Morning thoughts on Wednesday, Nov 18th

PSALM 147:1-11

Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
he casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre.
He covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love
.

As I heard these words from the daily lectionary in our house morning prayers, my mind immediately shifted to a couple key issues I am often occupied with these days. The first is my ever-expanding understanding of God’s purposes with His creation, and the second is the role I am to play in participating in God’s purposes.

So, first things first.  This Psalm stands among many other testaments to God’s care in the Scriptures.  While the Psalms are prayers and not necessarily theologically correct or truthful to the purposes of God all the time, their poetry and artistic beauty illustrates the truth through a different method than simple statements.

Psalm 147 has become one of my favorites.

The Psalm begins with God’s intimate care for His people.  He binds up the broken-hearted, lovingly cares for their wounds.

The Psalm progresses immediately to the big-picture; that this intimate God also created the stars, those massive heavenly bodies in this expansive universe.  “Great is the Lord, and abundant in power.”

The Psalm swings back to the intimate, communicating God’s care for the downtrodden; He is aware of their circumstance, and is not ok with the status quo of oppression. This powerful God who created all things is not an American liberal in the sky; hating that things happen outside his plan, yet unwilling to do much more than wring his hands or carry a protest sign.  This God will destroy the wicked; they will face consequences at some point.  He is intolerant to wickedness, and working to bring healing and dignity.

Then the Psalm deals with the big picture and the intimate at the same time.  He prepare rain, makes grass grow, gives food to His creation, not just creating but sustaining it.  And this powerful God is not impressed foremost with the power and strength of His creation, whether it be the rippling muscles and raw power of the horse or the swiftness of the human runner.  No, the Lord foremost takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. I find this distinction to be powerful to reflect on.

This God is all-powerful, wants us to aspire after and imitate His character, yet wants us to “know our place” as well. There is a great tension in the Scriptures on this point; we are to shape our world the way God wants, yet we are to do it as radically humble, non-violent, suffering-love people.  God reserves the right to break the wicked, but we love them and give our lives for them unconditionally; even as we long for justice to be done. Spoken of negatively, we could say, “How hard this task is, and seemingly impossible!”  Spoken of positively, we could say, “How worthy a goal to devote our lives to, how all-embracing and all-consuming a task!”  To speak then of conversion as a one-time experience, or to use terminology like “got saved” as a past-tense event is to do a great disservice to the life of returning to God and being a responsible, joy-filled disciple of Jesus.

…and it is on this matter that I shift to the second issue I’m occupied with these days, which is the meaning our role as human beings to participate well in God’s creation.  We touched on this point specifically in our house church gathering on Sunday, and God’s people run into this point nearly every time they gather, discuss, and consider questions of larger significance.  It is the unacknowledged elephant in the room almost every gathering I’ve been a part of.  Most times it’s expressed as this;

“God has a plan and a purpose for his creation that he will carry out, and it’s my responsibility to be ok with that, to stop striving and let myself be a part of God’s plan that He’s going to carry out anyways.” Does anyone else hear that basic message in their gatherings?

We human beings are good at striving; we strive for possessions, we strive for comfort, we strive for power, we strive for emotional highs (whether from drugs or experiences), we strive for intimacy yet strive for it elsewhere when it becomes inconvenient.  Most of what human beings strive for is not a positive thing.  It seems that persons aware of this problem often live in reaction to this, and propose that the solution is to cease striving and accept.  To quit chafing at the bit and be content.  And like all over-reactions, there is some truth in this; we should spend time accepting, seeking contentment, and resting.  But what is the net result of the overreaction?  A people are created who believe striving itself is bad, who think the utmost of spirituality is to submit, to embrace.  I used to think this too, and with good reason.  Religious leaders would highlight verses like the above in Psalm 147 that “(God’s) understanding is beyond measure” or Isaiah 55 and “My ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts,” or the book of Job, which is a testament to the limits of human understanding.  The basic sense of the book is expressed in Job 40 and the interplay between God and Job,

The LORD said to Job:
“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the LORD :
“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.”

All of these Biblical passages are important. They remind us that we are not God, that we are not free to do whatever we wish, that the journey to healthy humanity begins with submission and obedience to a Being much more powerful than we who has sovereignty over our lives.

Yet the religious leaders of my life either outright lived in ignorance of passages with different variations or were aware of them and chose to mute their voice. In doing this, they removed them from my knowing unless I was willing to read and ask questions of the Scriptures myself, which I was not willing to do at that point.

But over time, I got to know passages like Genesis 18, where Abraham negotiates with God to respond in certain ways according to the actions of the people of Sodom.  He does this by appealing to God’s righteous character that may be besmirched among humanity by their observing his devastating action.  I got to know about characters like Elijah and Jeremiah and Isaiah and Ezekiel who, instead of simply ceasing to strive when in relationship with God, simply cast their striving in a different direction.  They altered their goals and dreams to fit those of their Creator and found their world shifting around them; whether they found success or became unwanted persons because they didn’t fit in anymore with their old groups.  I looked at the wider context of the above-quoted Isaiah passage and found that the teaching there is for the wicked and the evil to abandon their old thoughts and embrace new ones, worthy ones, and that abundant life would flow from such a commitment.  So far from God wanting us to passively accept what we think are His ways, He wants to be invest the totality of who we are in something different.

And maybe the capstone of this much different perspective comes in Exodus 32 when Moses comes down off the mountain and observes that the people of Israel had grown impatient and begun worshiping a golden calf.  The interplay between himself and  God is interesting;

“I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ ”

Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.”

It seems like when God’s creation lives in depraved rebellion, God (acting alone because no one will join Him) shoots a little loose from the hip, so to speak.  God is more willing to use the destructive qualities He possesses to awaken his creation to the destructiveness of their ways.  But when someone choose to join Him, not just becoming mindless obeyers but really entering into relationship with Him, God alters His ways to be more relational, more healing, more patient.

What I’m saying is this; It seems that God has built into his purposes that He will act in direct relationship with the human beings He has made in his image.  When these humans forsake that calling and actively oppose Him, He will strike us down (whether in the short or long term).  When these humans cease striving against Him, even if we become benign persons who see our primary role as persons who just nod at what happens and say, “That is God at work in ways I don’t understand,”  God kind of prefers that, though the lack of an all-encompassing desire leads to lukewarmness (either with the person or succeeding generations).  Passivity will be a midpoint from active rebellion to active obedience.  But God’s highest purpose is that we would trade in our former, darkened, depraved strivings for new, enlightened, redeemed strivings. And that when we transcend striving against and benign obedience into active justice-seeking, He will reward our efforts by more actively working through us to redeem His creation.

What kind of spirituality is in your community? By and large, I think, most communities I know advocate the passive acceptance of “God’s will” as the proper sort of spirituality to seek after in this life.  But I just don’t see passive acceptance of the ways things are to be the primary method of the righteous in the Bible.  I see active pursuit of the true, the just, and the right. And that pathway involves agitating against the present order to transform it into its intended state.

And that pathway even includes questioning and cajoling God, which God not only doesn’t reject, but in fact embraces, appreciates, and acts in response to.  He may need to punch us in the mouth from time to time when we get too uppity and forget who we are, but He loves the activity, the striving, the justice-seeking.

“The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

A worthy pursuit. This God has me in His grip, and is beginning to consume me, leading me to place every thought and action captive to the grand question of whether it fits the vision of His kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

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Psalm 145 is excellent to meditate on

sun-thru-trees-front-yard

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation will commend your works to another, and will declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.

All your works will give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful will bless you.
They will speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of all who fear him; he also hears their cry, and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.

There is absolutely no way I can stand at a distance from this Psalm or read it out loud without any emotion. If I can, I haven’t met the God of the Bible and I am completely immune to the emotions of this excellent, excellent work. The themes in this Psalm are not sappy emotional stuff, they’re gigantic themes of human struggle and daily existence. What is the character of this God we serve?  (Gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, rewards those who love him, upholds justice by destroying the wicked) Is our God petty and powermongering like we are, or does he display his power in different ways?  (He’s faithful, gracious, raises up those who are bowed down)  Why do people go hungry in this world?  (It’s not God’s desire, and there’s enough food for everyone to eat.  The problem isn’t supply; it’s distribution)  And for me to add the example of Jesus into my thoughts on Psalm 145 brings tears to my eyes sometimes.  How did Jesus, our King, express his kingship?  By touching the unclean, washing feet, spending time with outcasts, giving his life for his friends and his enemies rather than taking life away.  What an example to follow.  No question to me that this God is clearly not an invention of human hands; us projecting a bigger example of ourselves into the heavens.

I didn’t quote the entire Psalm here, just a couple big sections of it, and I split it up as possible chunks for others to cut and paste and carry around with them at work or in daily errands. Words to meditate on, to chew on for awhile.  And the picture is one I took in our front yard one evening.  I’m going to miss the Shenandoah Valley. *sigh*

This is an attack on the black church (and if the black church, then the church at large)…

Jeremiah Wright and Cornel West have awakened me from my middle-class white slumber in the last three months.  Lost amidst all the hullabaloo from 10-second sound-bites yanked from the greater context of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons which news organizations then talked hours on is the greater message Jeremiah is seeking to convey to the American nation. Jeremiah Wright is not Obama’s lapdog, and Obama is not his. Barack Obama is a politician, and Jeremiah Wright is an eloquent, shockingly-honest, sometimes-divisive pastor of God’s church.  The two are very different things. In order for us to understand the experience of the black church and the foundation from which Wright speaks, we need to move beyond the sound-bites and into a good, full listen to him in the videos below; even if, or especially if, we disagree with him.

If you are a person who is sick and tired of news organizations telling us what we should believe and showing us what we should see, please give this man a full listen in the videos below.

And if you want to know, REALLY know, this man that Barack Obama is separating himself from because of mushy political centrism in seeking to get elected, please give this man a full listen in the videos below. Barack Obama is being more and more exposed as a man who used Trinity UCC as a leg up, as a prestige card to play with the black community, rather than a fully participating member invested in attacking the problem of racism head-on. Calling for racial unity is nice and all, but when significant embedded racism still exists in our society, it’s time for troublemakers, rabble-rousers to stand up and speak truth to power, their political careers be damned.

And let this be stated clearly, if you can watch Survivor or American Idol or Dancing with the Stars (“reality” shows) or Lost or 24 or The Office (hour-long escapes from reality into suspended disbelief) or Hannity and Colmes (a show of barking partisan hacks) for hours on end every week, I’m fairly certain you can watch an embattled man (and a fine one at that) talk about something of vital importance for our world today in the videos below.

I’m sitting on some thoughts, but I will write them in the next couple days after wrapping up some loose ends for school. So keep attuned here if you’re interested in catching some of my thoughts on this; I want to contribute to this conversation that is simply not taking place in our society right now. It is DESPERATELY needed, and I want to be a part of it. Even in a little tiny way.

Video #2 of the same speech

Video #3 of the same speech

Video #4 of the same speech

Video #5 of the same speech

Video #6 of the same speech

Nate Myers gets very frustrated and works hard for a solid response.

I’ve been getting these emails recently, you see, that frustrate me.  Here’s the text for one of them;

The Bible warns us of Barack Obama!
Body: The Bible warns us of Barack Obama! Please Read All!
Body: The Bible has warned us that ‘A man will come from the East that will be charismatic in nature and have proposed solutions for all our problems and his rhetoric will attract many supporters!’

When will our pathetic Nation quit turning their back on God and understand that this man is ‘A Muslim’….First, Last and always….and we are AT WAR with the Muslim Nation, whether our bleeding-heart, secular, Liberal friends believe it or not. This man fits every description from the Bible of the ‘Anti-Christ’!

I’m just glad to know that there are others that are frightened by this man!

Who is Barack Obama?

Very interesting and something that should be considered in your choice.

If you do not ever forward anything else, please forward this to all your contacts…this is very scary to think of what lies ahead of us here in our own United States…better heed this and pray about it and share it.

snopes.com ..’ confirms this is factual. Check for yourself.

Who is Barack Obama?

Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHEIST from Wichita , Kansas. Obama’s parents met at the University of Hawaii. When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya. His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia. When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocated to Indonesia. Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school.

Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, ‘He was once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school.’ Obama’s political handlers are attempting to make it appear that that he is not a radical.
Obama’s introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son’s education.

Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta.
Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background. ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran.

Barack Hussein Obama will NOT recite the Pledge of Allegiance nor will he show any reverence for our flag. While others place their hands over their hearts, Obama turns his back to the flag and slouches. Do you want someone like this as your PRESIDENT? Let us all remain alert concerning Obama’s expected presidential candidacy.

The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level – through the President of the United States, one of their own!

Please forward to everyone you know. Would you want this man leading our country?…… NOT ME!


Needless to say, I was frustrated from this email forward, so decided to write back, and here’s my response;

To whom it may concern;

Be very, very careful about the sources we get our “news” from. Snopes.com, the supposed source for this “factually correct” myth on Barack Obama, noticed this email was getting publicity and took time to completely refute it themselves. Here’s the link to their refutation, where they say themselves,

“One version of the email in circulation claims ‘We were told this checked out on snopes.com. It is factual. Check for yourself,’ and includes a link to this website. It is our guess that whoever included that bit was counting on folks to not check, as our article says the opposite, that the polemic is not factual but rather false.”

I get innumerable amounts of emails from my friends and others around that usually start off with something designed to instill fear in us like “The Bible warns us of _____________” or “It is clear the evil emenating from ________________ is from Satan,” or a bunch of different intros. I would urge all my friends and acquaintances to look beyond the fear-mongering and stop, look at a variety of different sources, read up on the issue, talk to your friends, and ask whoever sends us the email where they believe the Bible warns of _________________, and ask them why they think it talks about this person. A good question might be,

“You say _______ fits every description of the Anti-Christ. I’d love to hear your description of the anti-Christ and we can talk.”

If we don’t have time to stop and read up on whatever the issue is, I would urge us (I try to make it a practice of mine) NOT to forward the email.

Regarding this email, first off, if we deeply value the Scriptures, we should be a bit put off right at the beginning by someone claiming that we are “at war with the Muslim Nation.” Biblically speaking, the people of God are at war against the powers of evil and chaos in this world, and those very powers exist just as much within us as in some people or place across the globe. I won’t eagerly jump to the defense of the Muslim religion because I think there is much that is twisted and wrong in it, but I DO realize Muslims are human beings made in the image of God who are important enough for Christians to give our lives for. Remember, “God so loved the WORLD” in John 3:16, not “God so loved EVERYONE LIKE ME.” So no, “we” (Christians who care about Scripture and how it forms our lives) are NOT at war with the Muslim Nation.

Secondly, I certainly don’t think Barack Obama is the savior of the world, but he’s certainly far from the anti-Christ. Vote for whomever you will, but we should know the facts, not a chain propoganda email sent around to make folks afraid.

Barack is an American citizen who was born in the United States, and while he DID live in Indonesia for awhile and attend a “Muslim” school for a bit, it was not a Wahabi Madrassa as this email seeks to state. In fact, after FOX News ran with the rumor that he attended such a school on their broadcasting without doing the work to either go to or research the school itself, CNN did just that. CNN dispatched their senior international correspondent John Vause directly to Jakarta to investigate, and he went to the school which, it turns out, is a public school. Hardi Priyono, the school headmaster, said, “This is a public school. We don’t focus on religion. In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don’t give preferential treatment.” One of Obama’s classmates, Bandug Winadijanto, was interviewed, and he said “It is not an Islamic school. It’s general. There is a lot of Christians, Buddhist, also Confucian…so that’s a mixed school.” Link to the story here.

It should be noted, and I will bold this section for emphasis, that the Fox News show (Fox and Friends) that broadcast this rumor backtracked on the story the following week, while still repeatedly citing the article from conservative site Insight that started the whole rumor. In our search for news that can be trusted, will we err on the side of the news organization that actually tracked down the radical Muslim rumor (CNN) or the news organization that cited an anonymous source (Insight, then Fox News)? I think I know which one I’ll be more likely to trust.

The reality is that as a child, Obama spent four years in Indonesia with his step-father, a non-practicing Muslim, and his mother. Between ages 6 and 8, Obama attended a local Muslim school in Jakarta; after that, he was enrolled in a Roman Catholic school. In his book Dreams Of My Father (p.142), Obama writes:

In Indonesia, I’d spent 2 years at a Muslim school, 2 years at a Catholic school. In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Koranic studies. In the Catholic school, when it came time to pray, I’d pretend to close my eyes, then peek around the room. Nothing happened. No angels descended.

In his more recent book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama writes (p.274), “Without the money to go to the international school that most expatriate children attended, I went to local Indonesian schools and ran the streets with the children of farmers, servants, tailors, and clerks.”

So no, Obama did not attend a radical Wahabi school and is not and never has been a Muslim. In fact, the man Obama’s mother married in fact was not a radical Muslim, but a non-practicing Muslim, which most Muslims in the world who value their faith would call no Muslim at all. And the quote from this forward that Obama supposedly said that he “was once a Muslim, but he also attended Catholic school” is patently false. I’d love to see the source for this quote.

In addition, Obama did not use the Koran when sworn into office (news source link here), the claim that he will not recite the Pledge of Allegiance (and in fact turns his back and slouches) is false, and he addressed a series of these claims in a presidential debate;

If the video embedding doesn’t work, the link to the video is here.

Again, Barack Obama is not and never has been Muslim, and describes himself as a Christian, as rooted in the Christian tradition, and his membership in the United Church of Christ began in the mid-1980s, long before he contemplated a political career.

Let the record state, however, that I, Nathan Myers, am not endorsing Obama as president, but I am mystified by the amount of fear-mongering and false propaganda surrounding this man, and so I decided to dig for myself and respond. I have my own issues with Barack Obama, and I question most politicians’ supposed “born again” or “Christian” labels, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue in itself.

Get educated, vote responsibly, and don’t expect a Savior from Republicans or Democrats, Americans, Brits, or Chinese.

Last I checked, there’s only one of those.

Nate

 

Lenten Daily Prayers: The Fifth Week

Week One
Week Two
Week Three
Week Four

This, as the title suggests, is the fifth week that I’ve posted some relevant readings and prayers for entering more deeply into the season of Lent.

Morning (observed on hour between 6 and 9 a.m.) 

The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,
and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.
 (Psalm 43:3)

A Reading
“Jesus taught us, saying, ‘And the judgment is this: though the light has come into the world, people have preferred darkness to the light because their deeds were evil…but whoever does the truth comes out into the light, so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God.'”
 (John 3:19,21)

The Morning Psalm
O God, when you went forth before your people,
when you marched through the wilderness,
The earth shook, and the skies poured down rain at the presence of God,
the God of Sinai, at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
You sent a gracious rain, O God, upon your inheritance;
you refreshed the land when it was weary.
Your people found their home in it;
in your goodness, O God, you have made provision for the poor.
The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands;
the LORD comes in holiness from Sinai.
You have gone up on high and led captivity captive;
you have received gifts even from your enemies,
that the LORD God may dwell among them.
Blessed be the LORD day by day, the God of our salvation,
who bears our burdens.
He is our God, the God of our salvation;
God is the LORD, by whom we escape death
(Psalm 68:7-10, 17-20)

The Lord’s Prayer

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

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

Midday (observed on hour between 11 am and 2 pm)

The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance!
O LORD, make haste to help me!

The Midday Psalm
If the LORD had not come to my help,
I should soon have dwelt in the land of silence.
As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”
your love, O LORD, upheld me. 
When many cares fill my mind, your consolations fill my soul.
(Psalm 94:17-19)

The Lord’s Prayer

The Prayer Appointed for the Week (repeat from morning)

The Midday Prayer of the Church
Most gracious God and Father, you are with me as I make my journey throughout this day.  Help me to look lovingly on all people and events that come into my life today and to walk gently on this land.  Grant this through Jesus who lives and walks among us ever present at each moment.  Amen.

The Evening  (observed between 5 and 8 p.m.)

The Call to Prayer
Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, and kneel before the LORD our Maker.
Psalm 95:6

The Evening Psalm
Show us your mercy, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him.
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth have met together,
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed grant prosperity, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and peace will be a pathway for his feet.
Psalm 85:7-13

The Lord’s Prayer

The Prayer Appointed for the Week (repeat from morning)

The Concluding Prayer of the Church
O holy God, as evening falls on us, Remember our good deeds and forgive our failings.  Help us to reflect on and live according to your covenant of love. Be with our lonely and elderly sisters and brothers in the evening of their lives.  May all who long to see you face to face know the comfort of your presence.  This we ask in union with Simeon and Anna and all who have gone before us blessing and proclaiming you by the fidelity of their lives.  Amen.

Lenten Daily Prayers: The Fourth Week

You’ll become aware (if you haven’t already), that there is a significant continuing theme of repentance and lament in the readings and prayers in this journey through Lent to Easter.  Some may say

“This is depressing, and therefore something more joyful and positive should be said about the human experience.”

In response, I say, “Lent is about repentance, and in order for us to sink deeper into that repentant state of being, we need to focus on lament, on self-examination, on honesty, and if anything is to be joyous, it should focus on God as our Sustainer alone.”

Lent is a time of purging, of us shedding unnecessary burdens in order to “Seek first the kingdom of God” more consistently and clearly.

So I urge you, sit in the discomfort of examination and honesty.  Resist the knee-jerk happy-clappy “Christian” music of our culture during this time, and sink into the place where God alone holds and sustains you.

 The Call to Prayer

Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples;
ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name;
bring offerings and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole world tremble before him
        
                 (Psalm 96:7-9)

The Cry of the Church

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us

Morning (observed on the hour or half hour between 6 and 9 am)

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me safely to this new day;  preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen

Prayer for the Week

O God, who before the passion of your only Son revealed his glory on the holy mountain:  Grant that I, encountering by faith the light of his countenance, will be strengthened to bear my cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

The Lord’s Prayer

Midday (observed on the hour or half hour between 11 am and 2 pm)  

Seek out the LORD while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked abandon his way and the evil one his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the LORD who will take pity on him,
to our God, for he is rich in forgiveness;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways, declares the LORD.
For the heavens are as high above the earth
as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.  

Isaiah 55:6-9

  Prayer for the Week (repeat from morning)

Lord’s Prayer

Evening (observed on the hour or half hour between 5 and 8 pm)

Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you;
hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble.
Incline your ear to me; when I call, make haste to answer me.
For my days drift away like smoke, and my bones are hot as burning coals.
My heart is smitten like grass and withered, so that I forget to eat my bread.
I have become like a vulture in the wilderness, like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake and groan; I am like a sparrow, lonely on a house-top.  

Psalm 102:1-7  

Prayer for the Week

The Lord’s Prayer

As usual, the daily prayers are drawn from Phyllis Tickle’s Eastertide, Prayers for Lent through Easter from the Divine Hours

Spiritual Schizophrenia

Psalm 51:1-5

1 Have mercy on me, O God,

       according to your unfailing love;

       according to your great compassion

       blot out my transgressions.

 2 Wash away all my iniquity 
      

        and cleanse me from my sin.

 3 For I know my transgressions, 
      

        and my sin is always before me.

 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned 
      

        and done what is evil in your sight, 
      

        so that you are proved right when you speak 
      

        and justified when you judge.

 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, 
      

        sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

 

Psalm 18:20-27

 20 The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; 
      

         according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.

 21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD; 
      

          I have not done evil by turning from my God.

 22 All his laws are before me; 
      

          I have not turned away from his decrees.

 23 I have been blameless before him 
      

          and have kept myself from sin.

 24 The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, 
      

          according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

 25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful, 
      

          to the blameless you show yourself blameless,

 26 to the pure you show yourself pure, 
      

           but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.

 27 You save the humble 
      

            but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

 

Quick summary:

I have not done evil                   I have done what is evil in your sight

I have kept myself from sin      Surely I was sinful at birth

I have been blameless               I know my transgressions

I have not turned away              My sin is always before me

 

Two different Psalms with two radically different messages.  If we read them through a few times, it seems obvious that these are written by two completely different persons; one, a scoundrel and one, a saint.  But when we find out who wrote them, we might be shocked.  Both of these Psalms are written by the same person (King David), but show radically different experiences, one of deep repentance for sin (51) and one that displays a confidence in faithfulness and cleanness (18).

 These sound like two completely different things, two completely different people; what in the world was wrong with David?  Was he crazy?  Addled in the head?  Because we can be one or the other, but not both, can we?