#Christianity, you keep saying that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means

1. Christianity to me isn’t about finding all the answers, but asking the essential questions (look at the Gospel its people asking Christ ?s and Christ asking people ?s) gathering together and acknowledging that God is bigger and greater than our understanding of things, and we’d rather see thing more God’s way than our own way, because our way is too small

2. Church is a the practice of community and worship so that when moments of extreme trouble come, you have a healthy way to bring them to God and process them. (Like fire drills). Every week isn’t revolutionary but every week is important.

3. Church is about community, there are few places where we commit to practice community with whoever comes thru the door Church is a practicum in faith just as its a place to explore spirituality.

4. Prayer is the ongoing conversation between you and God. As it is an ongoing, unique and individual conversation, my job as pastor is to act as mentor, guide and/or teacher. Where you are with God is based upon who you are, that’s why relationships with God can change a person because the two are so intertwined. This is why mature Christianity is (w)holistic Christianity. The kind where the Bible doesn’t necessarily tell you how to vote, but you have an evolved understanding of learning what God’s purpose is for the world and you apply that purpose wherever you are and as much as possible.

5. Faith is about seeking out relationships with God, people and the world. Loving things into a more real, truthful and essential existence than what they have before that love. Its not about controlling another person, quite the opposite, its freeing them to be who they are.

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Many Waters, #love, #lament Psalm 69

Recently the curator of the achurchforstarvingartists spoke at our Presbytery Retreat, to discuss counter-intuitive thinking for ministry.

Last Week the Psalms of Praise lead to thinking about the position of kneeling/servanthood as how we will ultimately be kneeling to Christ in order to be next to him, for that is obviously the position he will be taking in the 2nd coming (as opposed to a more victorious, glory-to-God-fear-inducing or otherwise judgy-type-stance)

So it makes an odd kind of sense, to me at least, that this week’s Psalm of Lament would induce and encourage the opposite position, the one of standing up and shouting.

Psalm 69 and Matthew 7 both encourage bringing our troubles to God. Not skulking or hiding them, not muttering them under our breath, but full out yelling. Standing up and crying out to God, Saying the words Hosanna! Save us! Save me! ” Save me, O God,
   for the waters have come up to my neck.” “I have come into deep waters,
   and the flood sweeps over me.”

Lament is a unique feeling it is somewhere between mourning and anger.

It is the energy of loss.

Lament is important, because when we do not name loss it consumes us. Madeline L’engle describes it in her book The Wrinkle in Time as being Xed. The nothingness, the loss of love and feeling of powerlessness starts to erase personhood. It makes your feelings look like *just nothing.*

Quotation-Madeleine-L-Engle-people-Meetville-Quotes-185385

If you’ve ever had a conversation with a loved one who makes a claim about what is bothering them, and you state that its *nothing* you might have opened a can of worms, because that *nothing* value you assign to the problem might make the person feel like their problem is *nothing* because they are *nothing.* This is a dangerous write off of others’ experiences and feelings, furthering the Xing process.

Lament can be different from just anger or mourning, because it is the energy behind naming and crying out for that which is a part of being human–for love, for laughter, for companionship, for safety and stability and beauty.

“But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
   At an acceptable time, O God,
   in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.”

For the right to make mistakes and to seek forgiveness, for the right to call out the heirachical and bigotted structures that make one feel unsafe, from the fact that women are interupted for speaking during CEO meetings (and men aren’t), to the fact that young African-Americans are seen as more suspicious than young Caucasians, its the facts that Transsexual people cannot feel safe in either men nor women’s bathrooms, its the fact that sexual abuse is insufficiently prevented and addressed, its in the fact that some children go to bed hungry at night, the fact that some people have daily painful realities to deal with in violence or addiction or physical ailments or mental illness. It is the fact that life is not fair, and who has not lamented that one true fact?

God does not want us to paste our smiles on and live our life ignoring its problems. God acknowledges there is real and harmful evil in the world, real difficulties that are a part of everyday life and that fact means that lament is a necessary part of our existence.

Lament is the deep mourning for those things that the soul needs to survive and thrive. It is for that reason that standing up and naming what is going out, and calling on God for it, can be a creative and healing act.

Whenever there is anger in a system, be it a church or a school or the government, that means there is energy, and when named and processed that energy can be used for change. Love

Lament is a just form of prayer, and one which the church too often forgets or glosses over, but God invites you to pray, reminding us that when our children ask for bread, we do not give them snakes. We give them bread (or even sometimes cupcakes) How much more will God Give us.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7


Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.

P.S. Might I recommend Madeline L’engle’s less known books “Many Waters” (about Noah and the twins) and “An Acceptable Time” (about time travel and the role of evil) ….as you guess the names are from scripture 🙂

God, Stooping, Kneeling and Praise Ps 113 Narrative Lectionary

One of the most common themes in the Bible is the proclamation that EVERY knee shall bow to Jesus Christ. I like this because I feel it contains within it the POSSIBILITY for universal salvation. This is a tricky thing, because if Jesus is our only salvation, then its difficult then to go and state that Every knee shall bow to God. However, this is my faith in God’s everlasting love and salvation, and what is great about this proclaimation is that its EVERYWHERE in the bible from Isaiah 45:23 to Romans 14:11 to Phil 2:10-11

5Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8   he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.


9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

During my oral examination for ordination, I got asked about this phrase in my statement of faith, for I stated that I whole heartedly believed that someday every knee shall bow to Christ, every tongue confess him Lord.

I got asked if I was a universalist (that means that everyone will be saved no matter what which makes religion and even the need to do good irrelevant to some people), and I cheekily answered that the Bible says this to be true in both the New and Old Testament. I had no clue as to how God will put this mighty and impossible work into being, but I believed that the Bible was telling the truth, and if you viewed that verse to be universalist than Jesus and the prophets must have been universalists. This got me a laugh.

So, when I was looking at Psalm 113, a Psalm that names God and praises God as the one who stoops, a thought occurred to me….

When if at the end of the world, every knee shall bow, because that is the position Christ will be in? Christ who emptied himself, Christ who humbled (knelt/stooped) to be on earth

What if Christ comes, as always, to serve the world the actual physical position of servanthood, stooping and crouching to serve, and what if we all get on our knees to serve with her?

Maybe that is why it is couched with all the words about NOT judging each other in the New Testament, something that would definitely would have been better understood after Christ’s physical incarnation than before…..

Is it so hard to believe that Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to Christ not because of the mighty thunder and lightening of the end of the world, but because God is serving and listens to what it is we have to say and invites us to assume the same position? We are conquered by God’s graciousness and are finally able to embody it…

Psalm 113


1 Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.


2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
4 The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.


5 Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
6 who stoops to look
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

What is true #christian #forgiveness in an #abuse situation?

These notes are from my Albany area’s Christian Response to Sexual Abuse–all typos are my own… and make sense of what Justice is in a more mature way than demanding forgiveness in (any kind) of power abuse situation. I’ve had a colleague use this material for financial abuse as well.

Also, as one colleague noted, each person experiences abuse differently and heals differently, this is one way to think about the complex process that is healing. But here are some deeper theological thoughts than “we should just forgive the abuser and show grace” in difficult situations

The Elements of Justice-Making
Truth-telling: giving voice to the reality of the abuses (from the victim’s point of view)
Acknowledging the Violation: hear, name and condemn the wrong doing (by the governing body of the victim)
Compassion : Listen and suffer with the victim (Consider having an advocate for the victim)
Protecting the vulnerable: Take steps to prevent further abuse to the victim and others (removal from position, how can they have it at this time?)
Accountability: Confront the abuser of trust, and impose discipline (negative consequences) this step makes repentance possible
Restitution : Make symbolic/real restoration of what was lost; give a tangible means to acknowledge the wrongfulness of the abuse and the harm done and to bring about healing. The restitution must be freely given and of significant value to show repentance wanting to make right.
Vindication: set the victim free from the suffering caused by the abuse when justice has been done.

THERE CAN BE NO HEALING WITHOUT JUSTICE-MAKING
FORGIVENESS, REPENTANCE & RECONCILIATION
If your Sibling wrongs you, reprove him/her, if he/she repents forgive them. Even if one wrongs you seven times and comes back to you seven times saying, “I Am sorry” you are to forgive him/her. Luke 17:1-4
Forgiveness within a relationship is not a matter of forgetting the experience, nor is it a matter of saying that the behavior was acceptable. When a person whom one has trusted takes advantage of his/her position, it is usually a traumatic experience, not one that is easily forgotten. In the bounds of sacred trust, that behavior is unethical.
For the victim, forgiveness is not unconditional we are not God. (We can believe  and try to put into practice God’s universal ability to forgive)
The preconditions for forgiveness are
The Victim(s) must have experienced sufficient justice
The Victim(s) must be empowered through God’s grace
The Victim(s) must have experienced sufficient healing to be able to let go of the anger and pain
Without these conditions, forgiveness will not be authentic—it will be an attempt to or an effort to forgive. The victim must experience sufficient justice, grace & healing to be able t let go of his/her anger at the abuser.

For the abuser: Repentance= not merely confession, apology or intention not to repeat an offense
Repentance means to turn around to change one’s behavior and/or one’s life so that one will never repeat the offense. As the scripture passage makes clear, the victim(s) obligation to forgive is dependent upon the abuser’s repentance.
True Repentance : Signs
The abuser takes steps necessary for justice-making to make amends for the abuse: (see above)
The abuser identifies the beliefs & attitudes that lie behind the abusive behavior and finds ethical ways of rejecting those beliefs & attitudes
The abuser becomes aware of the needs that lie behind the abusive behavior and finds ethical ways of meeting those needs
The abuser identifies the conditions that allowed the abuse to happen, and changes the conditions to prevent future abuse
RECONCILIATION is restoring of the right relationship between the abuser and his/her church. IT involves restoring the trust that was violated and restoring the broken relationship on new terms.

(Note: my instinct is that since our God is a justice-making God, Forgiveness for God is universal, but I have not been able to fully think out this theology yet)

Good NEWS and extroverting

Nextchurch2015

We are listening to the immeasurable Diana Butler Bass who is greatly illustrating her theories on church and culture, when the news breaks on twitter a little before 7:30 (she started at 7).

Its a amazing, its wonderful.

I text the news to my parents.

I can’t believe it.

Twitter is going crazy.

The real question is Can we interrupt Diana Butler Bass?

7:28 pm @miheekimkort suggests “@revJohnRussell at 7:30 lets stand up and scream”

I tweet @bookkats “Feel the pcusa urge to stand up and proclaim the good news even tho its rude to interrupt awesome DBB” at about the same time

I wait for 7:30, sure someone will do it…

THREE agonizing Holy Spirit Bubbling minutes later (7:31) I realize no one has….

Then she talked about the fourth awakening, and its true realization (as in any realization) is when social justice comes into play, so I’m like “Ok, and now she’s talking social justice. Holy Spirit help my extrovert.”

I am totally bursting with the news. This is good news! This is my job to tell good news, and I have REALLY GOOD NEWS, and texting my parents isn’t going to do it!

@jledmiston says Can someone ask Q@dianabutlerbass for a brief space to acknowledg the PCUSA’s big news?

We were awaiting authority, in Nextchurch, which I love to define as the organic and hands on ideas of what is next for the church …irony….

So I’m like, maybe a quiet way is better (I guess I’m getting better at practicing some restraint) I Tweet “Stand up and hold up your phone maybe?”

This is the time, I realize, Diana Butler Bass is talking about the no going back change, the revival at the point ofsocial justice: what a moment to tell the news!

Meanwhile I hear rustle, rustle, rustle, everyone is looking at their phones

@mollyfid nails it on the head “Y’all, I”m about to Burst! UNfreeze yourselves presbys! Surely DBB will pause for a cheer”

Then I realize…I’m in the balcony, I’m in the first row. This is totally not awkward (I mean heck I’d love to do it from the most awkward and silliest position ever)….I’m the extrovert.

Oh my God….its me…I’m the one who is called into this place at this time to do this….its me, and I’m going to LOVE it

I stand up and (rather timidly) raise my hand. “Excuse me Diana….Sorry to interrupt, but we are just bursting here. We just passed 14F, all people can marry”

And I see it……from the balcony, everyone stands up and hugs and cheers in an almost disordered fashion….

It was beautiful, it was holy

my sister is trans…

I burst into tears

Diana Butler Bass asked my name and then said “The Episcopalians welcome you” 🙂

The amazing moment when God uses my no-hold-barred extroverted self who happened to sit in the front of the balcony at that moment…on the day when Brian preached about acceptance in the morning in the evening where the Presbyterian Light people were already planning their reception.

What do you call that but holy?

Holy

And then, we listened as best we can to Diana, hearing all the better her critiques because we were in a better place as church (claim the entire denom has failed, no problem : )

And then, we went and did church! The planned 80 people who went to the Presby Light reception were way…way…more….

Too many Presbyterians, after a long day, did church that night at a bar.

We have become a fuller church, how can we include people next, is Belhar Confession around the corner?

We did church, then and there with loud music and too many Presbyterians and drinks and food…

And we told each other the good news.

Amen. Alleluia

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#churches and #family the Socio-economics of #churchattendance

Warning: this will be rant-ish.

Know how churches don’t like that families and church no longer come first? How it is hard to get the typical family to church more than once a month?

The socio-economics of the situation are tricky, with little national health care and extremely expensive daycare it is difficult to have the time/money to invest in church. Either you are a stay at home mother/father with no extra funds or time or your one of two full time working parents who don’t have enough time to see your children and take them to all the extra-curriculars they “should” be doing.

The socio-economics are crazy, because most people can’t work a regular 9-5 job and are in and out of the house at crazy times working crazy hours.

Plus who knows if you’ll have that job or even be able to live in that city in 1 or 2 or 3 years from now.

Not to mention that most young families can barely afford to have a house or to not put in crazy extra hours or to work multiple jobs including babysitting or whatever other odd jobs they can find.

This is the reality.

So…understand, when churches do not support their staff taking care of their family. Whether it be to go to a family funeral, take care of a personal illness or to take maternity/paternity leave, that we are contributing to the very socio-economic problem we complain about day in and day out. Families who cannot take the time to take care of one another, who have to work instead of putting their family first, will have trouble making it to church.

Pastors are one of such staff…pastors are always on call, do not work 9-5, oft have to make meetings that cause delays of or missing of putting their children to bed. The hours are haphazardly put together depending on the congregation’s needs. Its a flexible job in some ways and very stringent in others.

Some typical (although not absolute) examples: if someone is ill, dying or in extremis you must be there…you may take sick days…as long as they are never when you are scheduled to preach

I know churches can ill-afford pastors, maybe its time to borrow other pastors, pay the choir director a little more or use a lay leader. Maybe its time to do a daily prayer service instead of a formal “traditional” service.

But if we can ill-afford pastors we absolutely CANNOT afford to not take care of those in need in our church…Think about that for a minute…the church claiming they can’t afford to take care of children and ill-ones…..

Thus: We can’t say we want more families to come to church–and then not support our families.  We can’t claim to be choosing God’s path and then not take care of our sick and our little ones.

(feel free to read paragraph above a couple of times)

Do we need an act of Congress to do the right thing?

I think we can do better.

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Naked as the day you were born: Job 1:13-22

For Job becoming Naked as the day he was born means loss. Loss of status, loss of goods, loss of food and security

Loss of family<–that one really gets me

Loss of respect, Loss of manhood (esp. in that culture), loss of legacy, loss of history.

and Job says “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.[c]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

i.e. naked as the day he was born. An oft heard expression. Here Job acknowledges that those things that he claimed, his wealth, his house, even his family were not actually secure. For security is actually in God.

We have experienced this in the financial crises, when all the “security” in our money went down the drain. We experienced this at 9/11 when we realized that terrorism can strike anyone at any time. We realize this when a family member experiences disease or struggle, such as cancer (or perhaps even more difficult addiction or mental illness). Why? Because none of these things were really secure to begin with. What is actually secure is God, and Job is able to acknowledge this.

The other oft quote passage from this is “the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away” (KJV sounds so much more authoritative doesn’t it)

Here is where I think Job gets it wrong. Because its not God who is taking all these things away….

Its evil. Whether it be Satan or the challenger, evil is what is taking things from Job, NOT God.job07a job08

 

What I find interesting about this interchange is that it is easier for people to believe in evil than good. I have met many people who have all kinds of beliefs, who are far more able to believe in Evil and evil forces than in God or good forces.

But (as my son pointed out this morning) the Devil can’t take God from Job<–from the lips of a child.

So, here is the question. Why is it easier to believe in evil than good? Why is it easier to believe that it is God who is angry or vengeful than to believe in a fully good and loving God who makes good things happen even admidst the bad.

After all, As it is so well stated in Dr. Who…the good things don’t negate the bad, but GOOD things can happen in the midst of bad! The Bad things don’t have to ruin the good ones.

So here is the question, why is it easier to believe in evil than good?
And what does that mean? Where does that put us. I can’t believe that there isn’t good and purpose for humanity. Honestly, my mind can’t even get around it. Good is stronger than evil, and I, ultimately, believe in Good. The Good of our Loving God.

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Job Ch 1: “What a Setup” or Biblical Fairy Tale

The beginning of Job is a total setup.

Once Upon a Time there’s Job: upright and blameless was he. Job was one who had plenty of sons and not too many daughters–sons whose hospitality was great (they really knew how to party people into the kingdom), and they hosted their sisters often.

Job’s hospitality was even greater, making sacrifices and worshipping on his children’s behalf, praying for them, asking for forgiveness if ever they wronged God (because Job admits he may not have been the perfect parent)

God and all the heavenly beings gathered together, and God asks Satan (otherwise known as the accuser/challenger) what he had been up to…

“The usual” Satan answers “Wondering around, looking at earth and earthlings?”

“Oh, did you notice my servant Job?” asks God.”Because he’s pretty much everything I could hope for, upright, honest and true (i.e. he fears God and turns away from evil)

“Why” asks Satan, “You know he only likes you because you take such good care of him, he is well blessed, he has every reason to be good. If you ruined him, all that would change”

“hmmm….” God says, “We shall see…tell you what do what you want to Job’s family, friends and possessions, as long as you leave Job alone, you can do what you want….”

Job is sure set up here. First he is set up to have everything, and then its what’s the phrase? “too good to be true” he is almost “too blessed” and as a result he becomes tested. Here God gives Satan, the tester, rights to do whatever he wants to Job (Excepting touching Job himself) to see just how faithful Job can be….

What a setup!

Don’t we pray for God NOT to lead us into temptation, what is with this? This doesn’t seem fair, how is it that evil can happen to Job and what does it all mean?

Here’s the setup, we are in for a good story, one where evil exists, but not without good, one where suffering is not greater than God, one where temptations and tests are less about who God is and more about who we are……

How will this work?

Plus, this happens in the mythical land of Uz, you know
a-long-time-ago

In fact the “Satan” character could be named “challenger” instead of Satan, because its unclear if the character is evil or just throwing challenges up….

So why does this perfect guy get setup in this way?
Because we’ve all experienced this, the question of why do bad thing happen to good people, theodicy, Why does evil exist, we all have experienced this reality in our lives.

And we all talk about God, its a human thing to talk about God and the role of evil in our lives, It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe in this is a topic of conversation. So here we are, in a Biblical fairy tale (yay fairy tales!)

Asking the good questions, starting with
Once Upon a Time….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMzQCaRR_wk

Anectdotal Woman (or) 24 churches and a feminist

There are lots of stories about women in the Bible. Not all of them have names, but its nice to experience the parable.

So I’m going to tell a parable about an unnamed woman. And then I’m going to tell a lot of anecdotes that are by no means scientific but start to bear out what a woman may feel in ministry…they certainly confirmed my own experience

An unnamed woman I know got referenced for a local solo pastor position (yay!). This was very cool for many, many reasons, the first and foremost reason being that this woman is currently serving as an interim and needs a new position. This church was liberal, and Southern (thereby making it even more liberal) so looking at a young woman pastor was a pretty cool move.

She got turned down for the job, and the person who got hired was…..a man.

I have nothing against men, I think they are awesome. However, women have outnumbered men in seminary for many years now, as of 2012 only 1/3rd of pastors were women. Yep, that’s right, the PW reported to General Assembly that fully a third of pastors were women.

I am a liberal person, the PIF process is a long one. Once upon a time (a while ago) I applied to 24 “really liberal” churches. They were the “cool” ones that were Presbyterian Light, Rainbow-Friendly and environmentally sound. They were changing the style of worship, being creative in mission and had worship committees who were involved in writing liturgy.And Open, they were really, really, really, really, really, really open to ALL types of everyone/thing peoples….

24 self-proclaimed really liberal churches.

Basically none of them even called me back for a phone interview (I think I’m not hipster/cool/lesbian enough for the cool churches…I more dynamic extroverted female pastor who still does traditional worship in normal clothing, so most churches are uncertain what to do with me)

So anyway, I was deciding when/if I should follow up with my self-referrals, and it was too cumbersome to do phone calls. Since these were the hip churches they all had fully functional websites (something that drew me to these places in the first place). So I simply looked at their newsletters<–which always proclaim when new pastors come.

I noticed a pattern. I didn’t mean to notice it. I didn’t want to notice it. But after the 4th and 5th church had it, there was no stopping it.

23 of the (self-proclaimed super liberal and open) churches had hired men……only 1 hired a woman. That’s the broad perspective

On a more personal level–I am convinced that I would be in a totally different place were I male….or a different kind of female….
Lets just say that when I do the intervieiwng thing, I bowl people over (and that’s not always a good thing)

They weren’t expecting…..me….

I think the word that is the problem is Pastor…..

“You saying its hard to picture me as a Pastor…pastor, pastor…..

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I don’t fit the word “pastor

into what I have found to be the three traditional roles for women ministers. Please note, I am naming these stereotypes as I see them perpetuated in culture. As I do not fit these, I also know many women for whom this stereotype falls short even if they fit it on the surface.

1. Those introverted, superfocused and reflective awesome chaplain types who can do pastoral care like no one else! Associate for pastoral care, go!

2. Those extroverted women who are loud & bombastic and obviously need to put their energy to use with the youth (preferably the younger children, leave the teens to an extroverted “very cool” male who has not yet realized his call to be the head pastor of a multi-staff church but will probably realize said call and be parachuted into said congregation once he catches up<–I’m trying not to be bitter about this pattern). Youth Associate Go!

3. The really creative and out there single mother/lesbian/crazy single lady who has short spiky hair (usually of some outlandish color), many piercings and tattoos. Amazing Solo Pastor who probably overworks for a half or three quarter time ministry, Go!

I guess I break the Mold

I am, in fact, a woman who unashamedly pursued a full time solo pastorate

and when people meet me….you know people who are looking for “the pastor”….
they don’t know what to do with me

Because I am a woman

an extroverted woman who is a great preacher, a good people person and who works really really hard at the ministry of listening and the ministry of presence….but otherwise is not shy, retiring and is not afraid to speak my opinion and to (kindly) tell the truth. In fact I rarely participate in the politicking that is usually associated with my gender.

Anecdote: I have been called many things, once I was called edgy for quoting the Book of Order, Another I was called unusual when I talked about serving the neighborhood. Some of this is part and parcel with the job, but I do think that I say things that people would expect um…..a man to say…..Specifically: I laugh a LOT in the pulpit. Every want ad for pastor I’ve ever seen wants a pastor “with a sense of humor,” but usually at some point I’m told that I laugh to much in the pulpit, because when a woman laughs, when I practice what I consider to be a spiritual practice of Good News, people assume I’m irresponsible. Laughter and Joy in a woman is assumed to be a point of flightiness (I am type A…..so I’m really wayyyyy on the other end of taking my responsibilities TOO seriously). I also have been called “young lady” whenever I tell a hard truth and speak to my authority, by multiple people.

I am a woman

A mother, who is not interested in being a children’s associate. I studied Christian Education to support the entire church’s learning and (fingers-crossed-maybe-someday) hopefully would be able to partner with those who are already doing the Christian Education in my church. I am not planning on only being a youth minister, despite the fact that I do indeed have three children…

Anecdote: I have a space marked “pastor’s spot” at the parking lot, which isn’t really my thing (special honors, no thank you), but it actually saves a lot of time. I don’t look like a typical pastor, esp. when I have a couple of kids in tow. Sometimes I have to convince people I’m a pastor, usually I have to repeat it more than once, and I’ve even had to argue with people about it (usually I just turn it into a joke). The parking spot saves me a lot of explaining, you can tell they’ve had that internal argument so by the time they arrive they are able to say “So YOUR the pastor”

I am a woman

a girl-next-door-looking-woman (brown hair and glasses to-boot, oh and I look a LOT YOUNGER than I am) who is super creative about how I build partnerships and relationships, full of energy and life I am ready to spark the excitement within the church and yet somehow does not have a million tatoos and piercings.

Anecdote: When I was in seminary I got hired on to do ministry at a Korean American church, to this day I am convinced I got hired because Koreans are used to people holding their Asian/youthful look against them and instead looked at my VERY impressive resume which states that I (always have and probably always will) have experience beyond my years! Yay for Bethany Pres!

I am a woman, and the church hasn’t found a stereotype for me……..

I have a VERY successful ministry where I am, the church is doing great, I am proud of all I have accomplished, and I’m still me, but some days its hard to have to consistently explain that not only am I actually a Presbyterian Pastor…..but I’m actually the only Pastor that I know how to be….

I think I’ll just start handing out cards that say
“atypical pastor” do you think people would then get the message not to expect whatever it was they were expecting?

And, how can we train churches (and the outside world, who seems to be just as surprised) to expect those types of people we aren’t expecting….

Prayer Ideas #prayer

I have worked on two different forms of prayer that I keep coming back to.

 

The first is the”Lord’s Prayer Chorus”.

The way it works is you hand out copies of the Lord’s Prayer to even the most experienced of the group.

Instructions: Each person contributes to the prayer one line at a time, and you don’t move on to the next line until someone is ready to.

I’ve done it both where people chime in wherever and whenever they feel moved to or the more orderly version where we go around in a circle…until everyone who has said AMEN has done so….

the Prayer might looks something like this

Person 1: Our Father who art in heaven

Person 2: Our Father who art in heaven,

Person 3 Our Father who art in heaven

Person 4 Our Father who art in heavn

Person 5 Hallowed be thy name

Person 6 Hallowed be thy name

Person 7 Thy Kingdom Come

Person 8 Thy Will Be Done

etc.
Note: How you divide the lines will effect how the prayer is spoken,

also someone suggested allowing people to backtrack in the prayer, I have yet to allow that freedom, but go for it.

 

The Other way to prayer is (sort of) a variance on the breath Prayer.

I call it “Simple Prayer”

Its where you take a line of scripture and pray it down to a single word. My favorite is “Be Still and Know that I am God”

Be Still and Know that I am God

Be Still and Know that I am

Be Still and Know that I

Be Still and Know That

Be Still and Know

Be Still and

Be Still
Be

#easter #smallchurch #emptytomb #emptychurch #nextchurch

Church-Mostly-Empty-Pews

And then all the Christians looked at the church, the pitifully empty pews, and asked each other. Where have all the people gone?

But the real question they were asking was where is Jesus? Akin to finding the empty tomb, we can see the emptiness, the absence……and we say to one another “‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” and weep.

And then Jesus meets us on the road, in the “real world” and instructs us not to dwell by the emptiness but to go and tell people that he has arisen.

Empty Church, pshaw, it is but the beginning of the resurrection story–Go on, go out it the world and tell them, wherever they are

“I have seen the lord” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

John 20

 

20Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look* into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,* ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

#nextchurch Farmer’s Market: building local ministry

Sadly I recently looked thru my posts and found that my original farmer’s market post has disappeared (oh no!) So I will have to rewrite it with a broader perspective.

The church was called to local mission: most of the 40-odd faithful adults had volunteered regularly at homeless centers, hospitals and to knit/sew for the needy. The question was, how to do it? As an elder said “I don’t even think people know we are here” so we brainstormed…..

The church did a lot of events. A lot of, traditional events. Things like a Strawberry Festival and Choir Concerts. Things like Clothing Exchanges and Playgroups. None of them seemed to really take off…people came to these events, but not as many as the church hoped. See, the church had discerned that their call was for local mission, but we were having trouble connecting to the neighborhood. Our best moniker was “the church with all those AAs” our worst was “the one with the chain up” So the church tried all these events, and immediately named them to be failures.

The church was wrong though, these events weren’t failures, they were successes–if you looked at them the right way.

The Ice Cream Social  didn’t get a lot of people coming, but we served ice cream, showed the Nursery School’s artwork, plus got a couple of homeless people off the street for a few hours.

The Praise Inc Revival Concert was difficult I had to go to some kind of meeting (I forget what) and arrived late, when I walked in I was told “no one came” <–people did come, about 45, and what was really cool was that about 1/3rd were from the church, 1/3rd were from another worshipping community within our church and 1/3rd were from the community.

The clothing exchange was a lot of work, but it was cool because it was a ministry for everyone (not just the “needy”). Those who sorted the clothing found a lot of things for themselves and others (haha) and plus we started to get some regular ladies who dropped by to check out what we had.

The free playgroup didn’t have a lot of steady people but hey 1. it was drop in 2. a lot of people came until they found a job, and it was a great way to get to know the neighborhood if you were new in town.

The real issue, of course, was that we weren’t getting new members, which I (constantly) reminded our members, was not our goal.

Our goal was to get to know the community, to provide space for them to gather and to use our eminently well placed church that happened to have an awesome parking lot. (Of course we were doing other technical things too).

Then a couple from the church and said, What about a farmer’s market? We have a good parking lot.

Session agreed, and within session we outlined our goals which were to

1) Get to know the neighborhood

2) Help local farmers

3) Not have ulterior motives (or at least try not to)…this was not for money or members, it was for the community….In fact session maturely agreed that we would charge Farmers money to hold them accountable, but all the money would go back into the market.

We researched the other church farmer’s market, we went to big and small farmer’s markets, we looked up rules and regulations, we sent out letters and then we called & called & called & called the farmers until finally someone agreed to do it and all the other farmers (small world eh?) jumped in as soon as 1 person committed.

We plotted out the parking lot, we advertised and made signs and got ready for our grand opening.

We had well over 200 people! 200 people!

And afterwards we worshiped together and took apart all the things that helped to our success! We literally put each thing that we thought contributed upon a building block and then we took all the blocks and “built up” into what was now the farmer’s market!

And sure enough the congregation finally saw what I had discerned, those past events weren’t failures they were warmups!

During these events we learned about

1)How to work together; After throwing so many small events we had a pretty good idea who we were and what our skills are (hospitality, organizer, motivator, builder, community contact, etc. )

2) timing :how long things should be, when people got out of work

3) media: how do we publicize things online? What kind of signs get noticed? How can we tell our friends?

4) Events; small events lead to big ones, since we started to have events, people had been starting to notice us as being active and involved

5) People: We saw people from everywhere! People from the choir concerts, people from the praise inc. revival, people from the clothing exchange and the playgroup, heck we even saw people from our nursery school (which has been running for 40yrs, but like most church schools is viewed as separate from the church)

What a success, and we realized, all of those events were successful, and they built off of the farmer’s market.

So we kept building. We created a program called “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?” in which all the events under those headings were purely to bolster and minister to the neighborhood so we could get to know them better.

Under this heading–We did a Trunk or Treat at the end of the Farmer’s Market for Halloween and we added a Chicken BBQ as a fundraiser (which isn’t really with no ulterior motives, but we were transparent about that we wanted your money for a sound system and since you drove thru our parking lot customers weren’t afraid we are trying to steal their souls), we did Charlie Brown Christmas in December and hosted over 100 nonchurch parents and children who watched it. Last summer we included Charity Yoga where the proceeds went to the Presbyterian Disaster Fund. We built a success!

We are still building. This has become a foundational ministry, it has honed our mission statement to one line “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?” Its become a joyful duty for the 12 some volunteers to work EVERY week for 4-5hrs for 4 months, it has become an identifier for our church “the one with the farmer’s market.” Enrollment for nursery school is up, the community comes together, and we truly are starting to get to know our neighborhood, from the farmers to the crafters to the performing artists to the customers. This will be our 3rd year doing the farmer’s market, we are the most successful one in the city limits, our vendors love us, and we have expanded even moreso. its a beautiful day for a neighbor!

And that is how our true local ministry was born!

(for more info about what I learned as a minister for my context click here)

Narrative Lectionary: John 13:1-17

John 13:1-17

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.

Jesus washes feet. If you have ever washed a baby or an older person–you are aware there is a kind of beautiful intimacy to those washings. There is a trust and a love that makes something that should be gross.

Of course, its embarrassing, so Peter says no, and Jesus says “well if you want to be a part of what I do, you have to let me wash your feet”

So then Peter says “Wash everything then!”

And Jesus says “Nah! feet are enough”

And then Jesus goes on to say that he knows that they aren’t clean ie he knows that Peter is going to deny him, he knows that Judas is going to betray him, he knows they are only human and they will get dirty again. They will all get dirty again.

Its like when you wash a child, and know they are going to get dirty again. Or (even worse) when my husband got out of the shower only to be thrown up upon. Ugh!

But it is still beautiful and intimate to take care of those we love. And Jesus promises to take care of us, even are grossest parts, even knowing that we are broken and that we will get dirty again. Jesus demonstrates that the way to

We like to concentrate on Jesus miracles, but really Jesus superpowers are love and forgiveness….remember before Jesus ONLY God could forgive you (you had to still apologize to the human participate, but ultimately only Jesus forgives). So Jesus, empowers us! Telling us to do to one another what he does. He encourages us to love eachother, to forgive each other and to wash each others’ feet. This is why we confess our sins together and then assure eachother of pardon. We are the body of Christ, we are the ones who are going to be the intimate group, who washes each other feet. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

 

 

Millennial Pastorin’

During a clergy luncheon a pastor related a story where her confirmation mentor was part of a women’s fellowship, so she spent much of her adolescent spiritual life with a group of post-menopausal women……the clergy women laughed and then reflected on how this was probably the perfect experience a young pastor needs to lead a church.

Besides the inevitable “How are you at leading people of differing generations?” transl. “Can you motivate and be respectful of and as yet still relate to people who are 10, 20 and mostly 30 years or more older than you?”There is, of course, a real generational gap…..

I love worship, I ENJOY God, and I think that church can be/should be and is (in its essence) a joyful and open place for people to do “Real Things” To change the world

I also understand that 90% of the congregation won’t ever see much less understand basic things like “what’s our online presence” are we “really actually, accessible to families (daycare? changing rooms? non-judgmental worship? meeting times convenient to non-retirees?)” and that the world understanding of a generation who is underemployed and over-indebted is probably Really, really hard for those who are comfortably off to understand (ex: I was once explaining how my generation feels both unfulfilled by our work and worthless due to our debts, and a fellow pastor noted that her daughter was in the same state of working a random job that didn’t actually help with college debt, but she “didn’t understand what I was getting at” when I explained the predominance and importance of these feelings–talk about a generation gap)

Here’s the hard part of millennial pastoring

1. I am a different generation from those I lead, and I want to honor and understand those experiences

2. Other generations may have trouble understanding the millennial perspective, and (I’d go far to say in some cases) not even understand why these differences are even important

3. Something like only %7 of Mainline Protestants are under 40

4. It is hard to value a “young person” for who they are, oft. times being “young” is the most important quality–one that I’m well aware I and other millennials will lose, and the actual “person” part of the young person is lost

5. This is why some churches can’t do “real” things, because they can’t understand the “real” issues facing these “young people” (note how labels begin to play a large role here.

6. I can’t just walk up to a millennial and have a conversation with them about the “Real Things” Church, Ministry, My Profession, My Struggles and Successes in my Profession, because church is not (yet) important to them, and they don’t see it as a “vehicle to do real things that are important and good” and so the cycle begins again. Plus I’m socially bereft when it comes to who I am and what it is I do….

 

Here’s the thing, church is the only place I know where many different people from all different walks of life can get together and do almost any kind of “good” that they want. Heck they don’t even have to be members of the congregation, if you have a great idea for a neighborhood, the church is a good vehicle to get it done. All you have to be is respectful and nice, and willing to work and play well with others and the possibilities are endless…I think that’s what God wants us to do…(church should function more like TEDtalks and less like exclusive clubs)

So the question is, why do churches have so much trouble doing it? I’m ready…who is with me!

 

Children! Yay!

It is a gift to love children.

I know this, because as a child, I never wanted to forget what it was to have an adult who talked to you like real human being…there were these grown-ups who “got it” and I read books by authors who seemed to still get it. L. Frank Baum, C. S. Lewis, J. M. Barrie, Raold Dahl, Maurice Sendek, Dr. Suess and a million others.

My husband tells me that I treat everyone like children.

I prefer to think of it as “I treat everyone the same” (including myself…I think that means I still consider myself a child)–Besides we are all children of God, right 😉

I have been gifted with continuous exposure to children, my youngest sibling is 10yrs younger than me, and I have two more! Let’s just say I’ve gone to Disney movies most of my life (either by acculturation or pure survival I still love them!). This means she was only 11 when I graduated college (yep. I was so totally in the know about Blue Clues, Pokemon and what KIDS actually thought about Harry Potter). During College, I worked at Headstart, reading to children. Why? do you ask? Because these children are usually a. not read to at home b. don’t have role models who went to college c. need adults who are around just to talk/listen to them without extra demands. Also, Headstart is underfunded and can always use an extra pair of hands. So, I was around preschoolers 2-3 times a week!
I also dabbled in summer jobs that included a Montessori School, fulltime babysitting and being the children’s director (read: all the Munchkins) of Wizard of Oz

Then I worked at Bethany Presbyterian while I was in seminary where I was the Christan Ed. Director for over 50 kids, with an amazing full out PTA and volunteer staff of Sunday School Teachers.

Then, I also had 2 children at seminary (because, hey, I hate being bored) and babysat part time.

Literally, I have NEVER had a TIME WITHOUT CHILDREN in my life.

So, yes I don’t remember EVERYTHING of being a child, but I didn’t forget everything either 🙂

You know what I’ve learned? You forget! There are lots of adults my age–I’m only 30–who don’t have a clue as to what to do with kids–either they have never been around them, or they’ve completely forgotten.

And, some people are able to rediscover it with parenting or by connecting with a child in their lives 🙂

To love children, to stay engaged with them, to truly value who they are (not just who they have potential to be) is a gift. I’m so lucky to have that gift.

This is why I think that families should be included (w)holistically in church, that real space and time should be given to children to be a part of everything that is going on, and their contributions should be valued…This is why I didn’t become a Christian Educator, because I think Children Should be INCLUDED in church, not just a special category of ministry (altho they are that too) I want to be in the “main church” fighting for and with them!

after all, their contributions have always been a meaningful part of MY life!!!

Ch 6: Waking up

How long did I sleep? I look out the window, no light shines in. I wonder about that. The forest outside was so entrenched that not a droplet of light shone through. I wonder how it is I can see…some light is coming through, but it looks like nothing more than a misty glow.

The candle has guttered, I look at the wick and feel sorry for it.

I should get dressed, but I instead go to the hall, the back of my neck prickles

“Hello? Are you there? Its me, Pri….”

Was that a sigh? Cautiously I look around…nothing.I start to walk down the hallway…trying to keep my elaborate robe tied on, but the silk seems to slip. What is the use of clothing if it can’t stay on I wonder? Frustrated I see the rope for the curtains. Determinedly I grab it and tie it on.

Amazing how small victories can give you confidence. Feeling better, I slip down the rooms seeing what seems to be a study, a ballroom, a music room with many instruments.

Nothing is as well lit as I would like, and nothing feels inviting, so I continue on. Counting the curtains, exclaiming to myself over the decorations. Trying to keep my spirits up.

Oh look, a kitchen!

Narrative Lectionary: Thoughts on John 4:46-54

Restoration: from the Latin seriously it actually is 😉

restore – Online Etymology Dictionary

Restoration c.1300, “to give back,” also, “to build up again, repair,” from Old French restorer, from Latin restaurare “repair, rebuild, renew,

Katy’s Definition to simultaneously destroy and resurrect something at the same time

Image

God Restores us, healing our hearts AND binding our wounds: Forget Ps 140, I’m using Ps. 147:3
Image

kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken pottery by filling the cracks with amalgam mixed with powdered gold, I was awestruck. Kintsugi is translated as “golden joinery,”  The new, reformed whole contains both the remembrance of that which was before and also what is now – something that had been broken into pieces and is now reformed, containing the additional joining amalgam that is noticeable and traceable.

Viewing kintsugi pottery brought to mind how quickly Western culture discards the broken – broken objects, broken people, and broken relationships. We fail to see what the broken might look like if we put the resources into mending the broken.

Katy’s Synonyms Kintsugi, Restoration, (w)holistic Christianity, Shalom, Fullness, Overflowing, Give me your tired/poor/hungry, Brokenhearts, wholeness, complete,  Image

What a great Valentine’s Day text (love it when it works out that way!)

There is a Balm in Gilead folks!

Empowerment

 

Ok, Oberlin got me with this poster
There were a million other reasons why I went, but this was the primary one.
Its also why I go to church. (as opposed to sitting at home and being spiritual)
When I was 10 I was confirmed as an adult
I was assisting with Sunday School at age 12
At age 14 I told an emergency Children’s Sermon
By age 15 I ran a Vacation Bible Fair (just one night)
 
I was empowered, as such I am excited to see what I will do from now on!
Through church I find partners, through partners to be empowered to make a difference in the world.
 
Hopefully churches give healthy empowerment and partnership to those who want to love.
 
That’s how i look at it……

Partnerships

One thing that frustrates me about church is when people grudgingly take on tasks.

I don’t know, for me its more fun to be involved and DO things, don’t you want to be a part of whatever is happening?

This week I got the chance to talk to a wonderful lady. Together we planned an arts project in 2 parts: 1 a Family Friendly Art Show 2. A Kids Theater Program (that is very accessible monetarily and hopefully schedulewise).

It was a good hour.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be prep involved, but mostly it just took a spark, an idea.

There will be setup and hosting and taking down.

There will be more planning for part 2

But the way I look at it; it will be LOADS of fun, as most ministry is.

So I’m confused…..do we really begrudge the time & energy that is spent in ministry….or are we just afraid that we are going to have to do it alone!

And for me it took a partnership. So often people don’t want to lead in the church, because they feel like they have to do it alone.

Good News! We don’t have to. God is with us, we are never alone, and God sent us partners! From the gecko, God realized that we work better in Tandem.

Young Families in Church…continued…..

A lot of young people don’t go to church (I know your shocked, your really, really shocked).

Here is my vast knowledge about church

1. Its a good community…its a good way to have intergenerational interaction, its a good way to ask hard questions (at the good churches anyway)

2. Church Shopping is tough: churches are desperate (which isn’t that attractive) and its hard to church shop when you feel unsettled, and lets face it, with the way the economy is, most people are fairly unsettled, especially the young people. I have been at the same job for 4ish years…that is VERY unusual for a person my age. If you don’t have a steady job or don’t know if your going to have to move (again) within the same year, its hard to make time to church shop.

In theories churches should be helping with this process (how about get to know your town guides? New to the neighborhood events that aren’t creepy? My church does a playgroup that allows a little bit with this)

3. Churches need to advertise themselves as a pace of transition (ie we are a stable place to come while your transitioning)…too much to Churches self-advertise or give the impression that this is where to go when you start to sort out your beliefs or your all set on where you are in life. This is OPPOSITE of what church should be, church should be a place to be crazy, screwed up and confused, a place to support people who are figuring it out…….Maybe churches should be more like college and less like a government.

4. Young Families Basic Needs: tend to include activities at a time of day they can actually manage, Sunday School that is enjoyable, Family friendly events, Adequate Rooms for children, Babysitting for events that are not suitable for children, changing tables, cribs, and preferably a space in the Worship area for kids to worship during church (try getting that one done, its almost impossible)…want to welcome families? Go out of your way to give them a real space to be….

5. Try to focus more on the Sabbath piece of church. Every single person I know is stressed and overwhelmed, if church could be a place of sanctuary, rest and sabbath we might actually communicate our message better.

6. That whole forgiveness of debts thing: do that. We preach forgiveness of debts, practically everyone I know is WAY in debt, yet we do nothing to practice what we preach….um….yeah….

7. Engage, engage, engage, find as many opportunities as possible to serve the community, to experience the community and to get to know the community (this is that piece of advice every single leader of churches gives)

8. Do NOT talk about young people as the “future”; first off, they are already people, not just future people (get my drift?), secondly this gross genera9lizing of who the young are is not appreciated

9. Try not to be judgmental: To be human is to be judgmental, its how we separate the “us” from the “them” its a defense mechanism, its natural, and its sad….we don’t need to judge other people, that’s God’s job. Plus! loving is our goal, good news is our job, and judging people adds to their problems. I used to have someone call me up at night and tell me what I needed to worry about…guess what…that is the opposite of helping…

10. Have Faith: Preach Good News, practice joy, dwell in the spirit, worry not about today or tomorrow, consider the birds, consider the lilies of the fields, they toil not, but God takes care of them…

The Token Young Family

“It’s exhausting being the young family in a church” This sentiment was shared to me by one of our “young families” about what another “young family” told them.

Its exhausting. Of course, I speak from the “young family” and “pastor’s family” congruently, but I know what they mean.

1) Getting the schedule

I’m not sure if it was just very different for families back in the day when our older members were young, or if they’ve forgotten just how crazy it is, but there is some kind of generational divide between what people think young families’ schedules are like and, well, reality. Events that seem easy are actually not. Babysitting is not considered (nor the lead time needed to get a babysitter) and the whole, I have to work for a living is similarly forgotten (which is ironic since I work for the church so hanging out is part of my work but sermons and paperwork need to get done too..I can only imagine how this increases for regular families)

2) Responsibilities

Most things these days require some level of participation that is beyond us: school, clubs, jobs, job-related socialization. Church responsibilities are the same, churches try to toe the line between keeping families involved and yet not being overdemanding, but honestly, most events are more fun if there are children there, except for the ones that children need to stay home for. The truth is, juggling kids at events is tricky, I’d prefer if every event was welcoming and helpful for kids to be present at.

3) Regular attendance

For most families attending once or twice a month is the very best they can do…they are just too busy, and making them feel guilty is not helpful.

Of course the easy solution to this is to no longer be the only “Young Family” at a church, but its hard to figure it out….I toy with ideas of starting a TEDtalks Bible study or doing more Family Oriented programming (Kids Clubs, Parents Night Out, Exploratory Music Classes), but timing is tricky. And I want church to be FUN. In the meantime, the hope is that there are advantages of being the “young family too” such as a. the kids getting more attention b. the church can listen better to your needs c. the church starts to be a better and better place for young families to hang out at…..

4) Welcoming

Being desperate is not the same as being welcoming. Church’s “need” young people to keep going, so they look at young families as their literal salvation (oops) and get very needy very quickly. Prime examples: Expecting young families to have their teenager to help with technology, expecting young parents to teach the Sunday School, Expecting young families believe the exact same things that the church grandparents believe are a few examples.

i.e. The Church should be more than a vampire looking for Fresh Blood!

Being welcoming is accepting the natural gifts of the family and asking them where they want to help out. Being welcoming is allowing for give and take….ask what the family needs from the church, not just vice versa…

What would help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed about families and church?

The Mystery of Ministry

“Why would you want to work only 1 day a week, and that’s a half day” –my mother…obviously before she was a pastor, trying to understand why my father was considering the ministry….

Similarly, my friend’s boss once said she wish she could have an easy job, like me…my friend laughed and said that I do all that a CEO does, but with volunteers instead of employees (and morals, although she didn’t tell her boss that)…..

I sometimes think being a pastor is more mysterious than Astrology in Harry Potter

unfog unfogging_the_future__2__by_i_never_stop-d5diz7i

These weeks have been very busy for me, between budget meetings, an emergency with a very troubled family involving the welfare of their children and a funeral…I’ve had to hit the ground running.

The truth about ministry is that it seems very mysterious because not many people know what you do in a week. We are like glaciers. For glaciers usually only 10% of them are visible…and I think only about %10 (that would mean 4 to 5 hrs) of the work of ministry is visible

For one, there is sermon writing…how do you do it? I personally consider it an art, which means that everyone approaches it differently (warning: results are not guaranteed) That alone can take 5-15hrs…Personally I tend to build up from the bulletin. Writing prayers, picking hymns in the context of the scripture help to lead me to the right space (usually)

There’s the office stuff: Paperwork for Presbytery, Newsletters, checking with the secretary (what  a blessing that I have one) to see when things will be printed, coordinating sending out things from sympathy cards and flowers to whatever other mailings are necessary (Stewardship materials anyone?)

Then there’s event planning: figuring out the timeline, alerting the appropriate leaders and medias, making sure the time is well advertised and convenient for most

There’s Pastoral Counseling, which often happens spur of the moment, and is so necessary for people’s care

Praying, as often as you can, and trying to include all relevant people in your prayers

Then there is the ministry of presence: which is the time you spend in the office or hanging out not looking busy so people can approach you…

Keeping in contact with those who have dropped out of the loop for whatever reason, and trying to remember to keep the church’s end of the relationship up either personally or (better yet) thru the deacons or hospitality people

Visiting those who are homebound or need home visits as often as possible and trying to build up lay leaders so they can do the same.

Keeping Connectiveness through the congregation by building in real fellowship moments that allow the congregation to draw together and experience God

Running the governmental board, maintaining Christ’s peace and addressing problems as quickly and directly as possible…looking beyond the people in the room towards God’s purpose for whatever is taking place…and then leading other people to that same vision…

Overseeing and checking in with the staff, trying to maintain harmony, set good boundaries and maintain open communication to nip problems in the bud

Advertising, Information and Communicating in as many levels as you can verbally, thru publishing (bulletin, newsletter, etc), thru the internet, to the church, to the community, to those who come, to those who don’t come, to the elderly, to the busy, to the families, to the staff.

Creating/Maintaining or Overseeing Christian Education for the littlest thru the adults

Being available for those Pastoral Care moments of sickness, deaths, births, marriages, major celebrations, moments of personal crises.

Attend big moments for church members (graduations, weddings, funerals, etc), even if they are not directed by the pastor, attending such events is important (and mostly fun) and a part of the job that is often not understood to be work, but are because you go as the “church’s” representative.

Maintaining your own Spiritual practice so you don’t dry up from lack of spiritual nourishment

Building Clergy Connections thru lunches, spiritual friendships, governmental meetings and other proscribed activities (mentoring, peer groups, continuing ed. etc)

Don’t forget the preaching–which is mostly what everyone sees

In addition to this there is overseeing and working on a viable mission (hopefully every church has one)..you know the thing  your church does that is really unique and therefore special, so you work really really hard not only to maintain this but to grow it.

To push the church, the staff, the governmental board, the neighborhood to be more Open: Open to new ideas, Open to new (and different) people and cultures, Open to experimenting, Open to failure, Open to unexpected successes, Open to honest assessments, Open to the movements of the Holy Spirit.

Mostly, pastors are there to facilitate, coordinate and teach about our relationships with God and eachother. Sometimes that means stimulating though about this….oftentimes it means spurring people into action. Its not an exact science, but it is an important task…

This is a fairly generalized list of what my job is, it is by no means a job description, but maybe it helps to clarify who pastors are and some of what they do.

Comic from “The Naked Pastor”

Book Review: Sassy Steampunk–A Study in Silks, A Study in Darkness, A Study in Ashes

Baskerville Affair by Emma Jane Holloway

Evie Cooper is a not quite fashionable young girl living in London in the midst of the Steam Barons Rule.

Part Steampunk, Part Revolution, Part Mystery this book follows the adventures of Evie Cooper and her closest friends during a tumulteous Time.

“You have to decide that for yourself” Variations of this line are put forward by characters of all stripes indicating, strongly, that who you are depends highly on who  you decide to be and no one can really tell you how that is going to work out for you….this could be the theme song of the entire book–making me a very happy Katy.

Things I liked about this book

1. Character development (everyone develops, everyone)

2. Fleshed out characters (good and evil more often turn to gray, and love is highly valued)

3. Love Triangles…but they are relevant to the plot

4. London: Victorian Age

5. Steam Punk

6. If you’ve read Holmes (YAY) you get Lotsa extra plot points!

7. Class Revolution: This book takes on income differences and revolution in an interesting way (causing some fun 99% thoughts), down with the Steam Barons….

Things to note: The main character is a little annoying at times (she is definitely a teenager when compared to characters such as Mary Russell) and the plot is not strong on the mystery and be warned there is a love triangle, however the strong characters of which there are many who we get to know and see develop and the play with family dynamics are awesome. And the fact that no one is condemned to be evil if they choose not to be is great (I’m a sucker for redemption) Of course I always love Victorian era women, because if they are awesome by today’s standards they are even more awesome for stepping out in a restrictive age…I love me a rebellious woman

And I hope there is another trilogy exploring this underworld with WAY more Holmes in it….

Study in Silks

Friendship and Pastoring: What they have in common

My mom’s best friend had an abortion, this was back in those days when abortions were even more frowned upon.

She admitted it, later, because she didn’t feel like my mom would approve, due to her Christian beliefs (my mom is now a Presbyterian Pastor)

420 × 294 – rottenecards.com

At that moment, my mom realized that she couldn’t be there as a friend, because she was perceived as being too judgmental….And this woman really needed a friend right then. When a girl from an abusive family gets pregnant an abortion might be the safest option…(or not)

But the point is, that my mom, was not perceived as a friend. It was at this moment my mom realized, she never wanted people to think they couldn’t talk to her, because she was going to be judging them. After all, what kind of friend does that?

She then went on to realize that pastoring has a similar action.
I never preach my political views from the pulpit, instead I preach the Bible and open my door to any who want to struggle to interpret how it works (which is why its dicey to have church facebook friends, because I do some of my political stuff there….but I don’t really mind as long as people realize its my freedom of speech space)….

If I preach all for or all against abortion and you are on the opposite side of the aisle, you probably will feel like you can’t talk to me when you have problems in that area…just like you want friends who will talk to you, you also want a congregation that can talk to you (in fact if anyone has a problem with me, I ask them to tell a session member or *more preferably* me directly about it, so I can address it..what’s the point of a pastor you can’t talk to?)

I will admit, I do have some boundaries, human rights are definitely something I feel comfortable ascribing as a part of Christianity, preaching hate as the Gospel is DEFINITELY off limits, but other than that I (try) to be someone you can talk to…..

After all, I really DO like to talk 🙂

Food Tripping: Church & Food

If you have any question about what kind of person Jesus is, remember this, his ministry began and ended with food! It started with the wedding at Cana and Ended with the Last Supper

John 2

New International Version

2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Food is good, it is one of the few things we do that is both necessary for our very existence, and pleasurable at the same time. Whenever I worry about who God is, I remember that God invented chocolate….what kind of God creates so many different foods with so many varieties in the world? I’m afraid to say if humans created food we would have created one substance that is of some nutritional value, and bland. Our God is more creative than that.

In my family we have something called food tripping, where you describe a food you love so much you space out from remembering it….

In fact, just one food can elevate an entire meal. Its likely your favorite restaurant isn’t really your favorite because everything tastes good there, but rather because they serve your favorite food. (I’m actually a sucker for either awesome bread or desserts) For example when I make pizza if I can have fresh basil or fresh mozerella the pizza tastes better–all it takes is one good ingredient to elevate the entire pizza 🙂

Recently there has been a growing fascination to where food comes from, whether it is local or organic, how it is processed, and lets not forget the Food Network. The source of our Food is compelling.

The reason why we are so fascinated with food, is that the more we know the food’s story, the better it tastes! We take pleasure in things that are creative acts. Things that are unique. This is why my grandmother’s bisqick coffee cake and my father’s bread taste different than any other versions of this food (even though, both recipes are available to everyone). Knowing that your food came from the local farm via the local farmer’s market, learning about food makes it taste better.

Now imagine that you are at a wedding and you get Jesus wine. A wine that serves to both elevate the entire meal but also just tastes better because its from JESUS! The source is good, therefore the food is good. Isn’t the spirit of the meal half of how a meal tastes anyway?

What if we thought about churches more as meals than programs. What if we tried to serve up our favorite pieces of worship–1 or 2 things, with Jesus as the source. What if instead of trying to offer a buffet of everything (or even the most modern whatevers) we served a nourishing meal with the hospitality that is in Christ’s spirit, one that we can offer in JOY!

After all, this is a meal we are celebrating, its abundance, its being drunk on the Holy Spirit, its understanding that the invitation is from Christ, and no other can make it better.

I think if we talked more about the source of our nourishment, and if we served the love with which it was made, church will be transformed from a boring form of sustenance that simply gives us the basic nourishment we need, to one where JESUS gives us the SPIRITs and we are invited to CELEBRATE THE LOVE TOGETHER.

How wonderful that would be!

PS Check out this Ted Talk There is some interesting claims about the creative act of humanity and how the creative act is what makes art valuable (ie why we like originals more than copies). i.e. Creativity and Relationship is what makes things pleasurable for us. We all know God is THE creator, making each of us a unique work of art, and we are invited to be co-creators with him. What kind of creative food can we serve up in church these days!!!!

By giving us a …

By giving us a window into the folk wisdom of an earlier age and revealing the wishes, hopes, fears, disappoinmtents, and frustrations of that time, these stories help us to understand just what is at stake in our own cultural stories. The tales we tell each other and our children not only reflect our own lived experience and our psychic realities, they also shape our lives, enabling us to construct our desires, to cope with our anxieties, and to separate fantasy from reality.” Maria Tartar Cambridge, 1997

Grimm’s Grimmest p. 15 copyright 1997 Chronicle Books, San Francisco

We tell stories to find truth. Tolkien called this the eternal truth in his Mythpoeia essay/poem.

Myths, Lewis told Tolkien, were “lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver.”

“No,” Tolkien replied. “They are not lies.” Far from being lies they were the best way — sometimes the only way — of conveying truths that would otherwise remain inexpressible. We have come from God, Tolkien argued, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God.

Katy’s thoughts Stories help us to understand the human condition in light of the eternal truth, God….our charge is to tell the Gospel wherever and whenever possible, and since Christ’s story is our story, and our story is Christ’s story….the t

wo help us to find where God is…

What we are doing now, our job, is to speak our knowledge/prophecy/stories of God in love. Because that is our window to truth!

And ultimately Fairy Tales are stories about love! 1st Corinthians 8-12 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” In essence the next verse is the Mythopoeia thesis “12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

All right,” sai…

All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying

humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

 

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.”

Susan and Death, The Hogfather by terry pratchett

Stories are an essential part of being human.

Fantasy helps us to work towards the world in God’s image, dreaming and imagining is a part of that

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”  (NIV, Joel 2:28)

YAY! Talking, Communication, Virtua Media and Such….. #holyspirit #communication #virtualmedia #comments

Communication is difficult.

I once heard some professor say (don’t ask me who I don’t remember, it might have been Prof. Kay) that communication is a gift.

Humans have a lot of trouble understanding each other. It takes the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit in order for REAL communication to take place.

Why? Because it takes listening, empathy, sympathy and a willingness to enact the words that are being spoken.

The longer I live, the more I believe this…

Ever have a conversation where you are trying to listen carefully and you repeat back what has been said, and they repeat back too..but later it turns out you actually didn’t really have the same understanding of the conversation? Those feel like the most.

This happens to my husband and me all the time!

This problem gets slightly more complicated with virtual media….where there is no intonation (This is problematic for people like me…who primarily joke in sarcasm and ironies….a good footnote for my life is that if I’m saying something mean about you, to you, I’m joking…..really, I am)

hence e-motions 🙂 which help but aren’t the same.

Then there’s the fact that rarely do we pay REALLY close attention to what we are reading on the internets….we are usually watching tv (I have Avatar on currently) or quick peeking while we’re waiting for something, or whatever.

Then there is comments, many bloggers disable comments because so often they devolve…and most of the criticism is ridiculous…comments are about something totally unrelated or it turns into a rant. The anonymity triggers some of this, as does the distraction, but some of it is just human nature.

Communication is tough.

But when it happens, its amazing.

Its like when married people have an entire conversation without using words (as Tamora Pierce points out in Trickster’s Choice)

Or when friends REALLY get each other in a moment, its like two souls shaking hands (as Sean Stewart says in Nobody’s Son)*

Its a spiritual moment…and I believe it CAN happen online…..but just like in regular conversations, when it happens, its a gift from God–thru the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit

*These are lines inscribed on my heart, I do not have the books with me, so I do not have the page numbers….Trickster’s Choice its between the father and step-mother of the girls Aly takes care of very early on. In Nobody’s Son its between the heroine and her best friend, when the hero first meets the best friend

This year I will……

This year I will talk to dragons, I will spend the time I need to with fairies and fight off the bad guys with a sword.

I will flirt outrageously

I will laugh more than ever

I will be sure to build as many towers as I knock down, and remember that journeying to the castle is just as important as defeating the bad guy

I will improve my tea drinking ritual–because its more fun the more you do it

I will remember to sing loudly in the car, try new upsidedown and balancing thingies in yoga and throw more snowballs

I will wiggle more in my seat, draw more doodles and as a result become wiser than ever

I will pick the flowers

I will get my hopes too high on a regular basis, expect all  people I know to be brave & wise & good no matter what I might (or might not already) know about them and catch up on Dr. Who

I will exclaim over every baby that they are each the most beautiful baby in the universe—because every single one is, and spoil my cats while contemplating with my husband the fact that we’ve acquired a creature (baby or kitten) every year that we have been married.

I will make it my mission to make my job be more and more about people (and less about paperwork)

I will declare random vacations to go out and play in the sun

I will do silly things I’m not good at, I will play strategy games, draw, play music, etc. because those are the things I love

I will do something meaningful to support trans*/bi community

I will watch as many Disney movies as possible and get my haircut when I feel like it

I will remember never to eat the food in fairyland

I will let my kids be messy, allow them to have fun, and teach them to love people

I will play more practical jokes on my husband

I will enjoy God’s sense of humor!

I will get lost and have fun while I’m doing it

I will read many, many library books

I will chase rainbows…and sunsets….

I will go on as many adventures as I can cram in…

I will walk to nowhere

I will tell the stories that give my life meaning, and repeat them over and over again until they are true

I will be Katy 🙂

Ch 5: Looking

Hopefully she slept, I peeked in at her and it seems like she was asleep…but the light startled me, so I only caught a glimpse.

I hope she was asleep.

Otherwise why would her eyes be closed?

I did see that she had brownish/blackish hair, it looked a lot neater than mine. Could I even brush myself if I wanted to? It might feel good to use a brush.

If her hair is dark then her eyes would be….I realize I’m growling

The candle had burned down to the nub…I should have replaced it, but it was too scary.

I couldn’t go into her room.

Focus, focus.

Name, I need a name, maybe if I have a name I can start to define thing.

Maybe then I can look at her again.

Maybe then I won’t be afraid to change the candle.

Christmas Carols Annotated!

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I like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & Winter Wonderland.

But…..I prefer Christmas Carols, possibly because they are so seldom played that they are not on the radio and retail venues everywhere…

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen: This is not in my Presbyterian hymnal–it is also seriously undersung (ie its considered a carol but never included Christmas Eve  and is only occasionally on the pop albums). Although the sexist words (ugh) the TAKE HEART lyrics make me super, super happy….

Away in the Manger: The other lullaby (you know not Silent Night), the second verse is my favorite…where I tend to change lowing to Mooing and “no crying” to lotsa crying (because that’s what makes sense, Jesus was fully human after all).

Hark the Herald Angels Sing: reconciliation and healing in his wings…..maybe my favorite carol…….maybe

Angels We Have Heard On High: GLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

The First Noel: I love, love, love the melody of this

What Child Is This?: um…a carol that asks a million questions—feels genuine to me!

Good King Wenceslas: I don’t actually know all the words to this, yet when people are caroling in movies this is what they sing (perhaps because it feels all medieval)

Ding Dong Merrily On High: played somewhat on the radio (must not be too Christian), it sounds like bells. I’m kind of Meh about it….the tune is fun, but I guess it isn’t ingrained in my bones the way other carols are.

O Come All Ye Faithful: Love the invitational message of this song (always sing it during Advent, notice that this can also totally be an advent song?)

O Little Town of Bethlehem: A great tune sung by pop artists because of its beauty…..not so singable for congregations although well known enough we can fake it 🙂

Carol of the Bells: Perhaps the replacement for Ding, Dong Merrily on High?, the words are mood are similar. I definitely like the tune of this better….

Good Christian Men Rejoice: Very similar to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, a little sexist, but deep lyrics “need not fear the grave” and lots of rejoicing.

Wassail: Simple, repetitive, yet really full of Christmas caroling spirit

O Come, O Come Emmanuel: Yay! Advent mysteriousness!

O Holy Night: BEAUTIFUL, wish we didn’t confine this to soloists….everyone has a right to belt this out, off key and all!

Silent Night: Candlelight, love the 2nd verse…I always raise my candle for the “love’s true light” verse…there’s a mysterious, random fourth verse that no one sings (and I actually do feel its useless)

Joy to the World: YAY! The other alternative for ending the Christmas Eve Service….not that we ever do…but it totally could and of course….its not necessarily just a Christmas song

Christmastime is Here: Wish we adopted this as a carol we sing in church…the message is sound, and maybe if church’s sang newer beautiful songs, then….well we wouldn’t have saved the church, but our Christmas Eve will be richer for it (yes Charlie Brown)

Welcome Christmas: Ditto, “Fahoo Fores Dahoo Dores” words so carol sounding, people tried to translate it……….(yes its Grinch)

I Need a Silent Night: The very new Amy Grant Song……self-references carols, def. worth checking it out.

Being Christmassed! Xmas Links that get me in that holiday spirit!

Usually I’m Christmassed way before Thanksgiving. The love and joy and hope of Christmas descends upon me (usually unexpectedly)

However this year there were technical difficulties regarding a Santa Hat (how can I wear this if my children keep stealing it) Christmas Music (I still don’t know where my CDs are) A Church Production of Charlie Brown (Cancelled: sad day) and family (no one is able to visit us this year)…plus it just felt a little too fast.

This week I transitioned, somehow in reading Mary’s Joy–it became mine,

Luke 1 46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

And THEN (magically) I found things on the internet that made me feel like Christmas

Things like an amazing version of Angels We Have Heard on High (4 guys, 1 piano)

Things like this retelling of Jesus “Brilliant, no one will be expecting that!”

Then there’s this little girl sharing the Christmas Spirit with her parents, through singing/signing ;P

And an old favorite hallelujah! which is how being suddenly Christmassed feels to me!

Many pastors believe in delayed gratification, that singing Christmas hymns during advent is akin to a sin.

I don’t. I do think in giving Thanksgiving its due, and try to wait until them to do Christmassy things (altho what happens in the privacy of your own car is your business)

But, I love Christmas, there is something truly infectious about it…even as it is commercialized, the feeling itself is magical.

and important

and a good

and I’ll try not to be TOO annoyingly happy about it

🙂

I think I’m going to go watch Charlie Brown Christmas now!

Ch 4: Time

I begin to get oriented. The big whatchamacallit left, and as he passed a candle was lit.

Did I black out before that? I remember all the feelings I had, but I don’t know how much time passed, or if I really, actually saw anything.

The candle is flickering…..

Can something that shape even light a candle? I don’t even know if there are hands or claws or…

my mind went blank at “claws,” probably not a good direction for my thoughts to go. Maybe that’s how I blacked out to begin with.

The flickering candle is comforting…it marks the passage of time better than the dark does–it makes me think of morning….maybe I should go to bed. Its hard to tell without any windows.

I stand up–I’m surprised that I’m not shaky, maybe its because I’ve spent all my energy on the..confrontation. Ok, good to know for the future, when I go through an emotional rollercoaster, at some point, my body calms itself down.

I peer out to the hall, of course no one is there. There would be no sneaking in this place.

Determined, I pick up the candle and walk. Its only a hallway, I tell myself. Its not as if its a dungeon or the forest. My eyes follow a gold line trim on the wall, the gleam of it comforts me. Dancing in the light.

The first room I open, thankfully has a bed, I lie down. I carefully place the candle on the winged table nearby

I watch the shadows dance on the ceiling until I fall asleep.

My Santa Hat

My Santa Hat is older than my children.

I got it the first year of college at Oberlin.

At that time, I realized three things

1. I missed my family and church (the churches were CRAZY as a result of 9/11 and I couldn’t find a good one)

2. I wouldn’t be able to do much preparing for Christmas

3. People hated to be wished “Merry Christmas” something about the White Christian hegemony in a very liberal arts school.

Plus I had my first round of finals coming up (yikes!)

so I went to CVS and bought this really nice $5 Santa hat, it is a dark red with a clothlike white trim

I have worn it since that Dec 2001, ….and (amazingly) I haven’t lost it…

I wear it to celebrate Christmas

I wear it to celebrate Advent, to bring Christmas into conversations is a “safe space”

Every Thanksgiving I get it out, and start to celebrate.

Sometimes I think that God works less like a thunderous mountain of justice…and way more like my Santa hat.

 

Robin McKinely is contemplating Christmas’ approach too

Christmas Books: Classics, Children’s, Adult’s, Books you didn’t know were about Christmas

Every year I look for a great Christmas book to read during Advent. Here are some that I enjoy over and over again!

 

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: Ever actually read the book? Its a good read out loud Tale.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis: There’s nothing quite reading about a land where its “Almost winter and never Christmas” when Christmas is on its way…

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories* by Connie Willis: A great collection of fiction stories that is about the true meaning of Christmas by the amazing author of “To Say Nothing of the Dog.” This is more fiction than sci-fi, but is SO amazing!

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham: Similar to the movie (Christmas with the Kranks), this very quick read talks about the ridiculousness and wonder of the Christmas hoopla

 

 

 

Mrs. Miracle by Debbie MacComber: Total popcorn, the first and best in this series. I do love a good Mary Poppins

type story is awesome, and the angels are awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

The Worst/Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson: A story of transformation from the worst things of Christmas…to the best…in fact I might say Skipping Christmas is an adult version of this same story.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess: My advice: do the voices

The Gift of the Magi by O Henry: a tearjerker

The Little Matchgirl by Hans Christian Anderson: ditto

The Night Before Christmas preferably right after you hang stockings and right before bed. Get 8 different copies and let everyone choose one to looks at, that’s the Hedges-Goettl way 🙂

The Nutcracker: If you can’t go to the ballet, read it. Or buy the advent calendar and read a little of the story all the way til Christmas

Velveteen Rabbit by Margary Williams: Starts at Christmas, ends with resurrection, best translation of the Gospel ever!

Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburgh: Beautiful, poignant, perhaps not a kids story (that’s all I’m sayin)

 

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Starts at Christmas, ends at Christmas, life happens in-between Christmas…

 

 

 

 

 

*top recommendation

Church Event Guide/What I’ve learned in the last 4 years: Don’t do anything for free

Recently there was an article concerning the …..lets say staidness of overly churched culture….

How do you get a church to event plan beyond the church culture? Here are some guidelines to consider

Rule number One: Don’t do anything for free….it creates a debt mentality that is unhealthy for the congregation and the attendee

Church: Let’s throw this free event, then people will love us and come to church….

Potential Attendee: Free? Really, I bet that church just wants my soul, no way I’m going to that…

Church: We had a free event…why didn’t anyone come (or) People came to our free event, why aren’t they coming to church

Rule Number Two: If you throw an event, have a reason behind it (other than attracting people to the church…ideally have at least TWO solid reasons

ex: Let’s have a farmer’s market 1. it will support our local community and help reaquaint with the neighborhood 2. It will help our local economy–these are our reasons, we are sharing them with the farmers and the customers

ex 2: Let’s put on a play of Charlie Brown Christmas as a food drive because 1) that’s what Christmas is all about 2) we don’t want it to be free 3) because its for children, and if someone cries they can be taken out without money lost

I have found if you have 2 solid reasons, more and more reasons to have the event start to build…..eventually we realized a. there is no farmer’s market in our corner of the city b.people are meeting each other at our farmer’s market and becoming more communal c. its easier to come to the parking lot than the sanctuary (see the ps for more info) d. Won’t you be our Neighbor? we found a motto that described that we wanted everyone in the neighborhood to come to the farmer’s market, and that this reason should drive everything we do

Charlie Brown Christmas 1) its accessible to children of all ages (yay for a mental center coming to see it) 2) one of our actor’s father with alzheimer’s could wander around and enjoy the show 3) people don’t feel bad when their kids make noise because we welcomed the children and they didn’t have to pay “good money” for it. 4) People love to donate food, we got wayyyyy more than the number of people who attended 5) It’s multigenerational, children are seeing what their parents and grandparents grew up with so everyone enjoys it 6) It tells the good news but is not too preachy–many people who are spiritual-but-not-religious felt comfortable with coming to see Charlie Brown

Rule Number Three: No ulterior motives….Try, try, try not to have ulterior motives for putting on Events, because when you do, You hamper God!

You box the event into being successful based on a bunch of random info that you think is important, instead of running the event and then discovering what was important afterwards.

Discuss What Worked Rule Number 4: This is the one piece of advice that I MUST stress, talk about the BEST part of the events, discuss what worked, look on the brightest side, ok not many people came, did you get ANYONE new (?) that’s progress, did you learn anything about advertising (?) that’s progress, did the group do a lot to work together and enjoy certain parts of the process (?) that’s progress. Progress is incremental, you do not build a success story out of one event, but many

Rule number 5 You do not build a success story out of one event but many (see above).
Rule number 6 Try to do repeatable events. I find it take 12 meetings (rule of thumb) to know if something has failed. I repeat, an even CANNOT have failed until you’ve tried it multiple times: whether that be a Bible study or a playgroup or a concert series. That means if you meet once a week it takes 3months, if you meet once a month it will be a year. If you have an event every season then its 3years before you can write it off as a failure. (recommendation: if you have monthly events that are not really connected but seem to be a “thing” that are happening, start measuring those as a grouping, because you are advertising regularly.
(Rule number I’ve lost track, because it doesn’t matter how many rules there are) If you must count (altho I try not to) include your workers as attendees! They are there, they are making time and effort because they think this event is important, and you value your current members/community as much as your potential community (well that is the theory you should be practicing right?), include them
Another Rule Reinvest from the event: For our farmer’s market all our farmer’s fees went into advertising the market, we didn’t make a penny. For our Charlie Brown Play we turned it into a food drive to further teach the message of the play. Don’t do it for the church, do the event for the MISSION of the church
Final Rule: advertise, advertise, advertise: Get people to hand our pamphlets, send out invites, be sure to do that internet thing pick ONE UNIFIED IMAGE for the event and post it everywhere. It takes 3 times of seeing something to register. Put up NEW SIGNS for every event, it makes you look active, it shows your paying attention, it shows your reaching out and you care.
PS try to have events outside the church building (I know, I know that monstrousity costs a lot of money to maintain), but its a lot easier for a stranger to go to neutral ground then to come to your turf where you make the rules ex: its easier to come to the parking lot than the sanctuary, the fellowship hall feels less forboding than the chapel area and the NURSERY is a very friendly place if you make it feel welcoming. Also TRY To make things clear (where to enter, where to park, etc) you don’t want to make your people feel stupid before they even arrive<—my church is still struggling with this, but it makes a clear in-crowd, out-crowd thing…you don’t want that!

Reverse Black Friday Experience

Thursday morning at 6am I went to help with Equinox, which is a Thanksgiving meal program that serves about 10,000 in the Albany area….

I was really pleased to do this for the following reasons

1. My family is not the greatest financially, so I’m more able to give time

2. I have a 5& 1/2, 3 & 1/2, and a just 2 year old at home, so the theory of giving time is good, but not always possible, however my mother in law was in town, so I was able to feel like my husband had back up (he does the kid thing all the time, but he’s also our chef so……)

3. We are in the area….I usually don’t work over Thanksgiving, which means this is when we usually go to family (family comes to us for Christmas)…but this year we did a LOT of traveling…so my eldest asked his grandparents to come up and they obliged…

4. I got around to actually volunteering! They gave me the early shift, which I appreciated because it meant I really had the whole day to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

Immediately this made me feel better about the entire holiday…you know feeling worthwhile and all that…

I worked for two hrs…after which they practically kicked you out, so the next volunteers can get in…

I sorted bread, putting 2 bread products in a bag (trying to pair English muffins with the gigantic loaves so its more even) to be ready to pick up by the drivers who start their runs at 8am….

But my favorite part was the line….I had flashback to Black Friday…there they were over a hundred people sitting in their camp out spots (some since 3am I heard) waiting to be “drivers” to deliver the food…families and friends all sitting with boxes awaiting their food….

If we all did this…lined up one day a year to help people (instead of shopping) what a difference it would be….

Maybe it isn’t all year long…but I like to think how small starts…like volunteering for 2hrs…can make a huge difference

(The food is gathered in city hall since its the only place big enough to hold it all….a formal dinner is served to 500 people and 9,500 people get it delivered)

 

Also! Check out this for more Survival Strategies

Hunger Games: Female leads, Love Triangles and a tiny movie review

Katniss Everdeen is not a typical girl! (this article was written after my blog)

1. When I first read the first chapter I wasn’t sure if Katniss was a girl or Gale was a girl…..

2. She can’t lie: Notice how she’s always the last to know about the real plot (wait Peeta is actually in love with me, I thought we were just pretending is the first book, and a whole host of things in the second one I can’t name). Stereotypically

3. Katniss is not in a typical Love Triangle…I feel like the girl is usually caught in a direct competition where the ENTIRE plot rides the triangulation….Katniss says she’s too busy to worry about being in love…and I think she’s right.

4. Love Triangles don’t exist for boys in books, usual for Men there are two equally viable possibilities and sorting it out is more about what kind of life the hero wants to live (i.e. quiet and nerdy or fast and exciting). For girls its about who is the “RIGHT” boy…I think Hunger Games is more about the possibilities of living with Peeta vs. Gale as opposed to one being “right”

5. Katniss is a dunce about others but she is very self-aware…I like it

6. She grows (always important to me)

7. Every time you think you get how deep the plot is, it gets thicker

8. Its a study on PTSD

Tiny Review of Catching Fire (spoilers ahead)

Catching Fire is intense, people who are not familiar with the book tend to be surprised.

There is a lot more kissing than in the book (as I remember Katniss kisses Gale and Peeta once (for real) each…)….still I found myself taking it into stride

The “feel” is right: This is important because the pacing and details have to change some (the books are mostly introspection, which doesn’t translate to the screen”) however, I think the changes they did were (mostly) sensible for onscreen, and I have no doubt this is because Suzanne Collins has experience writing for TV as well as books

Finally! ending was interesting: I won’t give it away, but they uncover something that is a major mystery in the third book…wondering how they will handle this in the next movie….

Missing Link: I wish they did more with the minor characters, part of what is engaging for Katniss (for her audience and for us) is how she connects with the other characters, they missed that some with nuts & volts as well as the morphlings (who were barely onscreen)….also Peeta connects more to them and is particularly good with the morphlings which we completely miss…a regretable loss….

PS Cinna is my favorite character, I wish they gave him a couple more minutes of screen time about him “putting all his emotion in his work”

Overall: A great adaptation of the book…however ALWAYS read the book

Funny thing abo…

Funny thing about pastoring, a way to make your job easier is to be emotionally calibrated to the season…i.e if you are “feelin” Thanksgivingy around Thanksgiving, you will be a better pastor, ditto with Easter, Christmas, etc…..I love my job. I am in essence paid to “do the holiday thing”!!!!

YAY

Fools

“Christianity is, by its core nature, more akin to folly than it is to the Pope’s massive corporation. The central dictate of Christian doctrine is humility, in imitation of Christ’s ultimate self-humbling. Christians are mocked, persecuted and small: the powerful so-called Christian empires are the real perversion of the Gospel, not the Holy Fool.” p. 127 to Play the Fool by Laurie R. King

Liturgy Seeds for 5/26 Romans 5

Romans 3:28-30; 5:1-11

Thelogical Thoughts: How many people want to get healthy before they see a doctor or fix things before they take the next steps in their lives. God, and indeed church, has no prerequisite for perfection before walking in the door.

Call to Worship

Who is our God, the God of the Jews or the God of the Gentiles?

Yes to both. Our God is one, so our faith is one. 

But we do not all believe the same thing, as I look out upon the congregation I know that I do not believe the same thing as my neighbor. so how can we know we belong to God?

But God says, love the neighbor. Faith is the interweaving of many beliefs, have faith and know that God loves you. 

Come let us boast of the Lord who is God.

Let us worship our Lord and God knowing we have received reconciliation. 

Opening Prayer/Collect: Lord, gather our hearts together, honoring the diversity of our beliefs and weaving them into one faith. Teach us your peace by reminding us that God’s love has been poured out to us all. Help us to boast in the hope of the glory of God we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Confession: How can we approach you God? We confess that we are imperfect. How can we become a group of righteous people? We do not always think of you first, or at all. We forget to consider others, we worry about how things look instead of how they really are. We complain and complain about our suffering. Yet you remind us that we are justified not by our perfection, but by faith. Help us to persevere so we might experience hope we pray.

Reconciliation is the work of God’s peace entering into our lives, and God will never give up. Come and know the truth: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. 

Exegetical

2744 kauxáomai – properly, living with “head up high,” i.e. boasting from a particular vantage point by having the right base of operation to deal successfully with a matter (see WP at 2 Cor 5:12).

[2744 (kauxáomai) likely comes from the root, auχēn(“neck”), i.e. what holds the head up high (upright); figuratively, it refers to living with God-given confidence.

One definition of God coming to earth is that God “Stooped” to be with us. https://biblehub.com/greek/2744.htm

 

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

gush forth, pour out, shed, spill.

Or (by variation) ekchuno ek-khoo’-no from ek and cheo (to pour); to pour forth; figuratively, to bestow — gush (pour) o ut, run greedily (out), shed (abroad, forth), spill. https://biblehub.com/greek/1632.htm

Hymns

Amazing Grace

I’ve Got Peace Like a River

Live Into Hope

Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine

Children’s

Deep and Wide

Liturgy Seeds: Narrative Lectionary 5/19/19

https://wordpress.com/post/bjhlog.wordpress.com/186

NL 5/19/19: Romans 1:1-17

 

SUMMARY/THEMES

Verses 1-6 carry forth the theme of the gospel for all nations/the Gentiles that the NL has been addressing since Easter. Verses 7-15 address the mutuality to be found among Christians (see Barmen Declaration resources from 5/5). Note Paul starts out as describing himself as leader/giver and then notes that he is also recipient. (This was the theme found on 5/5 in Acts 10:1-17, 34-48 about Peter and Cornelius swapping out their roles as host and guest.) Verses 16-17 refer the Romans back to God—a theme found in the 5/12 passage (Acts 13:1-3, 14:8-18), where the people want to worship Paul and Barnabas instead of God.

 

My congregation has had four hospitalizations in this last week (in a church where Sunday attendance is usually less than 20!); therefore, thanking God for one another, praying for each other & mutual upbuilding of the faith is especially fitting right now. Themes I am thinking about include: (1) the grace and peace Paul directs to them from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ is for “all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people.” (2) the Romans’ faith redounds around the world! (3) this faith is shown by praying for one another, (in our case, especially when the one being prayed for finds him/herself unable to pray); and (4) Paul wants something that has been prevented (coming to the Romans) but still has hope.

 

TRANSLATIONS
For a variety of translations, see: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans1:1-17&version=NRSV;GNT;TLB;NIV;MSG

The Message translation is particularly helpful if you are focusing on the way the Paul explains the gospel here (v.2-7). I have not included the NKJV; you can change which versions are included for your perusal.

 

LITURGICAL PIECES

 

CALL TO WORSHIP (from Romans 1:1-6)

One: Servants of Jesus Christ, called to be apostles,

Many: we are set apart for the gospel of God.

One: God promised this gospel through his prophets in the holy scriptures.

Many: This gospel concerns God’s Son.

One: He was was descended from David according to the flesh

Many: He was declared the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.

One: Through Jesus Christ our Lord, we have received grace and apostleship,

Many: and are called t.

One:  This morning God also calls us to believe and obey.

ALL: Thanks, worship and praise be to God!

 

OPENING PRAYER/COLLECT

O God, you love us and call us to be your own holy people.

Reveal to us our need to share one another’s joys and burdens,

to gather together to encourage one another in faith,

and to always pray for one another with thanksgiving,

so that we may know your grace and your peace.

In the name of God, and of the Son of God, and of the Spirit of God, Amen.

 

PRAYER OF GREAT THANKSGIVING/EUCHARISTIC PRAYER:

God, we offer you our thanks and praise.

From the beginning of human history,

you have called people to yourself as Creator and Lord,

teaching and leading them in the way of life.

Through the prophets recorded in Scripture,

you promised your Gospel.

Through the lineage of David,

you rooted Christ Jesus in history.

Through his resurrection from the dead,

you identified him as your Son.

Through him we receive

the generous gift of his life

and the joyous task of sharing that life

with one another and with the whole world.

 

By eating this bread and drinking this cup,

we witness to Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension.

Through Jesus’ body and blood,

assure us that we are your people.

Renew us in our commitment

to inviting others to eat and drink

the joyful feast that you set for all.

 

United us in our thankfulness for one another.

Empower us to help one another.

Humble us to accept help from one another.

And always point us to yourself

and the Good News of the Gospel

as the source of all that we have,

all that we are, and all that we do.

 

Through the gracious gift of God

we are enabled to give thanks and pray,

to witness, and to receive.

Thanks be to God, Amen.

HYMNS
https://hymnary.org/search?page=2&qu=scripture%3Aromans%201%3A1-17%20in%3Atext

 

PC(USA) Glory to God

Romans

1.1-6 (Chapter.verse)

364 I Sing a Song of the Saints of God

410 When I Had Not Yet Learned of Jesus

1.1, 5

377 Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore

1.2-3

74.2 (Hymn #.verse) Jesus on the Mountain Peak

75.2+3 O Wondrous Sight, O Vision Fair

327 O Word of God Incarnate

330 Deep in the Shadows of the Past

331 Thanks to God Whose Word Was Written

601.1-3 Song of Zechariah (Benedictus) (Hymns taken most directly from the listed scripture are in bold type)

602 Song of Zechariah (Benedictus)

1.3-4

83 O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High

148 At the Name of Jesus

299 Amen, Amen

302 I Danced in the Morning

569 Christ Has Died (Memorial Acclamation)

598 This Is the Good News

1.3

48 Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

58.3 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

59.3 While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

69.1 O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright

88.1 All Glory, Laud, and Honor

205 All Hail to God’s Anointed

230.2 This Is the Day the Lord Hath Made

1.4-5

14 Savior of the Nations, Come

106 Alleluia, Alleluia! Give Thanks

107 Celebrate with Joy and Singing

109 Christ Is Risen

112 Christ the Lord Is Risen Again

113 Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!

117 O Sons and Daughters, Let Us Sing!

118 The Day of Resurrection!

120 Hail Thee, Festival Day!

133.2+3 All Glory Be to God on High

137.2 We All Believe in One True God

142 All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!

143 All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!

302.5 I Danced in the Morning

308.4 O Sing a Song of Bethlehem

309 Of the Father’s Love Begotten

474.4 O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright

1.5-6

1.2 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

133.1 All Glory Be to God on High

202.1+2 Psalm 67

212.5 Within Your Shelter, Loving God

216 O Sing a New Song to the Lord

217 O Sing a New Song

218 New Songs of Celebration Render

219 To God Compose a Song of Joy

300.1 Down to Earth, as a Dove

603.2 Song of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis)

604 Song of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis)

605.2 Song of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis)

1.6-7a

144.1 Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!

149.3 The Head That Once Was Crowned

153.1 He Is King of Kings

156.2 You, Living Christ, Our Eyes Behold

220.2 All People That on Earth Do Dwell

255.4 Now Praise the Lord

323 Loving Spirit

353 Great God, Your Love Has Called Us Here

392.4 Take Thou Our Minds, Dear Lord

402.1 Now Praise the Hidden God of Love

442.1+2 The Church’s One Foundation

443.2 O Christ, the Great Foundation

491.1 Stand Up and Bless the Lord

499.1 Wonder of Wonders, Here Revealed

516 Lord, We Have Come at Your Own Invitation

522 Lord, When I Came Into This Life

553.3 For the Fruit of All Creation

1.7-15

435 We All Are One in Mission

438 Blest Be the Tie That Binds

441 I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord

473.5 For the Beauty of the Earth

552 Give Thanks, O Christian People

1.7a

364 I Sing a Song of the Saints of God

1.7b

242.2 Come, All You Servants of the Lord

280 Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound

345.4 Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

356 Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

529.4 Lord of the Living

537 Farewell, Good Friends (Shalom, Chaverim!)

538 Lord, Dismiss Us with Thy Blessing

596 May the Lord, Mighty God

1.16-17

1.2+4 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

2 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

117.6 O Sons and Daughters, Let Us Sing!

240 Out of the Depths

250.1 When Morning Lights the Eastern Skies

307 Fight the Good Fight

370.3 Just as I Am, Without One Plea

373.3 Lonely the Boat

379 My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less

390.6 O Savior, in This Quiet Place

399 We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight

457.5 I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art

462.3 Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

463.3 Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

471 O Praise the Gracious Power

522.3+4 Lord, When I Came Into This Life

1.16a

84 In the Cross of Christ I Glory

86 When We Are Tempted to Deny Your Son

100 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

101 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

149.4+5 The Head That Once Was Crowned

384.4 O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

1.16b

355 Hear the Good News of Salvation

485 To God Be the Glory

569 Christ Has Died (Memorial Acclamation)

598 This Is the Good News

1.16c

1.2 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

2.1 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

1.17a

376.2 Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

412.5 Eternal God, Whose Power Upholds

 

 

EXEGETICAL RESOURCES

This full text is not in the RCL.  Romans 1:1-7 is part of the RCL on the 4th Sunday in Advent, so resources related to the RCL are very differently oriented than what we’re likely to be preaching in May between Easter and Pentecost. In addition, the resources available at textweek.com focus more on the other readings.  See http://www.textweek.com/pauline/rom1.htm

 

Romans 1:16-17 is paired with 3:22b-28 (29-31) on Proper 4A and Epiphany 9A.

See http://www.textweek.com/pauline/rom1_3.htm

 

For resources dealing more broadly with Romans 1, try

https://preachingandworship.org/search/romans%201%3A1-17

 

Also see Charles Spurgeon’s sermon on Romans 1 (although he takes the opening verse to counsel against any political involvement by Christians/pastors)

http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/sermons/2257.htm#expo

 

CHILDREN’S SERMON: Saving starfish one at a time

https://www.sermons4kids.com/one-at-a-time.html

Seeds of Liturgy 5/12

Narrative Lectionary: Acts 13:1-3, 14:8-18

THEMES

This passage has inclusion themes like the passage from last week, although here it is those worshiping Greek gods rather than Gentiles more broadly that are included. There is (again) the theme of people wanted to worship the bearers of the Good News, lending itself to the theme of perception and misperception. We can misperceive—think of the Apostles’ misunderstanding, but God still meets us where we are and takes us to where we need to be. Plus the passage refers to creation as pointing to God and then Paul and Barnabas pointing to God (despite being taken for Zeus and Hermes!)

ILLUSTRATIONS

This last reminds me of our oldest daughter who, when I would point to things on the roadside when we were driving along, would look at my hand instead of what I was pointing to.

Then there’s the old story (apparently originally a Buddhist tale!) of the blind men and the elephant—each feels only one part. Each thinks he understands what an elephant is like, but only has an incomplete picture. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant

It takes a lot of perspective to come close to seeing something clearly—think at least 66 books in the Bible (more if you include the Apocrypha), and then add in the question of how many authors there are of those texts. 

There is the anecdote a man who showed a little girl a lizard caught in a bucket and she said that it was an alligator. Based on what she knew (children’s books showing that A is for Alligator, perhaps), that’s what she thought it was. She interpreted what she saw based on her experience. Don’t we all!  

This illustration is included on the preaching and worship site, the 2nd link at 

https://preachingandworship.org/search/Acts%2014%3A8-18

This site also provides some exegetical resources and also woodcuts illustrating the passage. (Beware lurking anti-Semitism in some of these resources.)

My sister is a missionary in Armenia—how the Gospel is understood among her students, who are actually mainly medical students from India studying in Armenia, is dependent on their various backgrounds. (Wikipedia notes that India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.) At least initially, they understand Jesus as one of their pantheon of gods…

A Korean friend of mine noted that Schussler-Fiorenza’s book Bread Not Stone made her think that, for her context, there needed to be a book Rice Not Bread. Such is the challenge of contextualization—a challenge raising the question of what is core to the gospel and what is its clothes; what is the meat and what is the husk. Which of the Gospel’s characteristics are just how it dresses in a particular culture rather than what it truly is? Early missionaries equated Christianity with becoming Westernized—what have we learned? What can other cultures and people who are, for us, “Other” teach us about how to understand what God is saying to us in Christ and Creation?

HYMNS

For hymns see: https://hymnary.org/texts?qu=Acts+14%3A8-18&media=text&page=0

(also listed on the preaching and worship site).  One could also tap other creation/thanksgiving hymns if emphasizing that creation points to God. Other hymns could reflect on Easter, such as Thine is the Glory, Come Ye Faithful Raise the Strain, or on God meeting us where we are such as God of Compassion, in Mercy Befriend Us. 

BULLETIN COVERS

For a bulletin cover, one could try some version of “God isn’t finished with me yet” as referring to both the Greeks and to the Christians trying to talk to Greeks then and now

https://www.google.com/search?q=please+be+patient+god+isn%27t+finished+with+me+yet&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwij36CeiPThAhUJ0FkKHXVLB_EQsAR6BAgGEAE&biw=1366&bih=657

LITURGICAL RESOURCES

Call to Worship (from Acts 14:16-17, Good News translation)            

[Used/adapted by permission of Barbara Hedges-Goettl]

One: We turn from away from the things that would claim our loyalty and gratitude.

Many: We turn instead to God and announce the Good News:

One: It is God who made heaven, earth, sea, and all that is in them.

Many: God has always given evidence of his existence 

             by the good things he does.

One: God gives rain from heaven and crops at the right times.

Many: God gives us food and fills our hearts with happiness.

ALL: And so we gather to praise and thank our God.

Opening Prayer  (from the PCUSA Book of Common Worship-revised, 2018)

Living God, with joy we celebrate the presence of your risen Word.

Enliven our hearts your Holy Spirit so that we may live and proclaim the Good News

of eternal and abundant life. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.          

Rite of Confession  [Used/adapted by permission of Barbara Hedges-Goettl]

Call to Confession

As Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the Gospel, they sometimes met people who, wanted to honor them instead of the God who sent them and who praised the Creation instead of the Creator. Although we sometimes make these same mistakes, we can go to God for redirection and grace.

Prayer of Confession

O God, too often we go our own way. 

We get confused about who does what.

We look for you in the all the wrong places.

We rely on things instead of the One who made them.

We rely on your messengers, instead of on you.

[Silent confession]

God, forgive us. Redirect us to your way.

Open our eyes to you as Creator of all,

that we may know, honor and proclaim you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:

Stand up and walk in the power of Christ Jesus, who declares the Good News to us:

We are healed. We are forgiven. Thanks be to God!. 

PRAYER OF GREAT THANKSGIVING/EUCHARISTIC PRAYER

[from PCUSA Book of Common Worship-Revised, 2018]

You are holy, O God of majesty,

and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

whom you sent to save us.

He came with healing in his touch, 

and was wounded for our sins.

He came with mercy in his voice, 

And was mocked as one despised.

He came with peace in his heart, 

and met with violence and death.

By our power he broke free from the prison of the tomb,

and at his command the gates of hell were opened.

The one who was dead now lives.

The one who humbled himself is raised to rule over all creation,

the Lamb upon the throne.

The One who ascended on high is with us always, as he promised.

Remembering all your [good]* and merciful acts, 

we take this bread and this wine

from the gifts you have given us,

and celebrate with joy

the redemption won for us in Jesus Christ.

Accept hits our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving 

as a living and holy offering of creation,

that our lives may proclaim the One crucified and risen.

*Originally “might and merciful acts”

PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION (PCUSA Book of Common Worship Revised, 2018)

Gracious God, we give you thanks

that by the witness of your word

and the sharing of this meal

you [open]* our hearts and eyes 

to the presence of Christ among us.

Now send us forth from this place

by the power of your Spirit

to tell this good news to the world:

The Lord has risen indeed! Amen.

*Originally “have opened”

A Complicated Mother’s Day Prayer

Lord, we pray to you today because there’s no such thing as perfect motherhood. The role that has traditionally been given to every woman ever–is a hard one to fill. I pray for all those for whom motherhood is a box that is hard to fill. I have friends who deal with infertility, single parenthood, the need to find a partner to do the work. I have friends who have adopted and fostered with all the magnification of joy and sorrow that creates. I have friends who have two moms, I have friends who have no moms. I have friends who have somehow or another lost their children. I have friends who have lost their mothers. I know too much about those whose moms were abusive or neglectful. I have even more friends whose relationship with motherhood might not be just good or bad but is super-complicated. I have many friends who are special needs mothers, like me, which means childhood may, on some level, last forever. I have friends who don’t want children, and have to deal with that reality in a society that expects differently.

But I know that you, God are not only a father, but also a mother to us. I know that this holiday was brought into church as one of the few moments when women were honored for their sphere.

Lord, God who inspired my friend to give her single father a mother’s day card every year, God who gave my single Aunt her first Women’s Day (as opposed to mother’s day) in Armenia, God who let me peer over a colleague’s shoulder who is brilliantly mothering her foster-to-adopt child. God who gave my mother not one, nor two, but in fact three daughters (though it took us in the cis-world too long to figure it out), God who gave us the special older ladies at every church I’ve ever attended to mother and grandmother me and my children. I give you thanks and praise. And I look forward, God, for us to find a way to celebrate womanhood and femininity in a way that honors the complexity that is the human experience of being a female, and one who lives relationships. Teach us to pray a more complicated Mother’s Day prayer we pray.

Amen

 

Seeds Liturgy Resource: Narrative Lectionary Acts 10 for May 5th

Acts 10:1-17, 34-48

This pericope invites thinking about who is “in” and who is “out” and who decides.

New Yorker cartoon about hate as a family value/holding hate in common

https://www.facebook.com/NewYorkerCartoons/photos/a.237223479636271/2799594813399112/?type=3&eid=ARAq6I6Srdh5YCGnfg_gPAL4b7KV1PbvWonzJ1ouNHcTaTK4dff6ic9y6MrX-o1gzwVVGNYhtUazKeDR&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARA1NPErUJEjZ5EmnJD6ozFmSm2jLbbFnOR4Wyse7ubonEuXhz9j1VO-N2DT7BThBAbXqtQUwnAjZYQ-RmmdJLN9dX7StuUFEniHyJF0988BCBrT3MNzY9u8m_59FEPWfZQG_z-z12KL58Iqlw6eEcrTvpVzRFdB-aZdxdeKwXcUDMO0_YNeFaAA3QcVwE-kN0d35zcV8jgv6GPy64XzhDZHMZiEOMF7_01kpXr30eGmg4ZUkFMF1o-Sy0DpsLx6rUwuqt1N8tAacL5aLMU2OD2tIKic8VYCzCxPAlvFnD9y4TvqjkI1MQZr5cbhqjPXzt4yz7YxC3tKUErEf-8IzBiTPVP3H3rxX1KvZg3KjQ5o&__tn__=EEHH-R

Fullsome exploration of hospitality, including references to Peter/Cornelius  in six lessons or sections with links to further resources https://www.baylor.edu/ifl/index.php?id=937688                                                                    

Direct links to some of those resources are below.

HYMN Come, Brother, Sit with Me                                                                                     Written music: https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/53388.pdf

Audio on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLE6LuqBKC0 

WORSHIP SERVICE – https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/53397.pdf

Discussion of a painting of the Last Supper with odd revelers and the changing of its title to “Feast in the House of Levi” when artist confronted by the  Inquisition about including strange characters in a painting of this holy, solemn occasion https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/53387.pdf

See also in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Feast_in_the_House_of_Levi

This pericope lends itself to resources dealing with issues of inclusion and exclusion, a topic dealt with in the Belhar Confession of Faith. Link to the Confession as accepted in the PC(USA) Book of Confessions at https://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/belhar.pdf

See original liturgical resources inspired by Belhar below.

Call to Worship

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl. 

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

Leader: We share one faith. We have one calling. We are of one soul and one mind.

People: We are one people. We have one God and Father.

Leader: We are filled with one Spirit. We are baptized with one baptism. 

People: We eat of one bread and drink of one cup.

Leader:  We are one people. We confess one name. 

People:  We are obedient to one Lord. We work for one cause. 

ALL: Thanks be to God!

Prayers of the People:

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl. 

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

All: We share one hope; together coming to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ 

[Prayers of thanksgiving and joy/petitions for love and hope] 

All: Together we know and bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another; and that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness.

[Prayers for those in need]  

All: Together we are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity. We pray together. Together we serve God in this world. Together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity. 

[Prayers for the Christian community to live up to its calling] 

Leader: In the name of Christ Jesus, who unites us in the prayer that he taught us….

[The Lord’s Prayer]

Confession of Sin #1

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl. 

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

 

Call to Confession: God calls the church to follow him, standing by those who suffer and are in need, so that justice may roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Let us confess the ways in which we do not follow God’s call. 

Prayer: 

One: O God, you bring justice to the oppressed and give bread to the hungry. 

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you. 

One: You free the prisoner and restore sight to the blind. 

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you. 

One: You support the downtrodden and protect the stranger. 

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you. 

One: You block evildoers and help orphans and widows. 

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you. 

One: You stand against injustice. You stand with the wronged. 

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you. 

One: You condemn those who seek their own interests, controlling and harming others. 

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you. 

One: You bring about justice and true peace among people. 

All: God, forgive us when we do not follow you. 

Grant us your grace. Embolden us that, as your people, we may stand where you stand. 

Assurance of Forgiveness 

One: God’s life-giving Word and Spirit enable us to live in a new obedience, opening new possibilities of life for society and the world. Thanks be to God for the Good News: 

All: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven

Prayer of Confession #2

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl. 

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

Invitation: 

The gift and obligation of unity is given and commanded by God for the Christian church,  

yet the one worldwide community of believers is not visibly and consistently united. Let us confess our need for God’s grace.

Prayer of Confession: God, forgive us. Our communion is not always visible to the world. We allow threats to unity to enter the church, making it hard to see that we are your community. At times we act as though we do not need each other. We do not always love one another. Sometimes we do not know and bear one another’s burdens. At times we fail build each other up. We do not always give ourselves willingly and joyfully to one another.  Forgive and strengthen us so that we may live in the unity that you grant us.

Assurance of Forgiveness 

One: By Christ’s work, we are reconciled and united with God and with one another. Thanks be to God for the Good News:   All: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

Prayer of Confession #3

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl. 

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

Call to Confession: 

One: God has given the church the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ, but we fall short of God’s call to be salt of the earth and the light of the world. 

Prayer of Confession: 

All: God, our fears and prejudices run deep. Sometimes we can only see our own point of view. 

We stick with those who are like us, rarely venturing outside our comfort zones. We do not hear 

those crying for justice and true peace. We blame those who are suffering and in need instead of standing by them. We deny the power of your gospel to unite us with those who are different from us. 

Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Use us to open new possibilities of life for all of your people.

Assurance of Forgiveness

One: We are reconciled with God and with one another through Christ’s work. Thanks be to God 

for the Good News: All:  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Statements/Confessions of Faith

Confession of Faith #1 from article 1 and the beginning of Article 2 of the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl. 

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

We believe in God–the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 

who gathers, protects and cares for the church. 

We believe the church is one worldwide communion of saints, 

called from the entire human family. 

We believe the church is the single community of believers, 

reconciled with God and with one another. 

We believe that through the working of God’s Spirit, 

unity is a binding force and also that we must seek this unity, 

which must become visible to the world. We believe that the sin of division, separation and hatred between people and groups has been conquered by Christ. 

We commit ourselves to protecting the unity of the church universal. 

We pledge to make this unity active in all of our words, thoughts and deeds.

Confession of Faith #2 

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl. 

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

It is through Christ’s reconciling work that we are the church united to God and to other believes.

As the church, we are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world.

   We are entrusted with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ.

As the church, we are witnesses by both word and deed.

    We proclaim the new heaven and the new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

As the church, we proclaim that God’s life-giving Word and Spirit has conquered sin and death.

     God conquers irreconcilation, hatred and bitterness.

As the church, God’s life-giving Word and Spirit enable us to live in a new obedience,

    God opens new possibilities of life for society and the world. 

We declared ourselves ready to venture out on the road of obedience and reconciliation,

     servants of God, who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people.

  

Confession of Faith #3/Litany

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl. 

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

The three parts of this litany may be used separately or in flexible combinations.

a.

One: We believe that unity is both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ.

Many: Through the work of God’s Spirit, unity is a binding force.

One: At the same time, unity must also be earnestly pursued and sought.

Many: We must be continually built up to attain this unity.

One: Our unity must become visible to the world.

Many: Separation and hatred between people and groups is sin, already conquered by Christ. 

One: Anything threatening our unity has no place in the church.

Many: We commit ourselves to resisting anything that threatens our unity.

One: The unity of the people of God is active and made manifest. 

All: Thanks be to God.

b. (Here it works well for the two groups to make the proclamations below to each other.)

Group One: The communion of saints called from the entire human family is united by God.

Group Two: As the people of God, we love one another.

Group One: We experience, practice, and pursue community with one another.

Group Two: We give ourselves willingly and joyfully to one another.

Group One: We are a benefit and blessing to one another. 

Group Two: We share one faith and have one calling.

Group One: We are one body, and are of one soul and mind.

Group Two: We have one God and Father. 

Group One: We are filled with one Spirit.

Group Two: We are baptized with one baptism.

Group One: We eat of one bread and drink of one cup.

Group Two: We confess one name and are obedient to one Lord.

Group One: We work for one cause and share one hope.

All: Thanks be to God.

c.

All: Together we confess that God unites us in faith.

Together we come to know the height, and the breadth, and the depth of the love of Christ.

Together we are built up to the full stature of Christ.

Together we know and bear one another’s burdens.

We admonish one another. We comfort one another. We suffer with one another.

We need one another and we build up one another.

Together we pray. Together we serve God in this world.

Together we fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity.

Thanks be to God for drawing and keeping us together. 

Eucharistic Resources from The Confession of Belhar                                                                           by Catherine J. Purves

Invitation to the Lord’s Table (See Luke 13: 29) 

Friends, this is the joyful feast of the people of God! They will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.                                                  All will be together there at the table; all will be reconciled.                                                       God’s justice will be established, and we will be at peace in Christ. 

This is the Lord’s table.                                                                                                                        Our Savior invites all those who trust in him to share the feast which he has prepared. 

Invitation to the Lord’s Table (See Ephesians 4: 4-5) 

This is the table of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here the community of faith gathers.                           United in baptism, we eat of one bread and drink of one cup, we confess one name,                    are obedient to one Lord, and share one hope. Come to the table where our unity in Christ becomes visible, and where the triune God gathers, protects, and cares for the church. 

Great Thanksgiving 

The Lord be with you. And also with you.                                                                                       Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.                                                                              Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.                                    We praise you O Living God, by whose purpose and will all things came into being.                            In a gracious act of love you formed a people, gathering, protecting and caring for them through Word and Spirit. You called us to be the light of the world, a reflection                                      of your glory and compassion, your justice and your love. When we allowed prejudice, fear, selfishness, and unbelief to lead us from the path of obedient faithfulness, again and again you sent prophets who called for justice and reconciliation. When our need was greatest, you did not abandon us, but sent us your Son,  our Lord and Savior, so that we might be reconciled with you and with one another, one church, united in worship with all the faithful of every time and place singing forever to the glory of your name: 

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.                          Hosanna in the highest. 

We praise you, O God, for your grace embodied in Jesus Christ. In him,                                    humanity has been restored and we are a new community. In him,                                                 the powers of separation and division and hatred have been defeated. In him,                                            the reign of righteousness and truth, freedom and justice has drawn near.                                 

Through his life and ministry, his death and resurrection, his ascension and his lordship, we are now certain of our hope and live in anticipation of his kingdom of peace and justice. Remembering all that you have done for us, and knowing that you are still at work in the world, we take this bread and we share this cup, giving thanks                                       for our redemption and reconciliation now complete in Jesus Christ.                                                And we offer up our lives as a proclamation of his lordship, celebrating his promises                            of unity, reconciliation, justice and peace. Praise to you, Lord Jesus: 

Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.                                                        Lord Jesus, come in glory. Come, Holy Spirit. 

Let these gifts of bread and wine be for us the body and blood of Christ.                                         In this sharing may we be united with him and with one another.                                         Reconciled, forgiven, united, and fed, send us out to live in obedience and sacrifice,                       until that day when all will gather at your table in glory, proclaiming: Jesus is Lord! Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, in the holy church, all glory and honor are yours, almighty Father, now and forever. Amen. 

Prayer After Communion 

Holy and just God, at this our Lord’s table we have known the power of your promises and the mystery of his presence. We have seen that we are one in him, reconciled with our sisters and brothers, united in praise and in service. Being fed and fortified, lead us now into the world to proclaim your justice and to work for your peace, that all would come to see and know that Jesus is Lord and Savior.                                                  To him be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

Hymns Related to the Themes of the Belhar Confession

Taken from The Presbyterian Hymnal, Glory to God

Unity 

   “In Christ There Is No East or West”  # 317, # 318

   “The Church’s One Foundation”   # 321

   “What Does the Lord Require of You?”   # 70

   “We Are One in the Spirit”   # 300

   “We Are One in Christ Jesus”   # 322  (Latin American tune) *

   “Help Us Accept Each Other”   # 754

   “Come!  Live in the Light!”   # 749  (Micah 6: 8)

   “Called as Partners in Christ’s Service”   # 761

   “Faith Begins by Letting Go”   # 684  (familiar tune)

   “Let Us Build a House:  All Are Welcome”   # 301 *

   “O Christ, the Great Foundation”   # 361

   “O for a World”   # 372

   “O God, We Bear the Imprint”   # 759

   “We Gather Here in Jesus’ Name”   # 501  (Communion) *

   “We Shall Overcome”   # 379

Reconciliation

   “Come Now, O Prince of Peace”   # 103  (Korean)

   “Dream On, Dream On”   # 383  (Korean – difficult tune, good words)

   “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive”   # 444 *

   “I Come with Joy”   # 515  (Communion)

   “O Day of Peace”   # 373  (tune:  Jerusalem)

   “When God Restored Our Common Life”   # 74  (not completely sure about this one)   

Justice 

   “For the Healing of the Nations”   # 346

   “Lord, You Give the Great Commission”   # 298

   “My Song Forever Shall Record”   # 67  (Psalm 89, familiar tune)

   “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout:  Canticle of the Turning”   # 100  

              (Magnificat, Irish Ballad tune)

   “My Soul Gives Glory to My God”   # 99  (Magnificat)

   “Show Us, O Lord, Your Steadfast Love”   # 449  (Psalm 85)

   “Sing Praise to God, Whose Mighty Acts”   # 356  (Psalm 9)

   “The Days Are Surely Coming”   # 357

   “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”   # 435

The above liturgical resources related to the Belhar, plus others from the PC(USA), may be found at http://oga.pcusa.org/section/mid-council-ministries/constitutional-services/belhar/

Other Belhar resources may be found at https://www.rca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=4059

Exegetical resources 

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2421

This story is more about the conversion of Peter than about that of Cornelius

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3219                                         Gives historic background regarding Cornelius as a centurion, and then addresses possible themes of where the spirit is leading us today and how to have genuine dialogue across differences. 

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom36.pdf Calvin’s Commentary on Acts

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/robertson_at/wp_acts.xi.html#xi-p0.1 Detailed analysis of the Greek (1930)

https://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/easter-6b-2/?type=old_testament_lectionary Acts challenges the assumptions of the early Christians regarding who the gospel is for, shocking those who are already in the church 

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1294                           Examines the story in the context of the larger narrative of Acts and Peter’s ministry overall. 

http://www.rickmorley.com/archives/1585                                                                                                                                    Christians of Jewish descent are “astounded” that the Holy Spirit of God is being given to “even” the Gentiles.

https://politicaltheology.com/the-politics-of-acts-1044-48/                                                        In usual circumstances Peter, as a Jew, would never have gone into Cornelius’ home.

https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/53391.pdf

The practice of welcoming travelers was a tactic to neutralize potential threats; 

here hospitality changes how Jewish Christians see Gentile converts.

How is Christian community blocked today?

Seeds of Prayer: Liturgy Resource 4/28 Narrative Lectionary

image.png

 

 

www.gbcdecatur.org/files/GoTime.jpg

 

Prayer Pups

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Source

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Go

For more bulletin-type art, go to https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?hspart=iba&hsimp=yhs-1&type=c2pr_8002_CHW_US_tid132w&p=great%20commission%20clipart

Original liturgical resources (please state © Barbara Hedges-Goettl or, if adapting: adapted from resource © Barbara Hedges-Goettl)

Call to Worship (from Psalm 40 Good News version)

One: In the assembly of all your people, Lord,

Many: We tell the good news that you save us.

            You know that we will never stop telling it.

One: We have not kept the news of salvation to ourselves.

Many: We have always spoken of your faithfulness and help

             We have not been silent about your loyalty and constant love

One: In the assembly of all your people., Lord. 

Psalm 4 in multiple versions (you can pick which versions you want to see)

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm40&version=NRSV;GNT;TLB;NIV;MSG

Opening prayer 

Almighty and eternal God,                                                                                                                            you have called us together in this time and place.                                                                                     Call us again to disciple all peoples, baptizing them in your Triune name:

Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

Call us again to teach all [peoples/communities/neighbors/neighborhoods/tribes/races/multitudes*] 

to follow everything that Jesus has commanded us.   

Call us again to follow Jesus, who holds all authority in heaven and earth.

In the name of the One who is always with us we pray, Amen.

*These choices are from possible translations of ethnos, Matthew 28:19;

 see exegetical resources below.

Prayer of Confession 

O God, although you call us to witness to all peoples,

we interact mostly with those who are like us.

Broaden our understanding of who our neighbor is.

Enlarge our community. Empower us to see and hear the “Other.”

Make us ready to teach and also humble—ready to be taught.

Remind us that all authority is not ours, but yours.  

In the name of Jesus, who served all peoples, Amen.

Assurance (adapted from Zephaniah 3:17)

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who saves; 

he rejoices over you with gladness; he quiets you by his love; 

he exults over you with loud singing.

Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Confession of Faith:

We have varieties of gifts, 1 Cor. 12/Matthew 28

but it is the same Spirit who gives them.

We have different ways of serving God,

but it is the same Lord who is served.

God works through each of us in a unique way,

but it is God’s purpose that is accomplished.

To each of us is given a gift of the Spirit

to be used for the common good.

The body is one and has many members.

All the members, though many, are one body

So it is with Christ. In the one Spirit,

we are all baptized into one body.

As Christ’s body, we are commissioned

to go and disciple all nations,

teaching what Jesus taught,

and knowing he is with us always, to the end of the age.

Interrogative Apostles’ Creed (Roman Catholic International Commission on English in the Liturgy, 1974)

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?  “I do.”

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? “I do.”

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting? “I do.”

This is our faith, the faith of the Church that we proclaim and share. 

Offering prayer

By the presence of the risen Christ Jesus, empower this church and these gifts in discipleship to share and follow all that Jesus taught and did. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.  

Prayer of Great Thanksgiving B

© 1993 Westminster/John Knox Press

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without special permission,

except as noted.

Brief portions of this Book of Common Worship may be reproduced without special permission

for one-time use only, for worship and educational purposes, in an order of service

for use by a congregation, or in a special program or lesson resource, provided that no part

of such reproduction is sold, directly or indirectly, and that the following acknowledgment

is included: Reprinted by permission from Book of Common Worship, © 1993

Westminster/John Knox Press.

You are holy, O God of majesty,

and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.

You sent your only-begotten,

in whom your fullness dwells,

to be for us the way, the truth, and the life.

Revealing your love,

Jesus taught those who would hear him,

healed those who believed in him,

received all who sought him

and lifted the burden of their sin.

We glorify you for your great power and love at work in Christ.

By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection,

you gave birth to your church,

delivered us from slavery to sin and death,

and made us a new people by water and the Spirit

Gracious God,

pour out your Holy Spirit upon us

and upon these your gifts of bread and wine,

that the bread we break

and the cup we bless

may be the communion of the body and blood of Christ.

By your Spirit unite us with the living Christ

and with all who are baptized in his name,

that we may be one in ministry in every place.

As this bread is Christ’s body for us,

send us out to be the body of Christ in the world.

Intercessions for the church and the world may be included here.

Help us, O God, to love as Christ loved.

Knowing our own weakness,

may we stand with all who stumble.

Sharing in his suffering,

may we remember all who suffer.

Held in his love,

may we embrace all whom the world denies.

Rejoicing in his forgiveness,

may we forgive all who sin against us.

Give us strength to serve you faithfully

until the promised day of resurrection,

when with the redeemed of all the ages

we will feast with you at your table in glory.

Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

all glory and honor are yours, eternal God,

now and forever. Amen. [115]

Exegetical resources:

Matthew 28:16 This commentary contends that all the disciples both worshiped and doubted: http://dancingwiththeword.com/but-some-doubted/

BlueLetterBible interlinear word study; ones I found of interest are 

v. 18: power  https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1849&t=KJV

v. 19: teach; nations;

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/mat/28/18/t_conc_957019 Click on Strong’s number for info on a particular word

v. 20: observe; commanded  https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/mat/28/18/t_conc_957020 Click on Strong’s number for info on a particular word

What is the Great Commission and Why Is It So Controversial?

http://theconversation.com/what-is-the-great-commission-and-why-is-it-so-controversial-111138

Along these lines, see this book, which is all about the Great Commission and colonialism; as summarized here:

That Christian missionary efforts have long gone hand-in-hand with European colonization and American imperialist expansion in the 19th and 20th centuries is well recognized. The linchpin role played in those efforts by the “Great Commission”–the risen Christ’s command to “go into all the world” and “teach all nations”–has more often been observed than analyzed, however. With the rise of European colonialism, the Great Commission was suddenly taken up with an eschatological urgency, often explicit in the founding statements of missionary societies; the differentiation of “teachers” and “nations” waiting to be “taught” proved a ready-made sacred sanction for the racialized and androcentric logics of conquest and “civilization.”

https://www.amazon.com/Teaching-All-Nations-Interrogating-Commission/dp/1451470495  

Preview at https://books.google.com/books?id=XbyZAgAAQBAJ&pg=PT2&lpg=PT2&dq=review+book+%22Teaching+all+nations%22&source=bl&ots=TWw-iD006A&sig=ACfU3U1vNE6hsTtJrxcog_APR9MHu5YAxQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiCh5ux3qjhAhUvnuAKHYYLDbIQ6AEwEXoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=review%20book%20%22Teaching%20all%20nations%22&f=false

Link from google.com/books to full Ebook for $37.72 

A good foil for this could be various readings of the Ethiopian Eunuch story in which it is observed that the Eunuch’s questions revealed new things to Philip as well as vice-versa, and that their roles cannot be described unilaterally in terms of power/status, but only in terms of intersectionality. See https://wordpress.com/post/bjhlog.wordpress.com/168

Account of the guards blaming Jesus’ disappearance on the disciples (right before our passage) v. our passage as parallel narratives: https://www.onemansweb.org/theology/life-on-the-beach-matthew-24-36-44/trust-matthew-28-16-20-trinity-sunday.html.

Make disciples/discipling as the active verb in the passage; others are participles explaining/describing the making of disciples. See http://gluthermonson.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-great-calling-and-assurance.html

Wikipedia: The Great Commission. This description deals mostly with Matthew 28, but also discusses the other gospels (and Acts) versions of the Great Commission as well as other commissions given in Matthew. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Commission

The Great Commission: Ecclesiology

 http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/journal-issues/32.3_Castleman.pdf

This last addresses the role of the Trinity; this reading in the RCL is used on Trinity Sunday. For why, see http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/matt28b.htm

Commissioning v. Commandment; deals with passage from perspective of United Methodist mission statement: – “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” https://www.pulpitfiction.com/notes/trinitya 

Other ideas for themes/quotes

Preach the Gospel—Use Words When Necessary (attributed to St. Francis, but not substantiated)

Commission and Covenant: Go and I am with you always

Discipling v. Making Disciples (Calvinists, like me, would say the first is our job, the second is God’s job)

Music

Matthew 28:16-20
The great commissioning 

http://lectionarysong.blogspot.com/2017/05/songs-hymns-music-for-trinity-sunday-11.html

“Go to the World,” is a new expression of the Great Commission set to a familiar Ralph Vaughn Williams tune (SINE NOMINE) often used in “For All the Saints.” Consider using this for the sending today. See https://hymnary.org/text/go_to_the_world_go_into_all_the_earth#media

Verses Title Presby-terian Hymnal (1990)
v.16-17 That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright

121

v. 18 Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!

144

Rejoice, the Lord Is King!

155

v.19-20 Eternal God, Whose Power Upholds

412

The Church of God in Every Age

421

God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending

422

Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak

426

Lord, You Give the Great Commission

429

Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples

434

We All Are One in Mission

435

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

466

Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ

514

v.20 Abide with Me

543

Command
How Blest  Are Those (Psalm 32) 184 v.4

Good Friday Full Worship Liturgy, Matthew

Call to Worship  

L  The Lord be with you.

P  And also with you

                                

1. PRAYER                                          MATTHEW 26:36

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread.

Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

2. HE NAIL OF STUMBLING                               MATTHEW 26:37-40

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 

(Silent Meditation & Extinguishing of Candles)

Let all mortal flesh keep silence, And with fear and trembling stand

Ponder nothing earthly minded, For with blessing in His hand,

Christ our God to earth descended, Our full homage to demand

3. THE NAIL OF BETRAYAL                                       MATTHEW 26:48-50

Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.”  At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.  Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.”  Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

4.. THE NAIL OF CRUELTY                                 MATTHEW 27:27-31, 39-42

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him.  They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head.  They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.  After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

(Silent Meditation & Extinguishing of Candles)

Let all mortal flesh keep silence, And with fear and trembling stand

Ponder nothing earthly minded, For with blessing in His hand,

Christ our God to earth descended, Our full homage to demand

5. RESPONSIVE READING: THE PROMISE OF MERCY      Psalm 22:1-5a

We know what it is like to cry out, as the psalmist did 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

   Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;

   and by night, but find no rest.

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved.

6.   THE NAIL OF HATRED                                        Matthew 27: 41-44 

In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.” ’The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

Lift up your hearts

We lift them up to the Lord

7. RESPONSE: ACT OF CONFESSION                                          

     You are invited to nail your sins to the cross

(Silent Meditation & Extinguishing of Candles)

King of kings, yet born of Mary, As of old on earth He stood, Lord of lords in human vesture, In the body and the blood. He will give to all the faithful, His own self for heavenly food. 

8. COMMUNION

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

It is right to give our thanks and praise…Jesus our teacher, our brother, our friend knowing he was going to be betrayed and die, he took the bread and broke it and said, this is my body broken for you Then Jesus took the cup and said: “I am poured out like water, and my bones are out of joint” And even though Jesus knew that he would feel alone, he knew he would call out “My God, my God, Elohim, Elohim why have you forsaken me?” He poured himself out, sacrificing his very self for our sins. Every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of Jesus until he comes again.

9.  DARK MATTHEW 27:48-51

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land* until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.* At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 

(Silent Meditation & Extinguishing of Candles)

Seeds of #prayer: Liturgy for #Easter Abundant Discipleship

Matthew 28:1-10 and Psalm 118: 19-24

Image result for Do not be afraid he is not here

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Call to Worship

Jesus, Lord, you have become our salvation.

I shall not die, but I shall live.

I was pushed so hard, that I was falling, the Lord helps me.

The Lord is my strength and my might, he has become my salvation.

 

Call to Worship

Let us proclaim the good news

He is risen

He is risen Indeed.

Come let us celebrate  the resurrection.

Call to Worship

It is a new day, the first day

Come let us see the new creation God has wrought.

See the stone has been rolled away.

Surely, Jesus is here! Come let us worship him. 

 

Prayer of Confession: Lord we confess that we are not always an Easter people. Too often we dwell with our sins, too afraid to confess them, and too stubborn to change our ways. Remind us that you make all things new. Roll the stone in our hearts away, create an earthquake in our souls, so that we too may experience the grace of Jesus Christ we pray.

Prayer of Confession: Lord, we confess that even when the stone has been rolled away and the good news has been proclaimed, we are sometimes afraid to see your glory. We feel inadequate or unprepared. Remind us of God’s favor and grace, and open our eyes so we may see the visions of God’s love.

Assurance of Pardon: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. In these words we know the truth: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.

Communion Prayer: Risen Lord, we know that you are an embodied God, promising to be particularly present in the holy bread and cup. Send your promised encourager and advocate here. Bless this bread and bless this cup so we can be filled with your life and light. Renew us with the power of your resurrection we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication: Christ alive, be present with us here today, from this moment on. Walk with us into the world, guide our hearts and minds and steps so that we can bring Easter to all the world we pray. Amen.

Hymns

Amazing Grace

What Wondrous Love is This

Christ is Alive!

Jesus Christ is Risen Today!

The Day of Resurrection!

Thine is the glory!

Full List of Lenten Resources (Of course some prayers may be appropriate for other weeks)

Seeds Liturgy Crucifixion: Matthew #GoodFriday Fully Abundantly Human

Good Friday

Matthew 27:27-61 

Psalm 22:1-2, 14-18

Tenebrae Order of Worship I (Extinguish Candles after singing)

Were You there when they crucified the Lord or Taize: Stay with Me

Crown of Thorns: Matthew 27:27-31

This is Jesus, King of the Jews Matthew 27:32-37

Crucifixion Matthew 27:38-44

Were You There when they nailed him to a tree 

Communion

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:45-51

Were You There when they left him there to die or Taize O Lord Hear My Prayer

Earthquake Matthew 27:52-54

Nail Sins to the Cross

Tomb Matthew 27-55:61

Were You there when they laid him in the Tomb or Taize Kyrie Eleison 

Tenebrae Order of Worship II (Extinguish during Silent Meditations or Hymns)

Matthew 27:27-29

Silent Meditation

Psalm 22:1-2

Silent Meditation

Matthew 27: 41-44

Silent Meditation

Psalm 22: 16-17

Silent Meditation

Matthew 27: 45-47

Silent Meditation

Communion

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (abruptly end with “cry” before the Alleluias) 

Nail Sins to the Cross

Psalm 22:14-15

Silent Meditation

III. Full Liturgy available here

Communion 

Jesus our teacher, our brother, our friend knowing he was going to be betrayed and die, he took the bread and broke it and said, this is my body broken for you

Then Jesus took the cup and said: “I am poured out like water, and my bones are out of joint”

And even though Jesus knew that he would feel alone, he knew he would call out “My God, my God, Elohim, Elohim why have you forsaken me?” He poured himself out, sacrificing his very self for our sins. Every time we remember Jesus’ death we do so as a proclamation of deliverance for generation upon generation.

Send your Holy Spirit, here, God, salve our wounds and help us, even today to taste your kingdom today. We pray this using the prayer your son taught us….

 

Further Hymn Ideas: Let US Break Bread Together v1 &2

Bread of the World in Mercy Broken

All of the suggestions within the Tenebrae

#Abundance of Presence: Seeds of Prayer #Lent Narrative Lectionary

 

Last Supper: Abundance of Presence

Matthew 26: 17-30 and Psalm 116: 12-15

Call to Worship

I love the Lord my God, who has heard my voice and supplications

Because God has inclined an ear to me, I will call out for God as long as I live.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous, our God is merciful

Come, let us walk before the Lord. 

Call to Worship

Come let us break bread together today

Come Let us drink the fruit of the vine together, on our knees.

Let us do this remembrance of Christ

Come, let us proclaim his death until he comes again. 

 

Confession: Lord I confess sometimes I am Judas ready to betray, sometimes I’m Peter quick to deny what I’m going to do, sometimes I’m the disciples oblivious to the truth though I’ve been told over and over again. Forgive me, help my faith, save me Jesus I pray. 

Confession: Lord I confess I feel the snares of death, O Lord, I pray, save my life. Help me, your servant, loose my bounds to sin I pray. Free me to love you. 

Confession: Lord I confess that I have forgotten that you are present. I have forgotten the miracle of your bread and your cup. Forgive me and breathe life back into me I pray. 

Assurance of Pardon: (Psalm 116: 8-9) Know this: Your soul has been delivered  from death, and now you walk in the land of the living, In Jesus Christ you are forgiven.

Assurance of Pardon: The Lord has dealt bountifully with you, returning your soul to your rest, so know that you are deeply and fully forgiven in Christ. 

Prayer of Dedication/Prayer of the Day: Lord, you poured out your blood for the forgiveness of sins, you have already sealed the new covenant with us. Hold that in our hearts so that we can dedicate all that we do to you. 

Full List of Lenten Resources (Of course some prayers may be appropriate for other weeks)

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