Archive for November, 2008

Psalm 80:19, 1 Corinthians 1:9a, Mark 13:31-33

I took a few days off, so I am posting my thoughts and prayers for Wednesday through Friday today.  I hope all reading this had a blessed Thanksgiving.  Butch

 

Thought & Prayer for Wednesday, November 26, 2008

From Psalm 80:19 – Restore us O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Advent is a time of restoration…restoration within ourselves and restoration of God’s creation.  Each of us has a vision of God’s Kingdom.  I would offer that I think we are to order our lives and our actions in ways which live into that vision.

Prayer:

Loving God, make us as instruments of restoration.  Make us peacemakers.  Make us good stewards of the gifts you have given us.  AMEN.

Thought and Prayer for Thursday, November 27, 2008

From 1 Corinthians 1:9a – God is faithful.

This passage is certainly short and simple, but isn’t it powerful?  God is loyal, devoted and trustworthy.  God is dependable and dedicated.  God is true and authentic.

Prayer:

Steadfast God, on this Thanksgiving Day, we pause to give thanks for the many blessings you have bestowed on us…blessings of family, friends and food, too. We give you thanks for your constant presence and we ask for you to continue nudging us into the people you would have us be.  AMEN.

Thought & Prayer for Friday, November 28, 2008

From Mark 13:31-33 – Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.

What I hear when I read these words is that just as God is faithful, we too are to be faithful at all times.  It challenges us to lead lives that anticipate God’s presence around every corner and in every face.

Prayer:

Gracious God, we don’t know the day or hour of your return, but we ask you for strength today so that we might order ourselves in ways that are true to your will.  AMEN.

Psalm 80:19

From Psalm 80:19 – Restore us O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Advent is a time of restoration…restoration within ourselves and restoration of God’s creation.  Each of us has a vision of God’s Kingdom.  I would offer that I think we are to order our lives and our actions in ways which live into that vision.

Prayer:

Loving God, make us as instruments of restoration.  Make us peacemakers.  Make us good stewards of the gifts you have given us.  AMEN.

Isaiah 64:8-9

From Isaiah 64:8-9 – Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

I love the potter and clay imagery of this scripture. There is an intimacy between the potter and clay, but there is also a messiness. Yet, through the intimacy and messiness, something of immeasurable beauty can arise.

Prayer:

Creator God, open our hearts and minds to you so that we might become the people into which you would mold us. AMEN.

Demand Up but Inventories Down at Food Banks

My church purchases food from the Mid-South Food Bank, which we distribute to our neighbors in need two days each week and on Sunday.  This article describes the situation in the Washington, DC area, but it reflects trends nationally. 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/22/AR2008112200290.html?hpid=topnews

For more information on the work of Food Banks or to find one in your area, visit Feeding America, formerly America’s Second Harvest at http://feedingamerica.org/.

If you are in the Memphis area, you can find out about our Food Bank at http://www.midsouthfoodbank.org/.

If your congregation has a food pantry ministry, consider sharing your experiences here so more could learn.

Isaiah 64:1-2

Sunday marks the start of the new liturgical year and it is the first Sunday Advent.  The lectionary readings for this week include: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 and Mark 13:24-37.

From Isaiah 64:1-2 – O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence-as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes the water to boil-to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

This is my favorite season of the liturgical year.  Advent – a time in which Christians anticipate God dwelling among us through Jesus and that time when God incarnate dwells among us again.  It is a time of hope as well as preparation.  Welcome to Advent, Friends.

Prayer:

Creator God, while we await your return, we are trying to build the world you would have.  Be with us in our daily struggle as we try to follow your will.  AMEN.

Matthew 25:45

From Matthew 25:45 – Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as  you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

Too often we couch sin in the language of our negative actions toward each other.  This passage reminds us of our sins of omission.  Honestly, it is those sins about which I worry the most.

Prayer:

 Understanding God, you are steadfast in your love of us.  Give us strength to be more steadfast in our care of each other.  AMEN.

Matthew 25:34-36, 40

From Matthew 25:34-36, 40 – Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

We are all members of the God’s family.  God is mysteriously yet intricately woven into each of us so that by serving and aiding each other, we also serve and aid God.  Consider that with each person coming before you this day.

Prayer:

Ever-present God, keep us mindful this day that your children surround us.  Help us act toward them as we would act toward you.  AMEN.

On Congregations and Mental Illness

I have been treated for depression for ten years.  When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know I was depressed.  I had trouble concentrating, my life turned dramatically inward and my job performance suffered fairly significantly.  Thankfully, a pastoral counselor at Church Health Center noticed my symptoms and took the chance to approach me and encourage me to get professional help.  Despite my depression being “mild,” I remember feeling shame at the diagnosis. 

A troubling article appeared this week in the Baptist Standard citing a study by Baylor University.  Quoting from the article: “In a study of 293 Christians who approached their local church for assistance in response to a personal or family member’s diagnosed mental illness, Baylor researchers found more than 32 percent of these church members were told by the pastor that they or their loved one did not really have a mental illness.”

A link to the full article: 

http://www.baptiststandard.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8841&Itemid=53

An article from canadianchristianity.com offers some helpful advice for congregations seeking to create more healing environments to members and visitors suffering from mental illness.

http://www.hopeandhealing.org/contentPage.aspx?resource_id=127 

This article cites another author, Marja Bergen, whose blog Roller Coaster chronicles her living with bipolar disorder.  Her blog can be found in my blogroll or at http://marjabergen.blogspot.com/.

I can say to myself and friends, “Depression and hypertension are both medical illnesses.”  Yet, when I was first diagnosed with depression I couldn’t embrace that statement.  I was fortunate to be in environments, however, where others did believe that statement making home, work and church places of healing for me.

Ephesians 1:15-16

From Ephesians 1:15-16 – I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in this passage that in addition to giving thanks to God, we need to give thanks for each other.  As you approach Thanksgiving, take a moment to remember those special people in your life whether they be family, friends, coworkers or maybe even strangers in whom you see God’s presence.

Prayer:

Loving God, thank you for letting us see your light shining through people around us each day.  AMEN.

Psalm 100

From Psalm 100 – Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.  Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.  Know that the LORD is God.  It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him, bless his name.  For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness for all generations.

A favorite and familiar hymn based on this Psalm known as Old 100th:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him all creatures here below;

Praise him above ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  AMEN.

                        Thomas Ken, 1674

Prayer:

Gracious God, as we near the season of Thanksgiving, may our thoughts turn to you in thanks for all your wonderful works.  AMEN.

Ezekiel 34:11-12

This coming Sunday is the last Sunday of the liturgical year which means we are almost to Advent.  The lectionary selections for this week (Proper 29/Ordinary 34) include: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1:15-23 and Matthew 25:31-46.  An alternative selection is Psalm 95:1-7a.

From Ezekiel 34:11-12 – For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.  As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep.  I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

This is a trying time of year for me.  As the temperature drops, my hands start to hurt more.  With the shorter days, it is also always dark when I leave for home at the end of the work day.  It is easy for me to feel frustrated, even sad, yet this scripture reminds me of God’s steadfast presence in my life as the watchful shepherd.

Prayer:

Steadfast God, help us to feel your presence in both the light of day and the dark of night.  AMEN.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

From 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Thinking back to Monday’s passage, God is our dwelling place.  We are all in this place together.  My faith walk criss crosses with your faith walk.  We should support, not hinder, one another.

Prayer:

Loving God, though we may sing from different hymnals and read different writings, you are the One all of us seek.  Help us help each other.  AMEN.


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