Monday, August 21, 2017

The Passionate Jesus

Our Sunday school has been reading and discussing the Peter Wallace book, The Passionate Jesus. The premise of the book (as I would state it) is that we need to be aware that Jesus was an emotional person. The book explores how Jesus experienced emotions such as love, grief, anger, joy and fear, how he reacted to them, and how he can serve as  role model for us as we deal with these emotions.

I lead the discussion on the grief chapter, and in subsequent posts, I'll dig into that, but I wanted to first explore a few questions with you.

First, do you imagine that Jesus was passionate? Does Peter's thesis surprise you? Do you disagree with it, or does it resonate with you? I think I've always considered that Jesus was a passionate person. My first encounter with that idea would be the story of the clearing of the moneychangers from the Temple. For me, this shows how Jesus could be angry, and how he would express that anger. I think if a person read that chapter in the gospel, he or she would be hard pressed to NOT see Jesus as a person who had passionate emotions.

I do think, however, that we teach our children about a calm, sedate Jesus, who was almost British in his outward emotions. Think of the artwork in a children's Sunday school room. It might include Jesus as a shepherd, carrying a sheep  or Jesus surrounded by children, looking angelic. Even crucifixion artwork would show him quietly dying without -- well -- screaming at the pain of it all. I'm not sure how we would teach children differently, but I think we do foster the idea of an emotional-less Jesus.

Secondly, do we consider our emotions to be a part of us, created in the image of God? And if that is the case, why would we ever expect that the person who for us is the best reflection of God we have to not have emotions. I'm glad Jesus experienced emotions. If Jesus is to be my advocate, I want him to have experienced anger and fear, joy and grief.


And if Jesus experienced emotions, then who better to serve as a role model for how to deal with what can be difficult?

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Prayer of Supplication

Oh, God, our God,
Our minds are full of worries,
and our hearts are full of concerns.
We lift them all to you,
knowing that you are God,
and we are not.

There are those among us 
who are ill,
who are mourning,
who are hurt, 
who are hungry.
Care for them.
Help us share their suffering.
Bring them healing
Through us or 
in spite of us.

There are those among us 
who are joyful,
who are celebrating,
who are singing,
who are happy,
who are dancing.
Smile on them.
Help us to share their wonder.
Bring them laughter,
through us or
in spite of us.

Each of us has 
spoken or unspoken needs.
Hear those.
Make us aware that we are not 
the only ones who have needs.
Help us to answer the needs of others.

Walk hand in hand 
with those who lead us.
Give them wisdom.
Give them ears to hear you
and hearts to follow you.
Raise up from your children
the leaders who you choose,
and help us to follow them wisely.

Let us church be a church.
Let your church serve you
in obedience and grace.
Lead us so that the world is changed.

Amen.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Prayer of Praise

Oh, God, our God,
In our hearts, 
In our minds,
In our very souls
is a never imagined gratitude
for all that you are in our lives
And in the lives of those around us.
We offer our praise.

We know that the praise we offer
will be a pale return 
for what you have given to us.
For the grace you shower on us.
For the forgiveness that change our lives.
For the love that shows us who you are.
All that we have that matters is from you.
We have nothing to offer except our pale praise.

Inhabit our praise 
so that it is worthy.
Sing with us so that our song
is pleasing to you.
Help us to pray,
so that our prayers are lifted to your ears.
Inhabit our worship.

Oh, God, our God,
You love us in ways we cannot imagine
Or understand
Or grasp.
Help us to love you
Help us to love others
in ways that reflect
our grateful we are to you.

Amen.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Prsayer of Confession

Oh God, our God,
This morning we come as a church
that has not heard your word.
That has failed to be obedient.

The people around us are hungry.
There are people who are lost.
There are people who are alone.
And we do nothing.

Oh God, our God,
You became human
Left God,
And you came to save us.
You came to rescue the oppressed.
And in our gratitude,
we do nothing.

Forgive us, we pray,
and free us for joyful obedience.
Free us from other idols
those things that distract us from following you.
Free us from the past
that clouds of view of the future.
Free us from our sin
So that we can with joy and passion
Offer God to others.

Free us
Forgive us
Change us

Amen.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Prayer for Worship

Oh, God, our God,
Who could imagine it?
Who could think it?
Who could even begin to believe 
that you welcome us to worship?

Grant us the grace 
to know your presence.
Grant us the ability
to sing your praise.
Grant us the humility 
to confess ours sins.
And lift away our pride
so that we can accept your forgiveness.

Use this time to remind us
that we belong to you.
That you are our God,
and we are your people.

And when we leave his place,
Help us to remember that you have 
gone ahead of us,
and prepared the way
for the ministry you send us
out to do.

Amen.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Prayer for Tonight


Oh, God, our God.
Hear our cry today.
Hear the heartbeat of our sorrow.
Hear the franticness of our minds.
Hear our cry at the hatred.
Hear our disbelief.
Hear our shock.

We stare in horror at men
walking with torches.
Carrying mace and lighter fluid.
Driving a car into a crowd.
We cannot believe that 
hatred would surround 
as it did.
Reality doesn't seem true.
And yet we know it is.

We pray for the life that was lost.
For the pain that was inflicted.
For those who were afraid,
For those who were threatened.
We pray for the ones we want 
to surround with our arms in protection.

We pray for the lives of the lost.
For the hatred they spouted.
For the fire and pain and venom.
For those that threatened.
We pray for the ones 
we find hard to forgive.

We pray for ourselves
and our neighbors.
For forgiveness as we see those
who are different than we are
as different
instead of beloved.

We ask tonight that you would
change the world.
And if you can,
use us.

On my blog in the coming week I have scheduled a series of prayers. These were planned and written weeks ago, but as I queued them up to publish, I felt something missing. Tonight needs a prayer. Alan preached today about standing up and stepping out of the boat - where is God calling you to stand up and walk tonight? How do you respond to the hatred that was shown in Charlottesville? What will you do? What will I do? Tonight, we need a prayer.

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Good Soil and the Sower

In worship a few weeks ago, the preacher talked about the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. As he talked about how we are sometimes like each of these kinds of soil, I started thinking about churches - and how our churches are sometimes like each of these kinds of soil. I'm exploring each of these in a series of blog posts.

"Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears[a] listen!” (verse 8-9) and "But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (verse 23)

How can we be the church that has good soil? How can we be the church that hears the word of God and let's it sink deeply into our being, so that it bears good fruit?

Can we intentionally seek to understand God's word? How do we do that?

Can we lose our fear of doubt? Lose our fear of change? Lose our fear of the person who is different? How do we do that?

Can we become passionate about following Christ? So passionate that we put that priority ahead of other distractions? So passionate that we are willing to invest our time and talents? How do we do that?

No one said it would be easy? How do we change our ways?

Having said all of that - over four days - I wonder if the focus on the soil is wrong? This is the question that the preacher in worship asked. The parable is referred to as the Parable of the Sower. How can we be a Sower like Christ? This sower throws the seed everywhere. He doesn't worry about whether it will take root or not. He doesn't pick and choose, or hesitate to be generous in his planting. He just throws the seed. There is a trust in this kind of planting. There is also a relief from worry in this kind of planting.

Trust that the growth and the harvest are in God's hands. Let go of the need to control. Be generous and even wasteful. Can we just do what we are called to do? Can our churches be that kind of sower?


Note: I am attending a Stewardship Conference next week, and won't be posting. I will be back to posting on August 14. See you then!

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Seed among Thorns

In worship a few weeks ago, the preacher talked about the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. As he talked about how we are sometimes like each of these kinds of soil, I started thinking about churches - and how our churches are sometimes like each of these kinds of soil. I'm exploring each of these in a series of blog posts.

"Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them." (verse 7) and "As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing." (verse 22)

How are our churches distracted from hearing the word of God? Imagine this. Imagine sitting in a committee meeting and working through the details of a budget. You see the numbers. You see the income and the outflow. You see the shortfall or the excess. Do the members of that committee see the ministry? Do you remember the people who are the "giving units?" Do you think about the children who will be attending the Sunday school classes or the searching young person who needs to hear about the word of God? Are churches distracted from ministry by the "details" of it?

Would churches rather focus on keeping the floors clean than remembering that the homeless person with dirty boots it the one who Jesus loves? Would churches rather be angry about the broken window than remember that the boy scout who through the ball through the window will only encounter Christ in that building - and no where else? Would churches rather have everyone in the same pew week after week than make space for someone new?

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with clean floors and rules about throwing balls or the fellowship of sitting near a friend, but do we allow those things to take priority of reaching the lost, the lonely or the unloved?

How are we distracted from hearing the word of God? What can we do to change our ways?


(To be continued tomorrow)

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Seed on Shallow Ground

In worship a few weeks ago, the preacher talked about the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. As he talked about how we are sometimes like each of these kinds of soil, I started thinking about churches - and how our churches are sometimes like each of these kinds of soil. I'm exploring each of these in a series of blog posts.

"Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. (verse 5) and "As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy yet such a person has no root, but endures only for awhile, and when trouble or persecution arise on account of the word, that person immediately falls away." (verses 20-21).

What about churches that seem to be shallow environments for the word of God? Imagine a church that begins a ministry with great excitement, and then, when the going gets rough, they give up? Are there churches that think everything has to be effortless or easy? Are there churches that don't understand the complicated idea of transformation - and that it won't be easy? Do churches sometimes shy away from what is difficult or involved simply because it is hard?

And what about churches that only have a shallow grasp of who God is and what God is calling them to do? What about the church that offers "salvation" through a simple prayer but doesn't have an intention way to develop believers into disciples? What about churches that offer Sunday School for children with no depth - just babysitting without the grace of helping children to grow in Christ? Is our ministry of education for both children and adults challenging? Does it call for us to stretch our minds and our faith? Does it leave room for doubt and the sanctification that can come from it?

How are our churches not allowing the seeds of God's word to sink deeply into our spirit? What can we do to change our ways?


(To be continued tomorrow.)

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Seeds on the Path

In worship a few weeks ago, the preacher talked about the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. As he talked about how we are sometimes like each of these kinds of soil, I started thinking about churches - and how our churches are sometimes like each of these kinds of soil.

"Some of the seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. (verse 3) "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path." (verse 19).

Are churches ever closed off to the word of God? Are we hardened so much that we ignore the word of God?

I can think of meetings I've been in when we haven't tried to discern the will of God. Or, we think we know what it is, but we don't want to hear it, so we ignore it. The word can't take root, so the seed of God's word does not grow. We don't allow it.

Why is that? Are we too cynical? Are we too hardened by previous failures? Are we to entrenched in what we have done before to be open to the idea of something new? Are we so selfish about our churches - and what our churches offer us - that we refuse to hear what might be done that would be for the good of someone else? Are we so determined that the people who are welcomed to the church must be like us that we don't accept anyone else?

How do we hinder other people from understanding the word? Are we so set in our own interpretation of bibical scripture that we won't allow the thought of something different to be considered? By us or by someone else?

What hardens our hearts to the word of God? How can we change our ways?


(To be continued tomorrow.)

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Perspectives: Destash

This is a box that contains yarn. It's stuffed full of yarn. This past weekend I decided that my yarn stash was too large and that it contained too much yarn that I would never use. I have a friend with connections to a ministry at a prison near where she lives. She (and others) collect yarn for the inmates to use to knit layettes, chemo caps and other items to give away. I facebook messaged her and asked if what I had would help. The answer was yes, so I packed it up and sent it off to her this morning.

I've had a lot of this yarn for a long time, keeping it, thinking I might use it. Almost everything I sent to her were complete, unused skeins of yarn. Waiting for a purpose that I was never going to provide.

Believe me, it's hard to destash. It's hard to let go of what we aren't going to use - to admit that we will never use it, and that what remains is enough. 

And it's hard to find the motivation to go through what we have to separate what we will use and what we won't. And yet, to me, as I took the box to the post office this morning, I realized that it was an example of stewardship. 

What am I holding on to that I should let go of? What material items? What grudges? What hurts? 


It's time to destash.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Grace of Bread

Today (or a Sunday in the past, since you are not reading this today), I visited another church. Steve and I went there only because a friend was preaching, and we wanted to hear his message. We live in a different town than the church; there is no chance that living where we live, we would become members of this church. And there is the fact that we are already United Methodists who are members of a different church. I wasn't there in my Foundation role; I looked like a "regular" visitor.

As we sat there, a person brought us a visitor bag that had homemade banana bread in it. I tried to tell her that she didn't need to do that, but nothing stopped her, and we came home with bread. 

As I sat there in worship, feeling guilty, I realized that I was doing the church an injustice. My guilt was based on the idea that the bread was offered in exchange for something - that it was offered to persuade me that they were friendly and to try to convince me to return. That's not a very grace-filled motivation behind offering a gift, and why would I expect that their motivation was anything but grace-filled. The bread was a gift, offered in the love of Christ, to someone they did not know.

Glory to God.

Instead of feeling guilty, I should have felt thankful for their message of welcome and grace. And now I do. I think I'll write them a note to thank them and to encourage them in their ministry.

There is a lesson in this for all of us, I think. When we offer hospitality, we should remember that it is a radical act of grace, not done in the expectation of something in return. When we receive that kind of grace, we should be thankful for it, and not think it was done in "exchange" for something.


It's grace.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

All in

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (John 12:3).

I was reading the chapter in Searching for Sunday called Perfume. In it, Rachel Held Evans says, "Rather than measuring out a small amount of oil Mary breaks the jar and lets it all pour out. She's all-in, fully committed, sparing no expense. The oil she may have been reserving for her own burial, or the burial of a loved one, has been poured out generously, without thought of the future."

She's "all in." She is giving generously, with a prodigal nature, with no thought to the implications of what she is doing on her future. 

Imagine for a moment, what it would look like if the church saw Mary as a role model of a way to be a disciple. 

It's a dangerous way to live. It's a radical way to live. This "all in" nature of what Mary does is rare to see. Can you think of people who are "all in" as disciples? I can think of some. They are blessed in their service and their faith, don't you think?


Imagine for a moment how your life would be different if you were "all in."  I imagine that is what it means to pick up your cross and follow.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Another Bird Lesson

Another bird lesson.

When we are sitting outside, watching the birds, they do come to the feeder. They arrive one or two at a time, sharing the space. Some act a little skittish, flying toward the feeders and then "spinning" in the air, to return to the nearby trees, perhaps spooked by our presence. I'm always amazed, though, that many of them are brave enough to ignore us, and enjoy the seed with us sitting no more than five or six feet away.

But then, we get up and go inside, carrying our dishes to the kitchen, and the birds gather at the feeders. I can stand in our kitchen and watch them. They come from all directions and take their places, feasting.


Remember the book, "A Purpose Driven Life?" I think it's that one - the first line of the book is "It's not about you." When we step out of the way - either physically, emotionally, or intellectually - interesting things can happen. When we give up control, and move out of the way, ministry can happen. God can work - sometimes through us, and sometimes around us. But we have to allow it.

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