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Posts Tagged ‘life’

God of glory and of love,
giver of Life:
in your Word
and by your Holy Spirit,
you guide us in the way of truth.

In your Word
and by your Holy Spirit,
you promise us peace and freedom from fear.

We live in the midst of many words
and many promises
and many fears.
Yet, you have called us to be your people
in your world —
citizens of your new creation,
hearers of your life-giving Word,
witnesses to the new possibilities you offer.

We cannot be all that you have summoned us to be on our own.

We bring to you our attempts to follow your Son
and to live in his Way.

Lamb of God,
take what we offer.
in your great love,
judge it;
purify us;
redeem us
till we are made worthy to bear your glory.

In the week that is ahead,
we pray that you will turn us toward you
again and again.

Teach us again and again
to trust you and your way of saving us.
Renew us.
Renew your church,
till the river of your Life flows through our community,
our nation,
and throughout the world.

We pray in the name of Jesus our  Lord
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God,
forever and ever.
Amen.

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A prayer based on Luke 7: 1-10

Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the Bread of Life.
You are the one true Vine.
You promise that you are
the end of our hunger,
the end of our thirsting.

Yet, other promises have been made to us:
promises that,
if we work hard enough,
we shall get the life we want;
if we buy the right things,
we shall find love and acceptance;
if we are good enough,
we shall find the power and admiration
that our souls crave.

We know it isn’t true,
but we are seduced anyway.

We wander far from your grace
that welcomes us,
that heals our brokenness,
that gives us hope.

Speak your Word, Jesus,
and we shall be healed.
Speak the Word that
brings life where we see only death;
speak the Word that gathers up the pieces
and makes us your new creation;
speak the Word that sets us firmly in the grip of
your steadfast love and faithfulness.

Then, send us out in your holy name.
Give us to the world you love
that our whole lives might be
an offering to you.

Amen.

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A prayer based on Luke 24: 44 -53

We try to live our lives in faith, O God,
but then giants invade the places
we thought we held secure and safe.
We name them terrorists who threaten our world
and bullies on the schoolyard or at work
and diagnoses from the doctor that change everything
and job loss and divorce and addictions.

We try not to be afraid,
but we are.

Good Shepherd,
rescue your lambs:
our weapons
our carefully constructed armour
have failed us.
You are our only hope.

Send your covenant love
into the midst of our apathy and despair.
Speak your liberating Word
against the words that have shut us down.
Show us your cross and resurrection
and the power you have for life
where no life seems possible.

Train us for faith —
deep, transforming faith
in you, the Living God,
for Jesus’ sake,
and through your Holy Spirit,
the Three-in-One,
the One-in-Three,
who cares for this world
and for us
with love that is powerful
beyond our imagining.

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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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2 Corinthians 4: 7-17
John 3: 1-10

Why do you participate in the life and mission of your church? There are lots of other things you could do with your time and energy. It is a difficult time to be the church. You could be giving your time and energy to something easier, something that looks more successful, something more popular. Yet, you show up; you give what you feel you can. Why do you do that?

When I have asked that question, the most common response I get is that people participate in their church because of the friendships they have there. The relationships keep them coming.

Those relationships are very precious gifts. We live in a time when many people are profoundly lonely. They are thirsty to feel welcomed in a community. They are looking for some place where they are treated with dignity and kindness. They want to believe that they matter to somebody.

Some of you have found those things among the friendships you have developed in your church community. Those friends have seen you through some of the worst times in your life. You have shared some of the best times together. You speak readily about how grateful you are.  “Why do you participate in the life and mission of your church?” Many of you answer, “Because of the friends I have here.”

Yet, as true as that answer may be, something more needs to be said. The Church is not just a social club. As William Willimon is fond of saying, “The Church is not just the Rotary Club meeting at an inconvenient time.” We gather in Christian communities not just for the friends we have. Lots of people have good friends without the trouble of being part of the Church.

We gather in Christian communities because something more in happening in and through your relationships with each other. Often God meets you through these other people. Someone says something at just the right time that helps you find your way forward and you discern that it is the Spirit of God working through that person. You are on the receiving end of some undeserved kindness or generosity and you realize that you are catching a glimpse of the grace of God that permeates all our days. Someone sits with you when you are going through a dark time and you feel God’s steadfast love and faithfulness flowing through him or her into your life.There is more to the church than just friendships with each other. Our friends become channels, conduits, through which the living God reaches out to you.

As great a treasure as all of that is, there is something beyond even that going on. Jesus promises, “When two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).  It is not just that other people are channels of God’s grace. It is that, when we gather together, the risen Christ is here. He shows up. He joins the gathering.

Often we do not recognize that he is present. Seldom do we acknowledge his presence. Yet, he is here, with us, beyond our ordinary human sight.

When the apostle Paul tried to describe this, he said, “In Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  In Christ, there is a new world: a new dimension to this world. Now that God has raised Jesus from the dead, there are two worlds that exist in the same continuum. It is like two notes playing at the same time. The one world is the visible world that we are used to seeing and touching and hearing — the everyday world. There is another world as well. It is invisible to our ordinary senses but it is still real and it has its effect on us.

A new creation came into being when God raised Jesus from the dead. This new creation is teeming with God’s mercy and God’s grace and God’s resurrection power. Because it is not visible, many people tend to overlook it or dismiss it. That would be a mistake. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “It is the invisible that moves the visible” (John 3: 5-6).

Much of living by faith is a matter of developing eyes to see and ears to hear God’s work. There is more going on here than what we are in our own selves and in our relationships with each other. There is the risen Christ saving and healing and bringing us into the power of the resurrection that is at work in our world. The risen Christ is bringing new life in places and situations that we have given up on as dead, as hopeless.

That is why in our lives and in our churches, we always need to remain open to surprise. We need to be supple, ready to change direction, ready to consider new possibilities. Our resurrecting God keeps showing up.

Often, when the risen Christ show up, he breaks open things that we had nailed down tightly. There are things in our lives that we have tried to keep so tightly controlled that all the life in them has been shut down. Jesus shows up and breaks them open so that there’s room for the Holy Spirit to blow through our lives again and bring new energy and new life.

That can be a very painful process. We like things the way they are. We have organized them that way. They work for us that way. At least, they did. Even when they no longer do, we hold on to them because they are familiar. There is a certain comfort in that.

God will not let us settle for comfort. God has something far better in mind for us. God wants to give us life, real life, abundant life. God want that abundant life not just for us but for our children and grandchildren and for the children of this neighbourhood and this city and the whole of God’s beloved creation. God’s Spirit moves against structures that stand in the way of God’s good purposes. The Spirit is in the process of dismantling them, of letting them die and disappear.

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “When God’s Spirit shows up, it’s like the wind that blows where it will. You don’t know where it is coming from or where it is headed next.” The Spirit is a wild and powerful presence. Sometimes the Spirit-wind is like a hurricane that clears out the present order and makes room for something new to come. Sometimes the Spirit-wind is the kind of wind that catches the sails of a sailboat and takes us on new adventures.

Much of the New Testament was written to small Christian communities that we hanging on by their finger tips. Yet, Paul writes to them with amazing hope:
Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we are not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we are not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The thing we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4: 7-17, The Message).

We are not on our own. Our life together draws its energy and vitality from the greatness of God’s power. So, the church lives on tiptoe. The church is a community that is open to the impossible becoming possible. It is determined to live in the impossible possibility of the reign of God in our midst.

Why do you keep showing up? Thomas Long tells of being part of a spiritual formation class in a church where the question was asked, “Why have you stayed as part of the Church?” One man replied, “I’ll tell you what keeps me coming. it’s strange, I know, but I get the feeling here, like nowhere else, that something is about to happen” (Something is About to Happen, p. 9)  That, my friends, is a great gift. Thanks be to God.

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A sermon on Mark 1: 21-28, Epiphany 4B

Jesus, it seems, is always on the move. By the time Mark gets to the 21st verse of the first chapter of his gospel, Jesus has travelled from Nazareth in Galilee, south to the Jordan River to be baptized, out into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan for forty days and forty night, and then back up to Galilee where he began calling his disciples.

When he called Peter and Andrew, James and John to join in his adventure, he did not ask them what they believed. He did not say, “Can you explain to me the doctrine of the Trinity?” He did not say, “Do you believe in the virgin birth?” He did not even ask them their position on important political issues: “Should health care be reformed? What is the best way to deal with criminals?” He just said, “The reign of God is at hand. God is up to something new. If you want to get in on it, follow me.” Then, off he went again, leaving the disciples to decide whether or not they would keep up.

Following Jesus, it seems is largely about being willing to be on the move with him. Are you willing to head off on a great adventure with him called ‘the reign of God’?

In today’s scripture, Jesus has already left Lake Galilee and has entered Capernaum. Mark says, “When the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue — the gathering of God’s people — and he taught.” It sound like a pretty ordinary thing to do. Jesus was a Jew and, on the Sabbath, the Jews gathered in the local synagogue. An adult from among them would read and teach from the Torah — the story of God’s actions among God’s people. So, when the Sabbath came, Jesus went to the synagogue. It sounds like an ordinary worship service on an ordinary holy day.

Except, that is not how the Greek actually reads. The Greek says, “When Jesus entered the synagogue, immediately the Sabbath came.” Jesus did not wake up on a Saturday morning and say, “It’s Saturday. I guess I’ll go to worship.” No. Jesus went to Capernaum, entered the synagogue and “immediately the Sabbath came.” Jesus is travelling on a great adventure and he brings the Sabbath with him.

The Sabbath is the seventh day of creation. For six days, says our story, God created the heavens and the earth. For six days, every time God speaks, new life springs forth. God speaks and something new happens. First, light separates from chaotic darkness. Then, dry land and the seas are put in their places. Trees, vegetation, animals, birds, sea creatures — all begin to join their voices to the song of creation. Then, God creates human beings, male and female in God’s image. Creation is a story of life, more life, life in profuse abundance. Part of being human is that we get to join the chorus of praise.

There are six days of prodigal creativity. Then, on the seventh day, there is a day of rest for all creation. Somebody has called the Sabbath “God’s greatest act of creation”. On the Sabbath, we get to stop working. We get to cease our striving for more and more. We get to rest from trying to put our world in order. Sabbath is a day of celebrating and enjoying God’s good creation.

Sabbath also became a day of anticipating that time when God will set everything right. One day, everything that has gone wrong with us will be put right: wounds will be healed; nations will live in peace; all the divisions among us — the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak the haves and the have-nots — will be done away with. All creation will be filled with rejoicing again.

When Jesus went to Capernaum, he entered the synagogue and “immediately the Sabbath came.”  It is an amazing claim. When Jesus shows up in our worship, he brings God’s life and joy and abundant creativity with him. Mark says that the people were amazed and astounded.

He had an authority about him that they had not experienced from their own religious leaders. He had energy that commanded their attention. This was not at all what they had come to expect in worship. Someone has said that, sometimes, our worship services are so dull and boring and banal, that people of the church merely endure them in order to get to the refreshments time afterwards. People come to encounter the living God. Too often they find that they have to settle for catching with with news about their friends’ latest cruise or golf game.

Jesus shows up, though, and worship becomes a place where something really significant happens, where life happens. It sounds like good news. Except, says Mark, immediately, a man who was deeply disturbed interrupts Jesus and yells out, “What business do you have with us Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you’re up to! You are the Holy One of God and you have come to destroy us.” (Mark 1: 23 -34, The Message)

In this place of God’s creativity and life-giving power, suddenly, there is great anxiety and fear. That is a pretty good description of what happens in us on a regular basis when we try to follow Jesus. Jesus invites us into the new creation God is making in our time and our place. He invites us into God’s transforming work in the world. At some point, we realize that God intends to transform the world by transforming us — by changing you and me. He intends to make a new creation by making you and me into a new creation in Christ.

That makes being a disciple of Jesus both very exciting and very frightening. Each of us has some areas of our lives that we hold onto tightly because they make us feel safe. They help us feel like we are in control. Maybe it is our possession, or our status at work or in the community. Maybe it is some pattern of behaviour that helps us cover over a deep wound in our souls. Maybe it is the lies we tell ourselves so we do not have to face a difficult truth. Whatever it is, it makes us feel safe and in control. Whatever it is, it also functions like a wall that keeps out new life and creativity and freedom. Inside, we are slowly dying.

Jesus shows up, brimming over with life and creativity, and we are afraid. We are afraid that, if we let go of the lies and the coping mechanisms, we shall be destroyed. We will be left with nothing. So, we resist. We push back against the newness that Jesus promises. The fears that we know seem safer than the new life Jesus brings.

Jesus commands our fears and anxieties, “Quiet! Get out of him! Get out of her!” Jesus speaks with authority. He speaks with the authority of someone who knows that nothing we fear in all creation can ever separate us from the powerful, death-defeating, life-giving love of God (Romans 8: 38 -39). That love has gone to hell and back for us. That love intends to lead us into joy and delight and great beauty. That love intends for us life, more life, life in all its fullness.

“Quiet!” he says to our fears and anxieties. “Get out of her. Get out of him.” It is a great gift to have someone with authority say to our fears, “Get out!” It is a great gift to tell them to quit possessing us, to stop holding us in their grip. This is good news because those words come from Jesus who brings God’s Sabbath with him: life, life and more life.

I invite you to take a few moments to become aware of your fears. Hear Jesus say to them, “Quiet! Get out!” Hand them over to God and let God carry them. Do it for a few moments here; then do it again and again throughout the week. Hand them over because that is the way you get to walk in the freedom and the joy of Christ’s great love for you. Thanks be to God.

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A prayer based on Mark 1: 21-28

You are the God who makes us.
By your powerful, creative Word
you made the heavens and the earth
and all living things.

By your powerful, creative Word
you are still making new beginnings
where we can only see dead ends;
new life springing forth
from the chaos of our world.

We come to this time of worship
having listened to other voices —
voices that lead us to fear and anxiety,
to despair and resentment,
to cynicism and weariness.
There is no life in them
but they are strong and persistent
and we are easily held in their grip.

We come here wanting to hear your voice
override our fears and our weariness.
We come here waiting to hear your voice
speak a life-giving word —
a word with the authority and power
to create new hope and purpose within us,
among us.

Speak, Lord, for your children wait.

Then, grant us courage to trust your Son
as we walk down the road together,
the road that leads toward life and joy.  Amen.

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