Friday, May 29, 2020

Oswald Myconius, "Prayer of repentance in a more difficult time." (1541)

Oecolampadius' successor in Basel, Oswald Myconius, penned this prayer of national confession in 1541. It sat among his papers until they made their way to the "Kirchenarchiv," where it drew the attention of K. R. Hagenbach, who published it among a handful of other remains from Myconius' ministry, most notably a long pastoral letter from 1534, and his interpretations of the Gospel of Mark (the Gospel on which Oecolampadius was preaching when he died in November 1531) and Psalm 102. This short prayer, translated into English here for the first time, includes a petition for divine guidance for the civil authority to keep the peace (or to "wield the sword in advance" of the Gospel—the aim of which image is actually peacekeeping), but especially for the prophets, i.e., preachers, to convey the good news in accordance with the Holy Spirit. It is a bold prayer, in which Myconius, without apology, prays for the entire nation, the people as a whole, to acquire a fervent love of the Gospel.



Oswald Myconius, 

"Prayer of repentance in a more difficult time." (1541)[i]

O Lord, almighty, eternal, and heavenly Father, we confess how cheaply[ii] we have sinned in many different ways against your goodness, by ingratitude for both the immense gift of your Holy Word and also for the rest of your kindnesses,[iii] by which we have allowed ourselves to be misled[iv] into wantonness. We have scorned the rod of your wrath, which you have now used over us for a time, and the threats of more severe enemies, which we feel painfully today. But in this we also confess the power and the benefit (the benevolence) of your groundless[v] compassion, for you—O Lord!—have said: I do not want the death of the sinner, but that the sinner[vi] would repent and live. Yes, with great earnestness you call us through your prophets to repentance, when you speak: Convert yourselves to me wholeheartedly, with fasting, with weeping and lamentation. Rend your hearts and not your garments; repent to the Lordyour God; for he is gracious and merciful, patient and of great goodness, and pardons sin and wickedness; therefore, we ask you, O merciful God, from a fully repentant heart (imbued with contrition), that, in this difficult time, you would have mercy on us and forgive us our sins and take away[vii] the hard enemy, as this is according to your will. Wherever not, then may you grant to us, that we might bear this your chastisement with proper faith and proper patience according to your divine good pleasure unto the end. In so doing, grant the authorities[viii] proper knowledge of the truth, for the sake of your holy name, that they may wield the sword in advance of your holy Word, that they may therefore defend justice and equity and protect to the best of their ability. Give the nation fervert love for your Gospel, so that, with all diligence and earnestness, it may form and shape its life according to the same.[ix] Above all, teach your prophets, that they may wield (proclaim) the heavenly teaching according to the mind of your Holy Spirit. Grant them steadfastness against all that would dare to revolt against your truth; [we ask this] all to the honor and praise of your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the power and the glory of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


i. My translation. This prayer is included among the selected writings of Oswald Myconius, in K. R. Hagenbach, Johann Oekolampad und Oswald Myconius , die Reformatoren Basels. Leben und ausgewæhlte Schriften(Elberfeld: R. L Friderichs, 1859) 444. There Hagenbach notes the original manuscript is held "im Kirchenarchiv. Antiqu. Gernl. I."
ii. Or "lightly"; billig.
iii. Or "favors, good deeds;" Gutthaten.
iv. Or "seduced, enticed"; verleiten.
v. Or "bottomless, gratuitous"; grundlosen.
vi. Or "he"; er.
vii. hinnehmen
viii. Obrigkeit
ix. The pronouns are sg. in reference to  dem Volke and sein Leben, though alternatively one may render this using pl. forms: "Give the people fervert love for your Gospel, so that, ... they may form and shape their lives ..."

Saturday, May 2, 2020

A Prayer of Confession in Response to the Tenth Commandment

"Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor's house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Deut 5:21)
  
O God our Provider, 
who gives to all freely and shows no partiality,
before whom all must render an account:

we confess that we are a foolish people,
continually comparing ourselves with others,
ignoring your kingdom, longing for what we seem to lack,
overlooking your ample provisions, despising simplicity, 
coveting the possessions, the relations, and the conditions of our neighbors.

Instead of making the most of the time, 
seeking and delighting in our neighbor's good,
we grumble, complain, and nurse discontentment, 
clinging to jealous insecurities and anxious resentment. 

Gracious God of mercy, forgive our ingratitude!

Banish from our minds every mean and petty thought.
Call us to a fresh sense of responsibility 
for all that you have entrusted to us, 
and to a deep sense of gratitude for the light yoke of freedom 
from too much responsibility, 
the same that will sink mighty and powerful moguls 
on the day of judgment.

Eternal God, fill our hearts anew with your Holy Spirit
that we may ever sing with thanksgiving for all your goodness toward us
and love our neighbors as we love ourselves;
clothe us with Christ, equip us with the full armor of God,
and teach us to be content in plenty and in want,
that we may be true and faithful ambassadors of your Gospel of peace,
revealing to this disaffected and discordant world
our blessed companion and all-sufficient Sovereign,
Christ Jesus, who teaches us to pray, saying ...

The Lord's Prayer

"Our Father, who art in heaven ..."

 

Friday, May 1, 2020

A Prayer of Confession in Response to the Ninth Commandment

"Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor." (Deut 5:20) 

God of Justice, 

you have prescribed an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth

to punish false witnesses with the same punishment they wish 

to impose on those they malign and slander. 

 

Have mercy, O God! 

 

We confess the corruption of our human nature.

Condemning in others what we despise in ourselves,

we readily and thoughtlessly project onto our neighbors 

the evil we harbor within.

 

Quick to accuse, slow to confess,

eager to judge, reluctant to repent,

we say one thing and do another,

crafting a self-image that cannot withstand scrutiny

and will not be able to stand in the judgment.

 

Forgive our hypocrisy, O God. 

Forgive every careless and libelous word, 

every indulgence in gossip,

every smear, every slur, every disparagement of others.

 

Spirit of Truth,

you require honesty of your people

and love for our neighbors.

 

O give us courage 

to remove the logs and beams from our own eyes,

to think of others as better than ourselves, 

not only that we might avoid the punishment 

of the hypocrite and the false accuser,

but that we might embody the grace 

of the true Judge who refrains from judging,

and who bore the judgement for us in his death on the cross,

the Faithful and True Witness, 

your Son Jesus Christ

who taught us to pray, saying,

 

The Lord's Prayer

"Our Father, who art in heaven ..."

Thursday, April 30, 2020

A Prayer of Confession in Response to the Eighth Commandment

"Neither shall you steal." (Deut 5:19)

Giver of every good and perfect gift,
your provisions for us are far beyond our reckoning,
far beyond all we can ask, think, or imagine;
you would have the world witness your generous goodness toward your people,
and therefore you prepare a table before us even in the presence of our enemies.

We have no need or want that you cannot meet.
Therefore, you have commanded us to walk uprightly,
to maintain just measures, 
to lend expecting nothing in return,
not to move a neighbor's boundary marker,
not to deceive, or cheat, or steal. 

But how quick we are to seek unfair advantage,
how slow to pay back what we have borrowed,
how ready to appropriate an inheritance before the time.

We confess we have not always been honest in our dealings,
have rationalized a selfish sense of entitlement,
have seized things, be they small or large, as though doing so act were a mere trifle. 

Worse yet, we have robbed you of your tithes and offerings,
holding back when giving seems inconvenient,
fearing a shortfall, failing to trust in your generous nature,
offering not the best of our firstfruits, 
but what we have already determined to give away.

Holy and gracious God, forgive us.

Direct our vision once again 
to the glorious lilies and the well-fed birds,
that we may be reminded there is no need for greed,
no need for idolatry, no need to seek advantage over our neighbors,
but there is every reason to seek their advantage,
to bless them and show them charity, hospitality, and benevolence.

Free our clenched, parismonious, and grasping souls
from the love of money and from all forms of greed,
that we may be truly cheerful and noble in our generosity,
and reflect, at least in some discernible measure, 
the astonishing selflessness of Jesus, 
who emptied himself for our redemption,
and who taught us when praying to say, 

The Lord's Prayer

"Our Father, who art in heaven ..."



A Prayer of Confession in Response to the Seventh Commandment

"Neither shall you commit adultery." (Deut 5:18) 

God of faithfulness, 
you have created us for faithful relationship,
you have given us the gift of faith, 
nurturing faith in the hearts of all those who love and value loyalty,
yet you hate divorce and you denounce idolatry as adultery.

O Lord, we confess that are hearts are not pure,
our minds are polluted, our very souls injured by disloyalties 
that we have both suffered from and inflicted on others;
we have troubled our own houses and our most precious relationships
with illusions of false and worldly ideals;
we have indulged the lust of the heart that inflames unholy passions,
we have followed the desire of the eyes that incites unfaithful impulses,
we have forgotten the beauty of fidelity
and supported, however unwittingly or indirectly, entire industries and economies
of lewdness, perversion, promiscuity, and exploitation.

God, forgive us.

We confess our homes and our families, in both church and society, 
have been ruptured by separation, abuse, and divorce;
many children have been denied the blessing of a stable home life,
of consistent and competent parenting,
all because of one, and then another, and then another 
unfaithful image or thought or act or outrage.

God, be gracious to us and cleanse us.

We confess that there may still be those we need to forgive
and those from whom we may yet need forgiveness.
Give us the grace and peace of your reconciling Spirit
to think charitably of such people now,
and to trust in your Son, Jesus Christ,
the pure Bridegroom, the Redeemer of our souls,
to make all things new.

God, have mercy upon us and redeem us.

We thank you that, for all our failings,
you never fail to place people in our lives 
in whom we can see your goodness and grace,
your faithfulness and your purity, no matter how imperfectly.
We thank you that, despite our past sins,
you often graciously blend, from the precious remnants of prior unions,
a new household in place of the old,
and so we pray for those nearest to us,
that you would protect them and us and all within our circles
from the ravages of temptation, 
from the damages wrought by 
adultery, idolatry, infidelity, and disloyalty.

Heal us of the pain of past betrayals and imperfections;
help us to honor the true and beautiful intimacy 
that you have reserved for Christian marriage;
bless parents with wisdom in raising young people, 
that they may instill in them that same sense of honor;
and lead us ultimately, as souls redeemed and as a church made pure,
to perfect and eternal communion with our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ, who taught us when praying to say ...

The Lord's Prayer

"Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed by thy name ..."

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A Prayer of Confession in Response to the Sixth Commandment

"You shall not murder." (Deut 5:17) 

God of peace and Author of life,
you have given us life the gift of life, 
urged us to choose life,
and sent your Son to reconcile us to you and to one another.

But we have not known or practiced the things that make for peace;
we have allowed anger and condemnation and judgment of others to lodge in our hearts;
and we have nurtured such rage, urged on by pride, arrogance, selfish motivations,
political divisions, an opportunitistic "news" media, and a culture of violence.

We have allowed our society to grow so desensitized 
to depictions and accounts of horror, abuse, and murder 
that somehow it seems natural and permissible for the twisted mind 
to express vicious hatred, or to act upon cruel fantasies in reality,
to the damage and destruction of the lives of both victim and perpetrator,
and to the harm and heartbreak of the families and communities of each.

We have failed to appreciate and even cheapened 
the lives of those we consider an inconvenient burden on society:
children, the elderly, the disabled, the infirm, 
and deemed some lives more valuable than others.

God of mercy, forgive us.

We have made such a science of war, 
excused, funded, and promoted all manner of excesses in the interest of "defense,"
that no sphere of human action—
homes, schools, businesses, public buildings and transportation, 
places of worship, even biology itself—
no sphere is truly safe from threat of terrorism or from outbreaks of violence.

God of peace, speak peace to this whole troubled world and to every troubled heart.

Let us not have to experience any more war or killing or death,
for us to say, "Enough!"
Let not bloodshed beget more bloodshed,
but let a thirst and a hunger for your peace, a desire for your kingdom of peace,
so take hold in our hearts, that we might devote ourselves single-mindedly
to searching for it, studying it, preaching and teaching it,
just as you have intended for us 
and called your church to do.

Let you abundant peace so fill our hearts, our homes, our lives,
that we may become true peacemakers,
reflecting the goodness of, and giving glory to, your Son,
the Prince of Peace,
who taught us to love, bless, and pray for our enemies,
to turn the other cheek and forego retaliation,
to forgive and be reconciled to one another,
and to bring all our needs and concerns to you, saying,

The Lord's Prayer

"Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed by thy name ..."




Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A Prayer of Confession in Response to the Fifth Commandment

"Honour your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (Deut 5:16) 

O God who gave us birth,
you have brought us into the world
through human parents
who, though fallible sinners as we are,
yet, in some way, to some degree, 
gave us our first impressions of your parental love.

We confess that, in our growing and maturation, 
we have not always honored them as we should.
We have been short on gratitude and patience,
prone to take them for granted, 
then overcompensated for our failings,
often fusing with them or confusing them with you.
One moment an idol of our making, the next a target of our rebellion, 
our parents are who they are, have been who they have been,
and, yet, have been used of your mercy and grace to give us life,
and incalculably more than we can know or tell.
Therefore, we offer you thanks for them—in some cases belatedly—
even as we confess our sins against them,
and our failure to appreciate them as we should:
as imperfect human reflections and parables
of your perfect, self-sacrificial love.

O God of our ancestors,
you have led and guided our fathers and mothers of the faith
through long ages and many trials;
you have instilled teachers with your wisdom, 
filled prophets with your Spirit,
inspired preachers with your Word,
called saints to suffer that they might embody your truth.

We confess we have been slow to listen and to honor what they would teach us.

O God our Father, 
you required even Jesus Christ, your sinless Son, to learn obedience by what he suffered.

We confess our disobedience, our arrogance, our defiance, our willfulness.

Forgive us, O Lord,
and grant us the peace that surpasses all our understanding,
the peace that comes with restored relations,
reconciled memories, true thanksgiving, and genuine humility,
the humility that we see in our crucified, now risen, Savior, 
Jesus Christ, who taught us when praying to say,

The Lord's Prayer

"Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed by thy name ..."

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Prayer of Confession in Response to the Fourth Commandment

"Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day." (Deut 5:12–15) 

Creator God,
you alone are worthy of worship, 
who in the beginning created all things and deemed them good, 
who heard the cries of people oppressed 
and with mighty deeds of power set them free, liberating the household of faith;
you who have commanded rest and recreation for everyone,
at every level of the social order, and at times even for the order itself;
you who are working to restore all things through Jesus Christ, who makes all things new:

We confess that we have foolishly 
despised, degraded, and trampled your sabbath, 
working when we should rest,
pursuing wealth and serving mammon,
excusing ourselves from your holy service,
sacrificing godly fellowship for selfish aims,
supporting a restless economy with our custom,
insisting that business, commerce, and custom carry on 
when you have commanded otherwise.

Still less have we spared a thought for your creation ... as yours!
For we have often styled ourselves, not as stewards, but as saviors of nature,
then contented ourselves with far less than half-measures 
and failed to even recognize, much less blush, at our sanctimonous hypocrisy
in abusing and exploiting creation at our convenience,
in demanding others do what we are not willing to do ourselves.

God, forgive us. 

For we have stubbornly held so fast to lifeless routines
that only illness, indeed, the illness of the whole world, 
finally causes us to pause, to suspend our mindless pursuits,
and turn our hearts to our parents, to our children, to our spouses, 
to you!

Lord, restore us.

Grant us a rich and refreshed appreciation for the refreshment that you alone can give,
you who alone are the very source of our life, our breath, our substance, our hope.

Grant us such sweet peace that you alone can inspire,
such peace that causes us to wonder how we have done without it,
how we have ignored you and failed to worship and rest in you, for so long.

Lord, revive us.

Fill us with such thankfulness and gratitude for your sabbatical grace,
that we might be ever eager to worship you and spontaneous in doing so,
not content to wait for the commanded day of rest,
the Sabbath year of tranquility,
the jubilee of liberating forgiveness and of new beginnings,
but always brimming with prayer and praise, 
with songs of adoration and acts of service,
that uplift you and extol the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
who taught us to pray in saying,

The Lord's Prayer

"Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed by thy name ..."