Tag Archives: worship

Professing in Prayer, Together

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, October 8, 2018

LordHearOurPrayer

Professing in Prayer, Together

Yesterday was World Communion Sunday, the first Sunday in October. I love World Communion Sunday. I love bringing elements from all over the world into our Sunday service, and reminding our congregation that people in different places do things in different ways.

Whenever a congregation joins together n worship and prayer, they are a bunch of separate individuals coming together. Even if they have worshiped together for a good amount of time, sometimes certain members of that congregation do not worship well or pray well with others. This reminds me of what Father Nouwen said in today’s short reading. “For in prayer, you profess not only that people are people and God is God, but also that your neighbor is your sister or brother living alongside you.” [1]

How difficult it is to overcome the separation and loneliness of being separate individuals! Of course, idiosyncrasies and differences between people challenge many of us in the neighborly art of getting along. Except, Fr. Nouwen suggests that prayer is the common ground, the place where all can meet.

We all can acknowledge that people are people, and God is God. Then, the following statement that our neighbor—we all know our neighbors, right?—I’ll say it again, our neighbor does live alongside of each of us. Our neighbor is, indeed, our sister and our brother; regardless of what kind of food they eat, where they go to worship, who comes over to their house or apartment, or how old/young/tall/short they are.

What a marvelous example for anyone who reads this short little book. It is filled to the brim with gems like this. We are, indeed, brought to the “painful acknowledgement that [we] are not alone, but that being human means being together.” [2]

Dear Lord, help me realize that I am brothers and sisters with everyone. Help us not only pray like we are one big family, but worship like it, and especially live like it. Help us to live in one big neighborhood (just like Mister Rogers would dream of). This is my earnest prayer. Amen.

@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] With Open Hands: Bring Prayer into Your Life, Henri J. M. Nouwen (United States of America: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 91.

[2] Ibid.

Follow Jesus in Devotion

“Follow Jesus in Devotion”

John 2-16 Jesus-Cleanses-the-Temple

John 2:13-22 (2:17) – March 4, 2018

A few people are really devoted to their house. You know the people I mean. Ones who are extremely meticulous about every little thing, inside and out. And, heaven forbid if someone makes a mess, either in the living room, downstairs in the finished basement, or outside on the patio. Everything has to be “just so,” a real showplace. These folks simply go overboard.

A few people feel like this about their house of worship. Meticulous about the upkeep, they won’t hear a word against the place! And, what goes on inside the building does not mean too much. Everything about the building, the landscaping, and the furnishings is super-important. Talk about going overboard!

This reminds me of the First Commandment, where the Lord tells us not to put anyone or anything first, ahead of God. It seems that some folks might be doing that with their houses or churches or other houses of worship.

Our Scripture reading shows us a situation early on in Jesus’s ministry. where Jesus and several disciples go up to Jerusalem to worship. They make the pilgrimage to worship at the Temple, and—Jesus finds a number of people in and around the Temple who are not focused on God, at all. Instead, some of these people are focused on making money for themselves, and definitely not serving God. Buying and selling of animals for Temple sacrifices, and exchanging regular money for special “Temple money,” the only kind of money suitable for offering to God.

Is it any wonder that Jesus got so upset when He came onto the Temple premises and found this three-ring circus going on in a place that was supposed to be a house of prayer? How could Jesus not get upset? Even, downright angry? Of course He would throw out those people—and their animals and money-changing supplies—who did not belong inside the Temple.

Let’s back up a bit. I want to explain more clearly what the money-changers were doing. Suppose we needed a special kind of money to buy food from the grocery store. Our regular American money—like this—did not work. We all had to go to a special money-changer who was outside of the store to change the regular money for special grocery-store-money. I forgot to tell you. For every ten dollars each of us would give to the money changers, they would keep one dollar, or maybe two, and only give us eight or nine dollars in return. Just imagine how much money they would be making at the end of a single day, not to mention one week, or one month.

Amazing profits! Profits for the money-changers, and I suspect the grocery store would take their cut, too. Except in the case of our Gospel reading today, it was the keepers of the Temple who were taking their cut. And, the money-changers and vendors selling animals and birds would be making a great deal of money, too.

Let’s listen again to what Jesus did: “15 So Jesus made a whip from cords and drove all the animals out of the Temple, both the sheep and the cattle; He overturned the tables of the money-changers and scattered their coins; 16 and He ordered those who sold the pigeons, “Take them out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that the scripture says, “My devotion to your house, O God, burns in me like a fire.”

I know “cleansing of the temple” is the common title for this Gospel reading; that is not really what is going on here. “’Cleansing’ implies something has been cleaned up or changed or reformed. But, in John’s version of the story, Jesus doesn’t appear interested in cleaning up the market system that operated at the Temple, but in doing away with its idolatrous economic infrastructure altogether.” [1]

I will say it plainly. Graft! Corruption! The whole Temple offering and finance operation was crooked and corrupt. Jesus put a stop to it! He really tried to do away with all the idolatrous economic infrastructure—but, I suspect, all the corrupt buying and selling and economic practices all came back eventually, despite Jesus and His anger and devotion to God.

I would like to stress that Jesus did not just get angry for no reason. No! Jesus did not just “lose it” and act out in way he would later regret.  He knew exactly what He was doing and He knew that it would make powerful people very, very angry with Him. However, Jesus still did it. Can we understand Jesus’ actions not so much as wildly angry and out of control, but brave and courageous? [2]

When I choose hymns for the worship services here, I almost always go for hymns with some relation to the Scripture passages or the topic of the morning service. I chose our opening hymn to illustrate this part of the Gospel reading. When we sing the words “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,” this was exactly what I was thinking of. We can ask God for wisdom, courage and bravery to rise up against systems and structures that are not right, not Godly, and not moral.

We can see that our Lord Jesus was devoted to the house of God. Jesus got angry and threw the offending people and all their stuff out of the Temple. Let us call this perverse attitude what it is. Idolatry. For some few or some group of people to put crass profit before the holiness and worship in God’s house is Idolatry, which is the same thing that the First Commandment explicitly tells us about.  Don’t do it!

Across the Atlantic Ocean in the United Kingdom, these two weeks are called Fairtrade Fortnight. Some churches, other houses of worship, and other nonprofit agencies highlight Fair Trade. Fair Trade means fair pay and working conditions for farmers and producers. Fair Trade products are made in safe and healthy working conditions, where farmers and producers receive a fair price and have a voice in how their workplace is run.

This is from a suggested script for a children’s message for the third Sunday of Lent in the Church of Scotland. “Ask the young people if anyone recognises this picture (hold up the Fairtrade logo)? This symbol is as a result of anger.

“People were angry when they realised that the tea and coffee that they were drinking had not been bought at a fair price. That means the farmer who grew the tea, or the workers who picked and sold the coffee beans had been short-changed, and had not been paid enough money to send their children to school or to get enough for their familes to have a good life. And this anger made them take action. Christian Aid and Traidcraft, amongst many others, set up the Fairtrade foundation to ensure that the buying and selling of goods could be done in a different and more just way. Even to this day there are supermarkets who are still trying to short-change hard working communities and farmers.” [3]

I think we are doing what Jesus would do when we support Fair Trade practices, and stop graft, corruption and immoral practices. I think Jesus would want us to keep on taking action to make sure that everyone has enough to flourish and to glorify God by being fully alive.

What an important thing for all of us to strive to do: follow Jesus in devotion. Stop graft and corruption, and encourage everyone to flourish and to glorify God. Amen!

[1] http://jubileejusticeeconomics.blogspot.com/2015/03/jesus-and-international-exchange.html

“Jesus and the International Currency Exchange Traders in the Temple,” Stan Duncan, 2015.

[2] https://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2015/02/year-b-third-sunday-in-lent-march-8-2015_7.html

Worshiping with Children, Lent 3B, Including children in the congregation’s worship, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Carolyn C. Brown, 2015.

[3]   http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/47661/4_March_Wendy_Young_3_in_Lent_formatted.pdf  The Mission and Discipleship Council would like to thank Wendy Young, of Christian Aid, for her thoughts on the third Sunday in Lent.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2018: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!)

Feb 25 Lent 2 Sermon: “Follow, Carry the Cross “ Mark 8:34 @StLukesChurch2 #pastorpreacherprayer  https://wp.me/p5Nfg4-lv

 

Seek After God with Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Psa 27-4 seek the Lord, sky

Seek After God with Psalm 119

Over the years, I have loved reading Psalm 119. Sometimes more than others. I was moved especially with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s commentary on Psalm 119:2, when he went further in depth to discuss seeking God with all one’s heart.  Here’s the translation of Psalm 119:2.

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

A number of references in the Hebrew Scriptures (in Exodus and Nehemiah) concerning decrees, or testimonies, of God are coupled with the “tent” or the “tables” of the testimonies. The tablets speak of the Lord. Yet, the tent and the tablets are not to be worshiped. It is God alone who deserves worship, and we must seek after God. Bonhoeffer suggests that the whole, undivided heart needs to be involved in the seeking of God.

“In the commandments, in acts of worship and prayers, the heart seeks after the One who has given them all….Blessed is the person who keeps the testimonies of God…who seeks God from her whole heart.” [1]

I don’t know who wrote Psalm 119, but the author expressed a wish several times to seek after God (and God’s decrees, statutes and testimonies). I realize that King David was also striving to seek after God. Here’s a verse of his, from Psalm 27:4. “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.”

Regardless of who wrote it, or who suggested it, or in what century the advice was given, it’s still a good idea. Dear Lord, help me—help us—in the seeking of You, beholding Your beauty, and meditating in Your temple. Thank You for Your caring and encouragement.

@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, 103-04.

Pouring Out My Soul to God, and Psalm 42

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, July 23, 2017

Psa 42-3 tears, my food

Pouring Out My Soul to God, and Psalm 42

What do you do when you are all alone? Alone, and heartsick, lonely and soulsick. As Bonhoeffer said when thinking about this psalm, he was all alone. Feeling alone can turn a person inside out with sadness. So, Bonhoeffer poured out his soul to the Lord. And, the Lord came to his aid.

Since he was feeling to lonely and alone, he said “the greater will be my longing for the fellowship of other Christians, for common worship, common prayer and song, praise, thanksgiving and celebration.” [1]

While I appreciate Bonhoeffer’s next suggestion, I don’t go along with it…totally. He stresses that his readers ought not to allow heaviness and disquiet to overwhelm the soul. But, sometimes depression overwhelms a person. People sometimes juggle things like anxiety, loneliness, worry and concern.

I know Jesus tells us some things about how to deal with many negative emotional feelings and psychological tendencies. However—sometimes, life gets too heavy, too overwhelming. We might need a little help from our community. We can use some common understanding and caring. God, not only from our families, our friends, and our communities of faith, but from You. I know I depend on You, dear Lord.

Still, from time to time, I do feel all alone. God, please ground me on You and Your help, Your word, and Your promises. Thank You for listening, dear God.

@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), 57.

Worship and Devotion with Andrew Murray

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, April 27, 2017

worship, definition

Worship and Devotion with Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray was a well-known missionary leader in the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s. Both his mother’s and father’s faith traditions were varied. As he grew and started working in ministry in South Africa, their influence caused Murray to be ecumenical. His influence grew, especially because of his many devotional writings. (Two of which I have read.)

Murray called his readers to a sincere, devout, daily devotion to God. As Murray and his readers worship God regularly, he gives them an analogy. (This was particularly striking to me.) “There is no more wonderful image in nature of the glory of God than we find in the starry heavens…A photographic plate fixed below the telescope will reveal millions of stars which otherwise could never have been seen by the eye…What a lesson for the soul that longs to see the glory of God in His Word. Let your heart be as a photographic plate that waits for God’s glory to be revealed…The plate must be exposed for several hours to receive the full impression of the farthest stars.” [1]

What a marvelous insight. As I am still before God, God will imprint God’s glory—the stars, and whatever wonderful insights and impressions—upon that photographic plate that is my heart. Then, I will be able to more fully appreciate and apprehend God’s magnificent works and ways. Is there any other response to make, other than to hide my face in awe and wonder and sigh, “How great Thou art!”

Further on in the reading, Murray writes these words, requesting our Lord Jesus to teach us to pray. (I cannot understand why he wrote them, since he was so connected to God…but, there it is.)  “Blessed Lord Jesus! O my Lord! You are the Great Intercessor. You alone pray and hear prayer for the sole purpose of glorifying the Father. Teach me to pray at you do.” [2]

Ah, such a request! Even more so, coming from such a man who strove mightily to do the very best he could in service, as well as to evangelism. And, especially in prayer and devotion. Dear Lord, gracious God, teach us to pray with one fraction of the intensity and fervency of Andrew Murray. Please, dear God. Fulfill this earnest prayer. Amen.

@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), 272.

[2] Ibid, 274.

Worship Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, April 24, 2017

worship word cloud

Worship Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Fr. Hopkins was born in England, studied at Oxford, and converted to Catholicism. He became a Jesuit priest, serving as teacher, scholar, preacher and administrator. He was also a poet, and wrote to document and celebrate God’s glories in nature.

Two short poems are included in this excerpt. In the first, Fr. Hopkins talks of grandeur at the beginning: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” “Shining,” “flame out,” “greatness.” This is Hopkins’ starting point. However, things soon get messed up from there. Sadly, “seared…bleared, smeared” come next in the downward procession. “Smudge“ and “smell” are certainly unpleasant words and thoughts.

What kinds of things do these two overarching images mean to you? The first, pleasant and even wondrous. The second word? Irritating, perhaps even weary, come to mind. The poem makes me think of the height, length and breadth of the night sky: showing a number of different kinds of emotions.

And, the complete stanza:
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.” [1]

 

Dear Lord, gracious God, praise to your name. My words are so paltry and poor, they can barely stand on the same page with Fr. Hopkins and his words of grandeur and power. Thank You for poets who write so beautifully. Amen.

@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), 266.

Worship with Charles Wesley’s Hymns

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, April 22, 2017

O for a thousand, words and cross

Worship with Charles Wesley’s Hymns

Ah, Charles Wesley. That great writer of hymns! He and his brother John were also the founders of a renewal group within the Church of England that later became the Methodist denomination.

As a church musician and lover of traditional hymnody, I have loved the Wesleys’ hymns for decades. I was excited to see Charles Wesley figure into this collection of spiritual giants, and excerpts from their writings. I read the complete, additional stanzas that Charles Wesley wrote, on the anniversary of his “second birth.” As I read this oh-so-familiar hymn, I could not but help but sing it as I read. (To the tune of AZMON, of course.)

I knew Wesley had written lots of verses for this hymn, and had even read several more than most hymnals usually print. However, this reading is the most complete I have yet seen.

He begins the first verse with praise to God. (As is perfectly appropriate.) The second verse makes mention of his anniversary! That “glad day the glorious Sun/of righteousness arose; on my benighted soul he shone/and filled it with repose.” [1]

I, too, feel as if my soul is benighted, sometimes. (Even after I know I have a relationship with God.) However, the third verse comes to my aid! “Sudden expired the legal strife,/’twas then I cease to grieve; my second, real, living life/I then began to live.” [2] Here at last I am comforted with the understanding that Jesus has, indeed, paid it all. He has cancelled the legal debt I owed, and set me free. I no longer need to grieve or be afraid.

So, then, I can sing with Christians from all over the world, for centuries, “O for a thousand tongues to sing/my great Redeemer’s praise! The glories of my God and King,/the triumphs of his grace.” [3] Indeed, His blood can make the foulest clean—and I believe Jesus’s blood covers my sins. Praise His name! What a wonderful Savior is Jesus, my Jesus. Amen. Alleluia.

@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), 259.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 260.