“You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”
-St Augustine of Hippo in ‘Confessions’
“(Humans) are the ultimate paradox: the finite made for the infinite.”
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu in ‘God has a Dream – a vision of hope for the future’
“And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
-John 13: 34-35 GNT
Another birthday for some of us, marking longer time lived here on earth. Sometimes this brings wisdom, sometimes world-weariness at the repeating cycle of destructive human acts. But it’s often balanced by generally-not-publicized acts of loving kindness and care. As we celebrate the 500th centennial of William Shakespeare’s birth, and his death 52 years later on the same date, his wonderful “seven ages of man” speech from As You Like It comes to mind.
Lord, we give you thanks and praise at whatever stage in our earthly life we are. Thank you for creating us in your image. You looked on us, and saw that it is good. We give thanks for all who nurture that which is of you in each one of us, whether we appear on the surface to be good, bad or indifferent. Thank you for your unending love and mercy.
We give thanks for the many organizations and groups helping those displaced in almost every corner of your world. We remember the entire 60,000 population of the city of Fort McMurray, Canada, forced to evacuate due to wildfires. We remember also the refugees on Nauru in Micronesia and Papua New Guinea, where hundreds of people, including children, have lived for months or even years in Australian off-shore detention centers. In the last 7 days, two people have set themselves on fire, one dying, in a desperate protest at their conditions and hopelessness.
Risen One, be close to all who seek to help provide basic necessities, medical care and hope in very dark times for our brothers and sisters. Uprooted from all that is familiar, they are ostracized and looked down on as “others”, “outsiders”, “refugees”, “asylum seekers”, “economic migrants” – all labels that distance us from recognizing that all, like us, are people made in your image. Your commandment to love one another is not an option. It is your way. It is hard, Lord. You found it hard too. Help us to be open to your inspiration and wisdom to show us how to live this, especially when our rational minds are objecting that the situation is really impossible or else too costly for us.
We give thanks that United Kingdom Prime Minister has reversed his decision and is to allow unaccompanied Syrian children, already in Europe, to come to live in the UK. We pray for their protection and safety in their new life, and pray for comfort and solace for their families left behind in the chaotic violence of Syria.
We give thanks too for those helping highlight and provide education for children in refugee camps. Girls are far more likely to be out of education, and remain uneducated, than boys. We pray for all children to be given the chance of education, and get the tools to find a way out of their poverty and insecurity. Most of all we pray and give thanks for those giving them love and improving their self-esteem and so hope… Without hope we shrivel and die in our souls and then our bodies. Bless each person, group and organization caring for and protecting your young people. All teachers, social workers, care-givers, parents, families and friends: may they be channels of your love and grace.
Risen One, hear us and give more than we ask.
As so many elections are taking place in the US, UK, and several other countries, politicians are vying for votes. May honesty, integrity and service be at the heart of all who seek to be elected. Guide those who vote, that we can see past the smooth-talking of public-relations-guided candidates, to the nub of the issues being debated. May our choices not be made solely on the basis of self-interest, but rather to assure that the less powerful and with less strident voices are also being heard.
Lord of all, help us to rejoice your heart as well as our own. Remind us again and again to love one another as you have loved us. Then all will come to know and love you as we, who are your disciples, do. Amen.