A good friend of mine gave me an amaryllis bulb over the winter. I placed it in my bedroom so that every morning and every evening I could observe its long stem reaching to the ceiling with its bloom at its tip. I marveled at how the stem looked so strong and firm in its pot.
One night my 3 year old grabbed the stem and snapped it. It hadn’t bloomed yet and I was saddened by its destruction. At that point I did what anyone would have done. I googled what to do. There was no guarantee but if I place the stem in water it might hopefully bloom. To my amazement, it kept right on surviving and soon the bloom appeared.
Even more encouraging, leaves started growing off the bulb and then shortly after a new stem formed and it too bloomed.
When I’m finally in my new home I’ll plant that bulb and when it blooms I will be reminded that no matter how bleak things may seem, there is always life to be lived. All one needs is hope, love and caring to begin anew.
Loving and Gracious God, God who is my rock and my shelter, I come before you today completely shattered. I come before you feeling lost and afraid. I come before you in all of my imperfection, in all of my pain, in my anger, in my disillusionment, in my fear. I come before you with questions, with accusations, with distrust, with grief. Last week, 49 of my queer siblings were killed. Just taken. Just like that. 49 people who I never met, but who forever became a part of my life. So many of them were young, just barely beginning to live their lives. It doesn’t matter how old they were or weren’t, they all had families and friends and goals and complications and lives. Until they didn’t. And they were killed by one man, but also they were killed by many. We’ve become complacent and our values have gone askew. For some reason, we think that the gun lobby is more important than the estimated 91 lives that are lost to gun violence each day. 91 people per day. But guns have become our golden calf and we will not tolerate any talk about changes.
Golden calf. An image shared by all of the Abrahamic faiths. These faiths, God, these faiths ground American culture in ways that we don’t even see anymore. I may have wandered from the fundamentalist faith in which I was raised, but I can never not be from that community. I was steeped in the rhetoric of hate and justification of violence, and useless platitudes like “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I have worked so hard to de-colonize my mind and love myself wholly as I wholly am, but there will always be that voice in the back of my head that tells me that I am not good enough, that I am not truly one of yours, that I have no right to stand in a pulpit. Here again, today, I renounce that voice and I ask you to protect me from the sting with in starts to whisper to me. Help me to find the peace within that I so desperately need, that all of us need. We made organized religion, not you. And we have made it another golden calf that can’t bear scrutiny. Things that can’t bear scrutiny stink of lies. God of all that is and ever will be, help us to become truthful and call hate by its own name, and not by yours.
And I know, Dear One, that today is also Father’s Day. My own father died a few months ago, and I knew that today was going to be hard. But I didn’t know it was going to be this hard. The grief that has come to rest on this day is enormous. And so I ask for a reminder today that life does indeed go on. Little by little, I need to see reminders of the good that this world is still so very full of. I need to feel the compassion, strength, patience, wisdom, humor, and pride that I know my father had for me. I think we all need to feel that today. Let us find ways to cling to each other and say “This doesn’t make sense.” And give us the ears to hear you say, “I know, Little One. But it’s going to be okay anyway.” Amen.
“Courage is fear that has said its prayers and decided to go forward anyway.”
Universe, why have you let me down?
What is it that you want from me?
Is this my karma?
Is this a test?
Am I passing?
What more do you need to teach me?
What more do I need to understand?
Am I strong enough?
I’m afraid I might not be.
I wake up.
I hug my kids.
I go to work.
I meet with friends and family.
I fill the spaces in and around myself with love and kindness.
I feel held up and cared for.
I survive and I keep going.
I find I am strong enough.
Let us all find the courage in our darkest and hardest of times to move past the pain and get back to love and joy. Amen.
As we allow the gaze of our eyes to soften, and our thoughts to become quiet, we open our hearts to the loving light of your presence.
On this blessed morning we give special thanks for all the children joining us in worship.
May the children feel how much we love them.
May the children know how much we value them for all they bring to our congregation…their wisdom; their opinions; their unique perspective; and their questions.
Let us remember God, that we are all connected. That we are all responsible, through our thoughts, our words, and our actions, to make the children of our world community feel honored and cherished; nurtured and safe.
And yet, it is not always easy Lord, to choose the right path with our thoughts, our words, and our actions.
Every day God, I fall short in some small way, and sometimes in really big ways.
I say mean things to people I care about.
I withhold kindness without thinking.
I remain silent when I should speak up.
I choose the wrong things to pay attention to.
I stay mad for too long.
I make judgments.
Lord, we are all imperfect humans, trying to do the best we can. Forgive us for our human mistakes. Send us a cool hand of mercy to soothe our regrets. Help us to see the eternal light of goodness in ourselves and in each and every person. Help us stay willing to recognize when we could have done better. Help us to remember we have the power to make new choices each day, in the spirit of love and compassion.
May it be so. Amen.
Great Spirit, residing so fully within us here on Earth – and everywhere else we may someday visit: Hear our humble prayers.
On Memorial Day weekend we commemorate all those who have been lost through the violence of armed conflict. Today is also the birthday of JFK; “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.” JFK’s life and service were cut short by the same strain of violence that plagues our world even now. We may never understand this aspect of human behavior so inhumane in its actions and so perplexing in its underlying motivations.
Today I also give thanks to First Parish in Lincoln for allowing me to share this space, all hewn by hand (just touch the back of any pew) and enameled in White that gleams in the morning light (like the cabin of your Summer Sailer). May we learn through the example of these walls and their strong ribs standing so tall. May they remind us to stand straight and tall in gratitude for all we’ve received here. Just one Sunday morning among these Clear Rippling Windows brings such joy.
I pray to all who’ve been here, are here today, and those who are yet to join us, for a steady hand to guide us in service to our community.
And should our spirits flag I pray that we be returned to a place of loving acceptance, through whichever portal we may choose. My own spiritual compass points toward music. One Bach Chorale Prelude is my gateway to transcendence and to mystery and to wonder.
In Joyful communion of our souls, Amen.
Dear God, be with us today as we gather together for a moment of stillness in our week. We have all come here today for a reason, and simply that brings us into embrace with one another.
This is a time of year that is bursting – with new growth, with celebration, with departure and transition. We are simultaneously easing in to summer mode, and rushing to get things done before summer arrives. For some, each day is overfilled and overwhelming; and for some, each day is long and lonely.
How do we measure time passing before it is too late? How do we not rush through these days without stopping to breathe and remember why we came.
In the musical, Rent, the lyrics ask whether to measure life
“in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.” 525,600 minutes, one year, one grade level, one age older, one more loved one lost.
In the end, the advice is to measure a life in love. Each season, each milestone, wherever we find ourselves along the path of life – love meets us where we are.
God, help us, to reach out to our neighbors sitting in the pews next to us and embrace each other in this space… here … today … now … surrounded by love, which is the best measure of all. Amen.
This is a prayer of gratitude for this community.
As a spiritual community, we share some of the best aspects of these United States. We are a melting pot of faiths and beliefs, coming together as a whole while maintaining our own individual spirituality. While we may not agree on everything, that doesn’t mean we agree on nothing.
We are a community of believers and non-believers.
As I belong to the latter, when I hear the phrase, “Ye of little faith,” I cringe a little inside because I really don’t like being called “Ye.”
Whether we have faith or not, we share a common bond of caring for ourselves, caring for each other, and for our world. Our history at First Parish is one of joining together, of setting aside symbols of separation.
Despite the [virtual] presence of tulips in the arrangement before me–and I do love tulips–I’ll conclude with the words of the Dicken’s character, Tiny Tim, rather than the Tonight Show one.
He said: “God bless us, every one.” Amen
Dear God, thank you for this time and for this space.
Dear Mother, Mom, Mama, Madre, Mutter, Mu Chin – hear our prayers. You mean something different to each of us.
“Mom, why did you have to kick me out? I miss your warm and cozy womb. It is too cold and loud out here. Thank you for carrying and nourishing me, and for miraculously bringing me in to this world.”
“Mama, Mama, Mama… Milk? Truck? Cat? Snack? More MORE?”
“Mom, I need help with my homework. Mom, can you drive me to practice? Mom, we’re late for the bus. What’s for dinner? What’s for lunch? Mom, Mom, MOM!”
“Mom, you broke my heart. You left when I was so young, and I feel abandoned and alone. I miss you – I think – although I don’t really know you. I wonder if you ever think about me. I wonder if you feel whole.”
“Mom, I am so sorry I let you down. You gave me everything and I threw it all away. I know that I hurt you. I am trying to get well and overcome my demons. Please forgive me. I need you.”
“Mom, I lost you too early. As I sat at your bedside and watched your body fail you, I treasured every moment. I am flooded now with memories of you. I feel your spirit close to me every day. I hear your voice in the wind. Thank you for wisdom and love.”
“Mom, I feel joy when we are together. You know me better than I know myself. As I get older, I recognize so much in me that is you. And now I am full of gratitude for the gift of motherhood – the giving and receiving, the joy and heartbreak, the triumph and failure.”
Dear God, many of us have made the choice to raise a child, whether our own, a step-child, or an adopted child. Some of us have been deeply fulfilled in motherhood, and some of us devastated by the sorrow of not being able to have a child, or losing a child.
And yet, we are bound together by shared experience of having had a mother or a mother figure, who provided solace, support, discipline, insight, and simply – unbridled love. Let us today give thanks for that. Amen.
Over the years, from one generation to the next, many things change.
We tend to identify ourselves by what we’ve experienced through world events, sports, music and technology.
The request, “Please deposit five cents for an additional three minutes,” seems absurd in the days of cell phones.
Of course, change isn’t always good. How often have you picked up the phone to hear, “Hi! This is Rachel from cardholder services?” I admit I have had some unkind words for Rachel.
Education changes. Once memorization played a large part in schooling. I’m sure some of us can remember things we memorized in High School even as we struggle with names of people we know well.
Fortunately, evolution moves much more slowly than technology. What we have in common in our abilities to learn, forgive and love bind us together in more important ways than the events which set us apart.
Years ago, I’m sure fewer cars passed through Lincoln each day. However, today’s prayer was made possible by that traffic. It’s a prayer of thanks to a woman in a car. After dropping our older daughter at middle school, I was merging into the eastward procession of cars on Lincoln Road. I wasn’t close to the five way intersection and it wasn’t my turn to go, but this woman waved me on. As it wasn’t my turn, I smiled and waved back. She smiled and waved. After a bunch of waving and a bunch of smiling, she went.
Now the car length didn’t make a difference in either of our days, but I know for me, the smiles did.
May your commutes–your time behind the wheel–be blessed by an occasional smile. Amen
Spirit of all who lives deep within us, we are troubled. We have come to a strange place 46 years after the first Earth Day. We can see from space the aching beauty of our blue planet. We can fly in planes over vast forests and see cities sparkling at night. We can allow ourselves to be immersed the virtual world of picture stories. Videos make us laugh and awake our emotions of joy or sorrow for the wonderful creatures of our world in their comic beauty or their special tragedies.
We have gotten comfortable in our warm in the winter, cool in the summer homes, eating food from round the world always in season, driving cars that seldom overheat or get flat tires. We feel that other people and other creatures suffer, and we sense with vague unease that our comfort may be related to their suffering. Humans appear to be unbalancing this tiny corner of creation in a possibly disastrous way. Let us embrace the immense love and sorrow we feel for our mother earth. Let us use the storm of mixed emotions stirred up by the images we see on screens and the beauty of the awakening spring to connect with each other and take some action to save our home. Spirit of all, help us to open our hearts to the love for creation which is the center of our humanity and our connection to the whole. Amen.
I am thankful for all the times I have been able to travel: to visit family and friends, for work, for relaxation, for adventure. It is during these times away from home, where I break from my daily routine and familiar surroundings, that I feel the world is fresh with possibilities and challenges.
I am thankful for all the inspiration that comes with these new experiences – the new art, new food, exposure to different life attitudes that seems to fit better than my own at home.
I am thankful for all the times I have returned home with refreshed gratitude for my family, my community, my country.
The effort of putting time and distance between me and my normal day helps me see, with new perspective, not only the world around me but also myself. I am more aware of what can be, for better or for worse, and I feel more apart of and responsible to the world beyond my safe home base.
But when daily responsibilities, finances, or health make travel impossible, and the distance and time that can come so naturally through packing a suitcase and getting in the car or on an airplane, I am ever grateful for the spaces close to home that provide a space to reset and gain perspective – a church, a sand dune, a friend, and on somedays, a good book.
Thank you God for all the opportunities to travel, and when we cannot, for the gift of our local retreats. Amen
Spirit which runs as a river deep within us, connecting us to our center and to all around us, we thank you for giving us the need to reach out to each other. The world around us is unsettled and off balance. The order of the seasons is overturned. The fragile buds of the star magnolias weighed down by snow turned brown and died. The puzzled robins came back believing in the return of spring with its bounty of worms and found ice and snow. We read stories of refugee families who dream of a better world and find themselves in camps going nowhere. Lives are smashed by captured girls who carry out suicide missions in search of heaven. Fear, anger, and desperation turn humans against each other.
Yet beneath it all there is hope. The air is warming. The robins have survived. We are all here together for a brief time in this fragile and extraordinary creation of stardust turned to life. We have been given the capacity to be aware, to love, to help. My puppy jumps up on me, and puts her paws on my shoulders. “Stop looking at the computer screen. I am here with you! We are together!” Thank you, spirit of all, for the joy of young life beginning again as spring takes hold. Amen
Thank you for our minds. How they let us dream big and small, with infinite possibilities. Thank you for enabling us to imagine the best for ourselves, our families, our communities, our planet and work toward those visions no matter how far off they seem in the present moment and no matter where we end up in our actual success. Thank you for also letting our minds gently push us unconsciously, when we rest, for it is sometimes our unintended, undirected dreams that can inspire us far beyond what we can imagine for ourselves.
My father passed away last year. My first time returning home after his service, to the house where I grew up, the house where my dad passed away, I was hovering is that dreamy half-sleep, half-awake state of early morning, when I heard my father call out to me. It was in his old voice, not the voice his body had acquired after the most recent return of cancer and intensive treatments, but his old voice — his wonderful, full, gentle, southern Georgia accent. And in that dream state, my mind and body flooded with a completely enveloping sense of love and security – of normalcy, that had been all but disappeared. I am so grateful for this moment, this unpremeditated reprieve that I couldn’t possibly imagine for myself, which reminds me of what once was, and what I want to create again for my family.
Dear God, thank you for our minds and for letting us dream. Amen.
Great Spirit of many names,
We offer a prayer of thanksgiving
For accepting us, for who we are,
not for who we hope to become,
and for offering us comfort as world events spin us to the very edge of what we hold dear
and challenge our faith that good triumphs over evil.
On this special morning,
as we remember one of your many prophets who stood firm against the Caesar of his day
we mourn the innocents lost in terror’s rage
and pray for wisdom that we may distinguish individual guilt from a tribal urge to stockade our neighborhoods
and wall out the southern hemisphere from our lives.
Lord, when our faith in universal understanding lies shattered like eggshells in a child’s Easter basket,
remind us that with each taste of the white cloud of trust
we are nourished by the yolk of another sunrise
and the promise that love overcomes, no matter how menacing the Caesars of our day. Amen
Good morning Great Spirit,
Thank you for being with us – in this sanctuary, on a walk in the woods, or in the garden nurturing a seedling.
When we are mindful of your presence we feel humble:
Humbled by the chirping of the spring peeper; by the familiar song of a returning migratory bird; by the rich smell of the warming soil. When we are truly aware of these mysteries, we feel reverence for this earth.
We are reminded that we are merely a part of this web of life. Forgive us for sometimes acting greater than we are,
For putting ourselves before the earth,
And before others.
When we are mindful of your presence, we feel courage:
Courage to peel away our armor and become intimate with one another. Forgive us for sometimes shielding ourselves and being intentionally far away. Distance allows us to make judgements, make excuses, place blame. It allows us to keep strangers behind walls and feel we are better than others.
Help is to move closer.
Help us listen to each other. For when we listen, we hear a story. We all have stories. We cannot carry on with the heavy armor of judgement when we hear a story.
For a story makes us feel empathy.
When we are mindful of your presence we feel compassion:
Help us remember to pause, stand close and look deeply into a stranger’s eyes and see, that they, like us, have a story. They, like us, may be struggling.
Help us to pause, stand close and look deeply into a stranger’s eyes and know that they, like us, are seeking happiness, seeking comfort, seeking forgiveness, seeking to bring their true self forward to the world.
For when we do that, we cannot help but notice that we are just like them. When we truly see each other, and truly hear each other, we realize that we are not so different, that we all have stories,
that we can reveal ourselves more fully and know that our needs and thoughts and convictions are not greater than theirs, that we are not alone and we can go forward together in humility. Amen