Category Archives: worship

I will try this day

On the inside cover of Forward Day by Day, you can find a prayer called A Morning Resolve. This being the month of resolutions, broken and unbroken, I thought it a fitting time to dive in and take a closer look. It’s a longish prayer, with words that address heart, mind, and spirit. Word by word, line by line, let’s take a good look. The place to start: the first five words.

I will try this day

There are infinite possibilities in this God-given world, but there are no repeats. If I do not seek God this very day, I live a lesser version of life than what is offered. Will I choose to live into today’s unique and holy offerings? Will I try? Will you?

[For the full prayer, click A Morning Resolve above.]

Welcome, Jesus!

Readings: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:8-20

Glad tidings of great joy! Jesus has been born to us! Merry Christmas!

Boney M, Mary’s Boy Child/ Oh My Lord, Sony Music Entertainment, 2010, available on itunes]

[Holy Family, by Margaret Hill]

[Nat King Cole, A Cradle in Bethlehem Christmas for Kids, Capitol Records, 2000]

ADVENT 2019

Readings: Luke1:46b-55; 2 Samuel 7:18, 23-29; Galatians 3:6-14

Ages reaching down to present.

All knowing seeking innocence.

Awaiting fulfillment of the Word,

generations to come and kingdoms

teeter on the brink of the response.

The complex mystery of the Alpha and the Omega

bending to purity and simplicity.

Combined breath of universe

and totality of holiness,

in stillness and silent reverence

listen for her answer……

and in a moment for all time,

in complete surrender to love,

She replies, “Yes……

Be it done to me according to Your Word.”

And we are forever changed….Peace has arrived.

Offered by Debbie Hill, artist, poet, musician, walking home to Bethlehem. 11/04/2019

[Four Rowhouses, (2018-2019) Colin Fredrickson, artist]

Truth in Two Lines

Readings: Psalm 124; Genesis 8:1-19; Romans 6:1-11

If the Lord had not been on our side, *

let Israel now say;

If the Lord had not been on our side, *

when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive *

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us *

and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters *

have gone right over us.

Blessed be the Lord! *

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; *

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the Lord, *

the maker of heaven and earth. [Psalm 124, NRSV]

Those of you who love the office of Compline as I do will recognize verse 8 of Psalm 124 in the opening versicle and response;

Officiant: Our help is in the Name of the Lord;

People: The maker of heaven and earth.

It’s all right there, isn’t it? In the liturgy designed by John Calvin for use in his churches at Strasburg and Geneva, the services began with this versicle and response. Calvin chose it because he understood that in these two brief lines, the truth about the gathered community is summed up perhaps better than any one sentence could possibly do. (1)

The Psalm itself is broken into three parts: a recollection of God’s faithful deliverance in the past, the praise of the people for that deliverance, and a corporate declaration of trust. There is only one way a Psalm like this gets written, and that is as a reflection of a journey with God over time, lots of time. And that is the beauty of it for us. Through the toils and tests of our lives and the life of our community we see only a speck, an infinitesimal sample of what the Almighty knows and has seen. Yet we can close our eyes at the end of a long day, before we go off to the unknown world of sleep and in that moment claim words of truth that only an eternal perspective can fully grasp. It’s all right there, isn’t it? The content of our faith and our lives is right there in these simple words of trust. May they be your guiding light during this beautiful, dark season of Advent.

(1 James L. Mays, InterpretationPsalms, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1994, p. 397)

Offered by Dave Fredrickson, spiritual director and pastor, walking home to Bethlehem.

[Rowhouse, 2018-2019, by Colin Fredrickson]

Why?

 

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? [Isaiah 55]

How much of my money do I spend on things that do not nourish me, or anyone else for that matter? Bread in the literal sense, and in the necessities-of-life figurative sense, is anything that is required to support a healthy and holy life. Those things that sustain body, heart, mind, and soul are bread. A quick review of recent receipts and my finances overall confirms what I don’t like  to admit: I spend quite a bit of money on things that subtract from my life more than they add to it.

How much of my time, talent, and effort do I give over to attaining or experiencing things that do not and cannot satisfy me or anyone else? It’s not just money I’ve spent on things that lessen my life and the life of the world: the time I’ve devoted to meaningless things can’t be retrieved. The energy I’ve given to feeding anger or resentment isn’t recyclable. I’m kidding myself if I think having one more possession or obsession beyond the food/clothing/shelter basics is going to satisfy my longing for a good and holy life.

The bad news: I can’t earn or buy a good and holy life by spending my limited time and money on additional and unnecessary things.

The good news: I don’t need to buy with my money and life’s time a good and holy life. God grants that gift freely.  Once I accept this as the gospel truth, I can devote my inner and outer resources to the bread that feeds this beloved world.

[For more on this series, click Isaiah 55 above.]

 

Come! Everyone’s invited!

“Ho everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Isaiah 55, NRSV

Wareham as a town does a lot of things poorly. But Wareham gets one life-changing thing right: lunch.

When school children line up to pay for their lunches, they punch in a number and take their food. Buying lunch is the same for full price, reduced price, and free lunch. There’s no way to tell who has the means to pay and who doesn’t: the same milk and the same meals are bought by everyone. The same is true for the summer meals program: anyone can take a free lunch at any of the sites. No names are required or requested, and extra meals are offered without regard to how much or little money they have.

For the past four summers, I’ve had the great honor of seeing this practice in action at the local library. I’ve seen strangers share a meal and a picnic table, forming friendships that wouldn’t have happened any other way. But I’m not just witnessing kindness or a social program success: I’m being given a glimpse of God’s kingdom. In my home town, on an ordinary day at the public library, God’s purpose is fulfilled. Without money and without price.

Thanks be to God! Amen.

Invitation to Isaiah 55

It’s harvest time around here – the last fruits of summer and the ongoing bounty of early Autumn can be found at the local farmers’ markets: apples, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkins. What better time to delve into Isaiah’s invitation to live an abundant life than now, from beginning of Fall to Thanksgiving? I hope you will join me, singing this ancient song to the Lord…

“Ho everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price. 

“Why do you spend  your  money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,and delight yourselves in rich food.

“Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.

“See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes from my mouth; it shall not return empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

“For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

“Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Isaiah 55, NRSV

Homework Time

Homework is what the teacher assigns to reinforce the learning that happened in the classroom. Originally, it was meant to be enough of a practice that a newly acquired skill wouldn’t be lost. In the right amount, with good classroom instruction, homework enhances the life of the mind.

What about the life of the spirit? What knowledge and skills do we learn in our faith communities, and what do we take home to strengthen them? Reading scripture daily, along with devotional readings, can increase our understanding and appreciation for holy writings. Praying for those in need can broaden our awareness of what is required for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Centering prayer, praying the Jesus prayer or the rosary can quiet our hearts, bodies, minds, and souls. All these things and more can be considered spiritual homework. But none of them will move us into wisdom and compassion if we refuse to learn one fundamental truth:

Without Love, None Of It Is Worth A Damn. (I Cor. 13)

Looking for God in all the wrong places…

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Luke 24:1-5a, NRSV

When you were a child, did you ever run into your teacher somewhere unexpected- the market, a fall fair, gas station, or restaurant? If you are like me, it made you feel really uncomfortable. Teachers are supposed to be in school, not picking out cold medicine and birthday cards at the drugstore in downtown Farmington, New Hampshire. That teachers have a life beyond their roles in the classroom, that they might be living and breathing people just like me – what a strange thought! That they might not live in the limited, school-shaped box I assumed they did was a shocking idea: that meant they were more than what I knew of them and how I experienced them.

The disciples who loved Jesus, who followed him and put their hopes in him, had expected to find Jesus in a tomb-shaped box among the dead. When he wasn’t confined to their limited understanding of him, when he wasn’t where they placed him in the grand scheme of things, it must have been the shock of a lifetime.

I hope I learn this lesson well enough to stop putting God in a box of specific shape and size – no matter how lovely the box, it won’t be big enough to contain the creator of the whole universe. Even church-shaped, denominationally decorated boxes will not contain a living Christ.

[The Deer’s Cry, Rita Connolly, from Shaun Davey, The Pilgrim, released 1983, recorded at Festival Interceltique de Loriant, Glasgow royal concert hall, Tara Music]

Where there is Poverty

Where there is Poverty and Joy,

there is neither Cupidity nor Avarice. St. Francis, The Admonitions XXVII

[For the complete prayer, click “Walking from Easter to Pentecost with St. Francis]

There is a lot packed into these twelve words, so I’m taking my time with this sentence. Today, just the first four are quite enough.

Poverty is the ability to see what is necessary and what is not – and paring life down to avoid confusing the two. For Francis, that meant giving up everything he owned and trusting that God would hold him fast. For such a leap of faith, he gained a life of joy and peace.

Is my life where poverty lives? If I read the lines right, avarice takes up residence wherever poverty doesn’t. Avarice is that awful compulsion to stuff everything possible into my life’s shopping cart, trying to avoid spiritual bankruptcy with cases of ramen noodles, pricey cars, marble countertops and designer fixtures. There’s never enough of anything, so everything must be grasped at and held in clenched fists; nothing can be spared, even for those in true need. Avarice is malnourishment to the point of starvation, because I’ve stuffed myself full of empty things and have no room for the daily bread that sustains. It’s starvation by excessive consumption.

Poverty is choosing daily bread over cotton candy, enough for today over hoarded junk food. When I trust that my life is safe in God’s embrace and in my neighbor’s company, I will rest content with what my labor brings me and I can happily give of what I have to help someone else.

Gracious God, I want to see what is necessary and good. I want to live a generous life. Help me give up everything that keeps me from such a life. Amen.