Thursday, June 26, 2014


Rittenhouse Square, November 2013

Several years ago I had the pleasure of getting involved in a band. We were home grown. Friends. Originally, it was just Andy, Barry and me. We didn't have a name, so we referred to ourselves as the ABC Band. Andy and Barry were the real talent. Both gifted musicians. Andy played bass and keyboard and sang. Barry played lead guitar and blessed us with his amazing talent and giftedness. I kept busy with percussion and background vocals. Together, we practiced and performed . . . for fun and to the glory of God. As time went on, others joined us. Early on, Mari (Barry's wife) stepped in and helped to anchor the vocal section. Other friends joined in from time to time. We renamed ourselves Zion's Hill.

The band provided us all with a sense of healing and release in the midst of struggle and pain. We discovered that we could only do together what we were incapable of doing alone. 

So, this morning as I am remembering this time and reflecting on all that has happened since, one word from a song began to echo in my mind. Captivated. 

A song that Zion's Hill covered was All of Creation by Mercy Me. The second verse begins with these words: 
Captivated but no longer bound by chains. 
In the brief order for confession and forgiveness from our Lutheran liturgy, our confession begins with these words: 
Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.
Sometimes our language can be complicated. Communication can be a challenge. Being captive to sin is bondage.  It is deadly. Being captivated by Christ, being captive to God's love, grace, and forgiveness is healing. Oddly, it sets us free.

I have been transformed by this amazing grace. Not all at once, but again and again. God is relentless, patient, and faithful. And I've seen this same amazing grace work in the lives of others. My friend Barry was and is under the life-saving influence of this transforming love of God. Jesus is real, alive, and active in Barry's life today. Even in the face of recent sufferings as the result of several strokes, Barry is beginning again to make music. He continues to be grateful to his Lord Jesus for the healing he has experienced. No longer enslaved, yet captivated.

Who or what captivates you? As we live with the recognition that we are indeed still captive to sin and cannot free ourselves, how are we simultaneously freed to live captivated by Christ?  To what extent does this remain a struggle?

As you think about it, take a few minutes and listen to All of Creation by Mercy Me.

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Everyone involved with Vacation Bible School throughout this week is having a blast. Our last session is this-evening (Thursday).  Rumor has it that there will be ice-cream! We are looking forward to sharing some of the music we learned throughout the week in worship on Sunday. Please plan to be there. We are in this together. 

Thank you to everyone who was involved with VBS this year.  It was a joy to welcome everyone here and also meet some new friends visiting from surrounding neighborhoods!

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Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 29, 2014

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Prayer of the Day
O God, you direct our lives by your grace,
and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.
Mold us into people who welcome your word and serve one another, 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trinity: Holy, Blessed, & Confusing

The Holy Trinity after Andrei Rublev, 1411

The faith of the Church, the faith in which we baptize, is trinitarian. You and I have been commissioned to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We teach and confess that there is one God. We teach and confess that God is three. You've heard it before, the church confesses and worships the Holy Trinity.

This coming Sunday is entitled: The Holy Trinity. It is the only Sunday that we gather to intentionally highlight a doctrine of the Faith. Most of the time, we are celebrating festivals that have to do with the life of Jesus, events in the life of the Church, or teachings and readings that represent the biblical witness.

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

We rehearse this all the time. God is three persons. God is one. We have been baptized into this mystery.

In some of my reading recently, I came across the following claims that I found helpful in my own ongoing growth in the faith.  They are from, God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life, by Catherine Mowry LaCugna (originally published in 1973).

[T]he doctrine of the Trinity is not above all a theory about God's 'internal self-relatedness' but an effort to articulate the basic faith of Christians: In Jesus Christ, the ineffable and invisible God saves us from sin and death; by the power of the Holy Spirit, God continues to be altogether present to us, seeking everlasting communion with all creatures.
The Spirit of God, poured into our hearts as love (Rom. 5.5), gathers us together into the body of Christ, transforming us so that "we become by grace what God is by nature," namely, persons in full communion with God and every creature.
and finally,
The doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately therefore a teaching not about the abstract nature of God, nor about God in isolation from everything other than God, but a teaching about God's life with us and our life with each other. Trinitarian theology could be described as par excellence a theology of relationship, which explores the mysteries of love, relationship, personhood and communion within the framework of God's self-revelation in the person of Christ and the activity of the Spirit.
Masaccio, The Trinity, 1425

Take a few minutes and watch this interesting video: Masaccio "The Trinity"(Magic of Illusion)

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The Holy Trinity
Sunday, June 15, 2014

Almighty God our Father, dwelling in majesty and mystery, renewing and fulfilling creation by your eternal Spirit, and revealing your glory through our Lord, Jesus Christ: Cleanse us from doubt and fear, and enable us to worship you, with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, living and reigning, now and forever.

Almighty Creator and ever-living God:
we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One, 
and we praise your power, majestic One-in-Three. 
Keep us steadfast in this faith, 
defend us in all adversity, 
and bring us at last into your presence, 
where you live in endless joy and love, 
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever.

Genesis 1:1—2:4a
Psalm 8
2 Corinthians 13:11–13
Matthew 28:16–20

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Veni, Creator Spiritus

When the day of Pentecost came. Mark A Hewitt, pastel & pen. 26 May 2012

I'm anticipating this Sunday's celebration of Pentecost with a sense of peace and passion. I want to be prepared, but not so prepared that I think I'm in control. Getting ready for Pentecost is more than about looking for something red to wear for worship.  (Although, yes, take some time to set aside something red for Sunday!) Below are some resources to help in our mutual preparation for Pentecost. I invite you to dwell in the prayers and lessons that are posted here.

Openness to the Holy Spirit, I believe, is one of the most significant postures and attitudes for the church. Without it, we loose our ability to grow, be renewed and  experience transformation. 

I'm also now preparing to participate in the annual Lower Susquehanna Synod Assembly. From the agenda I've seen, it looks like business as usual. I'll be praying for Pentecostal moments of vision and clarity for the church as we gather. I invite you to pray too.

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Day of Pentecost
Sunday, June 8, 2014

Prayer of the Day
O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit. Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23

Take a few minutes and play this video/sound recording and meditate on the words below.

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven.

One of the most widely used hymns in the Church, Veni, Creator 
Spiritus, is attributed to Rabanus Maurus; (776-856). It is used 
at Vespers, Pentecost, Dedication of a Church, Confirmation, and Ordination 
(Holy Orders) and whenever the Holy Spirit is solemnly invoked.