The air is heavy as it fills my lungs with its leaden weight
For in this springtime of the year in addition to the pollen,
The heavy perfume of the earth reawakening from its slumber
The emergence of wildflowers and bees and leave on the trees
Comes the weight of our fears over the death of the world we know
While the rest of creation emerges from its wintry hibernation
We confine ourselves to our modern caves repaying sabbaths missed
While the bird songs fill the morning light, we sing a dirge
Like children caught between dance and death we are unsatisfied
And we grieve the world transformed in ways we didn’t forsee
The air is heavy as the alveoli slowly force it back into the sky above
Breathing out the pain and the sadness, the life and the death
As each lobe automatically works to push the moist carbon dioxide
Through the bronchi and trachea to be expelled out of the mouth
Carrying on its respiration a heavy prayer for some lighter air
When we gathered in great numbers to sing and dance and jump
Sitting at the banquet table eating rich food and drinking well aged wine
Eating the marrow of life and drinking the wine strained clear
Never thinking that death could swallow this up so quickly
And the shroud would lie over so many people from so many nations
The air that bears the unweighable virus can seem so heavy
As we try to launch our saline filled cries up into the heavens
Waiting behind the high fortifications of our walls for the day
When we can open the gates in joyous celebration and lightness
For the air is no longer heavy and we can breathe freely again
For the shroud has been removed and death is swallowed up
And prayers are finally answered as tears are wiped away
The city’s life which has been placed in a coma awakens
As our lungs fill with the warm but lighter air of summer
Psalm 5: 1-3, 11-12
Give ear to my words, O LORD; give heed to my sighing.
2 Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
3 O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover them with favor as with a shield.
Matthew 6: 6-13
6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
Romans 8: 26-27
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Today I want to give you some resources for prayer. There is not an incorrect way to pray, God knows the needs of our hearts before we voice them, but sometimes it helps to have some resources to give words to our prayers. Sometimes there are portions of scriptures like the Psalms, or the Lord’s Prayer that can help us. But here are some other prayers for this time:
The first one come from our hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship on p. 76
O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
These next prayers come from a little resource that many pastors have that is a supplement to the hymnal called Pastoral Care which has resources and prayers for various situations. While I normally will pray without referencing this, sometimes it is helpful to have prayers for various situations. Here are a few:
Prayer to be recited with a child who is anxious:
Gentle Jesus, stay beside me through this day (night). Take away my pain. Keep me safe. Help me when I’m afraid. Make my body strong again and my heart glad. Thank you for your love that surrounds me.
Another couple prayers which are written for morning but can be adapted for any time of day:
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where to go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We give you thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected us through the night from all harm and danger. We ask that you would also protect us today from sin and all evil, so that our life and actions may please you. Into your hands we commend ourselves: our bodies, our souls, and all that is ours. Let your holy angels be with us, so that the wicked for may have no power over us.
Praying for those who are caregivers in this time:
Holy and compassionate God, you send to us in our need those who care for us and look out for our lives. Bless them in their love for us. Bless the hands of those who work for our health. Bless the minds of those who search for our healing. Bless the feet of those who come to us in our need. Bless the eyes of those who look after us. Bless the hearts of all who serve; fill them with compassion and patience; and work through all of them for the betterment and well-being of all your children, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Merciful God, your healing power is everywhere about us. Strengthen those who work among the sick; give them courage and confidence in all they do. Encourage them when they are overwhelmed with many pressing needs or when their efforts seem futile. Increase their trust in your power to bring life and wholeness even in the midst of death and pain and crying. May they be thankful for every sign of health you give, and humble before the mystery of your healing grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.
3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.
It is Thursday of the first full week of physical distancing, and I know that life has changed around us. Perhaps you have kids who are home from school for a second week in a row with nowhere to go, perhaps you are going a little bit stir crazy, perhaps tempers or anxiety sometimes gets the better of you. I want to give the opportunity to pause and think about how we care for ourselves in this time, and how we might care for one another when we can’t be physically close.
A friendly reminder that you need to care for yourself, if you are an introvert take some time to read or watch TV or play a video game to recharge your batteries if you are locked in a house with others. If you are an extrovert, this time may be hard on your but reach out to friend through phone or skype, schedule times to get out of the house when weather permits. I do think that for several weeks our lives are going to be interrupted, so if you have to stay home try to schedule times to do things that are life giving.
Don’t obsess over the news or the stock market, I’m not saying not to stay informed but don’t spend your day looking at a screen which is giving you bad news all the time. I know there is grieving in this time about the way things are changed, and that is ok. If you are like me you have plans that were made and now have changed.
If only kindred could only live together in unity all the time or we could always live in harmony but have patience with one another. Nobody has lived through something like this for a long time.
A couple new notes: with the libraries closing we do have a couple opportunities at the church. If you need access to a computer, office space or wi-fi we can make one of our classrooms available for a workspace (Monday-Thursday). Please contact the office for availability. Also one of our library volunteers brought in a shelf of books that are from the public library for various age ranges which if you need reading material are available.
There was a time when the rain fell softly every day When the cool dampness soaked beyond flesh and bone And the cold water dimmed the fire of my soul While the earth around me seemed to drink in the drops Bursting forth into forests of deep green that blocked out the sun I am a creature of the sun baked plains and the heat of summer And the life in the forest made the air too heavy to breathe Now I’ve returned to my natural habitat, to the place where I can thrive Perhaps a place to hot and dry for many but it warms my bones And in this place the fire of my soul was rekindled and burns brightly Yet, on those grey days where the thunder rumbles and clouds collect And the lightning flashes across the sky announcing the coming Of the large grey drops that drench the earth and flood the plains For a time I am returned to the dampness of that forested place And the fire within sputters under the impact of the downpour But in this place of dust and sun the rains last only for a time Shortly to be replace by the arid heat and the drying wind But without the grey days, without the chilling rain and cool wind The life of the plains shrivels and dies and even the creatures of the sun Need those times of being soaked soul, flesh and bone To enjoy the life in the midst of the valley of the sun