Monday, May 21, 2018

Language of Worship


Yesterday was Pentecost.  In our church, we celebrated with youth-led worship. Our Associate Pastor, Alan, said that it was an illustration of the breakdown of the language barrier that happened during Pentecost in the infant church. The older people in our church understand the language of traditional worship; the younger people among us would be sharing a more modern language of worship - one that they understand and that brings God close to them. And this day, Pentecost, is the day we strive to understand that.

It reminded me of when I was a youth at JM. We planned and executed a youth-led worship service, but the goal seemed to be to learn the traditional form and language of the adults in worship, and to demonstrate that we could plan worship in that style.

When I was a youth leader, the goal was different - help the youth to plan worship in their language, and help the congregation to understand that.

Yesterday, the congregation seemed to welcome the language difference with open arms - or at least I hope so. I hope we all grow enough to realize that God is brought close to each of us in different ways, and one of the best ways we love each other in worship - one of the most obvious ways God can inhabit our worship, is when we lift of the language of worship that reaches those we love instead of insisting that everyone speak the worship language that reaches us.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

First Fruits


He held the offering in his hand.
Wheat, first fruits from his field.
Looking at it, he remembered
the seed.
The promise of it.
The fear in it.
The possibility of famine or feast
that had rested in it.

He remembered throwing it into the field.
Praying for rain.
Praying for not too much rain.
Praying for sunshine.
Praying for not too much baking sun.

He remembered watching the tiny plants sprout,
hoping for growth.
He thought of plucking the wheat from the field,
the first to become fruit.
So far, it was the only to become usable wheat.
He had pulled it,
made a sheaf,
and brought it to the Lord.

He offered it to God,
hoping that his first fruit
would not be his last.
Praying that there would be enough.
Enough to feed his family
Enough for seed to next year.

His offering of first fruit
was an act of faith.
An act of obedience.
It was worship that beat back fear.
It was ritual that spoke of his faith in God.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Perspectives: Jesus wrapped up tight


Friends gave us a manger scene for Christmas.  This is Jesus, wrapped up tight to prevent breakage.

Do we try to do that to God? Do we wrap God up tight so that no one dare change him?

Isn't that foolish?

Note: I don't image I'll be posting next week.  I've been at a conference, and while I'll be back, I imagine I won't have time to set up the posts on Sunday.  See you soon after that, though!

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

The World Around You


Inspired by Psalm 19: 1-4a

If the voice of God
is quiet in your heart,
and you yearn for the sound
of God's praise and presence,
look to the heavens.

The sky shouts with praise for God,
as the clouds collide
with the rays of the sun.

Look to the earth around you.
The world has been sculpted by a master,
and its artist is obvious for those who will see.

Look to the passing of time.
Each day to the next
silently pours forth speech.
The dark of the night
testifies to its creator.

When you cannot hear God,
Listen.
To the silence of the creation around you.
There are no words,
there is no speech,
there is no voice,
but still,
the praise of creation thunders
throughout the world,
from one end of the earth
to the other.

When God can't be heard in the noise of your heart
and mind,
turn to the world around you,
and hear the deafening praise.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Then and Now


In the Easter Earthquake study, Harnish quotes Karl Barth regarding death:

Now we see in a mirror  dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith  hope and love abide, there three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:12-13)  Barth said, "Because God's grace has come to help us in our misery thorough our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ....We...stand with him at the boarder where the now and the then touch each other.

See the thens and nows? For us, who stand on this side of death - on the "then" side - death is horrible. It means loved ones are gone, it means how we see life comes to an end. I think for God it is not the same. For God, it is a line between the then and the now. 

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Way of Life


Inspired by Psalm 119: 9-16

What is the way of life?
What is the path?

It begins with God,
listening to God's word,
seeking the guidance of the Spirit.
Hearing with our whole hearts.

Praying for help in obedience.
Guidance on the path of life.

Treasuring the word of God,
Fenceposts for the walk.

Learning from the Spirit,
Knowledge of the way.

Witnessing to the Lord's presence,
Declaration of life.

Celebrating the journey with God,
Riches beyond belief.

Meditating on God's word,
Eyes fixed on the path.

Remembering,
Life.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Hosanna

Hosanna.

If someone asked you what that word means, what would you say?  I would answer that it is a word of praise - a word of adoration.

When I googled it, the definition was "an expression of adoration, praise, or joy."  

But as I was reading my devotional today from Harnish's study (Easter Earthquake), I read, "That Hebrew word means 'help' or 'save.'" That was confirmed when I googled it again, and found that it literally means "I beg you to save!" 

Isn't it an ah-ha moment that the word of adoration is more than that - that it is a cry for help? So, when we praise God with the word Hosanna, we are also asking for salvation. Perfect word.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Balance


Please read Psalm 147:12-20

My husband, Steve, is a Cyclist. With a capital C. And it amazes me. He rides miles and miles and miles on a road bike that has tires about an inch wide. A few years ago, he rode with a group of men from Huntington to Washington D.C. to raise money for homeless veterans in our town.  There are seven mountains between Elkins and Petersburg. Imagine for a moment the amount of balance it requires to control a two-wheeled pedal-powered bicycle with one-inch wide tires moving down a mountain at 40 miles an hour in traffic. He was continually making hundreds of decisions regarding speed, direction, weight distribution, application of brakes and choice of gears.

Balance.

I was reading this morning about free will – the truth that God has given us the ability to make choices, and that those choices have consequences. A consequence can be as small as a hurt feeling that is quickly forgotten to as large as a life changed forever to as monumental as the world turned upside-down. We have free will.

And yet, Psalm 147:15-18 says this: “He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.  He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes.   He hurls down hail like crumbs—who can stand before his cold?  He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.”

God created the world. The sun rises and sets, the rain falls, the snow flies. It is so foundational that we probably don’t even think about it. AND God has given us dominion in the world. Dominion. God-given responsibility. Our choices in the stewardship of what is around us have consequences.

Balance.

The sun rises and sets, the rain falls, the snow flies, but what we do has consequences. Even in something as foundational as creation. We must remember, like the bicyclist speeding down the hill, we are have been given the responsibility for the precious balance that keeps everything in working order.

Imagine for a moment if my husband had decided that his decisions and actions on the bicycle had no impact on his descent down the mountain. Disaster. 

And so it is with us.

Prayer: Creating God, guide our steps, open our eyes to the world around us and to the consequences of our obedience to you. In your son’s name, Amen.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Perspectives: The Unexpected


The Unexpected.  A piano with a bear and a covered bridge on it.  May you be open to the unexpected today.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

God's Laughter



I continue my reading of Harnish's Easter Earthquake. In it, he shares Eugene O'Neill story of Lazarus telling of how he was raised from the dead by Jesus (it's in the play, Lazarus Laughed):

When Lazarus describes his experience...'I heard the heart of Jesus laughing in my heart...and my heart reborn to the love of life cred 'Yes!" and I laughed in the laughter of God.'"

I've never really considered what the experience must have been like for Lazarus, other than to think it must have been confusing.  I love the image that God's laughter is what brought him to life.

Think of who in your life could be "brought to life" through the laughter of God that you share with him or her.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Witness to the Unbelievable

This morning I read two passages of scripture:  Mark 9:2-9 and 2 Peter 1:16-19.  The first is the story of the transfiguration; the second is Peter's eye witness account of the transfiguration.
I've never read them back to back like that before, and their pairing was interesting to me. 

The first - the story of the transfiguration - seems so extraordinary that you wonder if its believable. I believe it because its in the Gospel, but it's an unbelieveable story. 

But the second - Peter (or the person who wrote in Peter's name) recounting the experience in his letter? It reinforces the first. The first is extraordinary, but the second strengthens the witness of the first.

I wonder if that is one of the purposes of our witness to the world.  People may hear of something extraordinary - there is a God, and God loves you and me and that person. It's unbelievable. But when we assume the role of witness, stating how we've seen the presence of God, and how God has changed our lives, we make the extraordinary real.  Believable. 

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mute Witness


The flowers.
The teddy bears.
The candles.
Ranged against the fence of the school
Lingering
as a mute witness
to an immense tragedy.

The line where water had been
rising against the house
Into the house
as flood waters raged.
Trees uprooted.
Roads washed out.
The remains
Lingering
as a mute witness
to an immense tragedy.

The small cross
with silk flowers
standing at the side of the road
near the guard rail
marking the place of unexpected death.
Lingering
as a mute witness
to an immense tragedy.

We toss them about
in our minds.
The u-shaped contrail of a 9-11 jet.
The empty chair at dinner.
The broken heart.
Lingering
as a mute witness
to an immense tragedy.

The quote "It lingered as a mute witness to an immense tragedy" is from James Harish's Easter Earthquake and refers to the contrail left by the Challenger space shuttle after it exploded.  

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Monday, April 09, 2018

Fearful of Life


In James Harnish's study, Easter Earthquake, he speaks of M. Scott Peck:

"Peck also discovered that the further we proceed in diminishing our narcissism - our self-centeredness and sense of self-importance - the more we discover ourselves becoming not only less fearful of death, but also less fearful of life....  

There is a connection in that sentence that I've never considered before.  I'm certain there are times, for all of us, when we hesitate to follow Christ because we are afraid.  Are we fearful of life because we are self-centered? That makes sense to me now that it has been pointed out.  Fearful of life because we consdiered ourselves too much - and what we might lose.

He goes on to say:

We begin to experience a sustained kind of happiness we never experienced before, as we become more self-forgetful and hence progressively more able to remember God.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Perspectives - Lent



Praying each of you has had a Lent that has brought you closer to Christ.
Praying each of you has a joyful celebration of the resurrection of Christ on Easter.

I am attending a conference next week and will therefore not be posting. I'll be back the week after that.

Grace,
Kim

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