Thursday, May 24, 2018

Perspectives: Believe it

When I posted this image in Instagram (or maybe Facebook), I received a comment asking how I had taken the picture.  When I said that the reflection was the top of my car, the person asking the question didn't believe me.

The truth is sometimes fantastical, hard to believe, harder still to accept.

You are loved by the creator of the universe.  Not loved from a distance, but loved "up close."

Hard to believe. Even harder to accept.  But believe it; it is truth.

The summer begins, and the blog schedule will adapt to the summertime, I expect to only post four times a week instead of five, taking Friday off.  Posting might be sketchy in the next couple of weeks - Memorial Day and Annual Conference are coming, but I'll see what I can do. Thank you for reading.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Volume of our Actions

I'm reading a book by Henri Nouwen called The Return of the Prodigal Son. I just started it yesterday, so I'm still in the Introduction.

Nouwen spent a year trying to discern if he should leave the work he was doing with university students, and move to a community called L'Arche: a place that "offers a home to people with mental handicaps." His discernment told him that, yes, this is what God was calling him to do. Even so, as he made the move, he faced it with trepidation.  He wrote, "I knew even less about announcing the Gospel of Jesus to people who listened more with their hearts than with their minds, and who were far more sensitive to what I lived that to what I said."

As I read that and stopped, struck by the words. I see what he's saying, but I think it is more widely applicable that L'Arche.  

We may think we listen with our minds, but don't you think we listen with our hearts? Even when we don't admit it? Aren't we all more sensitive to how others live than we are to what they say?

And, as a corollary, as we work to reach people with the light of Christ, don't we need to remember that what we say, while it can be important, isn't all that people hear? They hear (as they watch us) what we do. They "hear" how we treat other people - even as we say we love them.

Hypocrisy negates our words of faith because it speaks so loudly. 

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Morning Prayer

One Sunday in April, I led the morning prayer at JM:

Creating God, sustaining God, loving God, we come before you in worship and prayer this morning, thankful that we are sheep in your flock, thankful that you are our shepherd.

We confess that we need your guidance and direction and that so often we ignore it.

We confess that there are those among us and around us who are hungry, suffering, and oppressed, and we do nothing to ease their pain.

We confess that we know the world needs to see you, to hear you, to know you, and that we do not act as your light in the world.

Forgive us, o God, for we have failed to be an obedient church. We are in need of your grace.

This morning, we ask that your abundant and life-giving grace surround us and fill this, your church, with your light.

There are those among us who are sick today. We lift their names to you in our minds and hearts and ask for your healing touch for them.

There are those among us who are lonely, sad, or afraid. We pray for their comfort.

We lift this community in prayer today, and ask you to show us how to be a force for change. Give us the courage and strength to try to change our world.

We pray for your world, and for all those who lead it.
We pray for your world, and for all those who inhabit it.
We pray for your world, that we would care for it.

This morning we thank you for those who have come before us, who have heard your call and who have obeyed. We thank you for the legacy they have left for us – this church, this community.

We thank you for those who hear your call today, and who follow you. Open all of our hearts and minds so that we will hear you calling, too.

We thank you for ministries you have inspired that seek to do your work in the world.

We thank you for this church – for all of the ways it acts as your hands and feet in ministry.

And as we worship together this morning, we ask that you would be in our song, in our prayers, in our praise so that when we leave here today, we will know that we carry you with us, through our lives, into the world. May we be of service to you this week.

We ask all of this in the name of your son, whose prayer we pray today as one.

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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.


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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