Fear? Not!

Alleluia!  Sing to Jesus; his the scepter, his the throne; Alleluia!  his the triumph, his the victory alone. Hark!  The songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood: “Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by his blood.”

This is the first and last verse of hymn #392 in the ELW (Evangelical Lutheran Worship), which we sang last night at the observation of Christ’s ascension into heaven.  I like hymns that use this convention of repetition; the text strikes you a certain way when you sing it the first time, then the two or three verses in between expand and explore the theme and give the text a greater depth when you repeat it in the final verse.  More than anything, though, with this particular hymn, I was captivated by the last line:  “Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by his blood.”  What a beautifully inclusive vision!  It speaks of grace that transcends the artificial boundaries of nations, politics, denominations, etc.  We are all one to Christ.  We are all one in Christ.  This is our calling as a church. Even our Gospel reading for this Sunday, John 17:20-26, reflects this call to universal oneness and love:

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me…”

Following worship last night, I hung around in the atrium for a little while and found myself reading the bios of our 11 new members, posted on the bulletin board.  I was gratified and a little taken by surprise to see that over half of them specifically mentioned our refugee resettlement project as something they wanted to be involved with.  In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, since I’ve been working with these folks on the refugee resettlement committee, but it had never dawned on me that the committee is made up of new members, attracted to Grace by our sense of mission. This, to me, is an example of the very best kind of evangelism — in truth, the only kind of evangelism — the spreading of good news about something you truly believe in.  It goes much deeper than just trying to convince people that they should come to your church.  It’s inviting people to be a part of something that really matters, inviting them into works that reflect Christ’s glory and victory, like in the words of the hymn.   Continue reading “Fear? Not!”

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Prayer 101

This is one of a couple of forthcoming posts inspired by the conversations at the candidacy retreat last weekend — it’s been a good week of rumination and contemplation.  One comment that particularly sparked my interest was about prayer — the speaker (I think it was Bishop Maas) said that he’d never really been taught how to pray.  It made me pause and consider my own prayer life, how I learned to pray.  I remember reading prayers in the bulletin growing up and memorizing table and bedtime prayers and the Lord’s Prayer, and struggling to master the Apostle’s Creed.  But I don’t remember anyone sitting down with me and saying, “Okay, this is how you pray.”  It was just words.

It’s a question my confirmation students have been raising a lot in the past few weeks as we’ve been exploring the Lord’s Prayer: “How do you pray?”  It’s a good question to ask.  We always end our confirmation lessons with a prayer; however, aside from one very vocal student who, sadly, no longer attends confirmation, none of the students has ever voluntarily (and barely involuntarily) prayed at the end of class.  I asked them one day how they could be so outspoken with questions and discussion during class, but then instantly clam up when it came time to pray.  They replied honestly, “we don’t know how to pray.”

Well, how do you pray?  Continue reading “Prayer 101”

Entrance essay for candidacy

I will be continuing to post some of the things I’ve already written; I hope to get around to creating new content for this blog.  What I’m posting here is the essay I had to write as part of the first step of candidacy — it outlines the major chapters of my “call story” and gives some insight into why I chose to begin this process in the first place.

Entrance Essay

“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”  James 1:2-4

Faith has always been an integral part of my life, but my relationship with religion has been a little complicated.  Continue reading “Entrance essay for candidacy”

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