Thursday Prayer

Lord, help me be faithful.
As it gets more complicated and messy.
When each decision feels so very important.
When words won’t come. When actions fail.
Drown out the threats and fear and doubt.
Fill me with faithfulness. Shower me in hope. Spark in me, and us, and all your people – a new urgency. A fierce love. A bold witness. Born out of faith. And confidence. And focus. On you. With you. From you.
Your story. Your relationship. Your grace. Your justice. Your mission. Your love. Your You.
O Lord, right now, whatever comes, whatever is, whatever you’ll have me do and say and try and be….
Help me be faithful.
Help me be faithful.
Help me be faithful in serving you.
Amen.

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The Rev. Erin Counihan serves as pastor at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in St. Louis, MO and blogs hardly ever at all these days at http://www.somewhatreverend.wordpress.com.

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Wednesday Prayer

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Why is it
that so often
when I set my mind and heart
to pray,
I am wordless?

It doesn’t come easy.
In my silent meditation,
I search for how You might be leading me
to revelation, to resolution, to renewal,
but mostly
I end up just
remembering that I need to stop at the store
to pick up milk and cat food,
thinking that I should go to the gym this afternoon,
and honestly, peppered through the wandering,
I do come back to You.
Well, kind of.
I wonder about You.
I sense your Spirit hovering,
right at the crown of my head, at the back…
Jesus pounds on the walls of my ribcage,
exhorting and cajoling
me to think, to do, to love.

Oh sweet Lord.
Hello.

Amen.

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Rev. Karla Miller is the Minister for Community Life at Old North Church UCC in Marblehead, MA, on the North Shore of Boston.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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RevGals Anti-Racism Project: “Waking Up White” wrap-up

wuwcoverfinal-200x300We’re wrapping up our discussion of “Waking Up White” by Debby Irving this week. You are invited to reflect on the questions here, or at our Facebook group, or to join us for a Zoom video chat at 2 p.m. Eastern (US) today.

We commend to you the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s new resource developed to be used with the book, particularly appropriate for groups reading together, which you may find here.

Discussion Questions:

  • Irving writes, “Self-examination and the courage to admit to bias and unhelpful inherited behaviors may be our greatest tools for change. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to expose our ignorance and insecurities takes courage.” (p. 249) What bias or inherited behavior have you noted while reading the book?
  • While reading Irving’s book, have you noticed any difference in the way you read/listen to the news?
  • What impact would it have on your family’s history if benefits accorded to white people (lending practices, the G.I. Bill are two instances) had been available to everyone equally? To no one?
  • Irving’s book was published in 2014. Do you think things have gotten better or worse where race is concerned in the United States?
  • What if anything do you feel called to do differently after reading “Waking Up White?” Consider the “Tell Me What to Do” section at the end of the book.
  • Any other thoughts or questions? You are welcome to leave a comment.

  • The next two books in our discussion series will be:
    • Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim, by Sabeeha Rehman (Arcade Publishing, 2016, available in hardcover or for e-readers) – first discussion post on Wednesday, February 1st.
    • An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation, by Nyasha Junior (Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, available in paperback or for e-readers) – discussion beginning mid-March.
  • We welcome submissions to be published in this Wednesday slot in the coming months on the subject of anti-racism work. We will consider opinion pieces, personal narratives, and stories about effective anti-racism work being done in or by pastors and/or churches. Published pieces should be in the 600-800 word range. Please email Martha at revgalblogpals@gmail.com with your query.

Much of our conversation has taken place not here on the blog but in our Facebook group; if you are not a member, you may join by clicking here.


About the RevGals Anti-Racism Project: As a majority white organization incorporated in the United States, the leaders of RevGalBlogPals feel called to confront systemic racism in the U.S. As a global ministry, we feel called to oppose minority oppression and racial injustice in all nations. We hope this book discussion will be a step toward awareness and away from unconscious centering of whiteness.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Revised Common Lectionary: Called and United

In this week’s installment of Adventures in Preaching, we who follow the Revised Common Lectionary have options of a hopeful prophesy in Isaiah (that is fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew), the calling of some of Jesus’ disciples, a Psalm expressing deep faith, and Paul preaching to the church in Corinth about unity.

Those of us in the USA might find Paul’s words to be particularly meaningful this first Sunday after the inauguration of an extraordinarily divisive man as President. How can Christians today “be united in the same mind and the same purpose”? What would that look like? And what work do we have ahead of us?

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Psalm 27 is one of my personal favorites to use, in its entirety, at hospital bedsides or in other situations when people are struggling. The psalmist reminds us that life isn’t always easy, but God remains with us and supports us through it all.

Matthew’s account of Jesus calling Simon and Andrew, James and John, is well-known and inspiring. What do we leave behind if we choose to be disciples of Jesus? What did Jesus mean about having them fish for people – and what does that look like for us? Somehow increasing the numbers of people on church membership lists doesn’t seem like a good enough motivation for the disciples to leave their whole livelihoods behind – Jesus must have meant something deeper than this.

In Isaiah, the prophet proclaims words of hope to a people who have experienced military defeat and oppression by the Assyrians. In Matthew, the evangelist claims that the prophesy is fulfilled in the person of Jesus. It’s worth sometimes preaching on a prophesy from the Hebrew Bible by just looking at it in its original context and considering how the people of Israel would have understood the words. With today’s combination of readings, worshippers will easily make the connection to Jesus even if the preacher stays focused on the original intent of Isaiah.

What is speaking to you this week? What do your people need to hear? Please share your ideas and stories and questions below. Blessings in your writing and your worship preparation this week.


Katya Ouchakof is co-pastor of Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison, WI. She blogs less often than she would like at Provocative Proclamations. She looks forward to warmer weather so that she can get back out on the water in her canoe.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Narrative Lectionary: Deep Water (Luke 5:1-11)

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Within a short time, Simon Peter has three experiences of Jesus’ power.  Just before this, Jesus has healed his mother-in-law from a fever.  Now he hears Jesus teach. Finally, Jesus sends him back out, after a night without catching any fish, to try again.  The huge haul of fish finally breaks Peter’s mind open about Jesus.  The healing was received with joy, no doubt.  The teaching may have been compelling, at least the parts he heard while he continued to mend his nets and worry about the night with the empty nets.  But now Jesus has Peter’s attention.

Read the scripture here.

Find the Working Preacher commentary here.

When Jesus presence allows them to catch way more fish than they think is possible, Simon Peter reacts with shame.  He urges Jesus to get away from him, “for I am a sinful man.” Peter knows that he is experiencing more than fish – he’s getting a glimpse of the divine, breaking into the ordinary world of fishing.   It evokes the later moment, after Peter has been with Jesus for a long time, when Jesus tells Peter to get behind him, because Peter’s understanding then is so limited.  In this early moment, Peter sees clearly who stands before him.

Peter breaks out of the routine of the fishing boat to acknowledge Jesus.  While everyone else is hauling in the catch, while the boat is still in danger of sinking, Peter lets go of the nets to fall on his knees in front of Jesus.  He is overwhelmed by what he sees – and he trusts Jesus enough to know that the boat isn’t going to sink.  In that moment, Jesus takes priority over fishing.  In that moment, Peter’s life changes.  Jesus gets Peter’s attention by beating him at his own game – by being a better fisherman than even Peter is.  With this display, Jesus proves to be worthy of Peter’s time, attention and finally his life.

Fishing in Jesus’ time was a highly regulated system, where licenses were purchased and had to be paid for.  A night of catching no fish is not just a disappointment, it’s an economic stress.  When Peter, James and John leave their nets to follow Jesus, they’re stepping out of a rigid, economically demanding system into a life of more freedom — and also more risk.  Jesus is offering them a change of vocation, and also a change of identity.  Family groups often fished together, and Jesus is pulling them out of that familiar, family-based life, into a new family group.  His telling them not to be afraid is a well-timed word  – they’re leaving the trade and relatives they know for something completely unknown.

Jesus doesn’t end this exploitative system, but he offers a different vision of it to Simon, James and John – and they have the courage to accept his offer of something different.  The large catch is more than a display – it also leaves the families left behind with an economic cushion.  Jesus is taking the men away from their work, and he leaves behind a practical gift, a way for the families to pay the bills that are due.

Stepping out of everything familiar into a whole new life is an act of tremendous daring.  Often in the gospels, the disciples look like clueless bumblers, but they show great spiritual and economic courage here.  May we have the same, as we follow Jesus into new ways of living.

Sermon possibilities:

  • Peter is unmoved by whatever Jesus is talking about in the boat, but he recognizes the divine spirit in Jesus when he sees the miracle of the huge catch of fish. In this action, Jesus speaks to Peter in Peter’s own language.  If we are fishers for people in our own time, how do we speak to people in ways they understand?
  • Jesus intervenes in a rigid economic system and draws people out of it. How might our work do the same?  How do we, as congregations, step into systems that exploit people, and work toward another way of doing business?   Attentive congregations serve free trade coffee, but what steps can we take beyond that?  Catholic Relief Services and Fair Trade USA have some starting suggestions.
  • Jesus moves from the shallow water to the deep water, and our spiritual lives often follow the same pattern. Where do you notice your congregation, or yourself, moving into deeper water with Jesus?
  • How do Peter, James and John find the courage to move out of their old lives into the new life that Jesus offers? How do they manage the fury of family left behind to do all the work, and the complaint that they’re abandoning their responsibilities?  How do we find the nerve to follow God’s call in unexpected ways?

Where are your thoughts taking you this week?  We would love to hear your thoughts, and to continue the conversation in the comments section below.

Rev. Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian church.  Her greatest spiritual lessons come from being the parent of a teenager.  She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.  The image above is from the Vanderbilt Library of Art in the Christian Tradition and is from Coventry Cathedral.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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The Pastoral is Political: #ReclaimMLK

reclaimmlkFriends, I confess this Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday feels so…complicated today, when in just a few days bigotry and hatefulness and misogyny and blatant white supremacy will be inaugurated into the White House.  All of that, in the space of five days?  That’s a lot for one justice-loving heart to hold.

So I am thankful that the Movement for Black Lives is calling us to a national week of action, starting today, to #ReclaimMLK as we gird up our courage to resist this incoming administration and all the harm it wants to do – and is already doing.

Now more than ever, we need all our ancestors in the struggle around us.  Now more than ever, we need to reclaim Brother Martin’s legacy to us.  And, especially if you’re white like me, we need to be clear about who he was and what that legacy is.

Institutional whiteness has tried to rob MLK of his power, turning him into a “respectable” icon of community service, not revolution.  We’re given a day off, not taught his principles for how to rise up.  The now-dominant narrative about him is that he was just a “dreamer;” we have forgotten that he asked hard things of all of us.

In his time, MLK was not considered “respectable,” or “peaceful.”  He was targeted, bombed, stabbed, surveilled, jailed, beaten, and murdered for what he preached and embodied.  He was accused of being a communist (not unlike how Black Lives Matter is slandered with being a “terrorist” group today), an enemy of the state.

Now we celebrate him as a national hero (which, obviously, he is, please don’t hear me saying otherwise), but at what cost?  How well do we (and I’m really meaning white folk here) heed his words, and let them compel us to action?

From his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail:”

I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership… all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows… I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”
From his speech, “Beyond Vietnam:”

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality…we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation…We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy…

…I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

“Rallies without end”…that gets me. So what would Brother Martin ask of us today?  I listen to his words and let them work on me, sit in the discomfort they cause me as a white clergywoman.  And I think he would ask us to rise up, to gird up our courage to dismantle the “giant triplets” and build up a whole new world. Even in this moment of chaos there is immense opportunity for a resistance that shows up against harm and builds up a just world, if we are bold enough to grab hold of this moment, look our fear in the eye, and act anyway.

And I think he would tell us to not do it alone. Freedom is a collective movement. Remember Brother Martin had Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Vincent and Rosemarie Harding, Anne Braden, Amelia Boynton Robinson, Daisy Bates, and so many others.  He was not alone, and neither are we.  Thanks be to God.

Now let us begin.
Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world…
The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise,
we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

(from “Beyond Vietnam”)


Rev. Anne Dunlap is a UCC pastor, activist, and herbal warrior serving as Community Minister for Racial Justice & Solidarity in Denver, CO, where she is a member of the United Church of Montbello.  Her work includes local organizing, pastoral and spiritual care in the movement, teaching, farmhanding, and coordinating the Showing Up for Racial Justice faith working group.  Anne invites you to take a listen to the new Showing Up for Racial Justice podcast. She writes at FierceRev Remedies.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Monday Prayer

Holy One how precious life is!
OUr years are fleeting,

When we look back at the passage of time – it seems impossible
Day to day
Week to week
Year to year
There it is gone!

And yet…
We are it in, and the future is frightening

God of all the things
Today I hand over my worries
My fears
My apprehension

What will be, will be
What I do with what I have is the here and now

Equip me; equip my friends; equip those I distrust and those I fear.
For if we are all equipped by you – really You, then I can trust the command “Do not fear”
Until that time…
Help me in my doubting and fear
Especially this week.
Amen


Julie Rennick is a Church of Scotland minister in Earlston, a rural village community in the Scottish Borders. She blogs at A Country Girl, writes for Spill the Beans and is a contributor to the Rev Gals book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She is very happy to have wee Tabi in her life, a Sprocker Spaniel puppy.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media.  We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back.  For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

 

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Sunday Prayer

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Holy One of Sabbath and Struggle,
We come before you this morning,
mindful of of your presence with us and in us,
mindful of the connections we share
with whom we worship.

You have gifted us with this hour
of worship.
You have shared your Sabbath rest,
pouring it upon our hearts and souls,
bathing us in love, in prayer, in song, in silence.

You have challenged us to struggle,
with the contradictions we face everyday.
You ask us to question, to dig deep,
to remember Justice and Mercy and Love
must prevail,
if we are to be Your disciples.

In the quiet of the next few minutes,
we pray for all that weighs on our minds
(and there is much)
that need your Grace and your Peace….
(Silence)

We lift up these prayers,
in the name of Jesus, our Brother and Teacher,
Amen.

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Rev. Karla Miller is the Minister for Community Life at Old North Church UCC in Marblehead, MA, on the North Shore of Boston.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Saturday Prayer – Snow Day Gratitude

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For the snow, thank you.

For the footprints of happy dogs in the snow, thank you.

For the cloth that the snow throws over a table, as if getting ready for a party, thank you.

For a wheelbarrow full of snow that any day now will melt into water, insurance against next year’s drought, thank you.

For the sun, just about to come up over the fence and the trees, just about to sparkle on dogs and tables and wheelbarrows and me and friends and strangers and this new day, thank you.

Amen.

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Jennifer Garrison Brownell serves as designated term pastor at First Congregational Church -UCC in Vancouver, Washington.  She contributed to the Revgals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and is the author of the not-really-about-a-triathlon memoir Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath. She blogs at There Is a River.


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11th Hour Preacher Party: Be Still Edition

I always end up preaching to myself, and sometimes it is something that someone else needs to hear, too. So before we get to work on the sermon: on the off chance you might have a little too much on your to-do list, hear this:

“Be still, and know that I am God”                 Psalm 46:10

And look at this:

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OK, here we go. Revised Common Lectionary preachers, you get another helping of Jesus’ baptism and the calling of the first disciples, some more Isaiah, and the beginning of a 1 Corinthians series. There is a RevGalBlogPals post about that. Narrative Lectionary friends get Jesus’ first sermon, and we also have a discussion post for that. Non lectionary folks, please let us know what you’re doing; the more ideas, the better!

Children’s moments, prayer thoughts, and other plans are also welcome here. U.S. preachers will want to remember the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this weekend, as well as the upcoming inauguration.

And when you get overwhelmed, go back to the top of the post.


Monica Thompson Smith is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister, serving as stated supply pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Luling, TX. She is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.


RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com

 

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