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A Prayer for Hope and Possibility

Scripture: Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

We hear it over and over, 2020, what a year! There are memes floating around on social media, saying 2020 is going to be the next curse word. We all get it, we all feel it. Not much else needs to be said. It has been the year of years, but the calendar says we’re almost through it. 

In a way, we are approaching the end. 

Vaccines are being administered, providing a spark of hope we may be on our way to controlling this pandemic. Yet, healthcare experts warn, we are entering the worst time we’ve seen yet in terms of COVID-19. This happens to coincide with the Winter Solstice, the coldest, darkest time in the lunar year. Harsh political rhetoric and sharp divides are everywhere. Add to this, the plagues of racism, economic injustice, and ecological crisis. It is overwhelming, oftentimes, it seems easier to just say “this is all too much,” and pull the blankets back over our heads. 

Amid the brokenness of the world, the hope and joy of the holiday season are hard to come by, it can be difficult to find reason to celebrate.

They are there. We’ve made it this far, that is in itself reason to celebrate. We’ve found ways to carry on and ways to make it and to help our neighbors make it. We have, numerous times, seen an outpouring of love and humanity all over the country and the world. Communities coming together, pooling resources to help neighbors get through. In a time of division and sadness, when the world feels so heavy, generosity and compassion are everywhere too. 

2020 has been an extended Advent season, waiting and wading through a broken world, we struggled to find hope and joy. We did though, we held to the promise of better, of possibility. We knew at some point, there would be a game-changer. Whether that was a vaccine, or the uprising of a city demanding racial justice, an election, or the birth of a child to a poor, unwed mother in West Asia, we looked ahead with hope. 

As we look toward the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, let us hold tight to the hope and possibility we can work to end the other pandemics that weigh down humanity. We believe in the promise of the Christ-child’s birth, we believe this is the game-changer we await.

Prayer:

God who is, who was, and is to come, as we await your advent here, help us hold tight to the promises you made in covenant with our foreparents. Help us find wisdom in the past and strength to do what needs to be done in the present, help us see the possibilities for a future that sees your will for a compassionate, just world for all become reality. This we ask with confident hope in a God who keeps promises. May it be so.

Jenn Luong, Pastoral Intern

A Prayer for Academic Resilience

An old folk song going back to the Civil Rights Movement is “Keep Your Eye on the Prize.”

 

Keep your eyes on the prize. Hold on, hold on, hold on! Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on!

Paul and Silas bound in jail. Had no money to go their bail…

Keep your eyes on the prize. Hold on, hold on, hold on. Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on

Paul and Silas began to shout, the jail doors opened and they walked right out.

The only thing we did wrong, was staying in the wilderness too long.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Hold on, hold on, hold on.  Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

The one thing we did right, was the day we began to fight.

 

Or the original edition of “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” by Mahalia Jackson.

 

Hold on! Hold on! Keep your hand on the plow, hold on.

Hold on! Hold on! Keep your hand on the plow, hold on.

Heard the voice of Jesus say,

“Come unto me, I am the way.”

Keep your hand on the plow, hold on.

When my way gets dark as night,

I know the Lord will be my light.

Keep your hand on the plow, hold on.

 

Hold on friends, hold on.  In spite of all the challenges this pandemic has caused, hold on. Trust that everything will be alright.

Resilience is the ability to beat the odds and bounce back despite failures. It also refers to the ability of a substance or object to spring back into its original shape. Academic Resilience relates to the ability of students to make the effort to succeed despite adverse circumstances of this unprecedented Covid-19 Pandemic, by changing existing behaviors or developing new ones, such as discipline, practice, or planning. All of us have been affected, personally and professionally, by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as well as the heightened awareness and activism emerging in the US and around the world in response to incidents of racism and violence. These are times that call for extraordinary resilience on the part of our students, ourselves, our institutions, and our society.

Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God, and God will make your paths.”

Let us pray:

God of all wisdom and knowledge, we pray that you would guide all students, faculty and staff as this fall semester comes to an end.  Trusting in you with all our hearts to lead us toward truth and understanding as we apply ourselves to study, research, and thoughtful reflection. We thank you for all who teach on campus and virtually for the university’s sake. Teach us to continually search for truth, to patiently endure frustration and to lay aside our fear of failure holding on to your promise and faithful presence. Lord when the work seems dark as night, Christ be our light, shine in our academic lives. Give students vision and purpose that they can hold onto. Breathe into all your children of light hope and your Peace that transcends all understanding that will keep our hearts and minds in your Christ Jesus. In your name we pray.  Amen

 

Pastor Babette Chatman

University Pastor

 

Come Now, Breath of God

“Seasons of Love,” one of the iconic songs from the rock musical Rent, sings out: “525,600 minutes…how do you measure, measure a year?” The musical seeks to engage viewers in this question pushing us to view each moment, each minute, each breath through love’s measurements. What if we viewed each of the 525,600 minutes we have/will spend in this 2020 year through the metric of love? Admittedly, it is hard to keep love at the forefront of every moment especially in this year full of challenges we could not imagine this same day back in 2019. 

Today I am thinking about measuring not in minutes but in breaths. The average person takes approximately 20,000 breaths a day (according to WebMD). In a year? You take, on average, 7,300,000 breaths. And likely we rarely pay attention to our breathing; we simply take breathing for granted.

As of today, 275,000 + people in the United States have died from COVID-19 in 2020. We have been accustomed to measuring our days by COVID cases and deaths. We know too well that this disease is transmitted through our breath and kills by attacking the lungs thus hindering the ability to breathe. Today – just this day – 5,500,000,000 breaths will never happen in our country because of COVID-19. How do we measure life expunged? In moments no longer shared? In minutes gone forever? In breaths that will not be breathed? In the face of death, the metric is still love. When we lose loved ones, there is simply no way to quantify the loss when measured through love.

Hearts are heavy with personal and communal loss felt because of COVID-19. This reality has been compounded by racial injustice seen and known through George Floyd’s heart-wrenching death cry, “I can’t breathe.” The world watched this summer as Mr. Floyd was pinned down on pavement by Minneapolis police officers with a knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. His cry has become the rally cry for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities naming the truth of white supremacy and racism rampant in our institutions and in our lives. How can we even begin to measure the breaths of BIPOC extinguished this year due to racialized violence and trauma?! Again, there is simply no way to quantify the love-loss experienced by so many.  

In this Advent season of profound breathlessness, we take up the songs of longing…of pleading to God to come among us. We cry out to God to give us hope, to give us life, to give us mercy, to give us justice, to give breath to our world. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: give us your saving power! Advent among us! Come Now, Breath of God! 

Indeed, this is our fervent prayer and testimony today – Come Now, Breath of God – for this is the theme and title of our 41st Annual Advent Vespers. At 7 pm tonight (Friday, December 4), the world premiere of the our Advent Vespers will be made available on YouTube. Due to the reality of COVID-19, it is a virtual experience. Join us as a community as we lament and cry out to God for healing and life in and through the pandemics of racism and COVID-19. Join us as together we experience anew the promise of God that meets us in the throes of suffering with the promise of the Christ-child, the one who is the very breath of God! I offer up this prayer, our centering prayer in the Vespers virtual program, in this moment as we wait for the immeasurable breath and unquantifiable love of our God. 

 

Come Now, O Breath of God, 

stir up your power, your pulsating life, and come among us. 

From the tumult of this exasperated world 

rife with the pandemics of coronavirus and racism, 

of climate change and unjust economic systems, 

heed our cry for the need of your advent here.

O Come, Emmanuel, into this breathless world, come:

send your mystic breath anew;

give health to every heaving breast

and strength to all on Liberation’s quest.  

Amen. 

 

Rev. Justin Lind-Ayres

University Pastor

 

 

A Prayer for the Trans Day of Remembrance

Scripture 

Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven. 

 

Each year, between November 13-19, we at Augsburg along with people around the world participate in Transgender Awareness Week. The week culminates on November 20, with Trans Day of Remembrance. Trans Awareness Week brings visibility to Transgender people and the particular issues the community faces. Today, on Transgender Day of Awareness, we remember those who have lost their lives in acts of anti-Trans violence in the last year. 

The state of the world makes it easy to forget or push aside our responsibility to the Transgender community. We have so many other problems, a global pandemic, systemic racism, and on and on. This chaotic time in this chaotic world is exactly why we need this week, and this day. For far too long, and still today, members of the Trans community have been pushed aside, and worse. Dignity, humanity, even the right to exist and live as who they truly are has been denied. Ignorance, misinformation, and plain cruelty continues to foster a society that does not let all of our siblings live out who our God has created them to be, and in some cases, their light to be extinguished too soon.

Prayer

God of all creation, your wisdom, your love and your mystery are boundless. You have many names, which are beyond all gender expression. We give you thanks for the gift of diverse gender identity, expression, and sexuality. We acknowledge the times we deny that gift by holding too tightly to expectations of conformity and norms. We have created these divisions and use them against one another. We know this is not your will or your way. Help us to act mercifully and show grace to all of your people, as you have done for us.

O Mysterious Maker of womxn, men, all that is in between, outside, and none at all. We come before you today with sorrow in our hearts. We remember those who have lost their lives because they did not conform to the gender roles society expects. We lament at the continued suffering, oppression, rejection and struggle of our siblings of all gender identities. Grant them strength, support, and love to accept and be accepted who they are. 

We acknowledge the harm prejudice and ignorance has knowingly and unknowingly caused. Help soften hearts and give wisdom and understanding that in the sight of God, all are equally Beloved simply because of our existence. Open hearts and minds to embrace and support one another so that all may let their light shine before others by living out their Truth. 

In the name of the One who is beyond all norm, amen.

Jenn Luong

Pastoral Intern

Where Does Reconciliation Begin?

There’s a scene in the movie “The Color Purple” when the character Celie curses her abuser Albert, Mister, from the back seat of a convertible car as she is leaving him, declaring her liberation.  Chanequa Walker-Barnes in her book “I Bring the Voice of My People:  A Womanist Vision for Racial Reconciliation,” shares her interpretation of the scene as it is described in Alice Walker’s  book “The Color Purple”.  

According to Walker-Barnes “The novel ‘The Color Purple’ is a narrative about women and men finding liberation and becoming their authentic selves in the midst of an oppressive culture.”  Characters in the novel are people whose self-images and relationships are broken by the deeply racist and patriarchal context in which they live.  There are images in the story that have become apparent in our modern day society.  In recent years our political arena has taken on a form of oppression.  Oftentimes an oppressed person doesn’t really recognize their oppression until they experience even the slightest form of liberation.

Chanequa Walker-Barnes, describes a womanist vision of reconciliation that is a developmental process. This journey requires “confrontational truth-telling, liberation and healing, repentance and conversion for the oppressor; and building beloved communities”.  

As a nation divided along lines of race, class and economics; as a “United States” we  live under a curse when we fail to live in peace with our neighbor, when the wealthiest 1% own more than 40% of this country’s wealth. We live under a curse when greater than 550 children are separated from their parents and housed in cages at the border of Mexico. We live under a curse when Mammon/money is worshipped. Where does Reconciliation begin? Within.

A prayer for Reconciliation

Let there be peace and equity on earth for all, and Lord, let it begin with me.

Loving Mothering God, Father of us all, we pray for hearts to listen to you in silence and from within. We pray for the Spirit of truth to be released to confront those who would withhold justice and equity, for the good of all.  We pray for the wisdom and courage to speak truth to power in love. That you give us voice to speak for the voiceless. That the work of reconciliation would be with us, now.

Jesus said that we would know the truth and the truth would set us free. We pray for liberation and healing. We pray for strong compassionate leaders who are agents of healing this nation.

We pray that the hardened hearts would be softened to release the children in detainment camps. We pray that the heart of our elected officials will be in your hands, and that your  power, oh God, will be revealed.

We pray, oh God, that you would create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us as a people and nation. We ask for a spirit of repentance and conversion of the oppressors for seeds of greed, bigotry, hate and discourse and abuse of power. Lord, a broken and contrite heart you will move us as your people to do what is right in the eyes of others. And help us to not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good. Give us a desire to  build a beloved community in the spirit of love that is a reflection of your kin-dom come here on earth. 

In your name we pray.  Amen

The Rev. Babette Chatman, University Pastor

Remembering the Future

Remember the future? Is this another great Lutheran paradox? Is this some sort of reference to psychic ability? Or biblical prophecy? Is it some out there New Age idea? 

Yes. It could be all of those abstract, subjective ideas; but it has a more practical meaning in the world right now. 

In his 1997 book, Not Yet, Vincent Geoghegan uses the term ‘remember the future’ in reference to humanity’s ability to imagine and capacity to create a more desirable environment. Geoghegan’s definition takes the idea from the abstract into the practical. It gives us a sense that we can go beyond what we have been conditioned to believe is possible.  We can achieve more than we ever thought plausible. How? How do we achieve what is beyond our imagination? 

We look to the past to build the future.

Today in Augsburg’s chapel service, we commemorate All Saint’s Day. We give thanks for the lives of the saints who are no longer physically present with us on Earth. As we remember the lives of the saints who have gone this year, let us also remember that we are living in a time beyond the imagination of so many of them. We are living in the future they remembered and we are doing so thanks to the struggles, the imagination, and the hope of these and so many other saints. 

Rep. John Lewis, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, C.T. Vivian, Katherine Johnson (NASA engineer, Hidden Figures) and so many saints from our own lives. 

We pray this prayer of remembrance and gratitude:

Today O God, we remember all those saints who have gone before us. Their faithful lives and ideas form the foundation for our own lives of faith. We stand on their shoulders as we look at our present, knowing it is the future they remembered. 

Today we remember those whom we cannot name: the homeless, the abused, the refugees. 

Today we remember the names of those we know very well, those close to us, those we touched and held, those who touched and held our lives, those we loved and continue to love. 

Our lives are an accumulation of memory, growing, evolving, and shifting. At times the memory slips away entirely, at times it catches up, taking our breath away. Today, we pause with thoughtful intention to hold the memory of those who have gone before us. We remember and we pray, we tend our memories of those whose lives make each of us what we are today. 

We ask you to guide our lives in the way only you can, help us be the saints for the generations to come. May we be shoulders they can stand upon as they remember the future. 

May it be so.

-Jenn Luong

Pastoral Intern

Campus Ministry Election Week Support

Monday, November 2 –  A mindful meditation video by musician Michael Morris, a calm before election day.

Tuesday, November 3: With no classes on this day due to the election, Pastor Babette Chatman and Pastor Justin Lind-Ayres offer recorded words of hope and prayer on Election Day. 

Wednesday, November 4: Open space for prayer, reflection, silence, and conversation (if needed) in Hoversten throughout morning – 10:00 am – noon. Following ADSG’s event from 6 – 8 pm, folks are welcome to join our Zoom Multicultural Worship at 8 pm along with conversation on “God and Politics” followed by holding space if needed. 

Thursday, November 5 at 11:30 am: Join us in Hoversten Chapel for in-person worship with a service of Healing for the Nation. The service will be live streamed on Zoom. 

Friday, November 6 at 10:40: An All Saints Commemoration service combined with time to hold silence at 10:40 am for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. We remember all saints that have shaped our lives as we continue to remember George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, (and others) and our call for racial justice in God’s world. The Friday service will be streamed on Zoom. Check the Campus Ministry blog page for the weekly prayer. 

 

A Prayer for the Space Between

Countless times I have heard it said, “This is the most important election of our lives.” I do not disagree. Yet, I have also heard a few voices remind us: “Every election is the most important election of our lives because every election has significant consequences for our life together.” It is always good to ground hyperbolic statements of our present reality within the full arc of history’s unfolding, where the past’s importance and the future’s significance have and will be keenly felt for the living of those days. Still, I feel it – this election is of the upmost importance for us all. I have felt it on campus, seen it on your faces in Zoom calls, and experienced it in our communal COVID-impacted life together as the endless election soundtrack plays out on the 24-hour news cycle, is plastered all over social media, and blurs by in the reds, whites, and blues of ubiquitous yard signs painting our pathways.

 

These are the final days leading to Tuesday, November 3rd and the subsequent results of this ever-important election. The results may be known hours after the polls close or in days thereafter. Whatever the timing and whatever the results, this is a prayer for the space between, the hours leading up to this time of choosing for the leaders of our nation, our state, and our local communities.

 

Let us pray:

God of all time and every moment to come,

these days are rife with anxiety, fear, and distrust.

We see it on our Facebook feeds; we know it at our dinner tables; we feel it in our bones.

Compounded by the dangers of COVID-19,

our country and our communities linger in the in-between spaces:

between unknown and known;

between votes cast and votes counted;

between political discourse and political action;

between discord and the frail hope for unity;

between the now and the future of our democracy.

Hold us, ever-present God, in all our between spaces.

And no matter what the unfolding days bring,

secure us in the truth that nothing past, nothing present,

and nothing to come will separate us from your love

borne out in Christ Jesus

and calling us through your Holy Spirit

to be beloved community beyond every between. Amen.

 

Rev. Justin Lind-Ayres

University Pastor

 

 

A Prayer for Children of Adoptions

When Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court, those persons in support of her nomination have suggested that one of the reasons she should be given a lifetime appointment on the highest court of the land is that she has seven kids. According to Senator Thom Tillis, Barrett is “a remarkable mother” with “seven beautiful children,” “She and her husband have seven children,” Senator Lindsey Graham said in his opening remarks, in case anyone hadn’t heard, before giving her two more. “She and her husband have seven children. Two adopted. Two of Ms Barrett’s children are Haitian adopted. Why is it necessary for anyone to single out the two adopted children? Because they are Black children. 

Barrett said her daughter Vivian who came to them from Haiti, when she arrived was so weak that they were told she might never talk or walk normally. But now she deadlifts as much as the male athletes at their gym, and I assure anyone listening that she has no trouble talking. And John Peter who joined them shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, described the shock on his face when he got off the plane in wintertime Chicago. Stating once the shock wore off he assumed the happy-go-lucky attitude that is his signature trait. Barrett also shared intellectual traits of her birth children, such as law career minded, loves liberal arts, math gene, smart, strong, kind, and writer.   

It is an insult to our intelligence to think that we did not notice the stark difference in how Barret affectionately describes some of her children. Vivian and John Peter we see you. You are smart, strong, determined, gifted and Black! There are families all around the world who adopt children transracially and internationally that do not feel the need to clarify their adopted children. 

 

Today we offer a scripture and Prayer for the gifted children of adoptions.

Romans 8:14-19 (NRSV)

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness] with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

 

Let us Pray:

Mothering God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we thank you for the spirit of adoption and for all who bring children into their homes as their own. We ask your blessings of protection and inclusion for all your children. We honor the birth parents and pray for their well being. 

Lord, I play the words over and over in my head and I ache for the children sitting under the sound of their mother’s voice. Give the parents new ways to describe their gotcha children. Words that speak life and blessings. Words that affirm and inspire them to be their best selves.

Lord, we also ask that your Spirit moves parents who bring Black Indigenous Children of Color into their homes that they would read and seek out information that shapes their understanding on racial disparities and the challenges that impact the lives of Black and Brown people.

Oh God, give courage to transracial families to advocate with boldness for equity and inclusion. 

Lord, you created us all in your likeness. And knowledge and understanding comes from you. Move us towards your light and love that we might truly become the children of God, caring and loving all of your creation.  In your name we pray.

 

Rev. Babette Chatman

 

A Prayer for Moral Leadership

On Thursday, October 1, the Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin, Jr., addressed the Augsburg University community for The Bernhard Christensen Symposium. His topic: “Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, and Imagination.” As Dr. Franklin listened to insightful Auggie students’ inquiry and questions to his presentation, he lifted up the call for us all to “steward your moral authority.” In doing so, he quoted the recent departed civil rights activist and U.S. House of Congress Representative from Atlanta’s 5th district, John Lewis. Rep. Lewis wrote in his final words to the American public in the July 30th The New York Times Op Ed piece, “Together, you can redeem the soul of our nation.” Leaning into MLK’s words, Rep. Lewis went on to write, “Each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up, and speak out.”  Thank you, Rep. Lewis and Dr. Franklin, for reminding our Auggie community that our call to serve as neighbor to each other neighbor is a moral obligation. May we have the integrity, courage, and imagination to do serve.

 

Let us pray:

O God of righteousness, stir us to stand up, speak up, and speak out with moral courage. The very soul of our nation depends upon it. Too often we are witness to and, at times, part of the failure of leadership to address the four-fold pandemic of COVID-19, systemic racism, climate change, and economic injustice. Embolden us to:

seek forgiveness where we have failed;

re-orient ourselves to your ways of mercy and loving-kindness;

listen to the needs of others with humility;

heal the hurt within us and around us;

work alongside each other for shared liberation;

imagine new ways of living into reconciliation and peace;

and celebrate love’s truth and power alive in each other and in all creation.

This we pray in your holy name. Amen. 

 

Rev. Justin Lind-Ayres

University Pastor