Prayers for the Season
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Confession and Forgiveness
by the Rev. Justin Kosec
We admit our sins
Please pray with me.
Jesus, you spread out your arms
to welcome the world.
And then you tell us to feed them.
But we struggle with your command.
We find the seed of doubt
growing in our hearts:
What is our compassion
among so much pain?
What is our small kindness
in a system of injustice?
What is one act of reconciliation
in a divided society?
How can so little food
feed so many hungry mouths?
We have simply forgotten:
when you ask us to feed the world,
you always provide the bread.
Even when we have tasted
the bread you multiply;
even when we gather your leftovers,
we still find ourselves between
your wondrous power
and our sinful reality.
We plead for God’s forgiveness
So we ask for your forgiveness.
When you call for our faith,
forgive our unbelief.
As you prepare our heavenly dwelling,
forgive our earthly worries.
When you offer us armfuls of food that satisfies,
forgive our appetite for unhealthy fare.
When your gospel challenges us,
forgive our irritable complaints.
You are patient with us
even when we prove
fussy and doubtful,
reluctant and argumentative.
How often do we act this way
just because we are hungry?
We receive God’s immediate forgiveness
People of God, Jesus knows you are hungry
So Jesus has set our table
with bread from heaven;
and a feast to heal the soul.
You are forgiven.
God leavens you
with eternal goodness.
Jesus gives you
forgiveness enough to share.
And the Holy Spirit
fills your life with
the flavor of transformation.
You are forgiven.
God, give us this bread always.
Prayers of the Day
Bread of Life,
you nourish our whole selves.
You give abundantly.
You are present among us.
You have embodied
the grace of God for us
by your life, death,
Help us to embody
your life-giving grace
that all the world may be fed.
Bread of Life,
you have fed us before.
Somehow we are still hungry.
You will feed us today.
Tomorrow we will hunger again.
Feed us every time we hunger.
Even before we know we are hungry–even before we understand what satisfies–
you have set the table.
God of daily bread and living bread,
we are hungry!
We’re hungry to feast on
what we’ve only tasted:
Eternal and abundant life.
Satisfy our hunger, Bread of Life,
and sharpen our appetite
for the things which you desire.
Fill this world with your life.
You are the answer to our hunger.
You are as simple and near to us
as a loaf of bread on the kitchen counter;
you are as vast and transcendent
as manna scattered on the ground.
Invite us deeper into your mystery.
Let us taste the life you offer.
Transform our hunger into action,
our eating into praise.
sometimes, life feels chaotic and uncertain.
It’s hard to make sense
of the things that happen to us.
When we don’t know where to find answers,
when confusion sets us spinning,
nudge us out of our spiral.
Turn us back to you.
Speak to us again
with the words of eternal life.
Repeat them gently
until we understand.
by the Rev. Victoria Larson
O God of all, mighty and merciful,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
We thank you and praise you
for you have satisfied the hunger of your people in every age:
from the beginning you drew up food from the earth
and humankind from the soil,
filling our nostrils full of your Breath.
You ate the fatted calf with Abraham and Sarah,
and answered their deep longing for a child;
you sustained your chosen people with manna
as you led them toward the promised land;
you sent prophets to answer the cry for bread and for justice;
and in the fullness of time,
you sent your own Son, Jesus Christ, the Bread of Heaven;
Who, in the night in which he was handed over,
took bread, and gave thanks;
broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take and eat; this is my body, given for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me.
Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,
and gave it for all to drink, saying:
This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin.
Do this for the remembrance of me.
Remembering, therefore, his death, resurrection, and ascension,
we await his coming in glory
to share with us the great and promised feast.
Pour out upon us the Spirit of your love, O Lord,
And stir in us a hunger for justice and thirst for compassion.
Open wide your hand
and satisfy our deep desire—
feed us with the Bread that is you.
All honor and glory to you, almighty God, now and forever.
by the Rev. Emily Trubey-Weller
This is an eating meditation. Perhaps this is stating the obvious but, yes, you actually need to eat in order to do this! (Visit our “Pastoral Considerations” post for pastoral approaches to inviting people to eat as part of a liturgical event.)
This meditation invites participants into a mindfulness about eating that we don’t always experience in daily life. All too often, we treat eating as a necessity. Except for holidays, meals are not often an occasion, but are an on-the-go inconvenience. This exercise invites us to pause and do one thing only: to eat. How might this mindful way of eating transform our everyday experience of daily bread? How might it ground us in an experience of eating as we consider Jesus as the Bread of Life?
There are many ways to use this meditation. Here are a few ideas:
- Practice this meditation as a congregation on the first Sunday of the Bread of Life discourse (July 25, 2021). This lines up well thematically because the Gospel lesson that day is the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the experience that grounds the next four weeks of teaching on the Bread of Life. Start by grounding your congregation in an experience too.
- If you practice this meditation in full on the first Sunday of the Bread of Life discourse, you could then practice an abbreviated version each of the following four weeks using a different type of bread each week. The type of baked good is not really important. It’s the process. Perhaps you want to invite others to bring in the food each week, even sharing the recipe with the wider congregation.
- With a different type of bread each week, use this meditation in a small group, prayer group, or Bible study. This could be done in person or via an online platform such as Zoom.
- Try it with kids and youth. Tactile and experiential prayer will be especially meaningful for them. Could you adapt this into your children’s message for each of the next 5 weeks? Use a different type of bread from a different part of the world each week, perhaps different parts of the world from which members of your congregation come or have ties to, and explore those locations together. Or it doesn’t have to be bread at all! Bread was a staple food for people in Jesus’ time and location. What are some other staple foods? Think about rice, maize, beans, etc.
- Don’t forget that not everyone is an enthusiastic bread eater. Bread is a “bad food” for many that choose to eat limited diets, and for our gluten-free friends, it’s a no-go. There are gluten-free bread options in many grocery stores these days, and there are also ordinary foods that are normally gluten-free. You could stick with a bread-like theme here, or as referenced above, try staple foods from other contexts. Try corn tortillas, corn bread, most things made with oats (double check the label), and rice, for starters.
Here’s the method: Guide participants through this exercise slowly and out loud, with time for silence between each question and between each numbered step. The italicized steps describe the leader’s part; the regular text provides an outline for a script.
- If you are meeting in person: Before beginning, you may want to make sure that hand sanitizer is available for all and participants are encouraged to use it. Also make sure folks are appropriately distanced; they’ll need to take any masks off for smelling and eating.
- Find a comfortable position, with your feet resting on the floor and your arms relaxed at your side. Take a few deep breaths, in and out.
- Distribute the bread (or other food) quickly and quietly at this point, or if distributed in advance, instruct them to pick it up now.
- First, hold the bread on your open palm. Just hold it. Notice the weight of it. Is it heavier than you thought it would be? Lighter? Touch it with your fingers and note the texture.
- Look at the bread. Examine it. What is its color? Notice its lines and patterns. Is it uniform or irregular?
- Close your eyes. Smell the bread. What is its aroma? Does it remind you of anything else or is it unique? Notice what effects the scent has on your body.
- Check in with yourself. As you prepare to eat this bread, how do you feel? Are you hungry? Nauseated? Thankful? Do you feel skeptical, like maybe this practice is not for you? Whatever your feeling is, simply note it, without any judgment. Feel that feeling for the length of a couple of breaths, and see if it changes, grows stronger, or goes away.
- Now take a moment to consider all of the people involved in bringing this food to you. Farmers who grew the grain, people who harvested it, truck drivers who transported it, factory or mill workers, bakers, shelf-stockers, storekeepers — there are hundreds if not thousands of people whose labor created this simple occasion of bread in your hand. Take a moment to consider them. Imagine what they look like, how hard they work to support themselves and their families.
- Then widen your consideration further. Consider all the conditions necessary to create this food. What weather did it need? Sunshine or rain? What plants were involved? What threats were there to its growth–wind or drought or animals or insects?
- Open your eyes. Finally, place the bread in your mouth. Don’t chew or swallow yet! Just experience the tactile sensations of the food on your tongue, the tastes, the feeling of the mouth watering. What happens to your whole body when you put the bread in your mouth?
- Now, bite into the bread and chew. Try to notice every movement. Do only one thing right now. Only chew and eat. Does the flavor change? How is the texture different? Then finally, when you do swallow, see how far down you can feel that bread go.
- End with a moment of silent thanks for the food you’ve eaten.
At the end, you may choose to debrief this experience with participants, exploring what it was like for them, how it differed from their usual eating experience, how they might carry something of it forward.
(I initially learned about eating meditation from a HuffPost article by Jay Michelson. See here. Since then I’ve adapted that method into my own eating meditation.)
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