Slow learners and bright ideas


Display at Botanic Gardens Edinburgh  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 

Call to Worship

inspired by James 3:13-17 and Mark 9:33-37

We come here today not because we are clever
but because God welcomes the slow learners.

We come here not because we are wise,
but because God loves us in spite of our folly.

We come knowing that the greatest persons will be found
among those who humbly serve like Jesus did,
and that the brightest ideas and the deepest truth will come
from those who see themselves as little children in Christ’s school.

O Lord, open up our minds and our hearts
and enable our lives to declare your praise.

 
~ written by Bruce Prewer, and posted on Bruce Prewer’s website.
 


 
From the blog
To keep our hearts in tune
Ask the animals
Environmentally water-wise
 

Dust and transformation


(Photo: Albert Goedkoop)

 

Ash Wednesday was weeks ago, I know.

Still, you might derive some spiritual nourishment from this Ash Wednesday benediction, even now in Holy Week, as Jesus’ death looms large and his victory over sin and death is imminent.


Ash Wednesday Benediction

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

Let the memory of your incomplete humanity
awaken you to the wonders, joys, sorrows, and pain of life.

Let the ashes you wear be the ashes of transformation;
of awakening to the beauty and love of seizing the moment
and living it to the fullest.

Let it be said of you that here in this little part of eternity
that you lived fully, loved extravagantly
and helped humanity evolve into all that God dreamed we can be!

You are fearfully and wonderfully made
In the image of the ONE who is was and ever more shall be
Creator, Christ and Spirit ONE, Amen.

by Pastor Dawn, posted on pastordawn.
 


 
Extra
The Dust Storm in Prayer (on Ignatian prayer)
 


 
From the blog
Holy Week posts from 2017
 

3 Prayers for Lent


 

Lent is a time to get real and take stock. Here are 3 prayers that you might find helpful in your Lenten journey this year.

 


#1

God of the desert,
as we follow Jesus into the unknown,
may we recognize the tempter when he comes;
let it be your bread we eat,
your world we serve
and you alone we worship.
 

A New Zealand Prayer Book, from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #770
 


#2

when the world is no longer a paradise
and creation shows its full power over us still
and we are brought down to size on this small planet of ours

we worship

when the memories linger of the past
and war shapes us beyond our knowing
and conflict becomes a story of life

we worship

when the way is more barren than beautiful
when the path is more a climb than a stroll
when the desert expands and the horizon stretches

we worship

we worship
because we can

we worship
because we hope

we worship
because we know our vulnerability

when things shift
and we need to hold on

we worship

it is the only strength we have for the journey

welcome to Lent

 
by Roddy Hamilton, and posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website, available on re:worship.
 


#3

“Lord, hear my prayer; do not hide your face from me in the day of my trouble; my heart is scorched and withered like grass; I have become like an owl in the wilderness; I have eaten ashes for bread, and mingled my drink with my tears.” (Psalm 102:1, 2, 4, 6)

Lord,
take my small offering of self-denial this Lent,
as a sign of my great longing for you.
I hunger for your presence in my life,
and I thirst for your love.
I hunger for justice for those who are wronged and oppressed,
and I thirst for your peace.
I hunger for a glimpse of your glory,
and I thirst for your stillness in my heart.
God of giving, God of longing, God of pain,
I hunger for you.

 
by Angela Ashwin, from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #774
 

Leaving the desert behind


Wanderlust, Paris  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

It was my privilege, as newly appointed moderator of the International Presbytery, to conduct the communion service at our Presbytery meeting in Paris this past weekend.

Here is a transcript of my reflection on Joshua 1:1-9.


Only be strong and courageous

I regularly listen to a podcast called Creative Pep Talk. Here is God giving Joshua a pep talk at a crucial, threshold moment in his life and in the life of his people. And, I suppose, this is my pep talk to you and to my own soul.

Joshua got a sneak preview of the Promised Land 40 years earlier, as one of the 12 spies, and he and his friend, Caleb, returned with glowing reports, admitting it wouldn’t be easy but with God’s help nothing is impossible.

Sadly – tragically – the other 10 spies were anything but strong and courageous and they sowed a spirit of fear and unbelief.

Joshua stayed true to his convictions all through the wilderness years, faithfully serving Moses as his assistant and spending time with God, getting to know Him better.

With Moses gone and the Promised Land back on the agenda, it was time for a leader with a different personality and skill set. A warrior leader, strong and courageous, to inspire his people (this time round) to be strong and courageous too.

‘Be strong and courageous, Joshua,’ God said (v. 6). ‘Only be strong and courageous’ (v. 7). ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or dismayed’ (v. 9). ‘As I was with Moses,’ God said, ‘I will be with you; I will not fail or forsake you’ (v. 5). ‘The Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (v. 9).

To paraphrase: ‘Be strong and courageous, Joshua, because you are not alone. If you continue to trust me and obey my commandments, there is nothing to fear. I’ve got your back.’

Earlier in Deuteronomy 31:7-8 God used Moses to encourage Joshua with these self-same words. This time God encourages Joshua in person with wave upon wave of loving affirmation, so the words sink in.

We can all do with more courage and encouragement – especially when we are tempted to give up, worn out by the wilderness years; or when we’re on the threshold of something new and risky; or when we face wave upon wave of opposition as we venture forward to make the Promised Land our own.

Let me encourage you today.

Whatever ‘strong and courageous’ means in your context, be strong in the Lord and courageous. For ‘God did not give us a timid spirit, but a spirit of power and love and sound judgement’ (2 Timothy 1:7).

And let us encourage one another as we boldly move forward to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us (Phil 3:12).  Amen
 


Call to worship

(inspired by Jeremiah 31:7-9)

Praise God!
For God is gathering His people together.
From near and far we come together—
the wounded and the whole, the weak and the strong—
seeking God’s presence,
God’s forgiveness,
and God’s direction for our lives.

by Christine Longhurst, re:Worship
 

Grace notes


Winter in the Tuileries Garden, Paris  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
I love the term ‘grace note’. It’s so evocative.

Technically, a ‘grace note’ is a musical note not essential to the harmony or melody, designed to embellish or ‘ornament’ the music and add extra flourish. It colours, without clashing.

 
Here is a grace note in one of Chopin’s manuscripts.

 
The term, ‘grace note’, is also a beautiful metaphor for all the little graces that colour and enhance our lives.

May God help us to develop an ear and appreciation for the grace notes that echo all around us, and may He bless us with the capacity to add grace notes of our own.
 


Grateful Praise

God created the heavens,
star-spattered with beauty,
and the earth, teeming with life.
And God set us on the Earth,
alive and wide-eyed,
able to see and hear,
feel and taste life’s beauty,
able to dream and plan,
create and build out of the richness of the earth.
Lord of all to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise!

God gave us families to love us,
teachers to teach us,
elders to guide us,
and leaders to inspire us.
God gave us His Son
to save us from the path of destruction and sin,
and to be a strengthening presence
in our trials and temptations.
Lord of all to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise!

Every good thing that fills our souls with gladness
and our lives with light
is a gift from God.
We have been entrusted with unfathomable riches.
For this, let us come before God
in thanksgiving and grateful praise.
Lord of all to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise!

 
written by David Inglis,
posted on the Henrietta United Church of Christ website.
 


 
From the blog
 
The blessing of light
The whole bright world rejoices
walk, run, soar

Baby steps


Markthal, Rotterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

“Baby steps build the
  strongest foundations.”

(Michelle Ward, life coach)

 
 

Call to Worship for [the start of] Advent

[also for the middle of Advent]

 
What will set us journeying in search of the Christ this Advent?
How far are we prepared to go out of our way
to look for the signs of His coming,
and to prepare a path?

How will we travel through this season?
Will we be burdened by responsibilities and tasks,
loaded with others’ expectations, overwhelmed by their needs?
Will we be full of joy or weary of grief?

What will guide our steps in these weeks?
Will we follow a thread of longing,
the hint of an alternative pathway,
the words and music of the gathered community?

Sisters and brothers in Christ, Advent awaits us.
Let us place our feet on the road and begin the journey.
May we find in familiar words, rituals and customs
the birth of the new thing that awaits us.

 
written by Ann Siddall, and posted on the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre and Faith Community website.
 


 
From the blog
See also the series of posts with a journey theme from August 2017.

We are a body


 

The body of Christ is one of many metaphors used in the New Testament to describe the community of believers. Here is an all-age song I wrote in the mid-90’s incorporating some of these images.

Song


 

We are a body, we are a family,
we are the church of Jesus Christ.
We are a body, we are a family,
we are the church of Jesus Christ.
We are living stones,
we are a temple for God’s Spirit lives in us.
Hallelujah!  God has made us the church!
 


Call to worship: Here we are

inspired by 1 Samuel 3

God whispers to each of us:
you are my beloved,
created in love for love.
My spirit answers,
Here I am, Lord.
Speak to me anew.

God breathes on us the Holy Spirit,
knitting many members into one body,
the body of Christ.
Together we answer,
Here we are Lord.
Come, Holy Spirit.

God has yet more vision for the people.
Who will work for God to extend God’s kingdom
into our hurting world?
Here we are Lord.
Empower us for your work.

God calls the small, and helps them do great things.
God calls the weak, and reveals their hidden gifts.
God calls the rejected, and opens their eyes to their worth.
Here we are Lord, humble and waiting.

Then let us gather, old and young, small and great,
to dream God’s dreams,
receive God’s power,
and do God’s deeds.
Here we are Lord.
Shine the light of your love on us.
Kindle your Spirit within us.
Work your redeeming will in us,
that all the world may be one
through the power of your love. Amen.

 
by David Inglis
Posted on the Henrietta United Church of Christ website

Interpreting the times


Eccl 3:3b: ‘a time to tear down and a time to build’
  

[Jesus] said to the crowd: 'When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, "It’s going to rain," and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, "It’s going to be hot," and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?'
 
(Luke 12:54-56, NIVUK)
 

How do we avoid being overly confident, too complacent or simply overwhelmed by the present time – including uncommon weather patterns? Here is a call to worship that might be helpful in finding our way:


Call to worship

Called to be branches in Christ’s body,
we yearn to be connected to the vine.
Called to be mustard bushes offering shade to God’s creatures,
we search for places to plant the seeds of faith.
Called to be growing with God
in the midst of this world’s painful questions,
we seek God’s nurturing presence.

written by Katherine Hawker for the Union Church UCC of Tekonsha. Posted on Liturgy Outside.
 


This the last post in the present series, SUMMER.

If you have any suggestions for future monthly themes, let me know.

(The theme, WORK, is currently in the pipeline, for sometime after the holidays, including “In the school of prayer with Brother Lawrence”.)
 

Wilderness woes


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

While searching for ‘dry wilderness’ on my go-to online prayer resource – the treasure trove, re-worship.blogspot.com – I found this call to worship by Rev. Nathan Decker.

It is inspired by Isaiah 35 and recognizes both the reality and pain of the wilderness experience and our sustaining hope in God for a life beyond the wilderness.

 

Call to Worship

(inspired by Isaiah 35: 1-10)

Too long have we walked this dry desert wilderness
    searching for salvation.
 
We’ve drunk the cup of sorrow,
burned our feet upon the sands of misery,
and watched as our children were devoured
    by jackals, lions, and beasts.

 
“Be Strong! Do not fear! Here is our God!
God will come and save you!”
Today, we walk in the Holy Way,
    the highway of the wise!
 
Where the lame leap as deer!
Where grateful blind eyes see colors!

 
And the speechless sing out to our merciful Lord!
Blessed be the Lord our God!
 
Praise the Lord, O Zion!

 
written by the Rev. Nathan Decker, and posted on the Discipleship Ministries website of the United Methodist Church in the US.


Tips on searching re-worship blog

The search box on the website is very powerful. Type in a string of keywords to find posts that contain all the words you’ve specified. To exclude words like ‘index’ or ‘resource’ (handy lists of posts arranged by type or theme), add -[keyword] to the search box, e.g. -index -resource, and those posts will be filtered out.

Also check out Christine Longhurst’s tips on How to use the re:worship blog.
 


From the Prayer Matters blog:
also see Call of the wild ones and Wild animal praise

A very present help in trouble


“More fear” billboard, Amsterdam (Photo: Irene Bom)

The theme of the month for September is “Refuge”. For the first post in this series I’ve selected a Call to Worship by Joanna Haradar posted on the Spacious Faith website in 2013, inspired by Psalm 46. The words could have been written yesterday.

Call to Worship

inspired by Psalm 46

The earth shakes, the mountains quake
  — tempting our hearts to fear.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Storms rage, winds swirl
  — destroying schools, hospitals, homes.
Still, God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

Violence comes to light in our communities
and violence continues around the world
  — causing us to wonder if our prayers for peace are futile.
Yet God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.

For those mourning and rebuilding after the storms,
God is their refuge.
For those living in fear of their neighbours,
God is present.
For the distraught and displaced and dismembered
in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere,
God is a very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear.
Therefore, we will lay down our weapons
and worship our God.


In case you were curious about the last line, in her blogpost Joanna Haradar writes:

*A note on the last line of the call to worship: Psalm 46:10 is generally translated as, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Hebrew term translated as “be still” (raphah) more accurately means “let drop, let go, abandon.” It is a call for disarmament, not a request for silent meditation.