Last week, I got a haircut. As we counted out the six weeks to my next appointment, the gal who cuts my hair said, “Let’s see… six weeks… that will be December 23.”
I’m sort of still in shock about that, to be honest. And I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a few minutes of every day since then taking a dozen deep breaths in disbelief that the time has sped by so quickly this fall.
It’s been a tough one for me, friends, and for some of my favorite people. Within a single month, some of the folks closest to me experienced heart-breaking loss. And then I experienced heart-breaking loss. And then another friend, even more heartbreaking.
And time just kept marching on, as it does, while I sat on the couch and tried to think coherent thoughts. I haven’t been able to write about how I’ve felt over the last ten weeks, and as a result haven’t written at all, about anything. No journaling, despite my hours spent staring at blank paper. No poems.
And then last week, I was asked to write a prayer for our church service.
One of the things I like about our weekly church service is that the “community prayer” is typically offered by a layperson in our faith community. Because there’s no definition or expectation of what a “community prayer” is supposed to involve, it’s neat to see how different people frame it. Our laypeople include all sorts of folks, too: seminary and college professors, former pastors, businessfolks, public school teachers, poets, painters. The community prayer is always one of my favorite parts of our service.
So there I was last week, not writing. And there came the e-mail, asking me to write.
And not just write, but pray.
Prayer has been difficult, too. Did I mention that? The two go hand-in-hand for me. Always have.
Yesterday, as I prayed in church, I am pretty sure I was praying for myself. But something mysterious seemed to happen, too, because my words became others’ words, others’ prayers. That’s what people told me afterwards.
The thing is, I don’t know how God uses our meager offerings in community to reach beyond our own little worlds. But I do know that it happens. Sometimes.
When we say ‘yes’ even when we don’t want to.Creator God, who hovered over the darkness like a mother bird flutters her wings over her nest, hover over us now and create something from nothing. From our darkness of sickness, mourning, and disease; from our worries about our communities and loved ones and finances and futures and the myriad anxieties that cling to us; from the incomprehensible tragedies of the world that make us wail and tear our clothes and, sometimes, pray: From even these darknesses, create wholeness and healing, peace and rest this morning, this Sabbath, as we gather together, that we might look around us and still see your creative handiwork and know that it is good. Creator God, have mercy upon us. Redeemer God, who cried over Jerusalem, who knelt to wash dusty, unclean feet, who spit in the dirt when mud was what the blind man needed, our God who tells stories: redeem our tears, our unwillingness to kneel, our hands caked with our own mud, our obsession with our own stories, our own problems. Teach us to be a community who cries together, kneels together, gets dirty together, and tells your story together. Redeemer God, have mercy upon us. Sustainer God, who came to comfort, anticipating the pain of life in this world, groan for us and with us: We groan for those in the pews of this faith community and for those on the streets of our physical community. We groan for both the powerful and the powerless in our country, for both the warlords and the war victims abroad, for the invisible network of human traffickers and human slaves who make our lives possible, and also for those who place themselves in danger to work for peace and justice every day, in every country, in every community. And today we especially groan for the displaced and the dying and those who mourn them in the Philippines, for the aid and aid workers struggling to get where most needed. Show us how we are most needed. Sustainer God, teach us to be comforters, to bear one another’s burdens and the world’s burdens from our own safe homes, and to pray without words when the words of this world are simply inadequate. Creating, Redeeming, Sustaining God, have mercy upon us. Amen.