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Today I thought I would be personal. I thought I’d share a bit about my story with Korea. And there are two reasons for this. For one, I encourage my students to share their stories, and so it seems I should be willing to do the same. The second reason is that you are probably reading about North Korea in the news almost daily. I pray hard, very hard, for wise and sound leadership from Kim Jeong-Un and from Donald Trump. Their decisions have the power to impact the neighborhood where I grew up, which you see in this picture here. It is but 35 miles from the DMZ demarcating the division between North and South Korea. That is Daeshin Methodist Church where I was baptized as an infant, actually before that building even existed, and behind it is my middle and high school, Kum Ran Girls School. Today I’d like to share with you a poem I learned as a 7th grader in that building. My 7th grade classroom was all the way in the back. We had 8 7th grade classrooms with 70 kids in each classroom. I learned a lot and I learned a lot of stories.

The poem that I will share with you is by Yun Dong Ju, or Barron Yun, who was a member of the Korean nobility. He lived through the Japanese occupation of Korea and died just before the Korean people had their first taste of liberation in 1945. Barron Yun was a scholar, a patriot, and also a strong Methodist lay-leader. This is his poem.
서시

죽는 날까지 하늘을 우러러
한 점 부끄럼이 없기를,
잎새에 이는 바람에도
나는 괴로워했다.
별을 노래하는 마음으로
모든 죽어 가는 것을 사랑해야지
그리고 나한테 주어진 길을
걸어가야겠다.

오늘밤에도 별이 바람에 스치운다.

I agonized,
as the wind carried the leaf,
that I would live until my dying day,
under heaven,
without one drop of shame.

Let me love all things that will die
with a heart that sings of the stars.
And let me walk
the path I have been given.

Even tonight,
the stars know the touch of the wind.

When I was first introduced to this poem by my humanities teacher, it stood tall for me as a call to conscience. I don’t go to Kum Ran Girls’ School anymore, but I’m still in school, where the stars shine bright at night and where the call to conscience is loud.

Yes, at NMH, the call to conscience is loud. It keeps me alert. It is why I am here. It is why we ask difficult questions of our students and it is why we hold our breath for them to find their answers. It is why we feel pain when collectively we have not done the right thing and have hurt others.  It is why I hope you will join me in praying for the Korean peninsula. But the call to conscience is also why we get up each day and try again, this time to do better than yesterday. It is why each day we resolve to love all things that will die with a heart that sings of the stars. Thank you.
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In origin, the Baccalaureate service is a religious service at an educational institution before the commencement ceremony. It is a time to honor a being greater than ourselves, as we heard in Wahab’s reading, and it is a time to be grateful for the day that is before us and for the ways in which we have been led to this moment, as we heard in Celia’s reading. Indeed, it is a time to allow for spiritual, prayerful or meditative reflection.

Class of 2017, today I would like to meditate with you on a paradox. As you rejoice over your accomplishments at NMH, the ways you have built your life here, and your plans for continuing to build your life in the years ahead, I would like to share with you the words of Henri Nouwen, a theologian and Catholic priest, author, and scholar who taught at the University of Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard. Nouwen writes, “the great paradox of life is that those who lose their lives will gain them. This paradox becomes visible in very ordinary situations. If we cling to our friends, we may lose them, but if we are non-possessive in our relationships, we will make many friends. If fame is what we seek and desire, it often vanishes as soon as we acquire it, but if we have no need to be known, we might be remembered long after our deaths. …. Giving away our lives for others is the greatest of all human acts. This will gain us our lives.” (Nouwen, Henri. Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith. New York: HarperOne, 1997.)

I do not interpret Nouwen’s words about losing our lives to mean that we should disregard our health, safety and well-being. Nor do his words imply that we should put our lives in harm’s way. But, Nouwen metaphorically suggests that the self-centered approach to life will ultimately result in a feeling of being unfulfilled and somehow lacking. Our great efforts to build our lives by stacking up our credentials, and stockpiling our experiences to strengthen our resumes might make us more employable but they won’t make life more gratifying.  

Recently, I exchanged some comments with students about the concept of excellence. It was clear to me from the conversation that excellence is something NMH students strive for, and yet it was also evident  that definitions of excellence varied significantly from student to student. In our fast-paced college prep environment where we are constantly measured, evaluated, and commented upon, excellence can become a mostly self-oriented project. Excellence is thus understood as an individual pursuit and not often thought of in terms of group endeavors. I am struck by the competitive element that seeps through this thinking; excellence becomes a way of distinguishing oneself as better than others.

Now, Henri Nouwen clearly distinguished himself as a teacher at the most competitive universities in the world. He was excellent at what he did. But what I did not tell you earlier is that he did not feel completely fulfilled as a human being in his obvious worldly success. Although he was a much sought after and well-respected speaker, he often felt alone in his struggles to understand his sexual identity and religious identity, and to know where he was called to work and belong in this world.  While he was at Harvard, he made the decision to leave his scholarly life and work in a community for developmentally disabled adults called L’Arche Daybreak Community near Toronto, Canada. A man internationally acknowledged for his articulations of divine mysteries and for his insights into the human psyche intentionally chose to be in a place to serve those who did not, and would never understand any of his writings. When I think of Nouwen’s life, I see someone who walked away from comfort and recognition to give his energies to help feed, quite literally, those who could not feed themselves. He gave his days to walking with those who could not walk by themselves. At L’Arche Daybreak, it seems Nouwen found the source of what would give him meaning when he stepped away from pursuits that centered on finding meaning in his own person. When he was willing to refocus and see his source of meaning in others indeed he found deep gratification.

I would venture that you have already experienced a glimpse of  this paradox of securing and finding something through the very act of letting go. I feel confident that during your time at NMH you have had at least an experience or two when a relationship with a friend became stronger because you were able to resist controlling the outcome and were surprised by the positive response you received. You may have experienced greater joy in a class that you had found challenging at the moment you decided to not worry and simply do your best even if it meant losing the possibility to make a top grade. You may have found great satisfaction through participating in a service project where you had to give up your time for the sake of someone else. Or you may recall the thrill of creating something together as a team, be it on the athletic field, or the stage, because your weaknesses were empowered by your friends’ strengths and vice versa. In that moment, you lost yourself only to find it again in the middle of the larger you. I feel quite certain that you have had at least one such experience during your time as a student, because you chose to come to a school that has continuously asked you to live not only for yourself, but also for the benefit of others.  

But now as you go forth from this school you will need to clarify for yourself just how you will continue to live this paradox of life. Whatever profession you choose, may you be blessed with the courage to lose yourself in the pursuit of goodness, justice, and equity for your neighbor who lacks the resources and privilege you have had all of your life. You know all about this; you’ve heard it in DSJ, SLS, your academic classes, advising, with your coaches and teachers. It has been the constant refrain to be critically aware and to seek ways to bring about change. This refrain is now your comfort song that you will sing to yourself on solitary nights on some college campus or in your new home when you ponder your existence and how you shall live out your humanity with a purpose that you will never tire of.

When you try to save your life you will lose it. But when you lose your life for others, you will indeed save it. A few other well known religious figures have also shared this same message both in words and through their lives. As you leave NMH, why not further test the truth of this paradox for yourself? To lose yourself for others, you will first need to see and know who it is that you share this planet with. In finding the empathy and compassion for your neighbor and the courage to walk with them, you may paradoxically find the vision for your own life that will give you profound joy and fulfillment.

It may even lead to an excellent life.

Blessings to you.
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April 26, 2017

As chaplain at a secular school, I am often asked the question, “where do you find religion at your school?” I welcome this question because it gives me the opportunity to challenge societal assumptions that religion exists only in a pre-assigned sacred place such as a church, synagogue, mosque or temple, with designated people doing ritualized activities. Especially at a high school, I don’t find religion limited in these ways.

This past Sunday, I attended a student-led diversity summit workshop that looked at the potential for interfaith groups to speak to the environmental crisis we are facing today. As I participated in a substantive conversation led by two members of the Interfaith Student Council about how groups of people with differing worldviews can join together to agonize over our common predicament of global warming and climate change, I thought to myself, ‘this is where religion is at a secular school.’ Religion is in this inquiry to know about difficult issues that have, and will profoundly affect the wellbeing of humanity. Religion is in the process of becoming vulnerable to the pain that many around the world experience daily, and yet, religion is also in the process of daring to tackle these problems with a sense of hope that our lived realities can be different. Religion is in the idealism of these teenagers’ hearts and minds.

Of course, a quick retort might be that, in fact, what I have described is spirituality, not religion. Maybe… But religion is the human container for the vast spiritual mysteries that are experienced in communities. Religion is the historical memory of how those mysteries have been talked about in communities, and it is also the confession about how it has been abused for the power of some over others. Religion is often the way people live out their spiritualities, for good or for bad; religion is the imperfect human effort to actualize ideas, truths, and dreams. If students are bringing their lived realities, their families’ realities, their communities’ realities to the table to talk about the lack of water in Yemen, the increasing number of heat waves in California, and what all this means for a shared and peaceful future, then we are talking about religion, an embodied reality in the lives of these students.

I was proud of the two students who led the workshop I attended. They reminded us that religion permeates our learning; it is in our academic and emotional questions, our neighbors’ struggles, our common vision for a better tomorrow, and in our willingness to be a part of bringing that vision to life. A step beyond our assumptions allows us to see much religion today at our secular school founded by Protestant evangelist D.L.Moody.  
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Let’s say that on your way to church this morning, you encountered a martian, a person from mars. And the martian said to you where are you going? You replied that you were going to an Easter service. So, the martian said to you, ‘what is Easter?’ How would you answer this martian?
…...
Then, the martian said to you, ‘how do you know about this Easter?’ What would you say?
…...

Today we’re going to ask two questions; firstly, what is Easter and how do we know about it, and secondly, how then shall we live? The second question will sound familiar to you if you’re an NMH student. Knowing what we know about Easter, how then shall we live?

What’s Easter and how do we know about it?
Let’s go to the Gospel of John, to the passage that Shameek read to us. In that passage we hear from Jesus, two angels and 3 people. So, let’s look at these three people.Of these 3 people, two we do not hear from directly; only their actions are narrated. One is not named, except that he is called “the one whom Jesus loved.”He may have been the one who wrote the Gospel of John, a disciple known as John the son of Zebedee, but we can’t know that for certain since the Gospel itself never makes this connection.This passage tells us that when Mary came with the urgent news that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb, this disciple went running to find out what had happened. But he stopped short of going into the tomb. Only after his companion went in, did he also enter. And it is said that he believed. But we don’t really know what he believed. Did he believe Mary that, yes, the body had been taken? Or did he believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead? The next verse says, “they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” So, we don’t know what this disciple believed.

The other person in this passage that we do not hear from directly is Simon Peter. Peter is the brave disciple who wanted to walk on the water like Jesus. And Peter is the one who correctly identifies Jesus as the Messiah. It is this Peter, a man of courage and insight, that also runs to the tomb where Jesus had been buried when he hears from Mary that the tomb is empty. Peter rushes into the tomb and saw it empty except for the linen wrappings that had been around Jesus’ body. For some, this might be evidence that Jesus was alive, but again, we do not know what Peter thought because the verse that follows is “they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”

So, of the three people in this passage, other than Jesus and the two angels, two, who were respected as being close to and knowing Jesus well, didn’t seem to understand or accept Jesus’ resurrection. I appreciate this about the Gospel of John; it lets people who may not be certain about what Easter is be a central part of the story. It lets human confusion, uncertainty, maybe even doubt, be a part of how the Easter story unfolds. Maybe that’s something I would say to a martian if I were asked what is Easter and how do we know about Easter.

Actually, maybe some of us feel like a martian at times, especially in the middle of a big church festival like Easter, where it can seem like everyone else around us understands the concept of resurrection and is filled with joy and certainty. Maybe we feel like an alien outsider unable to connect to what’s going on. For the martian in us, perhaps it is helpful to remember that in this story in the Gospel are two people who didn’t quite get the concept, either. I believe they were included for a reason.

Now, we’ll look at the third person; Mary Magdalene. Mary had been at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified, and she came to the tomb early on the third day after Jesus died maybe to tend to the body as was the tradition. But she is troubled by what she sees. She sees that the heavy stone guarding the tomb entrance had been removed and she is concerned that the authorities may have moved the body of Jesus to avoid any political problems. She reports the situation as she understands it: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Mary Magdalene is then the first person to witness to the empty tomb. She was not the beloved disciple nor the disciple Peter, whom tradition reveres as the stand-out student of Jesus. If you think about a classroom, Mary might have been the student sitting at the back or in a corner, not in the center of the action. Of course, we can wonder why that is and we might ask who were the ones at the center of action around Jesus. Maybe those in the center didn’t really give Mary much of a chance to be there with them. But, let’s see what Jesus does in this passage.

So, Mary rushes to tell the others that the tomb is empty. They come running to inspect the tomb, but then go back home! Meanwhile, Mary stays. Her sadness is overwhelming and she weeps outside of the tomb. But, something happens as she cries. She gains the courage to peer inside the tomb and she is able to see what the other two disciples did not. She sees two angels sitting where Jesus’ body would have been. As far as we know, the other two disciples did not see the angels. Mary, however, was able to. Was it that her crying cleared her eyes so that she could see better? Did emptying her grief allow space in her heart and mind to see a vision of angels? Why did the Gospel of John include this? When we think about how we know Easter, is the Gospel saying something to us about the importance of emptying ourselves from the certainty that fills us up so that there is room for really new and radical things?

Not only does Mary see the angels, but she has a conversation with them. How often does that happen! The other two disciples certainly did not talk with the angels. So, it was not with the disciples who were at the center of action around Jesus that the angels conversed; it was with the woman who had been on the sidelines. And the conversation is simple and honest; why are you weeping the angels ask and Mary responds with honesty about her confusion. Jesus’ body should be in the tomb, but it is not.

This honesty leads to another amazing encounter, for after she says this, she sees another man present  who also asks why she is weeping, and she responds as she did to the angels. But then this man calls her by name, “Mary!” and in that moment she recognizes Jesus, her teacher, and she knows that he has been resurrected and is alive!

This is the moment that Jesus’ resurrection becomes Easter for Mary! This is the moment that her grief is transformed into inexplicable joy! Easter happens to Mary in a very personal way; she is identified by name and all that she is, her sorrow, her honesty and confusion, her marginal status among the disciples, all of this is wholly accepted and transformed by Jesus. This encounter changes Mary completely.

While I don’t really know whether the Gospel of John was written also for martians it may, in fact, present a very effective way to explain to someone who feels like a complete outsider what Easter is. Easter is that personal moment when, like Mary, through our honesty and vulnerability, we hear Jesus calling our own name and we experience a radical transformation in our lives. Jesus was raised from the dead, but Easter is our own faith moment when God becomes real to us. And if that can happen to Mary, the one on the sidelines, then it can happen to each of us. That is the promise and joy of Easter!

The second half of the question, how do we know about Easter, is answered in in part through Mary’s actions after she talks with Jesus. She went back to the disciples and announced, “I have seen the Lord!” We can know about Easter because of people like Mary! Please hear her courage to share her experience with a group of people with whom she may not have had much authority and who likely had already heard discouraging things from Peter and the beloved disciple who had left the tomb before she did. Please hear her freedom and joy that she knows in her own relationship with her Teacher, Jesus, and be grateful for her witness as one way we, too, can know about the potential of Easter.

We turn now to the final question of how then shall we live? And the answer to this will be short or incomplete because it is up to you to find your answer. How then shall we live in response to what we hear about Jesus’ resurrection through the scriptures, through the traditions of the church, through the words of others, is the ongoing story of our own faith lives. Maybe we are like the beloved disciple, uncertain about entering the empty tomb, but remember, he was indeed beloved. Maybe we are like the courageous Simon Peter, who did not know how to interpret the folded linen wrappings that he saw, but nonetheless becomes a foundational figure for the Christian church. Or maybe we are like Mary, somewhat on the sidelines, sad and confused, but nonetheless accepted and also loved by Jesus. We know of Mary’s response to the question of ‘how then shall we live’; she proclaimed with courage, freedom, and joy her faith experience.

How then shall we live, those of us who were not at the foot of the cross, who did not see an empty tomb, who know of the confusion of the disciples and also the testimony of Mary? The Gospel of John suggests to us that there is not one specific standard way we have to respond to the mystery of the cross. Jesus will call each of us by our own name, as he did Mary, and this will be our own Easter moment that gives us our unique vision for how then we shall live as faithful Easter people in all places of our lives. May today be your first day on this transformative adventure of finding, seeing, and living with the risen Christ. Amen.
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This afternoon I offer you my meditation on three verses that I have a “work-in-progress” relationship with. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)  Really…?

I suppose I can be thankful when my gaze is directed towards myself; I’m thankful for my health and my family’s health, I’m thankful for being at this school and for the comforts and opportunities it provides, and because I don’t like to feel lonely I’m thankful for friends and community. But, if I’m able to crawl out of my self-focused world for just a moment and see my neighbor as Jesus asks me to, then it’s not so easy to be thankful. How can I be thankful when I hear words of prejudice and hatred directed toward certain groups of people in our society from those who are in power? How can I be thankful when poverty and injustice afflict our neighbors in this nation and around the world? How can I be thankful when the needs and concerns of too many people seem to be ignored and marginalized, and wars persist leaving children stranded and refugees without shelter? How can I be thankful when many will resort to violence to express their views and when peace seems elusive in our world divided by ideologies? There is a lot that is not good. If I love my neighbor as myself, how can I be thankful?

I don’t think Jesus was thankful for everything that happened in his life, if by thankful we mean appreciating reality as it is. In fact, Jesus was angry at the merchants and moneychangers in the temple. I don’t recall him giving thanks for what they were doing. Jesus was not grateful, either, for the hypocrisy of the religious people who came to speak with him or for the illnesses of the scores of people who came to him for healing. Jesus didn’t accept their situation, nor did he ignore it and focus instead on the blue skies and singing birds. And to be clear, Jesus certainly was not grateful for having to carry a cross to his death. He did not say, ‘God, thank you for leading me to this point.’ No, Jesus prayed to have God remove his suffering. But Jesus stayed in the place of human greed, brokenness and sin that ultimately produced his cross. That’s the kind of stick-it-out, authentic guy that he was. If Jesus’ gaze had been turned inward to himself, as the Son of God he had everything to be thankful for. But Jesus looked at the people around him with compassion and ultimate humanity and did not desert them in their time of trial and tribulation.

That’s the kind of Jesus I believe in, a Jesus who sees reality for what it is and sticks around in that suffering with his love, righteous anger, and yes, a peace that passes our understanding. That’s the kind of Jesus I can model my life after. And that’s the kind of Jesus that even today shows up in people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Gandhi, you, and me, and speaks up in our places of brokenness. We are never alone when we open our hearts to justice and love.

So, rejoice always? Yes. Pray without ceasing? Yes. Give thanks in all circumstances? Yes, because we are loved by a God who suffers with us especially when we thirst for righteousness sake, when we feed the hungry and clothe the poor and give voice to the voiceless. Somehow in that process a new heaven and new earth will emerge; we are co-creators in this. This is our meaning and this is our hope. Yes, we can give thanks.

Then, let us not grow weary in doing what is right (Galatians 6:9), for God is with us.

It seems to me that to live a life of faith is to balance what to give thanks for and what not to give thanks for, knowing that through it all we are grateful that God is indeed with us and is transforming our reality with us. And when we cannot give thanks for what we see in our world, then we must cry out. It is clear to us that “[the] Kingdom of God is not the United States of America [and we should] not confuse the two.” (UMC Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of the Louisiana Conference) So then what are we doing to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth even despite the United States of America and in all places in the world?  Amen.


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Acts 11:1-18
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

"Who was I that I could hinder God?"

Today is Earth Day Sunday and our gratitude for the marvel of the Earth, which is our home, is great. We are grateful that as a family of God we are called to care for God’s earth. And so this is a wonderful day to be baptized. It is a wonderful day to be baptized into the family of God. My message today will focus on the family of God.
Revelation 21:3 tells us that the home of God is among mortals, among people like ourselves. God will dwell with us on this earth, and we will be God’s people and God will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death and permanent separation will be no more, crying and pain will be no more, for these things have passed away and God is making all things new. What a great day to be baptized!
Baptism is saying out loud that we are God’s children; we are members of this people of God. Baptism is a promise to live our lives with this identity prominent in our consciousness. Baptism is holding the vision of God living with us and we as community in God. Baptism is a recognition that our old ways of thinking and old habits are gone because God makes our lives new and wipes each tear and guides each step we take. God is doing a new thing in us! What a great day to be baptized to live with this understanding in all that we do!
But let’s look more at this new thing God is doing. The new thing God is doing is enlarging our understanding of who God’s people are. God is enlarging our understanding of the people that God chooses to be with. This new thing God is doing might be shocking to us! For Peter, it was shocking.
Peter saw a vision. In his vision, a sheet from heaven came down with beasts of prey on it and Peter was told to kill the beasts and eat the meat. Peter was surprised and responded that he could not eat unclean food. The voice of the Lord in his vision was telling him to do something that did not correspond to the rules and rituals of his tradition. He was being asked to do something against the norm. Peter, always striving to do what is right and holy, says to the Lord that he cannot obey. But the response is, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times in Peter’s vision, which immediately led into the Spirit telling Peter to go with the Gentiles from Caesarea and not to make distinction between them and the Jews. Peter was instructed to deliver the message of salvation, which I like to call the message of God’s love, to the Gentiles just as he delivered it to the Jews.
The new thing God did for Peter was to help him see that God does not make distinction between people. God will dwell with all people, not just the ones Peter thinks are God’s people, and moreover, God will be with people in a way that God sees fit. The new thing God did for Peter is to give him an understanding that, as it says in verse 18, “God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” We do not know what that repentance looks like because the scriptures are not specific. But the new thing God did for Peter and is doing for us is to break down the barrier between the in-group and the out-group, the Jews and the Gentiles, the believers and the non-believers, the ones who say the right words according to our traditions and the ones who do not. The new thing God did for Peter and is doing for us is to help us see, as it says in verse 17, “If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could hinder God?”
God gives the gift of love, the gift of God’s presence to all people without distinction. Verse 17 says that some receive this gift when they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But who are we to hinder God, if God will give the same gift to others in ways that are not known to us? Who are we to hinder God’s power among people God chooses to be with, and who are we to hinder God’s presence among those that God seeks out? For, as Revelation reminds us, “the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them.... God himself will be with them.”
The new thing God is doing in our lives is to broaden our understanding of who belongs to the family of God. What a great day to be baptized, for God is giving us a radical vision of inclusivity beyond what our traditions and social norms will tell us. Who are we to hinder God, if God will speak to people in ways that God did to us when we heard the message through the life of Jesus Christ? We do not know how God will speak to others, but this much is clear and this much we are commanded to do; what God calls clean and good, we are not to call profane and sinful.
And we are given another commandment; we are to love one another. We hear Jesus speaking to us in the Gospel of John: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The distinguishing mark of a disciple of Christ is the love one has for others. This is what Jesus commands. In this passage Jesus does not command his disciples to recite a certain creed, nor to even identify with a particular religious group. Jesus says, if you love others, they will know you are my disciples.
What a great day to be baptized into the family of God. God has chosen to be with us without distinction. Who are we to hinder God?  All that we can do is to love one another. That is the only way we can truly show our baptized identity and our loyalty to God, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.

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Easter 2016 Congregational Prayer led by Tim Relyea
Adopted from http://carolpenner.typepad.com/leadinginworship/prayers-congregational/


In this prayer for our world, our nations, our community, and ourselves, I ask you to join in the refrain after each of the four parts. Each part will end with brief silent prayer followed by the refrain “Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.”  When you hear me say “Lord in your mercy. . .”  please join in together with “hear our prayer”.


Creator God, we call upon your great healing power for the many rifts in our world.
Can you bring peace again in the Middle East?
Can you do something about this refugee crisis?
Can you sow seeds of hope and calm in places recently racked by violence and despair?
How can you address intolerance and racism that infects our communities, our world?
Can you open our eyes to how you are already working for peace
in ways that we cannot fathom or understand?
God who created us, and walks with us in this beautiful and troubled world,
can you hear our prayers even when they are only questions?
We silently offer to you our prayers for this world, your creation. <PAUSE>
Lord in your mercy . . . hear our prayer.


O God, we pray for your mercy and wisdom in this nation and in our home lands.
Can you send Your Spirit to touch the hearts of our nation’s leaders--
those who lead now and those who may lead in the future?
Will you open their minds to the great worth of human life
and the responsibilities that accompany human freedom?
How can we, your people, more faithfully abide by the understanding
that true happiness is rooted in seeking and doing Your will and not that of other worldly powers?
We silently offer to you our prayers for this nation and our home lands. <PAUSE>
Lord in your mercy . . . hear our prayer.

Lord, we ask you to hear our prayers
when we call out our thanks for the blessings of our community
and when we raise our concerns for those whom you place in our daily lives.
We remember Dylan Refeld who was a student here and died last year.
We pray for the well-being and fulfillment of students and faculty traveling now in South Africa.
What do you want us to see today through the eyes of our friends?
What do you want us to discover through the questions of our young adults?
How do you want us to be shaped by the generosity of our people in the middle?
Who do you want us to become by listening to the wisdom of our elders?
Why have you placed us in community, Lord,
except as a way of learning more about your goodness?
We silently offer to you our prayers for this community. <PAUSE>
Lord in your mercy . . . hear our prayer.


Jesus, you show us the promise of freedom and new life in your resurrection,
You reveal the love of God that overcomes death and suffering.
You make clear our commandment to love one another.
We praise you in this Easter time for the joy of these gifts.
And yet why are we are often so afraid of sharing the suffering of those around us?
Do you see that sometimes we turn our faces, our hearts,
from the deepest pain of those you bring into our lives?
Can you forgive us for minimizing the pain of others,
and downplaying their burdens?
Can you help us imagine how we would want to be treated,
if we were in their shoes?
Can you give us the courage to act that way?
We silently raise up to you our prayers for ourselves. <PAUSE>

Lord in your mercy . . . hear our prayer.