Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Prayer for Graduates

“Though I speak in the tongues of humans and of angels and have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing. And if I give away all that I have and even turn over my body so that I may boast, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

God of love, we thank you for these, your beloved. We thank you for their accomplishment of graduation, their achievement of finding their way to this milestone. We thank you, God, for all those who helped them make it this far. For mothers and fathers, for grandmothers and grandfathers, for teachers and coaches and counselors, for friends and parents of friends. We thank you that somewhere along the way, they have known love, been touched by love, and continue on the lifelong journey of learning how to love.

We ask for you to encamp your angels around your beloved. Protect them from evil. Keep them wise in their decision-making. Teach them to be kind to themselves and to others. Be near to them when they call.

As they say goodbye to what they have known for so long and move into new places or at least new circumstances, help them to care about the world and its creatures. Create within them the desire to care for the stranger across the street and the stranger across the border. Remind them to care for their family especially the old ones who will desire their tenderness and the very young ones who will need their friendship. Teach them to care about the things that matter and teach them NOT to care about those things of little consequence.

Give them courage to speak out against injustice, strength to make it through difficulties, wisdom to know what is required by and needed of them, and joy that sustains them through sorrow. But mostly, O God, keep them in love. Keep them in love with you and the world. Keep them in love with truth and seeking righteousness. Keep them in love with the earth and sky with their rainbows and full moons, flowering trees and running streams. Keep them in love with birds of the air and animals that creep and crawl upon our sacred lands and swim in our beloved waters. Keep them in love with the laughter of children and dancing and holding hands.

Open their hearts wider and deeper so that this will be the generation that teaches the rest of us what it means truly to love.

In the name of love, we pray, Amen.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wishing for World Peace

There’s a wish list on the refrigerator at the church where I serve. People working in the kitchen write down the items that run out and that are needed for fellowship hour and potlucks. This list is written on a narrow pad of white paper and as the top page fills up, items get marked off, the page is torn away, and another one takes its place. No one told me about the list. No one has explained who takes care of handling the requests. I’m not sure exactly who is in charge of supplying the items; I just know that for my past seven months of service here what is asked for is received, what is empty gets filled, and what is missing is replaced.

One day, I walked into the kitchen and noticed a new item had been added to the list. Just beneath the requests for measuring cups, sugar, and a white tablecloth, someone had written, World Peace. I suppose it was just a joke. I must say it brought a smile to my face. How amusing that someone wants world peace AND a tablecloth. And yet, after thinking about it, maybe it wasn’t meant to be funny at all. Maybe someone had noticed that when trash bags and plastic spoons are listed on these pieces of paper attached to the refrigerator, the items suddenly appear and maybe that someone decided that if crackers and salt, tea and creamer can magically happen, peace can too.

Finding peace, creating peace, is of course, nothing like shopping for kitchen items. You don’t just order up peace for the universe in the same way we pick up grape juice and cookies. But as I’ve considered the listed item and decided it was probably a joke, it concerns me that people of faith don’t even hope for it any more. Maybe we have decided it is no longer a prayer worth praying. With our own young men and women fighting on two battlefields for over a decade, stories of civil strife and tensions rising across borders, with the history of the world numbered by wars, maybe we’ve decided it isn’t even worth our wishes, even isn’t worth a petition for grace.

“It’s just human nature,” I’ve heard folks say. “As long as there are people and greed, people and religious differences, there will be battles fought.” Maybe. But maybe not. At the very least it seems to me we ought to keep asking for peace. We ought to keep working for justice, finding solutions to poverty and hunger to help ease the tensions, create new ways to deal with the strife. It seems to me at least that people of faith should once again imagine that love is stronger than hatred and peace can overcome chaos. People of faith should at least pray for world peace.
But maybe that’s just a naive and silly request. Perhaps I should imagine only teaspoons and paper napkins, communion cups and Kool-aid will appear at church and in the world. Maybe we should keep our expectations low and our lists manageable. After all, when it comes to kitchen supplies, there is somebody making that happen. Somebody can handle those needs.

Still, I walk in the church kitchen, take a look at the refrigerator and notice the one item not marked off the list and I say a pastor can dream and there’s no danger in asking. There’s nothing wrong with claiming what we need and requesting a little help. Sugar and world peace, I’d say we could use a little of both.