Tag Archives: in Your mercy

Prayer, Vengeance and Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, August 14, 2017

Psa 58-1, words

Prayer, Vengeance and Psalm 58

This sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer was written in 1937, just as the Gestapo were “tightening the net” around those ministers and seminary professors who protested against the Nazi regime in Germany. More than 800 of these members of the Confessing Church had been either imprisoned or taken under house arrest—for the “crime” of protesting against the regime. One example: a former seminarian at the secret seminary of Finkenwalde was arrested, and had “Evangelical Pastor” as his “crime,” written above the door of his cell.

The seminary at Finkenwalde was forcibly closed by the Gestapo in September 1937. Bonhoeffer wrote this sermon in response. (It was two more years before he actively joined the underground Resistance movement.) [1]

Sadly, how timely that this reading should be set for this time, next in the book. Given the horrors that happened this past weekend in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia with white supremacists and neo-Nazis openly marching and carrying swastikas and Nazi flags…

Bonhoeffer opens his sermon with a complete reading of Psalm 58, and then asks: “Is this fearful psalm of vengeance to be our prayer? May we pray in this way? Certainly not!” [2] No, Herr Pastor Bonhoeffer decries the sin that inhabits all of us. Our personal sin, “our spiritual indolence, our open or hidden disobedience.” [3]

Just as a good Lutheran pastor ought, Bonhoeffer reminds us of our personal guilt, and where each of us falls short. He follows this declaration with the crystal-clear fact that none of us is guilt-free, and none of us is truly able to pray this psalm. (As much as we may want to.)

True, we may desperately want to pray this imprecatory psalm, and especially those who were directly impacted by the horrific events in Virginia. Yet, Bonhoeffer says “No, we cannot pray this psalm. Not because we are too good for it (what a superficial idea, what colossal pride!), but because we are too sinful, too evil for it!” [4]

Dear Lord, deliver me—deliver us from the great sin of colossal pride. Reveal all the ways in which I have fallen short, and help me to amend my ways. Turn my thoughts to You, and lead me in the way everlasting. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 73-74.

[2] Ibid, 75.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. 76.

A Funeral and Psalm 90

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Psa 90-1 our dwelling place, words

A Funeral and Psalm 90

Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached at his grandmother’s funeral. (Such a sad occasion.) Bonhoeffer must have been a person of strong constitution to preach a heartfelt sermon like this. Moreover, judging from what he said, his grandmother (Frau Julie Bonhoeffer) was quite a strong person, as well.

The text for this funeral sermon was Psalm 90, an appropriate text, to be sure: “Lord, You have been our refuge from one generation to another.” This psalm has been a comfort and an encouragement to many, many people over the centuries.

Bonhoeffer was so grateful and thankful for the last days his grandmother had with her family. He talked about the final time at some length, and how aware she was until her last moments.

It makes me think of the deaths of several people I knew who died recently: full lives, touching farewells; all the way around, lives well-lived. He adds about his grandmother, “she held fast in her sickness, too; resigning herself to the will of God, bearing what was laid upon her, looking steadily and clearly at reality, doing whatever was required, quietly and without complaint, accepting what could not be helped.” [1]

What an attitude to have as she exited this life.

“Satisfy us by Your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us and the years in which we suffered adversity.”

Dear 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

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 69.

Study and George MacDonald

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, March 14, 2017

bible, study

Study and George MacDonald

In the feeding of the 4000, Jesus did a big miracle. The miracle was multi-faceted. In this reading from our book today, George MacDonald not only explains the miracle but also unpacks the surrounding verses.

Sometimes I feel like the disciples. What part of Jesus’s words and actions do I not understand? (I know. A big part.)

A chunk of MacDonald’s commentary on this passage particularly struck me: the section where Jesus and the disciples talk about leaven. Yet again, the disciples do not understand. As MacDonald suggests to his readers, Jesus wanted them—and us—to learn from the experience. So many instances can be found in those teachings, as well as the actions of Jesus. A huge object lesson, if we consider it that way, and MacDonald lifts it up for us to learn.

Let’s set the stage. In the aftermath of the huge extravaganza of the day (for that was what the miracle of feeding had quickly become), Jesus and His disciples withdraw to a boat. In other words, they have a getaway car ready and waiting.

Jesus warns about “the leaven of the Pharisees.” His disciples have only a foggy idea of what He might be referring to. Their thinking is primarily concerned with their stomachs and what could possibly concern their day-to-day living.  (Oh, Jesus must be talking about how we didn’t bring any bread out to the boat for this trip.) Yet—are we any better? Do I have the same weaknesses of faith as the disciples?

Penetrating questions, and some particularly thought-provoking ones in MacDonald’s teaching on the feeding, too. Dear Lord, help me to glean information from George MacDonald, too. 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.

Prayers, Interpreted by The Cloud

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, March 7, 2017

cloud of unknowing, quote

Prayers, Interpreted by The Cloud

I have read a number of books on prayer, and I even have The Cloud of Unknowing on my bookshelf. Alas, I have not gotten around to it yet. That book is still on my list of books that I plan on reading. Someday.

Perhaps I will move this book up on the long list. It is certainly intriguing, from the little bits I have just read.

I especially focused on “How and Why Their Short Prayer Pierces Heaven.” Forceful, indeed. Here is a sample: “The eternity of God is his length; his love irs his breadth; his power is his height, and his wisdom is his depth. No wonder, then, that the soul which is so nearly conformed by grace to the image and likeness of God his maker is immediately heard by God.” [1]

Our author waxes eloquent about the Apostle Paul, and how he describes with great economy the practice of prayer. “As Saint Paul teaches; not fully, but in some way and to some degree, as is proper to this work.” [2]

Somehow, I have lost the elegance of certain types of prayer, over time. I would rather pray in plainspoken, straightforward language, rather than in fancy, ornate words, like spun glass or with delicate silks and threads. Even when urging the reader to confess sins, the author still comes across in a winsome, pleasing way.

Dear Lord, let my heart—all of our hearts—be softened and even tenderized by Your gracious hand. Come alongside of us, just as the author of The Cloud persistently watches and gives us pointers and encourages those who are trying with all their heart to pray. 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.

[1] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 45.

[2] Ibid.

Praying Like Father Louf

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, March 5, 2017

la-musique-lute

Praying Like Father Louf

Amazing man of prayer, Father Louf. Comes from the Catholic faith stream, Belgian by birth, from a Cistercian community. He wrote a short book, Teach Us to Pray: Learning a Little about God. In this compilation, Richard Foster makes a judicious selection from Fr. Loef’s writing.

Is Praying Difficult? Ah. If you ask ten different people that question, you will probably receive ten different answers to that exact same question. Let’s allow Fr. Loef to give an illustration: “The lute-player bends over his instrument …. The lute has turned into music; and the man who strums upon it is taken out of himself, for the music is soft and entrancing…. The lute is his heart, the strings of which are the inward senses. To get the strings vibrating and the lute playing he needs a plectrum, in this case: the recollection of God, the Name of Jesus, the Word.” [1]

If I tried to explain exactly why prayer can be difficult, I would probably get my tongue all tied up in knots. But, Fr. Louf was able to describe this illustration in a vivid word picture. The strings of the heart are strummed in prayer. And, this illustration works on many levels. “You need only … persevere in the Word and in your heart, watching and praying. There is no other way of learning how to pray.” [2]

This coming alongside of each other is truly a remarkable way to get our hearts to be awakened. “That Word has been turned over and over in our heart. It has purified us, cleansed us, and we have grown familiar with it.” [3]

Just so. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, continue to show us how to pray and meditate in Your word.

@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] Spiritual Classics, edited by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin. (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000), 31-32.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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

We All Can Use Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, November 18, 2016

kyrie-notes

We All Can Use Prayer

Know the experience of having a seriously ill loved one in the hospital? Yeah, me, too.

I am in that exact position, right now. An elderly relative is in hospice care right now. Yes, it is sad. Came into town a few weeks ago, and did not look good then. After a trip to the hospital, and a stint in rehab, back to the hospital five days ago. And just three days ago, in hospice. The situation has been changed (Upgraded? Downgraded?) to terminal.

All of which is relatively fast, for a time frame. (I ought to know, since as a former chaplain, I have some familiarity with hospitals. Not as much as some, of course, but I have more than a nodding acquaintance.)

Yes, it is different when it’s my loved one in the hospital. Except, it isn’t. Not really. Almost like I did in the hospital with a family in ICU with a patient who was actively dying. Except for my family, it’s like I’m on 24-hour call just in case, with my ears wide open for any notice or call.

I still pray for the situation, and for the medical staff, and for the family and loved ones. I still am concerned for all of the long-distance friends. (Except, in this case, I am intimately acquainted with all of those concerned.) I still am there for others, whether they want to talk, or just have me be there, with them.

I repeat—it is incredibly sad.

Let us pray. Dear God, who holds the universe in the span of Your hand, You hold each of us in that same loving hand. We come before You with a multitude of hurts, of fears and anxieties, of pains and aches and untenable situations. We unload them here before You, dear God. Dear Holy Comforter, we ask that You come alongside of all those who grieve, who mourn, and who are hurting. Dear Heavenly Physician, we pray You may assist all those under the care of medical personnel. And, please—God—be with my loved ones as they gather together. I pray for the hands that touch that dear loved one—help all the hands to be loving, caring, thorough, and knowledgeable. Lastly, dear God, be with me. Help me to be there (in Your presence) for others as much as I am for myself. Dear 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