Monthly Archives: November 2016

Thanksgiving Meditations and Prayers

Meditation – We Give Thanks for Where We Live

John Muir was also known as “John of the Mountains.” The 19th century Scottish-American naturalist helped preserve places such as Yosemite and Sequoia National Park. He was the founder of the Sierra Club, committed to preserving our nation’s wilderness areas. The John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada is named after him.

He was also a writer, and his writing often had a spiritual nature to it. He inspired activists to protect ‘the beauty of the earth’ that we just sang about.

Muir writes in “The Yosemite”:

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

The earth upon which we live is pure grace. Its seasons and sunsets; its smells and sounds; the rivers and oceans and streams and puddles. Grace – gifts of God.

For the gift of the earth today we give thanks.

Let us thank God either silently or aloud for the gift of creation…

(pause)

Let us pray.

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, who in your self-emptying love gathered up and reconciled all creation to you. Innumerable galaxies of the heavens worship you. Creatures that grace the earth rejoice in you. All those in the deepest seas bow to you in adoration. As with them we give you thanks, grant that we may cherish the earth, our home, and live in harmony with this good creation. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Meditation – We Give Thanks For Christ’s Church

German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his book Life Together after the Gestapo shut down the seminary where he was teaching. It was important to him to preserve this vision of Christian community that was lived out at the seminary.

The book opens with a quote from Psalm 133: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” Throughout the book, Bonhoeffer talks about the church as a community of love. But it is a community of love that has a purpose beyond itself.

Bonhoeffer was frustrated with the church in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s. He found it unconscionable that most pastors in the church declined to act in opposition to the Nazi treatment of Jews.

He writes: “The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. In the end all his disciples abandoned him. On the cross he was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work.”

For Bonhoeffer, the church is that it is a community of love centered on Jesus Christ which through prayer and discernment acts not for its own sake, but for the sake of the world.

For Christ’s church today we give thanks.

Let us thank God either silently or aloud for the ministries of Good Shepherd which reach beyond ourselves…

(pause)

Let us pray.

Gracious God, we pray for your holy catholic church. Fill it with all truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in need, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.

Amen.

 

 

Meditation – We Give Thanks for God’s Grace

Gordon MacDonald once said, “The world can do almost anything as well as or better than the church…You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry, or heal the sick. There is only one thing the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace.”

By and large, MacDonald is right. Where else can we go and be certain to find grace?

Grace is hard to define …but we know it when we experience it.

Philip Yancey tells the story of getting stuck in Los Angeles traffic and arriving 58 minutes late to the Hertz rental desk.

He asked the clerk, “How much do I owe?”

She responded, “Nothing. You’re all clear.”

He said, “But I was late…”

She smiled and said, “Yes, but there’s a one-hour grace period.”

Not a bad definition of grace is that “even though you’re supposed to pay, you don’t have to.”[i]

Grace happens rarely in the world.

It happens all the time with God.

 

In Martin Luther’s small catechism he defines grace

In his explanation of the 1st article of the Apostles’ Creed.

 

He says, to believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth,

Is to believe in a God of Grace.

 

What does this mean? Luther says it means that:

“I believe that God has created me with all that exists.

God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties.

 

In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing,

Food and drink, house and farm,

Spouse and children,

Fields, livestock, and all property –

Along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life.

 

God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil.

And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy,

Without any merit or worthiness of mine at all!

For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him.

This is most certainly true.”

 

For the gifts given by God’s grace we give thanks.

 

Let us thank God either silently or aloud for all of God’s gifts given to us without any merit or worthiness of our own…

(pause)

Let us pray.

God of grace, you have given us minds to know you, hearts to love you, and voices to sing your praise. Fill us with your Spirit, that we may celebrate your glory and give you thanks in spirit and truth, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

 

Meditation – We Commit Ourselves to Live Thankfully

In a few moments, we will sing the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God.” The words were written by Martin Rinkhart in the refugee city of Ellenburg, Germany during the 30 Years’ War.

Rinkhart was one of the last surviving pastors in the city, and because of the plague, was officiating at nearly 50 funerals/day.

He wrote these lyrics for his family to sing before dinner – a dinner which was meagre at best, for Rinkhart was giving as much as he could to care for refugees.

Listen to the words we will sing:

Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;

Who from our mother’s arms, has blest us on our way

With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

 

In each of our lives there are years when perhaps we are not

feeling all that thankful at Thanksgiving.

It’s hard to think of ‘wondrous things’ worthy of rejoicing.

 

Family relationships are strained;

A loved one is being treated for cancer;

We’re anxious or angry about the state of the world.

 

It is in times like these that gratitude becomes less of a feeling

than a commitment.

 

As Martin Rinkhart says,

For God has blest us on our way,

With countless gifts of love,

And still is ours today.

No matter what,

God is ours.

And so no matter what,

We give thanks.

Even now, thank we all our God.

Amen.

[i] http://philipyancey.com/q-and-a-topics/grace

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King For All The People

king-christian-x

Christ the King – King For All the People

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Luke 23:33-43

November 20, 2016

 

King Christian X of Denmark has been back in the news..

 

He died in 1947, but

In the wake of calls to ‘register’ Muslims coming to the US,

Social media has erupted with the legend of Christian X

Who though not Jewish himself was said to have worn a yellow star,

In support of Jews who were required to wear them.

 

It’s a powerful story…

But as we’re learning, the stories we hear on social media aren’t always true.

And the fact of the matter is,

This one isn’t true either.[i]

 

Jews in Denmark never wore identification marks

such as a yellow star.

So King Christian X didn’t either.

 

But nevertheless the legend does convey an important truth:

When the Nazis occupied Denmark and threatened deportation of the Jews,

the king stood by his Jewish citizens,

and prevented mass persecution and death.

 

German authorities had a plan to deport the Jews in days.

King Christian launched and financed a rescue effort.

 

Danish resistance groups and thousands of Danish citizens

Hid 7500 Danish Jews for several days,

before smuggling them onto boats,

and taking them to safety to the neutral country of Sweden.

Continue reading

God-Carriers All

banners

Pentecost 26C – God-Carriers All

November 13, 2016

Luke 21 : 5-19

 

Goodness is stronger than evil;

Love is stronger than hate;

Light is stronger than darkness;

Life is stronger than death;

Victory is ours through Him who loves us.

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote the words we just sang

at the height of apartheid in South Africa.

 

In a later interview Tutu went on to say,

“I … used to say if these white people had intended keeping us under

they shouldn’t have given us the Bible.

Because, whoa, I mean, it’s almost as if it is written specifically just for …. us…”

 

…Apartheid sought to mislead people into believing

that what gave value to human beings was …

skin color or ethnicity,

and … the scriptures say it is because

we are created in the image of God, that each one of us is a God-carrier.”[i]

 

Each one of us is a God carrier.

 

There are many who are hurting this week.

 

Some are afraid that the rhetoric of the election will lead to policies

that will attempt to diminish their personhood or rights as Americans.

Those in the LGBT community, persons of color, women, Muslims, and others

Need to know that

We will not stand for such policies…

For you are a God-carrier.

Love is stronger than hate.

 

There are others being demonized this week.

It took most of us by surprise that there is a whole segment of our population

Who have been left behind in our economy;

Who have lost jobs;

Who have felt ridiculed because of their education.

Before we bash them or bully them or berate them for their vote,

We need to stop and listen…because it’s clear they have been hurting a long time

and we didn’t know it.

We hadn’t paid attention.

We hadn’t listened.

We commit ourselves to listening more.

You are a God-carrier.

Continue reading

For All The Saints

shirley

All Saints:  For All the Saints

Luke 6:20-31

 

My sister’s friend Shirley died last month.

Shirley taught language arts in a Massachusetts middle school.

 

In the 25 years since Shirley retired,

she moved from her home to an assisted living apartment,

and finally to a nursing home.

 

Shirley was an only child, never married and didn’t have any children.

She had one living relative – an elderly cousin in Las Vegas.

 

Every month my sister Joanne and another teacher – Kathy – visited Shirley.

They usually played a game of Scrabble.

And Shirley usually won.

 

Joanne and Kathy didn’t know much about Shirley’s personal life.

Often Shirley would tell them fantastic stories

about travels and adventures and visitors ….

 

Over time, they came to realize that the travels, adventures…and sadly also the visitors…

never happened.

 

For 25 years, as far as they knew, Shirley’s only visitors

were Joanne and Kathy.

 

When Shirley died, a neighbor served as the executor of her estate.

She didn’t know him very well,

but Shirley had chosen him because she thought he was good with figures.

 

He wrote in her obituary that “services will be private,”

meaning really that there would not be a memorial service.

Shirley would be cremated and her ashes interred at the convenience of the funeral home.

 

On the Friday after Shirley died,

Joanne, Kathy, a third colleague,

(and my mother – just to add another person to this tiny gathering),

met at the cemetery.

They gathered around the ground where her ashes were interred – the holy ground,

And they prayed the prayer of commendation from our hymnal:

 

“Into your hands O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Shirley;

Acknowledge we humbly beseech you,

A sheep of your own fold;

A lamb of your own flock;

A sinner of your own redeeming;

Receive her into the arms of your mercy,

Into the blessed rest of everlasting peace,

And Into the glorious company of all the saints in light.”

 

Into the glorious company of all the saints in light.

 

On All Saints Sunday we remember all the saints.

Not just some saints…

Not just the ones who were close to us personally for whom we lit a candle today…

Not just ones who are depicted in stained glass windows or statues…

But all the saints…

 

And so this is a day for Shirley.

And others like her who die alone or lonely in nursing homes.

Blessed are you Shirley for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

 

This is a day for the unknown men and women who die without shelter each year.

Blessed are you, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

 

This is a day for the unnamed refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean.

Blessed are you, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

 

This is a day for the those who die by suicide.

And for those who are the victims of homicide.

 

This is a day for those who die in hospital beds hooked up to a multitude of machines

And for those who die in places around the world where there are no hospitals.

Blessed are you, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

 

This is a day for those who die in pain that is not relieved,

With regrets that have not been expressed,

And with dreams that have never been fulfilled.

Blessed are you, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

 

This is a day for those of us like Shirley.

 

It was meant to be.

In the 4th century, All Saints Day was established

To remember the early Christian martyrs whose names were never recorded,

So could be easily forgotten.

 

Today we remember those who are close to our hearts,

And also we remember those who may be forgotten.

 

This is a day for Shirley – and all those for whom no one may light a candle,

But who live in the company of all the saints in light.

 

As we sing our Hymn of the Day, I invite you to come forward one more time.

This time light a candle for someone you do not know…

 

Light a candle for someone who may not have been known by many,

But is deeply known by God.

 

Amen.