God of the afflicted:
On this anniversary of the Montreal massacre
where a man who declared feminists his enemy
opened fire in a school,
killing fourteen, wounding fourteen,
on this day we turn to you.
We pray for healing for all affected by acts of terror.
Terror from a bomb, or a gun,
or a knife, or a rope, or a body,
terror from any force poised for cruelty.
You know what happened next.
Be with all who are picking up,
with tears, the pieces of their lives,
painstakingly living to see another day,
and another, and another,
Be with them in the fear
that haunts them daily
and pursues them in their dreams.
Be with them in their anger,
which fuels their drive for justice,
and their certainty
that this must not happen again.
And yet it happens to another,
and another, and another.
Almighty God, where are you?
Jesus, do you see our suffering?
Holy Spirit, where is your relief?
God of the terror-stricken,
God of the terror-survivors,
God of the terror-fighters,
God of all who work for peace,
we pray to you today:
deliver us from evil.
hear our prayer for settlers everywhere,
for people living on land stolen
or traded unfairly from indigenous peoples.
You know our cruelties,
our disregard for cultures and histories,
our cavalier dismissal of treaty rights,
our personal prejudices, our institutional racism.
We are part of a colonial system so insidious,
we mostly don’t even see it, even when it’s in front of our faces.
You are a God who names, a God who hears.
You know the name of every missing and murdered indigenous woman.
You heard the cries of every child in every residential school.
You know the original names of every landmark,
in languages that no one living knows.
You hear the earth groaning as it is torn and broken,
its holy balance polluted and poisoned.
Send us a chinook peace to melt our perma-frosted hearts,
a Great Spirit of hope that blows through our land,
rearranging landscapes, upsetting tables where money is counted.
A wind that changes our hearts and gives us courage
to seek justice, love kindness
and walk humbly with our indigenous brothers and sisters.
My God, my God,
where were you?
My innocent child,
my beautiful innocent child,
a child of God, your child,
this child has been abused.
First and foremost,
protect my child, Lord.
Keep them from further harm.
Heal the hurt.
Mend the memories.
Restore what is lost.
Show me how to help
and how to get them the help they need.
Let there not be lasting, lingering effects
from this deed done.
God of all the dark places in the world,
you know what I am feeling inside.
Such a feeling of guilt:
how could I have missed this?
how could I not have known?
how could I not be there to protect?
These feelings are enough to engulf me,
but they are matched thought by thought
with rage and outrage and anger.
How dare he?
if there was a trigger to pull,
I would pull it.
With every wailing prophet,
I call down judgement and destruction,
never in my life have I longed this much
for a God of wrath.
And yet the next moment
I am filled so much with sadness
for this broken hurting world;
so many little ones abused,
so many warped people hurting others,
probably after being hurt themselves as children.
God of all of us, how can you bear it?
Jesus, thank you that you too felt the outrage,
you too spoke of millstones around necks
and people being drowned in the bottom of the sea.
Yet your actions were all of love;
even in extreme pain, you spoke the word “Forgive”.
Holy Spirit, I need your presence with us on this journey.
Lead me in good paths, not bitter ones.
Teach me how to trust again.
Be our companion as we work for justice and accountability,
accompany us as we walk step by step towards healing.
And yes, even touch the heart of the one who offended,
convict, convert and illumine their minds,
so that they can understand the wrong they’ve done,
and never do it again.
My first and last thought is for my baby, my own,
a child of God, wounded and hurting.
You who sees the littlest sparrow falling,
reach out and catch this one,
mend them inside and out,
and keep them in your loving care forever. Amen.
God of Comfort:
We pray today for men and boys
whose lives have been scarred by abuse and violence.
We pray for boys bullied and molested
by people who should be their friends.
We pray for boys sexually abused and exploited
by people they trust who should protect them.
We pray for boys who cry their tears alone
with no one to comfort them.
We pray for men who have suffered physical assault
and have fear as a constant companion.
We pray for men who have been sexually assaulted
and have nowhere to tell their story.
Jesus, teach our church to see your face
in all people, all genders
who suffer from the effects of violence. Amen.
Lord, we come in prayer to you burdened with our unhappy business:
all the deeds done under the sun that we would rather not remember,
the sound of sin in our world.
The explosions caused by bombs made in our own factories.
The cries of the hungry that are not fed in our own communities.
Our own hurtful words hurled at those we love.
The echoing silence of creatures who we have driven to extinction.
Hearer of all, you know too clearly the sorrows of our world!
Forgive us our sins, and help us right the wrongs we’ve done.
Give us words of repentance to share with those we’ve wronged,
ringing courage to stand up for the voiceless creatures of the world
and a resounding love for the lowest and the least.
Most of all, tune our ears to the voice of Jesus,
so that always and everywhere we might hear
his song of peace for every creature under the sun.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us
bringing good news to the oppressed,
proclaiming liberty to the captives,
releasing the prisoners.
Great Redeemer, we need your good news
for all of us who are captive to addictions.
Good news for people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Good news for people who are addicted to gambling.
Good news for people who are addicted to tobacco or food.
Good news for people who are addicted to pornography.
Good news for people who are addicted to work.
Grant liberty to all who are bound by the chains of addiction.
Grant us insight into how our habit is hurting us and our families.
Give us courage to take the first step to recovery.
Give us hope and strength to start walking the long road to freedom.
We pray for release from cravings, and a new life free from desire.
Let us not be led into temptation.
Surround us with supports.
Thank you for addiction counsellors and AA groups,
for family and friends who support and encourage.
Help our communities to walk sensitively with all who are addicted.
Most of all, thank you for insight, which you give to each one of us,
that we have choices each and every day,
that we can make choices for life,
and not for death, each and every day.
God of grace, who sent Jesus to show us the way,
hear our prayer. Amen.
Walking through the crowd with your backpacks
surrounded by happy people on race day,
you weave your way purposefully
down the street
around the corner,
you know where you are going.
I want to reach out
from my vantage point on high
I want to call you by name so you look
I would reach out and put a hand on your cheek
like your mother
I would look in your eyes
looking for the good boy,
I would hold that gaze
What I wouldn’t give
to turn you around
and send you home.
Put those backpacks away.
Take those things apart.
What are you thinking?
I would lay it out for you
show you the cost
the weight of human suffering
the broken bodies families hearts
the backlash the anger
more hatred spewing
and not out there but here
(and I would place my hand on your heart)
you will lose something vital
As you walk with your caps
and your heavy backpacks
what I wouldn’t give to stop you
stop this endless loop of you
walking the wrong way again and again
to the finish line.
Is it never finished?
God the Almighty longs for peace;
God confronts the desolation of war.
God cradles the broken bodies
and feels the agony of violence.
Jesus kneels with the grieving
and collects their wild tears.
The Holy Spirit broods over the bent world
counting the cost of carnage.
The Lord of hosts is with us,
the God of Jacob is our refuge
as we long for peace.
God is our refuge and strength
a very present help in times of trouble.
Come behold the works of the Lord,
see what desolations God has brought on the earth.
From Canada to Cambodia,
from Israel to Indonesia,
from Afghanistan to the Americas,
God makes wars cease to the end of the earth.
God breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
God burns the shields with fire.
God breaks the M16 assault rifles,
and shatters the laser guided bombs,
God burns the CF18 fighter jets with fire.
God breaks the AK47s,
and shatters the cluster bombs,
God burns the military intelligence satellites with fire.
God breaks the sniper rifle,
and shatters the grenade,
God burns the military torture centres with fire.
God breaks the atomic bombs
and shatters the missile silos,
God burns the nuclear submarines with fire.
Be still and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us,
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
We come to you, Jesus, burdened with our own sin.
Our own calls for revenge and violence,
which may or may not have included the words, “Crucify, crucify!”
Our own betrayals, with or without the thirty pieces of silver.
Our own denials, whether or not we have heard the cock crowing.
You know the sins we carry, secretly or openly,
the way they crush us, the weight of them.
We bring these to your cross…*
You carry our burdens, Lord.
These, the simplest and gravest of sins,
are magnified into organizations and systems,
amplified in the actions of corporations and governments.
Selfishness, revenge and violence unfold on the largest scale,
bringing forth misery and destruction in our world every day.
You carry all of our burdens.
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 NRSV)
*(Option…On entering the service, people are given a small square of paper. Ask people now to write their name on the paper, and to think for a quiet moment about the burden of their own sins. They are then invited to come forward and nail their paper to a large wooden cross placed on the floor of the sanctuary…there are hammers and nails provided by the cross. When everyone who wants to do this has participated, the cross is raised up, so that it is visible to all.)
My first thought was, “It’s not going to be me.”
Jesus, in a voice barely audible,
told us we would all become deserters.
When I protested, he looked at me,
and singled me out,
and said that I would deny him too.
After everything we’d gone through together,
after all I’d left behind, these three years of ministry…
how could he doubt me?
Was I not the only one who stepped out of the boat,
waves raging, my one thought to be at his side?
With all my heart, I’d told him what I knew to be true,
that he was the Christ, the son of the Living God.
Me desert him? Never!
Then and there I vowed,
"I will not leave this man."
I am going to stick with Jesus
whatever the cost….prison, death…
nothing will stop me.
And I am a man of my word.
We heard the soldiers coming,
but Jesus didn’t move, he only waited.
And then the betrayer was at hand,
Judas, armed only with a kiss.
When they went to seize our Lord,
I drew my sword to defend him.
No one else came prepared to fight,
but Jesus refused my protection,
meagre as it was.
I would have died fighting at his side,
but he would not have it.
I don’t know where the other disciples went
but I never lost sight of Jesus,
I was there with him,
walking in the shadows.
I can hardly say what I was expecting…
Moses or Elijah, a voice from heaven,
a storm from him whom the winds obeyed,
bonds broken in pieces like bread on a hillside,
something, anything to end that unthinkable captivity.
Instead there was only a quiet night,
the clink of chains
the darkness broken by fires.
I could see him with the soldiers.
I went as close as I could,
cautious, as I knew that I was out of place.
And sure enough, that girl picked me out of the crowd.
She would have had me thrown out of the courtyard,
but I was determined to stay close to Jesus.
I said anything to keep my vow to not leave his side.
If I admitted I knew him, they would send me away.
Three times I was challenged
and at the third time, I turned and looked at Jesus,
saying with my eyes, “I am still here, I won’t leave you.”
His lifts his head, and his gaze locks on mine
even as the crazy cry of the rooster announces the dawn.
The sound recalls his words that I would deny him three times…
But I am still here! I have not left your side!
I will not desert you!
His eyes reach inside me like the shock of a desert dawn.
I had missed something essential.
I had paid too dearly for the sight of him.
I stumbled from that place
stung from the terrible choice of being with or being true.
I left his side,
wildly weeping for a lost saviour.
I could not save him with my presence,
even with a truer word spoken.
Lord Jesus, you are the one who came to set captives free.
Today we pray for all who are slaves to addictions,
fettered in body and mind to behaviours that destroy.
We call out for one more;
one more bet, one more illicit meeting,
one more cigarette, one more snack,
one more year of working this hard,
one more hit, one more downloaded picture,
one more meal to be purged,
one more little drink that won’t hurt anyone.
Open our eyes to the chains that bind us
and the destruction it is causing in our lives
and the lives of those we love.
Spirit of God, Spirit of Truth,
give courage and wisdom to those who walk
with people who are addicted;
courage to confront,
and wisdom to know how and when to intervene.
Thank you for the resources of our society;
for counsellors and treatment centres
for doctors and hospitals and clinics.
Most of all, God of creation,
we give thanks for the way you see us--
made in your image, capable of choosing life,
and living life abundantly.
We can do this through the power of your son Jesus
who is Immanuel, God with us,
even in the darkest prison of addiction. Amen.
The fall of high regard
leaves us dizzy and disoriented.
Esteem and trust plummet
as disappointment blossoms darkly.
God of dark places,
can you fathom the human heart?
Is our dismay a faint echo of your own?
Give us the courage of Bethlehem
to walk in this one’s shoes.
Give us the strength of the desert
to resist great temptations.
Give us the grace of Cana
to love with free abandon.
Give us the joy of Jericho,
to offer fellowship freely.
Give us the hope of Bethany
to expect new life miracles.
God of the here and now,
after this great fall,
from the bottom up,
empower us to be your people
loving your people.
Hear, Lord, the prayer of hostages!
Prayers spoken through teeth clenched in fear,
prayers courageously floating on a tide of despair,
prayers that are a slender thread of hope.
Lord, we join our voices with all captives,
crying for freedom and return.
We cry for an end to the nightmare
of each soul in captivity.
Creator God, touch the hearts of captors,
recall to them the sacredness of each life in their hands—
keep them from doing more harm.
Prince of Peace, work your miracle of transformation;
out of situations of unspeakable violence,
bring healing, bring hope.
Holy Spirit, strong dove of comfort,
you go where we cannot.
Fly straight to imprisoned and imprisoning hearts
with a message of love.
There’s a swamp of secrets here
stretching as far as the eye can see.
Secrets, crossed over with lies, half-submerged,
the muck of deception clings close
and there is something rotten in the state of grace.
You speak about your life, lightly,
and politely comment on the weather.
Your eyes tell a different story.
You are mired here, bone-mired,
in mud that will not let you go.
You are trapped and alone
and this may be the end.
It’s no good talking about the wise man
who built on the rock.
It’s no good talking about the disciple
who walked on the sea.
It’s no good talking about the tree
planted by streams of living water.
What we need is a Jesus
like an amphibious tank
a thousand horsepower strong
roaring into view
spinning mud like geysers
clambering across every obstacle,
against all odds,
in this bleak landscape
a vehicle of hope.
When all is not what it seems,
when evil masquerades as good,
when it seems the wrong path is calling us,
Jesus, we need your help.
When sexually explicit images appear before us,
when curiosity and desire urge us to linger,
when it seems innocent just to look,
Jesus, we need your help.
When we make sexual comments in a social setting,
when our words make another uncomfortable,
when it seems funny at the time,
Jesus, we need your help.
When affection turns to passion,
when we are not committed in marriage,
when it seems there’s no point in waiting,
Jesus, we need your help.
When sexual desire sparks inside us,
when we know we are committed to someone else,
when it seems harmless just to imagine,
Jesus, we need your help.
When we touch someone who does not want to be touched,
when we trespass where we should not go,
when it seems that no one could prove it happened,
Jesus, we need your help.
When having sex is all about me,
when we give hardly a thought to our partner,
when it seems normal to live this way,
Jesus, we need your help.
When we want to act on our sexual desires,
when that person is a child,
when it seems that they will never remember,
Jesus, we need your help.
When we use our sexuality carelessly,
when we abuse this precious gift,
when we are confused and broken,
Jesus, your help saves us.
Today we pray for the sorely tempted.
When the body aches for one thing alone
when the mind longs for one thing alone
when the spirit knows one thing alone
when we are on autopilot for disaster
lined up for the sweet siren rocks--
your voice in our headsets
calm and firm:
“Alter course. Pull up. Engage.”
You lift our glazed eyes to a distant horizon
and talk us through to a different landing.
We step on solid ground, shaking,
the near miss seared in the long-term memory.
Lord, the near-miss and your presence
go with us always.
Bitterness, like some evil intravenous
drips into each day
from a clear bag of memories.
He said, she said,
he did, she did,
he was, she was.
Daily, nightly, a steady dose
poisoning the soul.
Too many times the body convulses
shaken with anger
racked with sorrow
clenched with hatred.
Memory is a shackle
that foils the mind’s best intentions;
“Today I won’t remember.”
“I’ll just stop thinking about this.”
“I refuse to give this power in my life.”
And still the steady drip drip
the same old symptoms.
Healer of our every ill,
where is your relief?
Time, like God’s gentle nurse,
lays a hand on the mind’s anguish
and inoculates us with grace.
Memories, still clear,
lose their power
as the body builds immunity,
year by year.
We cannot change the past
but peace arrives in time.
What God has joined together now lies in pieces.
What began with delight and tenderness,
reeks now with bitterness and festering pain.
What began with soft words of love,
grates now with harsh words of blaming.
Jesus, we look for you in this relationship’s slow crucifixion
as each to each say, “Why have you forsaken me?”
As we stand on this barren Golgotha
we are desperate to repair this relationship,
which is not in our power to fix.
We urgently want to end this bleeding,
for which there is no quick remedy.
In the face of suffering we cannot fathom,
and stories which haven’t yet found a voice,
as a community we surround this family.
Holy Spirit, as we watch and wait,
empower us not to turn away.
As people of peace,
the deaths in this small war leave us
pleading for resurrection.
With humble hearts and empty hands we pray,
“Father, into your hands we give this family.”
The grudge sits squat and heavy
in the middle of the road between two people.
Built of solid rock by a team of experts
schooled in hurt feelings,
every chink is cemented with spite.
There are no windows or doors.
Unmovable as a mountain
it sits in the thoroughfare saying,
Newcomers to the road
smash into it unawares.
take long detours,
and shrug their shoulders.
Well intentioned reformers
come with pick-axes
and congratulate themselves
at the scratches on the wall
and the pile of tiny stone chips
after a day’s long work.
God shows up like a city planner,
declares that no permit was issued
and gives the demolition order.
“This is coming down. Now.”
“We won’t begrudge you your opinion,”
the people say, “But some things don’t change,”
their last words lost in the explosion
as the Spirit dynamites structures
built to last three generations.
As the dust settles and clears,
Jesus, rolls of blueprints at his side,
rumbles up in a bulldozer,
with a brand new site plan.