Memorial Day Prayer

God of grace: you spoke about war after war after rumor of war. That cycle seems so unbelievable, and yet we live it.

Today is our Memorial Day… our remembrance day… where we lift up the names of our fallen soldiers.

In our prayers, O God, move in us and teach us the way of your peace that passes all understanding.

On this Pentecost Sunday, may the Holy Spirit come as a spirit of reconciliation and ceasefire.

Remind us of all the soldiers throughout the world… throughout history… from every tribe and nation and culture… every single one– made in your image of hope and love.

We know, from where you sit, all people are the same: citizens of your world, tenants in your creation.

Help us to live into that love of all our neighbors which is your greatest commandment- so that we might put an end to these memorial days. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 Sarah Taylor Peck. All Rights Reserved.

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Homily for Billy Buchanan

A reading from 1 Corinthians 13:

 If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith… but I do not have love, I am nothing…  love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude… love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in truth, love bears all things, love believes in all things, love hopes in all things, love endures all things… now faith hope and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.

Today is a day to say goodbye. We’re not ready. We don’t understand. We’re unprepared. And yet, Billy is no longer with us.

Our hearts are broken today. We have lost a friend, a brother, a travel partner, and an adventurous spirit.

We have questions. We’re angry. We’re hurting. I can see the tear-stained cheeks of Billy’s people here.

Tonight, most of all, we are here to honor Billy’s life.

Unlike just about every other person in Memphis, I did not have the chance to know Billy personally (After moving here, I kept waiting for him to call me!)

Instead, I’ve had to learn about his bright spirit through the eyes of all of you, his friends.

I shared a moment this morning with some of his nearest and dearest. You should have heard their tributes to Billy in my office. An image of him started to appear through the stories and memories of Charles, Stephen, Chris, Linda, Drew and Jeremy.

I got the sense that Billy was the glue that ran through his community. I heard the same stories that so many people have shared tonight.

By all accounts, Billy was larger than life.

He never turned his phone off.

He always brought a cake to the party.

He loved a good bargain.

He valued the art of surprise and celebration

He never met a stranger.

He taught people how to love, and he loved people well.

As long as there was a party, he was in his element.

He made friends easily, he offered himself to others without hesitation.

Billy was the glue of his people and his community, he held them together. So it makes sense, on a day like today, that we feel unglued or scattered or lost.

Billy was larger than life.

Even though I didn’t know Billy personally, I know something about him, because I’ve seen the way you all love him.

I know something intimate and true and transcendent about Billy’s character and Billy’s heart when I see all of you here and when I read what you wrote on his memorial webpage.

Your love for him is a tribute to his impact in this life.

Your vivid memories and crystal clear expressions of your love and adoration of Billy tell me more about Billy’s essence and soul than anything else.

Billy is  no longer with us, and yet, I am convinced that Billy is beyond us now, in a state with no more time, no more age, no more burdens, no more pain. Billy has left behind the burdens of this world. And now, Billy is a part of that larger truth of enduring love and bright sun and the warm breeze we will feel all summer, year after year– because these are the things that are larger than life.

When I was in the presence of those who loved Billy most this morning, and in the presence of all of you tonight, something beyond facts and beyond reason started to happen- undeniably, when you spoke about Billy and when you remembered Billy and when you wept for Billy, you all filled with light and warmth.

Billy’s essence endures among us through that bright light and warmth I see in all of you—because these are the things that are larger than life.

Whether you’ve ever gone to church or not, Whether you’ve ever prayed or meditated or wondered what is beyond us or not,

I imagine most of us have experienced those quiet moments where we all start to realize that no matter what we do, or where we work or who we know– the core of who we are goes beyond the lives we live-

We are all made to bring more love and compassion and grace into this world. And even when we’ve left this world, that compassion, love, and grace lives on—because these are the things that are larger than life.

For all of you here who knew Billy: you were blessed. You were in the presence of someone whose life was an example of that love bears all things, love believes in all things, love hopes in all things, love endures all things described in our  scripture reading.

There is a time for us to mourn and to cry. There is a time for us to remember. But most of all, today is the day for all of us to draw near to one another and reflect that essence of Billy, that warmth, that light, so that we can carry each other through this. And so that Billy continues to live on through the compassion, love and grace that he showed each of us- because these are the things that are larger than life.

We are called to carry Billy’s torch after he is gone. We are called to honor him by loving well the way he loved. If we do this, we know that death will never have the final word. We know that hope will always conquer our mourning. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 Sarah Taylor Peck. All Rights Reserved.

O God, Our Vine Grower

+ John 15:1 Jesus says: I am the true vine, and God is the vine grower…

We love to talk about God our good Shepherd, God the Creator of all, God the Lord…  but in the lectionary this week, we read a passage from John’s Gospel where Jesus says “I am the true vine, and God is the vine grower.”

How often do we pray through this imagery of God the vine grower, Christ the vine? It seems odd and out of place in our theology and our faith.

And yet, we remember this imagery from Psalm 80: “You brought a vine out of Egypt… you cleared the ground for it, it took deep root and filled the land…”

In Isaiah chapter 5 again, we have a reference to God, the vine grower, it says “My beloved has a vineyard on a very fertile hill.. for the vineyard of the lord of hosts is the house of Israel…”

And again, in Ezekiel, God identifies as the vine grower, saying: “As I have given the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest as fuel for the fire, so I will treat the people of Jerusalem…”

Images of God as vine grower weave in and out of our scriptures because we must remember where we are rooted and where we are sustained.

We were made in the image of love and compassion. We were made from a source of ultimate forgiveness and radical acceptance and reckless joy. Like any vine, we cannot be cut off from our source and continue to thrive. We will continue to grow, continue to blossom only if we continue to abide God’s  grace that we were born to emulate.

When I think about what makes us grow as a community  I picture the sweet sprinkling of generosity and tenderness we were fed in the images of Christ embracing the lepers and tax collectors and outcasts around him.

When I imagine what God pours down to God’s people as a source of nourishment, I picture the thirst-quenching model of inviting all people to feast at the same table when we break bread for communion or feed those who are hungry.

We are called to branch out and touch the lives of those around us, after all, we are the branches of the one true vine… and may we all remember what that true vine looks like, and what makes the vine grow.

God, our vine grower, we long to bloom and not to wither…

We branch out as your hands and feet in this aching world.

There are times when we turn our backs to your warmth and your light and your radiant sun.

 We hurt each other.  Forgive us.

Shape us.  Trim and prune away all of our bitter branches and misguided growth.

God, the vine grower and gardener of our souls, tend to us, so that we can begin to reflect your hope in this world. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 Sarah Taylor Peck. All Rights Reserved.

Day of Prayer

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My Prayer From the Steps of City Hall

(I served as intercessor for: Business, Economy and Employment)

God of grace and hope: we lift up Memphis, Tennessee in our prayers.

For all those who work hard to provide for their families, for those who shape our city, and for those who contribute services to this community: we give thanks.

We lift up our economy, our workforce and our businesses. May these systems that sustain our livelihood be blessed by your guidance and your wisdom.

We are grateful for the able bodies and discerning minds you created in each of us.

We follow in the footsteps of your people who came before us. We are writers and scribes, bakers and carpenters, midwives and tax collectors, teachers, landowners, and more.

We give thanks for the opportunities we have to work for change and growth and good.  

And yet, we know there are so many among us over-worked, under-paid, or unemployed. Draw us together so that we may bring hope to the hurting and relief to the worried. Restore our faith that even those among us with great needs will be on their feet again.

May our empty storefronts be filled.

May our industries grow.

May our creativity guide our future vision for Memphis.

God, make us into a city of good stewards where we provide opportunities for all to work and earn a living wage.  

Make Memphis into a place where people find their purpose.

Make Memphis into a place where people fulfill their calling.

Make Memphis into a place where we recognize the worth of all people, and where everyone receives the encouragement they need to thrive.

Draw out our generosity, compassion and mercy, O God, so that we might reveal the redemptive plans you have for us in Memphis. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 Sarah Taylor Peck. All Rights Reserved.

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