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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

A prayer for worship after “This is the Day” was sung.

This is the day that you have made, God.
permeated through and through with your beauty,
full of your faithfulness
full of your holiness.

We give you thanks.
We open our hearts and our minds and our spirits
to your transforming presence.

It is not easy to open ourselves to your presence, God:
our hearts are restless,
finding it hard to settle into your love;
our minds wander,
caught up in urgent cares and worries;
our spirits are uneasy before the mystery of your holiness.

It is not easy
and we are grateful that you don’t give up on us.
Even as we turn away from you,
you keep turning toward us.

So, here, now, for this time together,
we ask you to move among us,
awakening us to your Spirit reaching out to us,
calling to us,
showing us your new creation in our midst.

This is the day that you have made, God.
We are open
to your grace
your love
your summons to join your holy work,
in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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All praise to you, Lord Almighty.
At the beginning of time,
you hovered over the chaos
and gave every living thing the breath of life.

Through your holy prophets,
you enflame your people
with a passion for your truth.
You call us to the ways of justice and compassion.

By the Spirit of your Son Jesus
you pour upon us
gifts of faith and goodness and love.

O Spirit of the living God,
with the whole church
we wait for you.
Come to us,
come among us:
come as the wind
and blow far from us
all dark despair,
all groundless fears,
all false values.

Come as the fire
and burn away
all selfish desires,
all false pride,
all readiness to play the victim.

Come as the dew
and revive your people.
Grant us the forgiveness
that sets us free,
the passion of Christ
that draws us into the world you love,
the faith and courage
that speaks your redeeming truth.

Breathe on us, Breath of God.
Transform us into your faithful people.

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God of our salvation,
in Jesus Christ
and through your Holy Spirit,
you promise to be with us through
all that life may bring us.

We are grateful for signs of your faithfulness all around us:
for the work of your Spirit in the lives of
those who commit themselves to your mission;
for the presence of your Spirit
carrying us in times of crisis and trial;
for the creativity of your Spirit
opening new channels of peace and reconciliation
after all our best efforts have failed.

Teach us who bear the name of Jesus
to live into and out of his grace
with such passion and commitment
that other people’s lives are blessed
and our communities flourish.

Let your healing waters flow over us
that we may be instruments of your grace
wherever you send us this week.

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Draw me in

Life-giving God,
God of blessing and of joy,
you have come among us in Jesus of Nazareth
to draw us into the wide, expansive world
of your grace and love.

Long before we are aware of it,
your Holy Spirit is moving in us and through us,
Pulling us out of ourselves,
setting us in relationships
where we can learn the lessons of love.

Search my heart and mind.
Show me the ways
I resist your work.
Open me to the work of your Spirit,
tearing down that which diminishes Life;
building up that which makes me more fully
the person you have created me to be.

Set your holy truth within me
that I may live in the world
aware of your love,
open to your transforming grace,
dancing in your light.

I pray in the name of Jesus,
who is the the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Amen.

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The stained glass windows in many churches portray the Holy Spirit as a gentle dove but the ancient Celtic Christians named the Holy Spirit an Geadh-Glas: ‘the wild goose’. The name conveys the sense of unpredictability that Jesus talked about in his conversation with Nicodemus: “You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” (John 3: 7-8, The Message)

Alan Roxburgh, in an article entitled “Join the Wild Goose Chase” (no longer available online) wrote, “The wild goose is unpredictable (like the wind). Taking seriously this sense of God, Celtic missionaries went on wild goose chases, entering the spaces, towns, hamlets, and villages of the 7th century England in the conviction that the wild goose was out there ahead of them. They were open to being surprised by the wild goose, prayerfully asking what God was doing and joining there by naming the name of Jesus, dwelling among people and opening the story of God’s love and grace”.

The adventure on which the Spirit is leading us is taking the church past some familiar landmarks. Congregations are forming regional clusters where ordered ministry personnel function in ways similar to Methodist circuit riders. People are being formed as disciples in small groups, a format John Wesley used. Ancient Christian practices and disciplines are being adopted and adapted for new contexts. The sacraments of baptism and communion are being re-visited and taking on new significance. Congregations are recovering their identity as baptized and baptizing, Spirit-gifted communities.

From its beginnings, the Church understood that, when someone is baptized, that person is ordained into ministry by the call of God. Hands are laid upon the person being baptized to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit and empowerment for God’s mission. Baptism makes every Christian one of Christ’s representatives and witnesses in the world. It gives all Christians the gift and responsibility of functioning as priests to one another and as evangelists in the world.

Baptism is the entrance into a way of life that is all-embracing and life-changing. However, the significance of baptism as commissioning into a high and holy calling was largely lost in Christendom. When the majority of the people already considered themselves to be Christians, evangelism was reduced to a concern about ‘accepting Christ as your personal Saviour so you can be sure you are going to heaven when you die’; mission became something done by specialized agencies and persons in distant places, financially supported by churches in North America; ministry, both pastoral and priestly, was something done by the paid professional minister to meet the needs of consumers of religious goods and services. Baptism became merely a cultural rite of passage, a one-time action that did not have a significant impact on the rest of one’s life.

Christendom churches may have been able to function with a majority of their members treating baptism as merely a cultural rite of passage. That is no longer adequate. In the dying days of Christendom, the church faces an indifferent and increasingly hostile culture. The mission field is no longer in distant places. It has moved into the neighbourhoods and workplaces and of every member. In the face of despair and brokenness, hurt and loneliness, people need evangelism to be something more than eternal life insurance. They need good news of authentic hope. Churches that are engaging the mission field around them need the active participation of every minister that the Holy Spirit has given them.

The way forward for congregations includes a recovery of baptism as a significant event that has ongoing effects on each Christian’s identity and practice of their faith.

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This is the second in a series of post in which I will be sharing some of the research I have been doing on lay leadership training in the United Church of Canada. That work was made possible by a McGeachy scholarship grant from the United Church of Canada Foundation.

The impetus for the research stemmed from an awareness of a growing number of congregations that were relying on lay people to provide leadership on an ongoing basis. I was also becoming aware that there were a number of forces that were making our current model of church and ministry less and less viable. The models of church and ministry with which most congregations operate were created to serve Christendom churches. Christendom began in 313 CE when the Roman Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan pronouncing Christianity as the favoured religion of the empire. That was the beginning of an alliance between Christianity and the political and social powers in the culture that continued in the West for over fifteen or sixteen centuries.

In Christendom, the majority of the people considered themselves Christian. They supported the church either through voluntary offerings or, in some times and places, through taxation. There was a coherence between the values and mores of the dominant classes in the culture and what were generally understood to be Christian values. In the Canadian version of Christendom, stores were closed on Sundays; the Lord’s Prayer was said in schools on a daily basis; churches were at the centre of social life (literally and figuratively); politicians consulted with church leaders before making major policy announcements; parents sent or took their children to Sunday School so that the children would learn good moral values and grow up to be good citizens.

In such a context, the normative model for a “successful” mainline church in Canada was a congregation that could afford to support a seminary-trained professional minister and the costs of maintaining a building. Centralized denominational structures had been developed to connect such congregations and provide accountability for them. Para-church organizations emerged that focused on mission outreach, evangelism, and youth ministry. Candidates for ministry had often been nurtured throughout their lives by extensive youth programming, e.g. Sunday Schools, CGIT, TUXIS, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, church camps.

Within our lifetimes, that alliance between Christianity and the culture has been disappearing. Christianity has been disestablished as the official and dominant religion in our culture. (Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall has written extensively about the disestablishment of the churches and what this means for the way they function).  It has been pushed to the margins in power and influence and popular support. As Christianity settles more and more deeply into its minority status in North America, many congregations can no longer afford to pay for full-time, seminary-trained ministry personnel. People contemplating ordered ministry often cannot afford the cost of the formal seminary education that is required by many denominations. Personal circumstances may also make it difficult to leave their families for extended periods of time to get that education.

The current models of church and ministry are becoming less and less viable. At the same time, new forms of church and new ways of leadership are emerging across the country. Faith communities are finding new ways of being led. More accurately, the Holy Spirit is raising up new leaders for new forms of church. These leaders have often not been through the officially sanctioned pathways of education and credentialing. They do not plan to do so. That does not mean that these people are uninterested in being trained and equipped for their leadership. It signals that the institutional requirements no longer fit the realities of the post-Christendom context.

As has often been the case in the history of the Church, the Holy Spirit is on the move and the structures and systems are struggling to catch up. Sometime the system tries to manage the disconnect between the structures and the new realities by attempting to fix the existing structures. What is needed instead is to discern what new life the Spirit is creating and, therefore, what kinds of structures will most faithfully nurture and nourish that new life.

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New Life

Lord Jesus Christ,
our living Lord,
you have entrusted us with
a great and precious treasure:
the message that you have power
to create and to give new life.
Your Spirit moves among us
shaking up what has become settled and shut down;
stirring new life in the midst of our dying;
making a new creation in places where we have given up.

We yearn for your presence,
but we’re not sure we want your new creation.
Your newness sets us off balance.

It is awkward, unnerving
to step into your future
without knowing
without being sure
without seeming more than the next step in front of us.

The only assurance you give is that your Spirit will breath new life,
that you are the Way we are to take
that your steadfast love and faithfulness,
your mercy and your grace
will meet us in every step.

You promise that that will be enough.
So, here, now,
we dare to trust you to make all things new,
including us.
Teach us to sing your song
in this time,
in this place,
for your sake and to your glory.

Amen.

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