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Be still, and know that I am God…..
There is peace in brokenness, when we know that that the song continues to play even if at the time we cannot hear it.
I think one of the greatest diseases of the modern west is the need to fix things with immediacy. Very rarely can we find a patient patient. Sometimes I think that when suffering comes, and we cry out to God saying “fix me!” or “fix this!” he says “I am doing…..”
I believe the song that God sings is one of hope, peace, and true joy, and that our suffering can cause us to loose sight and sound of that, but being still and totally honest before God will allow us to again hear the melody.
This week take some time to tune in….
Espresso Scripture, by Ben Norton, 2009.
The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome
but kindly to everyone,
an apt teacher,
correcting opponents with gentleness.
2 Timothy 2:24-25 (NRSV)
God’s servant must not be argumentative,
but a gentle listener
and a teacher
who keeps cool,
working firmly but patiently
with those who refuse to obey.
2 Timothy 2:24-25 (The Message)
Today we consider gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit.
From birth onward, we seem to know instinctively how to be harsh and even cruel, particularly to those with whom we disagree. Most of us have mastered well the skills of sarcasm and superiority. Gentleness, on the other hand, seems to be something we have to learn, particularly when dealing with those who strongly oppose us.
Yet who among us would not prefer that we ourselves be corrected by a gentle person rather than by someone whose manner is rude and caustic? Paul asks the Corinthians a question whose answer is a foregone conclusion: “What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”
In our interactions at home, at church, in the workplace, in the world at large, the gentle manner of a Christian believer is a powerful testimony to the alluring gentleness of the Christ to whom we are to bear witness.
Give grace, O Lord Jesus, as I seek your way,
that I may grow more and more into your likeness
and that I may bear your ensign
as a banner of hope and direction
before all who are distraught or confused.
Through this time of daily devotion
instill in me your own gentleness,
quiet my over-wrought alarms,
and enable me to rest confidently in your wisdom.
These things grant by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
(excerpts from This Day: A Wesleyan Way of Prayer. Laurence Hull Stookey)
This morning, I joined in worship at the Gracewood UMC, Augusta, Ga. I had left my home, intending to drive out to Thomson, to an African-American non-denoninational church, pastored by a good friend of mine. But on the way, the Spirit urged me to take the interstate exit and go on out south of town to Gracewood UMC. Of course, I arrived a little late, and the praise team was already well into the second praise set.
Worshippers were singing; some dancing; three women were gracefully waving lovely sheer banners in front of the congregation. After 15 to 20 minutes more of adoration of our wonderful God and Lord, a powerful, filled-with-God, African-American woman began to exhort and encourage the congregation to share what God is doing and their requests for prayer. Thus began a time of deep, intimate sharing and prayer, such as I have not experienced for quite a while. I was following the conversations, the exhortations, the praise and prayer, when suddenly I realized that a woman near the front, who had just requested prayer for her daughter, was a friend of mine that I have not seen in nearly 15 years. I had lost track of her and her family, but have thought of her and prayed for her so many times over the years. When she glanced back at someone who was speaking behind me, I caught her eye and waved. Her face lighted up in astonishment. A little later, in a lull in the worship, I slipped up toward the front to sit close to her and hug her. What a reunion we had this morning! She whispered to me that she has prayed for me many times over these years, as I have for her, and added that in the past 6-8 months she has repeatedly felt the move of God to pray for me. Unbelievable! well, not really; that’s the way of my great God.
So let me say, I praise God once again for His mercy, for His grace, for His glory; for friends, old and new. For colleagues in ministry. For family, for children, for grand-children. I praise God that through all of the twists and turns of life, He often brings us full circle to once again find a friend of the heart and through that reunion, experience His magnificent and furious love.
One of my favorite authors is Richard J. Foster, who has written Celebration of Discipline and Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. It’s been several years since I read these books, but this morning, I found Prayer on one of my many bookshelves, and decided to get into it again. The first chapter is about Simple Prayer. Prayer for those of us who desperately need to learn or relearn to pray. Prayer for those who don’t even want to pray because we’re distracted, stubborn and self-centered.
Simple prayer is found throughout the Bible. Abraham prayed this way. Joseph, Joshua, David, Hannah, Gideon, Ruth, Peter, James, John, Paul… and many, many others. Ordinary people bringing their ordinary circumstances and concerns to a loving and compassionate Father. There is no pretense, no greater-than-you “holiness.” Just our own self, pouring out our hearts to the Lrod.
We don’t try to be something we’re not. We don’t pretend to be holier, purer or more saintly than we really are. We just begin in the present, in the moment, and perhaps only breathe a short simple thought to God. We can never outgrow this sort of prayer, because we never outgrow our simple, basic need of God.
There are many people around us that can’t wait to kick us when we’re down, to tell us when we’re wrong. But the Father is always willing to take time to hear us; he’s willing to take time and effort to help us. He’s willing and waiting to respond to those simple prayers, for only He knows our heart, really knows us.
Everything we have and everything we are are sheer gifts from God. Even the power to breathe a Simple Prayer.
The power of space to change and enhance worship is rarely considered, except perhaps when a building is (or was) being designed by an architect. The space and the furnishing of the place of worship directly impact people’s experience of God’s presence and how they perceive God and one another. The atmosphere, the visuals, the furniture, the spatial distance, the size of the sanctuary, the “look and feel” from inside and out, converge to influence and shape the worshipper’s response to God.
The important feature of Christian worship is that the internal experience of salvation in Jesus Christ, combined with immediate external expressions of this experience, has stamped the use of space in Christian worship with a particular character. Spatial arrangements differ as a result of varying emphases on table fellowship, preaching, baptism, the orders of ministry and gifts, and the sense of body ministry.
Worship in emerging churches as a holistic experience of the saving grace of God is created in part by space. The return of worship to the people, as a work of the people, permits greater use of artistic interpretation, Scripture reading and prayer. In that participatory experience, worshippers acknowledge and celebrate God’s mighty acts of salvation.
Worship is no longer something to be watched or listened to, but something to be done by the people. Thoughtful reconstruction of worship space in sanctuaries constructed many years ago can bring new life and direction to a congregation. Large aisles and larger chancel space allow for greater movement and participation in expressions of worship. Churches that invite people to come forward for prayer, for laying on of hands, and for other kinds of ministry need adequate space for these functions of worship ministry.
New attention is being paid to church architecture. New or refurbished church buildings need to facilitate the relationships of people to one another, renew the holy and allow for appropriate use of artistic symbols, sights and sounds. Above all, the church building must express hospitality and acceptance.
In Romans 12, worship is described as presenting our whole beings to God as living sacrifices because of his grace and mercy. These sacrifices are a spiritual act of worship, sacrifices of ourselves for God’s glory. God reveals Himself to us in worship; we respond to him in joy, praise and thanksgiving. He speaks to us through His Word: the story of His kingdom communicated verbally, visually, spatially and experientially. His Spirit convicts our spirits, hearts, mind and emotions; we are changed; we repent.
God extends his love and mercy to us and in worship, we offer ourselves to him, loving him with all our hearts, all our minds, all our souls and our strength. We experience personal connection, personal healing and personal restoration. We experience joy.