Monday, April 22, 2013

Prayer for a Week of Tragedy and Terror

My friend Lonna Lynn Higgs is a pastor and chaplain for the United Methodist Children's Home in Alabama. She shared this beautiful prayer in her email "Lines from Lonna Lynn," and I share it with you with her permission.

Great and Loving God,

All around are beautiful signs of life in the warmth of the sun and the flowers of springtime. With the greening of the trees, the world is awash in new beginnings. But computer screens and cell phones portray a very different world, an ugly world where beautiful lives meet horrible untimely ends. In moments of tragedy and terror, you, Lord, are the first of the first responders. It is your divine strength and energy that emboldens the brave souls that risk their lives to stop the pain and save the suffering. It is your power that sends forth waves of selfless compassion in answer to senseless, selfish violence. May those waves of compassion wash over fatalities and families, injured victims and damaged communities. This day we remember everyone affected by the bombings in Boston, the factory explosion in Texas and other tragedies that have not made the news.

Forgive us when faith fails us in the face of evil. Forgive us when we get lost in desires for revenge and focus on fear. You are a God of love—the one who gave your only Son, not to condemn the world, but to save it; not to tear down and destroy but to build up and to bless. Help us, Lord, to love and not to judge, to come forward with compassion and not to hide away in corners.

Set us anew to the task of living as our Lord Jesus lived. Especially help us love persons who are disconnected, alienated or outcast. Inspire us to offer ourselves as caring companions with whom they can share their loneliness. Perhaps they will let go of smoldering frustration before it sparks into violence. Perhaps they will hear your still, small voice and accept the truth that sets them free. Perhaps they will find a life of joy and peace.

It is peace that the world needs, O God of Life. Send it, we pray. Send the peace that passes all understanding. Let it rain down, fill up and pour forth from the hearts of your people. Let peace overflow into a mighty healing river that flows into Boston; into West, Texas; and into every wounded spirit. Let it flow on and on until all people love you and suffering and sorrow end. All this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace.


The attached picture of a candle comes from an advertisement for an interfaith prayer service for the Boston Marathon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Another Powerful Resurrection Hymn by Charles Wesley

Here is another hymn of Charles Wesley from his collection "Hymns for Our Lord's Resurrection." I find that so many of his hymns (particularly those that are not in modern hymnals) are strikingly Ignatian. I am using that word to describe the spirituality of letting yourself step into a Biblical narrative and "finding our place" in the story, something Ignatius taught well.

In this case, the singer is stepping into the role of Mary Magdalene and reflecting and experiencing the resurrection through her. Though critics say the last half of the second verse is scripturally inaccurate, it is a blessing to pray this hymn. I hope it blesses your continued Easter journey.

Happy Magdalene, to whom
Christ the Lord vouchsafed t’appear!
Newly risen from the tomb,
Would He first be seen by her?
Her by seven devils possessed,
Till His Word the fiends expelled;
Quenched the hell within her breast,
All her sins and sickness healed.
Yes, to her the Master came,
First His welcome voice she hears:
Jesus calls her by her name,
He the weeping sinner cheers,
Lets her the dear task repeat,
While her eyes again run o’er;
Lets her wash His bleeding feet,
Kiss them, and with joy adore.
Highly favored soul! To her
Farther still His grace extends,
Raises the glad messenger,
Sends her to His drooping friends;
Tidings of their living Lord
First in her report they find:
She must spread the Gospel word,
Teach the teachers of mankind.
Who can now presume to fear?
Who despair his Lord to see?
Jesus, wilt Thou not appear,
Show Thyself alive to me?
Yea, my God, I dare not doubt,
Thou shalt all my sins remove;
Thou hast cast a legion out,
Thou wilt perfect me in love.
Surely Thou hast called me now!
Now I hear the voice divine,
At Thy wounded feet I bow,
Wounded for whose sins but mine!
I have nailed Him to the tree,
I have sent Him to the grave:
But the Lord is ris’n for me,
Hold of Him by faith I have.
Here for ever I would lie,
Didst Thou not Thy servant raise,
Send me forth to testify
All the wonders of Thy grace.
Lo! I at Thy bidding go,
Gladly to Thy followers tell
They their rising God may know,
They the life of Christ may feel.
Hear, ye brethren of the Lord,
(Such as He vouchsafes to call)
O believe the Gospel word,
Christ hath died, and rose for all:
Turn ye from your sins to God,
Haste to Galilee, and see
Him, who bought Thee with His blood,
Him, who rose to live in Thee.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hymn for Our Lord's Resurrection

In my Methodist hymnal collection, I have a facsimile reprint of "Hymns for Our Lord's Resurrection," one of a number of thematic hymn books of published by Charles Wesley in his lifetime. During Eastertide, I am praying through the texts. I thought I would share the first one in the collection in hopes that it blesses your continued experience of Easter joy.

It was written in 1746, and if you are inclined to sing it, it can be sung to TALLIS' CANON. I love the way it walks through the resurrection appearance narrative and invites us to experience the details afresh. It puts the singer in the story.

All ye that seek the Lord Who died,
Your God for sinners crucified,
Prevent the earliest dawn, and come
To worship at His sacred tomb.

Bring the sweet spices of your sighs,
Your contrite hearts, and streaming eyes,
Your sad complaints, and humble fears;
Come, and embalm Him with your tears.

While thus ye love your souls t’employ,
Your sorrow shall be turned to joy:
Now, let all your grief be o’er!
Believe, and ye shall weep no more.

An earthquake hath the cavern shook,
And burst the door, and rent the rock;
The Lord hath sent His angel down,
And he hath rolled away the stone.

As snow behold his garment white,
His countenance as lightning bright:
He sits, and waves a flaming sword,
And waits upon his rising Lord.

The third auspicious morn is come,
And calls your Savior from the tomb,
The bands of death are torn away,
The yawning tomb gives back its prey.

Could neither seal nor stone secure,
Nor men, nor devils make it sure?
The seal is broke, the stone cast by,
And all the powers of darkness fly.

The body breathes, and lifts His head,
The keepers sink, and fall as dead;
The dead restored to life appear,
The living quake, and die for fear.

No power a band of soldiers have
To keep one body in its grave:
Surely it no dead body was
That could the Roman eagles chase.

The Lord of Life is risen indeed,
To death delivered in your stead;
His rise proclaims your sins forgiv’n,
And show the living way to Heav’n.

Haste then, ye souls that first believe,
Who dare the Gospel-Word receive,
Your faith with joyful hearts confess,
Be bold, be Jesus’ witnesses.

Go tell the followers of your Lord
Their Jesus is to life restored;
He lives, that they His life may find;
He lives, to quicken all mankind.