Thursday, March 31, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Read: Ephesians 4:25-32 and Psalm 23

Today’s reading is pretty self-explanatory. St. Paul writes a few things that are important, but can be a challenge to carry out. Take a look at the list. How are you doing with these things? Take some time to examine yourself. Ask God to show you how you can do better.

Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Read: John 7:14-31, 37-39 and Psalm 81

A common theme this week has been water. Both Monday and yesterday featured a well. Today we read about Jesus saying that if anyone thirsts to come to him. As Jesus told the woman at the well, if we drink the water that he gives us, we will never thirst.

Those of us who work outside in the summertime can appreciate how thirsty people can get. Every year at Camp Sumatanga, Nurse Buck goes over dehydration with the campers and counselors. Every counselor knows about his chart. The thing about dehydration is that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

We can get dehydrated spiritually, too. We pour and pour and pour, but if we don’t take the time to refill ourselves, we can go dry. Another contributing factor can be a fear of depth. Our culture seems to be afraid to jump in the deep end of anything. We always have music or a television going so that we don’t have to listen to ourselves think. We watch television programs which are shallow and silly. We go to church to hear how wonderful we are and “aren’t you glad you’re going to heaven?” We wade around in the kiddie pool, terrified to think that a few feet over is an Olympic-sized pool that is eighteen feet deep.

But God has so much more for us. He wants us to dive in. He wants us to outgrow what we are used to now.

The question is whether you will allow yourself to move forward or not. Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Read: Genesis 29:1-14 and Psalm 81

Today’s reading follows yesterday’s quite well. We read about Isaac and Rebekah’s son, Jacob, who went to find a wife. Note a couple of differences between Isaac and Jacob. In Isaac’s case, Abraham sent a wise servant to work out the deal with the bride’s father. Jacob went himself. Eleazar prayed that God would show him the right woman, but Jacob did not.

Those two differences cost Jacob a lot.

It’s not so much about the arranged marriage. Our culture looks at that with horror. But look at how Jacob’s hard-headedness cost him. He fell in love with Rachel and allowed his uncle to take advantage of him. Not once, but twice. Jacob didn’t bother to ask God to help him out, he just went on ahead and did what he wanted to do. That usually will come back to bite you.

Sometimes we get into a hurry and fail to ask God what he wants us to do. We don’t even ask him to look out for us. We just go off half-cocked and then find ourselves in a world of trouble. We need to take an example from Jacob and not get in such a hurry that we miss out on what God has for us.

What do you need to go back and talk to God about?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Read: Genesis 24:1-27 and Psalm 81

Today’s reading is about Eleazar, Abraham’s most-trusted servant, who goes to find a bride for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Abraham knew it would not be a good idea for Isaac to marry a woman from among the Canaanites, because they were all idol worshipers. So Abraham sent Eleazar back to where he was from to find a suitable woman for Isaac to marry. The first one he comes across does what he had prayed for, and he knew she was the one God had for Isaac.

God answers prayers. Sometimes the answer is no, however. Sometimes we have a real problem with that, as though God is supposed to acquiesce and just do what we want. But sometimes the answer is yes, and God moves in a miraculous way. Difficulties are overcome. Closed doors are opened. Things that seem impossible become possible. What is the difference? Why does it seem like we get nowhere with some things and yet with others miracles happen?

The difference is that we have to be in tune with what God wants to do. This is the definition of faith: Looking into the spiritual dimension to see what God says about something, and then doing your part to bring it about. Faith is listening and obeying. And quite often that obedience begins with what we ask God for when we pray.

Take some time to get in tune with what God wants you to pray for. You may find the following prayer helpful:

Give us grace, O God, that we might be in tune with your will, and that we might always be searching for your guidance in all that we do; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Third Sunday in Lent

Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Read: Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11, and John 4:5-42



Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The A21 Campaign

Human trafficking is a huge, growing problem. It is growing faster than illegal weapons and drugs. And it's not just in Africa or eastern Europe. In Atlanta, GA over 200 girls are sold into slavery every month. Do something now. Rescue the one.

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Read: John 4:1-6 and Psalm 95

Today’s reading serves as a good introduction to tomorrow’s Gospel reading. Jesus decided to travel through Samaria (something that almost never happened), and he became wearied by his journey and was thirsty.

We forget sometimes that while Jesus was perfectly divine, he was also perfectly human. In other words, he was subject to the full load of feelings, weariness, hunger and thirst, etc. from which we all suffer. He was just as much of a human as we are.

That’s what makes him so special. At the same time he was the same as all of us, he was completely different. He was the Son of God, come to dwell among us. Throughout all the false religions of the world, none claim that their god loved them enough to live and work among them as one of them. Christianity is unique in that respect.

When Jesus asks us to follow him, he isn’t clueless about how hard that will be. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that he was tempted just like we are. He knows what it is like to be a human being. Yet he still asks us to follow him. Maybe he isn’t asking for so much after all.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Read: Isaiah 7:10-14, Psalm 40:1-11, Hebrews 10:5-10, and Luke 1:26-38

Today is one of the major holy days of the Church year. It is the day where we celebrate Gabriel coming to Mary and announcing that she would be having God’s Son. The full title is, “The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The thing that makes today so special is the risk that Mary was taking. She is going to pay for this. She will be ostracized. Joseph probably won’t understand. Her father will be disgraced and will have to move to the back of the synagogue. The other women will shun her mother. She could be stoned for this. But take a look at her response. “Let it be to me according to your word.” (v. 38).

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that is going to cost you? How did it end? Was God working behind the scenes to make it work out? While none of us will ever be called upon to give birth to the Son of God, we are still called upon to do great things. How will you respond?

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Read: Exodus 16:1-8 and Psalm 95

If there has been one failure in the United Methodist system of church government, it would be in the way in which the Pastor Parish Relations Committee works. Most Methodists believe it is the complaints department, and they intend to get their money’s worth out of it.

Which is a not-so-nice way of saying we complain way too much.

It arises from selfishness, along with a heaping helping of mis-communication. We have the idea that the pastor is subject to our whims. We have the idea that the church revolves around us. Instead of getting out and doing works of ministry like Jesus commanded us, we “pay the preacher to do all that.”

The PPRC isn’t supposed to be the complaints department. Every niggling gripe we have does not have to be turned into a reason to leave the church or move the preacher. Instead, the PPRC is to listen to the pastor, catch the vision God has given to the church through the leadership of the pastor, and then help the pastor communicate that vision to everyone else. It is not to scold the pastor for not visiting Sister Jane, but to be the pastor’s biggest cheer leaders. Even when we don’t agree with all the details.

Today’s reading deals with the Israelites’ constant complaining. In one instance, God got so fed up he threatened to kill them all and start over with Moses. In the end, he relented and killed them off one by one in the desert. Don’t let your church’s incessant complaining be a reason for God to remove his Spirit. Be the Church, don’t just play church.

After all, it’s not about you. It’s about what God wants to do in you and through you.

Almighty God, you have called us by name to be faithful disciples of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ: Grant us grace that we might put aside our bickering and complaining, that we might faithfully follow your will as missionaries in a dark and fallen world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Read: John 7:53-8:11 and Psalm 128

Oh, how we love to throw rocks. Throwing rocks is fun! We get to show off just how holy and smart we are. We get to condemn that sinner. What we fail to realize is that we aren’t all that holy. We are sinners, too – we all are.

We start to judge people. We say things about them behind their backs. We sometimes get clever and try to disguise our gossip as “prayer requests”, and those of us raised in the South will even throw in a “Bless her heart” to ease the blow.

But we’re all sinners. We’ve all blown it. Lent is the opportunity to come to terms with that, and to find ways to keep from making the same mistakes again and again. Lent is the opportunity to get frank with God and ask his forgiveness for having slapped him in the face. Spend some time asking God’s forgiveness.

And now the hard part: Go to the people at whom you have thrown rocks and ask their forgiveness, too. Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Read: Isaiah 65:17-25 and Psalm 128

Our favorite idea of heaven gets attacked in the first line of today’s reading. Many of us dream of going to heaven someday. We sing about the streets of gold. We sing about living in a mansion, or we ask for a “cabin in the corner of Glory-Land”. We figure if we can just hang on and not sin too much we’ll get to go to heaven when we die.

But that’s not at all what the Bible says.

Note here that God will create a new earth. Isaiah says nothing about being a spirit, floating around heaven, and singing for an eternity. He talks about a place to physically live and work. Heaven isn’t so much about the sweet by-and-by as it is about living and working in full Communion with God. It is the ideal world realized.

Unfortunately, before we can participate in that, we have to put aside our selfishness and pride and get into tune with God. We have to realize that life isn’t about us. Church isn’t about us. It’s not about our wants, or preferences, or what we like to control.

It’s about what God wants to do in us and through us.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Read: Hebrews 3:1-6 and Psalm 128

The writer of Hebrews talks about how Christ is faithful to, and greater than, his house. The word “house” doesn’t refer to a place to live, but to a family. Moses was instrumental in building the nation of Israel (the descendants and family of Jacob, whom God re-named Israel), and he was faithful to God in doing so. Christ was instrumental in building the Church, and he was faithful to God in doing so. The writer of Hebrews makes the point that Christ has more honor as the builder of the house than the house itself does.

This helps us in our Lenten journey. God wants us to be faithful to him in building the Kingdom. He wants us to be working within our calling. We are all called to something; we were not placed here to eat, sleep, and punch a time clock. Christ expects us to get off the couch and get to work. He didn’t say, “If you have time, it would be nice.” He didn’t say, “If you feel like it, do you mind...?” He just said GO.

What is God asking you to do? Have you been avoiding it? If you have, now is a good time to repent. Ask God to help you put aside your selfishness and fear and follow him. Ask him to help you see what your next step is. You may find the following prayer helpful:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Second Sunday in Lent


Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Read: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; and John 3:1-17

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astry from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Charity: Water

Give up your birthday and help build wells for clean water in 3rd world nations.

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Read: Luke 7:1-10 and Psalm 121

“For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (v. 8).

This is perhaps the key verse of the passage. The centurion realized that Jesus operated under the Father’s authority, not his own. He realized that Jesus had merely to say the word and it would be done. He didn’t feel himself worthy of a visit, and one was not really needed. He just needed Jesus to speak and the servant would be healed.

Jesus wants us to be like that. He wants us to be under authority. We Americans have a real problem with that. We’re so independent that we fail to see the authority structures that God places over us. We decide the pastor is worthless and has to be moved. We decide our boss is stupid. We rebel against authority instead of accepting it and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through it.

Ask God to show you the authority structures in your life. Do you honor them, or do you rebel against them? Do you allow God to work through the people who he has placed over you, or do you go and do it your way? You may find the following prayer helpful:

Almighty God, you have placed us under authority: Grant us grace that we might honor those placed over us, and allow you to work through those structures; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Read: Romans 3:21-31 and Psalm 121

St. Paul writes that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But because God loves us, he has done away with our past sins. Does this mean we get to do whatever we want? Of course not. God wants us to live in harmony with him. His grace and Christ’s suffering is not a “get out of hell free” card. It isn’t a pass to do what we want and then say sorry. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Jesus himself said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Lk. 9:23).

Put yourself aside. Put aside the things that feel good but displease God. Put aside the things that keep you from following God, such as your selfishness, your worry, and your pride. Put it away, and give yourself wholly to God. Write your own prayer.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick, Bishop

St. Patrick is quite well known throughout the world. You can read about him here.


You may find the following prayer helpful:

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.
--attr. St. Patrick.

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Read: 1 Peter 4:7b-11 and Psalm 121

St. Patrick is perhaps the perfect example of Lenten discipline. He was born near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387. When he was about sixteen, Patrick was taken captive by Irish marauders and sold as a slave to a chieftain. For six years he was a shepherd in the valley of the Braid and on the slopes of Slemish.

Patrick’s captivity became a preparation for his future apostolate. He acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue in which he would one day announce the glad tidings of Redemption. His master, Milchu, was a Druid high priest, and this allowed Patrick to become familiar with all of the details of Druidism.

After six years, on the advice of an angel, Patrick fled from his master. He traveled until he found a ship ready to set sail. In a few days he was in Britain, but now his heart was set on devoting himself to the service of God in the sacred ministry. He went to France where he joined Saint Germain, bishop of Auxerre, and put himself under the bishop’s guidance and was ordained to the priesthood.

His arrival in Ireland (ca. 433) was greeted with opposition from Druid chieftans. He returned to Dalaradia where he had been a slave to pay the price of ransom to his former master, and to bring him to Christ but as he approached he saw the castle burning in the distance. The word of Patrick’s coming had preceded him, and the frenzied Milchu gathered his treasures into his mansion, set it on fire, and cast himself into the flames. An ancient record adds: “His pride could not endure the thought of being vanquished by his former slave.”

The druids and magicians fought to maintain their control over the Irish, but Patrick's prayer and faith triumphed. On Easter Day 433, after winning the Irish Chieftains over to Christianity, Saint Patrick is said to have plucked a shamrock to explain by its triple leaf and single stem the Blessed Trinity. This trefoil, called “Patrick's Cross,” became the symbol both of the saint and of Ireland itself.
Patrick endured hardship, which strengthened him for greater things. He could have become bitter and died a slave, or escaped and never returned. But God wanted more from Patrick. Take some time to think about how Patrick’s example applies to you. Are the hardships you have faced a training ground for God’s calling on your life? Ask God to help you with this. You may find the following prayer helpful:

Father in heaven, you sent the great bishop Patrick to the people of Ireland to share his faith and to spend his life in loving service: Grant us grace that our lives might bear witness to the faith we profess, and our love bring others to the peace and joy of your Gospel, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sing-Along Wednesday -- A Song of Penitence (Kyrie Pantokrator)

Today’s song, printed in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, is especially suited for Lent. The words are:

O Lord and Ruler of the hosts of heaven, *
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
and of all their righteous offspring:
You made the heavens and the earth, *
with all their vast array.
All things quake with fear at your presence; *
they tremble because of your power.
But your merciful promise is beyond all measure; *
it surpasses all that our minds can fathom.
O Lord, you are full of compassion, *
long-suffering, and abounding in mercy.
You hold back your hand; *
you do not punish as we deserve.
In your great goodness, Lord,
you have promised forgiveness to sinners, *
that they may repent of their sin and be saved.
And now, O Lord, I bend the knee of my heart, *
and make my appeal, sure of your gracious goodness.
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, *
and I know my wickedness only too well.
Therefore I make this prayer to you: *
Forgive me, Lord, forgive me.
Do not let me perish in my sin, *
nor condemn me to the depths of the earth.
For you, O Lord, are the God of those who repent, *
and in me you will show forth your goodness.
Unworthy as I am, you will save me,
in accordance with your great mercy, *
and I will praise you without ceasing all the days of my life.
For all the powers of heaven sing your praises, *
and yours is the glory to ages of ages. Amen.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

This is meant to be read or chanted. (A good site about Anglican chant, including how to do it, is this one: http://chantblog.blogspot.com/)

Use this in your personal devotions today. How does it speak to you?

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Read: Matthew 18:10-14 and Psalm 32

Jesus tells us that there is more rejoicing for the sheep which had been lost than for the other 99 which had never been lost. But in so many churches we get this mixed up. Instead of accepting people who come to worship with us, we reject them because we don’t think they belong. They’re sinners. There actually have been churches where the preacher said, “If you’re a sinner, just get up and leave!”

We’re all sinners. We’ve all blown it. Lent is the opportunity to come to terms with that, and to find ways to keep from making the same mistakes again and again. Lent is the opportunity to get frank with God and ask his forgiveness for having slapped him in the face.

Spend some time asking God’s forgiveness. Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Read: Genesis 4:1-14 and Psalm 32

Today we read the story of Cain and Abel. Abel gave the best he had to God, while Cain gave the leftovers. It angered Cain when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but not his own.

Have you ever been like Cain? Have you ever questioned God about why he accepted someone else’s work and sacrifice, but didn’t seem to give yours a second glance? Did you respond with anger as Cain did?

God gave his best for us, and he expects the same! Take time today to consider your gifts to God. Are they the best you have? When you decide to give a coat to someone who needs one, do you give your best one, or do you give them the one you don’t like as much? God wants us to give our very best with joy.

Ask God to help you give your best with joy. Ask him to forgive you for those times when you were like Cain. Write your own prayer.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Read: Hebrews 2:10-18 and Psalm 32

The writer of Hebrews talks about how Christ was tempted just like we are. Furthermore, Christ was made perfect through his sufferings.

The season of Lent is one of suffering. The point of giving up something we enjoy is to remember that we owe all to God. One young lady decided to give up taking the elevator. It seems a small thing, but she lives on the top floor of her apartment building. As she is climbing stairs every day she is praying. She is putting aside her own comfort to seek God.

That’s why it is important to give up something that actually hurts. For some people, giving up chocolate or a television show really doesn’t hurt them, because finding a replacement is easy. Lent is a time of fasting, and it is meant to be difficult enough that we can only succeed with God’s help. It should be something that many times through the day reminds us to pray and seek God.

What did you decide to give up for Lent? Did you respond to the Dare? Are you taking the easy way out? Or are you using Lent as an opportunity to grow closer to God? You may find the following prayer helpful:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

First Sunday in Lent

Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Read: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; and Matthew 4:1-11

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Drink Coffee, Do Good!

Land of a Thousand Hills is doing a good thing. How can you help out? How can you incorporate this into your Lenten discipline?

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Read: Matthew 18:1-7 and Psalm 51

Babies come into the world with nothing. They cannot feed themselves. They cannot dress themselves. They have no health insurance of their own, and they will eventually need braces. A baby has no 401(k), no possessions, nothing. Except one thing: Total dependence on the one who gives it life.

Jesus wants us to be like that. He wants us to have total, complete dependence on the one who gives us life. Christ came to give us life, and he offers that to us freely. It is completely free, but it isn’t without cost – he expects us to give up our entire selves, to give up our selfish ways, to give up our sinful natures in exchange for eternal life. What will you choose?

Are you dependent on God for everything? If the bottom fell out today and you found yourself with absolutely nothing, would you still give the same answer? Ask God to help you with this. You may find the following prayer helpful:

Almighty God, you have given us the opportunity to be in covenant relationship with you: Grant us grace to put aside all that displeases you and to put our whole trust in you, that we might fulfill your will for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Read: Jonah 4 and Psalm 51

Jonah gets pretty upset when Nineveh repents instead of getting zapped. Nineveh represented to Jonah all that was evil in the world. He couldn’t stand it when the Ninevites repented and accepted God. He wanted them to suffer for all he felt he had suffered. Sometimes we can feel the same way. We want God to judge, when God wants to show mercy.

Whom have you wrongly judged in the past year? Spend some time talking to God about this. Forgive them for whatever wrongs – perceived or actual – that they have done. Ask God to forgive you for jumping into judgment and forgetting mercy. Write your own prayer.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Read: Jonah 3 and Psalm 51

Today’s reading talks about the city of Nineveh repenting and putting on sack cloth and ashes. This is a sign of mourning and repentance. Whenever we see sackcloth and ashes in Scripture, we see a scene of sadness and humility.

If you went to an Ash Wednesday service yesterday, you remember receiving the ashes on your forehead with the words, “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” It is a striking reminder that we will all die, and that we had better have things right with God when the time comes. Since we don’t know when that is, the sooner we get things straightened out, the better.

We will be spending the next few weeks looking within ourselves. We will look to see where we have been over the past year, and where we stand in our walk with Christ. We will do some soul-searching. We will spend time changing the way we think about things (repentance) and working out what we need to do to become better disciples. It will not be easy. But being a disciple is not supposed to be. We aren’t here to be comfortable. We’re here to be effective.

Pray Psalm 51 as your prayer this morning.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Remember that thou art dust...

...and to dust thou shalt return.


Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. One of my most favorite days of the whole entire year, and the start of my most favorite season.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of a journey. It is a chance for me to stop, look within myself, and determine where I am on my faith journey and where I need to be. It’s a time of reflection, repentance, and renewal.

The season of Lent has been around for quite a while. In the early Church, not just anyone could come down front and join. Christianity was illegal, and very dangerous. There were spies who would try to infiltrate the faith community and report to the government. Becoming a Christian was a long process of learning what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. During that time, the postulants were not allowed to receive Communion. Instead, they would go to another place during that part of the service and receive instruction from someone who was already baptized. This was a three-year process, and was designed to weed out those who didn’t truly have a heart for God.

The final forty days were an intense time of learning and showing the elders that the candidates for baptism were ready to accept the weight of being a full member of the local church. It was a time of fasting, of repentance, of penitence.

The candidates were baptized on the night before Easter Sunday, and received Holy Communion as full members of the Church. It was a joyous time of celebration, both of the resurrection of Jesus, and of those who had been dead to sin but were now alive in Christ.

Today, Lent carries a different, though similar, meaning. It is a time when disciples can focus on how to be better. It is a time to assess where we stand, and where we need to be. It is a time to search for and admit wrongdoings, and a time to ask God’s forgiveness. It is a time when we look within ourselves and question why we believe what we believe.

The primary color of Lent is purple. It is a somber color, and it reminds us of penitence. Many churches use burlap or unbleached muslin for paraments and decorations, which remind us of the sack cloth and ashes that we see so often in the Bible as the garb of sorrow and repentance. At Robertson Chapel, the paraments are unbleached muslin embroidered with purple. The brass cross, candlesticks, and offering plates are taken away and replaced with wood and other rough textures. A banner is hung that has the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Outside, the large cross on the lawn has a purple cloth draped around it.


You’ve undoubtedly read my Lenten Dare by now. If you get the opportunity, attend an Ash Wednesday service. Take the time this year to look deep within yourself. Ask Christ to help you remove the things that displease God and replace them with things that bring him joy.

Lent reminds us that it’s not about you.

It’s about what God can do in you and through you.

Ash Wednesday -- The First Day of Lent

Read: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

The paper version of the prayer guide featured a shorter version of The Lenten Dare, along with this prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Lenten Dare

I dare you to give up more than chocolate for Lent. I dare you to do more than the symbolic gestures. Release something really big, like the urge to control everything, or independence from God and each other. Let's see what God can do if we give up something huge and open ourselves to the Holy Spirit. I dare you.

Will you do it? Will you dare to think outside the box? Will you give up your own selfish desires and allow God to work his way in you? It’s a scary thing... how do we know we can trust him? How do we know we won’t become one of those obnoxious Christians we see running around?

I dare you to take the next forty days and do something constructive. Lent is a time to put aside unhelpful things, a time to assess where we stand in our journey of discipleship, and a time to pick up something that helps us in our walk with God.

I really enjoy backpacking, because it is time spent away from the busyness and stress. Me and nature and God. One thing I quickly learned is that toting a backpack weighing more than 30 pounds or so gets really old, really quick. Sometimes you have to release some of the things you want, like canned peaches or that really large tent, in order to enjoy the journey in the wilderness. I find it enjoyable to plan what I will carry, what I will eat, where I will go. When I get to the starting point of my hike, I am filled with anticipation of a great trip. When I return to my truck, I am filled with satisfaction for having survived in the wilderness, if only for a short time.

Lent is very similar. We get into Lent and realize some of the baggage we’re carrying is useless weight and needs to be discarded. We don’t really need some of the things we’ve long been accustomed to carrying. Lent provides us the opportunity to cut those things out of our lives.

To go back to my backpacking analogy: When I first began, I never carried a water filter. Why bother? I thought. After learning about Giardia and Cryptosporidium, however, I purchased one. I added something to my kit that I hadn’t used before, something that would make my journey better.

Lent offers the same opportunity. As we drop our useless baggage, we then have room to add things that we actually need. Personal spiritual disciplines, for instance.

So, I dare you to do differently this year. Don’t stop with giving up chocolate or carbonated drinks. Don’t stop with giving up a TV program or favorite pastime. I dare you to give up something fundamental to your identity, and allow the Holy Spirit free reign to work within you.

You’ll be pleased with the results.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship (p. 99):

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Read: 1 Kings 19:9-18 and Psalm 78:17-20, 52-55

Today we read of an encounter Elijah has with God. God is revealing himself to Elijah. Elijah thought he was the only person left who followed God. Everyone else seemed to be following Baal. We sometimes feel the same way. Are we really alone? Isn’t there anyone left? Have we made a mistake?

God’s response is an interesting one. First God shows his might – but God isn’t in those things. Then God talks to Elijah in a still, small voice. The God of the universe, more powerful than any of us can imagine, speaks in a voice that is so quiet we sometimes wonder if it is really there. And then God surprises Elijah by telling him there are still 7,000 men who have not given in to idol worship. Sure, it’s a remnant, but it’s a whole lot more than one.

Have you ever felt alone, as though you were the only Christian left? Have you ever wondered if following God was a mistake? Yesterday we thought about how God has revealed himself to us. Were any of those encounters connected with your times of feeling alone?

Ask God to be with you. Ask him to show himself to you. Ask him to use you to build the Kingdom. Write your own prayer.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Read: Acts 7:30-34 and Psalm 78:17-20, 52-55

Yesterday’s Gospel reading was about the transfiguration of our Lord. Present with Christ was two people, Moses and Elijah. Moses represented the law, and Elijah the prophets. Today we read a few verses of Stephen’s sermon before the Sanhedrin. He talks about Moses and the burning bush. There are many things we can draw from that story, but the one that stands out to us today is that this was an instance of God revealing himself to us – which is the whole theme of the season of Epiphany. The Day of Epiphany is about Christ revealing himself to the gentiles (represented by the Magi), and it culminates with Christ revealing his divine nature to the disciples. In between, the Sundays of Epiphany highlight ways in which Christ revealed himself to us.

In the same way, God revealed himself in the Old Testament – to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, to Elijah, and to many others. God is constantly revealing who he is, trying to get us to allow him to work with us and through us.

How has God revealed himself to you? How have you responded? God can reveal himself in some seemingly odd places. Encountering a bush that is burning but not being consumed is quite unusual. But God can also reveal himself through movies, music, other people – the list goes on. You may find the following prayer helpful:

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Transfiguration of our Lord

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

The Last Sunday after the Epiphany: The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Read: Exodus 24:12-18, Psalm 2, 2 Peter 1:16-21, and Matthew 17:1-9

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Read: Mark 9:9-13 and Psalm 2

One of the challenges of using the daily lectionary is finding an immediate, relevant application for every reading. Today is one such day. However, while the reading itself may not have an immediate message for us, it does help set the background for tomorrow’s reading.

The season of Epiphany is all about Christ revealing himself to us, and it culminates in the Transfiguration: Christ revealed as the Son of God. Christ is continually coming, continually revealing himself to us. He is continually showing us new things. We are to be like well-polished mirrors. We are to reflect Christ’s light and allow people to see Christ within us.

Do you reveal Christ to those around you? You may find the following prayer helpful:

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Read: Philippians 2:5-18 and Psalm 2

Read this passage carefully. It’s pretty self-explanatory. St. Paul reminds us that Jesus, the Son of God, took our humanity upon himself and lived among us. We also have a job to do: Be examples of Christ’s love to everyone around us. Pray about that today. Write your own prayer.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

John and Charles Wesley, Priests, 1791, 1788

Today we celebrate the lives of John and Charles Wesley. There have been many things written about them (and by them!) through the years, so I will refer you there. The collect of the day is:

Lord God, you inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Read: Hebrews 8:1-7 and Psalm 2

The writer of Hebrews talks about how Christ is our high priest. Under the Mosaic law, the priesthood was an object lesson – a type and shadow of things in heaven. It was not the whole picture, but a dim, fuzzy one.

Along came Christ, and in the new covenant, he has taken the role of high priest. He leads worship. Where the Israelite priests gave gifts and sacrifices, Christ also gives gifts and was a sacrifice. However, the Israelite priests sacrificed many animals every year for many people, but Christ sacrificed himself once, for everyone. Christ’s sacrifice was better, because it does not need to be repeated.
Imagine going to church and receiving Holy Communion. Imagine that Jesus is the priest. Imagine kneeling at the communion rail, hands open to receive the bread. And then Jesus is standing there, placing bread in your hand, and saying, “this is my body, broken for you.” Here he comes with the cup, and as you drink it, he is saying, “this is my blood, shed for you.”

The Eucharist will take on a whole new meaning.

Christ is our high priest. Christ is conducting worship in heaven. How can we imitate that here? Is it about style, or is it even deeper than that? Is the worship service at your church truly pleasing to God? Does it leave you in utter awe of God’s majesty and splendor? Do you feel that you have seen God? What changes do you need to make to yourself to be more in tune with heavenly worship? Pray about this. Ask God to help you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sing-Along Wednesday -- Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies

Since this Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday, I figured that this one would be a good one to sing:

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by Thee;
Joyless is the day’s return
Till Thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.

Charles Wesley wrote the hymn in 1740. It has been sung to many tunes; the United Methodist Hymnal (1989) prints it to the tune Ratisbon.

What strikes me about this hymn is that it also works very well for Advent and the Easter Vigil. Christ is our light, and in times of darkness his light shines on.

St. Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, 672

Link to the Wikipedia article. St. Chad was quite an interesting fellow.

Almighty God, whose servant Chad, for the peace of the Church, relinquished cheerfully the honors that had been thrust upon him, only to be rewarded with equal responsibility: Keep us, we pray, from thinking of ourselves more highly than
we ought to think, and ready at all times to step aside for others, that the cause of Christ may be advanced and thy blessed kingdom enlarged; in the name of him who washed his disciples' feet, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Read: Luke 12:22-31 and Psalm 104

Today’s reading is a reflection, and a parallel, of Sunday’s reading. Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all the other things will be added to you. Forget what you want and focus completely on what God wants. God will take care of you.

This is a wonderful summation of this week’s reflections. We’ve thought about how we are to love God, love others, and serve the world. We’ve thought about how it isn’t about you, but about what God can do in you and through you. Jesus reinforces these thoughts by telling us to seek first for the Kingdom of God. Don’t focus on what you need, or think you need. Don’t focus on the material things. Focus on what God is calling you to do. Focus on how you can be a shining example of Christ’s love to everyone you meet.

What have you learned this week? How are you going to apply that to your life? What changes do you need to make? Take some time to talk to God about all this. Ask him to show you what things you need to do differently. Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

St. David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales, ca. 544

Almighty God, you called your servant David to be a faithful and wise steward of your mysteries for the people of Wales: Mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the Gospel of Christ, we may with him receive our heavenly reward; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Read: 1 Corinthians 4:6-21 and Psalm 104

St. Paul is clearly unhappy with some of the things that are going on at the church in Corinth. And he is right: sometimes you have to apply the rod of correction to the seat of the problem!

But Paul isn’t just writing to dump on them. He isn’t just threatening them just for the sake of being angry. He is treating them like a loving father treats his children. Paul is disappointed with their behavior, and he wants them to do better.
The lesson applies to us. We become full of ourselves. We stomp and throw fits and yell for a new preacher instead of looking within ourselves and figuring out what we can do better. We want it our way.

But the church is not Burger King. You cannot always have it your way. It’s not about you.

It’s about what God can do in you and through you. It’s about taking the gifts that God has given us and the love that Christ has shown to us and using them to improve the lives of all those around us. The Kingdom of God is about revealing Christ to those around us, by our actions and our words. And since actions scream while words barely whisper, we must live a holy and righteous life before God.

Remember: It’s not about you. It’s about what God can do in you and through you.

Write your own prayer.