Sunday’s worship: A Prayer Service for Ukraine

With everything that’s going on in the world, I decided that what we needed this Sunday was a prayer service – a special time for us to pray for the world and specifically for Ukraine. There were four main elements to this service that I wanted to share this week: Scripture readings, a poem by Ann Weems, a blessing/prayer by Kate Bowler, and a Prayer for Lament from the Book of Common Worship

 

Scripture readings:

Rabbi Yaakov Bleich, the Chief Rabbi for Ukraine, asked Jews and Christians around the world to pray Psalm 31 in solidarity with those in Ukraine who are under attack by Russia. So our First Testament reading this morning was Psalm 31.

Our New Testament reading came from Matthew 25:31-46 – Jesus’ reminder that whatever we do to and for those around us who need us the most, we do for Jesus.

 

Poem: “I No Longer Pray for Peace” by Ann Weems

On the edge of war, one foot already in,

I no longer pray for peace:
I pray for miracles.

I pray that stone hearts will turn
to tenderheartedness,
and evil intentions will turn
to mercifulness,
and all the soldiers already deployed
will be snatched out of harm’s way,
and the whole world will be
astounded onto its knees.

I pray that all the “God talk”
will take bones,
and stand up and shed
its cloak of faithlessness,
and walk again in its powerful truth.

I pray that the whole world might
sit down together and share
its bread and its wine.

Some say there is no hope,
but then I’ve always applauded the holy fools
who never seem to give up on
the scandalousness of our faith:
that we are loved by God……
that we can truly love one another.

I no longer pray for peace:
I pray for miracles.

written by Ann Weems for Ash Wednesday 2003

 

A Blessing for Ukraine” by Kate Bowler

after the prayer (my own words): On her Facebook post that included this prayer, Bowler concluded with these words: “Dear Ukraine, though we shudder to watch what is happening, we will not look away.” Indeed, we shudder, friends. Indeed, we lift up our prayers. And indeed, we will not look away. We will not ignore. We will not forget. We will not excuse atrocities and suffering and injustice. Though we shudder to watch what is happening, we will not look away.

 

Prayer for Lament (from the Book of Common Worship, ©2018 Westminster John Knox Press)

            Extinguish a candle.

                        In the darkness, O God, we cry out to you …

                        Where are you leading us?

                        How are you calling us?

                        What is your will?

            Silence.

                        Make us one body; reconcile all people.

            Sung response:

                        Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

                        Lord, have mercy upon us.

                        Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

                        Lord, have mercy upon us.

            Pour sand from pitcher.

                        From the dust, O God, we cry out to you …

                        Why am I forgotten?

                        Why am I forsaken?

                        Why are you so far away?

            Silence.

                        Make us one body; reconcile all people.

            Sung response

                        Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

                        Lord, have mercy upon us.

                        Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

                        Lord, have mercy upon us.

            Tear cloth.

                        In our pain and division, O God, we cry out to you …

                        Where is my family?

                        Where are my friends?

                        Who is my neighbor?

            Silence.

                        Make us one body; reconcile all people.

            Sung response

                        Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

                        Lord, have mercy upon us.

                        Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

                        Lord, have mercy upon us.

            Place empty plate and cup on table.

                        In our hunger and thirst, O God, we cry out to you …

                        When will justice come?

                        When will peace come?

                        How long?

            Silence.

                        Make us one body; reconcile all people.

            Sung response.

                        Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

                        Lord, have mercy upon us.

                        Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.

                        Lord, have mercy upon us.

 

            God of love and justice, you have made it clear to us that you tire of our church words and religious festivals, and that the worship you want from us is an ethical life lived out in a society that reflects your justice. Hear our prayers for your whole creation, saying,

God of justice, save your world.

            We pray for the church and for all who live by faith, doing charity and advocating for social change.

God of justice, save your world.

            Cultivate peace between nations, between people, and between political parties.

God of justice, save your world.

            Protect and comfort those enduring the violence of war, especially those in Ukraine who are in pain, in fear, in hiding, in mourning; those enduring the injustice of crime, or the destructive forces of nature.

God of justice, save your world.

            Almighty God, guide all the nations of the world into your ways of justice and truth. Establish among us that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that this world may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

God of justice, save your world.

Preserve those who suffer violence at home or bullying at school. Embolden those who see their trouble to help bring relief, help, and compassion.

God of justice, save your world.

            Grant your healing mercies to those who are ill or facing death, especially those whose worlds have been turned upside-down by COVID-19 today, yesterday, or anytime in the last 2 years. Uphold those who care for them, especially our healthcare workers who are not only physically exhausted but emotionally and mentally and spiritually exhausted as well.

God of justice, save your world.

            Delivering God, through Jesus Christ, you come to us and teach us the way of true worship: doing good, seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed, defending the orphan, and pleading for the widow. Set us free to serve you, sharing your work in the world, by the power of your strengthen Spirit.

God of justice, save your world.

Holding Space for All Our Prayers:

            If you feel so moved, I invite you now to voice any prayers you may have weighing on your hearts before God. It can be out loud or in your own hearts.

PAUSE

            Lord, in your mercy, hear all of our prayers – those spoken and those that only echo in the quietness of our hearts. We lift them up to you in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, saying: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

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