Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

Sunday, April 1, 2012, the Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church Choir presents the cantata, 
"God's Wondrous Love."

In our culture we are blessed by music in so many forms. The genres of music and the ways in which we may access music seem endless. In fact, the number of songs daily downloaded onto listening devices (like I-Pods) is staggering. Needless to say, that was not the case in biblical times. There was no sheet music to use or hymnals (red or blue:) available. Yet, music was important in the religious life of the people. We know this because of the numerous references to music found throughout the Bible. Also, we know this by the "song book" of the Hebrew people: Psalms. The Psalms, or the Psalter, as it is sometimes called, is a collection of prayers and songs written throughout Israel's history. Included are psalms of lament and woe, psalms of thanksgiving, and other songs and prayers.

In light of the cantata that we will be enjoying Palm Sunday, it seems fitting that we prepare our hearts and minds for worship by reflecting on psalms of praise. During the week, take some time to read through Psalms 145 through 150, which are beautiful hymns of praise. Better yet, read them ALOUD, allowing the sound of your voice to rise like incense before God as an offering of your adoration.

Walter C. Sutton has written a lovely prayer that might enhance your time of preparation:
Today, I delight in your works, great Maker of Music. Music is one of your greatest gifts. Thank you, God, for melody, harmony, counterpoint, and syncopation. Music makes me laugh, or cry. It gets me up to dance, or compels me to sit quietly before its majestic passage. Music touches me in ways that words cannot. Thank you, God for music.
Let all God's people say, "Amen!"

As always, I look forward to seeing you in worship Sunday morning, if not before.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lectionary texts for Sunday, March 25th include Jeremiah 31:31-34 and John 12:20-33

Today's meeting of area pastor's for our Lectionary Group time was quite interesting. The truth might just be that we came scratching our heads in confusion and left much the same way. You have noticed, I am sure, that when Jesus is asked a question, particularly in the Gospel of John, the answer is often not quite clear.

Take the story we read today. It goes a bit like this: Some Greeks show up wanting to see Jesus. They approach Philip who doesn't seem to know how to respond. Philip goes to Andrew--I can almost seem them huddled there, heads together and whispering. Still, they don't know what to do about these Greeks. So the two of them go to Jesus. And what does Jesus say? Does he say, "Bring the Greeks to me"? Does he address them at all? At first glance, the answer seems to be, "No." But with a closer look, it may be that all of what Jesus says involve the Greeks who are standing by, especially in light of verse 32 when Jesus claims that "all people" will be drawn to him.

In preparation for worship on Sunday:
  1. Read the passages from Jeremiah and John. Do you see any connections? If so, what do you notice?
  2. Read John 12:20-33 again. What do you think Jesus means when he says, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified"?
  3. Now, back up to the previous section to read John 12:1-19. [Just as an aside, it's always a good thing when you are studying Scripture to look at a particular passage in context. In other words, notice what just happened or what happens next, or what the overall setting is.] Pay particular attention to verse 19. What do the Pharisees fear? 
  4. In verse 20, have the Pharisees fears come to fruition? If so, how?
May God bless you this week as you continue the Lenten journey. I look forward to seeing you at the Celtic Worship service Saturday at 5 p.m. and/or Sunday morning worship.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lectionary texts for Sunday, March 18th, include Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21.

The Old Testament reading from Numbers is quite an intriguing story. You may wish to read it this week and reflect on it a bit before turning to the New Testament reading. In case you need a little extra motivation, the sermon title for Sunday is "Death on a Pole." Yes, you will likely want to read both passages in preparation for worship.

We are in the middle of the Lenten season, and these days just before Easter tend to pass so quickly.  As we journey along, trying to find moments for quiet meditation in the midst of rushing to and fro, isn't it good to be reminded of God's love that is all around us, in the cracks and crevices of all of life. When I feel the urge to slow down, keep time in a different way, I tend to go to the poets. They have a way of putting things differently; often times shining rays of light just where it's most needed. Having said that, I hope you enjoy the following poem taken from A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997 by Wendell Berry.

1992: VIII
I have again come home
through miles of sky
from hours of abstract talk
in the way of modern times
when humans live in their minds
and the world, forgotten, dies
into explanations. Weary
with absence, I return to earth.
"Good to see you back down
on the creek!" Martin Rowanberry
would say if he were here
to say it, as he'll not be again.
I have departed and returned 
too many times to forget
that after all returns
one departure will remain.
I bring the horses down
off the hillside, harness them,
and start the morning's work,
the team quick to the load
along the narrow road.
I am weary with days
of travel, with poor sleep,
with time and error,
with every summer's heat
and blood-drinking flies.
And yet I sink into
the ancient happiness
of slow work in unhastenable
days and years. Horse and cow,
plow and hoe, grass to graze
and hay to mow have brought me
here, and taught me where I am.
I work in absence not yet mine
that will be mine. In time
this place has come to signify
the absence of many, and always
more, who once were here.
Day by day their voices
come to me, as from the air.
I remember them in what I do.
So I am not a modern man.
In my work I would be known
by forebears of a thousand years
if they were here to see it.
So it has been. So be it.

May the Lord pour blessings upon you and those you love this week. I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lectionary readings for Sunday include Exodus 20:1-17 and John 2:13-22.

As we journey toward Easter, our gospel reading from John provides a unique perspective of Jesus. This is not Jesus, meek and mild. No this is Jesus, furious, outraged, overcome by emotion. The story of Jesus cleansing the Temple provides a perfect text to meditate upon using the practice of lectio divina

Pull up a comfy chair, open your Bible, and have a pen and notebook handy so you can write down your thoughts.  Now, read through the passage. Imagine the scene being played out in the Temple at the time of the Jewish Passover. Sit silently for a couple of minutes.  What do you notice on this first reading. Write down your thoughts.

Now I invite you to read the passage a second time, but this time try to focus on your senses. As you put yourself in the story, what do you see, smell, hear... Sit quietly for a few moments, and then record your experience.

Once more, read the passage, but this time you get to play the part of the money changer. You are sitting at your table, counting coins, stacking up coins, exchanging coins. Now read the passage. What thoughts come to mind? What do you think of Jesus, coming into your place of "business" and turning things upside down? 

Near the end of this chapter of John, Jesus tells the Jewish leaders, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Here Jesus is speaking of the temple of his body. Because of the sacrifice Jesus makes, no longer will God be "housed" in a man-made structure, as if God ever was! No, now, because of the work of God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, God is with each baptized believer, forever and always.

Last year my spiritual director gave me a lovely book by John Moses, The Desert: An Anthology for Lent. An entry written by Theophan the Recluse speaks of God's home in each of our hearts:

You seek the Lord? Seek, but only within yourself. He is not far from anyone. 
The Lord is near all those who truly call on Him. 
Find a place in your heart, and speak there with the Lord. 
It is the Lord's reception room. 
Everyone who meets the Lord meets Him there; 
He has fixed no other place for meeting souls.

May God bless you in your comings and goings this week. I look forward to worshiping with you on Sunday.