wise as serpents, innocent as doves

dove surrounded by snake, Lichfield Cathedral, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
 
Dear Lord, you have sent me into this world to preach your word.
So often the problems of this world seem so complex and intricate
    that your word strikes me as embarrassingly simple.
Many times I feel tongue-tied in the company of people
    who are dealing with the world’s social and economic problems.
But you, O Lord, said, “Be clever as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Let me retain innocence and simplicity in the midst of this complex world.
I realize that I have to be informed,
     that I have to study the many aspects of the problems facing the world,
     and that I have to try to understand as well as possible 
     the dynamics of our contemporary society.
But what really counts in that all this information, knowledge, and insight
    allows me to speak more clearly and unambiguously 
    your truthful word.
Do not allow evil powers to seduce me with the complexities of the world’s problems,
    but give me the strength to think clearly, speak freely, and act boldly in your service.
Give me the courage to show the dove in a world so full of serpents.
 
Henri J.M. Nouwen, 1932 – 1996, Dutch-born Catholic priest and author 
 
__________________________
 
 
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, 
    so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 
Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 
    and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, 
    to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 
When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, 
    for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 
For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

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how do I worship in spirit?

image / pixabay
 
O God, what is Spirit?
How do I worship in spirit and in truth?
I am such a solid, earthly creature,
    my feet planted firmly on the ground,
    my life based upon material things.
I like to touch and feel and see before I believe.
I am accustomed to dealing with houses, land, and money,
    with bread, meat and potatoes,
    with objects handled, weighed, and valued
    by my own standards.
I am uncomfortable with what cannot be analyzed
    or dissected or given a market value.
What is Spirit?
 
Yet, O Lord, the very things I handle and see
    lose meaning when they become ends in themselves.
They are all given meaning by the things of the spirit,
    by love and hope and faith.
I know when I come down to it,
    if I have all kinds of earthly goods
         and have not love,
    I have nothing.
I need the mystery beyond the tangible.
I need the things of the spirit
    to give meaning to the material things I prize.
I cannot divide life up,
    you have made it whole.
If I avoid love, diminish hope, deny faith,
    my appreciation of my house and land,
    my meat and potatoes, shrinks,
And I become a little man
     with little aims and little power.
 
Kenneth Phifer
 
————————————
 
 
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—
when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. 
The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 
For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
 

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How we need your compassion!

Jesus and the woman taken in adultery / public domain

God, why do I call impossible what You call possible?
Why do I call unforgivable what You call forgiven?
Why do I compromise with what You call sin?
How I need to know Your heart,
    and reach out in Your love and wisdom to others.
It’s easy to love the people who are standing hard and fast,
    pressing on to meet that higher calling.
But the ones who might be struggling, 
    we tend to judge too harshly
    and refuse to try to catch them when they’re falling.
We put people into boxes and we draw our hard conclusions
     when they do things we know they should not do.
We sometimes write them off as hopeless 
    and we throw them to the dogs.
Our compassion and forgiveness sometimes seem in short supply.
We can love them and forgive them when their sin does not exceed our own,
    for we too have been down bumpy roads before.
But when they commit offences outside the boundaries we have set,
    we judge them in a word and we turn them out,
    and we close the door.
 
Chuck Girard, Celtic author
 
___________________________
 
 
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, 
    for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, 
    because you who pass judgment do the same things. 
Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 
So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, 
    do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, 
    not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
 

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Your way laid open before me

Image, Ion Chibzii from Chisinau. , Moldova., CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
 
The way You have laid open before me is an easy way,
    compared with the hard way of my own will
    which leads back to Egypt and to bricks without straw.
If You allow people to praise me, I shall not worry.
If You let them blame me, I shall worry even less.
If You send me work, I shall embrace it with joy.
    It will be rest to me because it is Your will.
 
Only save me from myself.
Save me from my own, private, poisonous urge 
   to change everything, to act without reason, 
   to move for movement’s sake,
   to unsettle everything that You have ordained.
 
Let me rest in Your will and be silent.
Then the light of Your joy will warm my life.
Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for Your glory.
This is what I live for.  Amen, amen.
 
Thomas Merton, 1915 – 1968, American Catholic writer and Trappist monk
 
____________________________
 
 
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

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for those involved with the law

Jesus Before Pilate, James Tissot, Wikipedia Commons
 
Lord Jesus,
    You were in prison, found guilty when you were innocent,
    You were executed as traitor when in fact you were Savior.
To you who died to set all free we pray for:
    All makers of the laws of the land,
         that they do so with reason and compassion.
    All interpreters of the law – judges, lawyers –
        that they be fair, honest and impartial.
    All administrators of the law – prison guards and superintendents – 
        that they be merciful in their firmness.
    All prisoners – that they may know that you are in prison with them,
        in their homes with their loved ones,
        and that in you is their hope.
    Though bound, may they be perfectly free in you and in your service.
 
John B. Coburn, 1914- 2009, Bishop of Massachusetts
 
_____________________________________
 
 
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
   the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.

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give us hope to share

image
 
Do not give us rest, Lord
while people are hungry
and we are rich.
As long as justice is a dream
press us on
and do not give us rest.
 
Do not give us peace, Lord,
while people live in fear
and we are safe.
As long as hatred stifles love
stir us up
and no not give us peace.
 
Do not give us comfort, Lord,
while people are desperate
and we are well.
As long as lives are lived in pain
disturb us
and do not give us comfort.
 
But give us hope to share, O Christ,
hope that disturbs and stirs and shakes,
the hope of Job,
the hope of the lame,
a hope of new life
beyond the pain.
Until all find comfort
and peace
and rest,
Christ, give us hope to share.
 
Francis Brienen, United Reformed Church, UK
 
_______________________
 
 
 
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. 
Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 
Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 
Rejoice in our confident hope. 
Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. 
Always be eager to practice hospitality.
 

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I pray for the children

Photo by Andrae Ricketts on Unsplash
 
This morning, Lord, I’m praying for many people,
    just a day after Dobbs v. Jackson…
 
I’m praying for those 
    disappointed and angry,
who believe their rights have been trampled and crushed:
    their choice and autonomy wrenched from their grasp…
 
And I’m praying for those 
    now claiming a victory,
who believe that justice has finally prevailed:
    the right to life, refreshed and reclaimed…
 
I pray for our country, 
    torn apart and embittered,
where the battle for rights will continue to rage,
    dividing our nation, body and soul…
 
I pray for the Church 
    to preach with compassion
the gospel of life as the wisdom for choosing
    what’s loving and true, what’s generous and good…
 
And I pray for the Church 
    to faithfully serve
with shelter, support, understanding and help
     people and life in all shapes and all forms…
 
And last, but not least, Lord, 
I pray for the children conceived every day:
    planned or unplanned, welcome or not,
    impaired or healthy, ill-timed or convenient,
        each one made in your image divine,
        each one named by your love and your grace,
        each one, your own, entrusted to us…
 
Many to pray for, many to hold
    in our arms, in our care, in our love.
Help us to welcome the gift of new life
    with its challenges, burdens and blessings, 
        with the strength and help of your grace…
 
Amen.
 
Fr. Austin Fleming, Roman Catholic Priest serving near Boston, MA  
Concord Pastor
 
______________________________
 
 
And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, 
Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 
do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, 
and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

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prayer for scrubbing floors

Cleaning Lady, Tomicmilos90, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
 
Thank you for the privilege of scrubbing this floor.
Thank you for the health and the strength to do it.
That my back is straight and my hands are whole.
I can push a mop. 
I can feel the hard surface under my knees when I kneel.
I can grasp the brush and let my energy flow down into it
    as I erase this dirt and make this floor clean.
Lord, thank you for everything that has to do with scrubbing this floor.
Bless the soap and the bucket and the brush and the hands that do it.
Bless the feet that are running in right now to track it.
Those feet are the reason I do it.
That are the living reasons for my kneeling here
    – half to do a job, half in prayer.
A floor is a foundation. A family is a foundation.
You are our foundation.
Bless us all, and our newly scrubbed floor.
 
Marjorie Holmes, 1910–2002, American columnist and author
 
___________________________
 
 
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named
 

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Make me always busy in your service

Les femmes saintes, James Tissot, via Wikimedia Commons
 
Lord, I make you a present of myself.
    I do not know what to do with myself.
So let me make this exchange:
    I will place myself entirely in your hands,
    if you will cover my ugliness with your beauty,
    and tame my unruliness with your love.
Put out the flames of false passion in my heart,
    since these flames destroy all that is true within me.
Make me always busy in your service.
Lord, I want no special signs from you,
    nor am I looking for intense emotions in response to your love.
I would rather be free of all emotion,
    than to run the danger of falling victim once again to false passion.
Let my love for you be naked, without any emotional clothing.

St Catherine of Genoa, 1447-1510, Italian Catholic mystic
 
___________________________
 
 
Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, 
preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. 
He took his twelve disciples with him, 
along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. 
Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; 
Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others 
who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

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What can I say to you, my God?

Holy Trinity, Lawrence OP, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
 
What can I say to you, my God?
 
Shall I collect together all the words
    that praise your holy Name?
 
Shall I give you all the names of this world
    —you, the Unnameable?
 
Shall I call you
    “God of my life,
    meaning of my existence,
    hallowing of my acts,
    my journey’s end,
    bitterness of my bitter hours,
    home of my loneliness,
    you my most treasured happiness”?

Shall I say:
    “Creator, Sustainer, Pardoner,
    Near One, Distant One, Incomprehensible One,
    God both of flowers and stars,
    God of the gentle wind and of terrible battles,
    Wisdom, Power, Loyalty, and Truthfulness,
    Eternity and Infinity, you the All-merciful,
    you the Just One,
    you  – Love itself?”
 
Karl Rahner, 1904 – 1984, German Jesuit Priest
 
__________________________
 
 
Then Moses said to God, 
“If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 
    ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ 
and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ 
what shall I say to them?
 

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