Litany for the 2016 Election… and today.

A president has been elected for whom money is god, for whom celebrity is currency, and for whom laws are manipulated for personal gain.

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I wrote the following litany for the Sunday after the 2016 presidential election. I’m posting it now because the prayers seem as relevant today as they were then.

Leader: Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge people with equity? No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth. [i]

People: Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. [ii]

Leader: We gather in sadness and grief. We come with anger and cynicism. We will not hide our fear or cover up our anxiety.

People: Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked. [iii]

Leader: A president has been elected whose actions have abused and whose words have slandered and dehumanized.

People: Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation.

Leader: A president has been elected who instills worry and doubt in our children; who has promised to police our neighborhoods with increased militarization and racially-discriminatory tactics; who has legitimized the sexual and emotional abuse experienced by many women; whose policies oppose those struggling on the margins.

People: Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked.

Leader: A president has been elected for whom money is god, for whom celebrity is currency, and for whom laws are manipulated for personal gain.

People: Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says: “There will be wailing in all the streets and cries of anguish in every public square. [iv]

Leader: Our churches are divided. We proclaim the same Lord Jesus, yet our political loyalties are easily predicted by race. We lament the divisions and the compromised witness to the gospel. We lament the blind eyes and deaf ears of so many who would not hear the concerns from their family in Christ; who would not believe the testimonies of those who feared the presidential nominee’s ascent for how he threatened the safety and flourishing of families and neighbors.

People: You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? [v]

Leader: Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies. Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be. [vi]

People: Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? [vii]

Leader: Teach us to love one another, our neighbors, and those who appear to be our enemies. Give us your vision for the abundant life promised by our Savior even here, in this place of grief. Show us through the power of your Spirit when to resist and when to create, when to tear down and when to build up. Remind us of the saints who lived faithfully before us, often in the face of terrible persecution and suffering. Grant us their courage and joy.

People: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? [viii]

Leader: We pray for everyone who is most at risk in this political moment. For immigrants and Muslims; for those at risk of state-sanctioned violence; for the impoverished; for the vulnerable and despairing; for refugees who flee war; for the segregated, disenfranchised, and gentrified; for all of our children; and for ourselves, we pray.

People: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

Leader: The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. [ix]

All: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. [x]


[i] Psalm 58:1-2
[ii] Psalm 43:1
[iii] Psalm 43:1
[iv] Amos 5:16
[v] Psalm 43:2
[vi] Psalm 58:3-5
[vii] Psalm 44:23-24
[viii] Psalm 43:5
[ix] Psalm 37:39-40
[x] Psalm 43:5

Litany for the 2016 Election by New Community Covenant Church (Bronzeville) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The View From Here

After the release of the video documenting Laquan McDonald’s murder by a Chicago police officer, some clergy friends and I worked to pull together a prayer vigil at police headquarters. It was amazing to see hundreds of faith leaders and community members come out on a rainy night to pray for justice. The top photo is my friend Pastor Chris Harris and below is Michelle Dodson, our church’s associate pastor who prayed a powerful lament over our city.

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More photos can be found online, as can some local media coverage. My friend Michael is reflecting more thoughtfully on this event that I currently have time for.

Keep us in prayer; there’s a lot more to be done.

“…in trouble most of the time.”

The language of prayer occurs primarily at one level, the personal, and for one purpose, salvation. The human condition teeters on the edge of disaster. Human beings are in trouble most of the time. Those who don’t know they are in trouble are in the worst trouble. Prayer is the language of the people who are in trouble and know it, and who believe or hope that God can get them out. As prayer is practiced, it moves into other levels and develops other forms, but trouble – being in the wrong, being in danger, realizing that the foes are too many for us to handle – is the basic provocation for prayer. Isaac Bashevis Singer once said, “I only pray when I am in trouble. But I am in trouble all the time, and so I pray all the time.” The recipe for obeying St. Paul’s “Pray without ceasing” is not a strict ascetical regimen but a watchful recognition of the trouble we are in.

-Eugene Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer (1989).

Thanking God For The Prayers Of My Friends

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With my Grandma at her sister’s graveside.

I’m in the middle of a week of church planting related travel that has me on both coasts. Because I was already in Portland, it was possible to rearrange some flights in order to participate in my great aunt’s funeral. Aunt Corrine passed away last week and, in God’s providence, I got to be in Bellingham with family yesterday as we remembered a life very well lived.

This morning, as my flight east reached altitude, I pulled out my laptop to catch up on email. There I found a prayer Michael had posted for me yesterday, for the funeral and the time with family. If this sounds odd then you probably don’t have a friend like Michael and, for your sake, I hope one day soon you will.

I’m posting Michael’s entire prayer here and I hope you’ll drop by his blog to read more of this sort of thoughtful, kind, and true writing. He’d take a break from blogging for a while during a busy season but it seems that his public writing is back.

This evening I’ll land in New Jersey and drive into the Bronx for dinner with a good friend. After spending a few days with prospective church planters in Connecticut I’ll drive to Harlem to preach at another friend’s young, multi-ethnic church with whom our church shares much in common. I thank God for these friends and for the family I spent time with yesterday. Some, like Michael live nearby but most don’t, so these times together are gifts.

It’s probably around the time that Winston is standing near the casket of his aunt, saying things about her and saying things about you.  Will you be with him in the midst of a long day of many feelings?

While you know the joy that comes at the entrance of one of yours into bliss, you know the mixed feelings of grief and sorrow and pain as well.  Will you accompany him in the fragile experience of all these emotions and grant him a strong sense of your nearness.

You know the deep feelings of love, the memories, the jokes, the stories.  Enable him to remember with truth and humor and affection.

You know all the things that make us love animals, all the things that make us good and bad at loving.  Redeem every moment that he’s spent, and that his relatives have spent, combining those times into full experiences that help them support each other now.

You see those memories coming back when we see our loved ones, the remains of them, the last pictures of them.  Give Winston and his family and their friends a host of things to see during this day.

May they see you in the midst of their tears and their prayers and their songs and their presence.  May you be in the midst, drawing them all into your embrace.

Give them joy and praise  and kindness.  Let them eat well and restore each other through loving touches and long laughs.

And when the days pass, after others have stopped mentioning their relative, after they themselves have forgotten or begun to forget their loved one, make every spontaneous memory that arrives unbidden an occasion for gratitude and peace and anticipation for that last family gathering.

In the name of the One who conquered death.  Amen.