Blessing for Baptism of the Lord Sunday (Year C)

A Blessing for Baptism of the Lord Sunday, Year C
(Adapted from Isaiah 43:1-7 and Luke 3:13-22)
Written by the Rev. Erin Counihan for worship at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church on Sunday 1/13/2019. You are welcome to use this in your own worship context.

Voice 1: Thus says the Lord, the God who created you,
Voice 2: The God who formed you and spoke life into your body:
Voice 1: You are my beloved.
Voice 2: Do not fear.
Voice 1: I have redeemed you.
Voice 2: I have called you by name.
Voice 1: You are mine.
Voice 2: You are my beloved.
Voice 1: With you I am well pleased.
Voice 2: When you pass through rough waters, rivers and waves,
Voice 1: They will not overwhelm you.
Voice 2: When you walk through fire,
Voice 1: You shall not be burned.
Voice 2: The flame will not consume you.
Voice 1: For I am with you.
Voice 2: I love you.
Voice 1: You are precious in my sight.
Voice 2: I will gather you up.
Voice 1: I will be with you.
Voice 2: Beloved.
Voice 1: Precious child.
Voice 2: You wonderful creature.
Voice 1: Do not fear.
Voice 2: I am with you.
Voice 1: You
Voice 2: You
Voice 1: You
Voice 2: You are my beloved.
Voice 1: And with you, I am so very pleased.


Call to Worship: Psalm 124

Here’s the Call to Worship I wrote for this Sunday (Proper 21 B, 9/30/18). Please feel free to use in your own worship service.

CALL TO WORSHIP                                                                      Inspired by Psalm 124

One: If God had not been with us-
Many: this world would have swallowed us up alive.
One: The anger, corruption, violence, and greed-
Many: would have overcome us, flooded us in, and drown us completely.
One: If God had not been by our side-
Many: If God had not held us through our struggles,
One: known us in our trials,
Many: embraced us in this mess,
One: defended us against the enemy,
Many: and loved us all the way,
One: If God had not been with us-
Many: we would have been lost to this world.
One: But the Lord is here,
Many: and the Lord is with us,
One: and so we are strong,
Many: and so we endure
One: and so we escape,
Many: and so we survive,
One: and so we hold on to hope,
Many: and so we keep believing,
One: and so we praise God.
Many: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
One: Our hope is in the name of our God!

A Litany for Healing

A Litany for Healing

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord.
Lord, hear my prayer.

In my pain I reach for you, Lord.
Lord, notice my need.

Drenched in sorrow, hurt, and fear, I look for you, Lord.
Lord, find me here.

God of love and hope and life, we cling to you in hope.
Lord, be with us now.

Christ of healing and help and truth, we seek you in desperation.
Lord, be with us now.

Spirit of grace, wisdom, and courage, we grasp for you in need.
Lord, be with us now.

We who are broken, Lord.
Heal us.

We who are bleeding, Lord.
Heal us.

We who are weeping, Lord.
Heal us.

We who are wailing, Lord.
Heal us.

We who are lonely, Lord.
Heal us.

We who are trying, Lord.
Heal us.

We who are angry, Lord.
Heal us.

We who are violent, Lord.
Heal us.

We who are lost, Lord.
Heal us.

We who keep trying to find you and hold you and love you, Lord.
Heal us.

Heal us.
Heal us.

God of Love, God of Help, God of Hope.
Find us. Be with us. Heal us. Now.

God of Justice, God of Community, God of Compassion.
Gather us. Mend us. Heal us. Now.

God of Wisdom, God of Inspiration, God of Action.
Call us. Heal us. Send us. Now.

Lord, here together, here now, we wait.
We wait in hope, we wait in love.
Hear us.
Help us.
Notice us.
Feel us.
Find us.
Heal us.

We place our hope in You.
We hold all hope in You.


Proper 8 (Ordinary 13) Year B
Based on Psalm 130 (with a little Mark 5 thrown in)
Written by Rev. Erin Counihan
for worship at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, MO on Sunday, 7/1/18.

Thursday Prayer

My knees tremble. I am unsure. This is hard.

Press on.

Did you see their fear? Did you see that scene? How? How, my God…

Press on.

Everywhere I turn people are crying, people are hurting, people are enraged.

Press on.

These systems are overwhelming. The process of making the changes we need is daunting.

Press on, you say.

I know we need pushing, but I don’t want to break them.

Press on.

I’m quite sure at some point, I’ll say the wrong thing.

Press on, you say.

But look at the numbers, I hear someone whisper.

Press on.

And I am so tired.

Press on.

Because it’s not about me.

Press on.

And really, it’s not even about us.

Press on.

It’s you.

Press on.

After all this time, and all this work, and all this stuff, I still want to know you.

Press on.

It’s that simple. I want to know you.

Press on.

To follow you.

Press on.

To love you.

Press on.

To love like you.

Press on.

Because you changed me.

Press on.

Because you changed us.

Press on.

Because you changed everything.

Press on.

And love was different.

Press on.

You’re love is different.

Press on.

So, I can. I will. I am pressing on.

Toward that holy goal of following your call.

Wherever it may lead.

Even when it is hard.

Because of you.

Hold us, Lord, as we keep pressing.



(Reference: Philippians 3:4b-14)

What brings it out.

It was just a stupid teamwork exercise.
I told myself that as I stood on the patchwork meeting room carpet, listening to the instructions. I didn’t have to be in charge here. I’d only just met most of the colleagues in the room, but I already knew I wasn’t the most experienced or smartest or most clever or best leader in this room by far. I knew there would be an assessment at the end of the exercise and I didn’t want to be on the negative side of that assessment in this room. I had so much respect for these folks, I didn’t want to mess up in the stupid teamwork exercise and let them all know I was a loser. Plus, this was an intentionally diverse gathering. I didn’t want to be the white girl who thought she knew better than everyone. So, as we looked down at the tape and paper on the floor and were being told we had to cross the rocket, I told myself to stay back. To be quiet. To wait. To follow.
But then the facilitator said there was a time limit. And then time started. And no one moved. And no one mad a plan. And my nice-white girl anxiety about finishing on time, getting the job done, having my team win, accomplishing the task as asked, kicked in, and before I was aware of it I had pushed passed people to be near the front. I didn’t come up with that first plan, but when someone, anyone started trying something, I jumped into the water with them. And I yelled for others to follow us. I yelled directions at strangers. I didn’t have a plan. I was trying someone else’s, and without any assessment of its workability, I insisted others join us. I later learned that someone else had another plan. And was trying to tell us about it. But I was already at work and didn’t listen. Her plan was better. And so I jumped on board that plan. Abandoning the one I was working on and joined in the new plan. Again, I yelled at everyone to join us and hurry. Once we all got going, And we knew we were going to finish, I kept yelling for everyone to finish faster.
It was less than 5 minutes.
It was a stupid teamwork exercise.
But I’d completely abandoned my plan, my training. I knew I wanted to follow. I knew I wanted to listen. I knew I didn’t want to be a white supremacist jerk. But when time and competition started, I lost all that, and my conditioning kicked in.
I was the white ally who refused to listen to people of color in the heat of the moment. I was the white woman who assumed her instructions would be followed if only she were louder about sharing them. I was the white supremacist who thought success was more important that listening or planning or working together or making sure everyone was okay. Sure, I wanted the team to win, but winning became more important than how we won.
It was a stupid teamwork exercise.
And I knew it going in.
And I knew better going in.
And still, it brought out all my white supremacist instincts. The ones I have confessed and tried to train out of me. The ones I challenge others to confess and try to train out of themselves.
My colleagues were gracious in naming these traits and actions in the post-exercise debrief. I still have felt gross about them for days. But now it’s time to get over my feelings and work on those instincts of mine again and some more. Because those instincts are violent. My white supremacist instincts are violent.
It wasn’t a stupid teamwork exercise.
It was a reminder that the work is constant.
It was a moment of personal darkness and sin, that I now name and confess.
It was a trigger that hurt others.
It was a sign that I have so much more work to do on myself.


August 9, 2017

Look, I don’t have the right words. But here’s my truth.
I was late to the work.
I didn’t know enough about systematic racism or my own privilege until it tore this community apart and killed another one of our own right in front of my face. I can’t un-see those images of Michael Brown laying in the street all those hours. I can’t un-see the images of his mother crying. It took too many lives lost, too many videos shared, too many images and stories seared into my heart to get me off my couch. Too many. Too long.
I was still brand new to STL on Aug. 9, 2014. I didn’t know what to do. But I knew I couldn’t keep watching and doing nothing. So I got up and went out and asked some questions. I listened and I learned. I made a lot of mistakes. I did some reading. I did some marching. I did a whole lot of emails. I followed organizers and experts. I made new relationships. I discovered “new” sources. I found my little lane in this work and I try to keep at it.
I wish it didn’t take that. I wish it didn’t take Mike Brown’s life. I wish his family didn’t have to suffer for so many of us to learn. I wish we didn’t keep seeing pictures and videos and images and tragedies. Now. Still.
I pray for Mike Brown’s family and friends today. I pray for activists and organizers. I pray for people who hit the streets and said NO MORE and did not back down. I pray for people who helped me learn, especially when I didn’t deserve that help. I pray for us. I pray for God to change our hearts and inspire new works of justice and love in us. I pray for hope.Oh, how I wish and I pray.
But I also know that wishing and praying isn’t enough. So, I also commit. I commit to keep doing a little bit of the work, to keep talking about it, to keep reading and learning, to keep showing up, to keep calling myself out, to keep calling us out, and to keep trying…

Maundy Thursday

A reflection for Maundy Thursday ecumenical neighborhood worship.
(Read: John 13:1-17, 31b-35)  
Have love for one another.

If you have love for one another.

They will know.

That you are with me.

That you are a part of me.

Because I’m going on. To do something new. Oh, I’ll still love you to the end, but it’s going to look different for a bit.

All these days. All this time. I’ve been loving you.

In the beginning as a source of life, as a presence in trouble, as the good that could not be overcome.

In a time, made of flesh and bone, of blood and tears, of life like yours, made to dwell and with you abide, to walk in glory, glory in sandals, in a manager, in town, down the road, on the sea, into the city, in the homes of the dirty, at tables with the improper, on the path of justice, filled with healing and truth, to share with you and with them and with all those folks who you’ve been taught to reject.

My love looked different.
Because it was different.
And soon it will be different, still.

So go ahead.
Talk with folks you’re supposed to ignore. Eat with those who you’re supposed to despise. Break the rules which were designed to protect you from the things you were taught to fear. Stand in love. Work for justice. Promote a new peace. Forgive and love some more. Let me help you. And heal you. And then go out again. Tell them our story. Help and heal others. Yes. Really. Go.

And if you make mistakes, oh, you will make mistakes, but look, I know.

I mean, I washed Judas’ feet tonight, right?
And I washed yours, too.
It’s OKAY.
I love you still.
And I’ll love you to the end. I will fill you. I will feed you. I will see you. I will listen for you. I will help you. I will heal you. I will journey with you.
I will love you.
I will love you.
I will love you.

I will love you to the end.
So don’t be afraid.
Love. And love. And love.
Go ahead, now…

There is just so much.

Friends, there is much.
And I am praying.
(Working at the bits I can…)
And praying.
Because there is so much.
And I choose to love.
To love hard.
To love wide.
To love fierce.
And with near reckless abandon.
To love with awkward conversations and probably too many words.
To love with that song my mama taught me to sing.
To love with ears open to listen for your truth.
To love with a pocket full of Cheetos and a tank full of gas.
To love with my claws out and my boots laced and ready.
And with all my elected officials’ phone numbers on speed dial.
To love with a heart that has been completely smashed, but also kinda mended.
To love in the middle of the story of that week when all went wrong and wrong and wrong.
And to love in knowing that it was eventually made right.
So I’m gonna work and listen and learn and try to keep choosing to love. And love. And love.
There is much.
But I keep kinda thinking…love is that much more.

Getting Up Today

So, I read the news each morning on my phone, under the covers, before I even think about getting out of bed. That makes mornings like this one, reading about the massacre in Aleppo and another frightening appointment to the “administration” being built in our names, well, it makes it so on these mornings I can’t imagine any good will come from me leaving the safety and joy of my bed cocoon.

I really need to start getting out of bed before checking my phone.

Because today, just so I could will myself to sit up, I had to remind myself, out loud, that I worship a God who shows up in unexpected places and who does not give up on us. I had to remind myself that I live in a community where people go out and literally put their bodies on the line for justice for their neighbors. I had to remind myself that I live with a kid, who while fully living into her total teenagernes, also still bakes cookies as presents for the teachers at her city public school.

Today I did manage to get up and out of bed. And I got out of bed knowing the world is a hot, dangerous mess. Worried about problems that seem too big to begin to address. But remembering there are flashes and flickers of hope, justice, and joy all around. I got up in the confidence that smart passionate people I know and love and trust are working on projects and programs and issues to help one another. I got up because if they’re going to get to work, I’m gonna have their back. I got up because I need my kid to see me get up and face this hate and ugliness and evil and to fight with joy and passion and laughter and hard, slow methodical work. I got up because I know we will keep getting up. I got up because Mary got up, and Elizabeth, too. Because the Woman at the Well got up. And so did Hagar. She got back up a lot. I got up because mamas in Aleppo had to get up today, too. I got up because mamas in my neighborhood got up too. And I got up because I believe Jesus keeps getting up. I got up because I hope that God is birthing a new love into this world all over again this Christmas. I swear, in my better moments I can feel that happening. (I need to remember that feeling on my worser moments.) I got up because of all the new understandings and passions God has given me over the past couple of years. I got up because I believe we are being giving new and newer understandings of what that born-brand-new-again Jesus love means. I got up because I am counting on a God to give me strength and hope and courage and commitment and faith to keep getting up.

I got up. With God. To get to work. Despite what the news on my phone says. Because of what the news on my phone says. And I got to work.

(Well, I got a huge hot chocolate and a pumpkin muffin first, because, you need strength for this work, duh. But then, you know, after that, I got at the work.)

God help us keep getting up and getting at it.