Conspiring with God: A Prayer

As rumors of microchips and aliens and kidnapped sex workers abound.

I hear you whispering that you are the God of the Conspiracy theorists too.

You hear their cries for a world that makes sense, you feel their arms when they reach out for someone/anyone to go along with what they are proclaiming, you take their anger when the world does not go the way it should.

You hold their hands, even when they think guns are the answer.

You continue to tell them the truth, even if their hearts are hardened with entrenched racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism and other forms of bigotry.

Only you know, God, what conspiracies abounded when Jesus rode the small colt, you are the one who knows what the palms and cloaks symbolized for those who threw them.

You alone understand what poisonous lies, or world bending truths were whispered in Judas’s ear, to sell you out.

And still, the Truth is God’s, I can’t believe in any conspiracy but your love.

We humans are too clumsy, too small minded, too telltale to conspire.

I believe there are gross inequities, there are systems that run and thrive on corruption, I believe that there is, indeed, real evil manifest in the world.

But though I believe that power seeks out and protects power, and that small lies can lead to big lies, that there is no grand scheme.

Because evil is niggling and sneaky.

It hurts in micro-agressions and permission-giving for bad behavior, and in letting those who are in power believe their own lies. It’s not systemized, but all too often, it’s allowed to become prevalent.

So that bad decision stacks upon bad decision leading to the mistreatment of immigrants, the white supremacy becoming cultural, to faith being inseparable from the very flag that corrupts it and weighs it down.

And that’s why, I believe you conspire and inspire for good–all the time and every time.

This is why you said “Tell Herod that fox that I’m going to keep healing and preaching til I breathe my last.” This is why on your last day on earth, you had a ginormous good meal with your closest peeps, and then spent time loving on them and washing their feet.

You will never stop. Jesus. Jesus who meets us by the well, in a tree, and even upon a cross as we lay dying. Even then, you conspire for good.

And if I blink, I can see the co-inspiring works of the Holy Spirit.

If I blink: I can see how you make it so that babies remain impossibly cute and a couple of droplets of baptismal water are enough to start the flood of your never-ending grace

If I blink, I can see how the stars still sing out Abrahamic promises and rainbows still speak of a weaponless future of love,

If I blink I can feel your presence “your church” in all of the communities and all of the neighborhoods in the world, and its then I can taste how bread and the cup are enough to tie us to every one of your beloved: those who have come before, and those who have yet to be.

Holy Spirit, help me to conspire with you, and only you.

Stand with me as I work to find the threads of truth and love and hope.

Imbue in me, imbue in us, a faith that we humans can be beloved into a better being, and help me to talk and walk in ways that blot out the evils of the world. I pray in your most Holy Name, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

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

Friday isn’t Good

God, I’m raging today against good Friday. Its bad Friday, it’s mistaken Friday, its very, very human Friday.

We humans should never equate abuse and violence with good. Because too often we malign those who are different than us for “good.” Too often we consider police violence “for the greater good.” Too often we glorify those who have weapons as “good guys” and end up glorifying them for Good.

Did you have to die on the Cross God? Probably, because we humans could only see the “good” of violence. Only humans would think Emmet Till dying was worthwhile because it helped to spur the civil rights movement. *

Only humans consider martyrdom something to strive for (how did we even get there, ew!).

We are not a death cult, God, we do not want to make the long count to forty lashes, and we Christians should be the first in line to be against the death penalty, realizing that it is inhumane for us to kill one another.

We should be creating community and stopping abuse at all levels. And I must confess, sometimes we are too scared, or too nice to name and cast out evil.

God, I don’t think Friday will be Good for me, anymore.

Not after a pandemic where so many have died for the “good” of the economy.

Not after a summer where death after death of Black People resulted in a lot of noise, and little change.

Not in a culture where the first thing we experience after reopening is racist attacks and has shootings of AAPI siblings and mass shootings ing general.

Lord, no, Friday isn’t good.

But I’m glad you transformed it. I’m glad you could withstand it. I’m glad your beyond it.

And I hope that someday, violence will no longer be allowed or celebrated, or deemed as necessary for the good.

I hope the sun goes down on this Good Friday, God I hope it ends soon.

And I pray that we let the resurrection sneak up on us, that we can still hear its whispers and that we can, even in the midst of Friday, follow where it leads.

Lord hear my prayer, as I stand, living in the midst of a this terrible, horrible, no good very bad Friday time.

Amen.

*With Credit and Thanks for Rev. Lenny Duncan who challenged if Jesus or black bodies should have to die for us humans to “get it” or be “woke” or to spur us into action.

Feel free to use and adapt with writing credit to Pastor Katy Stenta and theology credit to Rev. Lenny Duncan.

Essential Workers at the Cross

Who was essential at the cross?

Not Peter or John, Matthew or Mark.

Simon was essential: when Jesus could no longer carry the cross, Simon, a common laborer, with the strength to do the manual labor, the construction, the carrying of an essential item to where it needed to be. Simon was essential.

So were the two criminals who hung by the cross. Worthless and killed for being heretics, these two were essential for having the existential and theological conversation about who was saved and who wasn’t, and when was it too late to be saved.

The Centurion, and the common prison guards, were essential, they were the first to realize Jesus was the Son of God after he died. These workers in prison were essential.

Joseph of Arimathea, was essential. He gave up his own burial place, and risked his own death by the officials, boldly asking Pilate for the body, revealing what he believed and why. Then Joseph and Nicodemus polluted themselves–wrapping the dead body with their own hands, and using Nicodemus own mixed spices to move Jesus to the tomb. These men who put down politics to work with the dead were essential.

The women were essential. The women were sent, because they were thought to be harmless. Women prepared Jesus for the tomb with the wrappings and the spices to hide the bad smell. They entered the grave, where the guards watched–socially distant–to make certain no mischief was done. Women were the worthless but essential workers of the day.

Who was essential at the cross? Who did the work that needed to done? Who carried, cleaned, buried, wept, wrapped and worshipped?

Help us to pray and remember and rejoice in all of the essential workers we pray. Amen.

Pandemic Prayers

When in Doubt: #GoodFriday, Tenebrae Nail #liturgy based on the book of John

Good Friday
New Covenant Presbyterian Church Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?
INTRODUCTION TO THE SERVICE
The service tonight is known as the “Service of The Nails”. It is a series of readings, responses, and silent reflection and prayer designed to help us enter more deeply into the meaning of Good Friday. Everyone is requested to take a nail to keep it with them for use during the service. For the service, you are asked to remain seated

Call to Worship
L The Lord be with you.
P And also with you

THE NAIL OF BROKENNESS*
“We are a resurrection people” we like to say
And we say it often
“But resurrection doesn’t erase or replace the real life that happens before, during and after, the real life that we all know.
The places where we are broken.
Where we are grieving
where we are sad
where we are angry
where we are hurting
where we are anxious
Where we are lonely
where we are human—fully
And we each carry around the expreicnes of trauma, and loss and hurt, that are a real part of our life.
Those experiences live within us, and they exist before, during and after resurrction. Yes, we are a resurrection people
But we are also human—fully.
and that means that we know death, just as surely as we know life.
Death is real, it is excruciating, and painful, and it is a part of life.
But God is not afraid of death. God is big enough hold us in our hurt, in our brokenness, in those places of death where we cannot hold ourselves. When we find ourselves in those places, when we cannot imagine ever feeling joy again, may we remember, that although God will not erase the pain. God will hold us, God will stand with us.

John 18:2-5
Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ 5They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’* Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’

Sung Response: Extinguishing the Light
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
O Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble;
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (silence)

Prayer*
O God, will your stars never shine again?
Will they never again sing their songs to my soul?

THE NAIL OF HATRED
JOHN 19:1-6a Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ 6When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’

Sung Response: Extinguishing the Light
Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?
Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?
O Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble;
Were you there when they nailed him to the cross? (silence)

Prayer*
O God, will your stars never shine again?
Will they never again sing their songs to my soul?

THE RESPONSE
ACT OF CONFESSION
You are invited to have your sins nailed to the cross

Meditation and Prayer
Prayer*
O God, will your stars never shine again?
Will they never again sing their songs to my soul?

THE NAIL OF STUMBLING JOHN 18:15-17, 25-27
15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ 18Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ 26One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

Sung Response Extinguishing the Light
Were you there when left him on the cross?
Were you there when they left him on the cross?
O, Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble;
Were you there when they left him on the cross? (silence)

Prayer*
O God, will your stars never shine again?
Will they never again sing their songs to my soul?

THE NAIL OF DEATH JOHN 18:28-30
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Sung Response Extinguishing the Light
Were you there when the sun refused shine?
Were you there when the sun refused shine?
O, Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble;
Were you there when the sun refused to shine? (silence)

Prayer *
O God, will your stars never shine again?
Will they never again sing their songs to my soul?

RESPONSIVE READING: THE PROMISE OF MERCY*
O God of my heart, peel back the night and let the straight pour out upon my upturned face, Let my eyes drink a day of stars. Let my heart bathe in the stunning light, until my soul sings again with the conviction of the faithful. In your mercy and justice, O God of my heart call me by name, and the stars will shine once more, as they did on that morning when they first began to sing.

 

Communion
The Lord be with you
And also with you
Lift up your hearts
We life them up to the Lord
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right to give our thanks and praise….(Pastoral Prayer & Lord’s Prayer)
Jesus came into the world, not to judge it, but to save it.
We are so grateful for God’s infinite love, and we celebrate with all of creation, the saving work, of our Suffering Saviour. On the night before he was nailed to the merciless cross,
Jesus shared His last meal with His friends. He took the bread, He broke it, and He gave thanks, and then He passed it among them saying,
This is my body which is broken for you. Eat it and remember Me.
He took the wine, and He gave thanks, and then He passed it among them saying,
This is my blood which is shed for you. Drink it and remember Me.
And so, we take, we eat and drink, and we remember:
There is no greater love, than this sacrifice which You, Jesus, made for us
God is with us, even when we fear
Come, let us taste and see the Lord

Sung Response: Extinguishing the Light
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
O Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble;
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (silence)

 

*These Prayers are  from Dying Liturgy of NextChurch national gathering 2018

 

Prayers and Liturgy by Pastor Katy Stenta who is the solo pastor at a bigger on the inside church in Albany, NY and enjoys reading fantasy, soaking up sunshine, playing with her three sons and visiting her husband at his work, the library.

http://www.mbird.com/2009/06/theologian-of-glory-vs-theologian-of/

Ok, so according to this I am more a theologian of the glory than a theologian of the cross…sad day…wonder if these terms should be more of a balance (its the mainline thing, I like compromise)

Thoughts? Its def. a good reframing, but I’m trying to figure out the truth of it (I tend to take preaching the Good news part of my job very seriously)

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