Posts Tagged ‘Word of God’

A prayer for Trinity Sunday reflecting on Matthew 28: 16 -20

Out of our ordinary, everyday lives,
you have gathered us here, Holy God,
to this time of worship,
to this time of praise.

We join with angels and archangels
and all the company of the saints
to bless you,
to listen for your Word,
to immerse ourselves in your grace,
in your love.

Open our eyes,
our hearts,
our minds
to your presence with us.

Take the chaos of the world
that has found its way into our hearts —
speak your Word
and give order and form and new creation.

Take the failures and defeats,
the guilt and the shame
that bind our spirits —
speak your Word
and set us free.

Take our longings for your goodness
to shape our lives, this community,
the hurting world —
speak your Word
and infuse us with
your courage and
your hope and
your love.

Then, awaken us to your Holy Spirit
who is making all things new,
even us.

We ask in Jesus’ name
who sends us out to speak
love and mercy and grace
to those who are waiting
for a sign
that they are not alone,
that you are a God of love,
that you are a Saviour who knows their name,
that the Holy Spirit is leading them home.



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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.

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Lord our God,
you have promised that
those who hear your Word
and keep it
shall find blessedness.

I bow before you,
asking for the blessedness
that you have promised.

Give me ears to hear,
eyes to see,
and a heart to understand your Word.

Convey to me your light:
where passages of scripture are
so familiar that they have lost their power over me,
bring me fresh insight;
where I find passages hard to understand
because they speak a word I do not want to hear,
grant me an open heart;
where I am confused,
clear the muddle
and open the next step on the path
that you would have me take.

Grant me grace
to hear your Word
and courage
to live under its life-changing power
day by day.

I pray in the name of Jesus
whose words
bring light and life
and the blessedness you have promised.

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Larry Walters was thirty-three years old, living in Los Angeles, when he decided that he wanted to see his neighbourhood from a new perspective. He went to the local army surplus store one morning and bought forty-five used weather balloons. He strapped himself into a lawn chair. Several of his friends filed the balloons with helium and then tied them to his chair. Larry took along a six-pack of beer, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a BB gun. He figured he could shoot the balloons one at a time when he was ready to land.

Larry assumed that the balloons would lift him about one hundred feet into the air. He was caught off guard when the chair he was seated in soared more than fifteen thousand feet into the sky — smack into the middle of the air traffic at Los Angeles International Airport.

He shot a few of the balloons but then dropped the gun.  He stayed airborne for more than two hours, eventually landing in Long Beach neighbourhood.

Soon after he was safely grounded and cited by the police, reporters asked him three questions.

Were you scared? Yes.

Would you do it again? No.

Why did you do it? Because you can’t just sit there.


The writer of the Gospel of Matthew would have liked Larry’s answer. When God invades the world in Jesus Christ, Matthew says, “You can’t just sit there. You have to do something to respond to this amazing event.” Matthew tells the Christmas story differently from Luke. Luke’s story has  Mary receiving a visit from an angel. It has  a decree from Caesar Augustus  that sends Jews across the country. Shepherds hurry to a stable after receiving news from angels in the sky.

Matthew, on the other hand, tells us a great deal more about Joseph, Mary’s fiancé. For one thing, Joseph is a dreamer.

Three times, Joseph dreams a dream. Three times, in response to the dream, Joseph changes his plans and gets moving in a different direction.

Joseph is a devout Jew and so, when he finds out that Mary is pregnant, he is prepared to follow Jewish law. He makes arrangements to break the engagement. However, as a devout Jew, he also knows that mercy is to temper justice. Out of love or consideration for Mary, he decides he will break the engagement quietly. He will save her from public humiliation. Then, the dream changes his carefully made plans. In obedience to the word he receives in the dream, he marries her and calls the child his own.

After the baby Jesus is born, it appears that Mary and Joseph have settled into life in Bethlehem. Then, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream, warning him of danger. He finds himself taking his young family on an unexpected trip to Egypt.

They settle into Egypt. Again, an angel in a dream sets him on the move again. This time, they are headed back to Israel. Even then, they do not go back to Bethlehem but to Nazareth in Galilee. All of this is done in obedience to a word from God.

When God comes onto the scene, says Matthew, nobody remains untouched. Nobody remains unchanged. Joseph finds his life turned upside down. Magi from Syria find themselves on the move to worship and bow down to a Jewish baby. Even Herod, ruler in Israel, cannot ignore what is going on. He is moved to murderous jealousy and resists God’s invasion with all the powers at his disposal.

In Jesus, people are confronted with the truth of God. You can trust and obey him or you can reject his rule but you cannot remain neutral.

This is a very hard word for us to hear. We are not accustomed to hearing truth talked about in this way. The prevailing myth is that all truth is subjective. Truth is relative. It is something we choose. You may choose differently from me and it does not really matter as long as we are tolerant of one another.

Matthew says truth is not a collection of statements to which we might give assent and others might not. Truth is not a group of convictions we choose according to our personal inclinations. Truth is a person we encounter. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We do not shape our truth. Truth shapes us and leads us where it will. We don’t ‘have’ the truth. The truth possesses us and transforms the direction of our lives.

When we encounter the truth that Jesus is, we can be rather like the officer in the navy who had always dreamed of commanding a battleship. He finally achieved his dream and was given command of the newest and best ship in the fleet.

One stormy night, as the ship plowed through the seas, the captain himself was on duty on the bridge. Suddenly, off to port, he spotted a strange light, rapidly closing with his own vessel. Immediately ordered the signalman to flash a message to the unidentified craft. The message read, “Alter your course 10 degrees to the south.”

Only a moment passed before the reply came, “Alter your course 10 degrees to the north.”

The captain was determined that his ship would not take a back seat to any other ship. He ordered a second message sent, “Alter your course 10 degrees. I am the captain.”

The message cam back, “Alter your course 10 degrees. I am Seaman third class Jones.”

Infuriated, the captain grabbled the signal light with his own hands and fired off, “Alter your course. I am a battleship.”

The reply came back, “Alter your course. I am a lighthouse.”

We live our lives, choosing its course, commanding it values and goals. Then, we encounter the Light that Jesus is and discover that he is truth which cannot be shaped for our own purposes. Rather, he is Truth that shapes us.

In baptism, you decide to adjust the course of your life to the lighthouse of Christ. He gives your life direction that it would not otherwise have. Then, you are no longer just sitting here, putting in time. You let his truth shape your life and the little story you call “my life” gets caught up in the great and holy work God is doing in human history. You become a part of God’s work, healing God’s world and bringing the lost home.


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Pay Attention

“Pay Attention”

A sermon by the Rev. Dr. Christine Jerrett. The worship service in which this sermon was originally preached can be found at Reformed Worship, week 2.

Scriptures: Psalm 19

Chaim Potok was a Jewish rabbi and novelist. Even as a young boy, he knew he wanted to be a writer. His mother would tell him, “Be a brain surgeon. You’ll keep a lot of people from dying; you’ll make a lot of money.” Chaim would always reply, “No, mama, I want to be a writer.” He went away to college but, whenever he came home, his mother would try to persuade him again. “I know you want to be a writer, but listen to me. Be a brain surgeon. You’ll keep a lot of people from dying. You’ll make a lot of money.”  He would reply, “No, mama. I want to be a writer.”

This conversation went on this way over and over again. Then, one day Chaim’s mother exploded, “You’re wasting your time. If you were a brain surgeon, you could keep a lot of people from dying.” Chaim replied, “Mama, I don’t want to keep a lot of people from dying; I want to show them how to live!” (Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, 47.)

St. Irenaeus once said, “The glory of God is seen in men and women who are fully alive”, and yet, said St. Paul, “All have sinned and fall short of the divine splendour.” (Romans 3:23) Part of the moral and spiritual poverty of our day stems from too many people who are settling for “not dying”, when we are created to be “full alive”. People settle for comfort and ease when what God intends for us is glory.

Someone wrote a book about running in which he began by saying that he reached the peak of his vitality, creativity and accomplishment when he was five years old. Do you remember what you felt like when you were five? He said that, when he was five he was a runner and an adventurer. He was an actor and a dancer and a singer of songs. At five, he could give and receive love freely. He laughed easily and took delight in many things. Then, the hurt and heartache of life began to drain all that away.

That’s what happens, isn’t it? Broken dreams, the loss of innocence, love betrayed or lost. Sometime just selfishness or complacency. They all chip away at that zest for living that we have in childhood. Sometimes those experiences lead us to doubt ourselves. Or, they consume all our energy so that we do not have space in our minds or spirits for something creative or adventurous. We live on auto-pilot, by default, doing what we are simply used to doing.

The Bible often contrasts things that are coming alive with things that are crumbling into dust. It distinguishes between ‘really living’ and ‘not really living’, between true life and life-gone-wrong. The difference between the two, it claims, is whether or not God is present. When God enters the scene, things that are crumbling into dust are given new life. God breathes and people come alive. God acts and new possibilities open up.

When the Bible speaks of God as Creator, it is never merely saying that a divine being made the world. God is Creator because the God revealed in the Bible is creative now, not just back at the origins of the cosmos. God is actively working in our lives and in our world, bringing new life.

Bill Brown, professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, points out that there are seven creation stories in the Old Testament (The Seven Pillars of Creation). Those creation stories are not trying to explain how the world got started. They were told and put together by the people of Israel when they were facing a dead end. Their society was full of troubles. It look as if there was no way to move into a livable future. Everything important to them was disappearing. It was being destroyed or it was crumbling into dust. They could not see any way to stop what was happening. It was in that context that they told the creation stories. They told stories about new beginnings and starting over. They told stories about God who offers new possibilities that they were not able to imagine on their own.

The Bible’s creation stories direct us to places were hope and courage and the capacity to persevere are found. They remind us that we are not alone in a world that is descending into chaos. We worship a God who speaks into chaos and makes a new creation. We live in covenant relationship with a God who put the stars in the heavens and who guides the blazing sun across the sky day after day.

It is as if the sun arises each day, joyfully anticipating new life, making a fresh beginning, eagerly running towards God’s glorious creation and God’s restoration of all things. “The heavens are telling the glory of God; the earth proclaims God’s handiwork,” shouts Psalm 19.

Wake up! Pay attention! Lift your eyes higher than the troubles that are wearing you down. Your life is set in the large, expansive context of God’s ongoing creativity. There is more going on here than just you and me trying to make all things work out right. There is God and God is at work in our world. God is at work in Christ, reconciling the world to Godself. God is at work, calling people to live well, to be human, to live up to our creation and into our salvation.

Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) He invites us on an adventure that requires of us courage and sacrifice as we join in his work of renewing human society. That adventure includes conflict and struggle as we resist those forces that would diminish human dignity and freedom. That adventure takes us both to the heights and to the depths of loving and being loved.

There will be times when you cannot see a way forward. There will be times when you will be so weary that you cannot see how you can possibly keep going. There will be times when you will be tripped up by your own selfishness or foolishness or fear. There will be times when you will be blind-sided by someone else. You will stumble and fall and lose your way. That, too, is part of the journey.

Then, the great grace and mercy and forgiveness of God will pick you up and set you on your feet again and enable you to begin again. Your life is significant and important because you are part of God’s great and holy work to renew the earth. You have a part to play, a part you need to play or you will miss out on the glory.

How do you get in on it? How do you join the adventure? How do you know how to play your part? God has given God’s Word to guide us, says the Psalmist. God’s Word reveals to us what God is up to in the world and pulls our lives toward where the action is. God’s Word acts as a signpost, pointing out the right road. God’s Word is a life-map, showing the way to joy. God’s Word leads to wonder and awe and reverence at the persistent, mysterious ways that God is overcoming the power of death that makes things crumble into dust. God’s Word leads to wonder and awe and reverence at the surprising, unexpected ways God is opening up new possibilities. God’s Word steers us away from death valleys and directs us to the paths that lead to life.

God’s Word is a great treasure, more precious than gold, sweeter than honey. When we set ourselves under the Word of God— when we wrestle with it and let it form our lives — we come alive to all that God is doing in our life and in the world.

It is said that the rabbis would place a drop of honey on the Torah scroll. Then, they would invite their very young students to lick the scroll. They wanted them to experience, even before they could read, that the Way of Life revealed in the scroll was sweet.

Today, we are invited to be reminded of that as well. As Psalm 19 is read again, you are invited to come forward and share the fruit that is on the communion table. Enjoy its sweetness. “Taste and see that the Lord is God” (Psalm 34). Then, take a few minutes to reflect on words of scripture that have been precious in your life. And pray, “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord my Redeemer.”

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We are a traditional church that has been trying to incorporate more experiential elements in our worship services. (see previous post, “More desirable than gold”) On Sunday, we used Psalm 19 as the framework for the worship service. We used verses 1 – 4 responsively for the call to worship;  verses 11-14 for the prayer of confession; verses 5-10 as the responsive psalm. I preached about God calling us to live a full life and how the Word of God is a gift to guide us toward that kind of life. I picked up on verse 10: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.” I told the congregation that rabbis would sometimes put honey on the Torah scrolls and invite their young students who could not yet read to lick the scroll, so as to experience how sweet the Torah is.

On the communion table were plates of fresh fruit, cut up into generous bite-size pieces with toothpicks stuck in them. I invited a few people to come forward and get a plate to take back to their pew. Then, I invited the congregation to share the fruit with each other and, while I read Psalm 19 again, to think about the times that they had experienced the Word of God as a precious treasure, as sweeter than honey. I gave some examples: times when “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1) had helped them through a difficult experiences; times when “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16) had reassured them of God’s great love for them;  times when they had known God as “a refuge and a strength, a very present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

I’ve only heard positive responses so far. I would have liked to use local fruit but the strawberries were just finishing and the raspberries weren’t quite ready yet. We used watermelon, pineapple, blackberries and grapes.

It was a little noisy as the fruit was being distributed and shared, so I am not certain that people actually were reflecting on the Bible verses that had become sweet to them. I’m not sure how we could have done that differently since I wanted them to be tasting the sweetness as they heard the scripture and were reminded of their experiences of God’s Word being sweet. Any suggestions as to how this could be done?

Would this kind of experiential worship work in your congregation?

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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,

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