This week's pastoral prayer is built upon this Advent reading, which preceded the prayer:
We live in an era when conspicuous consumption is rarely frowned upon, and consistently celebrated. Professional athletes are among the most notorious conspicuous consumers. But in Managua, Nicaragua, a statue stands in memory of an exception to this rule. I saw this statue about 20 years ago, when I spent six weeks there.
The statue is of Roberto Clemente, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who was the first ever Latin American inducted in baseball’s hall of fame, and who is considered by many to be the greatest right fielder ever to have played the game.
Clemente was from Puerto Rico, not Nicaragua, and never played baseball there. Why then the statue?
Clemente was a generous man. Throughout his career, he would spend time in the off season rounding up and delivering aid and sports equipment in Latin America. On New Year’s Eve, 1972, following a devastating earthquake in the heart of Managua, Clemente died in the crash of a rickety plane loaded with supplies he was escorting to Managua. He was personally accompanying the supplies, because aid workers on the ground in Managua told him that the power of his celebrity was the only way to keep these supplies from being stolen by the Nicaraguan National Guard, who were stealing most of the aid coming into the country.
Sadly, Latin America is known by many for this sort of corruption. Fewer people are aware of the strong sense of community and of family that runs throughout Latin America. Clemente translates into English as, “Gracious.” May the graciousness of this man and the Latin American people inspire all of us to be more loving people.
En memoria de Roberto Clemente, y en honor a nuestros hermanas y hermanos de América Latina, encendemos esta vela de amor.
In memory of Roberto Clemente, and in honor of our Latin American sisters and brothers, we light this candle of love.
We thank you, O God, for the example of Roberto Clemente’s love, for a life living out the meaning of scripture, which says, “Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.”
Remind us, in this selfish world in which live, that love is not a commodity to be reaped, but a harvest to be shared.
Grant us the gift of a giving love, a blessing love. Make us truly more interested in loving than being loved.
As Christmas approaches, we pray for those continents away from those they love:
State Department personnel
We pray for refugees crowded into camps
And for inmates crowded into prisons
At a time of year focused on home, we pray for those who are homeless, who do not all fit the stereotype of the bearded schizophrenics pushing a shopping cart, but who are also:
Addicts ruled by drugs
Or the mentally ill haunted by anxieties
Or criminals hiding from the law
Or families devastated by healthcare bills
Or vagrants refusing to work
Or gay teenagers shunned by families.
We thank you for expressions of love from those who know us this time of year: for cards, gifts, and visits.
We thank you for chances to express love to those who don’t know us, through toy drives and Christmas baskets.
But remind us that loving our families is a year-round opportunity
And remind us that poverty is a year-round reality.
We thank you, Lord, for the music we have experienced this season:
Our choir in worship last Sunday,
The orchestra on Tuesday
And our children’s choirs on Wednesday.
We thank you for the generous gifts of time and money that make these blessings possible.
We offer you now this time of worship
May we bring to it our full attention
May we offer you our full devotion
So that, after we leave this place, we might put our worship in motion, by loving and serving others.