Thursday, October 29, 2009

Proper 25B

Job 42:1-6; 10-17; Psalm 34:1-22; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52

It was then that the fox appeared, writes Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The Little Prince had just discovered a garden filled with thousands of roses, but instead of delighting in their beauty and fragrance, he despaired. He had thought himself rich, prince of his own little planet with three volcanoes that came up to his knee and a rose who had claimed to be unique in all the universe. Now, on a visit to earth, surrounded by roses and towering mountains, he suddenly thought he was not fortunate after all. And he lay down in the grass and cried.

It was then that the fox appeared. The fox asked the Little Prince to tame him, explaining, If you tame me, then we shall need each other. And so the Little Prince returned each day, as the fox suggested, sitting closer to him every time until the fox was tamed. He was no longer just another fox to the Prince, and the Prince was no longer just another little boy to the fox - they saw one another differently. And so it was, the Little Prince realized, with his rose. So what if there were thousands of other roses in the universe - his rose was special because he loved her, and she loved him.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, the fox said to the Prince. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

If only Jesus had carried a copy of Saint-Exupery’s beloved story with him, and had read it to his disciples in the evenings as they sat around the fire for warmth, weary from walking and wondering and worrying along the way to Jerusalem. We have been walking with them for weeks now, witnessing Jesus’s efforts to teach them what it means to be called, what it means to follow on the way, what it means to be a disciple.

Jesus has restored sight to the blind, opened the ears of the deaf, made the lame to walk, healed diseased bodies and sin-sick souls. He has cast out demons, raised the dead, walked on water, and calmed a storm. He has spoken of his death and of his resurrection. And still they do not see.

The disciples were looking for a kingdom come, some future kingdom in which Jesus, having mightily defeated all who oppressed God’s chosen people, would take up his rightful throne and seat his faithful by his side. They were looking for a kingdom that looked like all the other kingdoms they had ever known, in which power and authority are evidenced by strength and superiority.

But over and again on that long road to Jerusalem, Jesus tried to illuminate the kingdom in their midst, to turn their gaze upon a kingdom in which power and authority are evidenced by vulnerability and grace, by being opened, by being last of all and servant of all, by taking up the cross, by giving everything away, by being like a child, by living and loving in order to be Christlike, rather than in an effort to be liked by Christ. It was a new vision, and the disciples, but for a glimse here or there, just could not see it.

And so they arrived at Jericho, in the shadow of Jerusalem, where Bartimaeus, whose name means son of honor, sat in the streets of the city where once the power of God had tumbled down walls. Stricken blind, he begged of passersby, who accorded him no honor. Remember that in his time, disabilities such as his were seen as the consequence of some sin, so that Bartimaeus was not only a burden on the community but also an outcast in their eyes. Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? the disciples ask Jesus in the gospel of John, when they once encountered a blind man in Jerusalem.

Bartimaeus would have had no possessions other than his cloak, a threadbare piece of fabric, too worn to warm his bones, spread on the dusty ground to catch whatever coins were tossed his way. He was probably dirty and smelly. And he was apparently loud, very loud, shouting over the crowd, Mark tells us, shouting and saying, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

I wonder what caught Jesus’s attention. He had heard countless cries for his healing touch, countless pleas for mercy, countless calls for help. Surely Bartimaeus wasn’t the only beggar in Jericho. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy... Perhaps what made Jesus stand still in the midst of the crowd that swirled around him, perhaps what compelled him to say call him here, perhaps what caught his attention was the way Bartimaeus looked at him. The way Bartimaeus saw him. It is the first time in Mark’s gospel that anyone has called Jesus Son of David, linking him to the deeply held hope that God would send an anointed one to save God’s people. From where he sat in darkness, Bartimaeus saw the Light of the World.

What is essential is invisible to the eye...

Your faith has made you well, Jesus told him, and light would fill Bartimaeus’s eyes just in time for him to see Jesus in the shadow of the cross, the gloom of the grave, the darkness of death. Go, Jesus said. But instead Bartimaeus came and followed, having already cast aside his cloak and the few coins it held, his confidence a counterpoint to the confusion, fear, and hesitation of the disciples, his purposeful steps a foil for their fumbling.

So it is that this last story of healing in Mark’s gospel is also one last story of what it means to means to be called, what it means to follow on the way, what it means to be a disciple, not safely by the Sea of Galilee but on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The disciples had seen something extraordinary in Jesus when they left their lives behind to follow him, but became blinded by what they thought a messiah ought to be. To be fair, it is hard to see the world the way Jesus does, to look squarely in the face of what is evil, to touch the world’s worst wounds, to embrace those whom society keeps at an arm’s length. We might rather stay blind, or perhaps focus, as the disciples did, on artificial lights strung up by world...Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory...

That’s what James and John wanted. In their minds, they saw a man who would rule the world when Jesus asked them, What do you want me to do for you? In his heart, Bartimaeus saw a messiah who would save the world when Jesus asked him the same thing, What do you want me to do for you? My teacher, let me see again. Immediately he regained his sight, Mark tells us, but it was more a formality than a miracle, I think, as superfluous the Scarecrow’s diploma or the Lion’s medal of valor or the Tin Man’s testimonial. Even in his blindness, Bartimaeus had been able to see to the heart of who Jesus was, to see what was essential.

What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asks us in the dark places of our disabilities and doubts, our sins and shortcomings, our fears and our failures. We all suffer from episodes of blindness. What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asks, and waits for our response. What is essential? What do we need?

Lord, let us see. Amen.

Artwork: Rose in the front yard; "Bartimaeus," by Pamela Swan; "L'aveugle de Jericho," by Macha Chmakoff.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Worm Town

Warning: This blog post has received a rating of S (Squirmy). Not appropriate for adults or children who can't handle pictures of worms. And roly-poly's. And snails. And centipede-like-things.

We've been working out in the yard for the last couple of weekends, pulling up summer things, planting fall and winter things, cutting the grass (hoping that soon will be the last time for the season!). Digging in the dirt, we found roots and old leaves and twigs and...worms! Lots and lots of worms!

When I was little, I used to make caterpillar towns in the wheelbarrow at my grandparents' house. I filled the wheelbarrow with dirt and moss and leaves and then collected all the caterpillars I could find and moved them all in. It's a little smaller, and a little muddier, and a whole lot slimier, but welcome to...

Worm Town!

Little Charlie and I collected all the earthworms we could find, and then started adding other creepy crawly things, too. Some with lots of legs, some with no legs at all. There were several little snails, one of which made its own impressive, if lengthy, move out of Worm Town.

I did see several spiders over the course of the afternoon. And last weekend, when we first started seeing so many worms in our yard, I also saw something wormy in a reptilian way. Yikes. She was small, but still don't tell Little Charlie. In any case, today I felt perfectly safe because watching over the whole operation were two of the Republic's finest.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One Half

I finished the eighteenth square last week at clergy conference. The quilt is half-way done! And it's only taken eleven months!

On our only rainless afternoon last week, I sat up on the hill near the labyrinth, which inspired another potential pattern...

Gliding along the winding path
in a circle of safety
releasing my grip on my cares
and opening up inside,
dilated at the center of my soul...
not a hole
a vessel
a place of silence
a vacancy reserved for God
for spiritual communion
an inner sanctuary
purified by the consuming fire
of the Holy Spirit
and what is left there...
etched in the center of my soul is
"I am with you, there is nothing to fear."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Proper 23B

Last Sunday I supplied at Church of the Advent in Sumner and St. Matthew's in Forest...

Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

Once upon a time, there was... Well. Matthew tells us he was a young man. Luke says he was a ruler. And they both, along with Mark, tell us he was rich...

Once upon a time, there was a rich young ruler. We don’t know much about his growing up, except that somewhere along the way he was taught the ten commandments - the six hundred and thirteen commandments, if you’re really counting in the Hebrew scriptures. It was the very first one, though, that stirred something his soul: I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods but me. There was such power there, such certainty, such conviction.

And so, from his youth, he devoted himself to keeping the commandments - all of them. No one would have been surprised, then, at the riches and power, the certainty and conviction he accumulated for himself. In his time, wealth and authority were believed to be signs of God’s blessing. The rich young ruler had everything he could ever want, everything he could ever hope for.

Why, then, was there an emptiness inside? He would have thought it impossible, but there it was, a space that was not filled, a hunger for something more. Did he search the scriptures? Did he pray for guidance? Did he consult with rabbis and teachers? We only know that the rich young ruler came to understand that there was one treasure he did not possess, something worth far more than even he could measure. He did not possess eternal life, the promise of one day having power in God’s own kingdom.

The rich young ruler had heard about Jesus, a rabbi whose way with God’s word was compelling, whose knowledge of God was commanding. Jesus was said to be nearby, on the road to Jerusalem, and so the rich young ruler sought him out, threw himself at Jesus’ feet, and asked, Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

Was he impatient as he listened to Jesus rehearse the commandments he already knew by heart? You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not... The way Mark tells the story, it almost sounds as though the rich young ruler interrupts Jesus, so eager is he to know how to please God. Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.

From where he knelt, the rich young ruler looked up at Jesus looking down at him, and it seemed to him, though he could not understand how, that Jesus’ own eyes possessed the eternity he was seeking. He could not imagine ever turning from that gaze until Jesus’ words wrested his attention...You lack only one thing.

The rich young ruler’s heart leapt - he was nothing if not obedient, willing to follow God’s laws (whether ten or six hundred thirteen), willing to do good deeds. Here, at last, he was going to learn what he could do to gain that which he did not possess. Go, Jesus said. Go, sell all that you have, and give the money to the poor...then come, follow me.

There must have been some mistake. Perhaps Jesus had not understood the question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? The rich young ruler took a quick mental inventory of all that he possessed, an impossible amount. He tried to imagine his life without all that he had accumulated, an impossible picture. He wrenched himself away from the penetrating gaze of Jesus, in whose eyes there was now a sadness as immeasurable as eternity itself. And he went away grieving, Mark tells us, because he had many possessions.

The end. That’s as much as we know about what happened to the rich young ruler. And though Jesus would go on to say more about how difficult it is for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God, we, too, are distracted from listening, as we quickly take a mental inventory of all that we possess. Impossible, we think, that Jesus would say the same to us. One preacher remembers being terrified when she read this story as a little girl. She went running to her mother, who was sleeping, and shook her awake. Mom, mom, the bible says that rich people won’t get into heaven! We’re not rich. Go back to sleep, her mother mumbled, pulling the covers over her head.

But I knew better, the preacher writes. I knew that I had more than I needed. We know better, too, and so this story makes us want to pull the covers over our own heads. Unless, that is, we’re the stewardship chairperson for our parish, in which case this story is one of our favorites. Go, sell all that you have, and give the money to the poor...or to the church. Here’s a pledge card.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this story is about what we possess. And it is as true now as it was then that money, and anything money can buy, is a possession to which we cling tightly. But this story is, I believe, about far more than creatively shifting the weight on our camel’s backs. Listen again...

Once upon a time there was a rich young ruler who asked Jesus a costly question. What must I do to inherit eternal life? He was prepared to do anything, having already spent a lifetime serving God, faithfully following the commandments. You shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and mother...

The rich young ruler knew there was more to life, however, than following the letter of the law. He had grown restless, and was ready to do more, to be more, in order to get more. From where he knelt, he looked up at Jesus looking down at him, and it seemed to him, though he could not understand how, that Jesus’ own eyes possessed the perfection he was seeking. He could not imagine ever turning from that gaze until Jesus’ words wrested his attention...You lack only one thing...Go, sell all that you have, and give your money to the poor...then come, follow me.

Over and again the past several Sundays, as he walks the road to Jerusalem, Jesus has been answering challenges and settling disputes about what it means to follow him, to answer his call, to be a disciple, a servant of God. Over and again, his disciples have not understood what price Jesus is prepared to pay, a price that will be demanded of them as well. Perhaps Jesus, his gaze a two-edged sword piercing the rich young ruler’s heart, saw in the man an eagerness the others had since lost, a hunger the others had since fed. Come, follow me, Jesus said to the would-be disciple. But for the first time in Mark’s gospel, the call to discipleship was turned down. It was too costly.

A stewardship story. A discipleship story. Still others suggest that this is a healing story. Once upon a time, there was a rich young ruler who ached inside. He would gladly have paid any doctor who eased the pain, but no medicines worked, no cure could be found, until he realized he was only barely alive.

The rich young ruler had heard of Jesus, a rabbi whose way with God’s word was compelling, whose touch in God’s name was healing. Jesus was said to be nearby, on the road to Jerusalem, and so the rich young ruler found him, threw himself at Jesus’ feet, and asked, Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

From where he knelt, he looked up at Jesus looking down at him, and it seemed to him, though he could not understand how, that Jesus’ own eyes possessed the life he was seeking. He could not imagine ever turning from that gaze until Jesus’ words wrested his attention...You lack only one thing.

In the end, the man was not willing to pay for the cure that Jesus offered. The cost of it would have cut too deeply, leaving a jagged wound on top of the ache that would not go away. And he went away grieving...

A stewardship story. A discipleship story. A healing story. Once upon a time... The story of the rich young ruler is all of these things, piling grief upon grief as though the man were Job himself. But the story is also none of these things, and to understand why we must return nearly to its beginning, to the question that rich young ruler asks and is so certain Jesus has misunderstood. Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? What must I do?

The answer Jesus gives is not to be found in anything he says about commandments or camels or cost. The answer is here: Jesus, looking at him, loved him.

The truth is, no amount of effort on our part can do what it takes to inherit the kingdom of God. It is an inheritance. A outright gift of love offered by God, who alone can give it. We can give everything we have down to our last penny. We can leave everything behind and follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. We can offer our brokenness to him to be healed. But none of that can earn us eternal life, life that is always, already ours.

Listen once more. Once upon time there was... Well. Mark often calls him Son of Man. Matthew calls him Rabbi. John calls him a Good Shepherd. They all tell us he was the Messiah, the Christ... Once upon a time, Jesus, on the road to Jerusalem, where he would count no cost as greater than his love for us... Once upon a time, Jesus met a rich young ruler who desired eternal life.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him. And there, right then and there, face to face with God, the rich young ruler was given what he desired. Everything from that point forward - the healing that was offered, the call that was issued, the admonition about allowing anything other than God to possess us - everything else Jesus asks him to do takes place from where he stands with Jesus already in the midst of the kingdom prepared for him, prepared for all, from the foundation of the world. Go, sell everything that you own and give the money to the poor...then come, follow me. It’s not about how we get in. It’s about how we live because we already there. It seems impossible, yes, impossible to give so much, to follow so faithfully.

But the One whose gaze cuts clear through to our barest souls knows our weaknesses, and so, we are reminded in the letter to the Hebrews, we may approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. If we stay with Jesus, looking up at him looking down at us, then by that very grace we will find we can give a little more each day, heal a little more each day, understand ourselves a little more to be God’s most valued possessions.

May we give, but let it be for gladness. May we follow Jesus, and let it be for joy. May we accept the healing of our aching camel’s backs, and let us then offer our lives for the healing of the world. Jesus, looking at us, loves us. And that makes all things possible. Amen.

Artwork: "Meeting with the rich young ruler," by Frank Wesley; Not sure who created the camel sculpture, but I found lots of pictures of it online; "For he had many possessions," by George Frederic Watts; "Faces of Christ," by Judith McManis.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blue Sky

\'blu 'ski\ noun

1. Color of the upper atmosphere or expanse of space that constitutes an apparent great vault or arch over the earth
2. Having a cloudless sky; clear
3. Color of the sky due to Rayleigh scattering
4. Something we haven't seen in Mississippi for at least two weeks, until we got a few glimpses today...

i thank you God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes... ee cummings

Friday, October 09, 2009

I see the moon...

...the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me! My grandmother and my mom used to say that, and the words still jump easily to my lips when I see the moon in the late afternoon or evening sky.

An intersection of earthly and heavenly events led to the weaving of this homily for today's Middle School Chapel service.

Genesis 28:10-15; Psalm 147:1-5 ; Mark 10:13-16

While backyard stargazers were using their telescopes last weekend to get a close up view of the harvest moon, NASA scientists were using theirs to get a close up view of something no one had ever seen before. I read about it in the news. Apparently, there’s a ring around Saturn so large, so wide, that you could line up 300 Saturn planets across its diameter. If you filled the ring up with planet Earths, it would take one billion Earths to do it. The ring is almost invisible, made of dust and ice that glows ever so faintly with thermal radiation.

It was just three years ago that scientists gazing through their telescopes finally declared that Pluto was not, in fact, a planet but rather a dwarf planet – something about its orbit being a little off, and its largest moon being not much smaller than the planet itself. Lots of backyard stargazers were outraged by this news. In Illinois, home of the man who discovered Pluto almost eighty years ago, the state senate passed a resolution stating that the planet’s demotion was unfair, and that Pluto would forever be considered a planet whenever its orbit took it over Illinois airspace.

If we had gotten up early this morning to gaze through our backyard telescopes, we would have seen a cloud appear on the surface of the moon as a rocket crashed there to search for water vapor in moon dust.

And it was about a month ago that one of our own St. Andrew’s saints was gazing through a telescope in her backyard. I didn’t read about this one in the news, of course; I heard it reported in person during chapel class at the Lower School. A group of kindergartners had just come in, and from my desk around the corner from where the children sat I could hear the teacher talking quietly with them. I was looking through my telescope, this little stargazer said, and I saw God looking back.

While she might not have scientific evidence to back up her discovery, not like the folks at NASA who measure rings and orbits and dust, I have to say I believe our fellow saint. She’s not the first to gaze up at the sky and see more than facts and figures, more than stars and solar systems, more than giant rings and tiny planets. She’s not the first to see God gazing right back at her.

Jacob, in the Hebrew scriptures, was probably one of those kids in kindergarten whose desk always got moved to the place right beside the teacher. He was trouble right from the start, always playing tricks on his brother, his father, and anyone else he could. Even after he had grown up he still acted like a child, as though the whole world revolved just around him and whatever he wanted. When we catch up with Jacob in the story we heard just a moment ago, he’s running away from his brother who has finally had enough and has vowed to take revenge for all the times Jacob has tricked him.

Far away from home, alone in the desert and exhausted from running, Jacob falls asleep and dreams one of the loveliest dreams ever written down. In his dream a stairway reaches from heaven to earth, and angels are walking up and down it. Even God has walked down, it seems, and stands beside Jacob and, gazing at him, makes an amazing promise. I am your God, God says to Jacob. And I will bless all nations through you and your children and your children’s children and through all your descendents, more numerous than specks of dust on the earth. If telescopes had been invented, I’m sure God would have said Jacob’s descendents would be more numerous than specks of dust in the largest ring around Saturn.

God had made a similar promise to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. To Abraham, God had said, Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them…Your descendants shall be in number like the stars. So it is that Jacob would be one of the stars in Abraham’s sky, one of those through whom the world would come to know God, one of those through whom the world would be blessed. And Jacob’s children were stars in Abraham’s sky. And their children. And their children. And their children… And the sky grew so bright with stars, so bright with God…

And so it is that we, too, are stars in Abraham’s sky; we, too, are people through whom the world sees God whether they look with the eyes of scientists or of kindergartners. Our willingness to be kind, to be generous, to be gentle; our desire to care for those less fortunate than we are, to work for justice, to work for peace; our ability to open our hearts and minds and arms to people who are different than we are; all of these things and more form a constellation that reveals the presence of God not high up in the heavens but right here and all around us.

The kindergartners are coming to Upper School chapel today, as they do every fall to get a close up view of this larger community of which they are a part. Perhaps you remember making this same trip years ago, when you were in kindergarten, and you sat right on this stage and sang in the sweet little way only a kindergartner can, I see skies of blue, and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, and I think to myself: what a wonderful world…

The truth is that, while we say they’re coming up here to learn something new, we really could learn something from them. We discover all kinds of amazing things as we grow up, and even after we think we’re done growing. We learn about rings and orbits and equations and definitions and distances and measurements and meanings and more…

Let us not forget, though, how to see the way we saw as little children, who are indeed a blessing for the world. Even as we learn how to see ice and dust and orbits through a telescope, let us not forget how to see also the face of God. Amen.

Artwork: Artist's rendering of Saturn's ring; artist's rendering of Pluto's surface; the moon over Tara Wildlife Center, MS; "The Dream of Jacob," by He Qi; stained glass, artist unknown.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

I've got sunshine...

...on a cloudy day!

Our sunflowers are blooming! Swamp sunflowers, that is. Their faces are much smaller than their more regal cousins, but they're every bit as passionate about the color yellow and they grow just as tall!

Golden Choir of Aubiere, by Allen Levi

Rows and rows of bowing heads,
Sunflowers say their evening prayer,
A congregation of the field,
The golden choir of Aubiere.
Dawn to dusk, they only turn
Up to heaven where God lives,
Every face a separate light
Reflections of the love He gives.
Lord of colors, Lord of light,
Won't you teach me how to pray
Like the flowers of Aubiere?
Won't you guide me through the day?

Rose and lily grow so fair,
But, Lord, make me like the sunflower,
Looking always to your face,
Seeking you from hour to hour.
Lord of colors, Lord of light,
Won't you teach me how to pray
Like the flowers of Aubiere?
Won't you guide me though the day?

Rows and rows of bowing heads,
the golden choir of Aubiere,
the golden choir of Aubiere.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

All God's Critters

Three horses, three bunnies, one pot-belly pig, two fish, countless dogs and cats, one rat, two guinea pigs, one tarantula (you cannot know how difficult this was for me, and it was only a picture of a tarantula!), several goats, four turkeys, five chickens, one hermit crab (sporting a tiny plastic Oakland A's baseball cap as a shell), five sea monkeys, and one Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.

They all have a place in the choir, according to the beloved camp song. You know, some sing lower, some sing higher, some sing out LOUD on the telephone wire. Some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got, now... Well, yesterday and today they all had a place in one of four chapel services honoring Saint Francis of Assisi, whose official feast day is October 4.

Francis could have calmed a room full of animals with a single word, perhaps; for us at school, though, a room full of children is a zoo before we ever bring in one of God's critters. So students and faculty bring pictures of their pets (a few classroom pets make a live appearance). At the Lower School, each class makes a collage on brightly colored posterboard to bring to chapel. Middle and Upper School students emailed their pictures to be included in the service slide show (yes, we are an Episcopal community, and yes, we use a screen for worship - you may need to find a soft bunny to pet, it will settle you down after reading that).

Three pups visited our Upper and Middle School services from a local animal shelter, and two of them ended up adopted by the end of the morning. Hooray for Dozer and Natchez!

We all know how dearly the children love the Blessing of the Animals. What I forget each year is that this service makes children of us all. Every four year old who could get my attention wanted to tell me about their own pets, and every eighteen year old who could lean forward far enough wanted to pet the dogs from the shelter, and every thirty-, forty-, fifty-, or sixty year old who could stop their work to come to chapel smiled. One even told me he wept. We all went home and hugged our dogs and cats, or made kissy faces at our fish, or admired our tarantulas from behind clear plexiglass. Nice, safe plexiglass. Our animals had been blessed. And so had we.

Prayers of the People for the Feast of Saint Francis

We offer ourselves to you, O God, when we offer ourselves to one another and to the needs of the world. Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon, where there is discord, union.

We pray for the world; for peace among all people; for leaders whose decisions affect the lives of others; for a swift end to violence, hatred, and division.

Where there is doubt, let us sow faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

We pray for all who are in need or any kind of trouble. We pray for the sick and the suffering; for the poor and the oppressed. We pray for all who have died, for all who are lonely, and for all who are grieving.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

We pray for ourselves and for our community, especially for those who have been observing the Jewish high holy days; for courage to reach beyond ourselves and what is familiar; for humility to be your servants in and for the world; for grace to see your face even in those who are least like us.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

We pray for the earth that supports and sustains our lives; for forgiveness for the ways in which we have neglected to care for it; for wisdom to preserve our natural resources; for a renewed commitment to all that lives and breathes.

I invite your own prayers, silently or aloud.

Artwork: "St. Francis," by John August Swanson; "St. Francis," artist unknown.