Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Litany of the Lordship of Christ

(from Sunday, March 29th)

Let us pray together for God’s help in submitting ourselves to the lordship of Christ:

God, we confess that we often put so many things in our lives before you – our families, our friends, our dreams, our ambitions, even our entertainment and possessions. Help us to “empty out our house” of all of those things we hold onto and surrender them to Your will for our lives so that we may boldly claim You are our Lord and Savior.

Let us pray together for God’s help in never failing to claim Christ as our constant companion:

God, we know that Christ told the disciples, “I am with you always” but we often want to control when Christ is invited in and when He is not. At times we live our lives in a way that people would never recognize Christ is a part of it and, thus, denying that we know Him. Help us to see You as the solid foundation of our lives so that through our actions and words, we boldly claim You as our Lord and Savior.

Let us pray together for God’s help in always speaking boldly of Christ as our Lord and Savior:

God, we admit that sometimes we take the easy way out by closing our eyes to things around us, not speaking out against injustice, and apologizing for our beliefs as Christ followers. Help us to live our lives in a manner pleasing to You and to always claim boldly with Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Here Endeth the Lesson ..."

I am passionate about the Church; I am called and committed to The United Methodist Church. I want “her” to be all that God is calling her to be. Sometimes she gets it. Sometimes she seems to be willfully wandering far afield. At other times, the church seems to be lacking direction entirely. Honestly, that pains me. We are called to so much more!

In my passion I sometimes react rather than prayerfully respond. Yesterday was my day to learn (another!) lesson about humility. Part of my personality is to process and think out loud. I will sometimes say things that lead people to believe I’ve made up my mind, when in fact I’ve just started asking questions and bouncing ideas around. Yesterday, I let myself get a full head of steam and opened my mouth and inserted my foot.

I read Jeremiah 23:1-8 this morning. It made me stop and consider something. There’s a kind of self-righteousness that can sneak into our hearts. It increases the risk that we become part of the problem and not part of the solution. We make snap judgments. We think we “know” and want to make sure that everyone else knows that we “know.” Our righteousness becomes rightness because we fall victim to the brokenness of our own spirits. When the prophet says, “woe to the shepherds …” God is, of course, talking about anyone except us. Really?

There’s a place for doctrine, but not dogmatism. It’s not about failing to lead. It’s about leading well. I never want to be so convinced that I’m right that I can’t hear the Holy Spirit convicting me when I need to be told otherwise. My Church is facing important decisions that will have a significant impact on her future. My local church is in a similar place – facing important decisions about vision and mission that will have a dramatic impact on ministry. Perhaps before I open my mouth to make pronouncements or express my opinions with such certainty I need to humble myself and make confession.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Detours on the Journey

“I know that God will not give me more than I can bear. I just wish he didn’t think so highly of me.” – Mother Theresa

In the middle of this journey through Lent, the wheels have come off the cart. Without going into a million details, it’s been a really tough couple of weeks personally, professionally and in just about every conceivable way. I’m so glad I’m in a good place right now. This Lent has been helpful – getting my head on straight, you might say. I wonder how I’d be doing right now without having taken that time to center myself.

Don’t get me wrong; I still have lots of questions and the answers seem pretty elusive right now. I believe the answers are there, but I just haven’t worked my way to them yet. Someone asked me earlier this week, “What is God trying to teach you in this?” I honestly don’t know. I know that God doesn’t send the crap our way, but God can (and does) use those times to teach us important lessons. There is a pearl of great price in here somewhere, waiting to be discovered.

Jeremiah (16:21) says, “I will teach them – This time I will teach them. Then they will know that my name is the Lord.” I’m ready to be taught.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Reading of Hearts and Stones

Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

[If] you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

If your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.

Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.

I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is.

I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.

Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

(Deuteronomy 5:20, 4:29, 30:17-18, 10:16, 1 Samuel 17:28, 1 Kings 3:12, Psalm 4:4, 2 Corinthians 3:3, Ezekiel 11:19, Romans 5:5)

Sunday, March 15, 2009


from Friday, March 13

No one's better at compartmentalizing their life than I am. I've perfected the art of living life out of boxes. One box for this part of my life. One box for another part of my life. Another box ... another separate chunk of life. Family, Church, Marriage, Finances, Music, Career - each with their own box; each with their own distinct territory staked out in my heart.

While I believe I've made progress over time tearing down some of these compartments and opening up some of these boxes, there are times when it feels like there are just as many boxes as there always were. The same compartments are still there; I've just rearranged the boxes and lulled myself into a false sense of contentment.

We all have what Ezekiel would call a "divided heart" (Ezekiel 11:19). We may not like it, but we've lived this way so long that it functions reasonably well. Except for this nagging thought that there's so much more to being fully alive than living out of these boxes. Perhaps when the boxes are gone we will discover life; but until then - it's the boxes. They offer us familiarity if nothing else.

In Romans 2:29, Paul says that we all need a "circumcision of the heart." He means that something needs to change inside of us. Something so dramatic and so life-altering that we could only compare it to circumcision. Circumcision was done on the 8th day after birth and was a sign of being ushered into the fullness of the covenant that God made with the People. From that moment on there was no turning back.

The compartments and boxes persist because we are trying to hide some part of ourselves from our Creator. We are trying to bargain with grace. "I'll give you free reign of this much of my life, but I'll keep this box for myself. I'll keep it over here in the corner. It won't be in the way. You won't even know it's here." And the little compartment in the corner dominates and directs the entire space.

We need to be circumcised again; as painful as that image may sound. We need to be renewed and receive a new spirit. That will remove the boxes. It will open us up to wholeness and move us away from a life lived in pieces and compartments. We will no longer live in our own strength, but in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Almighty God, reveal to me my sin that I may turn away from it.

A Litany of Confession

Lord, we confess to you the stones that we have thrown – the stones which have wounded hearts and crushed spirits. Lord in your mercy …
Hear our prayers.

Lord, we confess our indifference and neglect of the plight of the needy. Lord in your mercy …
Hear our prayers.

Lord, we confess that we do not love one another the way we were created to love, because we do not understand what loving means. Lord in your mercy …
Hear our prayers.

Lord, we confess that by our silence we have built up walls and allowed prejudice to take root and grow. Lord in your mercy …
Hear our prayers.

Lord, we confess that by ill-considered word and thoughtless speech we have failed to be one people united in our love for you. Lord in your mercy …
Hear our prayers.


Holy Spirit, speak to us. Heal us with your words of forgiveness. Free us from the sin that keeps us hurting one another. Lord in your mercy …
Hear our prayers. Amen.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Dayenu. It would have been enough.

What does it take to satisfy me? How much does God have to bless me before my appetite to fill my own desires is sated? Is it ever enough?

I’m so focused on my wants that I lose track of all that God has already done to bless me.

If God had just preserved my family through difficult years and not brought us to faith – Dayenu.

If God had only led me to a church and not surrounded me with people who loved me and discipled me – Dayenu.

If God had left me where I was and not called me into ministry – Dayenu.

If God stopped watching over me today and I lived the rest of my life without another blessing – Dayenu.

Can I pray those things with integrity? Can any of us? When I can, I’ve reached that place where faith takes over and my strivings become insignificant. Dayenu is a word I want to remember this Lent. Truly, if it all ran aground today … Dayenu.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Prayer of Confession for That Which Has Been Torn Down

From Sunday's Journey of Stones; Rejected Stones (Mark 12:1-12)

Architect of the Universe, from whom new possibility springs. We call out your name; for we are a people built upon your firm foundation.

Make a way for us where there has been no way. Quench the thirst of our spirits that we may sing your praise.

You are the cornerstone – upon which all else stands. You are a Rock that shall not be moved.
You are the Endless One in a world where all things end.

During this Lent, we come face to face with your love. We cannot escape your justice. We are so aware of our sinfulness and our brokenness that we fall before you in repentance.

Hear us now, as we confess our need for your mercy and your forgiveness:

We acknowledge our rejection of you, in our thoughts, our words and our deeds. While we confess with our mouths that you are our true cornerstone, we live as those who have rejected you. We do not obey your commands. We do not abide in you. We do not seek to become more like you each day. In our frailty and our inadequacy, we find it hard to seek after you with a whole heart. We need you to re-establish yourself as the cornerstone of your church and of our lives. Forgive us for rejecting you.

As a result of rejecting you, we have rejected others. We overlook their needs and ignore their suffering. We exclude those who need so desperately to hear your Good News. What possesses us to act as we do? Forgive the suffering we have caused others because of our rejection of you.

Forgive us for the malicious comment or hasty word that can’t be called back. For the violence we bring to our enemies. For ignoring the poverty of our neighbors and keeping the poor on the margins. Forgive us, because we have become so enamored by the abundance of our lives that we blot out your call to live simply. We have abused your creation and abandoned our responsibility to be stewards of all that you have made. For all of the ways we make rules more important than people and expediency more important than integrity, we need your forgiveness.

In spite of our rejection of you, will you once again become our cornerstone? Will you become the foundation of all that we are and all that we hope to be? Please begin again to build us up into your temple. Amen.

Words of Pardon: The Lord is God and he has made his light shine upon you. Give thanks to God, for his love endures forever.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Finding a Balance Between Rules and Freedom

As a pastor, people often come to me looking for answers. Specifically, the want me to tell them what to believe, what to think, what to do. "Just tell me the answer, Pastor!" But I've always had the sense that my job isn't to provide all the answers. If anything, my job is to make sure people are asking God the right questions!

Providing the answers makes people dependent on me for their direction. Helping people ask the right questions makes them dependent on God. A far better situation for all concerned!

One of the great things about following Christ is that there are pretty clear expectations. For the most part, I don't think its a great mystery what God requires of us in the situations we face each day. God wants to reveal a clear and straight path for us. But providing easy, canned answers doesn't do much to reveal that path or help a person grow in Christ.

I think our desire for answers and rules makes sense; there's safety in rules. If you know what the rules are and you know what the expectations are -- you can find a lot of security by staying within those boundaries. At the same time, as the rules become more and more important - freedom starts to disappear.

Can there be a balance between rules and freedom? How can we tell when the rules become so important that the reasons we have them are obscured? It seems to me that whenever Jesus was faced with the need to chose between people and "the rules," he chose people. The rules were made for people. People were not made for the rules.

When God is ready to do a new thing - to bring us new wine - we have to set some things aside in our pursuit of God. Familiar rules and rituals may be one of those things. You can't always do a new thing the old way. There are times when old wineskins just won't do.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Litany of Broken Promises

Sunday at the Refinery we talked about the "stone" of broken promises. We shared a responsive reading called "A Litany of Broken Promises."

Faithful and Loving God, you claimed a people and made covenant with them to be their God.
They embraced you and said you would be their one and only God.

You led Israel through the wilderness and brought them to the foot of Your Mountain.
You gave them the covenant of your Law to guide and protect them.

They sinned against you and made an idol for themselves to worship.
What was written on tablets of stone was broken.

You ruled over your people, but they wanted to be like the other nations.
So You gave them the king that they so desired.

They removed their trust from you and placed it in an earthly king.
What was written on tablets of stone was broken

You sought us out and made with us a new covenant.
Once we were no people; but now we were your people.

You rescued us from the slavery of sin and death through the new covenant in Jesus Christ.
One not of stone, but written on our hearts.

But we have not loved you with an everlasting love.
What was written on our hearts has been broken.

We have failed to be obedient to your Law.
What was written on our hearts has been broken.

We have neglected the poor, the downtrodden and the oppressed.
What was written on our hearts has been broken.

We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
What was written on our hearts has been broken.

We have neglected your will and your ways.
What was written on our hearts has been broken.

Forgive us for our broken promises.
Forgive us for we are broken people.

Free us from our hearts of stone. Confirm your covenant within us.
Until what was broken in our hearts has been healed.