Liturgy for Loving Your Enemy

Our community group this year is listening to various podcasts and focusing on the meditation and reflection sparked by those podcasts.  If you’d like to follow along with us, you can check out my notes here on the blog each week.

February 21

This is our week to pause from our podcasts and spend some time in other forms of meditation and reflection.  Jason and I came up with this liturgy together.  We wanted to focus on loving our enemies because this seems a particularly difficult time to do that, given the current political and social climate in the country.

Masks & Vulnerability Armor

First we had each person take a sheet of 8×11 paper and then asked them to consider what “mask” they wear most often and why, and then draw some representation of it.  Brene Brown calls this “vulnerability armor.”  It’s what we use to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable.  Possibilities for what people might reach for in order to hide their true selves…

  • A positive persona
  • Bravado
  • Over-contrived strength
  • Criticism
  • The intellectual persona
  • Aloofness or Cool
  • Sarcasm
  • Making Light of Everything
  • Cynicism
  • Cruelty
  • Perfectionism

Psalm 139

After we spent some time talking about what we had each drawn, I read this verse over our group and asked them to imagine themselves removing the armor or taking off the mask in the presence of God.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Psalm 139:1-6

Following the reading, I asked everyone to close their eyes.  Then I asked them to bring to mind an enemy.  Someone close, not just a vague group of people or far-flung nemesis.  But an enemy inside our inner circles.  For most of us, this probably won’t be someone with whom we are “at war” or anything even close to that.  More likely it is a friend or family member who wouldn’t even know that they are our enemy.  Maybe it’s someone that just bugs the hell out of you on social media or a family member with a different world view.  Maybe it’s someone with whom you feel frustrated at the office or a friend who has hurt your feelings or caused frustration.

I asked everyone to hold this person in their mind’s eye and to imagine what sort of vulnerability armor that person might be wearing.  Then we read Psalm 139 again and asked everyone to consider this passage as a prayer over their enemy and to acknowledge that it was written for them as much as it was written for us.

Ignatian Reading

After this we moved on to an Ignatian Reading of Genesis 33.  An Ignatian Reading is a slow reading of a passage (usually from the gospels but whatevs) where you attempt to place yourself fully within the story.  We become onlooker-participants and give full rein to our imaginations.  Also called an imaginative reading, the reader takes their time and asks the listeners to imagine what it smelled like, what sounds they might have been hearing, what the sun felt like beating down on their back, what the scenery entailed, etc.   Genesis 33 is the story of the reuniting of Jacob and Esau after their 20+ year estrangement (following Jacob’s deceptive stealing of Esau’s birthright and all that that entailed).

Listening & Praying

We listened to this song by The Brilliance, called Brother and then closed the evening praying with the person next to us, asking God for help in loving these particular enemies as much as we love ourselves.  That we would be willing to walk toward vulnerability and the difficult invitation of Jesus to love those who don’t seem terribly love-able at the moment.

Past Weeks

The Thoughts of Omid Safi (February 14)
The Prophetic Imagination
(February 7)
Post-Inauguration Liturgy
 (January 24)
Is America Possible? (January 17)
Alternative Orthodoxy (January 10)


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