Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

I have been quiet for a few weeks. Sometimes when I prepare to preach, God’s Spirit moves in a profound way. So it was after sharing my guiding principles with my faith community. While I have a number of projects to tend to, God drew me to a place of quiet reflection.  These periods of relative silence are fundamental to my discipline of discernment. Out of the silence, I emerge more focused and intentional. My work is more fruitful and my voice a little bolder.  

A friend’s blog directed me to Raven’s Bread Ministries, a ministry for men and women who seek a solitary life. I then read “Consider the Ravens,” a summation of posts by others seeking to live in the simplest way in order to direct the majority of their time and energy to prayer. At first look, it may seem impossible to live a solitary life in the 21st century. The reality is that more and more individuals not only seek a simple, set apart life but are able to find a way to live into a ‘hermit’s way.’

This may strike you as personally irrelevant, living as you do in a Post-Christian world, but even a cursory survey of Scripture reveals our need to have time apart for prayer and reflection; time to hear God’s voice; time to choose a life in concert with our brothers, our sisters, and creation.

In Sunday’s reading from Isaiah 49:8-16a, God meets the needs of God’s servant: “I have answered you. I have helped you.  I have kept you.” Sheldon Sorge writes in his essay in Feasting on the Word, “Flush with a personal encounter with God’s redemptive work, the minister is equipped to go public with God’s good news.” He continues, “Those who would minister in Christ’s name must first tend to their own souls, availing themselves of God’s help before offering it to others.”

Very soon, we will enter the season of Lent. There is no better time to consider our life choices, our life styles, our personal consumer practices in light of a world where economic injustice prevails, our earth suffers, and our children trust us with their futures.

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The gentle contact of the wooden mallet, revolving slowly and consistently around the rim of the bowl, sets the molecules in the metal into motion; they vibrate in response to the touch and movement, and the bowl “sings”.

Imagine the Church, each member, you and me, like this singing bowl.  Imagine if, one by one, we permitted the gentle touch of God’s Spirit to encircle us, slowly, continuously, setting our spirits into motion until we vibrated with the joy of it.  The sound that would rise up would rival any heavenly chorus and our hearts would be full: full of faith, full of Christ, full of rejoicing, and ready to receive the Holy One.

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Living a sacramental life teaches us to hold all that we have as sacred; our time, our space and all of our relationships. Daily prayer, weekly worship, studying scripture and sharing our lives with others are all aspects of a sacramental life. How we take care of our homes and value the tools and resources we have can also be an expression of our gratitude for the life we have.

Is your home a place of worship? Is your home set apart as dedicated to God? In her book, “Reminders of God: Altars for Personal and Family Devotion,” Ann Grizzle shares helpful insights into the how and why of creating a personal, home altar.  I have used this resource in a variety of retreat settings.  My own sacred space changes depending on the books, objects or images that resonate with my prayers and reflections.

The altar reminds us to take time to pray, read, journal and rest in the presence of God; it is a portal to a personal encounter with God. Please visit my “Worship in the Home”page for an expanded discussion of Grizzle’s book and consider a home altar of your own.

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This morning I lingered over one more cup of coffee and found myself gazing at the sunlight, filtering through my Christmas tree.  I know lots of folks who are in a hurry to ‘light the lights and trim the tree’ only to take everything down before the New Year. But I am one that likes to take my time before, during and after Christmas day. All my expired  coupons for 2010 have already been tossed into the paper recycle bag. Left overs have long since been remade into soups and casseroles, overeaten and sometimes simply tossed out in the compost pile. Gone are the crumpled foil remnants of wrapped, unwrapped, and re-wrapped cookies and brownies (I do miss those).

Is it really time to pack up and put away Christmas? I don’t mean removing bows from the banister or winding up strings of lights. I’m not thinking, really, about dissembling the artificial tree or reflecting one more time on when or from whom a certain ornament or stocking or card was received. Rather, has the advent journey really come and gone? Have I wrapped myself in all the richness and revelation that comes to us through the gospel story? Have I seen enough light this season? Have I finished counting the many times of when or from whom Christ’s light was received. Did I do my part to offer the true light of Christ to others?

It probably is time to pack up the physical remnants of Christmas 2010, but put it away? I don’t think so. The journey is simply this, one step at a time, until the coming of Christ again; in a look, an action, a Word, a prayer, an offer of love. There is no box that can contain Christmas.


Deacon Gates

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Last year my church choir sang an anthem that stayed with me for weeks.  When the season of Advent returned this year, I quickly recollected the song. I was excited when it was, once again, selected as one of the choir anthems for Christmas.  “Mary, Did You Know?” was written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Green and has been recorded by numerous artists since 1992.

The music is memorable to sing but the lyrics are what keep coming back to me. I share them here as a spiritual reflection. Read the verses through, slowly and out loud.  Pause if you speak a word that engages your imagination or invites a question. Revisit these lyrics over the next weeks and permit yourself to live into the mystery of Christ’s coming into the world; what I will call the ‘lingering gifts waiting to be opened.”  Let me know what you think. Grace and peace from my home to yours.

Mary, Did You Know?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water? Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to the blind man? Mary, did you know that your baby boy would calm a storm with His hand? Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? And when you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God?

Did you know the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again! The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb!

Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations? Mary, did you know that your baby boy was heaven’s perfect Lamb? And the sleeping child your’re holding, He is the great I AM!

Did you know? Did you know? Did you know His name is JESUS.

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Gracious God:

Help me to prepare my heart as faithfully as Mary, to be a place of hospitality, awaiting the re-presentation of Christ in my life.

Help me, I pray, to be obedient like Joseph as I journey these next weeks by faith.

Help me, Lord, to be watchful like the shepherds, with new eyes; anticipating the coming of Christ’s light, anew, in the midst of all I see.

Increase my faith, Lord, so I may freely share the hope and love of Christ with others, as confidently as your angels, singing ‘Glory to God’, through Jesus the Christ.      Amen and Amen

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Many churches use the Revised Common Lectionary to shape their weekly worship services. The RCL is a three year cycle of weekly scripture readings from both the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and New Testament. When the cycle is maintained all books of the bible are read, including the prophets, psalms, proverbs, gospels and Paul’s letters. When pastors preach from the lectionary readings it encourages the church to hear and respond to the full gospel in all its textual expressions and guards against focusing on selective or favorite texts. If you are interested in following the lectionary cycle on your own then I recommend Vanderbilt’s website to you.

I especially find it helpful to reflect on the lectionary readings during my daily prayer times so I can meditate on the ‘Word’ during the week and bring a deeper appreciation to what I hear in the sermon on Sunday morning. Try using these readings in your Morning Prayer where Scripture Reading appears. Let me know if this daily ‘reading forward’ enriches your weekly Sunday worship.

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“Our worship in both its diversity and its unity is an encounter with the living God through the risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.” (UM Book of Worship p.13) If you regularly attend Sunday worship you know by your own experience that there are many ‘parts’ to the service. There is an aspect of gathering, singing hymns, prayer and praise, proclamation through the reading of scripture, a sermon, often a prayer of confession and pardon, the offering of tithes and other gifts, and Holy Communion. The community is sent out from worship with words of blessing and commendation to serve one another in the world.

There are other worship opportunities through which we may encounter the living God but these are less frequently experienced in our local tradition. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are most common disciplines for Christians living in intentional community but less common in the worship life of a local congregation.  I recommend both morning and evening prayer to you, as rich spiritual practices that can ground your daily faith walk and bring new life to the Church.

I expect many brothers and sisters have a well established prayer life. I hope that you will begin to share with me something of your practice and experience so we might learn from one another. Others of you struggle with the very notion of a “discipline” as if your daily lives could not possibly conform to a predictable, if not different, rhythm. I cast my lot with you. We are on a journey, explorers of spirituality and prayer. Ours is a “heart in pilgrimage” (George Herbert).

In a recent sermon I was reminded that prayer is the most powerful ‘work’ of the church. We often lose sight of this. What a shame to squander such a power on one morning of the week when we can avail ourselves of God’s grace on a daily basis. In the words of Henri Nouwen, “What else can make us one but prayer? What else can unite us but a common recognition that all that is, is a divine gift calling forth from us words and actions of thanks?” (Space for God, Don Postema, p.8)

I have posted one version of Morning Prayer to encourage you, the reader, to enter the stream of daily worship through prayer and praise.  In future posts I will share a variety of resources to aide in developing your practice. I welcome your thoughts and prayers as we do this work together.

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