In this episode…
- Introduction (00:18)
- Psalm 108 (00:50)
- Reflection (02:15)
- Excerpts from Job and Romans (05:45)
- Prayer (10:07)
- Caring Connections Knowledge Base (19:15)
- Christian Civics Book Club (20:47)
This week’s episode is dedicated primarily to prayer for restoration and endurance in the midst of a difficult season marked by pandemic and all of the new needs and demands that come along with it. Featuring several scripture readings and a heartfelt prayer by Rev. Charles Drew, author of Surprised by Community: Republicans and Democrats in the Same Pew.
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Almighty and everlasting father, we set our hearts to give you glory. We choose to declare something of who you are in the midst of a broken world that does not honor our understand you. We make this choice admitting that it is not easy for us to make. We default all the time to the fantasy that life is about us, about our aspirations, our fears, our needs, our triumphs, our work, and our relationships.
The truth rather is that everything without exception is from you and through you and for you. There is no person, no force of nature, no distant corner of the universe billions of light years beyond us, that has a life of its own, carrying on independent of your power and knowledge and presence. No star rises or implodes except by your power.
We ourselves cannot even utter a cruel word unless you give us the life and the motor control to do it. No earthly ruler, however noble or cruel, able or incompetent can rise or stay for a moment in power, but by your active will. What we call the laws of nature have no life in themselves. They rather express your present faithfulness, your continuing choice to give us a home where we can safely live, where we can plan for tomorrow, where we can develop vaccines and harness the energy you send for the common good. Apart from your active choice, gravity would not hold, our earth would fly from its axis, the danger posed by the Corona virus would shrink into obscurity as we hurtled towards extinction.
You are also unspeakably beautiful, oh God. Beautiful things console us at times of uncertainty. The birds and blossoms of early spring cheer us. A stirring oratorrio or “Hey, Jude” takes our minds off the latest COVID-19 caution. Such lovely things, like all other things, come from and through you. You are beautiful beyond measure—the source of every good and perfect gift.
When we hear a piece of music that ravishes us, it’s your voice that we hear inviting us to enjoy you in the enjoyment of that music. We see that same invitation in the soaring of an eagle and in the breathtaking majesty of a giant Sequoia. We see it in the color palette of Monet and the warm light of Rembrandt. We hear your voice in the kind word of a friend, and in the riveting words of a great preacher. We feel your summons to enjoy your beauty and to enjoy you in the rollicking delight of an Irish pub song, in the slow warmth of a rising Dawn and in the lift and fall of a sailboat, bending to wind and wave. We feel your delight as children artlessly play and as a sheepdog darts among its charges, heeding its masters every call. We thrill with you at the complexity and the artistry of brilliantly executed team play and ensemble choreography.
Your beauty, our God, does not always soothe and thrill us, for it is as great as is your own being. We have been caught in terrifying thunderstorms of your making. We have been stunned by the awesome symmetry of massive waves, one after another, tearing a seaside house apart. When you stood and with the word of majesty stilled the wind and the waves on the sea of Galilee, your disciples trembled.
We rightly tremble before your beauty. We worship you as the God of love. But your love is not like ours. It’s not sentimental. It does not depend on how well we respond to it. Your love is gracious, delighting in and welcoming every true step we take towards you, however flawed, however mixed our motives. And your love is wise, working all things together for our good—even when those things include a pandemic whose effects we can not predict nor control. Your love is passionate, fierce in its determination to change us for the better, patiently bearing our rage when we misread that determination as cruelty.
Your love does not need us. Long before you made us and the angels, you lived in full and joyful community—Father, Son and Spirit. And yet your love desires us. You long for us to be caught up with you in your own life, to be children of the Father, to be brothers and sisters of the Son, to be companions of the Spirit.
We worship you for your unfathomable wisdom. Who among us is in a position to tell you how to run things or to explain what you’re doing? Who among us can reconcile your claim to be good and in control with a parasitic virus that co-opts our cells’ proper function and suffocates those we know and love? Who among us can celebrate you as the Lord of all the nations of the earth without ever stumbling over the reports of those who rule by indifference and cruelty? And how can you be the almighty savior while weeping over and then holding accountable those who refuse you?
We complain about these things that we cannot understand and you do not despise our complaints. But you also speak to us from the whirlwind, reminding us that you are God and we are not. Our counsels are dark for lack of knowledge, and this is what we should reasonably expect, for we live within the extreme limits of our own perceptions and sins. We know so little. We could never counsel you.
And yet there is one great and consoling reality that we do know: We know that while your love is indeed above the heavens, it is still love. Though we cannot always understand what you’re up to, the love is there. Our inability fully to understand it does not mean that it isn’t real.
And we know that your love is real because it has come down. You have joined us here as one of us. You have freely submitted to what we necessarily submit to: Weakness, mortality, human cruelty, and the dark night of the soul.
Though you could have, you never took an end run around the humanity you chose fully to share with us. Like us, you waited on your Father for food and shelter. Like us, you waited on him for vindication. You praised him as we often fail to when you couldn’t see him. And in the bitter end, you called upon him from Hell, where you went bearing our sins.
Yours is a wisdom that is far wiser than we could have hoped for or come up with, a wisdom that has undone all that separates us from you and opens the way to that great day when we will enjoy you without any of the constraints we now endure.
To your great name be glory.