A Litany for the Blessing of a Car

A Car Litany

Priest: Let us pray to the Lord.

Response: Lord, have mercy.

Priest: Lord our God, You make the clouds your conveyance; You travel on the wings of the wind; You sent to your servant Elijah a fiery chariot as a means of conveyance; You guided man to invent this car which is as fast as the wind: Therefore, O Lord, pour now upon it your heavenly blessings. Grant unto it a guardian angel that it may be guided upon the rightful road and be preserved against all harm. Enable those who ride in this car to arrive safely at their destination. For in your ineffable Providence, You are the Provider of all things, and to You we give glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and for ever and ever. Amen.

Or

Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord

People: Lord have mercy

Priest: O Lord our God, You make the clouds your chariot. You ride on the wings of the wind. You sent to your servant Elias a fiery chariot to carry him up to heaven. You guided man to invent amazing means of transportation.  Therefore, O Lord, we humbly ask You to bless our cars. Send to their drivers Guardian Angels to guide them and to protect them from all harm.  May they arrive safely to their destination through the intercession of Our Lady of Guidance and St. Elias-the-Living and all your saints. For in your ineffable Providence, You are the Provider of all good things and to You we render glory, thanksgiving and worship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever.  People: Amen

Celebrant, Will you remain attentive, forgoing eating, talking, or texting while driving?

Driver:  I will, with God’s Help

Celebrant:  Will you drive safely at the speed of traffic?

Driver:  I will, with God’s Help

Celebrant:  Will you be sober when you drive, and offer your keys when requested of you?

Driver:  I will, with God’s Help

Celebrant:  Will you forgo rushing red lights or stop signs?

Driver:  I will, with God’s Help

Celebrant:  Will you change lanes safely with space in between your vehicle and others?

Driver:  I will, with God’s Help

Celebrant:  Will you follow cars at a safe distance?

Driver:  I will, with God’s Help

Celebrant:  Will you relax when other drivers show bad judgment?

Driver:  I will, with God’s Help

Celebrant:  Will you pull over and rest when you are tired?

Driver:  I will, with God’s Help

Celebrant:  Will you be humble enough to forgo driving in bad weather?

Driver:  I will, with God’s Help

Almighty God, we give thanks for our reason and skill.  Let us remember that our ability to drive is a risk and that we are to remember the precarity of life in this world.  May all who drive do so with humility, attention and grace, so that we may be able to travel and visit the places we desire to go.

Or

O Lord God, listen favorably to our prayers, bless this …  and send your holy angels, so that all who ride in it may be delivered and guarded from every danger. And as you granted faith and grace to your deacon Philip, and to the man from Ethiopia who was sitting in his chariot and reading Holy Scripture, show the way of salvation to your servants, so that they may, after all the trials of their pilgrimage and life on earth, attain to everlasting joy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

AMEN

9/18/2012  The Collect is adapted from a Melkite Prayer; the closing prayer is adapted from a Roman Catholic prayer.

Blessedness

Blessed is sometimes translated into “happiness.”  And when Jesus talks about being blessed, he announces that it will be the meek, the poor, and the persecuted.   Could he be ironic or sarcastic?  An announcement that God’s work was different, not the property of the lucky and privileged?

The writer Matthew understood that “blessing” or happiness was meant to be a regular, and rigorous, orientation toward life.  It was not a cheap optimism, but a steely view towards one’s personal power.

To say that our meekness, lack and want is blessed, is to alter our perspective toward desire.  What was hidden is now seen.   We had been unaware that we were so attached; we denied were were captivated by our desires.  We are creatures that want; we want because we lack.

Blessing our desires also announces that we lack, yet without shame.  Our desires not be condemned, but honored.  And so, may our compulsions not destroy us, our limits understood as giving us the frame for appreciating the goodness and life in us.

May our attachments not terrify or diminish us.    May our imperfections themselves not hinder us, but be celebrated.  Blessed are those who make mistakes, for they will have done the work.

Easter 4 Year C

Easter 4 Year C

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

After reading this week’s lectionary, I’m considering “how to build a church 101” sermon.  Or a “how not to build a church 101” if I can get some laughs out of it.

“Ignore the people around you,”  “use Schoenberg for a mass setting.”

In the first passage we read – from Acts of the Apostles – the disciples accomplish amazing wonders, including healing of a bedridden paralytic and the raising of Dorcas, of the unfortunate name, from the dead.  Transformation is promised and delivered.   Upon seeing the successes of the church, people believe.  They believe in the power.   Who needs health insurance when you’ve got Jesus!

From this pericope I might discuss power.  I believe that Christians are too shy about talking about power.   The assumption: “power corrupts.”   I’d spend some time looking at different sorts of power – physical power; spiritual power; monetary power.   I’d assess the chaotic nature of power, and the power required to create order.

Power from people with the best intentions can have terrible results; and power from individuals who are manipulative and self-interested may result in wonderful changes for the common good.  But I believe, generally, that power is inextricably linked with life itself.  God is a God of power.  Dim, vague and vascillating (as Whitehead once said), perhaps, but present nonetheless.

In the second reading, I imagine the Christians, in the midst of the apocalypse, declaring God’s glory.   It seems defiant, the chant of a team that’s been the underdog for so long on the verge of victory. God wins.    They’re Cubs fans.  Trusting in the power of the underdog above the power of… money and commerce.

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Martin Luther King Day Prayer

The Benediction given at the Martin Luther King White Plains Unity Dinner, January 17th.

Holy G-d, source of life, lover of souls,

You led your people out of bondage into freedom.

You have shown us the road to righteousness.

We give thanks for this wonderful morning

Of song and story

To remember the movement

That inspired and challenged this country

to liberate the marginalized among us,

and to also remember Martin, your beloved, who challenged this nation to live the promise of human dignity.

Although we know we must continue on that journey,

We lift up to you the sacrifices we have made

Through your love.

We know that this joury for justice will not be easy.

It will not make us popular; it may not bring us bounty,

But it may bring us to a better land.

Bless us for we know this

Now send us now into the world in peace.

To go and serve as you have commanded.

Strengthen the hands and hearts of those who help others in the midst of adversity;

Grant us all firm resolve to stand with our neighbors who are in need,

And support of them in this their time of trouble;

May we speak the truth, though it may be uncomfortable;

May we challenge the powers, though it come at great expense;

But may we do so with love an humility,

Keeping our eyes on the prize.

And the blessing of God almighty, by whom, in whom and through whom we have our power, but upon us, and remain with us forever more. Amen

A Reflection on the Earthquake

Written in 2004 after the Tsunami by David Bentley Hart.

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As a Christian, I cannot imagine any answer to the question of evil likely to satisfy an unbeliever; I can note, though, that–for all its urgency–Voltaire’s version of the question is not in any proper sense “theological.” The God of Voltaire’s poem is a particular kind of “deist” God, who has shaped and ordered the world just as it now is, in accord with his exact intentions, and who presides over all its eventualities austerely attentive to a precise equilibrium between felicity and morality. Not that reckless Christians have not occasionally spoken in such terms; but this is not the Christian God.

The Christian understanding of evil has always been more radical and fantastic than that of any theodicist; for it denies from the outset that suffering, death and evil have any ultimate meaning at all. Perhaps no doctrine is more insufferably fabulous to non-Christians than the claim that we exist in the long melancholy aftermath of a primordial catastrophe, that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is the shadow of true time, and that the universe languishes in bondage to “powers” and “principalities”–spiritual and terrestrial–alien to God. In the Gospel of John, especially, the incarnate God enters a world at once his own and yet hostile to him–“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not”–and his appearance within “this cosmos” is both an act of judgment and a rescue of the beauties of creation from the torments of fallen nature.

Whatever one makes of this story, it is no bland cosmic optimism. Yes, at the heart of the gospel is an ineradicable triumphalism, a conviction that the victory over evil and death has been won; but it is also a victory yet to come. As Paul says, all creation groans in anguished anticipation of the day when God’s glory will transfigure all things. For now, we live amid a strife of darkness and light.

When confronted by the sheer savage immensity of worldly suffering–when we see the entire littoral rim of the Indian Ocean strewn with tens of thousands of corpses, a third of them children’s–no Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God’s inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God’s good ends. We are permitted only to hate death and waste and the imbecile forces of chance that shatter living souls, to believe that creation is in agony in its bonds, to see this world as divided between two kingdoms–knowing all the while that it is only charity that can sustain us against “fate,” and that must do so until the end of days.

Craig Uffman also quotes Hart.

Against Optimism

“Balance,” “Positivity.” Every now and again I hear these cliches especially when I recognize that my life isn’t balanced, and not everything is positive.

I’m sympathetic to the need for such pat demands upon our virtues. They offer solace and direction, a map for action. There’s the command: if life is unbalanced, then just balance it! If there’s negativity and sadness, just cheer up!

It seems easy to do. A transformed life is right before you, if you want it.

To some extent, however, I wonder whether or not seeking balance or cultivating an easy sense of optimism is particularly useful. Sometimes our lives are out of balance. We work hard some weeks; we become obsessed with a new song or toy; we jump in headfirst into a hobby and spend every night perfecting the craft. And seeking balance just seems like another task, another criteria by which we can make ourselves fail. So, I must do laundry, cook, exercise AND be “balanced?” And sometimes “balance” just seems like another way to dull passion and temper the enthusiasm that makes life happen.

We’re also told that we must be optimistic and think positively. And yes, our worries are often unfounded; our anxieties are based on idle speculation. Yet, a belief that everything happens for the best, and that there’s always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is profoundly delusional. For many people in the world, moments of happiness are the exception. Suffering is the norm. When we are asked to be perpetually positive, we are often woefully unprepared.

When the rich man comes to Jesus, he calls him “good.” He might as well have called him “balanced” or “cheerful.” Jesus responds, “what are you talking about” by saying “only God is Good.” What makes a Christian isn’t goodness, nor balance, nor optimism. The faith worth having is one that gives us the power to face the facts. And when we can’t face them alone, we do it together.

Because the world is often awkward; it contains uncomfortable suffering; and inconvenient truths. We are less generous than we could be; we could participate in murder when the time is right. We are prone to envy and resentment. We prefer to be deluded by human power, than moved by God’s vulnerability.

All religions want goodness. We desire to be on God’s side so that we won’t get killed. What Jesus wants instead, is for a faith that allows us the strength to handle the hard questions, to recognize that faith itself can be on shaky ground, as precarious as life and death itself.

The rich man asks Jesus for eternal life. Jesus says, follow the rules. The rich man says, “I do.” Then Jesus says, “give it all away.” And the rich man leaves, distressed, missing Jesus’ final answer, because he knows he can’t. What he didn’t understand was the he was asking the wrong questions.

He didn’t hear Jesus say, “All things are possible.” Begin where you need to begin. Perhaps you shouldn’t be asking me all of these questions, but asking yourself. Then, let’s talk.

It is not the pat phrases we need. Not through ourselves must we insist on our own perfection, now neatly labeled being “balanced” or coercing ourselves to be optimistic. Instead, even though we are imbalanced or worried, all Jesus says, it’s not over yet. Which is another way of offering the promise of eternal life.

It’s not over.