A Prayer of Thanks for Friends

Thank you for the gift of friends,
those who are near,
and those who are far;
those still with us,
and those who await us
in the life to come.

Kind words remind us
that there is no distance,
neither time, nor space,
neither this life, nor the next,
that cannot be crossed.

For nothing can separate us
from the love of God,
and by that same love,
we are connected to each other.

Amen

Let Me Be Known

Lord,

Let me be known,

not by what I hate,
but by whom I love;

not by whom I exclude,
but by whom I include;

not by my enemies,
but by my friends;

for an enemy truly loved
is but a friend to be.

Amen

A Funeral Benediction

This is the benediction from a funeral service that I officiated today:

In our blindness,
may the light of God
keep us from stumbling.

In our sorrow,
may the hand of God
dry our tears.

In our questions,
may the grace of God
be enough, until that day
that we know fully,
even as we are fully known.

Now, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of the Father,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with you all,
now and forever,

Amen

A Wedding Prayer and Blessing

I officiated a wedding for a former student and dear friend yesterday. Here is the prayer and blessing from the ceremony:

God of grace, hear our prayer,

We give thanks for this day, for we need it desperately.
The world inundates us with messages of
helplessness and hopelessness, emptiness and despair,
until we are tempted to feel that all is lost.

Then we come to this place,
and we find that there is still hope,
for the love that spoke the world into being
has drawn these two people together,
so that they may create their own world,
a life together,
marked by beauty,
dedicated to peace,
and surrounded by love.

Protect, guide, and bless them in their marriage.
Surround us all with your love, now and always.

Now, may the slanting rays of the sun1
light the path before you,
as the love of God surrounds you,
to guide you on this journey together.
May God guard your hearts
from anything that might separate you,
and shelter you in his love, forever.

Amen

  1. For those who haven’t taken my existentialism course, “the slanting rays of the sun” is a metaphorical image that Dostoevsky uses in The Brothers Karamazov.

Should the Church Bear the Welfare Burden?

I should have rather asked if the church alone should bear the burden of providing welfare. There is no doubt that the church, myself included, should bear more of the burden of caring for the poor, for that is just one of the many sacrificial things Jesus calls us to do. The church, though, cannot bear the welfare burden as it is today. Ron Sider, in Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America, estimates that shouldering just the cost of Medicaid would cost each Christian congregation approximately one-half million dollars per year. Note that this includes each congregation, including exceptionally large churches that may well be able to afford the cost, but the median size of a Christian congregation in America is now 75 regular participants.1 So, a family of four in the median-sized congregation would have to shoulder a burden of nearly 27,000 dollars, simply to provide the services now provided by Medicaid. One can only guess at the cost of providing the full level of social services now provided by the government.

This does not mean that the church should not be developing creative ways of caring for those that Jesus and the prophets called “the least of these.” It does mean, though, that the church taking on more of a burden2 does not relieve the state, nor the rest of the country, from sharing that burden. In Psalm 72, a prayer for guidance for the king, Scripture describes God’s hope for the one who leads the state: “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.” To allow the state to shirk its responsibility for caring the poor means that the state will no longer fulfill its God-given role of crushing the oppressor, but instead allows the state to become the oppressor — surely not something to which a government of the people should aspire.

  1. Hartford Institute for Religion Research

  2. “Burden” is not the right word to use here. Caring for one another should be a joy. That we see it as a burden is a sin for which we will have to repent.