During a seminar at the Buechner Writer’s Workshop today, one of the participants shared the following fragment of The Morning Prayer of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow:
“Teach me to act firmly and wisely
without embittering or embarrassing others.”
I’ll post the entire prayer below, but I found these words to extremely helpful in navigating the difficult days in which we live both as a church and as a society.
For those of us who serve as pastors in Christ’s church, we are repeatedly called upon to make decisions that others disagree with. Sometimes the issues are relatively minor; sometimes they’re immense.
In the midst of differing opinions–and we have never had access to others’ opinions the way we do today–it’s easy to become paralyzed and to seek for a way forward upon which all will agree. Consensus is nice, but rarely achievable.
At times we are asked by virtue of our office to uphold beliefs and practices that many today find deeply offensive. My insistence, for example, to employ the language of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” in the doxology drew awkward looks from some participants who favor, “Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.” This is, of course, a disputed point in the PC (USA). However, as a pastor I must be deferrential to the language of the church over time and to the language of Holy Scripture, an attentive reading of which reveals that the Holy Trinity is delineated not primarily by function (i.e., Father=creator; Son=redeemer; Spirit=sustainer), but instead by being (three persons who are a single Divine tri-unity). The former model draws near to the heresy of modalism, which insists that there is a single God who at various times and places has acted to perform different functions.
Of course, we must never simply parrot the previous generations of Christian reflection on an issue. I’ve seen thise done–and been guilty of it too–it can be a counter-intuitive form of idolatry. However, we must engage in a deep, sustained, deferential conversation with those who have gone before us.
And our conversations must extend, with grace, to those who disagree with us today.
There can be no more pertinent prayer than to ask God for firmness in the face of disagreement, even oppositio; wisdom in the midst of confusion; and, the grace to act in a way that neither causes others unnecessary offense nor that deprives them of their innate nobility as God-beloved humanity.
I’ve got a feeling that I will be returning to this prayer repeatedly.
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace, help me in all things to rely upon your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray. And you, yourself, pray in me. Amen.