Thursday March 25, 2021
In our Sunday morning services over Zoom, our minister includes about 30 seconds of silence, in which people can say the words of any prayer that’s most meaningful to them.
Many, I’m sure, repeat the traditional Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father, Which Art in Heaven…”
Some might remember the Latin words: “Pater noster, qui es in caelis…”
Some, possibly, turn to a creed.
I suspect many just fall silent, because they don’t know what to say, or to whom.
Why don’t we all just say the traditional Lord’s Prayer? Because a few people – I’m one of them -- have genuine difficulties with the all-knowing all-seeing old-man-in-the-sky image I used to accept unthinkingly.
I have no hesitation about the word “father.” If God could be like my Dad, I’d be delighted.
But I have trouble with God as the hyper-engineer who keeps everything running, who fixes things we can’t fix for ourselves, who feeds us sliced bread, and steers us out of temptation.
That’s more like a fairy godmother. Or Superman.
Rather, over the years, I’ve become convinced, beyond any doubt, that God is not out there, somewhere, but right here. Right now. As the Corrymeela website puts it, “God is for, with, and within us.”
So for that 30 seconds of silence, I turn to some of my favourite prayers, which are about the right length to fit the silence.
In case you’re ever in that same situation, here are three of them.
The first is a paraphrase of the traditional Lord’s Prayer from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, slightly modified:
Holy One, holy one-ness, in us and around us and beyond us,
Your wisdom come, your will be done, wherever you are found.
Give us each day sustenance and perseverance.
Remind us of our limits as we give grace to the limits of others.
Separate us from the temptations of power, and draw us into your community.
For you are the dwelling place within us,
the empowerment around us,
and the celebration among us, now and always. Amen.
The second comes from Fr. Richard Rohr, the Franciscan priest who founded the Center for Contemplation and Action in Texas:
O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us.
May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings.
Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and each other’s joys.
Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world.
[Insert here any specific reference or concerns.]
Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking,
we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.
The third isn’t even a prayer, in any formal sense. It comes from a passage in Richard Wagamese’s book Embers:
I am the trees alive with singing.
I am the sky everywhere at once.
I am the snow and the wind bearing stories across geographies and generations.
I am light everywhere descending.
I am my heart evoking drum song.
I am my spirit rising.
I am my prayers and my meditation, and I am time fully captured in this now.
I am a traveller on a sacred journey through this one shining day.
Copyright © 2021 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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I sense that the migration of Canada geese captures something wordless among many of you.
Diane Robinson wrote, “While goose poop is a concern for some/many -- the geese represent something more....something eternal....something mysterious for/to me. Like you I have thrilled -- and continue to thrill -- as I witness the great flocks of geese that come and go bi-annually, their honking informing me of their presence long before I see them.”
A number of years ago, Diane wrote the following poem from which, for space reasons, I’ll print only the third verse:
Go with care, Oh Mighty Birds.
Beat your wings with potent surge.
Primal instincts guide your way.
Commanding Ones, you cannot stay.
The sky is yours.
Majestic, proud, in flight you soar.
Laurna Tallman agreed with Diane: “The return of the Canada Geese always thrills me. I learned years ago about their amazing social traits and intelligence about how to fly with the leadership changing for efficiency. I bless them in flight, coming and going.
“I also think the earth needs fertilizer more than people need tidy parks and golf courses. Humans have a poor track record when it comes to discerning the deep, symbiotic relationships among species, including us.”
John Shaffer shared my experience of seeing a vast cloud of geese migrating: “Once and once only (conditions must have been just right) I had the experience of seeing thousands of geese flying into a field in Palmer, Alaska. I was overwhelmed by the sensory overload.
“In subsequent years we went back to the same spot, but lightning did not strike twice. My theory was that lakes had not opened up yet, so they decided to glean in that field before moving on to their breeding grounds. Plus, that grain field was marked for development of a subdivision. Progress? Hopefully they found other resting spots.”
John also commented on my aside about Robert Latimer: “I saw the story of Robert Latimer in a play at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver. It shared the story without making a lot of judgments. One actor (the daughter) spent the whole play breathing into a microphone. Never seen, but making us aware of her existence until she died.”
But back to the geese. Isabel Gibson wrote, “Thanks for the new perspective on Canada geese, which far-from-gruntled Americans call Canadian Geese. I try to explain that they aren't my fellow citizens, but my attempts to distance myself are never successful. Maybe now I'll just push back, citing their good qualities. Given the amount of poop, though, I don't suppose that will be any more successful.”
The column brought back memories for at least a couple of you.
Tom Watson called the column, “A welcome tribute to Canada Geese! Riverside Park in Guelph, Ontario is a wonderful place to walk; it's also the habitat for a good number of Canada Geese. They do leave their droppings wherever they choose and this, coupled with people afraid that their children might get attacked by an angry gander, led the City Council to try various ways to get the geese to go elsewhere, but all attempts failed so now people just cope. When I have walked there I have never even been close to getting a gander come running at me.
“On the other hand, gotta say that having grown up on a farm where domestic ganders charged at me several times when I was a little kid, the way they pinch the skin with their beak is not something to be coveted...it hurts!”
“Your comments on geese brought back memories of life on the farm as a young boy,” Jim Hoffman wrote. “We had cows and hogs and sheep, of course. But we also had ducks, a few geese and a rather mean Tom Turkey strutting in the farmyard. The ducks didn't bother me and my rwo brothers -- but those geese and ol' Tom would chase us across the farmyard just for the fun of scaring young boys. It was quite an endeavor just to sneak in and fill their feeders each day.
“We did enjoy watching the parade of young goslings and ducklings marching about and bumping into each other. And we were rewarded with roast duck from time to time and a fine Christmas goose dinner. Oh yes -- we had the last laugh on Tom at Thanksgiving, also.”
Sometimes life is a bowl of cherries. Sometimes, it's a ride to the emergency ward. This paraphrase of Psalm 118 seems suitable for both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday in this pandemic time.
1 As we ride the ambulance of life, Lord,
we sense your presence beside us.
2 Your constant love and care comforts us;
Our fears fade away.
19 Where faceless figures repair our shattered souls,
you hold my hand.
21 In a time of terror, you hover over me;
you are the very breath of life for me.
22 Vulnerability leaves me isolated and alone;
yet I am buoyed up by compassion.
The moment I most feared has become the moment to remember!
23 This can only be the Lord's doing.
24 Awareness washes over me like returning consciousness.
I am alive! I am not alone!
25 Thank you, God. Thank you.
26 Thank you for those who serve in your name. My tears overflow with gratitude.
27 God lives in the hearts and hands of healers.
Wherever there are people of goodwill,
wherever kindness and compassion exist,
God finds a home.
28 You are my God; I will thank you with every thought.
You are my God; I will honor you with all I do.
29 I will never feel alone again;
even in the halls of death, your love will hold me up.
You can find paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary in my book Everyday Psalmsavailable from Wood Lake Publishing, email@example.com.
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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have blocked my posts because they’re suspicious of some of the web links.
Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca He’s also relatively inexpensive!
I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos. Especially of birds.
Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)
ALVA WOOD’S ARCHIVE
I have acquired (don’t ask how) the complete archive of the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures. I’ve put them on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. You’re welcome to browse. No charge. (Although maybe if I charged a fee, more people would find the archive worth visiting.)