This Thanksgiving, as you gather with family and friends, I pray for you all the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
This morning (Saturday, September 29, 2018) I’m off to Emmanuel United Methodist Church here in Abilene to observe the first Great Plains chapter meeting of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). The WCA describes itself as an organization that “connects Spirit-filled, orthodox churches of Wesleyan theology and their members.” I can certainly get behind Spirit-filled, orthodox churches of Wesleyan theology (in orthodoxy and my love of Wesleyan theology, I yield to no one).
Unfortunately, the WCA expresses their understanding of orthodoxy by being staunchly non-affirming of LGBTQ+ folks. They are preparing for an exit if things at the special called session of General Conference in 2019 don’t go the way they want them to. As you know, I’m LGBTQ+ affirming, and I want to keep the United Methodist Church united. I’m not going to protest, I simply feel that I owe them a fair hearing. Your prayers are appreciated.
I just read the article in the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle about the arrest in Pennsylvania of a man accused of 150 rapes in Abilene/Dickenson County between 2006-2015. I’m thankful for the dedication of the local law enforcement officers who tracked the accused down, but I’m overwhelmed by all the amount of pain present in our small community of which I’ve been completely unaware. There is suffering all over the world, including our little corner of it. I pray for the victims and those who suffer with them. Please pray with me.
“Man Accused of 150 Rapes in Abilene,” Abilene Reflector-Chronicle, June 04, 2018, accessed June 05, 2018, http://bit.ly/2xH5kmb.
I try to keep this blog focused on the life and faith of our local church, but sometimes that same faith compels to say something. Now, with yesterday’s violence in Gaza strip, is one of those times.
My understanding of the United States’ decades-long, previously bipartisan, approach to moving our embassy to Jerusalem was that it would come at the end of the peace process when the age-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians had been put to rest. Under this approach, the moving of the embassy was a “carrot” to encourage the peace process. Now without the conflict being resolved, the embassy has been moved to Jerusalem, a blatantly pro-Israel move that prompted Palestinian protests.
So far, 60 Palestinian civilians have been killed and thousands wounded. I pray for the Palestinians, I pray for the Israelis, I pray especially for the Christians in their midst, a small minority under intense pressure. I fear that the United States will never again be seen as an honest broker for peace and I pray that we can somehow regain our standing and again be able to do some good.
The idea, held by some American Christians, that the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will hasten the coming Kingdom of God is so ludicrous, that I have nothing at all to say about it. I pray for the eyes of those who believe that nonsense to be opened.
I wanted to share this prayer that Brian D. McLaren posted today via Twitter:
Today on this National Day of Prayer, I pray for the soul of America. Help us, Living God, to return to what the prophet Micah says matters most: doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with you.
Where we are arrogant, soften our hearts and help us rediscover true humility. Where we have slipped into falsehood, exaggeration, minimization, or lack of passion for truth, restore our desire to be faithful to reality and honest about facts, including inconvenient ones.
Where we respond to evil with evil or anger with anger or hate with hate, convict us of the folly of our ways, so that we will respond to evil with good, anger with healing, and hate with love.
When we turn toward cynicism or fall into despair, turn us back to the path of endurance, the path of peacemaking, the path of hope against hope. Help us to face the painful truths of our past, including those from which we have hidden our eyes.
Help us, in fighting the monster, never to become the monster. Liberate us from the spirit of reactivity, so that we may seek justice, joy, and peace in the power of your holy and nonviolent Spirit.
Deliver us from the vicious cycle of living outrage to outrage; help us break that cycle by creating and celebrating audacious and courageous acts of beauty, kindness, generosity, and justice.
And when we make mistakes and betray the ideals of our prayers, help us to humbly acknowledge our faults, receive your grace, and rededicate ourselves to the path of wisdom, so that our lives may set an example for our nation – that it is never too late for a new beginning.
Brian D. McLaren. Twitter posts, May 3, 2018, beginning at 10:54 a.m.,
This is the prayer at the end of the first devotion in the book Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent by Walter Brueggemann.
Outrageous God, outflank our weary Christmas with the Advent miracle of a power that lies beyond us. May we receive this power, this new vision, which would set us free to live boldly into your dream for the world. Amen. — Walter Brueggemann 
 Walter Brueggemann, Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent, compiled by Richard A. Floyd (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017), 7.
Praying and telling God what is going on in your life is as if a parent could go to watch their child in a ball game and see it not only from the perspective of a spectator in the stands but from the child’s perspective, the coach’s perspective, the other players’ perspectives, an aerial perspective, the ball’s perspective, etc. all simultaneously; and then, when the game is over, enjoy every moment of listening to the child’s account of the game. That’s the way I believe it is in our lives. God already knows what happened, but God loves hearing our account of it—and we often learn something from the review. In the words of the funeral liturgy, God is “ever more ready to hear than we are to pray.” 
 United Methodist Church, The United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville, TN: United Methodist Publishing House, 1992), 142.
My colleague, Rev. Mitch Todd has a great devotion/essay entitled about that often abused and maligned term, “Thoughts and Prayers.” I encourage you to take a look.
In the face of another act of gun violence, James Martin, S.J. has shared a prayer that I find useful. I’m reprinting it here so that you can read it without the interruptions that appear on the original site.
I come before you,
after another shooting.
I am sad, God.
So I ask you
to receive into your loving care the souls of those who were killed,
to care for those who were wounded or hurt in any way,
to console the family members and friends of those who died or were wounded,
to strengthen the hands of the rescue workers, medical professionals and caregivers
I pray too for the shooter, as I must as a Christian.
All this makes me inexpressibly sad, God.
But I know that the sadness I feel is your sadness.
It is the same sadness your son expressed
when he wept over the death of
his friend Lazarus.
I am tired, God.
I’m tired of the unwillingness to see this as an important issue.
I’m tired of those in power who work to prevent any real change.
I’m tired of those who say that gun violence can’t be reduced.
All this makes me tired.
But I know that the tiredness I feel is your tiredness.
It’s the same tiredness that Jesus felt after his own struggles against injustice
that led him to fall asleep on the boat with his disciples.
I am angry, God.
I’m angry at the seeming powerlessness of our community to prevent this.
I’m angry at the selfish financial interests who block change.
I’m angry that these shootings happen at all.
But I know that this anger is your anger
It’s the same anger Jesus felt when he overturned the tables in the Temple,
angry that anyone would be taken advantage of in any way.
Help me see in these emotions your own desire for change.
Help me see in these feelings as the way that you move me to act.
Help me see in my reactions your pushing me to do something.
Because I know this is the way you move people to action.
And I know that you desire action.
For Jesus did not stand by while people were being hurt.
He plunged into their lives.
So help me to answer these questions:
How can I help?
How can I fight against gun violence?
How can I urge my political leaders to enact change?
How can I help people understand that this is
an issue about life?
I am sad over the loss of life,
tired of excuses for the loss of life,
and angry that we are paralyzed by the loss of life.
Turn my sadness into compassion.
Turn my tiredness into advocacy.
Turn my paralysis into the freedom to act.
to be compassionate,
and to act,
as your son did,
Almighty God. 
 James Martin, S.J., “Sad, Tired and Angry: A Prayer in the Face of Gun Violence,” America Magazine, October 02, 2017, accessed October 02, 2017, https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/10/02/sad-tired-and-angry-prayer-face-gun-violence.
A prayer appropriate for Labor Day, attributed across the internet to the sixteenth-century theologian and reformer John Calvin:
“My God, Father and Savior, since you have commanded us to work in order to meet our needs, sanctify our labor that it may bring nourishment to our souls as well as to our bodies.
Make us constantly aware that our efforts are worthless unless guided by your light and by your hand.
Make us faithful to the particular tasks for which you have bestowed upon us the necessary gifts, taking from us any envy or jealousy at the vocations of others.
Give us a good heart to supply the needs of the poor, saving us from any desire to exalt ourselves over those who receive our bounty.
And if you should call us into greater poverty than we humanly desire, save us from any spirit of defiance or resentment, but rather let us graciously and humbly receive the bounty of others.
Above all, may every temporal grace be matched by spiritual grace, that in both body and soul we may live to your glory.”