Thursday, April 18, 2013

Responding with Passionate Prayers

Our texts for this fourth Sunday in Easter are Acts 9:36-43 and John 10:22-30, which can be read here.

As much as I've wanted to spend time with these wonderful texts this week (and have been privileged to do so), it has been hard to pull myself away from the texts of our time:  the news of this week, which has seemed laced with little but sorrow.  I believe both of this week's passages offer us promise in these days:  Peter bringing the power of Jesus' resurrection into a community shattered by death, and Jesus promising that no matter what, his beloved sheep will never be snatched from his hand.

But most of all, I believe this is a time to pray for peace and, as we pray, to live as wagers of God's peace.  To that end, I wish to share the liturgy our Prayer and Meditation group worked through last night, one that was inspired by and adapted from some of the great peacemaking work done by the Mennonite Church.  The below pattern for prayer is greatly indebted to them and, though designed for a group, can be done on your own as well.  I encourage you to carve out some time to pray in these tumultuous days, that we may be made more and more into instruments of the peace of the risen Christ.  I also commend to you this prayer published at Associated Baptist Press, which offers us both comfort and challenge.

Peace be with you, and hope to see you Sunday as we seek God's hope and God's light and celebrate a God whose love has overcome even death.

Prayers for Peace--Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Adapted from various resources at

Voice 1: Jesus said,"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:18-19

Voice 2: "There is no peace because there are no peacemakers. There are no makers of peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war – at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake." (Father Daniel Berrigan)

Reading of Luke 19:37-38, 41-42
37 As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing. They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. 38 They said, “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”…41 As Jesus came to the city and observed it, he wept over it. 42 He said, “If only you knew on this of all days the things that lead to peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes.

Voice 3:  With Jesus, we weep; with Jesus, let our hearts be broken as we pray.

Contemplative Silence

Voice 3: "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits…..

Voice 1: ……I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered people can build up.

Voice 2: "…. I still believe that one day humankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land…

Voice 3: "……we still have a choice today: nonviolent co-existence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action.

Voice 1: "…..Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world… The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history… We shall hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Contemplative Silence

Reading of Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble.
That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart, when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains shake because of its surging waves.
There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city, the holiest dwelling of the Most High. God is in that city. It will never crumble. God will help it when morning dawns. Nations roar; kingdoms crumble. God utters his voice; the earth melts. The Lord of heaven is with us! The God of Jacob is our place of safety.
Come, see the Lord’s deeds, what works he has imposed on the earth—bringing wars to an end in every corner of the world, breaking the bow and shattering the spear, burning chariots with fire.
“That’s enough! Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among all nations; I am exalted throughout the world!”

Contemplative Silence

Voice 3: Longing for peace, we are thankful for the stirrings of peace and the promise of peace in our world.

Voice 1: Less than a month ago, we celebrated the stirrings of life in the death and suffering of Jesus.

Voice 2: We continue to celebrate and hope for resurrection.

Voice 3: All around us, the spring grass, flowers, and buds remind us that life comes from death.

Voice 1: We celebrate and hope for the spring of hope.

Voice 2:  We are promised in Isaiah: "My people will abide in peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places." (Isaiah 32: 18)

Voice 3: We hope for the resurrection of our world.

Contemplative Silence

Reading of Isaiah 2:1-5
This is what Isaiah, Amoz’s son, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of the mountains.
It will be lifted above the hills; peoples will stream to it. Many nations will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain, to the house of Jacob’s God so that God may teach us God’s ways  and we may walk in God’s paths.” Instruction will come from Zion; the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.
God will judge between the nations, and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war.
Come, house of Jacob, let’s walk by the Lord’s light.

Contemplative Silence

“We are Listening”:  An adaptation of a prayer for peace written by Mennonite pastor Samantha E. Lioi  
Great and loving God,
you have set us to work with you for good in the midst of great beauty and great evil.
In your world we are dwarfed by giant trees whose thick limbs stretch out shelter and shade
and breathe out oxygen and scents that please the creatures who walk beneath them.
We stare at the ocean, stretching beyond our seeing, endlessly crashing in, pulling back.
And we are dwarfed by the scale and depth of human grief and sin.
We are choked by the number of people killed by our bombs, our guns, our hands.
We stare at our screens without hope and without answers for our children..
We pray for them; we bring suffering before you, a reflex like reaching for the lamp when the phone rings in the middle of the night.
We have been taught, “When you pray, move your feet.”
How shall we walk, O Lover of all you have made?
How shall we love mercy, we who are so small in the face of all that is?
How shall we do justice, God of the friendless, the moneyless, the landless, the motherless?
You are the source of all well-being and the hope of all the earth.
Creator of life, ancient and surprising--we are listening.

Contemplative Silence

Reading of Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb  through the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations.  There will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  Night will be no more. They won’t need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will be their light, forever and ever.

Time of Spoken Prayers

Song of Response:  “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” verse 5
O come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease; fill all the world with heaven’s peace
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The Lord’s Prayer 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Responding with....?

Our texts for this Third Sunday in Easter are two big ones: John 21:1-19 and Acts 9:1-20, which can
be read here.

I know I talk with some frequency about how the layout of the Revised Common Lectionary, from which we draw our weekly scripture readings along with countless other churches around the globe, can baffle me from time to time.  This week, however, is a true head-scratcher:  how can one be expected to tackle two such lengthy, rich narratives about two of the most central figures in the early church, two post-resurrection powerhouses--Peter and Paul--in the same week?  How, I ask you?

There is too much here to know where to begin.  Our Eastertide theme is "Resurrection Responses," and I am titling most of my sermons in the format of "Responding With..."  For instance, on Easter Sunday we had Mary Magdalene "Responding With Tears."  Last week we had Thomas "Responding With Doubt." But in these two narratives there are so many "Responding with"s that arise from these two tales that I cannot decide which way to go.

My initial thought for this week was "Responding with Zeal," looking at how Saul/Paul and Peter were both passionate dudes before the resurrection and how their zeal got reappropriated after their encounters with the risen Jesus.

But then I thought about "Responding with Reconciliation"--an encounter with the risen Christ led to reconciliation between Jesus and Peter, as well as between Saul and those he was persecuting....and how community was created through Resurrection Reconciliation.

There is "Responding with Humility"--both Peter and Saul's encounters with the risen Christ knocked them down off their high horses in some life-changing ways.

There is "Responding with Participation"--meeting Jesus after the resurrection gave each of these guys a different, life-altering calling that required them not just to intellectually believe in the resurrection, but to participate in it with how they now lived their lives.

There is "Responding with Great Cost"--what did their encounters with the risen Christ require Saul and Peter to give up?  What did they leave behind to follow a resurrected Lord?

And then there is "Responding with Suffering"--acknowledging and encountering the risen Christ made Peter and Paul vulnerable in ways their stubborn selves likely could never have imagined.  They chose to embrace a way that led not to comfort and power, but to letting God have control over their lives.

So...before I write this sermon tomorrow, any thoughts on which of these you might be interested in hearing more about?  What captures you in these two stories?  Where do these two powerhouses call ordinary folks like us to responses that may not be as flashy, but that are equally important, as we encounter the risen Lord in our own lives?