Lent 4C: Return

Rembrandt-The_return_of_the_prodigal_sonOLD TESTAMENT: Joshua 5: 9-12

Read the Old Testament passage

This passage continues with our theme of “hope”, even in the midst of seemed hopelessness, a good reminder for our Lenten journey. The Book of Joshua continues with the story of the promise of land which was set in motion during the time of Abraham, as told in The Book of Genesis. This first part of Joshua is set during the entry of the Israelites into the land of Canaan after their time in the wilderness.

In the wilderness the only sustenance that was available was the manna that God provided. Now that they had entered the land of “plenty”, so to speak, there was plenty of grain and resources to make their own bread. This was indeed a time of great thanksgiving. It was a celebration of not only their freedom but also the way that God had provided (and continued to provide) for them. The promise that had been made to them was beginning to come to fruition.

The manna was now ceasing because there was instead a permanent provision of grain. No longer did they require a “stop-gap” to get them through. God had liberated them and restored them to life. The past has indeed been “rolled away”, as it says at the beginning of the passage and a new day has dawned.

Manna is sort of an interesting concept and there seems to be many often conflicting ideas of what manna actually is. Whatever it is, many of us tend to sort of romanticize it. After all, how great is that for God to just automatically provide whatever we need whenever we need it? What an extraordinary thing! (Although, I, for one, am one of those people that easily tires of the same menu over and over!) But perhaps it is even more extraordinary when God’s Creation and God’s people work together to provide for each other and to fulfill God’s promises in the ordinary course of life. And the Passover meal that began in the midst of disgrace now becomes a remembrance for the people. Here at Gilgal, the Passover feast becomes a ritual.

What a great Lenten passage for us! It is a reminder that God is indeed true to the promises that God has made, if we will only allow God into our lives and follow to that place to which God is leading us. When we are hurting and enslaved, God is there, providing us manna to fill in the empty spaces in our lives until we come to our deliverance. But God does not leave us there. Instead, God gives us the tools that we need to sustain ourselves and to do for others what has been done for us. Manna is not a permanent fix; it is grace leading us through the darkness. And, like the Israelites, our past is rolled away, no longer an obstacle to where God is leading us. God sustains us that we might go out into the world to that place where we are meant to be, to that new beginning that God has created just for us. And the meal that began in the midst of disgrace now becomes a remembrance for the people, a reminder of what God has done and what God is doing.


  • What is your response to this passage?
  • What is your image of “manna”?
  • How do you identify with the manna itself and with the ceasing of the manna?
  • How does this passage speak to you on your Lenten journey?




NEW TESTAMENT: 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21

Read the Epistle passage

This passage, too, deals with that New Creation that God is in the midst of creating and to which God is inviting us. The beginning of Paul’s writing acknowledges Christ as both human and divine and reminds us that we know Christ (and, I think, MUST know Christ) in both ways. I once called it the “sacred and”, the bringing together of the human and the divine, the veritable pouring out of God’s Spirit onto us and into the world. It is this knowing, this being “in Christ”, this bringing together of humanity into the divine, that brings about this new creation. It is in Christ that we become the righteousness of God; it is in Christ that we, too, become part of that “sacred and”.

Now, admittedly, this is a high order. What exactly does that mean? It means that, once again, we are called not to jump away from this world but to look at things differently, to bring this perspective of this “new creation” into not only our lives but the lives of others as well. We have been reconciled with God through Christ, according to Paul. The Divine presence of God has come to dwell with humanity for all. Like the first passage that we read, there is no more need for manna; we have been given that which will sustain us.

And now as those reconciled with God, we are called to be “ministers of reconciliation” for the world. Paul talks about it as ambassadors. The world is called to be once again reconciled with God. Note that Paul’s claim is that “there IS a new creation.” This is not something in the future; this is not something that will happen once something else happens. This is now. We ARE the new creation, reconciled to God through Christ and now called to reconcile the world—all the world, each and every person–to God.

In the commentary, Feasting on the Word, Ralph C. Wood says this:


[In this text], Paul declares that he will no longer look upon any other person from a human standpoint, just as he has learned to behold Christ himself as the incarnate God, not simply as a Nazarene rabbi. For once we have discerned Jesus to be the Savior of the world, we cannot limit our estimate of other human beings—the born or unborn, exploiters or murderers, terrorists or militarists, frauds or failures—as dwelling beyond his reach. We cannot see any person as anything other than a creature for whom Christ has died and risen, and thus as one meant also to become “a new creation”…To give up hope for any other person, no matter how wretched their condition may be, is also to give up hope for ourselves….

Saints are those who live in the new dispensation, the new epoch, the new creation, since the old eon has ended. In the strict sense, therefore, Christians do not look for the end times, despite the immense popularity of [best-selling fiction that depicts a view contrary to this one]. We are already living in the final age, the one inaugurated by Christ’s life and teaching, his death and resurrection. The kingdom of God is already in our midst, eagerly yearning for its completion. It is thus not quite right to speak of postearthly existence as “life after death.” As N.T. Wright observes in his sprightly book called Simply Christian, Christians are those who are already living “after death,” since Christ has raised us from the grave. We ought more properly to speak of the world to come as “life after life after death”. ( Ralph C. Wood, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2, David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds.)


  • What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  • What does that “new Creation” mean to you?
  • What does that mean to you to speak of yourself as a “minister of reconciliation” or as an “ambassador of Christ”?
  • How does this speak to you during your Lenten journey?



GOSPEL: Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32

Read the Gospel passage

This familiar parable is set in the context of two other “lost and found” stories—one about a coin and the other about a lost sheep. (Interestingly enough, the parable is also found in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition.) In the beginning of this chapter, the stories are set as a response by Jesus to accusations from some “well-meaning” people that Jesus associates with sinners (of all things!). So Jesus tells these three parables in an order of seemingly escalated significance to people’s lives—first an inanimate (although important) object, then an animal, and, finally, a child, one of us who is lost and is then found. It is a depiction that God cares for all of God’s creation.

You know the story: The younger son wants to leave home and demands his inheritance from his father. So, not only is he spitting in the sanctity of the family unit itself, he is also claiming something that is not yet his, an insult to his father. But the father obliges and the younger son goes on his way. (Now keep in mind that those first century hearers would have been just as shocked at the father’s actions as the son’s. These were ancestral lands, a gift from God, a gift to the family.) Well, things go well for awhile (supposedly for as long as he has money!) and then they turn out badly for him. He ended up working for Gentiles and caring for pigs—neither of which is a good thing for a good Jewish boy to associate with the unclean. So, he knows that the only choice is to return to his home, return to his father, and accept whatever consequences came with that. It was clear that never in his wildest imagination did he envision himself worthy of forgiveness.

But when he returns, he is not only welcomed with open arms, but the father rolls out the red carpet, so to speak. Whatever has happened is past. And yet, lurking in the background is the older son—resentful, jealous, and probably feeling sorry for himself. Perhaps the older son has some image of love and grace as a reward for good behavior, rather than an unconditional and undeserved gift. But even these feelings do not stop the rejoicing, for a child once lost is now found. The father, who in terms of the ways of this world, had every right to be angry, to disown his son, to demand his money back, claims instead compassion, forgiveness, and joy that his son has found his way home.

In an article in The Christian Century, Thomas G. Long says this about this familiar story:

When we treat the prodigal son as a comeback story, we miss the point. When we say, “Head home, God’s feast is waiting!” we misunderstand. It is not our remorse that forces God to set the banquet table; it is not our deep desire to start over again that leads God to roast the fatted calf. We cannot throw our own party. By all rights, this story ought to end with the younger son sweating in the furrows, eating in the slave quarters and spending his days serving his older brother. So if we prodigals see the father running in our direction with open arms, we should know in our souls that this as an event so unexpected, so undeserved, so out of joint with all that life should bring us, that we fall down in awe before this joyful mystery.

A student of mine went jogging with his father in their urban neighborhood. As they ran, the son shared what he was learning in seminary about urban ministry, and the father, an inner city pastor, related experiences of his own. At the halfway point in their jog, they decided to phone ahead for a home-delivered pizza. As they headed for the phone, however, a homeless man approached them, asking for spare change. The father reached into the pockets of his sweat pants and pulled out two handfuls of coins. “Here,” he said to the homeless man. “Take what you need.” The homeless man, hardly believing his good fortune, said, “I’ll take it all,” scooped the coins into his own hands, and went on his way.

It only took a second for the father to realize that he now had no change for the phone. “Pardon me,” he beckoned to the homeless man. “I need to make a call. Can you spare some change?” The homeless man turned and held out the two handfuls of coins. “Here,” he said. “Take what you need.”

We are all homeless prodigals and beggars. So head home, but expect nothing. Be astonished beyond all measure when the dancing begins, the banquet table is set and the voice of God says, “Here. Take what you need.” ( Thomas G. Long, From “Surprise Party”, The Christian Century, March 14, 2001, p. 10, available at http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2168, accessed 9 March, 2010.)


  • What meaning does this hold for you?
  • With which character in the story do you most identify?
  • Which character makes you the most uncomfortable? Why?
  • What image of God does this story present for you?
  • What image does this story call us to embody? Same question as before: What does it mean to be an ambassador of Christ?
  • What does this mean for you on your Lenten journey?




Some Quotes for Further Reflection:


“Real…doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” (Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit)


We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)


Here is the God I want to believe in: a Father who, from the beginning of Creation, has stretched out his arms in merciful blessing, never forcing himself on anyone, but always waiting; never letting his arms drop down in despair, but always hoping that his children will return so that he can speak words of love to them and let his tired arms rest on their shoulders. His only desire is to bless. (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 95-96)




We all know about being entitled and then growing careless.

We all know about self-indulgence, even amid work to be done.

We all know about being—for a moment—beyond Torah requirement and outside of your world of command.

We know about seasons of life not given over to us and grief at being failed selves.

We also know that you circle back among us in harshness and in mercy, in rigor and in generosity.

Now our world has gone careless and self-indulgent and beyond Torah.

So circle back, we pray—one more time, among us with your mercy, our only source of comfort, for we belong to you in your faithfulness. Amen.  (By Walter Brueggemann, Prayers for a Privileged People, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2008), 47.

Lent 3C: Parched and Searching

FootprintsOLD TESTAMENT: Isaiah 55: 1-9

Read the Old Testament Passage

This chapter is the last in what many people call “Second Isaiah”. It was probably written around the end of the exile, or about 540 b.c.e. In the ancient world, when a new king assumed the throne and ushered in a new era, the king would often issue a misarum edict declaring a release from all debts and then the king would call for a great banquet to which all the kingdom was invited. So the opening lines call us to a new kingdom, a new era, and that great banquet.

Here, Yahweh provides for those who thirst. This is probably meant to refer both to physical thirst and spiritual thirst. Now keep in mind that these exiles had experienced loss, grief, and estrangement. This call to a new day and to a rule that would quench their thirst was huge. We are reminded that this is the “stuff” that makes up life. This is followed by a call to repentance. God has announced the plan to the people and they are now invited to respond. We are also reminded, though, that God’s thoughts and God’s ways are not within the human boundaries and limits that we have created. In fact, the last part of this passage implies a “widening” of the Davidic covenant. It is a calling to go beyond your kind, to call on “nations that you do not know”.

This is a good reading for Lent. We are called to open our minds and respond to the invitation that God has issued us, beyond our own manufactured rules and our own created boundaries. The surprising work of God is open to us all—wicked and unrighteous included—if we will return to the God who abundantly and generously pardons.

This whole image of thirsting is an interesting one. Timothy Shapiro claims that “hope is preceded by longing”. You see, God is not requiring us to be right or moral or steadfast. I don’t think that God is even requiring us to lay prostrate at the feet of God in good, old-fashioned repentance. God’s only requirement is that we thirst for God, that we desire to be with God so much that we can do nothing else but change our course and follow God. It is our thirst that draws us closer to God and closer to each other. We just have to desire something different enough to be part of making it happen. Alexander Stuart Baillie says it like this:


Our deep spiritual needs, which are thirsts, can be met by Christ. It is God’s desire that every person should know the real joys of life. Augustine, the great churchman, expressed this idea as follows: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and we cannot find rest until we find it in Thee.” In other words, we cannot have our thirst satisfied until God does it for us.


This age needs to become more realistic. It needs to listen again to the words of Jesus, who said, ‘I thirst.” He who is the Son of Man, the Son of God, is our example. He is the great pioneer in every realm of life. Surely if he thirsted, how much more do we? Humanity needs to get away from the world of “things as they are” into the world of “things as they ought to be.” This means that men and women must learn to live for others. It is only when we can live a life of self-forgetfulness that we get our truest joy out of life. One needs to keep on thirsting because life grows and enlarges. It has no end; it goes on and on; it becomes more beautiful. When one has done his best there is, he finds, still more to learn and so much more to do. [One] cannot be satisfied until [one]attains unto the stature of Jesus, unto a perfect [human], and ever thirsts for God. (Alexander Stuart Baillie, “Thirsting”, in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003), 242-243.)


So, what happens with those of us for whom thirst can be so easily quenched?  How do we learn to hope at the deepest part of our being if we never truly long for anything?  How do we discover what true need is when we often live our lives over-filled and over-served? How do we hunger for something better in a life where we are so satisfied?  Perhaps that is why people like us need this season of Lent, plunging us into the depths of human need and profound grief.  Maybe the point of it all is to teach us how to thirst and, therefore, to show us that for which we long.


  1. What is your response to this passage?
  2. What does that “widening” of God’s invitation mean for you?
  3. How does this speak to your own Lenten journey?
  4. What does this whole idea of our needing to “thirst” for God mean for you?
  5. How difficult is that for us?



NEW TESTAMENT: 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13

Read the Epistle passage

In this passage, Paul reminds his readers that they are just like their ancestors—and no better. According to him, those ancestors journeyed, lived, and followed God. And yet, they, too, sinned and fell short. Paul is essentially telling the Corinthian church that their behavior is not a guarantee of God’s blessing. (This sort of flies in the face of that “once saved, always saved” idea, I suppose.) Paul’s idea of “idolatry” may be a little different than the definition to which we have become accustomed. Here, he is warning of an idolatry that has little to do with pagan worship but, rather, against making an “idol” of one’s spiritual practices, beliefs, or religion.

He is reminding his readers that they should have learned from those that came before them. They, too, did everything “right” and yet their relationship with God still suffered. We too, no matter how hard we try, will at times fall short of what God desires for us. This is the somewhat radical nature of our relationship with God. It is ongoing and always growing. We have no room to become smug or judgmental.

It is as if Paul is trying to rattle the so-called “self-confidence” of the Corinthian readers, as well as our own. He sees salvation not as a place in heaven or an escape from hell, but as an ongoing relationship with God. This gift of faith that we have will never allow us to become complacent. We can never “rest on the laurels of our past good”, so to speak. Instead, we have entered an ongoing relationship with God and with others—including joy and grief, blessing and pain, fulfillment and needs, life and death. Our religion is really nothing more than an instrument, an always-changing framework to help us understand this relationship. The relationship and the way we encounter God’s love and grace is what it’s all about.

In this season of Lent, this becomes even more pronounced than usual. What does that REALLY mean to live a life of faith? What does that REALLY mean to walk where Jesus walked? Well, it means to walk the road that goes to the cross. And there, your belief system might fall apart but your relationship with God will be your saving grace.


“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” Jesus asks. Then, as they gathered around the table in the Upper Room, with the cross only a few hours away, there was the “cup” before him, the blood of his death. The disciples looked for glory; Jesus led them toward death. And so Thomas à Kempis says:

Jesus now hath many lovers of His celestial kingdom: but few bearers of His Cross. He hath many who are desirous of consolations: but few of tribulation. He findeth many companions of His table: but few of His abstinence. All desire to rejoice with Him: Few wish to endure anything for Him. Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread: but few to the drinking of the cup of His Passion. Many reverence His miracles: few follow the shame of His Cross.

[The Imitation of Christ]


We are like that. We have signed on for the glory of it all, not the humiliation. We want healing, comfort, reward, success. Like me, the folk at First Church, Corinth, had signed on with Jesus for the glory of it all. They expected to eat the heavenly food and live forever, to achieve power; glory, exotic gifts of the Spirit. But Paul takes them back to the Upper Room, back to the dark night of the cross. He reminds them that it was “on the night when he was betrayed” that the Lord took bread. On the night he was forsaken by God, defeated by Caesar and humiliated by his friends, he took the cup in hand. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (I Cor. 11:23, 26)…

We, like the Corinthians before us, seek to fill ourselves, cure our aches and pains, live forever. Too often, American evangelical Christianity presents the good news of Christ as the solution to all human problems, the fulfillment of all wants, and a good way to make basically good people even better. The cross suggests that this good news is the beginning of problems we would gladly have avoided, the turning away from the quest for self-fulfillment, the ultimate mocking of our claims for goodness. The principalities and powers tremble only before the cross. Nothing less than death will do — painful, full-scale conversion, letting go, turning from ourselves and toward God.

This meal is not some magical mystery medicine we take to exempt ourselves from the hard facts of life in this world. It is a way of confronting those hard facts. No prayers of a TV evangelist, no prayer cloth from Arizona, no holy oil or water, no holy food, no technique for self-betterment, no sincere social program exempts us from this death.

But at the table, with cup in hand, even our most painful times are redeemed because this Savior saves through suffering. Without the cross, our faith wouldn’t be a comfort to anybody. What would you say to the terminal cancer victim? The mother of a starving child in an Ethiopian desert? The 80-year-old resident of a shoddy nursing home? “Smile, God Loves You!”

No, you can say that our God has been there before. Wherever a cross is raised in the world, our God is there with the crucified. Our God does not flinch in the face of evil. In a hurting world where injustice still sends the good ones to the cross, we do have something to preach. We, like Paul before us, boldly lift the cup and daringly preach Christ and him crucified. If we would follow this Lord, we must follow him down this narrow way of Passion  ( William Willimon,“The Cup of Death”, (Excerpts), (The Christian Century, March 31, 1982), available at http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1297, accessed 3 March, 2010.)


  1. What meaning does this passage hold for you?
  2. How prevalent do you think it is for people today to make an “idol” of their spirituality or religion?
  3. What is the difference for you between belief and faith in God and a relationship with God?



GOSPEL: Luke 13: 1-9

Read the Gospel passage

Similar to the Epistle passage that we read this week, here Jesus reminds the ones who were there to hear this of two historical events that, although the details are lost to us, were probably very much on the minds of those first century hearers. First, the reference to Pilate’s mingling the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices appears to refer to a massacre of a group of Galilean pilgrims in Jerusalem. The “tower of Siloam” reference relates to the collapse of a tower in the Herodian wall around Jerusalem which apparently collapsed without warning and crushed eighteen Jerusalemites. You could identify these two events with modern-day events that have great meaning for us but may not carry the same weight of significance 2,000 years from now—perhaps 9/11 or the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis in 2007.

But Jesus is dispelling the idea that these victims had done something wrong, that they deserved what they got. The truth was, their lives ended suddenly and unexpectedly. They are reminders that each of our existences is somewhat precarious within this world. Jesus is claiming that the need for repentance is for us all. No one is “exempt” from it. Using the fig tree illustration, he reminds us that even though we have not been cut-down, we should not assume that we are bearing choice fruit. Unless you repent…

Well, this is anything but a comfortable, feel-good parable! I think the problem is that we look at repentance as something negative. We envision repentance as a change toward being “right” or “moral” or something else that will win us favor with God or rack us up enough points to get us into heaven. But repentance is not about losing who you are; it means discovering the wonder of who you are meant to be.

The Greek word that is usually translated as “repentance” is metanoia. In Classical Greek, it meant to change one’s mind, one’s heart, one’s soul, one’s life. Penance was not a part of it until later. It simply meant to follow a different road. But unless you repent…unless you change course…unless you let go of the life that you’ve created, and listen to the road that beckons before you, you will remain comfortable and secure and right where you are. And you will die! But, oh, what you will miss! Frederick Buechner says, “To repent is to come to your senses. It is not so much something you do as something that happens. True repentance spends less time looking at the past and saying, ‘I’m sorry,” than to the future and saying, “Wow!” ( Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1973), 79.) Unless you repent…

Could this be the year? We can hear that as a threat. There’s not much time left. Indeed, some evangelists press us with the question, “Where will you be if you die tonight?” But Jesus’ parable moves in the direction of promise more than threat: “I’m going to do everything I can to help this tree live and bear fruit. I’m going to dig around it and put down manure. I’m going to find every way possible to get to hearts that are hard as packed down soil.” While we’re speculating about why certain people died at Pilate’s hands or why the others were killed by the falling tower, Jesus, the gardener, is working on our hearts. Yes, those stories were real. They were as real as every tragedy we can name: flood or earthquake or military tyrant, cancer or heart attack or an innocent child caught in the crossfire of drug warfare. Such realities remind us that our time is finite. Stories like these dig at our hearts. They get to us with the truth that we can’t keep putting everything off until tomorrow.

But being scared to death can rob us of all hope. Life can then seem utterly arbitrary–if I die, I die. There’s nothing I can do about it, so why try? Into the midst of such despair, the gardener comes. Don’t cut the tree down. Let it alone for one more year. Jesus, the gardener, wants us to live. His passion marked for us by great urgency–don’t wait! Look at your life and dare to ask the hard questions: Am I stingy in my love for others? Am I withholding forgiveness for old wrongs? Do I refuse to believe that I can be forgiven, carrying from year to year a growing burden of guilt? Am I so busy making a living that I’ve forgotten to make a life? Jesus digs at us with questions like these. Jesus digs at our hearts in the outstretched hand of every homeless beggar on the streets, of every child not fed. “What have you done?” Jesus asks, and “What have you left undone?” Such questions, like the parable of the fig tree, move us toward repentance, a word that means to turn around, to believe things can be different, to trust that the one who calls us to turn around will be there even when we fail.

We might not do things this way. We’d probably be far more impatient than God. “You’ve had your chance,” I’m tempted to say. “The year has passed and you still haven’t shaped up!” But I am not God, nor can I put my words in God’s mouth. Still, the gardener comes. “One more year,” he says, “I’ll do everything I can to bring this tree back to life.” “Who knows?” asks the gardener. “Could this be the year for figs?” (Barbara K. Lundblad, “Could This Be the Year for Figs?”, March 18, 2001, available at http://day1.org/638-could_this_be_the_year_for_figs, accessed 3 March, 2010. )


  1. What meaning does this hold for you?
  2. What is challenging or uncomfortable about this passage?
  3. Why is this whole idea of repentance so difficult for us?
  4. What does this mean for you on this Lenten journey?
  5. What does it mean for us to take more responsibility for what happens in the world, for what happens in our Jerusalems?



Some Quotes for Further Reflection:

The purpose of Lent is to arouse. To arouse the sense of sin. To arouse a sense of guilt for sin. To arouse the humble contrition for the guilt of sin that makes forgiveness possible. To arouse the sense of gratitude for the forgiveness of sins. To arouse or to motivate the works of love and the work of justice that one does out of gratitude for the forgivesness of one’s sins. (Edna Hong, “A Look Inside”, in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter)


Any religion…is forever in danger of petrification into mere ritual and habit, though ritual and habit be essential to religion. (T. S. Eliot)


Most of the people I know who have what I want—which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy—are people with a deep sense of spirituality…They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful. I saw something once…that said, “A human life is like a single letter of the alphabet. It can be meaningless. Or it can be a part of a great meaning.” (Ann Lamott)




We pray, as often as we meet, that we might “perfectly love you.” Indeed, we have been commanded from the beginning, to love you with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds and all our strength. We have pledged to love, pledged in our prayers and in our baptism, in our confirmation and with our best resolve.


But we confess…we love you imperfectly; we love you with a divided heart, with a thousand other loves that are more compelling, with reservation and qualification, and passion withheld and devotion impaired…


Free us from idolatries, and our habits of recalcitrance, tender our hearts, gentle our lips, open our hands that we may turn toward you fully toward your world unguardedly. Let us bask in your freedom to be fully yours, and so trusting fully our own. We pray through the Lord Jesus who loved you singularly, perfectly, fully—to the end. Amen.

(“Perfectly Love”, Walter Brueggemann, Prayers for a Privileged People, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2008), 11-12.)