Grandpa, who’s chasing you?

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Grandpa being chased

What are you talking about, Elijah? No one’s chasing me.

You just said you were being chased. So, who’s chasing you?

No, I didn’t say I was chased. I said I was chastened.

What’s that? Isn’t that like a pluperfect of chased?

No, it’s different, but it does make me want to run away. I don’t like being chastened. You won’t either when you’re old enough to be chastened, although, come to think of it, I’ve already chastened you for keeping Mom up all night.

I remember that. You made me feel bad. That wasn’t right, Grandpa! I just needed to eat! You don’t care about my needs! Mom’s going to chasten you!

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Elijah & 7.5 months

You’re right, Elijah. You just chastened me and I feel rightly chastened.

Good. So you won’t do that again, right?

I wish I could promise you that I won’t, but it wouldn’t be right to promise. I’m sure you’ll be chastened many times over your lifetime. Sometimes you’ll be chastened even by your Mom. And, if I think you’re doing something hurtful, I will chasten you for your own good.

Okay, Grandpa. I’ll do the same.

That’s a deal.

So who made you feel chastened this week? Was it Grandma?

No, it was two professional colleagues. Bill chastened me on Facebook for something I’d written on Views from the Edge. Here’s what Bill said on Facebook. It hurt my feelings.

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Andy Borowitz

“Borowitz does satire better, and this piece is just wishful thinking, which isn’t really satire. We need people to focus on actually changing our national discourse.”

That’s over my head, Grandpa? Who’s Borowitz? What’s wishful thinking? What’s satire? What’s national discourse?

We’ll get to those questions later, Elijah. We don’t have time now. Here’s the second chastening.

Kara Root — she’s another minister here in Minneapolis — wrote something to her congregation that made me feel chastened. She invited the members of Lake Nakomis Presbyterian Church to join her in prayer for our country every Friday morning.

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Kara Root

Here’s what Kara said:

“I’m going to pray for the nation this morning. Every Friday morning this is happening in our sanctuary. It helps me remember what I know to be true. It helps me let go of the noise, and the vitriol, and the division we feed, and feed on, so eagerly.

“This practice feels brave. And healing. And important. Sometimes I find gratitude, and even tenderness, for the people that make up this country, every single one of them.”

Yeah! Every single one of them! That’s good, Grandpa. Not like President You-Know-Who!

Ahhhh, but here’s the thing, Elijah. It does include President Trump. “Every single one of us” includes Donald. That’s what makes me feel chastened. All my life I’ve felt chased by Adolf Hitler. I always wondered whether I would have had the courage to stand up against him. Standing up to Hitler has been like a lifelong preoccupation. Anytime I see things that remind me of Adolf, I go a little crazy.

So someone IS chasing you, but you’ve stopped running! That’s good.

No, it’s not. Like Bill’s criticism of me on Facebook said, we need to change our national discourse.

I’m not praying for President You-Know-Who! I’m standing my ground!

You can’t stand your ground yet, Elijah. You can’t even stand without help. None of us can. Jesus talked about loving our enemies. He said we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Okay, I’ll pray for Bill and Kara ’cause they chastened you, but I won’t pray for You-Know-Who!

You have to, Elijah. We all have to.

No we don’t. I’m not do it! I don’t like You-Know-Who!

Praying for President Trump doesn’t mean you like him or accept his behavior. It means hoping for a change in his character. It means hoping that Donald will have a change of heart and mind, that he’ll stop running from whoever’s chasing him. That he’ll settle down. Be calm.

Maybe Donald also being chased by Hitler. I don’t know.

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If we refuse to pray for ALL people, instead of just the people we like, we’re running away from our best selves. That doesn’t do any good, Elijah. It allows evil to chase us. It contributes to evil, and we should be chastised. If we don’t pray like Kara and the good people of Lake Nakomis Presbyterian Church, all our talk about faith, love, and hope is meaningless.

Kara Root, Lake Nakomis Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis, MN, 2018

Okay, Grandpa. If I have to, I’ll try to be more like Kara. I want to be good, but this faith, love, and hope stuff is really, really hard!

— Gordon C. Stewart (Granda), Chaska, MN, January 14, 2018.

The beginning of an uprising

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

Question: Who said that?

Wait! Wait! Don’t tell me! Choose one (click the names for more information):

 

Or . . . someone else?

Answer: We know it’s not Bill Maher, though Bill does call for an uprising, but the uprising would be against religion itself as the source of disorder, even though Bill often invites Cornel West to be his guest on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Cornel West clasps his hands in prayer and, like Bill, rises up to resist the present order/disorder, but it’s not Cornel.

So maybe it’s Karl Barth. The statement often is attributed to Barth, the Swiss theologian who resisted Hitler and the Third Reich in the name of Christ. But a more-or-less careful internet search yields no confirmation of its source.

Because no one really seems to know for sure, perhaps the correct answer is someone else from an altogether unexpected different source.

Like someone’s twitter account.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 9, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praying for the President

Yesterday was at once heartening and frightening.

The Women’s March participants refused to Echo, the tragic nymph of the Greek myth who, enchanted with Narcissus’ charm, loses her own voice except to echo Narcissus’ words as Narcissus stares at his own reflection across the pond. Meanwhile, on the same day, Narcissus, despairing of Echo’s recovered independence, went across the river to visit the CIA – the intelligence community he had scorned – in hopes they might become the new reflecting pond and echo that would confirm his claims to singular greatness as the new Commander-in-Chief.

The President is disintegrating before our eyes. Mental health is about integration – the spiritual/psychic process by which a person brings together the disparate parts of the self and the various conflicting sorts of experience into a greater psychic wholeness. This process requires a center that does not depend upon the adulation or negation of others.

Yesterday we saw a lonely, frightened man with neither the Echo nor the reflecting pond into which he stares to be reassured of his real self.  He is a sick man deserving of prayers and pity. But when a threatened narcissist has access to the nuclear codes no one else in the world has, prayers for this president become prayers for ourselves and the planet that reflect a greater glory than Narcissus’ reflection.

“The whole Earth is the theater of God’s glory.” – John Calvin.

As a member of the Confirmation Class  at First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica in Queens, NY, a young Donald John Trump learned by heart the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Question: “What is the chief end (i.e. aim or purpose) of man?”

We have need to hope and pray the 70 year-old Donald remembers the antidote to the psychic integration and disintegration of Narcissus:

Answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.”

The Book of Common Worship (1946) in use at the time of the President’s confirmation includes this Election Day:

Almighty God, who dost hold us to account for the use of all our powers and privileges: Guide, we pray Thee, the people of these United States of their rulers and representatives; that by wise legislation and faithful administration of the rights of all may be protected, and our nation be enabled to fulfill Thy purposes. . . .  Amen.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 22, 2017.

 

 

Prayer for the New Year

I invite you to consider lighting a candle and offer a prayer this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in the quiet style of the Friends (Quakers) or by using a format such as the one below, slightly adapted from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Prayer For The New Year

On New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, the household gathers at the table or at the Christmas tree or manger scene. Many people make New Year’s Day a day of prayer for peace.

Leader: Let us praise the Lord of days and seasons and years, saying:
Glory to God in the highest!
Response: And peace to his people on earth!

The leader may use these or similar words to introduce the blessing:

Our lives are made of days and nights, of seasons and years,
for we are part of a universe of suns and moons and planets.
We mark ends and we make beginnings and, in all, we
praise God for the grace and mercy that fill our days.

Then read the the Scripture from the Book of Genesis 1:14-19:

God said: “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.” And so it happened: God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night; and he made the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw how good it was. Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.

(The family’s Bible may be used for an alternate reading such as Psalm 90:1-4.)

Reader: The Word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.

After a time of silence, members of the household offer prayers of thanksgiving for the past year, and of intercession for the year to come …. In conclusion, all join hands for the Lord’s Prayer.

Then the leader continues: “Let us now pray for God’s blessing in the new year.”

After a short silence, parents may place their hands on their children in blessing as the leader says:

Remember us, O God;
from age to age be our comforter.
You have given us the wonder of time,
blessings in days and nights, seasons and years.
Bless your children at the turning of the year
and fill the months ahead with the bright hope
that is ours in the coming of Christ.
You are our God, living and reigning, forever and ever.
R/. Amen.

Another prayer for peace may be said:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Response: Amen.

—Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

Leader: Let us bless the Lord.

All respond: Thanks be to God.

The prayer may conclude with the singing of a Christmas carol.

Whether or not you choose to light a candle and no matter how you do it, if you do, my old friend Steve Shoemaker and his surviving Views from the Edge seminary friend wish you peace of heart and mind as we enter the storm tossed-sea of 2017.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, December 30, 2016.

Verse – When to Stop Praying

No kneeling after knee replacement,
But can still sit and bow my head–
So not yet

Prayers unanswered for another:
Disease, decline, and death–
But not yet

Aged, depressed, diminished,
But want to see tomorrow’s sunrise–
Still not yet

But when cancer has taken body and mind,
Life is lifeless, no pleasures are left:
Please pray for my peace, not my life.

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 2

A Prayer for “Mommies and Daddies”

What would happen if the children wrote all the prayers?  Children age 3 through 5th Grade at Trinity Episcopal wrote The Prayers of the People used in worship the last few weeks. Each prayer was followed by a brief reflective silence.  One of the children led the prayers.

Let us pray for our neighbors and our neighborhood.

Let us pray for our families and friends: our mommies and daddies, our grandparents and great-grandparents.

Let us pray for the world and the universes.

Let us pray for our pets and the animals of the world: Millie, Cokie, puppies and cats.

Let us pray for those who have illnesses, our sick grandparents, heart disease, cancer, and memory loss.

Let us pray for those going through rough times, mentally and physically.

Let us pray for those who have died everywhere and those who have died that are close to us.

Let us pray for everyone.

[The Prayers of the People concluded with a prayer written by the priest who works with these little ones:]

Holy and gracious God, we are too often blinded by trivial matters. May our attention be diverted now from these things, and may we become as little children, trusting and seeking with love to cross bridges we have not crossed in the past.

Amen!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 23, 2015.

A Hopeful Prayer for Healing

A prayer for a sick person named “C______”:

Gracious God,

We know how to pray for sick C______, and, indeed, for anyone (including ourselves). Your child, Jesus, taught us to pray for daily bread, forgiveness, for You not to lead us into temptation, AND TO DELIVER US FROM EVIL!

Cancer is evil (as are heart attacks, brain tumors, diseases beyond number, and your last enemy, death.) Deliver C______, and us all. We pray for healing and full health.

We also know, however, even Jesus did not heal everyone, that not all His prayers were answered, even His prayer “If possible, may this cup pass from me.”

If healing is impossible, remind us of Psalm 23, and that in the shadow of death, we can know You are with us, fear no evil, and be comforted. Amen.

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, October 7, 2015

The Waiting Room

The surgery went “as well as could be expected” after two months of undiagnosed illness, but Sepsis is taking over his body, threatening his survival. The next two hours are critical.

His loved ones and friends are gathered in the ICU Waiting Room at Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

Several hours earlier, I had observed six Muslim men praying the evening prayer at sundown at the far side of the Waiting Room. Oromo (Ethiopia) men had prayed the evening prayers at sundown, off to the far side of the large Waiting Room.

The men from Orono (Ethiopia), whom I had assumed to be Somali, are now gathered in chairs in the center of the Waiting Room, talking among themselves in Oromo.

When I approach them, intruding into their space, they recognize my presence. They stop talking. “Salaam,” I say. “Salaam,” they respond as if with a single voice and smile. “My friend is very sick. The next two hours are critical. I ask your prayers. His name is Phil.”

They respond as one would expect compassionate people to respond. “We will pray for him.”

I return to the small family area where my fellow Christians are gathered. I tell them the Muslims are praying for Phil. They’re pleased. We chat. Phil and Faith’s pastor eventually leads us in a Christian prayer.

Muslim prayer visitors

Muslim prayer visitors

An hour or so later three of the Oromo men come to our little room. They have come to tell us they have finished their prayers for Phil.

The voices and eyes of the men, led by their Imam, are kind, pastoral, as we say in the church. Full of compassion and concern for us. They have prayed in Arabic a Muslim prayer for healing on behalf of a stranger about whom they know nothing but his need:

“Remove the harm, O Lord of humankind and heal [Phil], for You are the Healer and there is no healing except Your healing, with a healing which does not leave any disease behind.” [narrated into English by al-Bukhaar]

Sometimes we have no choice but to wait. The Muslims from Oromo are waiting with us actively. Would that we all would wait so kindly, so patiently, so actively, and so wisely.

For a split second, I imagine the world as a Waiting Room.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Abbott-Northwester Hospital, Minneapolis, MN, June 12, 2015

Ask much of us

“Ask much of us,

expect much of us,

enable much by us,

encourage many through us.”

These words from the prayer that followed Holy Communion yesterday (the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday) at Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minnesota leaped from the page. They are part of the congregation’s Post-Communion Prayer, prayed aloud by all worshipers.

In deep gratitude for this moment,

this meal, and for these people,

we give ourselves to you, most holy God.

Take us out into the world

to live as changed people

because we have shared the Living Bread

and cannot remain the same.

Ask much of us,

expect much from us,

enable much from us,

encourage many through us.

May we dedicate our lives to your glory.

Amen.

I needed that. I need daily to be reminded, asked, enabled, and encouraged to live actively in gratitude.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 30, 2015

Verse – Legislate Morality

The Pastor asks for those in need
of prayer–
she wants their names. She writes that Bill
will go
for surgery next week. And Ann
retire
at last from waitressing–what will
she do?

In prayer, the Pastor lists each name,
each need.
She celebrates our joys, lists our
concerns–
not that the One who hears has to
be made
aware, but we require the
reminders

of what we are to do: care for
the sick,
go visit lonely folks, give food
and clothes.
Then lobby Congress for new laws
that make
the ninety-nine percent receive
from those

who have it made, a chance, at least
a share
of hope from those who never seem
to care.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 30, 2015