Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

MLK Day Remembrance

January 18th, 2010 No comments

I am not a very sentimental person and rarely get caught up in traditions or holidays, but today represents a significant day of remembrance as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This man was so influential in my life and my understanding of the world that we named our daughter after him (Mikayla Lillian Kickert).  It was an honor this morning to march along side my brothers and sisters and to have my daughter join us.  Here is a picture of me and little MLK from this morning and a shot from the march:

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If you haven’t already done it, please take the time to listen to MLK’s prophetic “I have a dream” speech.  I still cannot listen to it without tearing up.  I have included it below for your convenience

Finally, I want to share with you a prayer that I wrote several years ago to commemorate the day.  The following is an invocation written in 2008 for the annual MLK remembrance service in Bowling Green.  It is inspired by the UMC Book of Worship prayer for such occasion.

God of all creation, we stand together today and acknowledge your presence among us as we seek to be your people united in love.  As we worship today, we pray that you grant us a glimpse of your Kingdom. A kingdom where everything is made new and all nations walk together in the light of your Glory.

We thank you for your servant Martin Luther King Jr. who lived out the principles of your kingdom, and through his prophetic voice, offered the vision of what could be.  May we be challenged by his courage, emboldened by his passion, and inspired by his actions.  But heavenly father, may we not rest of the laurels of his godly work, but instead strive together to bring deeper love and greater unity as we all seek to live out your calling on our lives.  May we, even today, experience the same divine discontent that spurred Dr. King to be a voice for justice and an advocate for love.

Today we remember the conviction of Dr. King, who said:

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Therefore, let us pray for courage and determination for those who are oppressed.  And at the same time, may we not be blind to the oppression we bring, nor deaf to the voices crying against it.
Today we remember Dr. King’s words that

True peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice.

Therefore let us pray not only for relief from tensions and conflicts, but for a just and compassionate world.  May those who work for peace in our world be those crying loudest for justice and may we find peace not in the comforts of life, but in the tension that comes from standing in the gap.
Today we remember Dr. King’s insight that:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, because we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny,

Therefore, let us pray that we may see nothing in isolation, but instead find ourselves unified in love and perfected in peace.  May we rejoice with those rejoicing, and mourn with those morning.  And today father, may we join the struggles of those bothers and sisters throughout the world who are striving for peace and justice.
Today we remember Dr King’s lament that:

The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound, often the arch-supporter of the status quo. 

Therefore, let us pray that neither those gathered here today nor any congregation of Christ’s people may be silent in the face of wrong, but that we may be disturbers of the status quo when it comes into conflict with God’s Kingdom.

Finally, we remember Dr. King’s prophetic words that:

The dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Therefore, in faith, let us contend against evil and make no peace with oppression so that we join in the legacy of Dr. Martin King Jr. and work together to fulfill the vision he shared of your Kingdom come. 

Lord, while we still hear jangling discords in our nations, may we be beautiful notes in the symphony of brotherhood. 

In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace we pray, Amen.

The title of “Pastor”

September 23rd, 2009 No comments

Technically I can put the letters “Rev.” in front of my name.  That is because the United Methodist Church recognizes me as a pastor.  Although I am not employed by a church, I am appointed as a local pastor to a church.  Practically this means I can marry and bury, consecrate communion and baptize.  Sometimes it also means people look at (to) me differently.  I am not sure how I feel about that.


Today I was in a meeting at church when one of the people there received the awful news that her mother had passed away.  She took a phone call in the hallway and instantly began sobbing.  Someone commented that it was unfortunate that all the other pastors were away meeting with the Bishop.

That bothered me.  Not because they were gone, or because I was viewed differently than the “employed” pastors.  It bothered me because I realize there is nothing special a pastor could do in that situation.  What this person needed was a shoulder to cry on, and someone to pray with her, and people to support her.  It doesn’t take someone with a fancy white collar or special letters in front of their name to do that.

A friend of mine passed on a thought to me the other day.  He was talking about the formation of the Quaker church and the way it was received.  At one point the Quakers, who function largely under the guidance of the congregation members, are asked why they are trying to get rid of the clergy.  Their response was this: “We are not trying to get rid of the clergy, we are trying to get rid of the laity.”

Wow… that is big stuff.  It is not that pastors are unimportant, it is that everyone is important… and called… and empowered.

I left the full-time ministry nearly 2 years ago.  One of the main reasons I left was because I was not comfortable with being paid to “pastor.”  I felt weird taking people’s tithe money in exchange for services that all Christians were called to do (i.e. visit the sick, help the poor, study and proclaim the word, etc.)  It wasn’t just that I felt I should be doing these things without pay, it was that I realized I was in a very real way preventing others from doing what they needed to be doing.  It is easy to pass things off to a pastor when you don’t feel comfortable with doing them (after all, it can be awkward to talk about Jesus, or counsel a person who is dying, or pray with a grieving spouse).  Plus… isn’t that what we pay pastors to do… might as well get your money’s worth.

Now I realize that some pastors have extensive training that the average parishioner does not have.  I think we need people who are well trained to teach the scriptures, and I think we need people with special talents and skills to provide loving counseling.  But at the same time, when people look to pastors instead of to themselves to be the hands and feet of God then we are in trouble.  Anytime a person pulls back from ministry because they feel they can’t do it because they are not a pastor, we are all the lesser.

Pastors have no special line to God, their prayers are no more effective and their crap still stinks.  You should avoid at all costs a pastor who tells you otherwise.  If you knew the problems I deal with and the doubts I still have, you would not look up to me with special eyes just because of a title (and I would guess this is true of most pastors).

What was great to see today was that in the end, no one disqualified themselves from ministering to this woman because they lacked the title.  No one called for a pastor in the same way you call for a doctor when someone is having a seizure.  No one hesitated in offering their care because there was not a staff pastor on site.

That my friends is how the Body of Christ is supposed to work.  That is what things look like when we all realized we are called to be a redemptive force in the world.   And that is what happens when people realize that just because pastors can sign a wedding certificate and bless the bread, we are all called and empowered to be agents of restoration and redemption.

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