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Sunday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 2: 1-5. The Mountain of the Lord
1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
5 Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.
Monday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 4:2-6… the Branch of the Lord
2 In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel.
3 Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem.
4 The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit
5 Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy.
6 It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.
Tuesday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 11:1-10… The Branch from Jesse
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD –
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.
Wednesday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 25:6-10a… the Lord Almighty
6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.
9 In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
10 The hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain; but Moab will be trampled under him
as straw is trampled down in the manure.
Thursday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 26:1-6… A Song of Praise
1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city; God makes salvation
its walls and ramparts.
2 Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter,
the nation that keeps faith.
3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.
5 He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.
6 Feet trample it down—
the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.
Friday, First Week of Advent; Isaiah 29:17-24… the Humble Rejoice
17 In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field
and the fertile field seem like a forest?
18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.
19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD;
the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20 The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear,
and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down-
21 those who with a word make a man out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.
22 Therefore this is what the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, says to the house of Jacob:
“No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will their faces grow pale.
23 When they see among them their children,
the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy;
they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24 Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;
those who complain will accept instruction.”
Saturday, First Week of Advent; Luke 1:26-38… The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”
38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
(Scriptures taken from the New International Version)
Worship is “the act of adoring and praising God, that is ascribing worth to God as the one who deserves homage and service.” People use the word “worship” to mean many things… singing, recitation of creeds and the Lord’s Prayer, contemplation of nature, activities that honor God, strategies to reach others, liturgies and musical styles. The essence of worship is a reciprocal relationship with God, a type of “revelation and response.” As God in his grace and mercy speaks to his people through the power of His Spirit, his Word touches the deep places in one’s heart. We experience his grace, his conviction and forgiveness, his love, truth, comfort and guidance. In response, “we love God with heart, soul, mind and strength.”
The Word of God records the response of creation to God, the response of the first human beings and the response of people throughout centuries of interaction with God. In worship, God engages us in a holistic experience that touches all aspects of our human experience.
Through worship, we retell the story of the Gospel, the good news of all that God has done with his people, through the Creation, the Fall, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and his death, burial and resurrection. We tell the story of the saving power of the Savior. We do not simply reenact the events of God’s history with man, but we personally interact with and response to God’s presence.
Worship is a dramatic enactment of the relationship that we have with God, a relationship that stems from historical events. Enactment may be done by means of recitation and drama. Recitation (creeds, hymns and preaching) and drama (or ritual) have their basis in the Old Testament and the New Testament, particularly in the Passover and Eucharist. In worship we enact or act out the Gospel.
(continues in installment 2)
The Daily Office (Daily Order of Prayer) can be said anywhere, but, for Morning and Evening Prayer, it is recommended that a quiet place, as free from interruptions as possible, is chosen. Our lives are usually too full of noise, so this is the ideal moment of the day to experience real silence.
Starting and ending
Daily Office Prayers are best begun and ended with a period of reflective silence; and by affirming that the prayers are said in ‘the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’
The words of the Daily Office are drawn from a variety of sources, such as St Patrick’s Breastplate, Teresa’s Bookmark, Columba’s Blessing, etc – and from Psalm 27 for Morning Prayer, Psalm 90 for Midday Prayer and Psalm 130 for Evening Prayer.
Scripture readings and meditations
Morning and Evening Prayer should include scripture readings, meditations and prayers. Selected scriptures should be short and time should be allowed after each reading for its meaning to filter down from the head to the heart, and to seek the significance of each for that day.
The meditation for the day may be obtained from various resources, such as the Upper Room daily devotionals, The Daily Bread, the Bible Reading Plans from NavPress, from the book “This Day, a Wesleyan Way of Prayer” or from the Northumbria Community. You may have your favorite devotional book that you use each year. Some people may read a Psalm, the chapter of Proverbs for the day, and/or a short portion from the gospels. The important point is that a time of silence and reflection should be allowed for new insights to develop in the mind and heart before moving on. Some find that the mornings tend to be too rushed for lengthy silences and that this can best wait till evening prayer. The important thing is to find a rhythm that works for you.
After the scripture readings and meditations, there is an opportunity to pray whatever is on your mind and heart, offering to God the concerns of the day, your personal needs and prayers for other people. A ‘prayer basket’ or ‘prayer pot’ may be used from which are selected three names for holding up before God. The basket or prayer pot contains slips of paper on which have been written the names of folk to be remembered in prayer. (It is of course important that names are added and removed regularly as circumstances change.) The selected slips may be placed where they can be seen from time to time during the day, or carried around, as a reminder for continued prayer.
This is specially devised for use in the middle of a busy working day. For this reason it is short, and can be prayed in the time it takes to boil a kettle, especially if committed to memory. Some find it helpful to make a point of saying it while moving around (while preparing lunch for instance) as a reminder to pray as we work and work as we pray.
Others find it a welcome opportunity to withdraw from the tensions and busyness of the day to spend some time quiet and alone with God, putting the day’s work into a different perspective.
Midday Prayer retains the ‘thee and ‘thou’ forms of speech. This may seem unfamiliar to the many who are used only to modern language, but it is a deliberate attempt to highlight the contemporary relevance of the treasure of prayer from long ago.
Evening Prayer gives us a time at the end of the day to reflect on our walk with the Lord during that day, to center our thoughts and hearts on the Lord through scripture reading, listening to worship music and prayer. The Celtic Evening Prayer includes a poetic Expression of Faith.
In the relatively few years I’ve been in United Methodist ministry I’ve been impacted personally and seen the church impacted by massive social and cultural change. In chapter 9, Transition and Culture, Alan Roxburgh states, “North American culture is in a process of radical change. It is being uprooted in a competition of values as an increasingly globalized, multi-cultural society emerges. At the same time, particular forms of Christian identity are being challenged and disembedded from their former role as a definer of core traits for our culture. .. Basic, long-held, tacit assumptions, frameworks and values of both our culture and our churchres are being challenged, eroded, and transformed.”
The core traits, values and world view, of the church are changing so rapidly that most lay leaders and clergy are bewildered and astonished. What is needed to address these changes? How can leaders come together to form communitas? “Communitas is the willingness of people to risk entering a new commons where they journey together as God’s pilgrim people in order to discern together the future that God’s Spirit might be bringing forward to them. It calls for a willingness from leaders … to recognize the gifts of the other and a readiness to submit themselves as novices to each other. This is uncommon at the moment; however, it is possible.” (p. 111)
In my interaction with UM leaders and ministry leaders from other Christian traditions in the US and other parts of the world, the same questions and preoccupations come up over and over again. How can we be in community? How can we empower the church in this time of transition? How can we form new connections, new roles, a new future with God, the great “I AM”, the “I shall be there as there I shall be”? How can we share the life of Jesus Christ in relevant, life-sustaining and life-giving manners? How can we live our own personal and corporate/institutional lives in this time of massive change?
Share your thoughts and questions with me?
In the upcoming, ongoing visual curriculum series To Be Told, Latino pastor Claudio Oliver asks the question, “Do you have a mission or does the mission have you?” A short film, Missio Dei is from Red del Camino Network for Integral Mission in Latin America (www.lareddelcamino.net). To Be Told is an alternative multi-media, alternative teaching series featuring stories that reveal God’s Kingdom on earth. To see the video go to: http://emergingumc.blogspot.com/
God has been using stories to reveal himself since the beginning of time, but today many of these stories are never told. We are called to tell them. And like Jesus, we seek to tell them with creativity, and passion.
The stories that are told in the series To Be Told come from the margins. They are stories about a quiet revolution of hope among the mostly unnoticed citizens of God’s Kingdom. They are stories about people and communities of faith that are actively participating in God’s restorative plans for all of creation. They are stories that reveal new ways of thinking about faith, and new ways of living out that faith today.
To Be Told is an initiative of Del Camino Connection in strategic alliance with The Work of the People. Del Camino Connection (DCC) is a not-for-profit organization that was created to serve and support the Del Camino Network for Integral Mission in Latin America and the Caribbean, a movement of local churches committed to living out God’s plan to make all things new. The Work of the People is a community of artists and storytellers that creates visual media for worship and mission. (www.theworkofthepeople.com)