Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Created for Gratitude

From the McHenry County (IL) Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration
Sunday, November 22, 2009.

“There is a Chinese proverb that reads ‘when you drink from a stream, remember the spring.’ This call to remember the source of what we enjoy is universal. It is the experience of gratitude is found in every major religion. Our national holiday of Thanksgiving is an opportune time for us to come together to celebrate the bonds of community and universal experience of gratitude.

"In Hebrew, the work "to give thanks" also means "to confess." While every faith tradition encourages the giving of thanks, there is one community for which this holiday can be especially difficult. That group is the American Indian or Native American community. We acknowledge tonight that their crucial role in shaping the "first" Thanksgiving has been lost or mythologized, their good will and generosity overlooked, and their suffering hidden from our view. Our presence tonight is our "confession" that we which to inhabit a world in which all peoples will be valued and can live together in peace.

“We come to listen with our hearts as well as our minds. Diversity is a holy gift. No greater respect can be given another than listening to him or her. To listen is to acknowledge the divine or holy image in the one who speaks to us.”

Thanksgiving Prayer: Let us come with grateful hearts in prayer this Thanksgiving week, that somewhere in the deepest recesses of our beings, each of us is created for gratitude. Let us pray, gratefully, to know there our common Source and to honor the delicate bonds which unite us, hearts and minds. And may our listening hearts of prayer guide us, beyond the many mindful things which can so sharply divide, that we may hear the Holy Image speaking in the hearts of all who speak to us. Amen.

A link to a Native American teacher's research on the struggle between myth and fact of the "first" Thanksgiving is here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pray Truth and Freedom

“Truth is powerful and it prevails.”
Sojourner Truth (b. November 18 or 26, 1797)

According to Women in History: Sojourner Truth was born into slavery into in New York State, Truth suffered its inhumanity and degradations, including being sold at age 9 years with a herd of sheep, being sold numerous other times to violent owners; suffering beatings, rapes, being told who she could and could not marry, and separation from her children. In 1827 New York completed legislating the abolition of slaver. Shortly before 1829, Truth, whose given name was Isabella Baumfree—changed later to reflect her understanding of God’s calling in her life—had a religious experience she came to describe as becoming "overwhelmed with the greatness of the Divine presence" therein she was inspired to preach and quickly became known as an rousing and “miraculous” preacher.

Her preaching brought Truth into contact with influential abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and David Ruggles. In the spirit of the times, she was eventually drawn to the utopian cooperative ideal, joining the Northampton Association of Education and Industry in Massachusetts. There she met Olive Gilbert and began dictating her memoirs The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave was published privately by William Lloyd Garrison in 1850.

In 1854, Truth was invited to speak at the Ohio Woman's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, she gave her most famous speech -- with the legendary phrase, “Ain’t I a Woman.”

In 1864 Truth worked among freed slaves in the Washington D.C. area meeting with President Abraham Lincoln. A famous painting, and subsequent photographs of the event, depicts President Lincoln showing Sojourner the 'Lincoln Bible,' given to him by the black people of Baltimore, Maryland.

After the Civil War ended, she continued working to help the newly freed slaves through the Freedman's Relief Association, then the Freedman's Hospital in Washington.

In the days ahead, let us pray for truth.
Let us pray for freedom.
Let us pray to be “overwhelmed with the greatness of the Divine presence.”

May we come in these days to experience the grace and mercy
of the truth of our own beings and of our lives.
May we begin to know the blessed freedom of living and being in truth toward
our selves and our sisters and brothers.
May we begin, in these, to know the limitless compassion of the presence of the Divine
in the living of our days.

Monday, November 9, 2009

“Efforts and courage are not enough without
purpose and direction.”
John F. Kennedy

We have much to lift in prayer this week: those whose efforts and courageous lives have been given across the years to maintain the purpose and direction that we in this nation hold dear; those who through their courageous efforts, daily, risk their lives that those dear truths might endure; and those whose lives of effort and courage support those lives dedicated to protecting and defending us all. May we lift high as well, our own living, that in our daily strivings we might find strength and a renewal of purpose and direction in the living of our days. Amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Prayer for the Saints

All Saints Day

“For All the Saints”, v. 4, 5

“O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia

“And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia”

(Link: Praying with the imagination in the tradition of Francis and Ignatius.)

I’ve been living with an image in my imagination for several months now, perhaps; better, Christ has been praying it within me, for I could never have come to this of my own accord. In my childhood bedroom, I am in my bed and my parents are kneeling beside as they did nightly for prayer. Jesus is present too, in the way that he is frequently present in such imagining prayers, at once palpably real and, too, indiscernibly present. My parents too are so real that I want to weep and run to them and hold on forever, and yet they too are difficult to define and discern.

Lord Jesus Christ, how I miss them, they have been dead for so long. I was 25 when I was orphaned for a second time I my life. My mother died that year, four years after my father’s dying. Neither had been well for so many long years, endless days of years filled with sickness and pain. My father a “dead man walking” through my growing up years struggling with the declines of congestive heart failure and my mother, a disappointed, angry, drunk with a venomous heart whose ridicule was flung at those closest to her, my dying father and me. Our very breathing simply seemed to fall short and disillusion.

Lord Jesus, I miss my parents more than I can say. They have been dead for so long; my father for 33 years, my mother for 29. In this prayer, you, Jesus, are holding us all so tightly together that we seem bound, one to the other in ways that in our living together and in their dying, were impossible to discern. Difficult days, so many of which flowed with pain and renting grief, your presence, impossible to discern. (Especially in her dying, Lord, so alone as she cursed you and died; succumbing to the poisons of her own heart.)

Yet, you are here now, dearest One, holding us in blessed communion, the struggles of their days in flesh and blood, grief and pain far behind them; your glory shining from deep within them in ways I can only begin to see thorough the dim mirror of this praying. The communion of saints and the forgiveness of sins are not simply words on a page committed to memory, ideas to share in a community of belonging. No, they are  prayers for our living: to forgive and be forgiven of that which separates me from these most beloved saints, blessedly, now and for so long, at rest in you, is to begin to accept your forgiveness and to begin the forgiving. Of them, of you, most especially of myself.

For you healed them, blessed Jesus, tired and worn as they were, pain-riddled and grief-soaked in their beings, into the gentle and merciful heart of your divine fellowship so long ago. It is my heart which has labored on for all these years, longing for that which I can only know in surrendering the feeble struggle shared with them to you who has held us all so gently for years beyond our knowing. May my ear hear your distant song in these days. May my heart find courage and strength in you. May I know in this prayer of us united with you in love and peace is the communion of saints, the divine fellowship I pray to find with all whose feeble struggles I share. Amen.