I have seen the risen church

          While he was praying, the appearance of his face changed,
          and his clothes became dazzling white.
          Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.
          They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure,
          which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

                            —Luke 9.29-31

Jesus has just told his disciples the powerful will kill him.
He is about to “set his face toward Jerusalem.”
We are in the shadow of the cross.
In that awful place when Jesus prays
he speaks with Moses and Elijah about his “departure”—
let’s not be polite about it: his terrible death.
And in that awful place what do the disciples see?
Even before his horrible death
they see him already resurrected, shining in glory!
The Transfiguration is not a proof-of-Jesus’-divinity video.
It’s a resurrection appearance, before the resurrection.
Jesus, having given himself to God, is already infinitely alive.
That’s the promise that bears him onward.

This week my church, the “United “ Methodist Church,
just voted to exclude and persecute gay people.
OK, so that’s that. We’re not United any more.
We have officially abandoned the gospel of love.
For many of us our hearts are broken.
We are in the shadow of crucifixion.

In this awful place what do I see?
I see that God in grace makes life out of death, victory out of failure.
I see the church, risen.
The terrible death hasn’t come yet,
but already the light of resurrection illumines our way.
God is at work, unseen and victorious,
even as the soldiers of death pull on their boots.

It is time for the church to die and rise.
We will suffer; some will suffer greatly.
But we will go on, and God will raise us up,
and the radiant Body of Christ, crucified and risen,
changed into a new form, will shine.
Love will prevail. It will not be defeated. Love cannot be voted down.

In all your struggles—for justice in the world,
or for peace in one neighbor’s life—
whatever your failures, whatever ruinous collapses you foresee,
know this: before the tragedy, before the awful descent,
in love you are already risen, already shining.
Go in peace. Go with courage. Go in hope.

January 28, 2019

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A lament for your house

O God, you built your house with skilled hands.
         You fashioned it with strong beams,
a roof and a bed and a table for all,
         and a name at every place at the table.

But now your enemies have taken your dwelling;
         they have seized it for themselves.
They have walled off its rooms,
         and have thrown out your children,
they have planted thorns by the doorways
         and posted sentries at the gates,
that none may enter but by hatred,
         that none may dwell here but in fear.
Your beloved, cast out, go homeless,
         your children walled out from your love.
You who dwell in your people
         have no home now, but wander the streets.

Woe to those who have shut the temple door;
         their house now a prison.
Woe to those who have done evil dressed in priestly robes,
         their house is forever empty of love.

Loving One, receive our sorrow,
         and fashion it into wisdom.
Mighty One, hold our rage,
         and grow it into courage.
Creating One, take our despair
         and turn it to hope.
O Homeless One, gather the refugees
         fleeing the house of hatred.
Shelter the condemned,
         and bless them with your glory.

Open our eyes to see, God,
         that from the rubble of injustice
you are building a beautiful house
         with strong beams,
a roof and a bed and a table for all,
         and a name at every place at the table.
For your love will prevail,
         now and forever.

 —February 27, 2019

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Psalm of perseverance

God of love, Creator of heaven and earth,
         of all that is and is yet to be,
your power shines in each person on earth,
         each is an image of your love.

You who breathe in us with love,
         whose strength is mercy and grace,
give us courage to be steadfast in love,
         and resolve to stand for justice.
You do not give up on your people,
         though we struggle to find our way;
even from the ruins of defeat         
         you raise us up in love.
In the face of hatred your love
         remains beautiful and mighty and pure.

Heal those who are wounded,
         who bear the scars of injustice.
Sustain us in your mighty grace;
         empower us with your tender care.
Even when our hearts are broken,
         even when our hands grow tired,
the might of your love be our power,
         our joy, that carries us on.

Bring into being by your grace
         what only your grace can create.
Your eternal delight be the beating of our hearts,
         your patience our strength to endure.
Your hope be our hope,
         your love be our nerve.
God of love, when the world is afraid to love,
         let us love, and the world becomes new.
Let our endurance be your praise
         our love your victory,
O God of our hearts,
         and ruler of the universe.

   —February 26, 2019

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Psalm of the accused

O Love, you are the breath within my breath,
         the urge that beats my heart.
You hold me in the inner folds of your delight;
         my name is the prayer upon your lips.
I praise you, who praise me, too;
         I sing your grace, your absolute love.
Though others speak of me with hearts of war
         and see in me their deepest fears,
you, Love, alone, are my mirror and my name;
         you are my root, and I your leaf, your fruit.
Your Word to me is courage,
         your name for me Beloved,
         and your judgment deep delight.

My enemies assail me according to strange law,
         in courts and sanctuaries they accuse my soul.
They seek to cut me off, to amputate my life from them;
         they cast me in darkness and invite my doom.
But it is you they rail against,
         your grace they tremble at;
it is your love that frightens them;
         it is you, O Rejected One, they see in me,
your tenderness they fear,
         your powerlessness they scorn.

And you, O God, with love and healing hold me;
         you save me from their demons
         and shield me from their rage.
Even as I cry for justice, and stand for dignity
         among their hail of hate,
you stand with me, you bear their scorn,
         you sing my name in quiet gentleness,
         you cast your rainbow over me.
Hold me in your peace, and fill me with your love,
         that even in their midst I may sing your mercy
         and radiate your grace.

   —February 25, 2019

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Prayer for an argument

         If I have not love
         I am nothing.

                  —1 Corinthians 13.2

God of love, may we approach one another
with the intent to love, first and last,
and submit all our intentions to love.

May our intent be to heal, not to win,
to bless, not to curse, to join, not to divide.
Help us do your will, not ours.

May we listen humbly,
speak honestly
and discern obediently.

Save us from justice without mercy,
righteousness without humility,
victory without love.

May we examine our own righteousness
more vigorously than others’.
May we demonstrate your goodness, not our own.

May we honestly examine our norms and expectations,
our judgments of those who are different,
our exclusion of those who threaten our superiority.

May we be mindful of every person’s wounded need
to be loved, to be included, to be honored,
every person’s desperation to be good enough.

May we remember your justice is love,
your command is mercy,
your judgment is grace.

God of love, give us wisdom that is love,
fill us with courage that is love,
empower us for victory that is love alone.

By your spirit help us to do no harm,
to do all the good we can,
and to stay in love with you.

We pray in the love and the company of Jesus,
who served in love, who died for love,
and who rises in us with victorious love. Amen.

   —February 22, 2019

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Sow me

         What is sown is perishable,
                  what is raised is imperishable.
         It is sown in dishonor,
                  it is raised in glory.
         It is sown in weakness,
                  it is raised in power.

                                    —1 Corinthians 15.42-43

Sow, me, Holy One,
         your seed in this fertile world.
I will be sown perishable,
         weak among mortals.
My words will be hollow,
         empty graves,
from which you rise
         in glory.

I will be sown broken,
         seed cracked open,
and a form not strictly myself
         with power not mine will rise.

My witness will be without force,
         laughable to all but the saints
who will laugh with joy,
         who will come out
singing and bewildered
         in their grave wrappings.

I will be sown surrendered,
         and the earth receiving me
will blossom forth,
         my body become immense,
my song uncontained,
         strength ungrasped.

Sow me, Holy One,
         a seed of you,
and in my falling into the ground,
         sinking into the ground,
mercy breaks all known
         and unknown bounds.

   —February 21, 2019

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Don’t fret because of the wicked

         Do not fret because of the wicked;
                  do not be envious of wrongdoers.
         Commit your way to the Holy One;
                  trust in God, and God will act.

                                    —Psalm 37.1, 5

Beware the temptation to outdo an evil one,
to beat the wicked at their own game.

The saint does not resist the devil
by becoming a more devout devil.

(You only think you envy the wrongdoer;
like them you think they’re getting away with it.

You can’t see the frightful abyss within,
the hell they are fighting to escape.)

Your compass is set to a different star.
Don’t let them turn you.

Set your heart on compassion,
even facing a wrongdoer:

it will make whatever game they are playing
a different game.

Let the Crucified one play your character;
it will change the meaning of the play.

You needn’t pimp up the power of God.
Trust love to do what you cannot.

   —February 20, 2019

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Kind to the wicked

         Love your enemies, do good,
         and lend, expecting nothing in return.
         Your reward will be great,
         and you will be children of the Most High;
         for God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
         Be merciful, just as God is merciful.

                                    —Luke 6.35-36

God is pure kindness.
No anger, no hate,
no retribution.
No petulant need
to be proven right.
No need to be mean
to those who are mean.
God is no mere guy
who knows how to be nice
and how to be cruel—
no, God is the power of love itself,
the life-giving force
of pure kindness and mercy.

Be grateful that God is so kind to us,
who are ungrateful.

How strong our urge to dilute love
with something else.
What an affront to our judgment,
this infinite, unalloyed mercy!
The immensity of God’s kindness
destroys our tiny ideas
of right and wrong (mostly wrong),
this love so generous to the ungrateful.

Repeat this daily,
breathe continually this mystery:
God is kind to the wicked,
kind to the wicked,
kind to the wicked.

   —February 19, 2019

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Love my enemies

          I say to you that listen,
Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who abuse you.

                   —Luke 6.27-28

God of love,
I call to mind my enemies.
         I summon up your love for them and offer it humbly.

I call to mind those who are hurtful.
         I pray for them, that their hearts may be healed,
         for only wounded people wound others.
I call to mind those who abuse me or oppose me.
         I pray for them, that they may know your blessing.

I call to mind those who do what I see as evil.
         I pray for them, that their hearts may be brought back to life.
May I remember always the mystery
         that my enemy and I are one; for all are one in you.
         When I split myself from them
         I am no different than when they split themselves
         from those they reject or condemn.
         In our condemning we betray our oneness;
         we wound our own humanity.

Therefore even as I oppose them,
         may I remember their wound, and honor our oneness.
May I see them, even those who are cruel,
         as your beloved children.

Even as I must oppose people for the sake of justice,
         may I stand against their injustice, but not against them;
         may I stand beside them in your love,
         even as I struggle to love them.

I pray grateful and trusting that even when I fail
         you do not curse me, but love me and bless me.

By your spirit in me, help me, O God,
         to love kindly, to do justice, to walk humbly with you,
         in the spirit and company of Jesus.
Amen.

―February 18, 2019

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Pure gift

         Blessed are you who are poor,
         for yours is the kingdom of God.

                  —Luke 6.21

It’s not that it’s great to be poor.
Or hungry or mourning.

But that blessing comes from God,
not from wealth or satisfaction or happiness.

Not that those who are at ease now
will be punished later,

but that ease is not life,
and if that’s what you seek,

sooner or later you will mourn what you missed.
So don’t miss it.

God, turn my heart like a magnet
toward the love that endures

all poverty, grief and powerlessness,
the life that is pure gift. Pure gift.

   —February 12, 2019

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