Tag Archives: blessing

Remembering. Praying. Again.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 12, 2017

prayer stained glass, Balliol College, Oxford

Remembering. Praying. Again.

So much to pray about. So much to break our hearts—not only in the past, on September 11, 2001, but recently, with the natural disasters and devastation of the past few weeks.

At the church where I am pastor (St. Luke’s Christian Community Church in Morton Grove, a suburb of Chicago), I hosted a regularly-scheduled monthly Interfaith Gathering last night, the second Monday of the month. We held an informal time of remembrance of 9/11. And, towards the end of the hour, we also lifted thoughts, hopes and prayers for those who are in the midst of natural disasters right now.

Last night, I read several paragraphs from a contemporary article found in the edition of TIME Magazine, published on September 14, 2001. Just three days after these horrific events. Here are a few sentences: “Terror works like a musical composition, so many instruments, all in tune, playing perfectly together to create their desired effect. Sorrow and horror, and fear. The first plane is just to get our attention. Then, once we are transfixed, the second plane comes and repeats the theme until the blinding coda of smoke and debris crumbles on top of the rescue workers who have gone in to try to save anyone who survived the opening movements. And we watch, speechless, as the sirens, like some awful choir, hour after hour let you know that it is not over yet, wait, there’s more.” [1]

I encouraged people to remember, back to that Tuesday in September 16 years ago, and the aftermath. I invited them to turn to their neighbors, and talk about something that is strongly imprinted on their minds from that time. The heroism of the first responders, the loss of someone dear to you, the trauma of the idea of attack, the unity of many people throughout this country. Whatever was significant, I invited people to share. And, share they did. Such a buzz of conversation, as significant experiences and feelings were shared among this diverse group of people from different faith traditions and different backgrounds.

This is why I continue to host the Interfaith Gatherings. This sharing of our human-ness, our commonality, and what binds us—different individuals from different families and different places on the globe—together. We are all human. We all breathe the same way. Our hearts beat the same way. Our digestive and circulatory systems are the same.

Yet, we all live in this world where such natural calamities happen. Not only that, many of us live in communities where many people are cruel and heartless and thoughtless in their treatment of others. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said when considering Psalm 34:19 and 1 Peter 3:9, “You belong to God in spite of all. It is in this way that we respond to the world that causes us such suffering. We do not forsake it, cast it out, despise or condemn it. Instead, we recall it to God, we give it hope, we lay our hands upon it and say: God’s blessing come upon you; may God renew you; be blessed, you dear God-created world, for you belong to your creator and redeemer.” [2]

In the face of such a time as this, Pastor Bonhoeffer brings words of blessing and hope. What a blessing to anyone who strives to follow God, even through such challenge, difficulty, and sorrow. Even pain and suffering. Thanks to Dietrich Bonhoeffer for his bittersweet words of blessing and encouragement, even while imprisoned by Nazi Germany.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] http://time.com/3313113/if-you-want-to-humble-an-empire/?xid=time_socialflow_twitter&utm_campaign=time&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social  “If You Want To Humble an Empire,” article by Nancy Gibbs, TIME Magazine, September 14, 2001.

[2] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 89.

More Devastation. More Prayers.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, September 8, 2017

Psalm 23-4 though I walk through valley shadow death

More Devastation. More Prayers.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer certainly faced a great deal of devastation in his life, as well as the lives of those he was close to, and the lives of those in the congregations he served.

I suspect he knew well the words of Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” Although that verse was written so long ago by King David, remembering the times when he was so very afraid (yes—afraid for his very life), that verse echoes and re-echoes down the crooked pathways of time. Sometimes through dark and fearsome valleys, sometimes through pelting storms and fiery trials. Yet, King David’s words ring true, for many, many people throughout the ages.

I know those words from Psalm 23, personally as well as professionally. I have pulled them out of my Bible in emergency rooms, in the intensive care unit, in living rooms, even sitting on street corners or in waiting rooms. People have spoken these precious words from Psalm 23 along with me. Other times, people have been too choked up to even utter a word, and silently allowed these words of comfort to wash over them.

Dear Lord, whether in grief, or pain, or anger, or trauma, we hurt. We cry out. We question. We wonder, “WHY?” (And, there is rarely an answer. An answer that satisfies, that is … )

Gracious God, You have said You would be right by our sides, even though we go through those extremely difficult experiences. Even though our parents—or siblings—or spouses—or children die. Even though we lose our homes, or limbs, or jobs, or even countries. Even though we may become refugees or homeless or incarcerated or even suicidal. Dear Lord, You have promised to remain with us. Right by our sides. Perhaps even holding our hands, through the trial or torment.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that “the answer of God to the world that nailed Christ to the cross [was] blessing…. The world would have no hope if this were not so.” [1]

Only a love that extraordinary could possibly encompass my fear and suffering and hopelessness. And, encompass the griefs, pains, angers, traumas, and all of the countless sufferings of all of the rest of the world. God provides hope where there is no hope. God comes alongside when it seems as if there is nothing left. Thank God. Thank God for being there through Hurricane Harvey, and with Hurricanes Irma, José and Katia coming quickly. Dear God, help us. Please.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 89.

More Prayer, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Psa 34-19 brokenhearted, words

More Prayer, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a tumultuous life during the 1930’s and 1940’s, ending with his imprisonment and death by the hand of the Nazis. He had escaped the tumult of Germany for what ended up being only a short respite. Bonhoeffer had been invited to come to the United States to lecture.

As was a habit for him, Bonhoeffer regularly prayed and meditated on a published selection of bible passages, the Herrnhuter Losungen. After reading and praying on a Losung text (2 Tim. 4:21), he felt strongly convicted by the instruction “Do your best to come before winter.” He decided to return to Germany in the summer of 1939.

This sermon on the suffering of the righteous (taken from Psalm 34) Bonhoeffer wrote in 1944, after he had been imprisoned for some time. His writings in prison had much to do with God being present with him—and with others—through adversity. He said, “Blessing means laying one’s hands upon something and saying: You belong to God in spite of it all. It is in this way that we respond to the world that causes us such suffering.” [1]

This is not the way that most people respond to suffering. Bonhoeffer had an intimate relationship with God. I take a step back from his difficult life and look at the upsetting and unfair circumstances. Yet, his deep faith in God brought him through and it showed. I am in awe of relationships like that. Such a deep, thorough understanding of the character of God astounds me. I quake and fear that I might be expected to go through fiery trials similar to what Pastor Dietrich experienced. I know, from even a rudimentary knowledge of church history, that many saints of God were similarly tested and tried.

Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to remain firm in my commitment and relationship to You. Help me love You with my heart, soul, mind and strength. Lead me—lead us to do what is right in Your sight.  In Your mercy, Lord, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 89.

In Which I Serve at a Blue Christmas Service

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, December 14, 2016

blue-christmas-snowflake

In Which I Serve at a Blue Christmas Service

This evening was the Blue Christmas service at my sister church, Epiphany UCC in Chicago. Touching service. So effective, in many ways.

This quiet time in the church happened to occur on one of the coldest evenings that I’ve experienced for a long time. We had a small congregation. I do hope they received a blessing from the service.

It was a challenge to lead worship and to deliver several readings tonight, especially since my father-in-law died on Monday. Yes, I could relate to feelings of grief, fear and anxiety, anger—I could feel them, strongly.

There were two parts in the service that were particularly poignant: candle-lighting, and writing names on ornaments. Any members in the congregation who wished to, could come forward .

So, could we support grieving people? What about people who have lost a dear one? What about people who are overwhelmed by all the rushing of the holidays?  And, refugee families? They all need support and encouragement. i

Dear Lord, gracious God, bless all those who are hurting and grieving this evening. Give them comfort and support. Encourage all who mourn or are hungry or who are overwhelmed. Thank You for walking at our sides, for praying with us, and being Holy Comforter for those in need of comfort. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Blessing, For Ever and Ever

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, October 31, 2015

Autumn my very favorite color - Belle Oliver

Blessing, For Ever and Ever

Blessing. Benediction. Coming to the end of things.

The final section of this Lord’s Prayer division of the book is—fittingly—titled thus. Today’s prayer is from a section called Blessings. The prayer I chose for today from The Oxford Book of Prayer deals with “For Ever and Ever” (Prayer 565, page 171) [1]

The blessing I chose is taken from the Sarum Breviary, one of the main precursors to The Book of Common Prayer as developed and used by the Anglican Church. (I could say more about the Sarum Breviary, but I fear my gentle readers may fall asleep as a result.)

I read some blessings from Scripture. (For example, the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6.) Also, several others that seemed so familiar that I looked on them as somehow less significant. However, this particular blessing spoke to me and moved me so much, I knew it was the one.

“May the eternal God bless and keep us, guard our bodies, save our souls, direct our thoughts, and bring us safe to the heavenly country, our eternal home, where Father, Son and Holy Spirit ever reign, one God for ever and ever.”

I pray this benediction for me and my immediate family. I ask this prayer for all those I love and care for. I humbly petition You, dear Lord, to “bring us safe to the heavenly country.” That is all I ask, for me, my family, and for those I love and care for. Amen, alleluia.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] The Oxford Book of Prayer, edited by George Appleton. (New York: Oxford University Press, reissued 2009), 171.

Thou, Our Everlasting Joy

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, October 26, 2015

JOY today I choose joy

Thou, Our Everlasting Joy

I have difficulty with contemplative kinds of things. My mind is just too active. Last month, when I actually tried to pray using contemplative Centering Prayer, I did pray in that way each day in September. However, I did not have as fruitful a month as I have when I used some other prayer styles.

I chose a smaller portion: a piece of a prayer by E.B. Pusey (1800-1882). It concerns “For Thine Is the Kingdom” (Prayer 499, page 147) [1] The prayer is about Contemplation.

“Thou who hast loved us, make us to love Thee./Thou who hast sought us, make us to seek Thee,/Thou who, when lost, didst find us,/ Be Thou Thyself the way,/That we may find Thee/And be found in Thee,/Our only hope, and our everlasting joy.”

I get the feeling that God is the Lover, the Seeker, the Finder. God initiates. That goes along with my experience, as well as my beliefs.

I freely acknowledge that God is named as my Heavenly Parent several times in both the Old and New Testaments. As such, I (or, in several cases, the nation of Israel) happen to be referred to as a child. Hosea 11 even calls the Lord’s child (Israel) a toddler. And, I understand why. I am okay with that.

Dear Lord, I am so sorry I have such difficulty in contemplation. I can’t do it for very long. I know You have made different people for different things. I just know I have very little skill in contemplating and Centering Prayer.

I know some have found what they are good at! That is great. Bless them. I know I can’t center very easily … but thank You some people can. And, I especially thank You that some of these people find great joy and contentment in their centering and contemplation. Bless them.

Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] The Oxford Book of Prayer, edited by George Appleton. (New York: Oxford University Press, reissued 2009), 147.

In Wonder at the Bishop’s Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, October 6, 2015

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

In Wonder at the Bishop’s Prayer

I love the written word. I love reading books and writings written centuries ago. Alas, I’m afraid I am less than learned, since I only know English (and modern English, at that). Thankfully for me, many of the books, texts and other writings from centuries long ago have been translated into modern English.

Why did this come up? Today’s prayer is about Blessing and Thanksgiving. The prayer I chose for today from The Oxford Book of Prayer concerns ““Hallowed be Thy Name” (Prayer 172, page 64) [1] And, this selection is one of the oldest I’ve come across yet. It’s from the Christian prayer “Bishop Serapion’s Prayer of Oblation,” dated from the 4th century.

I could talk about the background I found out concerning this bishop of Thmuis in lower Egypt, how he was a friend of St. Athanasius, and how he wrote (or, edited) a Prayer Book, or Sacramentarium. (All of which I found fascinating!) However—I want to dive straight into the prayer of Oblation.

Dear “Father of Jesus Christ,” how awe-inspiring to refer to You as “uncreated, unsearchable, ineffable.” These words make me want to hide my face the way Isaiah did in Isaiah 6. (Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts.)

Dear Lord Jesus, “Only Son,” you “proclaim and explain” Your Heavenly Father to us “created beings.”

Oh, yes. I know that I am only Your creation; I know that full well! And, what is the most earth-shaking thing of all? You “seek reconciliation with all men and draw them all to You by sending Your dear Son to visit them.”

Good God. How on earth am I ever to respond to such a gracious and merciful act? Such a loving and generous gift? Dear Lord, You sent Your dear Son to earth—to us—to visit us. Why? To “seek reconciliation.” To draw us from afar, to heal the pain and separation.

Such knowledge is almost too much for me . . . All I can say is “thank You.” And, praise to Your name. Amen, Lord. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] The Oxford Book of Prayer, edited by George Appleton. (New York: Oxford University Press, reissued 2009), 64.