Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Tension is Good

Tension rarely seems like a good thing. When we think of tension, we usually think of it in terms of relationships with other people. “There is tension between me and my friend,” we say, meaning that there is some unresolved, undiscussed issue which is causing conflict, anger, and stress.

Tension seems like a bad thing. We try to avoid it whenever possible. We speak of “tense moments” in a negative sense. For instance, the Cuban missile crisis was one such “tense moment”. Would Castro back down? Would Khrushchev shoot first and ask questions later? Meanwhile, the Soviets and Cubans were entertaining similar thoughts about Kennedy and the U.S.

But is all tension bad? Should we really be avoiding it?

Consider the human cannon ball act. A man in a brightly colored jumpsuit and crash helmet slides down the barrel of a huge cannon. With a bang he is flying through the air. He lands safely in a net, hops down, and waves at the cheering crowd. What most people fail to realize is that without tension, he would be dead. And so would a number of spectators.

The net is the key. It has just the right amount of tension. Too much, and he will bounce off and land in the stands, possibly killing himself and injuring or killing many people. Too little and he will fly right through it, impacting the ground and ending up hurt. Or dead. His life, his act, his success depends on tension. He embraces the tension, owns it, makes it work for him. Without tension he is nothing. With it, he is a human cannon ball. The tension is good.

Many of us have been to a gym at some point in our lives. Many of us need to be regulars! One thing all gyms have in common is the exercise equipment. Now, most trainers agree that free weights are best for training muscle, because they force the body to support the entire weight and learn to do the exercises in the correct form. However, free weights carry more liability and a steeper learning curve. It is much easier to put a newbie on a machine. Not to mention cheaper.

These exercise machines (think Bowflex) depend on tension. If you want to increase your muscle mass and strength, you have to increase the tension. When you get to where you can do so many repetitions of a certain exercise, it is time to move on to a higher tension. Your muscles feel this as weight, but in reality, it is nothing more than tension.

Without the tension, you’re just making empty motions in the air. Which do nothing to help you. You need the tension of the machine for your motions to do any good. You need the tension, you depend on the tension. The tension is good.

Often we find ourselves in tense situations. Looking back at the most tense times in my life, I realize they were the times that caused the most growth. It’s just like the exercise machine: without the tension, I would have just been going through the motions. Which would have done me no good.

Today we face tension in many areas. In the Church, especially. We face the tension of the end of the modern era and the beginning of the postmodern era. We face the tension of how we should respond to homosexuality, especially as it relates to ordination. We face the tension of following Jesus in a world that is increasingly hostile to the stereotypical Christianity of judgmentalism, hypocrisy, and self-importance. How we respond to these areas, and others, will determine how people respond to us. Are we going to beat people over the head, yelling that they are sinners and deserving of eternal conscious torment? Or are we going to extend the love and grace of Christ to them? How do we let people know that their lifestyles are displeasing to a holy God while remaining humble, non-judging servants of Jesus? How do we communicate the Gospel to people who increasingly are tuning it out?

There are no easy answers. There may never be. But we should embrace the tension, for the tension is good. The tension is what makes us grow. The tension causes us to look within ourselves, question why we believe what we believe, question our motives and our methods, and causes us to be in deeper communion with God. The tension is good. Embrace the tension, for it is the tension that makes us stronger.

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Read: Romans 7:1-6 and Psalm 145:8-14

St. Paul had to work hard to convince Jewish believers that the Mosaic law had been superceded by the new covenant. Instead of worrying about following the law, which was impossible to fully carry out, believers should follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The thing is that we have to be open to the Holy Spirit. We have to be listening. Do you? Does God speak to you, or do you feel like you miss all the clues? Take some time to pray about this. Ask God to help you. Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Like a Tree

Growth. Like a healthy, green plant growing in a garden, like a spacious tree that birds come and roost in, Christians are supposed to grow. When a man plants seeds in a garden, he expects them to sprout, grow to maturity, and bear fruit. He doesn't plant seeds just to have something nice to do to pass the time. He doesn't water them and give them sunlight so that they will become beautiful plants. He nurtures and cares for them so that he can later have healthy plants that produce fruits and vegetables. Everything a gardener does for his plants he does so that they will benefit and produce for him.

What if a plant has a mind of its own? What if it refuses to grow, or wants to put all its energy into being a big, pretty plant with no fruit? There's only one solution. The gardener destroys it, because it is no longer of any use to him. It's wasting valuable nutrition and water from the soil, so it gets pulled up and thrown away. If we think of that in terms of Christianity, it's a daunting and extremely serious thought. God, our gardener, has planted us, watered us, given us nutrients and sunlight, made sure that insects and other animals don't get at us. And now he expects something from us. He expects us to grow mature and healthy, and he expects us to produce fruit for Him. If we don't, we're meaningless, dysfunctional, disobedient, and unhealthy. We aren't doing our job, and we aren't really His disciples. It isn't a comforting thought.

Every good disciple wants to grow and bear fruit. I don't want to be unhealthy. But sometimes I'm not willing to do what it takes to become healthy. It's strange how God works: it seems that the things I most want to hold on to are the things He wants me to get rid of. Why? Maybe because He wants me to show Him and myself that I am willing to do whatever it takes to follow Him. Maybe because He has plans for me that are so much richer and more beautiful than the existence I feebly default to.

That's where growth comes in. Growing is a process.
It rarely happens overnight. Sometimes it's so slow we can't even see it happening, but it's happening none the less. It comes naturally if we let it. When we grow, we boldly look at our lives and our world. We evaluate where we are and where we should be. We realize which areas of our lives are still underdeveloped and immature, and we take clear, determined steps to grow and change. We give more and take less. We live in a way that makes it obvious to everyone around us that we are different, that we have a purpose and a mission. Every day, in whatever ways we can, we bring a little bit of God's perfect kingdom to our corner of the world.It's a revolution that takes place one simple day at a time. And before we know it, a tiny, delicate sprout has turned into a mighty tree.

The early church fathers understood the importance of growth. They set aside a season after Pentecost to focus on growth and fruitfulness, not only in the church as a whole, but in our individual lives. The early Methodists called this season "Kingdomtide," because they sought ways to bring God's kingdom to the earth. We bring out the green paraments, which remind us of growth, and we look for ways to bring growth to our lives and churches. It's a slow, difficult process. But when reach outside of ourselves and choose to grow, we become healthy and productive, and we begin living out the purpose God has for us. That's what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles

Readings for the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul: Ezekiel 34:11-16, Psalm 87, 2 Timothy 4:1-8, and John 21:15-19.


Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Read: Matthew 11:20-24 and Psalm 119:161-168

Sometimes, despite the fact that God has given us every opportunity to learn and has richly blessed us, we reject it. We completely disregard the good things of God in order to follow our own foolish desires. Jesus had given Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin quite a lot. He had performed miracles, fed the hungry, and preached the coming Kingdom. But while some had decided to follow him, most had decided to reject him. Or worse, to simply ignore him.

We still have this problem. Christ comes to reveal himself to us. If we choose to follow him, well and good. But sometimes we choose to ignore him or even outright reject him. Which are we going to choose? Eternity hangs in the balance.

Recognize Christ at work in your life, and in the lives around you. Ask God to help you with this. Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Read: 1 John 4:1-6 and Psalm 119:161-168

St. John urges us to have discernment. There are people going around who are not true believers but who would trick us into thinking they are. We have to be discerning about what they say. Are the things they teach really of God, or are they just fluff?

Ask God to help you be discerning. Write your own prayer.

Monday, June 27, 2011

We Are Liturgical Beings

We are liturgical beings. We operate with ceremony. We are creatures of habit, so we tend to do the same things in the same order. We may say that we are non-liturgical, that we don’t have a set pattern or style of worship, but we are lying to ourselves. Freemasonry. Graduations (from elementary school? Who are we kidding here?). Presidential inaugurations. Christening of ships. Weddings. College football pre-game traditions. Yes, we are liturgical beings. We operate with ceremony.

Consider the average “non-liturgical” church. We arrive a few minutes before the service is scheduled to begin, and we make our way to our seats. Usually the same seats, surrounded by the same people we sat next to last week, and the week before. And the week before that.

The service begins with an instrumental or choral prelude, followed by a greeting. Usually there are some announcements, the point of which is to get us to attend some other church function or give our time, money, or talents to help some cause. Depending on the size of the church and the variety of ministries offered, this can take some time as each ministry tries to convince the others that theirs is Very Important.

Next is a prayer of some type, usually aimed at helping us to worship. Then the band begins to play. A loud, happy-clappy song to help break the ice, followed by a slower (but still peppy) song about how much we love Jesus, and then a slow one about how we worship Jesus or we want Jesus to hold us or something.

Then we have the pastor come on the stage. He is young and hip (or at least trying to be). He is dressed in skinny jeans and a tee shirt that may or may not be “Christian”. His hairdo is wild, and he may even have an odd hair color, like purple or fire truck red. He assures us that we are all welcome, and then prays a nice, long prayer full of “Father God...” and “We just wanna...”. After he finishes, he steps to the side as a movie clip is played on the screen, which has some significance to what he is going to talk about. As the lights come back up, he grabs his stool and sits at his tall, round table and starts to explain some passage of Scripture, making it relevant for today’s culture. He tells everyone what to write in the blanks of the provided helpful sermon notes. The three main points either rhyme or, more often, use alliteration.

After the talk (or sermon, if you want to call it that), the band comes back up and plays a slow song so that people can come down to the front and pray. The preacher may give an “altar call”. As the song comes to a close, the people return to their seats and the pastor talks for a moment about why we need to give to this ministry. He probably will say a prayer of some sort, asking God to bless the gifts and the givers. The ushers come and pass baskets down the rows of seats so people can put their donations in. As they are doing this, the band is playing an upbeat, happy song, and they’re encouraging people to stand up and get excited. Another song, louder and more exciting, is sung, and then the service is over. As people begin to leave, they talk about how meaningful and deep it was.

This happens week after week. The prayers may vary slightly, but remember that we are creatures of habit. We tend to say the same things, in the same way, in the same order, over and over again. We may pray something “off the cuff” once, but it quickly gets ingrained in our memories and we find ourselves in a rut. The problem with that is that we didn’t really stop to think about what we were saying in the beginning, so now whatever bad theology or poor wording we started with is now permanent.

We love to talk about how a “non-liturgical” type service is contemporary and hip and experiential, and best of all we can go where the Spirit leads! The problem is that we rarely do anything different, and when we do we get confused and want to go back to the way it was before. Because, again, we are creatures of habit.



Admittedly, I am exaggerating a bit. But not too much. The above is actually a description of a service I attended every week when I lived in Florence, Alabama.

Compare it to a classic Anglican worship service. The liturgy, taken from the Book of Common Prayer, has parts that are the same from week to week, parts that change from season to season, and parts that change weekly. There are many, many things going on in this type of service that we do not have room to discuss today. Things like colors, smells, sounds, tastes, and touch – it is filled with sensory elements. Which makes sense. We are sensory creatures, and it is natural that we would use all our senses in worship. It also has time and space for thought and contemplation. We live in a world in which we have grown afraid to listen to our own thoughts. We pump music into our ears with our mp3 players. We turn on the television and let it play in the background. We go from sensory stimulant to sensory stimulant, abhorring silence, abhorring deep, cohesive thought. We might feel guilty, or worse, realize we’re wrong about something.

The difference between the two extremes is that the prayers, the songs, the flow of the Anglican service is thought through. Each part of the service naturally fits into the whole. Which is not to say that contemporary styles are not thought through or that they don’t flow. It’s just that it is something that has been developed over centuries instead of a few days. Each part of the service has roots in the earliest Christian worship forms, which are directly related to Jewish worship forms. The idea that there is a lectionary, the way the church building is set up and furnished, and the way that there is a leader’s call and the peoples’ responses all find roots in the way Jesus worshiped at synagogue. Furthermore, there are many Christians using the same Scriptures and prayers on any given Sunday. We profess to believe in the Communion of Saints, that we believe that the Church is catholic (meaning universal, not necessarily Roman Catholic), and I believe it is important that we join Christians at all points in time in our common prayer and worship.

The Bible shows us a God that is an organized God. For instance, the creation accounts portray God as having a definite order and timeline for creating the earth and all that is on it. God had an order in the way he communicated his covenant with Abraham. God had an order in the way he wanted the tabernacle designed and furnished. Much later, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor. 14:40). God is a God of order, not of chaos.

Contemporary styles of worship are not bad. God is not offended by contemporary worship. He wants our worship, and it is good that we have a diversity of styles, because we are a diverse people.

The problem comes in the depth, or lack thereof, in worship styles. See, God is a God of order, but God is also a God of growth. He loves us enough to meet us where we are, disregarding where we’ve been or what we’ve done. But he also loves us enough that he expects us to grow and change and put down deep roots. We’re like trees, really, just like the psalmist wrote in Psalm 1 about the righteous man: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (v. 3). God wants us to grow deep roots in him, so that when the storms of life hit we will be well-grounded and will not be blown over and thrown. Liturgical worship helps us with this.

Liturgical worship does not stop at noon on Sunday. It is a way of life. It is fitting our lives to the pattern and rhythm of the liturgical calendar. It is allowing the symbols to work their way into our psyche. It is recognizing that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, that it is a means of grace, and because of that it is the greatest gift anyone can give to another person. It is using the daily, seasonal, and annual rhythms of prayer to help us draw closer to God. Living liturgically begins at home, and works its way into every fiber of our being.

My problem with contemporary styles is that it is so shallow. There is no real urge to change the way we live. There is no commitment beyond the weekly service time. Even the music we sing is shallow, having been written in such a way that you’re never quite sure if you’re singing about God or your boyfriend. There is no rhythm of time beyond what Hallmark tells us. There is no preparation for, and enjoyment of, times and seasons and festivals. Instead it is driven by popular society.

I prefer liturgy. I love the way it helps me to see God, to experience God using my five senses. I love how it becomes a lifestyle. I love how the symbols speak of God. I love how it is ordered and well thought-out. I love the way much prayer goes into writing prayers and other parts of the service.

Contemporary isn’t all bad. But worship needs to be so much more than happy-clappy feel good. Worship helps us remember that it’s not about you. It’s about what God can do in you and through you.

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Read: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 and Psalm 119:161-168

St. Paul warns the Thessalonian church that they are to aspire to lead a quiet life, minding their own business, working with their own hands, so that they might walk properly toward those who are unbelievers and so that they should not lack in any thing. But what exactly did he mean? And does this have anything to do with us today?

There are people who have a tendency to spend their time going about from house to house stirring up trouble with gossip. In Thessalonika, instead of working a job or helping others, they would time visits for mealtimes so that their host would have to offer them food. They wouldn’t have to buy their own food, because they were being fed at the tables of all the other believers. They would spend their days in idleness and chatter and gossip. Today isn’t much different. Instead of minding our own business and taking care of our own families, we want to go around from listening ear to listening ear, whispering the juicy tidbits we’ve been so clever to find.

Gossip never builds up. It always tears down. Gossip never tells the full story, because gossipers never think to ask the victim any questions. They never think to cut the victims any slack or give them the benefit of the doubt. Instead, gossip assumes the worst of everyone and every thing. And when confronted with the truth, gossipers are so wrapped up in their lies that they think the truth itself is a lie.
Gossip is a hurtful thing. Sometimes we carry gossip without really meaning to. Sometimes we do mean to. We hear a juicy tidbit of information and we just cannot wait to let our best friend in on it. We swear her to secrecy, which makes it all the more juicy for her. So when she goes to tell just one friend, she swears him to secrecy as well.... This never ends well.

Gossip never builds up. It always tears down. Gossip will kill a church faster than anything else. Gossip is, pure and simple, selfishness. It is wanting the best for itself, with absolutely no regard for the feelings of others or the truth behind their stories.

And gossip breaks families apart in anger instead of building them up together in love.

Do you gossip? Be honest – God knows the real answer. Do your conversations build up your fellow believers and family members in love, or do they hurtfully destroy one another? Do you spend more time in gossip than you do taking care of your own business? Take a moment to ask God to show you the answers. Ask him to help you learn to stop gossiping and to speak love. You may find the following prayer helpful:

Merciful God, you have commanded us to put away gossip and idle talk and to build each other up in love: Forgive us where we have failed to be loving to each other, and grant us grace that we might speak words of life and love, that we might bring honor and glory to your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8)

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: Jeremiah 28:5-9; Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18; Romans 6:12-23; and Matthew 10:40-42

Collect for the Second Sunday after Pentecost:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Read: Luke 14:1-6 and Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, and manages to nail the Pharisees at the same time. He is at dinner at a Pharisee’s house, and he notices a man with dropsy. Dropsy is an old word for edema: swelling of soft tissues with fluid. This can be caused by several things, including congestive heart failure.

It goes back to the discussion of legalism. We can get so bound up in the letter of the law that we forget grace and forgiveness. While it is good to have standards and to stick by them, sometimes we have to extend grace and allow things to be done a little differently.

You may find the following prayer helpful:

Help us to follow Jesus, O God. Grant us grace to be obedient to your will. Help us to see which way to go. Help us to make right choices. Help us to love one another. Help us to show your love to those in need. Help us to be Christ to those around us, that your Name might be glorified. Amen.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Read: Galatians 5:7-12 and Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

You started out well. What happened? Where did you trip and fall, or turn off the pathway? We all seem to start out full of fire and wanting to change the world. Later, we find ourselves to be a bit cynical. We realize we can’t change the world, so we stop trying. Then something happens and suddenly we’re off the path, getting mired down in false doctrine. It doesn’t take much to take us aside into falsehood.

Take a few moments to pray about this. How does it speak to you? You may find the following prayer helpful:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Read: Galatians 5:2-6 and Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

There was a massive argument going on in the early church about whether new Gentile converts to Christianity should be circumcised or not. The Jewish believers said they should. They tended to see Christianity as an offshoot of their own religion, so they insisted that the laws be kept, including circumcision. The Gentiles disagreed. They considered Christianity to be a new faith, and they didn’t think they should have to follow all the laws of Judaism in order to believe in Christ. St. Paul, who was a Jew (a Pharisee, no less) realized that to put the Gentile converts under Jewish law would be to take a step back. He explains it here in today’s passage.

If you start to try to be justified by the law, you have to perfectly follow every law. But since we are human, we cannot do that. Only Jesus has been able to accomplish that. God made the law to be impossible for us to follow, because he wanted to show us that you cannot work your way into grace and eternal life. It is a gift from God. Paul writes that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision gains anything, but “faith working through love.” (v. 6).

This is no longer a problem in the Church. We’ve moved on to new things, new questions. Still, it is good to look back over these old arguments and find the principles that can be applied in current questions.

One recurring theme is that we can get awfully legalistic. Some blame those of a more liturgical tradition as being more legalistic, but it really has nothing to do with worship patterns or style. We can be equally legalistic no matter what our denomination or preferred worship style. All it takes is a bit of pride and selfishness and the thought that our way is the best way.

Are you legalistic? Do you demand that all others do exactly as you think they should? Do you get so upset by small changes in worship or in other areas that you cannot function? Ask God to show you. Ask him to help you to put that aside, and to avoid it in the future. Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Read: John 14:25-26 and Psalm 29

Jesus is talking to his disciples at the last supper. He has told them that the Father has been revealed in him, and that they together will dwell within them. Then we come to today’s selection. “I’ve been here with you physically, and I’m telling you these things now. But the Father is sending the Holy Spirit to you to guide you, teach you, and to bring to your remembrance everything I’ve said.”

Ordinary Time is about the Holy Spirit revealing Christ to us. It is about growth. It is about learning to be disciples. It is about being an example, a light in a dark world. Jesus wants us to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that those around us can know him as well.

Allow the Holy Spirit to dwell within you, guiding and teaching you. Ask God to help you with this. Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:4-13 and Psalm 29

St. Paul’s explanation of the spiritual gifts is pretty plain and easy to understand. The key verse is 13: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (NKJV). It doesn’t matter what our background is, God can and will use us anyway. There are no lines between believers, no classes of believers, only believers.

How can you be one with the rest of the church? What gifts do you have that help make the whole? In what areas can you serve?

Take some time to pray about this. Then, write your own prayer.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Read: 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 and Psalm 29

Today we begin moving into Ordinary Time. It is not ordinary in the sense of being common, but ordinary in the sense of being counted. Ordinary time is one of growth, which is why the color is green. The Gospel readings focus on Jesus’ ministry and teaching. It is a chance for us to soak up the lessons that Christ has for us, so that we can be better disciples.

St. Paul writes that he doesn’t want us to be ignorant concerning the spiritual gifts, and that as sinners we are carried away to dumb idols. While the original Greek word is best translated mute or silent, the idea that idols are a dumb thing to follow is also right. We should not get carried away by our false gods. And just because we have been in church all our lives does not make us immune from that.
Take a moment to ask God to help you grow during this coming Ordinary Time. Ask him to help you learn to be more like Jesus. You may find the following prayer helpful:

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday

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 1:1-2:4a, Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, and Matthew 28:16-20.


A hymn for Trinity is The Canticle of the Holy Trinity, or as it is known in Latin, the Te Deum, Laudamus. It is an ancient hymn, written sometime in the forth or fifth century. The words are:

You are God: we praise you;
You are the Lord; we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father:
All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all the powers of heaven,
Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
Father, of majesty unbounded,
your true and only Son, worthy of all worship,
and the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide.

You, Christ, are the king of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
When you became man to set us free
you did not shun the Virgin's womb.
You overcame the sting of death
and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
You are seated at God's right hand in glory.
We believe that you will come and be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
bought with the price of your own blood,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting.

(1979 Book of Common Prayer)

Here it is being chanted in Latin:



And here is one in English:



Collect for Trinity Sunday:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Read: John 14:15-17 and Psalm 8

Jesus tells us that if we love him, we will follow his commandments. If we do that, he will pray to the Father, who will send the Holy Spirit to live within us. We will not be left leaderless or orphaned. God will be with us.

You may find the following prayer helpful:

Help us to follow Jesus, O God. Grant us grace to be obedient to your will. Help us to see which way to go. Help us to make right choices. Help us to love one another. Help us to show your love to those in need. Help us to be Christ to those around us, that your Name might be glorified. Amen.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Read: 2 Timothy 1:12b-14 and Psalm 8

St Paul writes that he is not ashamed of the suffering he has carried for being a believer. Indeed, we should hold fast to the sound words that Paul has written because they help us live a Christ-like life.

Take a few moments to pray about this. How does it speak to you? Write your own prayer.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Instrument of Peace

St. Francis' Peace Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


I am quite an enthusiast of written prayers. They have a way of inspiring me and directing my thoughts. I have a small collection of favorites that I find myself going back to time after time, contemplating, and memorizing. Phrases get caught in my mind and find their way into my extemporaneous prayers and writings, and, more importantly, concepts and attitudes that are expressed in written prayers are cemented and strengthened in my mind as I consider them. The thoughts turn into values and actions, which build a lifestyle.

One of my favorite prayers is called the “Peace Prayer” and is attributed to St. Francis. It reminds me of the biography of St. Francis, who gave up wealth and position to live as a beggar. He loved the unlovable and cared for the lepers that everyone else was terrified of. As I pray, I ask myself -- would I have the strength to do something like that? Would I have the courage to lay aside the comfort and tranquility of my safe little world so that God could take me into His hands and use me as His instrument? Would I have the maturity to forsake my serene corner, to step out into a world of hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness, and sadness, and to take with me the gifts that God equips me with? Would I have the humility to give them away without a second thought to people I would rather not associate myself with, perhaps that I'm afraid of?

Truly the greatest virtue is humility. Conversely, the greatest sin is selfishness. Selfishness says that man is the most important, and leads us to all kinds of other sins. A man murders because he is selfish enough to think that he has the right to take another man's life. A woman is jealous because she is selfish enough to think that she deserves what someone else has. Selfishness makes us think we deserve only the best while silently killing us inwardly. Humility, on the other hand, says that God is most important, and we show our devotion and servitude to God by serving other people. The only way to serve another person is to put aside ourselves. A humble person is one who completely loses himself in serving God and other people. It isn't easy to forget ourselves, because we are constantly aware of our own wants and needs. I desire to be consoled by others when my mind is perturbed, to be understood by others when I don't even understand myself, to be loved and valued when I doubt my true worth. But at some point, if I really want to live as God's instrument, I have to put away and repress my own desires in order to make the world better for another person.

In his prayer, St. Francis captures this ironic concept of death to self. Jesus said, “...Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 10:21, NKJV) Jesus did not make the ultimate sacrifice so that we could sit back and relax in our warm, safe homes and wait to be ushered into heaven. The deed Jesus so humbly did, we must choose to do as well. We must let go of and throw away the things we hold dear, the old ways of thinking and satisfying ourselves. Only then will we know what it truly means to have life, and life more abundantly. It is in giving to others that we receive. It is in forgiving others that we will find forgiveness. And it is in that paradoxical death that we will find eternal life.

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Read: 2 Timothy 1:8-12a and Psalm 8

The first Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. It is the day we celebrate the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is also the last major feast until All Saints in November.
Many Christians make the sign of the cross when a reference to the Holy Trinity is made. Using your right hand, touch your forehead while saying (or murmuring), “In the name of the Father...” This is a prayer to God the Father, that he would protect and guide your thoughts. Next, touch your abdomen, right about where your rib cage ends and meets your tummy while saying or murmuring, “...and of the Son...” This is a prayer to God the Son to come and live within you. Finally, touch your left shoulder and then your right shoulder while saying or murmuring, “...and of the Holy Spirit.” This is a prayer to God the Holy Spirit to guide you along the paths of life (think of a guide who puts his hand on your shoulder as he shows you where to go).

Whenever the Trinity is invoked (“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”), we can quietly say the invocation as we make the sign of the cross upon ourselves. Some choose to cross themselves whenever they receive Holy Communion or remember their Baptism. Some cross themselves upon entering church, as they are about to move into their pew to sit down. Another way to cross yourself is at the reading of the Gospel in worship. Using your right index finger, make a small cross on your forehead, lips, and heart. This is a prayer that Christ be in your mind, your words, and your heart.

Making the sign of the cross is a very ancient custom, dating back to the first or second century. Early Christians knew that when we use our bodies in our prayers our minds are much more likely to remain focused. As we talked about before, it is a form of prayer within itself. And it is a way to show respect for God when in the presence of the Sacraments or even just the area we set aside for worship.

Consider adding the sign of the cross to your personal devotions. You may or may not choose to use it in public worship, but do not be afraid of what others will think. This is something between you and God. It is a sign that you belong to God.
You may find the following prayer helpful:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Read: John 7:37-39 and Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Jesus, at the feast in Jerusalem, calls our to the people. “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink. If you believe in me, out of your heart will flow rivers of living water.” Four symbols in Scripture for the Holy Spirit are wind, oil, fire, and water. St. John writes that Jesus’ proclamation was about the Holy Spirit. Jesus was saying that if we will believe in him, the Spirit will come like a river of water and it will flow out of us and into the lives of those around us.

The Season of Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit revealing Christ to us. It is about growth. It is about learning to be disciples. It is about being an example, a light in a dark world. Jesus wants us to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that those around us can know him as well.

Do you know him? Does he live within you? How have you shown that to those around you? This isn’t a once and done thing. It is a lifestyle. Ask God to help you live out your faith. You may find the following prayer helpful:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ called out to the people that if they were thirsty to come to him for living water: Grant that we may also drink of this living water, that we might become fountains of water, reflecting your glory to those around us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Read: Romans 8:26-27 and Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

There are times when we simply do not know what to pray. We have no idea how to even begin to approach God with our burdens. At times like that it is good to know that the Holy Spirit helps us.

One way that the Holy Spirit can help is by guiding us as we write prayers. Those of us who have followed the prayer guide for any length of time have noticed that there are two daily prayers with which we begin every morning, and then closing prayer (or space to write our own). Many of the closing prayers are recurring.

The majority of our written prayers come from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church. These prayers have been carefully written, with much prayer put into the work. Imagine praying about how to pray! But that is the wonderful thing about writing prayers. It allows us to make sure we are not praying the wrong things. It allows us time and space to hear the Holy Spirit as he guides our words. It allows us to go back later and make use of prayers we have used previously.

Some say that writing prayers or praying written prayers is not good because we fall into a rut. But this is the wrong way to look at it. We are all creatures of habit. Think about how you pray normally. You probably have certain words, phrases, and ideas that you use every time you pray, and you probably say them in about the same order. Which of course raises the question, how is this any different than a written prayer? The difference is that prayers spoken “in the moment” often are not really thought out. And as humans we can be quite shallow. Written prayers, on the other hand, allow us to think through, with the help of the Holy Spirit, what we wish to say to God. It gives us time and space to craft a prayer that has depth to it, that asks for grace to live a Godly life. It allows us to remember all the things we want to mention in our prayers, so that we pray for all that is on our hearts and not just the things that are on our minds.

Furthermore, Jesus himself gave us a written prayer, which we call the Lord’s Prayer. It makes sense that we would follow his example.

Take some time to pray about this. Then, write your own prayer.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Read: Romans 8:18-24 and Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

St. Paul writes to the church in Rome that the whole of creation is in a suffering state, into which it has been brought by the disobedience of one man (namely Adam); therefore, creation has been made subject to pain, sickness, and death. While we may have had no part in the original sin (since we weren’t born yet), we still pay the consequences of it. And a large reason for that is that God wanted to show us that there is a better way. So he infused within us the hope that there is more than what we see before us, that there are better things ahead of us. And sure enough, God sent his Son, through whose work we have become adopted as God’s children and heirs. So now we can hope for something even greater: Eternal life in full communion with God.

How can you share this hope to those who have none? People are watching you as you lead your life. How can you show Jesus to them? How can you communicate to them that there is something great happening around them?

Take a few minutes to consider and pray about this. Ask God to show you. Write your own prayer.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Day of Pentecost

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: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-35b, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, and John 20:19-23.


A hymn for Pentecost is "See How Great a Flame Aspires" by Charles Wesley. It is printed in the United Methodist Hymnal on pg. 541 and set to the tune AFRON. Below is a video of Chris Fleisher playing it to the tune of ST. GEORGE'S WINDSOR. The words are:

See how great a flame aspires,
Kindled by a spark of grace!
Jesus’ love the nations fires,
Sets the kingdoms on a blaze:
To bring fire on earth He came;
Kindled in some hearts it is:
O that all might catch the flame,
All partake the glorious bliss!

When He first the work begun,
Small and feeble was His day:
Now the word doth swiftly run;
Now it wins its widening way:
More and more it spread and grows,
Ever mighty to prevail;
Sin’s strongholds it now o’erthrows,
Shakes the trembling gates of hell.

Sons of God, your Savior praise!
He the door hath opened wide!
He hath given the word of grace,
Jesus’ word is glorified;
Jesus, mighty to redeem,
He alone the work hath wrought;
Worthy is the work of Him,
Him Who spake a world from naught.

Saw ye not the cloud arise,
Little as a human hand?
Now it spreads along the skies,
Hangs o’er all the thirsty land:
Lo! the promise of a shower
Drops already from above;
But the Lord will shortly pour
All the spirit of His love.

Here is the video. You can play the music in the background as you sing the words if you like.



Collect for the Day of Pentecost:

O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - St. Barnabas, Apostle and Martyr

Read: Isaiah 42:5-12; Psalm 112; Acts 11:19-30, 13:1-3; and Matthew 10:7-16.


Jesus told his disciples, “as you are going, preach the Kingdom.” St. Barnabas took this to heart. He worked with St. Paul for a year in Antioch, pastoring the church there. The word “Christian” means “little Christ”, and Antioch was the first place that name was used.

He is believed to have been a part of the seventy apostles that Jesus sent out in Luke 10:1. He was a Levite, and his Jewish name was Joseph. Tradition holds that he was killed in Syria. The Jews there became frustrated because he was so successful. They dragged him out of the synagogue, put him through horrendous torture, and then stoned him. John Mark, his relative (believed by some to be the author of the Gospel of Mark) witnessed his martyrdom and buried him. Some have given him credit for writing the book of Hebrews, but there is no conclusive evidence.

We can learn much from St. Barnabas’ life and work. Ask God to help you live up to his example. You may find the following prayer helpful:

Grant, O God, that we may follow in the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well-being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Read: Romans 8:14-17 and Psalm 33:12-22

There is rich symbolism within baptism. One idea is that by being baptized we are brought into the Church as a new creation. The old, sinful self has died and has been resurrected into new life in Christ. Where circumcision was the sign of the covenant of Abraham, baptism is a sign of the new covenant. Where circumcision signified that the man was a Jew, born into the covenant, baptism signifies that we’ve been resurrected into the new covenant, both men and women, and that God has adopted us as his children.

God has adopted you. Certainly this is a reason to rejoice! Now, how can you spread the good news? Ask God to help you. Then go get busy.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Read: Acts 2:1-11 and Psalm 33:12-22

Today we read the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Gathered in the upper room, ten days after Jesus had ascended into heaven, the disciples (now apostles) experienced God in a whole new way.

At church we turn the paraments to red, to symbolize fire. The Holy Spirit is symbolized in Scripture as fire, wind, water, and oil. It is significant that the apostles experienced two of the four symbols. This wasn’t your normal, garden-variety indwelling. This was a Holy Ghost outbreak. God wanted to make sure they understood the significance of this.

As Methodists we believe that the Holy Spirit lives within us, and that it is connected to our baptism. We join Anglicans, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, and several other faith traditions in our understanding of Baptism as a sacrament, not just a memorial or ordinance. It isn’t just pouring water on someone’s head or dunking them in a creek because Jesus said to. It is a means of grace – a way for God to reach out to us. It is a sign that we are a part of the Church, born into the new covenant. It is the place at which the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. It is a symbol, but it is also a time at which God moves and reveals himself to the one being baptized, and to the gathered congregation.

You may find the following prayer helpful:

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Read: John 14:15-21 and Psalm 99

As we begin to wind down the Easter season, we take a look back over the past few weeks.
We began with the Easter vigil. The lighting of the Paschal candle and the spreading of light through the congregation. The readings in the darkness of our fall and disobedience and God’s continued attempts to bring us back to himself. The return of the light and the reading of the resurrection story. The renewal of our baptismal vows and the celebration of the Eucharist.

The past forty-seven days have been a constant reminder that Christ is risen, and that he continues to work among us. During the storms, Christ is there. In the aftermath, as we try to make sense of it all, Christ is there. As we try to put our lives back together again, Christ is there. If we will open our eyes we will see him.

Now we begin to turn our eyes forward, to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us that he was not leaving us alone, but that he was sending the Spirit to dwell within us.
The risen Christ is with us, alleluia, alleluia! How has he revealed himself to you? How can you be Christ to someone else? 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 all may come within 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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Read: 1 Peter 4:7-11 and Psalm 99

We continue with yesterday’s reading. St. Peter writes that the end is near, so we need to be watchful and serious. “Above all things,” he writes, “have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” (v. 8)

That can sting a bit. We tend to have trouble with this one. It is interesting that the churches that talk the loudest about being “a loving church” are often the ones that need to do a lot of work in that area.

Love is a tricky thing. Society seems to think it is an emotion, a warm, fuzzy feeling. Society teaches that love and hate are opposites. But society is wrong. Love is a bit like forgiveness in that we must first decide to love before we can feel the emotion. It takes a conscious act and decision, especially if the other person has wronged us in some way.

And the opposite of love is not hate. It is selfishness. See, selfishness wants the best for itself, no matter the cost to anyone else. A baby is the epitome of selfishness. It cries for a bottle or clean diaper regardless of whether or not Mama has had any sleep. The baby does not care that it is two in the morning, the baby wants to be fed now.

Love, on the other hand, wants the best for the other person, no matter the cost to itself. Love does the dishes when dead tired because they need doing. Love gets up with the baby at two in the morning so Mama can sleep. Love puts aside its wants and needs to minister to the wants and needs of another.

Why is it so hard for disciples to show love to each other? Why do we find it so easy to gossip and say hurtful things? Why do we get so territorial and hateful and forget Christ’s command to love each other?

The world is watching and is not fooled. What are you going to do about it?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Read: 1 Peter 4:1-6 and Psalm 99

St. Peter is writing to the churches in Asia Minor (what is now Turkey). Here he is warning them that disciples should not do the things they used to do. He warns that former friends will not understand, and will talk bad about you, but that they will stand before Christ on the day of judgment.

Many of us grew up in church, so we don’t seem to have any real connection point with the text. However, we should be always growing and changing, and our level of maturity now should be quite beyond that of our earlier years. While we may have been to Sunday School every week as a child, we still are human and make mistakes. We are always growing and learning, though. In our youth we held certain beliefs to be true, and time and life have tested them. In our later years as we compare our older selves to our younger selves we see that we used to believe some things that we no longer believe, while other things we still believe, and yet others we began to believe relatively recently. Being a disciple is a dynamic process, always changing, always growing, never sitting still.

How have you changed over your life? How have you changed in the past year? How about since Ash Wednesday? Take a few minutes to consider this. How has God worked within you to help you grow? Do you see any areas that still need work? Ask God to show you. Write your own prayer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Seventh Sunday of Easter

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: Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11; and John 17:1-11


Today is a day of rest and worship. Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Postmodern Thought

I am a member of an online community known as the Ship of Fools. There is an ongoing discussion in the forums right now about postmodernism. Here is the reply I posted a few minutes ago:

On 4 September 476, the barbarian Odoacer deposed the Roman emperor Romulus Augustus and declared himself emperor of Rome. Historians point to that event as the end of the Roman Empire and the end of the ancient era. Western civilization soon descended into a dark age.

Fast forward to the late fifteenth century. Gutenburg invents moveable type for his printing press, thereby cutting the cost of printing books. Luther nails his 99 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenburg. Copernicus and Galileo and Columbus shake the "science" community with their discoveries. The beginning of the Renaissance and the Reformation heralded the end of the Medieval era and the beginning of the Modern era.

Modernism seeks to catagorize everything. During this age, thought and reason were king. Political, scientific, and religious leaders were trying to make their disciplines as logical as possible. This is the age of the scientific method, which was then applied to theology. Systematic theologies were born under modernism. The written word was given more weight than personal experience, because personal experience can be swayed by too many things (such as superstition, etc.).

People believed that there was an absolute Truth, and that humankind could and should find it. The Truth would explain all of the natural processes of the universe and how religion should fit into the world and our daily lives. The Declaration of Independence brushed on this when Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal..."

In the late 19th and early 20th century, especially after the Battle of the Somme in 1918, writers such as Samuel Beckett and Albert Camus began to move toward a new way of thinking. Other events through the 20th century helped fuel this, including the holocaust, the nuclear threat of the cold war, and the Vietnam War.

Then, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. The USSR fell on Christmas Day 1991. The World Trade Center fell in September 2001. These events, coupled with the advent of personal computers, the Internet, and nearly instant global communication, can be pointed to the end of the Modern era and the beginning of Postmodernism.

In Postmodernism, truth is relative. Under Modernism, the push was to find the absolute truth. Under Postmodernism, the push is to find the beauty and the narrative. Post-Modernism rejects the older categorized way of seeing the world and suggests that some things (some argue many or all things) cannot be put into categories. An example is human sexuality. Consider the difference in thought between the eighteenth century and today.

Postmodernism says that since there is no absolute truth, no one has a right to judge anyone else, or to say what they are doing is wrong. Religions that prohibit certain behaviors or beliefs are seen as being too restrictive, since another person's narrative is just as valid as anyone else's.

Postmodernism is very experiential. Where Modernism focused on the mind and reason, Postmodernism focuses on the experience. Modernism is objective, Postmodernism subjective. In Christianity this means the beginning of the emerging church movement.

Emerging church is all about reconnecting with ancient traditions, but doing so in a way that is indigenous to that particular faith community. So the Nicene Creed may be re-written by that particular faith community and then used in the worship context. Worship practices from other religions may be used as well. Another characteristic is that the older paradigm of sitting in rows facing the preacher (who presumably had all the knowledge) and listening to his words has been replaced. There may be a talk (IME rarely called a sermon), but people are free to ask questions and make comments. It becomes more of a dialogue than a lecture. There is a conscious effort to involve all the senses in worship, and to allow people to express themselves freely. So you may find an area with paints and blank canvases, or an area with candles to light, or paper and pens to write poetry, and so on. People can move from station to station, remaining at each as long as they like.

This is important to Postmodernism because it helps illustrate Postmodern thought. We don't sit silently and listen to someone tell us what this or that means, we express it ourselves. We do not search for the absolute truth, we express our own truth.

Some say we are moving quickly into a Post-Postmodernism era, but that may just be the world as they see it. It may or may not be true. It isn't for me.

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Read: John 8:21-30 and Psalm 93.

Today’s passage works very well with the last few days. Jesus tells his listeners that if they do not believe that he is the Son of God, we will die in our sin. But if we will recognize him as the Christ and follow him we will be saved.

Even we Christians can start to question our faith. We can have times of doubt. This is normal; doubt is part of the journey. But we need to put that aside and believe that Christ is the Son of God, and that he speaks the words of life.

This week we have looked at how Christ is present in Holy Communion. Many churches will be celebrating the Eucharist tomorrow. Take some time today to confess your sins to God. It is often helpful to do this with the help of your pastor or another mature Christian.

We have also seen that Christ is present with us now, if only we will open our eyes and see him. Take some time to look around you. Where do you see Christ? Do others see Christ in you?

Close with the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Read: Ephesians 2:1-7 and Psalm 93.

St. Paul writes to the Christians in Ephesus that we have been resurrected from death and made alive in Christ. We were once dead in sin, but through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection and through the work of the Holy Spirit in our baptism we are alive again as a new creation. Through God’s grace we are given a second chance.

Christ is no longer with us in human form. But as we discussed yesterday, he is still with us if only we will see him. This is a cause for celebration and joy! Thank God for his saving grace. Thank him for not abandoning us even when we make mistakes. Thank him for the work of the Holy Spirit. Write your own prayer.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ

Read: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 93, Ephesians 1:15-23, and Luke 24:44-53.


Today is a major Church holy day. The Ascension is often celebrated on the following Sunday, the seventh of Easter. It falls forty days after the resurrection.

Jesus was giving a few last words. Finally things are beginning to make sense. Finally the things he had been saying for the past two years were falling into place.

And as he spoke, he began to rise. Higher and higher into the air, toward heaven. Obviously they were surprised. In fact, they watched the sky long after he had disappeared. Acts 1 tells us that a couple angels came and asked them why they were still looking for Jesus in the sky. “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11b).

It brings to mind the line in the Apostles’ Creed: “On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

While Jesus has ascended into heaven, we have not completely lost him. He still works among us. He is present with us in moments of joy and pain, sadness and excitement, celebration and loss. If we will open our eyes we will see him. A sunrise. The laughter of a holiday shared with friends and family. The sorrow of losing a loved one. Even in the midst of the storm, Christ is there.

But most importantly, Christ is present in the consecrated elements of bread and wine as we celebrate the Eucharist. We do not have an explanation – it is a mystery – but Christ is truly present there. Which is why we do not pour the leftover juice down the drain or throw the leftover bread in the trash. As the pastor prays the Great Thanksgiving over the elements, God pours out his Spirit upon all gathered there and upon the gifts of bread and wine and makes them to be the body and blood of Christ.

And as often as possible we should partake of Christ’s body and blood. It will not lose meaning – to the contrary, the meaning will grow as we are obedient to Jesus’ command to “do this often in remembrance of Me.” Holy Communion is the food of Christians, and as we receive the bread and wine into our bodies, we receive Christ within ourselves all over again. We receive grace. We open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit.

He has ascended into heaven. But Christ comes. Do you see him?

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Read: John 16:16-24 and Psalm 93

Jesus, amid the discussion over dinner the last night he was with his disciples, tells them something that causes them to scratch their heads. “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” (v. 16). What did he mean by this?

Jesus’ explanation doesn’t seem to help much, at least on the surface. Sure, we understand his analogy of a mother who has given birth. But really, what does he mean?

A couple of things are about to happen. First, Jesus is trying to tell them that he will be crucified, die, and be buried, but he will be resurrected. Later, he will ascend into heaven, but the Holy Spirit will come to guide them. He tried to tell them that he would die and then rise again several times, but they refused to hear it. They went through sorrow and pain of loss after his death, but just like he said, when they found out he was risen they were full of joy.
Have sorrowful times been turned to joy moment in your life? Looking back, do you see God’s hand working in the situation? What sorrowful times are you facing now? Take a few moments to pray about this. Write your own prayer.