NL Prayers: Abram

These prayers are written for a weekly Bible study over the Narrative Lectionary scriptures, year 1. The two prayers are written to open and close a time of study but can be adapted for other purposes and settings.


Loving God,
whose gentle guidance can challenge us
as often as it is a welcome comfort,
lead us in paths of faith this day.

Let us be wrestled from this place
to journey in heart if not in body,
to grow in spirit and truth.

May our conversation be a pilgrimage
and our study an exploration
that ever draws us closer to you.

In the name of Christ, we pray.
Amen.


Holy God,

Grant us the courage to step out in faith,
even when the destination is beyond our knowing.

May we hold to the promises you have given,
trusting you to provide enough to survive and to share.

Teach us to count our blessings with thanksgiving,
and to be a blessing to all the people of the earth.

In the name of Christ, we pray.
Amen.

NL Prayers: Noah

These prayers are written for a weekly Bible study over the Narrative Lectionary scriptures, year 1. The two prayers are written to open and close a time of study but can be adapted for other purposes and settings.


Loving God,
whose mind is a mystery to us,
and whose complexity of character challenges us,
ground us this day in your love.

Let us find sustenance in surprising places,
meaning in muddled moments,
and encouragement in the encounter.

May our learning remind us how little we know,
our study blossom forth with too many questions,
and our conversation quicken the spirit.

In the name of Christ, we pray.
Amen.


Holy God,

Grant us the courage to find hope in difficult stories,
and to write hopeful stories in our own difficulties.

May we take shelter under the shadow of the mighty storms,
and even there marvel at the tenacity of your love for creation.

And when the wind settles and we land on solid ground,
send us out to make this world like new again.

In the name of Christ, we pray.
Amen.

My Death May Come

For some time now, I’ve been rather taken by Joseph’s dying request to have God’s people carry his bones with them when one day they would leave Egypt for the promised land. After a bone-weary year that largely served to highlight how far we have yet to go, it is freeing to think that we don’t have to do any more than the span of our lives will allow. God’s promises endure and whether we make it there on foot or our bones are carried there by the generations yet to come, we will make it just the same.

Our lives and our strength have never been the sure force behind the promise of the Divine. Instead, may we trust that “where ere we go, our God will see us through.”

An Election Day Prayer

Lord of all people,
God of all nations:

Save us from the naivete of thinking
that this election does not matter
and from the short-sighted thinking
that this election is the only thing that matters.

May our votes this day be an act of love
which counts strangers as neighbors
and the least of these as highest priority.

May our votes be one act among many
as we employ our whole lives
to embody Christian love.

Grant us charity in disagreement,
openness to those who oppose us,
and patience through times of struggle.

Grant us the courage of conviction
that holds every elected leader
accountable to justice and mercy.

Save us from our allegiance
to anything above Christ crucified
and from anything that restrains us
from building your kingdom on earth.

Amen.

Psalm 23 Prayer

Loving God,
who shepherds us, your children,
hear our prayers:

For we who do not know the way forward,
we pray your guidance would be made known,
that we would be led to restful waters.

For we who walk in the darkest valley,
we pray your rod and staff be with us
that we might know your protection.

For we who know the names of our enemies,
we pray for a feast too large to enjoy alone,
that we might be forced to seat them at the table.

For we who count blessings in abundance,
we pray for a cup too small to hold them,
that our blessings might spill over for our neighbors.

For we who have been hounded by troubles,
we pray for the courage to look behind us once more,
that we might see your goodness and love are also in pursuit.

For we who are wearied from the toll of living
we pray for the welcome of your embrace,
that we might know what it is to lack nothing
because in you, we have everything.

Amen.

Litany of Lament

Let us give words to the aching of our hearts,
strive to capture the groans from deep within,
and offer to God a fragile prayer from a fractured world,
for ourselves, our sisters, and our brothers:

God of compassion,
look on your people with kindness,
granting hope to the discontent and disenfranchised,
strength to the wearied and worn,
and comfort to the grieving and gas-lit.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of righteousness,
guide the people of this nation and the world
in the ways of justice and peace,
that we might see one another
and honor our shared creation.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of promise,
give us visions of your coming kingdom,
where the last and the least and the lost
are lifted closest to your heart
and all manner of things shall be well.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of wisdom,
open us to the truth of our ways,
to see our own sinful steps,
to recognize the whispered voice of complicity,
that we may walk in the way that leads to life.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God over the waters,
may we remember our baptismal vows
to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
to reject the evil powers of this world,
and to serve alongside a church opened to all peoples.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of incarnation,
who knows the pain of beatings and death,
who still stands alongside us in suffering,
and whose body is in us and encompasses us,
lead us in the work of healing.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of resurrection,
we commend to your care all who have died,
that they may share with all your saints
in your eternal kingdom without end
where we may one day join them.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of community,
teach us the prayers of our sisters and brothers,
teach us to live the prayers we cannot speak,
teach us to speak the prayers we cannot live,
and pray on our behalf when we have nothing left with which to pray.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We offer these prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Special Dispensation

I propose a special dispensation
that all clergy and holy rollers
be granted a wholly impassioned moment
to unleash an expletive explosion
into an otherwise stunned silence.

Because sometimes the guardians
of Lucifer’s ever-burning lair
are lulled to sleep by the warmth
and the sound of Styx’s steady current
masks the underworld’s trample upward

And the guardians of the aboveworld
mustn’t let decency and clutched pearls
dissuade them from their one recourse:

To gesticulate wildly at the everything
surrounding and imposing on us all
and shout to the wind and the good Lord,
“What in the hell is this?!”
because it’s important to know

The particular type of
evil, injustice, or oppression,
to resist these presented forms
without mistaking the face of our foe
and fighting one another.

D. Burns, 2020

May God Be There

Is it even allowed to toss two extra syllables into a line just because I feel like it? Written as a creative outlet during the coronavirus pandemic, I fell for Gardiner’s achingly beautiful tune and relied on Psalm 71’s description of God as a refuge and rescue for the line that grounds the hymn — and that incidentally and accidentally added those two extra syllables into what was supposed to be a long meter text. We’ll call it creative license and not just forgetting what iambic tetrameter even is.

A Foreign Grace

Written for a February 2020 worship service at Manchester UMC using the Mark 7:24-30 text of the Syrophoenician women and intentionally designed to avoid the theologically controversial aspects of the story (did Jesus change his mind and what does that mean about the character of God?) without missing the valuable insight into God’s character as one who leaves “no space unknown to grace.”

Note: I realize that listing the hymn as doubled common meter (CMD) is being awfully generous and pretends that “to the” and “Like a” (among others examples) can be sung in a single syllable. It works with this tune and likely not many others. Such is the cost of my rebellious nature and inability to adequately edit my own work.

Good Friday #pictureLent

Re-posted from my devotional written for #pictureLent, a collaboration between the Rio Texas and Michigan conferences of the United Methodist Church to provide daily devotionals throughout the season of Lent. See the original post here or find more information about #pictureLent at picturelent.com.

First, read John 18:1-19:42

Who are you looking for?

One afternoon in college, a group of my friends burst into my dorm room insisting I drop everything and come with them to see someone who looked exactly like me. They didn’t know who it was, they had only spotted them halfway across the campus commons and were stunned by the similarity.

I followed them with interest, expecting to be similarly stunned. But when they pointed to my doppelganger from a distance, I didn’t think he looked anything like me. I said as much to a friend and they insisted, “He has the same awkward facial structure as you!”

And with an embarrassing rush of blood to the face, I watched as my apparent lookalike turned and suddenly became a mirror image of me. In profile, I could see that we shared the same gentle jawline, the same preposterous balance of head on angled neck, rolled shoulders on scrawny frame.

I never actually sought out my doppelganger after that. There was something too disconcerting about finding the most unsettling parts of myself captured so perfectly in the face of another person.

But could that be what Good Friday is for?

While the other gospels move us quickly through the arrest and trial and on to happier things, John invites us to linger a while and look closely. Jesus is not found with a quick kiss of betrayal but seeks out the band of soldiers. He steps from the shadows into the flickering light of their lanterns and torches, but no one brandishes a sword at him. They don’t know the face of the accused, only the name on the arrest warrant.

When Jesus asks whom they seek, they answer obliviously: “Jesus the Nazarene.”

Perhaps Jesus looked too much like any common person enjoying a late-night walk among the trees. No doubt they expected someone dressed like a king, not someone wearing clothes they themselves might change into from their imperial garb at the end of shift.

But after his twice-told insistence, the soldiers arrested him. They took him to the high priest Caiaphas, who looked and saw a blasphemer rather than a king. He was struck and sent to Pilate, who was puzzled by the migrant teacher and saw a political quandary rather than a ruler. At the bidding of the crowd’s insistence, Jesus was given back to soldiers who mocked him for how little he looked like royalty.

When eventually they came to the hill for his crucifixion, the soldiers quibbled over how to divide Jesus’ clothes. The next day, his shirt and shoes would be worn by four everyday men throughout the city without any indication their former owner was anything other than ordinary.

In the years since, artists have frequently seen the extraordinary and crowned Jesus’ thorn-ridden brow with a gleaming halo. They remember that Jesus responded to the soldiers in the garden with the ancient name of the divine, “I Am.”

But hidden in the extraordinary is the discomfort of familiarity. The face on the cross looks disconcertingly like mine, baring to heaven and earth the most unsettling parts of myself. Sometimes God steps from the shadows into the flickering light of my lantern looking more like me than any king I’ve ever known.

For in Jesus’ kingdom, rulers go to the grave to save those they love and prove their place in the image of God.

Look closely on him whom they have pierced. Who are you looking for?