Friday, September 6, 2013

Praying for Syria and for our leaders

Dear friends of St. Paul’s,

As our national leaders weigh the moral decision of whether to take military action in the conflict in Syria, we as people of faith are called to common prayer that peace will prevail and suffering will end. Each Sunday we pray for our leaders and for all those in harm’s way. In this time of national debate, it is particularly important that we hold in prayer all those whose lives will be affected by the decisions of our elected leaders.

People of all the Abrahamic faiths – Jewish, Christian and Muslim – are responding especially to Pope Francis’ call to prayer and fasting this Saturday. I am aware of many Episcopal churches and cathedrals across the country that are holding prayer vigils Saturday. However, with a football game near our church it is not practical for us to hold such a vigil in our building. But I would ask that all of us find time on Saturday to pray for peace and an end to the violence in Syria and elsewhere in our world.

I also would urge all of us to be mindful that there are people of good will and strong faith on both sides of the issue on whether to intervene militarily in Syria. We need to be respectful of each other’s viewpoints, and especially hold each other in prayer.

I also want you to know that I met privately on Thursday with U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, who represents our region in Congress. I assured him that we are praying for him, the Congress, and President Obama. I urged him to set aside political and election calculations and vote his conscience, as the Lord guides him.

I was asked to give Rep. Hurt a letter from Christian leaders in Syria representing the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, which is a member of the World Council of Churches of which we are also a part. In their letter, the Syrian Christian leaders condemned chemical attacks “that have caused immense suffering,” but they also urged military restraint. “We appeal for help to stop violence and help bring about peace and social justice – violence only breeds violence, and justice enhances life. Help the Syrians have life, life in its abundance.”

I would humbly ask that we stand together as people of faith, and that we continue to pray that God’s justice and peace will prevail here on earth.


Jim +

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Blessing: May God take your hearts and set them on fire

This morning I used a blessing at the end of our 10 am service that I hadn't used before. I learned it from a priest friend, Liz Jones, who lives in Mississippi. She says the author is unknown (other than the first two lines from the Bible), and so it "belongs to the world." It's known down in Mississippi as "Liz's Blessing." Some asked me for it after church today, so here is Liz's Blessing:
+ + + 
May the Lord Bless you and keep you. 
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. 
May God give you grace not to sell yourselves short, 
Grace to risk something big for something good, 
Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love. 
May God take your minds and think through them. 
May God take your lips and speak through them. 
May God take your hands and work through them. 
May God take your hearts and set them on fire.