Sunday Prayer

Our praise and prayers, our hopes and heartaches
are found in the shadow of your love, O God.
We come to you to see who we are and
to catch a vision of who we may become.
It’s too easy to listen to news, to look in mirrors,
and to resign ourselves to the belief that this world
looks nothing like you, that humanity looks nothing like you.
But you — O God of the galaxies, God of the ancestors,
God of the cross and God of the empty tomb —
you have worked too hard on love
for us to fail to see ourselves in your image
for us to fail to live into the image of beloved community.
We pray for the joyful freedom to know to our core
and to proclaim to the farthest reaches
your goodness and mercy.
Let the assurance of your love
be the foundation of reconciliation
and justice for all people. Amen and amen.

Cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals.

Handholding

I take your hand
because the way is lonely
and it helps to know you’re there.

I take your hand
because I get cold feet sometimes
but your warmth pulses with courage.

I take your hand
because it makes me blush
and turns my steps into a dance.

I take your hand
because it brings us closer:
hand meeting hand meeting hand.

I take your hand
so I don’t forget ever
that love is an incarnate story.

“Do not fear…for I, the LORD your God,
hold your right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 & 13)

Monday Muse: Lenten Sermon Series 1

Not to cause anxiety, but the season of Lent begins in seven weeks. 🙂 For those who are worship planners, how are you hoping to shape the church’s experience of Lent?

Sermon series are a valuable tool for creating continuity from one worship service to the next, shaping a story arc in the life of a community of faith, especially through liturgical seasons. Preachers can build themes for a sermon series around a single word, around the lectionary or set of scripture readings, around a song, and more.

For a few weeks here in the “Monday Muse,” I’ll outline a variety of sermon series ideas to prime the creative liturgical pump for Lent. For this first Lenten sermon series idea, try impacting worship with art!

"Sin" by Anneke Kaai (Paraclete Press 2004)

“Sin” by Anneke Kaai

The brooding paintings of Anneke Kaai are a wonderful medium for Lenten reflection. The Dutch painter’s work is featured in several books on themes from the Psalms to the Ten Commandments to words of faith. Projected on the wall or screen of a sanctuary during sermons, Kaai’s paintings provide visual inspiration for reflection as well as focus for one’s Lenten sermons.

My favorite collection of Kaai’s work and my recommendation to you for Lent: In a Word: The Image and Language of Faith (Paraclete Press 2004). In this book co-authored with Eugene Peterson, the Dutch painter contemplates the deep complexity of such words as grace, reconciliation, power, amen, and many more. With each page, Anneke Kaai’s paintings hint of the cross and hint at the Light. Together their work is rich for the Lenten season!

Use In a Word to inspire a sermon series, to move your congregation through its Lenten journey, and to hearten your own spirit in Lent this year.

Sunday Prayer (Baptism of Christ)

Here we are, O LORD, coming before you,
your people waiting and watching for your Spirit
to descend upon us…but gently, we pray; just enough
Spirit to get us through the day and not so much
to cause us discomfort or inconvenience.

We are dipping our toes in the Water,
truth be told, while you long to flood us
with a full immersion baptism of the Spirit.
So we hold our breath, we open our hearts,
and we welcome your Spirit as we pray:

To be covered, swept away, and changed
by the Holy Water that is the source of all life;
To be refreshed and strengthened for the journey;
To be washed by the wave of reconciliation
that bursts & breaks by the Spirit’s power.

We pray to be converted constantly —
mind, body and soul — by the ultimate hope
of God’s goodness. We pray to be measured by grace
and to offer the same measure to all we meet.
We pray for healing and comfort.

We pray that the world might have
a vision, a revelation of God’s unlimited love.
We seek to be part of it, like raindrops becoming
part of the river, streaming over the earth
in one holy and uniting baptism.

Amen.

Prayer cross-posted at RevGalBlogPals.

Monday Muse: Baptism

On the liturgical calendar, this Sunday January 12 celebrates the baptism of Jesus by his cousin John. For those congregations that do not keep the baptismal font front-and-center in their worship spaces (or keep the font covered), Baptism of Christ Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to include water in worship:

Uncover the font, bring it out into the open.

Keep water running in the baptistry.

Turn on a meditative fountain.

Invite the children to come and touch the water.

Invite the adults to touch the water!

Have fishbowls on the altar.

Preach a sermon on nature’s hydrological system
and God’s ever-flowing transformative grace.

Put a slip-and-slide down the center aisle.

(Maybe nix the slip-and-slide idea, it’s likely more dangerous than inspiring.)

However you do it, don’t just talk about remembering our baptisms; create a worship environment in which people experience the waters of baptism! Remember that water is not only an instrument of sacrament. Water is intrinsic to life … and, it should be noted, not only an element that brings life but also a frequent participant in death and in chaos (theological dimensions of baptism that we may prefer to avoid). Bring the fullness of water to the fullness of your worship.

baptism2

For your meditation and preparation for Baptism of Christ Sunday, I offer this reflection:

Make peace with the Water.

Make peace with the Water
that gives life.
Make peace with the Water
that brings death.

Make peace.

Make peace with the Water
in every changing season.
Make peace with the Water
in your body’s very cells.

Make peace.

Make peace with the Water
as it pounds the shores,
as it pounds our souls.

Make peace with the Water
as it quiets the forest,
as it quiets our angst.

Make peace with the Water.

Make peace with God.