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 
 
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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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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
 
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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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as we follow you down the Road to Calvary

Old Jerusalem Ramparts / Utilisateur:Djampa, CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons
 
O Christ, as we walk through the land that you loved,
    in the country where you lived and taught,
    grant us the grace and wisdom to see clearly
          and understand deeply
    that all you suffered was for the sake of redeeming humanity.
Through your life, death, and resurrection,
    you have made it possible for us to have life,
    and have it more abundantly.

O Christ, as we follow you down the Road to Calvary,
   Guide us to become active participants, not curious bystanders.
O Christ, as we stand with the mourners at the Cross,
   Give us the love that can forgive those who trespass against us.
O Christ, as we witness the new life given to us
        through your Resurrection,
   Empower us with faith to act and spread the Good News.

Palestinian women of Jerusalem 
Prayers Encircling the World

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Luke 23:26-27

As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, 
    who was on his way in from the country, 
    and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 
A large number of people followed him, 
    including women who mourned and wailed for him.

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Come, Lord, enter my heart

image / pixabay / public domain
 
Come, Lord, enter my heart,
    you who are crucified, who have died, who love,
    who are faithful, truthful, patient, and humble,
    you who have taken upon yourself a slow and toilsome life
    in a single corner of the world,
    denied by those who are your friends,
    betrayed by them, subjected to the law,
    made the plaything of politics right from the very first,
    a refugee child, a carpenter’s son, a creature who found
    only barrenness and futility as a result of his labors,
    a man who loved and who found no love in response,
    you who were too exalted for those about you to understand,
    you who were left desolate,
    who were brought to the point of feeling yourself forsaken by God,
    you who sacrificed all,
    who commend yourself into the hands of your Father,
    you who cry, “My God, my Father, why have you forsaken me?”
 
I will receive you as you are,
    make you the innermost law of my life,
    take you as at once the burden and the strength of my life.
 
When I receive you I accept my everyday just as it is.
I do not need to have any lofty feelings in my heart to recount to you.
I can lay my everyday before you just as it is,
    for I receive it from you yourself,
    the everyday and its inward light,
    the everyday and its meaning,
    the everyday and the power to endure it,
    the sheer familiarity of it,
    which becomes the dimmedness of your eternal life.
 
Karl Rahner, 1904 – 1984, German Jesuit theologian
 
_______________________________
 
 
And this is eternal life, 
    that they know you the only true God, 
    and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

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to find our constant inspiration in you

image / picryl
 
Servant Jesus,
    what love you showed to your disciples
        and what humility in your service.
    You are the Life of life, Son of God,
        yet you stooped down
        to take off the grimy sandals
        and to wash their dusty feet.
    With loving care you dried them with the towel
        make them fresh and cool.
    Since you, our Lord and Savior,
        did such lowly service for us,
        ought we not humbly to serve others also?
Lord God,
    it is not easy to walk in your way
        when we seek peace among the nations.
    We find there are many who hate peace
        and prefer to seek the victory in war.
    Even amongst our neighbors and friends
        are those who want to prepare for war.
    I am for peace;
        but when I speak, they are for war.
    In my distress I call to you, O Lord;
    give me the courage and the faith
        to speak for peace.
Spirit of God,
    you call your people to patient endurance
        that we might not fail in time of testing,
        that we might not grow weary in well-doing.
        that we should not abandon our first love.
    Help us to find our constant inspiration in you
        that the lamp may be kept burning
            as we witness by your grace.
 
John Johansen-Berg, 1935- , English Minister
 
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When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

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Do you weep over my city?

Donegall Street, Belfast / Albert Bridge / Wikimedia Commons
 
This is my city, Lord:
I’ve flown over it,
driven around it,
walked through it,
and I love it.
Its concrete chasms, its quiet parks,
its massive buildings and its tiny houses,
its suburbs rich and poor.
But most of all, Lord, its people…
My city, Lord. Your city.
Remember, Lord, there was one city
over which you stood and wept.
Do you weep over this city?
With its hunger, its greed, its cruelty?
Its foolishness and heartbreak?
Lord, I believe you do.
 
prayer used over Belfast, Northern Ireland
from A Procession of Prayers, edited by John Carden
 
_____________________________
 
 
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, 
“Would that you, even you, had known on this day 
    the things that make for peace! 
But now they are hidden from your eyes.”

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We seem to give back the dead to you . . .

image / jplenio / pixabay
 
We seem to give back the dead to you, Lord, 
    who gave them to us.
But as you did not lose them in giving, 
    so do we not lose them by their return.
Not as the world gives do you give, O lover of souls.
What you give you do not take away,
    for what is yours is ours if we are yours.
And life is eternal and love is immortal,
    and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing,
    save the limit of our sight.
Lift us up, strong Son of God,
    that we may see further;
    cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly;
    draw us closer to yourself, that we may know ourselves
    to be nearer to our loved ones who are with you.
And while you prepare a place for us,
    prepare us also for that happy place,
    that where you are we may be also,
    for ever, and ever. Amen.
 
Rossiter W. Raymond, 1840-1918, American mining engineer, scholar and writer
 
_______________________
 
 
Do not let your hearts be troubled. 
You believe in God; believe also in me. 
My Father’s house has many rooms; 
    if that were not so, 
    would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 
 And if I go and prepare a place for you, 
    I will come back and take you to be with me 
    that you also may be where I am. 

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only you can teach me to pray

image / Conniemod, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons
 
Listen, O Lord, to my prayers.  
Listen to my desire to be with you, to dwell in your house, 
    and to let my whole being be filled with your presence.
But none of this is possible without you.
When you are not the one who fills me, 
    I am soon filled with endless thoughts and concerns
    that divide me and tear me away from you.
Even thoughts about you, good spiritual thoughts,
    can be little more than distractions,
    when you are not their author.
O Lord, thinking about you, 
    being fascinated with theological ideas and discussions,
    being excited about histories of Christian spirituality
    and stimulated by thoughts and ideas about prayer and meditation,
    all of this can be as much an expression of greed
        as the unruly desire for food, possessions, or power.
Every day I see again that only you can teach me to pray,
    only you can set my heart at rest,
    only you can let me dwell in your presence.
No book, no idea, no concept or theory will ever bring me close to you
    unless you yourself are the one who lets these instruments 
    become the way to you.
But, Lord, let me at least remain open to your initiative;
    let me wait patiently and attentively for that hour
    when you will come and break through 
        all the walls I have erected.
Teach me, O Lord, to pray. Amen.
 
Henri J.M. Nouwen, 1932 – 1996, Dutch-born Catholic priest and author
 
_________________________________
 
 
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, 
he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
 

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Ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around

civil rights march / GPA Photo Archive / flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
 
Almighty God, Thou has called us to walk for freedom, 
    even as Thou did the Children of Israel.  
We pray, dear God, as we go through a wilderness of State Troopers 
    that Thou will hold our hand.  
We pray, dear God, as we must go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, 
    that Thou will go with us and strengthen us for the task.  
Keep us strong.  
Keep us calm.  
Help us to love our enemy.  
And above all, keep the fires of freedom burning in our hearts, 
    so that no matter what happens, 
    ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around.
Because Thou, dear God, has set us into this place.
Thou has sent us to fight, not just for ourselves,
    but to fight for this nation 
    so that democracy might exist here for the whole world.
Keep this vision in our hearts,
    and may we one day wake up and find the state of Alabama,
    where all men might vote, 
    where all children might get a decent education,
    where every man and woman might find a decent job
        according to his or her abilities,
    and where every man and woman 
        might be able to live together as brothers and sisters
    and violence and bloodshed and hatred and prejudice
         shall be no more.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
 
Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929 -1968, American pastor and civil rights activist
 
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Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they shall be satisfied.

 

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