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Pocket Prayers: Part Seven

Tuck one of these little prayers or even one word from these Biblical quotes into your purse or pocket and see how it wiggles its way into your life this week. Keep watching for how God makes it real in your life.

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man/woman conceived, that is what God has prepared for those who love him!

Truth sprouts green from the ground, right living pours down from the skies. Ah Yes! God gives goodness and beauty.

God, take the hand of your own favorite child, the child you raised to adulthood. We will never turn our back on you; breathe life into our lungs so we can shout your name.

What God has done for me will never be forgotten…God took one good look at me, and look what happened–I’m the most fortunate woman/man on earth!

And now God, do it again, so those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

If you are truly serious about coming back to God, clean house.

All our praise rises to the One who is strong enough to make you strong.

Reflecting on these verses:
Which verse resonates with you most? Why now?

What word speaks most to you?

Where is God working most in your life? What is it asking of you?

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Christmas: Words and Voices

I sang in a choir this Christmas for the first time in years. I wanted to sing praise to God out of gratitude for God’s presence in my life. After our worship concert last weekend I could hardly speak for all that moved within me from the experience.

I would like to share with you just two of the most precious of my memories–for whatever gift they may be for you.

The first is the words to one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard:

For Him All Stars Have Shone

He is so small the stars bow down

The fierce winds ease their breath,

And careful shepherds look upon

the one unsullied birth.

They kneel and stare while time seems gone

and goodness rules the earth.

The blight on man is all undone,

And there will be no death,

For though this child will be nailed on a cross,

he’ll be so since he is the jewel of untold worth.

For him all stars have shone.

Bob Chilcott, sung by the Colonial Chorale

Oba Ti De: Here Comes the King

The second gift is a recording of a song we sang that not only stunned the audience but the choir as well. This recording is of a different choir, but the feeling is the same. I felt like we were angels singing to the skies. It is an African song, in two African languages, and it is translated as Here Comes The King. I’m including the link to youtube. It’s about 4 minutes long and well worth it.

Jeffrey Ames, sung by the Choral Union.

What moves you about these words, this music?
How does it speak to you of Christmas?

Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed are Those who are Persecuted

 

Verse 10:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NRSV)

 

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you deeper into God’s kingdom. (The Message)

 

Blessed are those who are dislocated for the cause of justice; their new home is the province of the universe. (Aramaic)

 

Who does Jesus commend? Jesus saved for last the ones who side with Heaven even when any fool can see it’s the losing side and all you get for your pain is pain. Looking into the faces of his listeners, he speaks to them directly for the first time. “Blessed are you,” He says. (Frederick Buechner)

 

Reflections on this Beatitude:
Which of the four versions do you most resonate with?
Have you ever been persecuted (or belittled or questioned or mocked or written off) for your commitment to faith or to God?

 

How did it change you?

 

What could you do to “side with Heaven” in your current life, even if it caused you some pain?

What is Church? Why Church? Part VII

 

This week we hear from three women, one in her 30s, one in her 50s and one in her 70s, speak about what church means to them. They all have different denominational church experiences.

The first writer is a Catholic lay-woman, active in congregations throughout her life and interested in the history of the church.

Growing up Catholic, and attending Catholic schools up through my college years, I experienced church as an institution, specifically a Christian organization. I went on to graduate studies and years of work that expanded my view of the world and of the concept of church. To me “church” is a belief system based upon Jesus as the Christ, in contrast to the beliefs that are expressed in the rites of a temple, synagogue or mosque.

Vatican II described the church as “the people of God”, an organization of individuals trying to live the message of the teachings of Jesus. That’s the ideal, but, often hard to see when church officials state that one has to accept dogmas and rules that evolved over the centuries, but have little basis in the teachings or life of Jesus. I frequently have difficulty with the official position of a church, yet I value the opportunity to express my faith, with a group of people who share similar thoughts. I also find the particular rites and ceremonies helpful to sustain my faith.

 

 

The second writer, Tamra Koehler, is in her 50s and has a diverse church background. She uses a poetry form, a French Pantoum, to express three experiences of church in her life.

Why Church – Age 14

Mysterious connection with God, not about the people

Spirit leading me, age 14, family stopped attending

Sat in third pew, liked sitting alone, peaceful

Communion was sacred to me

 

Spirit leading me, age 14, family stopped attending

Walked eight blocks even in the cold snowy days

Communion was sacred to me

The right thing to do in a family of chaos

 

Walked eight blocks even in the cold snowy days

Sat in the third pew, liked sitting alone, peaceful

The right thing to do in a family of chaos

Mysterious connection with God, not about the people

 

Why Church – Age 35

Holy Spirit in this place

Voice, there is something here for you

Small group, interior journaling focused

Encountered women on a spiritual journey

 

Voice, there is something here for you

Silence, intimate encounter, prayer chapel

Encountered women on a spiritual journey

Pastor encouraged me to get a Spiritual Director

 

Silence, intimate encounter, prayer chapel

Small group, interior journaling focus

Pastor encouraged me to get a Spiritual Director

Holy Spirit in this place

 

Why Church – Age 51

Not a building, living in me

Fresh presence, in the moment

Intentional, vulnerable, deepening

Love relationship with God

 

Fresh Presence, in the moment

Communion is sweet

Love relationship with God

Silence, listening, trusting

 

Communion is sweet

intentional, vulnerable, deepening

Silence, listening, trusting

Not a building, living in me

 

The third writer, Julie Bringman, is in her 30s and is attending a Protestant seminary, discerning what her future will be in the church.

 

What is Church – Why Church

I am a woman in my early 30s, a life-long member of the church, who has worked in ministry most of my adult life, and is currently in seminary for formal ministry training with the ELCA-Lutheran Church.

 

Stand, sing, sit, sermon, shake hands

At its most basic, Church is the place where we gather on Sunday mornings to do some stuff that people have been doing for generations.  While it can often feel rote or devoid of meaning, it can also be deeply comforting to know that generations of people, since the time of Jesus, have done similar things to connect with God, connect with each other and remember our shared story.

 

Christ present, bread wine, every week

Church is a place where we are assured that Christ is present – and we get tangible, ritual assurance of this in the Communion elements of bread and wine.

 

I believe, Lord, help my unbelief

Unfortunately, many people think Church is a place for people who believe or who are confident and secure.  I love this quote from Mark 9:24 where a father, desperate for Jesus to save his sick child, professes belief and unbelief in the same breath.  Church is a place where our belief and unbelief can walk side-by-side.

 

Stability, security while wrestling with God

In times when I have been so worn down and unsure of what God means in the world and in my life, being a part of the church (a community of people who are called to follow God together) has helped me trust the belief of others.  When I cannot pray, I take great comfort that others are praying for me.  When my worship feels insincere, I am grateful to be surrounded by the singing of others.  When I cannot feel God’s loving embrace, I welcome the hugs and comfort of those who do know God’s love.

 

Knowing God, others, self more fully.

I find this phrase in much of my writing and talking about church.  Church is a place where we can get to know God, others and ourselves more fully.  Church is a place where all of these things happen simultaneously and buttress each other up stronger.  As I get to know God more fully, I know myself fully as a beloved creation God has made.  As I get to know others more fully, I know the Triune God-who-is-community more.  Each deepening reflects and inspires the others.

 

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