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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

IMG_2222 2Easter was a challenge this year, for all sorts of reasons.  It’s not the easiest holiday for most Unitarian Universalists to begin with – the majority of us do not identify as Christians, and those who do generally emphasize the teachings of the human Jesus of Nazareth over stories of a physically risen Christ.  Yet it’s also important, because the metaphor of resurrection – in spirit if not in body – is powerful when the spirit within us seems to have died.  The day is a reminder of hope and promise, despite every difficulty.

This year, looking out at the world, the difficulties are obvious and hope has seemed especially hard to find.  It’s difficult not to feel hopeless and helpless when so many of the loudest voices in society respond to terrorist violence by further victimizing the refugees whose lives have been most damaged and remain most in danger.  It’s hard not to feel lost when we hear the bitter words of White supremacy echoing openly once more in our own country.  We feel heartbroken when states pass laws banning the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human beings, and offer cash rewards for turning them in, like Judas and his thirty pieces of silver.

I said all of this in my message on Sunday – but I noted that we continue on regardless, just as people did two thousand years ago, and just as people everywhere have always done.  Sometimes, the work that needs doing outweighs the grief, and sometimes in the process of doing it despite it all we start to realize that the beauty and joy still in the world are just as real as any hardship and suffering.  We find hope and renewal by becoming it.

I finished the service with a prayer, which I give to you in somewhat modified form.  It was written as an Easter prayer, but it needn’t be.  Hope and renewal need never be limited to one day or time of year.

~

A Prayer of Hope in a Time of Terror

God of many names and no name,
Spirit of hope and possibility,
ever growing and changing,
reborn each moment
with the turning of the world –

We have seen too many sorrows.

With the people of Brussels we have wept,
as we have wept with Ankara, Turkey,
Maiduguri, Nigeria,
Baghdad,
Paris,
San Bernardino, California,
the nation of Syria,
and so many others,
and as we weep today with the people of Lahore, Pakistan.
Our hearts cry out with all whose lives have been taken and torn.

We know that as war begets war,
hate begets hate
and fear becomes anger.
We are too tempted to respond
to the brokenness of the world
by fracturing it further.

In this, our season of rebirth,
may we meet death
with affirmations of life,
finding hope through destruction
as we give ourselves to the world’s renewal.

Today, we embrace the redemption of love
and begin the work of healing.

This we pray:
Let us become the resurrection.

Amen.

– Rev. Dan Schatz
March 27, 2016

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Selma to Montgomery March, 1965

Selma to Montgomery March, 1965

A couple of weeks ago at the BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship I spoke about race and racism in the United States, in a sermon called Listen to the Struggle – you can read and watch the entire sermon here.

Today, as the nation observes the anniversary of the March from Selma to Montgomery, I simply want to share the prayer from that service – a prayer for hope and healing.

God of love and justice,
we cry out in hope and grief,
mourning the hard realization
that our nation has not yet fully come
to live the ideals of justice and equality,
hoping and working for the justice that is to come.

We cry for our lost heroes,
take their mantle and walk where they marched.
As we work for justice,
let us remember always the spirit of love,
that fierce and urgent love
that accepts no falsehoods or easy answers,
but that calls us onward,
that gives us the strength to face what we do not wish to see
and to hear what we do not wish to be told.

Let us reach out to one another,
and beyond our personal circles,
so that we as a nation may come to greater understanding,
and where we see injustice,
may we find courage to lift our voices
and move our bodies for what we believe in,
reaching out and reaching forward
in hope and healing.

Amen.

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trans day of remambrance

A Prayer for Transgender Day of Remembrance

On this day set apart for memory,
we remember and honor the struggles and the sacrifices
of those who have come before us,
leading us to equality, dignity, and justice.

We remember and honor those who have suffered discrimination or violence,
those whose lives have been lost,
those whose bodies or spirits have been wounded,
those who were made to feel less than whole,
less than beautiful,
less than they are.

We remember and honor
the gifts of wisdom and courage
brought forth by ancestors and companions in spirit.

We remember and honor those who walk proudly,
who love themselves and others,
who teach by their being,
and who reach to help others along the way.

We remember and honor friends, neighbors
and those we do not yet know,
revering the wholeness and dignity
within every human soul.

This day
and every day,
may all of us,
transgender and cisgender alike,
dedicate ourselves unflinchingly
to respect for every human being,
to justice,
to equality,
and to the transforming power of love.

Amen,
and blessed be.

– Rev. Dan Schatz
November 20, 2013
Transgender Day of Remembrance

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Update – 11:46pm, March 20:

This evening Michelle Shocked released a statement denying any intention to spout homophobia, saying that her remarks were misunderstood, that she was describing the opinions of other people, and that her statement about tweeting “Michelle Shocked hates…” was a prediction of how she would be misinterpreted.  She says that she supports the LGBT community and marriage equality.  Included in her statement: 

“I am damn sorry. If I could repeat the evening, I would make a clearer distinction between a set of beliefs I abhor, and my human sympathy for the folks who hold them. I say this not because I want to look better. I have no wish to hide my faults, and  – clearly – I couldn’t if I tried.”

I am glad to take her word for what she meant to say.

The same evening, audio from the concert has been released.  (The relevant part begins at 4:40.)  To be honest, it’s really hard to say what she was trying to get at.  Members of the audience seem confused as well.  In my letter I tried to be very careful to speak from a place of concern, rather than judgment.  Hearing the audio, I remain concerned.

Here is the full text of her statement.

And here is my original post of the open letter responding to the initial news reports on Sunday:

Dear Michelle,

We haven’t met.  Or rather, we have, twenty years ago, but it was rather fleetingly backstage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and you wouldn’t remember.  That was the year that you sang “Kumbaya” and reminded the audience that “Kumbaya my Lord” meant “Come by Here, my Lord.”  You were right, by the way – that song was always meant to be an invocation to the Divine.  I interpret that word differently than you do, but you were definitely right about the origin of the song.  Maybe I’ll write about that some other time.

You’ve made some news recently, and for no good reason.  Your comments at a recent concert that you fear the world would be destroyed if gays were allowed to marry, and that your fans could all go tweet “Michelle Shocked says God hates f–s”) – well, they lived up to your chosen name.  It’s not even so much the views you decided to express, as the venue, and the manner of your doing it that has left so many of us outraged, speechless, and also worried for you.

I mean it.  Because a rant like that, in the place you chose, speaks of profound spiritual pain.  It is one thing to believe that homosexuality is wrong; many do.  I disagree, but it remains a widely held belief, especially among adherents to more conservative religious movements.  These are your views, and you have every right to express them.  But to phrase them as hate speech – and it was you who brought up the word “hate” – at a concert in San Francisco, of all places, speaks of deep inner turmoil.

Your words are not those of a woman comfortable in her own skin.  They do not speak of the strength of your faith, or of your idealism, or of your values.  They seem spoken more to reassure yourself and the world that you are not, in fact, the bisexual woman you once believed yourself to be, or the lesbian so many of your fans believe you to be.  They seem an attempt to claim an identity and hold on to it, when so much both within and around you threatens to pull it apart.

I don’t know if this is really what is going on.  Maybe you just don’t like people making assumptions about you as a person or an artist.  I get that – I’m a Unitarian Universalist minister as well as a folk musician, and I’m always afraid that people will stay away from my concerts because they think I’m going to preach at them (more than folksingers usually do) or that I won’t be able to get away with singing one of the saltier old ballads, because some folks can’t separate the music from the musician.  I’d like to just be me, and sing the music I love.

You’ve got it far worse; I understand this.  And you don’t want anybody else – not a record company, not a manager, not your fans – to tell you who to be.  And maybe you’ve got some things you believe in that you want to say.  That’s fine.  But before you say them, please let me suggest that you spend some time in prayer.

Yes, I said prayer.  One of the most powerful teachings of your church is that ordinary human beings can commune with the divine – and you need that.  You need to step away from the whirlwind of public and private identities, of fear and anger and self-doubt.  You need to let go of all of that for a while.  If you’re going to speak the truth of your soul, you need to be grounded.  So pray, and read the Bible that you place your faith in.  You won’t find hatred there, but you will find a Jesus who spent a great deal of time with people who were and are considered “sinners,” and who nevertheless respected them as human beings and as his friends.  Pray – not for absolute answers, but to still yourself and open yourself to the God of your belief.

You hurt a great many people with your comments, not least yourself.  But maybe this experience can move you forward.  Maybe it will help you find the right people to talk to about your spiritual crises.  Maybe it will help you ask for help in your emotional life.   You said yourself that “truth is leading to painful confrontation.”  Maybe the truth is your own spiritual crisis, and the confrontation is with yourself.

I don’t know, but I do know this much.  The only way to respond to hatred is with love and compassion.  And Michelle, though I don’t know you, and I detest everything you said at that concert – you have my love and compassion.  I offer you that much.

After all, isn’t that what Jesus would have done?

Love,
Dan

PS:  I still love Short Sharp Shocked, and always will, no matter what you say about anybody.  That album is brilliant from beginning to end.  Would that any of us could reach such heights of artistic genius.

Note:  Please remember the guidelines for comments in this blog.  As my friend at Sermons in Stones puts it, “Disagreement is welcome; disagreeableness is not.”  Comments that are not civil, or that express hatred for any person or group of people – including religious groups as well as the LGBT community – will be blocked.

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God of many names and no name,
Hashem, Allah, Adonai, El, Mother,
Brahman, Sacred Mystery,

In this season of darkness we cry out for the light of hope.

We are in deep mourning.
Over the past two days we have struggled to understand
what brokenness of mind could allow a human soul
to walk into a school and murder twenty children and six teachers.
There are no words for our despair;
we are devastated;
we are angry;
we are afraid.

O God of many names,
help us to find the strength to endure our grief,
and help our nation find the right way forward
as we face what we do not wish to acknowledge
about ourselves and our culture.

May we turn from violence,
seeking the way of light and of peace,
not only among the nations,
but also among people,
and in our inner cities,
and in our suburbs,
and in our families,
and in our schools.

In the conversations ahead, may we speak with one another openly
and from the deep place of spirit.

May we find the courage to make our voices heard
when we have something that needs to be said,
and to speak firmly the truth of our hearts.

And in the midst of our mourning may we find hope,
remembering that no act of violence, however terrible, can define us,
or take away the goodness of which humanity is capable.

God of many names and no name,
Let us lift our spirits to the light,
our hearts to the call,
and our bodies to the task
of hope and healing.

So may it be.
Amen.

 

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