Good morning. I invite you to quiet your hearts and minds as we join in prayer.
On this first Sunday of Advent, we are called to hold hope. Not an easy thing in these days of never-ending crises and calamities and sorrow, of one step forward and three back, of people dividing and hating instead of coming together in love and compassion. Hope seems so fragile a thing, so fleeting, hard to hold. But listen to the words of Emily Dickinson in this poem called Hope is the thing with feathers:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Dickinson writes of a tiny, determined singer, a little Bird, perched in our soul, in the souls of everyone…keeping us warm, giving us strength…even in the coldest times and places of our lives. And she says hope has never asked a crumb of her. And yet it is hope – however we understand it – that moves us forward, that strengthens us to take actions for justice and right living even as we teeter on the edge of despair. Hope reminds us to stand there and weep and wail, yes, and then move on and do something good, be who we are called to be.
God of the Little Bird, we pray to always hear its sweet tune, your voice, the voice of grace and goodness and faithfulness. We pray for our Bienestar partners involved in our outreach project in Guatemala, and we pray for our brothers & sisters at Nyandyadzi Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. May determined hope be found among them. We pray for peacemakers and peacekeepers who serve throughout the world. We pray the organizations that make their work possible will be generously supported by donors and governments so they have the needed resources to respond with courageous hope.
We pray for all people affected by COVID-19, directly or indirectly, in body, mind or spirit. We pray for patience and strength so that we can slow the spread while caring for each other.
We pray for people persecuted in many countries, whether because of their gender expression or sexual orientation, or because of their ethnic or religious background, or simply because of their opinions and words. May an orchestra of little birds lift their spirits and warm their lives. And we pray for our environment. As we struggle with the pandemic, we are given the chance to learn about our connection with nature and our earth…and to see how our policies, laws, structures and economies often change our environment in ways that are not sustainable, whether for songbirds, polar bears or us.
In the World Council of Churches prayer cycle, we pray for Thailand and Myanmar, two countries struggling with political instability, economic injustice, sex tourism, and persecution of minority groups (even genocide). We pray for just and non-violent change so that all hear the song of the Little Bird. And in the Pacific Mountain Regional Council Prayer Cycle, we offer prayers for Trinity-Grace United Church in Vancouver, as they prepare to wait in this Advent Season.
Close to home, we send prayers for all those named in our Prayer List and in this quiet moment, we offer prayers for those whose concerns are close to our hearts… …As we search for hope and purpose in our lives, we can consider the words of Czech writer and leader, Vaclav Havel:
“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something is worth doing no matter how it turns out.”
And so, God of hope and courage, be with us as we seek ways to serve meaningfully at this time and in this world. We offer these prayers in the name of Jesus, our teacher and our friend.