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.


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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.


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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


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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.


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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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