Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

via Google Images

This Sunday we continue our journey through Advent by considering a "Theology of Time." In preparation for worship, take some time to sit quietly for a while with the following Scripture readings: Genesis 1:1-5, Exodus 3:14-15, and Matthew 11:2-11. Then reflect on these questions:
  1. What kind of relationship do I have with time?
  2. How do I use it?
  3. Whose is it?
  4. How often do I consult God before planning the hour, the day, the week, the year?
A prayer written by Fiona Bennett entitled "The hope of the Seed" speaks to "time" in a special way. May her words be a blessing for you this week.

The hope of the Seed
            In this waiting time, creating Spirit,
            we give you thanks for the new life,
            the new world which rose up
            from the Seed which died.

            We thank you for the hope of the Seed.
We take encouragement that over many years
the life of the Seed has spread,
wending its way across the earth;
flourishing where it finds welcomed space;
bringing new life wherever it finds root.

Help us to be good gardeners;
to recognize Christ’s Seed wherever it grows;
to learn how best to care for the Seed;
to work hard with patience, endurance and faith
throughout the seasons;
to experience the pleasure, challenge and delight
of the gardener
as we nurture Christ’s greening of the whole earth. 

As always, I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

I hope you will join us for worship this Sunday when the CHPC Choir presents "Breath of Heaven." In the meantime, as your journey through Advent, one question and two tasks are before you. First, during the week, meditate on how the God-given gift of music enriches your life during Christmas and throughout the year. Then, I hope you will enjoy two musical treats. The first is a video a young friend shared with me recently. It is truly amazing. The second video is "Hallelujah Chorus" presented in an original and powerful way. Enjoy!

May the Lord bless you and the people whom you love during the Seasons of Advent & Christmas.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

via Google Images

The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The season provides a time of celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and a time of anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Therefore, Advent is more than a historical marker of something that took place 2000 years ago. It’s a time frame with a double focus—both past and future. Advent also has a present focus—symbolizing the spiritual journey of persons and congregations, who yearn to live holy lives during these “in between times.”

On our journey through Advent this year, we will consider how we live out “time” as we wait. In preparation for Sunday, read Genesis 1:1-5, Exodus 3:14-15, and Matthew 11:2-11. Then join us for worship as we ponder a theology of time and the importance of living spiritually, in the present tense. 

May the following prayer written by John Bell bless you on your Advent journey.

You keep us waiting.
You, the God of all time,
want  us to wait
for the right time in which to discover
who we are, where we are to go,
who will be with us, and what we must do.
So thank you…for the waiting time.

You keep us looking.
You, the God of all space,
want us to look in the right and wrong places
for signs of hope,
for people who are hopeless,
for visions of a better world which will appear
among the disappointments of the world we know.
So thank you…for the looking time.

You keep us loving.
You, the God whose name is love,
want us to be like you—
to love the loveless and the unlovely and the unloveable;
and, most difficult of all,
to love ourselves.
So thank you…for the loving time.

And in all this,
you keep us.
Through hard questions with no easy answers;
through failing where we hoped to succeed
and making an impact where we felt we were useless;
through the patience and the dreams and the love of others;
and through Jesus Christ and his Spirit,
you keep us.
So thank you…for the keeping time,
and for now,
and for ever,

I look forward to our time of worship this Sunday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

via Google Images

December 1, 2013 marks the beginning of Advent; the beginning of the new church year. 
Prior to Sunday take time to read Isaiah 2:1-5 and Matthew 24:36-44. As you likely know already, throughout Advent I will be preaching a sermon series guided by Scripture and Bonnie Thurston's book, To Everything a Season. 

In preparation for worship, consider the following: 
  1. How do I think of "time"? 
  2. How do I live in a world in which there never seems to be enough time?
  3. "Children view time differently." How might you respond to this statement?
Spend some time pondering the following prayer written by Kate McIlhagga:

Pregnant with hope
Now is a time of watching and waiting
a time pregnant with hope
a time to watch and pray.

Christ our advent hope,
bare brown trees,
etched dark across a winter sky,
leaves fallen, rustling,
ground hard and cold,
remind us to prepare for your coming;
remind us to prepare for the time
when the soles of your feet will touch the ground,
when you will become one of us
to be at one with us.

May we watch for the signs,
listen for the messenger,
wait for the good news to slip
into our worlds, our lives.
Christ our advent hope,
help us to clear the way for you;
to clear the clutter from our minds,
to sift the silt from our hearts,
to move the boulders that prevent us meeting you.

Help us to make straight the highways,
to unravel the deception that leads to war,
to release those in captivity.
May sorrow take flight,
and your people sing a song of peace
and hope be born again.

As always, I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday. In the meantime, I pray you have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Advent,

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

This Sunday, November 24, we will gather to celebrate the end of the Christian calendar year. You might think of it as a New Year's Eve celebration (minus the confetti). Through Scripture and music, we will re-tell the story that guides our lives. We will remember the birth of Jesus, his life and ministry, and his death, resurrection and ascension. Also, we will remember the promise that Christ will one day return in victory to reign over all creation.

Make plans to join us, along with your friends and loved ones. Let us gather and rejoice in the glory of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; for in Christ all things began, and in Christ, all things will be fulfilled.

May the following poem by Ian M. Fraser help prepare you for our time of worship:

No place
No place had you to lay your head
O Christ whom we call King of Kings;
you came to share the painful lot
of all the homeless, life's foundlings.
You had no home to call your own
though earth's your footstool, heaven your throne.
At last, through wood and nails, you found
a home, spread-eagled on the cross,
where all could see the face of God
made one with human pain and loss;
and hear God's call, and find God grants
to each a niche of relevance.
Lord, make us restless till we rest
in your good will for humankind
that, while the birds have each a nest
and foxes holes, we learn your mind
that all your cherished human race
may claim a sheltered dwelling place.

May the Lord bless you and those you love.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

via Google Images

Scripture readings for this Sunday, November 17th, include Isaiah 12:1-6 and Luke 21:5-19.  First, read the passage from Isaiah and consider the following:
  1. What is the overall tone of the text?
  2. What is the reason for thanksgiving and praise?
  3. From verse 4, what will "you say?"
via Google Images
Now turn to the Gospel of Luke. After reading the text, ponder these things:  
  1. What is the overall tone of this writing?
  2. There are those who are quite impressed with the grandeur of the temple. Is Jesus equally impressed?
  3. Concerning when the temple will be destroyed, what does Jesus say?
  4. In the NIV, verse 13 reads, "This will result in your being witnesses to them," while the NRSV puts it this way, "This will give you an opportunity to testify." 
  5. Think for a moment about your faith journey. In general, how comfortable are you with "witnessing" or "testifying"? How have you come to this perspective?
Finally, Lectionary readings are usually paired together for a reason. As you reflect on these two readings, one from the prophet Isaiah and one from Luke's gospel, do you see commonalities? If so, what are they?

As always, I look forward to joining you in worship this Sunday.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

Via Google Images

In preparation for worship on November 10th, read Psalm 98. "O sing to the Lord," the psalmist proclaims. What shall we sing to the Lord? A new song. Why should we sing such a song? Because Yahweh has done marvelous things.

Recent sermons have addressed the benefits of gratitude, both spiritually and physically. As you journey toward Sunday, I challenge you to take time each day to make a list of 5 things for which you are grateful. (Think of it as a way to get a head-start on Thanksgiving preparations, if you will.) 

via Google Images
In addition, if you so desire, write a prayer to God, a "new song,"  so that you may join all creation to make a joyful noise to the Lord.

As always, I look forward to our time of worship. Come, let us sing to the Lord!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

"Zacchaeus' tree", Jericho, Palestine, via Wikimedia Commons
Lectionary readings for this Sunday include Psalm 119:137-144 and Luke 19:1-10. The passage from the Gospel of Luke tells the well-known story of Zacchaeus. After reading the text a couple of times, consider the following:
  1. What was Zacchaeus' profession?
  2. Why was he unable to see Jesus?
  3. What does he do to overcome this obstacle?
  4. What were Jesus' first words to Zacchaeus?
Finally, on your journey toward Sunday, ponder one last question: "When was the last time I put forth a great deal of effort to be with Jesus?"

Our worship this Sunday will include the celebration of All Saints' Day.

Come, let us worship our Lord and give thanks for those who, while they walked the earth, enriched our lives in endless ways.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector via Google Images

In preparation for worship this Sunday, read Luke 18:9-14. In this reading, to whom is Jesus speaking? What is the prayer of the Pharisee? In contrast, what is the prayer of the tax collector?

May the following excerpt from Albert Nolan's book, Jesus Before Christianity: The Gospel of Liberation help you imagine the radical nature of Jesus' teaching in this parable. 
It is difficult for us to imagine the shock with which the parable of the publican and the Pharisee must have been received. The Pharisee is depicted as an exemplary man of religion. He does even more than is required of him by law: he fasts twice a week. There is no suggestion that he was a hypocrite. He does not take the credit for his own virtue; he thanks God for it. The publican or tax collector, on the other hand, although he asks God for mercy, makes no attempt to mend his ways and to make restitution for all the money he has [likely] stolen.
Jesus' verdict on these two men must have sounded outrageous. The sinner is pleasing to God and the virtuous man is not. Why? Because the sinner did not exalt himself as superior to men like the tax collector...[The Pharisee lacked compassion.] Without compassion all religious practices and beliefs are useless and empty...
 ...The piety and good works of the dutiful religious man made him feel that God was on his side. He did not need God's mercy and forgiveness; that was what others needed. The sinner, on the other hand, was well aware of his desperate need for mercy and forgiveness and of his need to change his life...
I find it particularly interesting that in the end, both the Pharisee and the tax collector were in need of the same thing but in different ways and for different reasons. What they both needed most was the love of Jesus. 

As always, I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday. Until then, may the Lord bless you and those you love.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

The Lord's Prayer by James Tissot via Wikimedia Commons

In worship this Sunday, we will look carefully at Luke 11:1-13. The first section of this reading is Jesus' response to a request from the disciples, "Lord, teach us to pray." In the second section Jesus provides an example of persistent prayer.

Take some time to sit quietly with the text, reading it through at least twice. During the first read-through, you might simply note what intrigues you most. During the second reading, you might try to put yourself in the story, perhaps as one of the disciples or as the friend who is seeking bread for an unexpected guest. How do you hear Jesus' teaching from this point of view?

Finally, consider the following:
  1. Someone else has been teaching his disciples how to pray. Who?
  2. How does Jesus' model prayer begin?
  3. What other components are present in the prayer?
  4. Why does the man go to his friend's house at midnight?
  5. What is the result of the man's persistence?
  6. What "good gifts" do you seek from the Father's generous hand? How persistent are you?
As you journey toward Sunday, may the Lord bless you and those whom you love.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Blogging toward Sunday

Via Google Images
In preparation for worship this Sunday, read through Luke 17:11-19 two or three times, slowly and prayerfully. Who are the main characters? What intrigues you most? In your own faith walk, when have you cried out to the Lord, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on me!"? When have you bowed before the Lord with a cry of thanksgiving?

May the following prayer penned by Bernard Thorogood allow you to experience the gospel reading on a deeper level:

Healing God, we praise you for the Christ

who, without fear, met those with leprosy

and gave them new life.

May that healing touch

reach the fears and darkness of our world.

Touch us, caring Jesus,

            to take from our hearts

            that fear which makes us keep our distance

            from all deep agony.

Touch us, caring Jesus,

            to heal that fear for ourselves

            which bars us from understanding

            mental illness, disfigurement and the approach of death.

Touch those, caring Jesus

            who have been segregated, rejected, cast adrift

            because they offend our competitive society.

And touch with hope, healing Jesus,

            those who give themselves to combat

            grim illness and all that threatens life.

            I am come that they may have life

            and may have it in all its fullness.

            Even so, come, Lord Jesus.[i]

As you journey toward Sunday, may the Lord richly bless you and those whom you love.


[i] Bernard Thorogood, in A Restless Hope: Prayer Handbook 1995.