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Posts Tagged ‘holiness’

Surrounded by your grace

A prayer based on Exodus 3.

God of blessing, God of promise:

We live day by day surrounded by your grace:

Every bush is burning with your glory;

every person we pass is a child of your love;

your saving power is in motion all around us.

All of life is made holy by your glorious presence.

 

We confess that often we are blind and do not see;

deaf and do not hear;

busy and distracted and do not notice.

 

Faithful, persevering Spirit,

we are grateful that you keep

nudging our hearts and minds,

inviting yourself into our lives.

You come to meet us

in the most unexpected places,

among the most unexpected people.

Awaken us to the nearness

of your presence

and of your kingdom.

Gather all the pieces of our lives

in response to you.

So may our lives blaze with your glory.

We pray in the name of Jesus,

your Word made flesh,

who comes to dwell among us,

full of grace and truth.  Amen.

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The Rev. Dr. Bob Giuliano writes a regular column for the Owen Sound Times. His columns, entitled “Letters of Hope” always provide lots of food for thought. This week, Holy Week for Christians, reflects on suffering — a good post for Good Friday:

Letters of Hope by Bob Giuliano

I began thinking of some folks who need encouragement today. A friend in the States, so discouraged by the problems and burdens of her country and the conflicts that prevent good administration that she sometimes wants to give up. Another friend who is sick without much to encourage him in the days ahead. The list goes on. It just struck me that lots of folks need a gift of hope today. Me too.

A fella wonders about the meaning of suffering itself sometimes. I wonder if there is any meaning in suffering at all, or if there is, why that meaning seems so obscure and difficult to understand.

One evening this past winter, I was struggling along my walk and suddenly from my unconscious, there appeared an Asian woman, an elderly Chinese or Tibetan woman. She was very clear in my mind. Dark, weathered face, small in stature, deliberate eyes. Behind her were the fields of some ancient, well peopled land. It was desert like, but where she stood, there was greenery and an abundance of life.

This ancient Asian woman did not speak, but smiled gently at me as my mind seemed to gather in the reality of how widespread human suffering is. So much suffering in the world of this woman seemed to be her message. Suffering is the daily fare of millions of people around the world. She, the wizened old lady, was acquainted with much suffering.

I don’t know where she came from. Some Jungian analyst will put that together for me. She is probably some archetypal figure that came to address my battle.

With that reminder from the ancient woman of the extent of terrible suffering in the world, it seemed that I was being told several things. One was certainly that my own suffering was a part of the human condition. Small in many ways compared to the terrible anguish of so many others, my concerns were a part of being human on this earth.

The second insight that came to me was that in our country, suffering is the enemy and we devise many weapons to fight it, cover it, anesthetize us and help us avoid it. I can get to the hospital in a few minutes flat. I can get help without having to walk through deserts and jungles or across mountains to get to the nearest doctor. Folks in those lands accept their suffering as much a part of life as any other day. This does not make their anguish any less burdensome, but human suffering is known as a part of what living each day involves.

I do not know how to progress in my thinking about this. It just seemed like an intrusion of a wider reality that I needed to grasp, listen to, understand. The old lady stayed with me for a long time. Every time I go by the place on my walk that we met, I try to conjure her up for more conversation. However, she remains a memory of a profound in-breaking of truth.

I am reflecting now on the God whom we expect to take away our sufferings. To whom we turn, not only for ourselves but in true compassion for those in the rest of the world whose suffering is brought into our living rooms so vividly by modern technology. We do care about others and our friends and family too. We respond and send people to help and money for food.

I am thinking about this particular night when the One who is said to have been God as well as man, gathered his friends for the Feast of the Passover and made it also a farewell dinner. He knew that much suffering was to be His soon. “How I have longed to have this dinner with you”, He said. Lonesome and betrayed by friends, the next day was to be pure agony.

The message of the next day, the Friday we call ‘Good’, is that the great God Almighty suffered the same anguish as all human beings. He did not avoid it, rise above it, skip that part, but the Creator entered into human suffering fully and experienced it with all His children.

I don’t quite understand all that. But somehow, it has comforted folks who suffer. It suggests that as a result of this God-man’s suffering, all humanity’s agony is given meaning. Our suffering is Holy.

When I was a hospital chaplain, I often felt as I entered the hospital that I should take off my shoes. It is Holy ground. This God who suffers with his children, though not often known or felt in that sterile place, is very present there because his children are suffering.

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A prayer based on Psalm 77

“I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord”
Exodus
making a way through the sea
water above
water below
chaos
the world falling apart
BECAUSE
Yahweh has shown up.

It was You, making the deep trembling!
It was You, causing the disturbance!
unsettling
noise crashing
lights flashing

We wanted less disturbance,
a safe shelter in the storm.
We blame those who upset
the settled peace we have made
with decline
with death
with despair.

Hidden beneath our distress
You are at work
churning the waters
so there’s space for new creation.
“Your way, O God, is holy”
and we miss it
when we resist your unsettling mighty deeds.

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A prayer based on Psalm 111

honour
majesty
righteous
gracious
merciful
faithful
just
trustworthy
holy
awesome

The psalmist is so focused on God:
cadence after cadence
sounding God’s goodness —
touching those places
in my soul
that long to be immersed in such goodness;
that long to ‘fall in love with God
and with the things of God’ again.
The longings have been buried
under the rubble that accumulates
in the church:
the tawdry manipulating
the ugly power plays
the detritus of broken relationships.

It take time,
effort,
letting go
to remember
the touch again
the beauty of God
that first drew me in
that quickened my spirit.

Let me dwell here.
Let me live out of this place
each day
all day
till honour and majesty and righteousness
and mercy and faithfulness and trustworthiness
and graciousness and holiness
become the air I breathe
and my eyes delight in seeing
God’s great works
shining through.
Then let my life proclaim
‘Praise the Lord’.

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Reflections on Psalm 96

I have been trying to read the psalms from a missional perspective. To do that, I try to imagine what a psalms would sound like to the people of Israel when they were in exile in Babylon. I ask, “How does this psalm help the people of Yahweh live with courage and hope in a world where they are in a minority?”
When I read the psalms that focus on Yahweh as sovereign, I spend time wondering what kind of people are formed when they pray and sing about an alternate ruler in Babylon.
This morning I was praying Psalm 96 and was struck by the difference between the description of Yahweh and the descriptions of our rulers in the media. We hear about governments trying to serve the people but beset by scandal and greed and corruption and accusations of cover-up. Some of that is the creation of a media that needs a news story, I know. But, our culture also breeds such ugliness, and our politicians are not immune from those influence.
What a contrast, then, when the news about Yahweh is filled with words like salvation, glory, marvellous works, honour and majesty, strength and beauty. Yahweh will judge with equity, righteousness and truth.
What kind of people are formed when their minds and hearts are ruled by such a sovereign? At the very least, they would know that the corruption is not the way it’s supposed to be. They would ascribe less power to those who appear to be in charge. Their lives would be shaped by more noble aims.
Paul echoes this when he urges the Philippians, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
The goodness and holiness, the concern for right living and truth, that are our calling which is given to us in baptism, begin by having our horizons focussed on a God who is beautiful in holiness, full of glory and splendour and strength and honour and beauty and majesty.

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Catch us in your net

A prayer based on Luke 5: 1-11

We pray to you, Lord Jesus Christ,
speaker of the Word of God,
for your words
touch the deep places of our lives
— places where we have laboured
and come up empty
–places where the hunger for holiness
waits the feast of your presence
–places where our fears make us small and timid.
Speak hope into our emptiness
and help us hear and believe.
Speak truth into our sinfulness
and purify us with your great mercy
Speak love into our woundedness
and heal us.
Catch us in the net of our holy purposes
for our lives,
for this city,
for the world.
We pray to you, Word of God,
Word of Life
Word of new beginnings,
LORD.
Amen.

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