Law and Order

I am much more Blakean than Newtonian. I am much more Gospel than Law. In fact there is almost no greater insult in my household than to call someone Newton. However, I must confess my love of  order. Perhaps it’s the tension between, or the necessary combination of, innocence and experience that I find compelling. I’m all for seeing the sun not as resembling a guinea or as a mass of incandescent gas, but as the heavenly host singing the sanctus. I also appreciate the Renaissance idea of the Chain of Being.

A confluence of things got me thinking this past week and a half. It started with reading a post on another blog. The post is simply the Prayers of the Church for Lent 2 used at Clint Schnekloth’s church on second Sunday in Lent. The prayers are really heartfelt; they connect with the Old Testament reading and imagery for the day; they want to be as inclusive as possible. There is a lot of good that I can say about these prayers, but reading them I couldn’t help feel that they were missing something, so I went to my hymnal to see what the General Prayers are, or were. Granted, I went to an older source than the hymnal currently in use.  Even so, it made me ask:

How is this:

P: God of Abraham and Sarah, we come before you in prayer, humbled by your creativity and call, awed that you are constantly doing new things. We are wondering and dreaming and hoping, imagining what you might do next.

A: Promising God, we remember your promise to Sarah and Abraham to make of them a great nation. We hear these words, “Kings of people shall come from her,” and we think of our own children, our own nieces and nephews, our own grandchildren. We cherish who they are, and we dream of what they might become. Lead our children, our offspring, by your Spirit, and guide us to be the kinds of parents, adults, leaders, teachers they need in order to flourish and thrive in your world. God of Abraham and Sarah, you keep your promises.

A: Faith. Trust. Hope. You offer us many models of faithfulness, give us reason to trust, and are our only hope. Help us learn from the saints who have gone before us and now rest in you. Let faith be our center, trust be our glue, and hope be our guide. Open us, through this faith, hope, and trust, to engagement with those of other faiths–Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, other Christians. Give us a vision of how you see them. Envelop us in your dreams, Lord. God of Abraham and Sarah, you keep your promises.

A: We pray for families who long for children, for foster families, adoptive families, and expecting families. We pray for those, like Jesus, who remain single and build community, and give birth to new ministries and communities, in other ways than biological. We pray for those with disabilities, and we name before you now out loud those in need of healing (Names). As a community we take time now to voice our many prayers aloud to you [pause here for time for the congregation to pray out loud]. God of Abraham and Sarah, you keep your promises.

A: We continue to pray for our elected leaders and those campaigning for public office. We pray for the many needs of the world, for the nations of Syria, Iran, Israel, North Korean. Let each nation do the work necessary that leads to peace. We pray for those who lose their lives for the sake of your gospel. As we continue in this Lenten season, turn us to you in prayer, out to our neighbors as we give to the poor, and away from self-indulgence as we fast. God of Abraham and Sara, you keep your promises.

P: Into your hands we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy, gifted with faith in you, and hopefully dreaming of your tomorrow. Amen.

 

Better than this:

Almighty and most merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give Thee thanks for all Thy goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Thy dear Son and for the revelation of Thy will and grace; and we beseech Thee so to implant Thy Word in us that in good and honest hearts we may keep it and bring forth fruit by patient continuance in welldoing.

Most heartily we beseech Thee so to rule and govern Thy Church Universal, with all its pastors and ministers, that we may be preserved in the true doctrine of Thy saving Word, whereby faith toward Thee may be strengthened, charity increased in us toward all mankind, and Thy kingdom extend. Send forth laborers into Thy harvest, and sustain those whom Thou hast sent, that the Word of Reconciliation may be proclaimed to all people and the Gospel preached in all the world.

Grant also health and prosperity to all that are in authority, especially to the President and Congress of the United States, the Governor and Legislature of this commonwealth, and to all our Judges and Magistrates, and endue them with grace to rule after Thy good pleasure, to maintenance of righteousness and to the hindrance and punishment if wickedness, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

May it please thee also to turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries that they may cease their enmity and be inclined to walk with us in meekness and peace.

All who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity, especially those who are suffering for Thy name’s and for Thy truth’s sake, comfort, O God with Thy Holy Spirit, that they may receive and acknowledge their afflictions as the manifestation of Thy fatherly will.

And although we have deserved Thy righteous wrath and manifold punishments, yet, we entreat Thee, O most merciful Father, remember not the sins of our youth nor our many transgressions, but out of thine unspeakable goodness, grace, and mercy defend us from harm and danger of body and soul. Preserve us from false and pernicious doctrine, from war and bloodshed, from plague and pestilence, from all calamity by fire and water, from hail and tempest, from failure of harvest and from famine, from anguish of the heart and despair of Thy mercy, and from an evil death. And in every time of trouble show thyself a very present Help, the Savior of all men, and especially of them that believe.

Cause all needful fruits of the earth to prosper, that we may enjoy them in due season. Give success to the Christian training of the young, to all lawful occupations on land and sea, and to all pure arts and useful knowledge; and crown them with Thy blessing.

Receive, O God our bodies and souls and all our talents, together with the offerings we bring before Thee, for Thou hast purchased us to be Thine own, that we may live unto Thee.

Here special Supplications, Intercessions, and prayers may be made.

These and whatsoever other things Thou wouldst have us ask of Thee, O God, grant unto us for the sake of the bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, Thine only Son our Lord and Savior, who reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Is it, indeed, better? Why am I drawn to the older version? I appreciate creativity. I revel in inspiration. What am I missing?

It wasn’t until this Sunday past that I got an answer. The answer came in the form of the Old Testament reading: The Ten Commandments.

1And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the Lord thy God, which haue brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage:

3 Thou shalt haue no other Gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make vnto thee any grauen Image, or any likenesse of any thing that is in heauen aboue, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water vnder the earth. 5 Thou shalt not bow downe thy selfe to them, nor serue them: For I the Lord thy God am a iealous God, visiting the iniquitie of the fathers vpon the children, vnto the thirde and fourth generation of them that hate me: 6 And shewing mercy vnto thousands of them that loue mee, and keepe my Commandements.

7 Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vaine: for the Lord will not holde him guiltlesse, that taketh his Name in vaine.

8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keepe it holy. 9 Sixe dayes shalt thou labour, and doe all thy worke: 10 But the seuenth day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not doe any worke, thou, nor thy sonne, nor thy daughter, thy man seruant, nor thy mayd seruant, nor thy cattell, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in sixe dayes the Lord made heauen and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seuenth day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and halowed it.

12 ¶ Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy dayes may bee long vpon the land, which the Lord thy God giueth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steale.

16 Thou shalt not beare false witnes against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not couet thy neighbours house, thou shalt not couet thy neighbours wife, nor his man seruant, nor his maid seruant, nor his oxe, nor his asse, nor any thing that is thy neighbours.

There is a clear organization to this: not only are the Commandments handed down from God, but they descend thematically from God to man. If one obeys the first Commandment, “thou shalt haue no other Gods before me” he obeys them all. From ten to one they climb a ladder of relationship. I’m sure I learned this from the Small Catechism. Each of the explanations of the Commandments begins the same way: “We should so fear and love God…” For the first Commandment the question “What is meant by this Commandment?” is answered: We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.

Although we don’t pray the Prayers of the People (as the Anglicans call them) in Lent (We Pray the Great Litany in procession at the beginning of the service.) by the time we’d gotten to the place at which the prayers would be said last Sunday, it had all become clear. We normally pray a Rite I version of :

Deacon or other leader

Let us pray for the Church and for the world.

Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your Name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another and serve the common good.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us.

Like the Ten Commandments the traditional prayers whether they come from The Lutheran Hymnal, or the Book of Common Prayer flow from God to man. They are concerned first with God and climb down the chain of being through the Church, the government (historically of divine origins), and personal relationships to the individual, and his concerns. The prayers are relational, perspectival. They focus our concerns beyond a dream to the reality that God would have us know.

As part of my Lenten discipline I’ve been reading some of the writings of John Cordelier, or Evelyn Underhill. (Either way it’s the same person.) In her book Practical Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People she writes that mysticism “will educate” one “in a charity free from all taint of sentimentalism.” I fear that the prayers that Schnekloth composed for his congregation are little more than sentimentalism. As I stated above they really are heartfelt; they connect with the Old Testament reading and imagery for the day; and they do their best to be as inclusive as possible. I’m sure his intentions were good.

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