Friday, December 16, 2016

Longing


Having a craving can be a good thing. Although, I suppose it depends on what it is we crave. To crave, strictly defined, is to feel a powerful desire for something. The list is long and can become very personal and intimate. 

When our cravings encounter the object of their desire, there is a moment of fulfillment. Yet, satisfaction is short-lived and fleeting.

Both our physical and emotional desires are relatively uncomplicated, strait forward. Making a list and checking it twice becomes second nature. What's a bit more complex is discerning what comprises our spiritual appetite.

Anticipating Christmas can be a curious thing. There is perhaps no "time of year" encrusted with such a wide variety of expectations. Close to the root of these expectations are the kernels of our deepest cravings. If we can peel back the layers of desires and longings we have, we may encounter the restlessness that longs for peace.

Saint Augustine of Hippo is well known for having written the following:  
"Our Hearts are Restless Until They Rest in You"  
From the Confessions, Saint Augustine of Hippo 



Especially in the midst of the business of this week ahead, I would like to invite you to hit the pause button on a regular basis and take the time to contemplate. Engage in a bit of self-examination to discern your deeper longing. Consider the possibility (probability) that this longing is a gift. Consider that you are not the only one longing. Christ is longing for you. Christ is waiting for your Advent because the incarnation comes to fulfillment in the Body of Christ which includes you. You are necessary. God has a purpose for you.

Here is a list and description of the worship services scheduled for the week ahead. Avail yourself of these opportunities to gather in prayer and worship to be encountered by Christ in the Means of Grace and one another.



Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 18, 2016
Christmas Breakfast at 8:45 a.m. in Fellowship Hall
10:00 AM Holy Communion


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

11:00 AM Blue Christmas Service
This a time and place of solace during the often frenetic days surrounding the celebration of Christmas. We come together seeking healing and room to share grief, sadness, loneliness, or confusion when these emotions often feel out of place during the holidays.

7:00 PM Hanging of the Greens
A Hands-on time of prayer and blessing


Christmas Eve
Saturday, December 24, 2016
7:00 PM Candlelight Christmas with a twist


Christmas Day
Sunday, December 25, 2016
10:00 AM Holy Communion


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Enduring Citizenship


Let's just acknowledge that neither major political party or its presidential candidate manifests the Christian virtue of humility very well. In your mind, perhaps one candidate stands out over the other in their ability to be self-promoting and self-absorbed. However, to focus on such possibilities is to miss a larger point, I believe.

In my mind, our present situation as citizens of this country is revelatory. What is being revealed are consequences of years (decades!) of indifference, micro-mindedness, and arrogance. While we would like to name and blame the enemy, the other side, "them" . . . we are all quickly realizing that for better or worse, we are in this together.

From within this conundrum we identify ourselves as Christians and profess allegiance to a monarch, none other than Christ the King, whose kingdom is not of this world (see John 18:36).

What do you make of that? How are we called to enact our citizenship in Christ's reign while dealing with the very visceral landscape of our political tempest?

I cling to the hope that the wind that seems to drive this current storm is the Wind par excellence: the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God. We can indeed be hopeful because when and where the Holy Spirit is operative, dry bones can live, repentance is possible, forgiveness is available, and hope can be restored . . . and it does not disappoint (see Romans 5).



All Saints Sunday
November 6, 2016

Prayer of the Day 
Almighty God, 
you have knit your people together 
in one communion 
in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints 
in lives of faith and commitment, 
and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared 
for those who love you, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you 
and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever.   Amen

Readings 
Revelation 7:9-17 
Psalm 34:1-10, 22 
1 John 3:1-3 
Matthew 5:1-12 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Beyond the Familiar


This may be a bit overwhelming and perhaps difficult to absorb all at once. However, I would like to challenge you (and myself) to jump in with boldness and hope and consider what follows. I mentioned in last week's gathering that this coming Sunday we would discuss the Nairobi Statement. I don't expect that you have ever heard about it. It does, though, provide an interesting framework for our ongoing discussion.

The Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture, from the Department for Theology and Studies of the Lutheran World Federation and completed in 1996, provides for us a rich description of the dynamic relationship between worship and culture and gives us lenses to help frame our conversations. 

A lens alters how we perceive what is in front of us—shading when the light is too bright, magnifying what is near or too far away. In a similar way, the Nairobi Statement alters our vision by showing us four ways worship relates to culture: trans-cultural, counter-cultural, contextual and cross-cultural. 



The product of the Lutheran World Federation Worship and Culture Study in the 1990s, the Nairobi Statement arose from the face-to-face discussions of Lutherans from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the Central African Republic, Chile, China, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, New Guinea, Norway, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, and the USA, as these participants urgently talked together about faithful worship in Lutheran churches in our time. They were helped in this discussion by ecumenical partners who came from the Philippines, Kenya and the USA. They were convened by the Rev. S. Anita Stauffer, and it was she who created the draft which, at a meeting in Kenya in 1996, became the whole group’s Nairobi Statement.


NAIROBI STATEMENT ON WORSHIP AND CULTURE: 
Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities 

1. Introduction 
1.1. Worship is the heart and pulse of the Christian Church. In worship we celebrate together God's gracious gifts of creation and salvation, and are strengthened to live in response to God's grace. Worship always involves actions, not merely words. To consider worship is to consider music, art, and architecture, as well as liturgy and preaching.

1.2. The reality that Christian worship is always celebrated in a given local cultural setting draws our attention to the dynamics between worship and the world's many local cultures.

1.3 Christian worship relates dynamically to culture in at least four ways. 

  • First, it is trans-cultural, the same substance for everyone everywhere, beyond culture. 
  • Second, it is contextual, varying according to the local situation (both nature and culture).
  • Third, it is counter-cultural, challenging what is contrary to the Gospel in a given culture. 
  • Fourth, it is cross-cultural, making possible sharing between different local cultures. 

In all four dynamics, there are helpful principles which can be identified.

Read More

We face a significant challenge. We are less than whole when entire segments of our faith community (and potential faith community) are largely absent from our assembly. If worship is indeed the heart and pulse of the Christian Church, than we may be in need of a spiritual cardiologist or at least an honest appraisal of our current heart health. Our mission requires us to move beyond the familiar.

Please prayerfully consider this Nairobi Statement and anticipate a lively exchange on Sunday morning.


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Reformation Sunday
October 30, 2016

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, gracious Lord, 
we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. 
Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. 
Keep them steadfast in your word, 
protect and comfort them in times of trial, 
defend them against all enemies of the gospel, 
and bestow on the church your saving peace, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever.  Amen

Readings
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46
Romans 3:19-28
Luke 8:31-36




Friday, October 21, 2016

Who is Welcome?

An Australian pineapple farmer out, standing in his field
Tropical Pineapples, Yeppoon, on the tropic of Capricorn in Central Queensland

When you consider who should be on the guest list for the meal we share each week, are there any restrictions? Holy Communion, one of the sacraments of the church, is the meal of Christ's Body and Blood. It is by Christ's invitation that we come to the table. No one is coerced. But are there limits?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is considering this question in discussions like the one we are initiating in this series of Faith Formation classes this month. 

Included in the introductory material for this emphasis are the following paragraphs:
For most Christians  through many centuries, Holy Baptism has been considered the sacrament of initiation or entrance into the church, while Holy Communion is the sacrament that nourishes and sustains Christians week by week. This remains the recommended practice in the ELCA. Our church's statement on the practice of word and sacrament, The Use of the Means of Grace states: 
         Principle 37
Admission to the Sacrament is by invitation of the Lord, presented through the Church to those who are baptized. 
Increasingly, in many congregations of this church and our ecumenical partners, the invitation to receive communion is for everyone, not only for those who have been baptized. For some, this is a simple matter of hospitality. If this is Christ's table, then all are welcome. Period. For others, the initiatory nature of baptism into the body of Christ is critical. Becoming a baptized and communing Christian involves serious commitment and even risk. The invitation, therefore, must be gracious yet clear: Holy Communion is for the baptized; the call to Holy Baptism is for all. Still others find some middle ground in this important conversation.
Like much of the material that comes to us from the churchwide expression of the ELCA, these paragraphs are long on explanation and short on direction. In other words, we are invited to acknowledge and embrace the need for conversation while wrestling with the matter together. Luckily, for this wrestling match we have rich theological and confessional resources as well as the witness of scripture. 

On Sunday morning during our class session, following an introductory presentation, I will attempt to facilitate such a conversation with and among you. Together we will reflect on past experiences that we have shared and ones that we may have had individually when we visited other congregations. Questions we will entertain include these:

  • What does "hospitality" mean? 
  • When and where have you experienced hospitality? 
  • When did you begin to receive Holy Communion?
  • How have you extended the invitation to others?


The Lamb of God (detail)
15th century "Ghent Altarpiece"

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Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
October 23, 2016

Prayer of the Day
Holy God, our righteous judge,
daily your mercy surprises us with everlasting forgiveness. 

Strengthen our hope in you, 
and grant that all the peoples of the earth 
may find their glory in you, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen
Readings
Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22
Psalm 84:1-7
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Form Follows Function


The American architect Louis Sullivan coined the phrase, Form Follows Function. Certainly this could be applied to the general design of the furnishings that we use in our worship space. The baptismal font and the altar are intended to be the two most central furnishings. It could be said of them that their form follows their function.

Like most furniture, the font and table need to function well, or they become obstacles.

Over the next four weeks in our Faith Formation time, we will spend some time exploring the function and form of font and table in our experience. We will also look beyond the furniture towards the meaning and mystery of the two sacraments that are associated with these furnishings. 

The sacrament of Holy Baptism and the sacrament of Holy Communion are means of God's grace. They define, form, and sustain us as a community of faith. Individually we return to them for reminders of who we are as children of God. Collectively we are strengthened and empowered by Christ's presence in them as they equip us for mission beyond ourselves and into the world that God so loves.

I invite you to take the time over the next four weeks to explore this with me and your brothers and sisters in Christ. This would be an excellent opportunity to review and renew your faith and invite others to come and see the gifts of God full of grace, purpose and hope.

A cross-shaped Byzantine baptismal font 
Avdat, Israel


Baptismal Font, St. Luke Lutheran Church
Chambersburg, PA


A Picture of a Baptismal Font 
found on Google


St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church
Chambersburg, PA


Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Washington DC



Christ the King Lutheran Church
Houston, Texas




Saturday, October 1, 2016

Is More More?



In tomorrow's reading from Luke's gospel, the apostles say to the Lord: Increase our faith. 

Have you ever felt stalled in your faith? Do you wonder how you get faith, how you attain it? How much is enough? Is more more?

Take a few moments before tomorrow to read ahead.  While the appointed gospel text is Luke 17:5-10, begin with the first verse of that chapter and read about forgiveness. Allow the text to agitate you. Permit questions to come to the surface of your heart and mind. In so doing, may we all remain open to hearing the Word tomorrow with desire and openness. Remember, don't be afraid. As the apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3, the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.


Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
October 2, 2016

Prayer of the Day
Benevolent, merciful God: When we are empty, fill us. When we are weak in faith, strengthen us. When we are cold in love, warm us, that with fervor we may love our neighbors and serve them for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen.

Readings
Habakkuk 1:1-14, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-9
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

1Jesus said to his disciples, "Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! 2It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. 4And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive."

5The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

7Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? 8Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"

(Luke 17:1-10 NRSV)



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Desire


A few weeks ago I shared a poem/prayer by Thomas Merton in a sermon. Quite a few folks requested that I make copies of it available.  Here is the text:

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. 
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. 
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. 
Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."
From Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton.


Thomas Merton
1915-1968

This would be a good prayer for all of us to adopt into our prayer life. If you don't have a regular prayer life and routine, I encourage you to make a start with this. Perhaps you could also incorporate periods of silent contemplation and meditation following each phrase or sentence. 

Listening for God in our sound-filled world requires a level of intentionality. So try being intentional about it.  Too often we offer up to God our to-do list and hope our recommendations and suggestions are carried out in a timely fashion. If we are really interested in attending to God's will, then we may well need to relinquish our own. Can our desire we aligned with God's.

Our Fourth Wednesday evenings of pot-luck supper, Bible Study and prayer will resume (beginning August 24 at 6:00 PM). Together we can make this a rhythm of our life as a congregation. Our weekly gathering around Word and Sacrament on Sunday mornings is the central component of our family of faith. This can be fortified with a regular and intentional attention to Bible Study and Prayer. 

In fact, for those who are absent from the Sunday assembly for whatever reason, these Fourth Wednesday gatherings are ideal ways to remain engaged and fortified in faith. Even the regulars of Sunday can be blessed by this monthly supplement. Because of their less-structured format, these Fourth Wednesday gatherings provide an opportunity for a more conversational approach to God's Word and varied experience of prayer and contemplation. Give it a try! 

Looking ahead to Sunday . . .

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 28, 2016


Prayer of the Day
O God, you resist those who are proud 
and give grace to those who are humble. 
Give us the humility of your Son, 
that we may embody the generosity of Jesus Christ, 
our Savior and Lord.  Amen


Readings and Psalm
Proverbs 25:6-7 
Psalm 112 
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 
Luke 14:1, 7-14 
In stories which anyone can understand, today’s readings provide the essence of what we might call distinctive Christianity, specifically the way in which God deals with people. The church in its celebration of the eucharist is the only table to which not only friends and relatives are invited, but also cripples, the blind, the maimed and the oppressed. We can come to it in wheelchairs, with a broken and tormented heart; even our enemies may come. Here we already experience a vision of the future in which all those who are humiliated and discriminated against are exalted. In the liturgy we experience what we cannot fully achieve, much as we would want to. In the liturgy we confess that our love for one another is actually a pure gift of God.                             
Edward Schillebeeckx, OP
[Edward Schillebeeckx, OP, God Among Us: The Gospel Proclaimed (New York: Crossroad, 1983), 54-55.]

Friday, July 15, 2016

Big Picture


The events of recent weeks caused an impromptu but intentional change of plans for last week's discussion in our Faith Formation class. (The topic of Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue and commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 will be taken up in a series of classes in October of this year.) This coming Sunday we will continue our conversation from last Sunday in light of current events and the question of the church's role and response.

In our discussions last Sunday, I asked us all to consider what may be the over-arching issues that confront us as a society and as a church in society.

Here are some of the responses that were provided by participants: institutional racism, communication, guns, the need for contemplative prayer, inequality, wealth distribution, mental health research, fear, disrespect, understanding, helplessness, disintegration of the family unit, ethnocentricity, unravelling, the other, common sense, and awareness.

The events of this week have proven to be as overwhelming as the last.

There was a memorial service in Dallas on Tuesday for the fallen police officers. President Obama spoke. I've included three excerpts from his address below for our consideration and as one point of reference as we continue our conversation. (No doubt there are others.)
Whether you are black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or of Middle Eastern descent, we have all seen this bigotry in our own lives at some point.  We’ve heard it at times in our own homes.  If we’re honest, perhaps we’ve heard prejudice in our own heads and felt it in our own hearts.  We know that.  And while some suffer far more under racism’s burden, some feel to a far greater extent discrimination’s sting.  Although most of us do our best to guard against it and teach our children better, none of us is entirely innocent.  No institution is entirely immune.  
... 
We also know what Chief Brown has said is true:  That so much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves.  As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools.  We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment.  We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs.  We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book -- and then we tell the police “you’re a social worker, you’re the parent, you’re the teacher, you’re the drug counselor.”  We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs, and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience.  Don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind.  And then we feign surprise when, periodically, the tensions boil over. 
... 
In the end, it's not about finding policies that work; it’s about forging consensus, and fighting cynicism, and finding the will to make change. 
Can we do this?  Can we find the character, as Americans, to open our hearts to each other?  Can we see in each other a common humanity and a shared dignity, and recognize how our different experiences have shaped us?  And it doesn’t make anybody perfectly good or perfectly bad, it just makes us human.  I don’t know.  I confess that sometimes I, too, experience doubt.  I've been to too many of these things.  I've seen too many families go through this.  But then I am reminded of what the Lord tells Ezekiel:  I will give you a new heart, the Lord says, and put a new spirit in you.  I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 
That’s what we must pray for, each of us:  a new heart.  Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens.  That’s what we’ve seen in Dallas these past few days.  That’s what we must sustain. 
Remarks by the President at Memorial Service for Fallen Dallas Police Officers, 
www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/07/12


President Barack Obama talks with Mick McHale, President, National Association of Police Organizations, after meeting with activists, civil rights, faith, law enforcement and elected leaders on building community trust, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, July 13, 2016. In the background, Black Lives Matter activist Mica Grimm hugs Col. Michael D. Edmonson, Superintendent of Police, Louisiana State Police. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


At times last Sunday our discussion became fairly embroiled in very specific areas of detail and concern. This coming Sunday, I challenge us to pull back a bit and look at the bigger picture. May we also consider our own individual culpability and the role that we as members of an institution play in the challenges and possibilities we face together?  

In 1951, H. Richard Niebuhr, considered one of the most important Christian theological ethicists of the 20th century, published Christ and Culture. In this work Niebuhr provides a history of how Christianity has responded to culture. This Sunday we will review the five prevalent viewpoints that he outlines. This will serve, I hope, as another point of references for our ongoing conversation.


By the way, everyone and anyone is welcome to attend this class on Sundays at 8:45. Come as you are and listen, participate, and share. The are no prerequisites! It will help you live a more engaged and informed life as a disciple of Jesus in the world throughout the week.

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9th Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, July 17, 2016

Prayer of the Day
Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest. 
Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence, 
that we may treasure your word above all else, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen.

Readings
Genesis 18:1-10a 
Psalm 15
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mercy & Mission

Paula Modersohn-Becker, The Good Samaritan, 1907

The tragic events of this past week are horrifying and incendiary. In the midst of violence and retaliation, we gather tomorrow to consider the mandate to be mindful of our neighbor with love and mercy. The contrast between current events and Jesus' teaching is striking.

I'll have more to say about all of this tomorrow, but for now, I invite you to take a few moments to read Luke 10:25-37.  In this selection you will find the familiar parable of the so-called Good Samaritan. Notice however, that this parable is not the whole of the passage. Jesus tells this parable in response to the second question from the lawyer (who is my neighbor?).

A map of Palestine in the time of Jesus. 
Jericho is just north of the Dead Sea
with Jerusalem to the west.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  Deuteronomy 6:4-6
What does mercy look like? When have you seen it last?  How have you experienced mercy? How have you shown mercy? As we consider the mission of the church, how might mercy inform us?


8th Sunday after Pentecost
July 10, 2016

Prayer of the Day
O Lord God, your mercy delights us, and the world longs for your loving care. Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen

Readings and Psalm
Deuteronomy 30:9-14 
Psalm 25:1-10 
Colossians 1:1-14 
Luke 10:25-37




Thursday, June 30, 2016

Knee-High


Maybe you've heard the saying that corn should be knee-high by the fourth of July. I'm not certain that it worked out that way this year -- at least in the fields of corn I noticed today. Harvest time may be a long way off, but there is a great deal to be anticipated as we live into the rest of these growing weeks and months in the meantime.

The same can be said of our own spiritual vitality and the ways in which the seed of God's Word grows and develops in our lives and in the lives of others. As you know, it takes time. And time takes time.

In anticipation of a harvest when the time is right, Jesus sends out seventy disciples to spread the word of salvation. Take a few minutes to review the gospel reading for this coming Sunday (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20). Come to worship to hear the story; gather at the feet of Jesus; and then be sent out as an emissary for Christ in your daily life. What may be the obstacles or excuses we use to delay our task of working for the harvest? 

Readings
Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm 66:1-9
Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20


Prayer of the Day
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, 
you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us. 
With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey, 
that we may spread your peace in all the world, 
through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen

Hymn for the Day
Because singing a hymn that is unfamiliar can be unsettling, perhaps a bit of introduction is helpful. The hymn “Lord Jesus, you shall be my song” (ELW 808), composed in 1961 and available in both the original French and an English translation, is identified with the international L’Arche communities which provide family-like homes for adults with disabilities. Appropriate for this Sunday, the hymn announces that throughout our life journey, we will sing to everyone about our Lord Jesus. Stanza 4 acknowledges that our journey may be difficult, but that at its end is God.

Listen to this version of the hymn a few times to become familiar with it.  We'll sing it a bit faster than this recording.


Here are the words of Stanza 4:
I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey;
but courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side.
And with all of the family you saved by your love,
we'll sing to your dawn at the end of our journey.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lord, Have Mercy


I find myself feeling disgusted, angry, frustrated, and numb in response to the news of the slaughter in Orlando. I wish I had words that could make sense of this tragedy.

In my view it is not as simplistic as jumping to conclusions about motive and affiliation in regard to the gunner. Yes, he squeezed the trigger again and again. Had he lived, he would have been held accountable for his actions. What we need to be held accountable for are the policies and systems that served to set this stage. When he squeezed his finger on the trigger, the trigger happened to belong to an assault rifle. As it turns out, he was perfectly free to purchase this gun in recent weeks, along with multiple rounds of ammunition that are specifically designed to kill people.

It disgusts me that such weapons are held in such high regard by so many. But what really is disappointing is how quickly the debate has become politicized thereby absolving many from self-examination and moral accountability.

I reluctantly share these reflections, knowing full well that some may parse them for offense. But let us all, no matter our stance and posture, see in this event in Orlando a cry for mercy. Lament the deaths of brothers and sisters. Lament along with those who have lost loved ones. Pray for the peace of God that surpasses all understanding to keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  O Lord, have mercy!

Christopher Frye
June 13, 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Dance of the Trinity


I recently visited a friend of mine to catch up on life. We shared dinner and conversation for nearly three hours. At one point in the conversation, he remarked how nice it was to actually sit with someone and have a conversation rather than simply have a series of email exchanges or electronic messages. While texting and email dominate the way we stay in touch these days, there is no substitute for face to face, one on one conversation.

On the same trip, earlier in the day I had great plans to visit an art museum in Washington DC. As it happened, the weather was spectacular. The sun emerged and the day was beautiful. Blue sky, sunshine, and warmth conspired to derail my plans. So, instead of visiting the museum, I walked around a bit and eventually took a seat on a park bench. While sitting on the bench, I had the opportunity to meet Mark. He has extended family that live in Harrisburg. He grew up in the Southeast quadrant of DC. He said it's a rough place to live anymore. So, as it turns out, he lives in this park in the Northwest quadrant of the city. It's a relative haven from the chaos of his home neighborhood. He doesn't have a cellphone. Nor does he have what most of us would consider necessities.

For the next couple hours, Mark and I and some of his friends sat there on that park bench enjoying not only the beautiful weather, but also the blessing of conversation and community. Mark told me about the time he was stabbed in the stomach while trying to break up a fight on the Metro. He lifted up his shirt and showed me the scare. He said he lost a lot of blood, but was grateful that he could get to the hospital in time for the necessary care.


Mark also told me about a friend of his that has been in jail for nearly two years for stealing a slice of pizza from a street vendor. While he admitted that stealing the pizza was the wrong thing to do, he was frustrated over such a punishment. As it turns out, the fine that was set as his initial punishment was beyond his ability to pay. So, he was locked up. While he was locked up, he lost his job. And because he lost his job, he lost the ability to pay the fine on time. The result of all this is that he has been in prison ever since.

I experienced what I can refer to as emotional whiplash. This one-on-one conversation with Mark on the park bench reminded me how much I take for granted. Not only did it open my eyes to see the fallout of racial prejudice and systematic stereotyping, it also was a pointed reminder of the blessings that are available when we take the time to encounter our neighbor where they are. At the end of our visit, Mark asked me to pray for him. I asked him to pray for me as well.  Then he gave me a hug and a handshake and invited me to visit again. (He apologized for not smiling for the picture, but he was self-conscious because he is missing most of his front upper teeth.)

This Sunday (tomorrow!) as we gather for worship, the Church celebrates the Holy Trinity. This is a reminder that God has been revealed as a community. The unity that is God is revealed as Trinity. There is much room here for acknowledging the mystery. And we appropriately consider our own invitation to participate in the dance of the Trinity.


Weather its a lofty doctrine or the ordinariness of a park-bench conversation, God shows up. Have you had any God-sightings this week? Have you allowed your own plans to be derailed long enough to recognize the ways in which The Triune God is still a God of incarnation? Blessings abound when we take the time to attend to the Christ in our midst.

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Tomorrow is a busy day.  We will also be observing Celebration Sunday. Our 2020 Vision campaign has lead us to the point where we will all be asked to consider what type of commitment we will make in support the mission before us. I'm looking forward to our time together tomorrow. Rain or shine, may our fellowship be one that is graced with the Holy Trinity as we remember our identity as baptized children of God who have every reason to grow in boldness and hope!