Archive for September, 2008

On Congregations and Going Green

Yesterday we installed a bike rack on one of our campuses at the Church Health Center for our employees who wish to pedal to work.  There are obvious benefits to cycling from cardiovascular health and weight management to stress reduction and mood enhancement.  There are also the environmental benefits from reducing one’s carbon footprint to conserving limited supplies of gasoline.  We did find a number of employees wishing to bike to work as they witnessed gas prices climb toward $4.00 per gallon. 

 

It got me to thinking about what my church is doing along these lines.  We created a bike ministry called Revolutions which helps provide bikes to children and adults who might otherwise not afford bikes do so through sweat equity as they build their own bike from recycled bike parts.  We instituted recycling within the church, from the soda cans, to the toner cartridges to the mountains of paper created in an active congregation.  We also set aside a portion of our property and allowed the placement of several community recycling “dumpsters” so that the neighborhood could have a more accessible path to recycling. 

 

There are both health and environmental reasons for being more green.  Most of what the Church Health Center and my congregation are doing are simple to both begin and easy to administer.  If your congregation has a unique, green ministry, I wish you would share it here so others might learn.

Exodus 20:4

From Exodus 20:4 – You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Like many of us, I carry a cell phone and a hand-held computer with me at all times.  I also carry several pens, a coffee cup and a notebook.   If I lose any one of these things during the day, the world comes to a halt until I find them.  In the big picture, my modern day idols are so petty.

Prayer:

Gracious God, without meaning to, we construct idols every day.  Help us keep you at the center of our lives at all times.  AMEN.

Exodus 20:1-3

The lectionary selections for this week (Proper 22, Ordinary 27) include: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4b-14 and Matthew 21:33-46.  Alternate selections include Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 80:7-15.

From Exodus 20:1-3 – Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

Think for a moment this morning about God as our deliverer:

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Prayer:

Wonderful God, help us remember today that to be delivered, we must first be willing to trust and follow.  AMEN.

Matthew 21:24-27

From Matthew 21:24-27 – Jesus said to [the chief priests and the elders], “I will ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.  Did the baptism of John come from heaven or was it of human origin?”  And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’  But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.”  So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”  And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

The chief priests and the elders are in a conundrum, and we have 2,000 years on them to see the silliness of their lack of response.  But their position is not unlike positions in which we find ourselves in from time to time.  What our faith demands of us is not always clear, but I do think we are asked to walk forward faithfully, knowing God is gracious and forgiving when we misstep.

Prayer:

Gracious God, we try to walk in your ways, but we often find that we get in the way of ourselves.  Help us see the path you would have us take.  AMEN. 

Angel Food Ministries

My aunt’s church in Virginia participates in a food program known as Angel Food Ministries.  According to their website, Angel Food Ministries “is a non-profit, non-denominational organization dedicated to providing food relief and contributing to benevolent outreaches in communities throughout the United States.”  Before I mentioned the group in this blog, I asked our Manager of Wellness Education and Nutrition, Mary Cay Oyler, what she thought of the program.  She told me she is a supporter of Angel Food Ministries and that the menus are balanced and include all food groups.  By my count there are nearly 50 sites just here in Memphis.  You can visit their site at http://www.angelfoodministries.com/.

Philippians 2:12-13

From Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:12-13 – Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

‘God is at work in you,’ is both an awesome and a humbling statement.  Execution of God’s will, however, demands attentiveness to God’s still small voice inside. 

Prayer:

Loving God, you are our very essence.  Help us so that our outward expressions of you faithfully represent your will.  AMEN.

Philippians 2:3-4

From Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

The earliest Christians lived in radical community with one another, sharing financial and agricultural wealth so that all could live. How such an intentional community would look today is difficult for me to envision, but what if we started simply, giving up one $3 cup of coffee each day and making that savings work for God?

Prayer: God of all, you ask us to simply love our neighbors as ourselves. In our decisions today and every day, keep us mindful of the interests and needs of others. AMEN.

Philippians 2:1-2

From Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:1-2 – If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

I see Paul asking us, as people of faith, to work together. Sure, we have differences among us, but I think Paul is beckoning us to focus on those things which unite us, loving God and caring for those less fortunate as two examples.

Prayer: Creator God, you made all of us in your image. Help us find the common threads between us so that we may build the Kingdom here on Earth you would have. AMEN.

Health Care Reform Forum

Last week, I attended an AARP forum on health care reform.  In partnership with other national organizations, AARP has launched a program called Divided We Fail to encourage non-partisan action on health care reform.  It was an interesting discussion among local leaders in health and business.  For more information on this program visit www.DividedWeFail.org.

Thought & Prayer for Monday, September 22, 2008

The lectionary passages for this week (Proper 21/Ordinary 26) include Exodus 17:1—7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Philippians 2:1-13 and Matthew 21:23-32.  Alternate passages include Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 and Psalm 25:1-9.

From Exodus 17:5-6 – The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.  I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb.  Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.”  Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

God provides.  It is a simple sentence, yet it is one shrouded in much mystery.  I imagine few of us will have such a dramatic example as that offered the Israelites in today’s scripture, but I do hope each of us will be able to sense God’s active presence in our lives.

Prayer:

Provider God, keep us mindful of your presence in our lives.  May we be instruments of your provisions to others in our work this day.  AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for September 19

From Philippians 1:21- For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.

Paul’s reason for living is to help his fellow believers as they grow in their understanding of God stating what is akin to his personal call to ‘service over self.’ We cannot live individually as if islands. We are borne of one God, and we must care for each other as the relatives we are.

Prayer: Gracious God, we have independent spirits, but you remind us of our dependence on you and on each other. Help us serve. AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for September 18

From Psalm 145:8 – The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Remember Jesus’ directive in scripture last week to forgive someone who has sinned against you not seven times but seventy seven times? We are asked to treat one another as God treats us, with mercy, patience and love.

Prayer: Loving God, your generosity toward us is often unmerited. Help us treat one another as the brothers and sisters we are rather than the strangers we are not. AMEN.


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