Friday, November 23, 2007

UPDATED - Are you praying on "Black Friday"?


Friday after Thanksgiving was "Black Friday", when many retailers reach profitability for the year.

Do you pray for commerce? If so, how?

I think that we are ambivalent about commerce, and not without reason. "Black Friday" can be seen as part of the pagan recapture of Christmas (which was at one time a Christian take-over of pagan winter festivities). And of course the Bible resounds with warnings about the temptations created by the quest for wealth.

I don't find a really good prayer for commerce in the Books of Common Prayer. There are prayers for success in agriculture, which I suppose we could adapt. And I've blessed businesses using adapted house blessing prayers (most fun was a pizzeria, although I was most uplifted by a family therapist who invited me to bless his new office).

The 1928 BCP has a prayer For Every Man in his Work. It is guarded, at best, in its attitude toward profit:

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who declarest thy glory and showest forth thy handiwork in the heavens and in the earth; Deliver us, we beseech thee, in our several callings, from the service of mammon, that we may do the work which thou givest us to do, in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as thy servants, and to the benefit of our fellow men; for the sake of him who came among us as one that serveth, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In this prayer, work reflects the Creator's image in our lives, but it also invites temptation to serve the false god of wealth. The prayer asks that we imitate the servanthood of Christ and never detach our wealth from the needs of those around us. But it almost makes one guilty for turning a profit.

The 1979 BCP offers a prayer For the Unemployed:

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer
want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this
land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find
suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment
for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer also honors work and intercedes for those without it, but there is no real intention for the creation of wealth. Wealth seems to be a finite, pre-exisiting thing for redistribution.

So, what do you think? Should we pray for commerce? If so, how? (Here's your chance to write a Collect for Commerce).


Robin G. Jordan said...

I had forgotten that today was a premier shopping day. What has caught my attention was the news articles published yesterday and today, which describe the plight of US food banks. The demand for emergency food assistance has increased while the donations of food has decreased due to the rising cost of oil and the rising cost of living. The following prayer is taken from A New American Prayer Book and is adapted from the Anglican Church of Kenya's Our Modern Services.

"Lord, we lift up to you the hungry people of the world. May the love of Christ move the hearts of all who have much, to share with all who have nothing, for it is in sharing that we are blessed. And move us to give generously to those in need, not only of our money but also of the abundance of our stores, so that no child of God will suffer want, when there is so much around. Grant this our prayer, for your name’s sake. AMEN."

Anonymous said...

Well, SDAnglican, we headed out to buy a specially-advertised "store opener" bargain. Just a few minutes after opening, the store was already out of the advertised item. In its place was a similar item at more than double the cost of the advertised item, but supposedly also on sale: the classic bait and switch. I guess some areas of commerce need a little more remedial prayer than others! ;-) Nice article--thanks very much.

Anonymous said...


It is certainly interesting that this telling omission exists in our Prayerbook, when the Episcopal Church used to be thought to represent the (pro-business) Republican Party at prayer. Even the take-over of TEC by left-wing Democrats and other liberals doesn't explain the surprising omission of a prayer for commerce and businessmen in the 1928 and earlier BCPs. On the other hand, the Church of England was always especially allied with the upper class "Gentlemen" who didn't sully their hands with labor but lived the luxorious, pampered life of their privileged rank in society and looked down on the crass pursuit of profit by those engaged in the world of trade.

One of the reasons why Thanksgiving is my favorite national holiday is that it is probably the one least spoiled by commercialization.

Two little anecdotes regarding the Christmas shopping season now commencing in full force. I happened to be shopping for some clothes in a nearby J. C. Penney's store (in Newport News, VA) earlier this week. Out of curiousity, I asked what the store hours were going to be on "Black Friday." I know stores have been open for longer and longer hours on that prime High Holy Day in the business calendar, but I was still astonished when the sales clerk at the register rolled her eyes and wearily said, "4 AM to Midnight." Unbelievable, a Penney's at the mall opens at 4 AM!

Well, I don't have a creative Collect for Commerce to propose, but perhaps a little ditty of a poem lamenting the fate of many business managers may suffice. I have used it to open sermons on the Sunday after Christmas. I once found it in the local paper years ago, when I lived in Albany, NY. It was entitled, "Twas the Day AFTER Christmas." Here goes.

'Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the mall,
Customer were exchanging size medium for small.
The managers watched and tried hard to grin, as gifts once sold came pouring back in.
The nightmoare green tie, the violet clad elf, the electric egg slicer, all back on the shelf.
On December 26th, for ungrateful gift bearers, it's time to be fixing old Santa Claus' errors."

After the laughter died down, I'd continue something like this. One of the meanings of the Incarnation is that God has entered fully into all our experiences as human beings, except of course for sin. And one of the most painful but universal human experiences is that of giving someone you love a gift, only to discover that he or she doesn't really like it, doesn't use it, or perhaps even, worst of all, we find out that they have secretly traded it in for something else. Now God, as the greatest giver of all, the one "from whom all blessings flow," who gives more gifts than anyone else, has inevitably therefore had to suffer this humiliating experience more than any of us.

And when God gave us the very best and most precious gift of all, the incomparable gift of His Son, we humans, all of us, rejected that gift and even destroyed it. We took that infinitely precious gift and had him whipped and beaten, publicly mocked and condemned, and subjected to torture on the Cross. But before all that happened on another much blacker Friday that we call Good Friday, we exchanged that gift for another we liked better, the Jewish terrorist, Barabbas.

Now I don't really know how much of an impression that way of preaching during the Twelve Days of Christmas has made on my listeners, but it always grabs and moves me at a deep and profound level. What an awesome, merciful God we serve!


P.S. On Thanksgiving Day it was a balmy 72 degrees here in the Tidewater region of Virginia. What was it like in SD? I must admit that I'm glad NOT to be in Sioux Falls this winter!

TLF+ said...

Thanksgiving here had very light snow flurries in the morning (didn't stick at all), and the sun was out in the afternoon.

Highs in the 30s & 40s, lows in the teens some nights. Looks to be colder by the end of the coming week.

cp said...

And one of the most painful but universal human experiences is that of giving someone you love a gift, only to discover that he or she doesn't really like it, doesn't use it, or perhaps even, worst of all, we find out that they have secretly traded it in for something else

Great point.

I have a less guilt-centered response (of course, since I'm a liberal!) along the following lines:

What God models for us in her grace and forgiveness is that the above attitude is not Hers, and that we should get over it.

It's a GIFT. That means that after you give it, its future and even whether you receive a thank-you note is out of your hands, and frankly none of your beeswax.

If you do get a thank you note and the recipient appreciates it and you, that's a nice little encouragement, but it's totally beside the point of the act of the gift.

(Miss Manners would probably agree. She must be a flaming liberal too.)

Anonymous said...


We've not interacted before, but I've seen some of your earlier posts. Obviously I'm far more conservative than you are theologically, but I'm glad to find there are things we can agree on. Unfortunately, calling on God as "Her" or Mother or Sophia wouldn't be one of them.

But in the interests of trying to establish more common ground, let me share a moving experience that I had when I last lived in Sioux Falls. It was on Mother's Day, back in May, 2005. I had returned to my hometown to help care for my ailing mother who had Alzheimer's. She was then close to death and I knew that this was almost certainly my last Mother's Day while she was on earth (in fact, she did die in July). Moreover, she had lost so much of her memory that she didn't remember most members of her family anymore (though I was blessed that she remembered me right up to the end).

I was sitting in a church that Mother's Day, grieving, when the choir sang a song based on one of the few biblical passages that compares God to a mother, i.e., Isaiah 49:15. The text goes:

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"

Wow! I can't express how much that meant to me. I knew that my mother might indeed soon forget who I was as the Alzheimer's continued to ravage her brain, but it was as if the Lord was comforting me and assuring me that God would never, ever forget me or cease to care for me.

That was indeed a great and precious gift. And yes, I agree that God gives us gifts with no strings attached. That's what we mean by using the Greek word "agape," for his unique and unconditional love. But I think you exaggerate when you say that God doesn't care if we are grateful or not. He does. He still loves us and continues to give us things freely even when we are totally ungrateful, but he does want to draw us into an ever closer and deeper relationship with him. Gratitude fosters that.

But since we haven't interacted before, let me commend you for having the courage to dare to venture onto a seemingly inhospitable site like this orthodox Anglican one. Pardon me if my use of strictly masculine pronouns in reference to God seems like an in-your-face challenge after you pointedly used feminine language for God in your post. No offense intended, but we must each be honest as well as courteous. And despite the occasional use of feminine imagery for God in the Bible (as in the example above), the fact is that God is NEVER addressed in feminine terms in either the Bible or the ancient Christian tradition. Therefore I never use that language myself. But you are free to do as you see fit.