The Moment for a Psalm

The rain falls on the just and unjust | Hercules and the umpire.

 

I used to know how things worked, but I don’t anymore.

I guess, this is the moment you write a psalm.

A prayer that cries out to God, for all the injustices in the world.

The missed vacations, friends and fun.

The skipped memories, rituals and milestones.

My God, why does life work this way? Why can I look at a cheaper mortgage when others can’t pay the rent?

How is it I’m in the position of privilege, when we almost didn’t make it out of the last recession?

Lord I used to know how things went, we worked, the kids went to school, we tried to find time for socialization.

Now I discover the hidden histories that were in plain sight all along. I finally understand the racism that I’ve been trying to see for the last ten years.

Suddenly I’m understanding the economics of pastoral care and relationship.

Lord I am surrounded by fear and illness. My enemies spread discord and lies, and care nothing for the vulnerable.

I guess I’m writing this psalm, because psalms don’t resolve anything.

They just affirm that our God is the one who cares for every single person, our God does not even let a sparrow or a sparrow’s feather to drop without God’s knowledge.

They reflect that God is….somewhere…. shining through the cracks–showing us opportunities to be helpers, reminding us that when we are lucky: we need to care.

So here is my Psalm God, my crying out of obscenities at the injustices of the world, and my shaking of the fist at all those with hardened hearts.

Let every person have enough to eat, give every person a mask and the opportunity to stay safe, help us to stop being stupid.

Remind us to be as consistent as we can (something humans suck at) as we try to fight this pandemic. As it rips of the bandaids that we have put over racism, inequality, poverty, education and childcare and housing, help us to see the world as it is.

God, we are wounded and bleeding. Hear our cry.

We are begging for you God, to do your work. Please love all of your children, because some days that best I can do is get out of bed, shower, call someone and not sink back into depression.

Love doesn’t make the list as often as I wish, and thankfulness is not as dominant as I’d like. Heal me, save me I pray. Heal us, save us we pray.

I used to know how things worked, but I don’t anymore. So here is my Psalm.

Lord we used to know how things worked, but we don’t anymore, so here is our Psalm

Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

Amen

Feel free to use as needed credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Pandemic Prayers & Resources

Decision Fatigue

Lord God Almighty, Can’t you just make the decision for me?

COVID Risk Chart

Image xkcd comic

In a time when every single decision seems to carry weight. Do we go to the grocery store, or do take out? Am I appropriately spaced from the person nearby? Do I go to bed or spend 5 more minutes on this moment of free time?

Reopening sucks. Are we even reopening? How much can we reopen? Should we even try when we know that it’s still not safe?

Lord, decision making is not safe right now.

Do I send my kids to some kind of camp or school? Do I accede to digital learning, should i just homeschool (please God let the answer not be that I should be homeschooling, because i just can’t)

Lord, usually we make decisions in a split second, in a culture where immediacy is the primary value–I valued the swiftness over the efficacy.

God, Lord, Jesus, Holy Ghost. How do you–with three people make any decisions.

Do you have any hints for me?

Can you just make the decision for me? No?……

Well then, help me to weigh, to quiet my voice enough to give some room for yours–

Help me to make the best decision I can in the moment, remind me that nothing has to be written in stone.

Help me to make the right risky decisions: About who to help, who to be in relationship with, how to donate & protest in all the needful ways.

Give me the strength I need face the things I have to continue to say no to…give me the support I need to carry on in the midst of it all.

and

Grant me your grace, as I make the hard decisions I pray.

And please help every single human who is making all of the decisions. Kyrie Elesion.

Send your Holy Spirit, nudge us (or shove us) in the right direction, build consensus, Soften the hard-hearted so they can hear the facts they need to make the right decisions.

In Jesus Holy Name, please hear our prayer

Amen

Stuck on Repeat

God, I do not want to play this game again. I have discovered this is the exact reason I do not, personally, find video games enjoyable. To play the same thing repeatedly until it’s beaten is disheartening.

But then I remember what I tell my children. We are not video game characters, remote controlled by God. We have free will.

And you are a God of grace, letting us try multiple times to get it right. Putting us back at the beginning of our journey–to fix the pandemic, to become antiracist, to help those in need–over and over again.

When we get stuck like a broken record (remember those?) you remind us, miraculously, that we can move the needle.

image

The end to this pandemic is compassion.

In a time when love looks like giving masks to one another. In a time when money can be collected for rent. In a time when thousands suddenly have the time and emotional energy to march for Black Lives Matter. In a time when we can look at our budgets and see where our health and school funds lay in the priorities, you remind us; we are empowered to change things–together.

Lord, walk with me, walk with us. When we stumble and trip help us to have compassion for one another. Let masks flow like floods. When teachers and parents come together to make tough decisions; let our love overpower any stinginess.

When we are stuck in groundhog day, teach us that living our your compassion is more important than ever.

Help us to defeat the challenges, and to remember that we are playing on the team. And when we feel overwhelmed, help us to rest, to cry and then to get back up and do it all again.

Hold these prayers in the palm of your hand we pray.

Amen.

 

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

Pandemic Prayers & Resources

Safety Guidelines

Basic Safety Requirements: This is not an exhaustive list and is subject to change in accordance to CDC and Governor Cuomo’s instructions

You will keep a log of every single individual who is attending and keep track of it should contact tracing need to be conducted

Practice Social Distancing of 6 feet or more

Wear a face covering the nose & mouth when within the building: except children younger than 2

Practice frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing 

If seated, keep tables 6ft apart and cluster households

Bathrooms: Wear your mask in the bathroom & only have one person (or one household) within a bathroom at a time. Bathrooms will now be genderless.

Practice Ventilation: Keep Doors and Windows open as much as possible

Do not pass any items: Pre-lay items or have them dropped in a stationary object 

If food is offered consider prepackaged, avoid buffets or family-style meals

If someone from your gathering tests Positive for COVID19 within 2 weeks, let the church office know

You hold liability of fines, etc. for any and/all people not following guidelines

Any individuals who are ill or sick should not attend, consider taking temperatures upon entry

Consider carefully about using Air Conditioner as it is tied to increased risk

Recommendation against singing of any kind, unless you are having a drive in gathering

You are required hand sanitizer in your space & have cleaning supplies on hand to clean chairs & tables after use

You are recommended to have a safety plan

You are recommended to check in with your insurance about any considerations for reopening

You are responsible to follow regulations and guidelines laid out by the CDC at cdc.gov

 

Drive In Safety Guidelines

No bathrooms are available during the drive-in

Cars will park every other space

Leadership will keep 6+ feet apart, and will wear masks & Gloves if approaching any car.

You will keep a log of every single individual who is attending and keep track of it should contact tracing need to be conducted

Hand Sanitizer will be available for leadership

Events will close by 8pm

Noise will not be too loud for the neighborhood

You are responsible for any violations/tickets/citations by any member of your group

Those in cars will wear masks when approached by leadership

If sitting in lawn chairs, people will wear masks at all time

You are responsible to follow regulations and guidelines laid out by the CDC at cdc.gov

If someone from your gathering tests Positive for COVID19 within 2 weeks, let the church office know

Hold Harmless: Lessee covenants at all times save the lessor harmless from all loss, cost or damages which may occur or be claimed with respect to any person or persons, corporations, property or chattels in or about the premises or to the property itself, resulting from any act done or mission by or through the lessee or resulting from the lessee’s use, non-use, or possession of or conduct of it’s business in or about the premises, together with any and all loss, cost, liability or expense resulting therefrom.”

Restlessness

Lord God,

I am restless.

Trapped & yet without a chance to rest.

My brain thinks through a millions scenarios a minute.

I have a thousand unsaid conversations on my tongue.

Lord you know.

You know, how the Holy Spirit moves through us.

Moving through us to do something, and moving through us to rest.

Lord, when I read Psalm 23 to myself, I forget that there is a journey to the still waters.

Here I am, walking through the Valley of the Shadow of death. Feeling evil’s breath on my shoulder.

I feel it in the threat of violence when you ask someone to keep social distance or wear a mask. I feel it when in the hordes of conspiracies that come out to play with our minds.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

I shall fear no evil.

In the midst of my restless–they staff and thy rod shall comfort me: for they are the weapons of truth & trust.

I will work with the truth, I will trust on my neighbors. I will work on my own truth, and I will develop my own trust with transparency and compassion.

Lord I am restless.

Driven onward, because the time for rest has not yet arrived.

Stir me in the right way, so that I might find rest, I pray.

Amen.

 

1 Corinthians 13: Apocalyptic Thinking

1 Cor. 13:1-3

(Mark 12:28-31)

Resources, Commentaries and Prayers by Rev. Dr. Barbara Hedges-Goettl

Rewritten 1st Corinthians 13 in light of today & pandemic

If I speak with all of the authority & power in the world, but have not love,

My voice becomes blurred and untrustworthy.

If I can move mountains, changing laws, changing history, changing minds, and have not love–my work becomes meaningless

If I proclaim victory: that we are “great” the “best” the “most” and talk about all I have done for my family and my country, but have not love. I in actuality, have gained absolutely nothing.

Love: does it’s best to wait til after the danger of disease has passed to hug a loved one.

Love does not compare leaders, all of whom are doing the best they can to keep people safe.

It does not gut medicare and ignore the vulnerable and the elderly in the nursing homes as it boasts that it is doing everything possible to save lives

It is not racist or bigoted, It is not ignorant or panic-inducing.

Love is not irritable or resentful–it wears a mask out of love, and pays the essential workers more, and understands how reliant we are on one another for survival.

Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, it does not ignore the racial discrepencies in illness, treatment or quarantine enforcement.

Love rejoices in the truth, even when it is hard.

For it is through love we bear all things even in sickness and death, it believes all things even in joblessness and loneliness, hopes all things: even as singing is silenced the hope for the opportunity to sing again persists.

Love can endure all things.

Even when we can’t believe it especially, when we can’t believe it.

Love endures all things

Love never ends: As for prophecies: promises of the future beauty & success: it comes to the end.

Tongues: chattering gossip and lies–they too will cease.

Even knowledge: will come to an end as humans are limited and to think we know more than a grain of how the world works is hubris.

For we only know bits: facts & science serve as only the beginning, and we can foresee some other bits: arts and gospel serve to extend our knowledge beyond our own sphere and experience.

But, when the complete comes, the partial will end. God will give all knowledge to everybody. And it is up to us if we experience that knowledge as judgement or grace.

For I am but a child of God, speaking and reasoning like a child: babbling the bits of love I understand to God and other humans.

When I fully mature: when I join God, I will put away childish ways: jealousies, regrets, conspiracies, imposter syndromes, competitions and internalized bigotries and self-hate will fade into the foolishness they are.

Now, I can barely glimpse God and love: sometimes I feel it when I briefly glimpse myself in the mirror and can actually affirm, for a moment, that I am God’s beloved.

Someday I will see love, God, each other: face to face.

Now I acknowledge that even in the best of time, I can only know things in part.

Someday I will know fully, just as I am already full known by God.

Someday I will fully know myself, and I will be fully  known by others, and acknowledged as belonging–not a piece or part of me, but all of me, as a created beloved piece of God’s love.

And as Faith, Hope and Love abide today.

Someday there will be no need for faith and hope.

So fully will we be bathed and punctuated by Love.

Feel free to use for sermon/worship/prayer with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta image

 

 

Virtual Communion Resources

Pandemic Resources

Eastertide Narrative Lectionary Resources

Socially Distanced God: the struggle

Hands of God and Adam (With images) | Sistine chapel, Sistine ...

God,

I’m struggling with the socially distant God.

A God that is six feet, or more, away.

A God I can’t touch.

Jesus,

I am struggling with a masked God.

One who is hard to recognize from the crowd.

It is so hard not to see you smile.

Holy Spirit

I am so tired of the enclosed God.

Trapped with me and my house and my family and my work

Sometimes the breath of the pneuma gets stuck in my throat

Source, Word & Spirit

When we are the hands and feet of Jesus, I feel isolated from your love.

So I find myself seeking you; in the the sunsets and flowers,

In the crinkles of laughter around people’s eyes and the nods of hello

In the stillness of the moments, in the sweat of the medical teams, in the stories, all the evolving stories, of good in the world

Creator, Liberator, Comforter

Remind me of all the ways you are present.

Give me the gifts of creativity, liberty and comfort in ways I’d never ask for nor expect.

And when I feel alone, tell me that even Jesus felt alone.

Creator, Lover, Sustainer

When I am overwhelmed, please speak to me that my feelings are real and legitimate.

Help me to make space for the feelings–the loneliness, the fleeting happiness, the sadness, the anger, and the thirst for change.

Then teach me new ways to be your hands and feet I pray.

Amen.

image

 

More Pandemic Resources & Prayers

Love One Another: Gospel Work

How can I tell you about the value of caring for one another?

You aren’t creating anything that can be sold, when you go to take care of a human being. There’s no plastic product or multiplying dividend. After all (mostly) we can’t buy and sell people–becuase when we do, the abuse is horrendous. To take care of someone, is in fact the counter of making money off of them.

I read that the more you chose to take care of the people who work for you, the less money you are going to make, because it takes time and money to take care of people and the rewards are not quantifiable in market terms.

It’s also hard work to take care of people. The babies, the elderly, the sick, the disabled need help because they are the least capable among us. We are taking care of them because they are worthy, and it does not matter if they can produce anything.

Our value is not defined by our productivity.

Our value is not defined by our productivity, but to take care of someone is a lot of work–the cleaning, the bathing, the feeding, the lifting, the entertaining, the shepherding. And yet, we pay those who take care of people, from the personal assistants to the home care attendants to the nurses to the childcare workers, the least amount of money, because after all they can’t produce anything.

Even in church the Associate Pastor or the the Christian Ed Coordinator has the least amount of pay and the least amount of power in the church.

We don’t value caring for one another much.

And yet, and yet Christ said love one another. Christ’s primary and often repeated and initiated commandment was to serve one another. Love and serve together seems a lot like caring for one another. Christ who found Zaccheus in the tree, talked to the lonesome woman at the well, who embraced an individual even as he was hanging on the cross itself, never wasted time on productivity.

Jesus wasted all of his time caring for the least of these. He welcomed the children who didn’t even count as people yet, he helped the widows who were a burden on society to be noticed, he took extra care to touch and  heal the sick and the disabled who were outcast from society, and he always had time for the poor who society deemed invisible.

Jesus’s work brought in no money, he told his disciples not to fuss about what they had and didn’t have, and to just go and do the work that needed to be done. He told them not to worry too much about how they looked or sounded, but to love and care for each other, no matter what the cost and sacrifice meant for them.

In the Gospel world, the work of caring is the most essential–because it is the most essential. Making sure everyone has food and shelter and clothing and community are the essentials of love. Jesus knew that to feel love, first one had to have the essentials, and then love follows.

Tell the Good News! Jesus commands, be witnesses, tell the truth of it. We are supposed to love each other so much, we are willing to die ourselves then let anyone feel left out.

God loves you.

Exactly as you are.

God does not demand perfection or taken or productivity.

You are a child a God, you are beloved, you are a part of the family–no ifs, ands or buts.

You belong.

Show one another how you value each other.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s that simple and that hard.

Jesus taught us the value of caring for one another. Lord hear our prayer, help us to get through this pandemic through love and care. We pray this n the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Detailed Famous Maslow Pyramid Describing All Essential Needs ...

Preparing for Worship 2

Preparing the family doesn’t look the same. I no longer have to dress my kids up–which ironically they love to be dressed up because it elicits so much positive attention. We can go to church in our pajamas now.

Instead of the Panera bribe, I mean stop, we make every Sunday like clockwork for the last 6 plus years (before that we hadn’t committed but still went out for breakfast), we eat piecemeal at home. Now I just buy the ultra sweet supermarket muffins and make some chai pods for the morning. We may even still be eating them during worship.

Instead of hauling all of the kids to the car, usually one is still half asleep and the other two are bickering, we bicker at home and argue over whether or not we can use electronics before church (no)

During worship, attention is scarce, wiggling is paramount, and we try to get my eldest to be responsive. The music is also just not the same. We miss singing together with the booming organ overwhelming our flubs.

But, it’s still time for Dad and the boys to sit together. It’s still the time we are a family. I’m still “leading” up front and the boys are watching/listening/imagining/being bored.

Lord help us to practice worship as a family in whatever way we can, we pray. Amen

Preparing for Worship 1 

Pandemic Prayers & Resources

Virtual Communion Resources

All Resources may be used with Credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Virtual Communion Prayer/Meditation

We are forever practicing virtual communion.

Recalling you, re-membering you. Virtually recalibrating ourselves to be the body of Christ until it becomes a physical reality.

We celebrate with all those saints who have come before us, and all those who have yet to come as a part of your kingdom. It is a virtual party, a foretaste, a glimpse of what is to come.

We worry about the rules a lot: who is truly welcome at the table, does Jesus really mean every single person can be a part of the body of Christ?

We worry about what together means: does communion mean at the same time, does it mean being in the same place? Does it mean the same loaf? Does it mean it all has to be wine? Do chips & grape soda count? What is the food of the people?

In our anxiety to be together, sometimes we do the opposite and make a lot of walls to keep each other apart.

But I’m happy for the gift of virtual communion. To remember that not everyone who is supposed to be there is there, and yet somehow it’s still communion and they are still included.

I am grateful for the celebration of it–for the solemn moment when we realize that we are a part of God’s family, and that Jesus welcomed especially those who are forgotten or overlooked, I remember that Jesus often called those who had no other access by NAME to him.

Because this virtual communion is also a real communion. Somehow, miraculously it’s always both. We are both the unbaked bread beginning to rise, and the crusty bake, dipped in the cup, and no matter what stage we are at we can taste it on our tongue.

However we classify and codify this communion, Lord I pray you make us a part of it.

May we be blessed, broken and consumed, until Jesus comes again.

We pray. Amen.

Eucharist Prayer; As we touch the bread and cup, the body and the blood of Christ to our lips. Let us remember that Jesus came as embodied love. Fully human, he bore the scars of his death upon the cross. When we consume Christ, when we practice communion with his body, we re-member you, we start the healing of coming together. No matter how we are practicing communion, we are practicing with you and therefore with one another. Strengthen us as the body Christ, heal us as the body of Christ and empower us to be the body of Christ we pray. Amen.

Communion Prayer: Lord as we stand isolated in this space. Grant us communion with one another and you, we pray. Remind us that you stand in relationship with us, forever drawing us together whenever and however with gather in your name. Send your Holy Spirit onto the elements we have here, the common food of our kitchens and pantries, so that it is imbued with your essence and love. Teach us how to practice communion in our present state we pray. Amen.

Virtual Commuion Order of Worship

Virtual Communion Invitation: As we are gathered–like the stars scattered upon the sky, let us remember God’s covenantal promise to Abraham, that God will always and forever be our God and we will always and forever be the children of God. Knowing that God loves us, and that Jesus Christ took the most basic and essential food of the people and consecrated them, let us now celebrate communion together, in what may be a new way.

I invite you to respond with the bold at home, I will read both parts today….

The Lord be with you

And also with you

Lift up your hearts

We Lift Our Hearts to the Lord

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

(Feel free to add any Lamb of God/Mystery of Faith elements that fit your congregation)

It is right to give our thanks and praise (Jesus Christ we give you thanks and praise that you are here, gathering us together, in ways the human experience had not not yet imagined. And we recall your promised that wherever–and however–two or three are gathered in your name, you will be there. Here we are gathered, and we praise you for your presence, for your eternal presence in the stars and in every grain of sand upon the beach and in every human child. We give thanks for your consistant and constant presence in our lives. We pray that we can feel your presence here today. Amen)

I invite you to gather whatever communion elements you have, and to hold them close as we pray today.

On the night that Jesus Christ was betrayed, when they were fellow shipping together, Jesus took the food of the people, he gave thanks, and he broke it. He said, this is my body broken for you do this in remembrance of me.

Then in the same way, he took the cup, he gave thanks over it, and he said this is my blood poured out for you. Every time you eat this food and your drink this cup, you celebrate my death until I come again.

Let us Prepare ourselves to celebrate communion (Prayer asking for the Holy Spirit either see above prayers or pray extemporaneously)

Come let us consume the Lord together.

Prayer after Communion: Lord we give thanks for this simple meal to practice communion with one another and with you, may it serve as a foretaste of the kingdom where all the saints will gather once and for all. We give you thanks and praise. Amen.

More Pandemic Prayers & Resouces