for your prescience.

And for all the rainbows

And for giving us the time.

And the promises within the rainbow, that it won’t always be like this.

Help us embody your rainbow.

Help us to honor your rainbow.

Fill us with rainbows I pray.

Amen.

rainbow | National Geographic Society
Image

Feel free to Share/Adapt/Use this prayer with Credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Pandemic Era Prayer

God, I am praying the prayer of an impatient people.

I truly feel that I am, and we are, the direct descendants of the Hebrews who grumbled and complained from the moment they were freed from Egypt. Impatient for the new beginning to start. I feel their pain.

I pray the prayer of chaotic leadership, lifting my prayer beside Moses and Aaron and Miriam and Tzipporah, who had to balance what the people want with what is best with the community, and the two often do not agree, and are almost always hard to discern.

God I’m praying the prayer of the weary, of Hagar alone and frustrated in the desert, of Abram and Sarai who had to move from place to place to place before finding a home and establishing a household. Is the end in sight? Can I recognize it when it is?

I’m feeling very anxious God. As the news of De-mask-us starts to filter out, and yet, and yet, I hold so many immune compromised people in prayer for cancer and surgery and long term illness. I’m praying the prayer of confusion as I try to sort out what is safe for my children and how to keep them masked, even as adults look forward to seeing one another face to face.

Lord, I’m praying the prayer of the privileged in a nation where vaccines a plentiful, and sometimes even wasted in the face of India’s medical catastrophe that on so great cannot help but spill over to her sister nations–a sharp reminder that it is already affecting us, and I hold onto my prayers for well resourced nations like Japan who, yet still, do not have access to the vaccines.

Lord, I pray the prayer of the brokenhearted, I shed tears with Jesus for Jerusalem and all of the violence that has been purposefully perpetuated against schools, hospitals and publishing houses in Palestine. I pray for the fight over land and water and occupancy that is being done in your name. I sorrow that oppression continues.

God I’m praying the prayer of ignorance, as one who has only been able to superficially take in what is happening in Colombia. Weary and heavy burdened I understand that police violence reigns terror in many places, including my own, and I do not even know what to do next to help to dismantles the powers and principalities as they exist now.

God I pray the prayer of a parent who has had a mere hours of true relaxation over the past year. Is that how it’s been for you God, have you been superbusy watching over us and drying our tears and helping us to clean up the messes?

God I’m praying a multitude of prayers today, as I face the window, a portal into a new era, uncertain as to what will come next, and still weary from what has happened. I am so ready to close the door of the pandemic, and yet am aware that this is not how things work.

So instead, I life this prayer of snips and bits to you.


Be with me in ::gestures broadly at everything:: I pray. Amen.

Feel free to use/share/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

More Pandemic Prayers and Resources

Mundane Prayer to Survive the Day to Day

Pentecost Prayers

Call to Worship
Spirit of the living God, visit us on this day of Pentecost.
Come, Holy Spirit.
With rushing wind that sweeps away all barriers,
Come, Holy Spirit.
With love that overlaps the boundaries of race and nation,
Come, Holy Spirit.
With power from above to make our weakness strong,
Come, Holy Spirit.

Call to Worship
What are your dreams people of God?
To be filled with laughter, To cry with joy, not sorrow.
What are your hopes, people of God?
To be free of the chains that bind us
Rejoice, God makes our hopes and dreams come true.
Let us rejoice in God!

Based on: https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2011/11/contemporary-call-to-worship-psalm-126.html

Prayer of Confession: Almighty God, you poured your Spirit upon gathered disciples creating tongues, open ears, and a new community of faith.  We confess that we hold back the force of your Spirit among us.  We do not listen to your word of grace, speak the good news of your love, or live as a people made one in Christ. Have mercy on us, O God.  Transform our timid lives by the power of your Spirit, and fill us with a flaming desire to be your faithful people, doing your will for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. (Silent Confession) Amen

From the Book of Common Worship (1993), of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Prayer of Confession: God we confess we have been too tired to prophesy or have visions or dream dreams. Instead we are in survival mode. Please breathe on us some of you energy and inspiration as we go into the world. Help us to see the future through your Holy Spirit we pray

Assurance of Pardon: Friends the Good News of the Gospel: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication: God, we pray that we might rededicate our lives to you. Send your Holy Spirit among us to inspire and sustain us. Holy Spirit Come, we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication: God send your Holy Spirit upon us to love us and sustain us. Refresh us in the Holy Spirit we pray in Your Son’s most Holy Name Jesus Christ. Amen.

One in Christ

Galatians 3:1-9, 23-29

Luke 1:68-79

Consider: Isaiah 2:1-4

Call to Worship 

Come Let us go to the house of the Lord

Come, Let us learn the ways of God, and walk the paths of Jesus

In the days to come, God’s house will sit on a mountain and all nations shall stream to it. And God will arbitrate peace for us.

Come let us worship the Prince of Peace

Call to Worship

We are one in the Spirit

Not because we are all the same, but because God creates enough multitudes to include all identities

God calls every single person to God’s sanctuary 

Come, let us practice peace with the Lord

Prayer of Confession: God, I confess that I do not always know what it means to be a Christian. Sometimes I wonder if I have enough faith, or have done enough to be Christian. You remind us that we are all unique and beloved in your eyes. That you see who we truly are, warts and all, and welcome us home. You know our essence, and call us each beloved child of God. Remind us as many times as we need to know we pray. Amen. (unison)(Silent Confession) Amen

Prayer of Confession: God, somedays I am tired of trying to figure myself out. Am I male or female? Am I Christian or not? Am I cis or straight of queer or trans? How can I know who I really am? And I confess that if I’m white, I’m able to forget it and if I’m not I have to remember it every single day. Sometimes, it does not feel safe to fully occupy my identity. And then I remember how Paul, in his clumsy way, tells us that in Christ there isn’t male or female, Greek or Jew, because God is not binary, God contains multitudes of belovedness. Help me to rest in God’s rainbow of love I pray.

Assurance of Pardon: God’s love is from everlasting to everlasting. Hear the good news: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Amen. 

Assurance of Pardon: God promises to be our God, and that we will be God’s people, and this is God’s Covenant of Love. We know the truth and can proclaim it to one another: in Jesus Christ we are Forgiven. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication: God, may we feel the deep peace. The peace that comes in the stillness of silence, and the peace that comes from the chatter among friends. Let us hear the peace of the rain and the peace found in sunshine. Grant us the gift to experience this peace we pray. Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

A Different kind of Rest

God, I wonder what it was like,

when David was king and pondered an enforced rest.

David, who had trauma in his family and then perpetuated trauma on his friend, and raped a woman.

David, who dealt with the physical pain of a sexually transmitted disease that roiled him for years.

God, how stretched was David, when he prayed for a rest that would not let him go.

When David harkened back to simpler times, and longed, not even to be a shepherd again, but to instead be the sheep.

David, reimagines rest as something to be protected, with a staff and a rod.

David sees true rest as being able to let go of his enemies, and eat and drink without having to worry about being attacked.

David, who was so privileged and powerful needed rest.

How much more do we need rest after the pandemic.

How much more do our Black and Brown siblings need the space to rest, and the time to reinvent what rest and rejuvenation looks like?

How much more do our queer siblings, need sabbath?

How much more do our beloved trans* individuals need sanctuary?

Hustling is not going to cut it anymore. You can’t out hustle a pandemic or trauma or racism or bigotry.

God, drive those who need to, down to the cool waters.

Chase them down with goodness and mercy.

And remind us, that Sabbath, like blessings, is not pie. There is enough to go around. We need to create space for rest with one another.

Help us to create a culture of Sabbath, I pray.

Amen.

Again I have to give theological credit to @TheNapMinistry and Nap Bishop Tricia Hersey for their continually revolutionary take on rest. https://linktr.ee/thenapministry

Please share/adapt/use with Theological Credit to “The Nap Ministry” writing credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

A Week of Hard Questions: A Prayer

God, this week I asked hard questions

About love and tradition and cultural differences. I asked (rather timidly even) if race played a part to our reactions.

And soon I found myself hip deep in a quagmire of pain.

People were triggered. They felt they needed to defend their pain.

And it was hard God, and part of me wanted to take it all back. Because I don’t want to create heartache.

But then I remembered two weeks ago when someone asked me hard questions about love and inclusion and the brokenness of the system that I perpetuated.

And although that was embarrassing and hard. I lived through it.

And in reflecting this experience I remembered that part of why I asked the hard questions this week was because as of last week I was tired of us: me, the church, consumer culture, ignoring hard issues and perpetuating whatever was comfortable for us.

Did you ever notice Jesus really likes to answer a question with a harder question?

You deconstructed me Lord. And I confess I need you to bless this mess today, because I’m going to be in the deconstructed zone for a while.

Because once God starts to deconstruct you, it becomes easier for you to see other places where the threads of normal need to be pulled apart.

And you can choose to continue the work God started, but it’s up to you.

So I guess I’ve reached a new level of maturity, where I stay in the muck longer than is comfortable, and I feel the anguish of racism on top of the anguish of those in pain.

And as my heart aches, I am thankful for all the times I was able to say:

“I don’t know. “

And “I hear you.”

As I sat with the pain and let go of the reasons and the arguments.

Do you sometimes say I don’t know God?

I don’t know

But thank you for helping me to brave the muck; and help me to muddle through, or sit, or cry. Help me to do this hard questioning thing I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/share/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Living By Faith

Galatians 1:13-17, 2:11-21

Luke 18:9-14

Matthew 14:22-33

Psalm 143

Psalm 139

Note: This year in the USA it is Mother’s day which can be controversial in church. These verses hint at, but do not necessitate Mother’s Day, there is a link to a specific Mother’s Day prayers at the end.

Call to Worship 

God, you have formed me, and know me. You have set me apart with your love.

You have given me the gift of faith, loving me, before I even knew what love was. 

You know us, and call us each my name.

Come let us praise our God, who knows us and loves us. 

Call to Worship

God, you call us into faith

You call us, not alone, but together, so that we might better understand your love

God you call us to baptize all nations, in your name

For we are adopted into your grace not by our works, but by the gift of faith

God is calling do your hear?

Let us rejoice in the gift of faith.

Prayer of Confession: (unison) God, please search me and know me. You know the entirety of me, there is no part of me that is hidden from you. I confess that sometimes I startle myself, sometimes my thoughts betray me, sometimes I lose faith. Yet even then, you are there. Your left hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me fast. Keep me in the palm of your hand I pray (Silent Confession) Amen

Prayer of Confession: God, we confess that sometimes we do not feel like the beloved children of God. Too often, we think we have to compete, Too often we squabble, and compare our good works. Too often we proclaim tests of faith, as if faith a gift that is given, rather than a metric to be proven. Forgive us. Open our eyes to your grace and mercy we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: When we fall down, God kneels beside us, helps us back up, and comforts us with her loving arms. And then she whispers into our ears the everlasting truth: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Amen.

Prayer of the Day/Dedication: God let us go into the world sharing this gift of faith we have. Proclaiming your love and sanctuary with every step, every breath and every word, not because it is required, but because it is a celebration of your gift of faith. In your son Jesus Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Hymns; Amazing Grace, God of the Sparrow, Jesus Loves Me, Just As I Am, On Eagle’s Wings. We Walk by Faith and not by Sight

Mother’s Day Links

Mother’s Day Litany

Pandemic Mother’s Day

Complicated Mother’s Day Prayer

Mother’s Day Confession

Baptisms and Miracles

To modern day readers, this encounter with the Eunuch may be one of the wackiest texts we encounter. All the reasons that stick out to us as being weird or miraculous were fairly typical of ministry of the day. 

Philip is awoken by an angel and told to hit the road and travel on a specific road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Then the Spirit tells Philip to join the chariot, so Philip runs to catch up to a chariot! Then upon baptism the Spirit whisks Philip away, poof, and the Eunuch goes on rejoicing. In the era that this was written, none of these encounters with angels ro the Holy Spirit would be remarked upon as strange.

The parts that are not as strange to us, are the real miracles of the time:

Philip being converted by his mission experience

A Eunuch who can read ancient Hebrew text and is studying it

A river appears in, what is likely to be, the desert road between two cities. It is unusual for water to be in a place that is not a city, and yet it appears at the exact time that the Eunuch seeks baptism. We do not think hard about water in the desert, but we can be sure the ancient Hebrews and Greeks and Ethiopians did as they traveled. 

In modern times, we have learned a lot. We know that those who go on missions go to convert themselves not others, and think hard about the nature of toxic charity and heroism. We think that reading the texts is normal, or should be and encourage as many people as we can to study them. And we absolutely hope that all people are accepted into the faith. 

So what we consider miracles were considered normal and vice versa. Except for the fact that the Eunuch is queer individual, and we still aren’t sure what the answer to their question “what should prevent me from being baptized?”

Whether swept up in the suddenness of the moment or not having a good answer, Philip does not answer the question, and that itself becomes the answer. 

There is no objection to the baptism, so the moment passes. 

The Ethiopian is so excited to be baptized, that Philip cannot in any circumstances say no. 

No doubt the flashing neon signs fo the angel and Spirit served to help too. Yes that EXACT chariot, that’s the place we mean. No need to wonder if this is the right person, and the fact that they are reading Ancient Hebrew on a scroll is incredible. Here is this person, probably not even allowed in the temple, who takes their faith seriously enough to journey to Jerusalem and is educated enough to read, and not only to read, but to read a different language then that which is spoken in Ethiopia. 

How? Is this Eunuch a descendent of the Hebrews who journeyed and stayed in Egypt? The borders of such countries are unclear, but this individual is clearly a different gender, country and culture than Philip. They even garner such great power as to be the treasurer for the queen. They are riding rich, in a chariot. Did Philip feel overwhelmed by all of these differentials? Did he wonder if he was the right person for the job? Did he rejoice that God gave him such a challenge? 

It is important, as anti-trans legislation rips through the US and the UK, as anti-queer policy rips apart the Methodist and Reformed traditions, as the Pope proclaims that gays cannot get married in the Catholic church, it is important to look at this precedent. 

“What is to prevent me from becoming baptized”

In John, Jesus says: I am the vine and you are branches, abide in my and I in you, so that we might bear fruit. We are once again, reminded that our fates, our health, our prosperity, our faith is intertwined with one another. We must acknowledge one another, work with one another and grow with one another, so that we might all bear fruit. When we put barriers up, when we say we cannot welcome one another, we die on the vine. This is so very true in churches, where people want only people like them to attend. 

This is also true in our economies, where Citi Bank says we have lost $16 Trillion in GDP in the US alone due to our racism https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/09/23/916022472/cost-of-racism-u-s-economy-lost-16-trillion-because-of-discrimination-bank-says

Philip knows what it is to be an outcast and is by no means the least of the disciples, no doubt some part of him sympathized with the Eunuch. After all Philip was almost stoned to death. Philip knows what he is doing. 

So imagine after this incredible journey, after he is swept back to the disciples, after he has baptized this individual, the story he tells–the precedent he sets, is the a eunuch: A queer gender non conforming individual is part of who should be baptized! 

“Go and baptize all people” in Matthew 28:17-20 could be glossed as “I really mean it.” 

I am the vine and your are the branches could be glossed as: we are not meant to discriminate

And Psalm 22 definitely emphasizes that God is for all people and that God promises to be for all generations, even those “Dang Kids” future generations who no doubt will do things differently in the future. 

Hopefully this passage can inspire us to pursue baptism more inclusively and more joyfully. 

And if not, hopefully God sends an angel, the Holy Spirit and a river to help us along the way.