Category Archives: Musings on Worship

continuing the conversation: prayer

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Yesterday, Teri preached about the power of prayer. She suggested that the power of prayer is in its ability to build our relationship with God, and so to change us into kingdom-dwellers, as opposed to thinking of prayer as magic. During the sermon, she mentioned that she’d created a sheet of different types of prayer and made it available at the back of the sanctuary. In addition, there’ll be some fleshing-out of those ideas here on the blog. All these ideas come from the forthcoming book tentatively titled And Then We Just Got Really Busy–Spirituality for a New Generation.

Today’s idea is praying with the radio. Many of us listen to the radio frequently–in the car, at work, or while doing chores. Or maybe we just have iTunes or CDs playing–those work too! Any kind of music can be a vehicle for prayer.

“The music on the radio, even if it’s the top 40, can be part of your spiritual practice as well! Notice when lyrics draw your attention, or when a melody makes you want to sing along. What is it about that song that connects with your spirit? Does the song speak to your emotional state, to the reality of your life, to your hopes and dreams? Is there a song that summarizes your experience of God or your adventure of faith? Can you use the songs on the radio to hear the movement of the Spirit, or to express your own feelings to God? Of course sometimes the songs on the radio are not exactly great theological treatises. But there’s often something that can spark your imagination—a word or a phrase, an image or a snippet of melody. If you hold on to that and let the rest of the song be a backdrop for the thoughts sparked by that one little thing (as long as you’re still paying attention to the road if you’re driving, of course) the radio can be a great way to pray.”

What do you think? What caught your attention, sparked your imagination, or prompted a question in the sermon? How do you connect with God? What do you think about praying with the radio?

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continuing the conversation: The Only Way?

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Yesterday morning John preached on the question of whether Jesus is the Only Way…we read from the gospel according to John, chapter 14: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

There are lots of questions embedded in this one question. Are people who aren’t Christians going to hell? What about people who faithfully follow other religions? What about people who demonstrate what we might call Christian life (love, compassion, helping, etc) but don’t believe in Jesus? What does “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” mean?

John talked about the idea of the Jesus Window–that Jesus is a window through which the light of God shines on us and a window through which we can see God. If there are many dwelling places in God’s house, that also likely means there are many windows. What do you think of this idea? John went on to say that he believes the Jesus Window to offer the fullest view of God and to let the most light in. What are your thoughts?

At 9:00 the song after the sermon was called “Cannot Keep You”–how does this song help or hinder your pondering of this topic?

Click the “comment” link to join the conversation with your ideas, thoughts, prayers, and questions about this topic!

has politics paralyzed our prayer?

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Last night we had a wonderful Taize service–our last one until fall, actually, as we plan to take a summer break–and I once again noticed something odd during the prayer time.

At our Taize service we have a time where you are invited to simply say the name of a person or place that you want to pray for. We organize the prayer into “categories”–things we are grateful for, people we want to pray for for various reasons, places in the world we pray for (especially to receive peace/healing/etc), and then a time when you can pray for anything you like. In those first three, people generally just say the name of the person/place/thing–it’s not a long beautiful prayer, just a mentioning of things on our minds.

For several months now I have noticed that people are not shy about praying in the first two categories, but when we get to the third (praying for the world), everyone is silent. I find this surprising since we are a congregation with such a mission focus–we have ministries in/with Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Colombia, and more. Plus we are a well-informed congregation, I’m sure we know what’s going on in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Afghanistan, Darfur, and the streets of Chicago and even of Crystal Lake. So why aren’t we praying for these situations and places?

It has been suggested to me that we don’t want to sound political by mentioning these things–that bringing up political “issues” can disrupt prayer for some people.

Well, I suggest that then politics has paralyzed our prayer when really it should be motivating our prayer. Whether or not there is a “side” to be taken, there are people and situations that need prayer. If we are unwilling to pray for the people of Zimbabwe or the situation in Darfur or the people experiencing food shortages here and abroad or the people who are homeless at a time when PADS shelters are closing for the summer, simply because we are afraid of becoming “political”, then I’m afraid of what Jesus might have to say.

Remember, “politics” is simply how we live together as a community, a polis (city). Partisanship is different, it’s taking sides. I might argue that Jesus does sometimes take sides–with those no one is willing to pray for, eat with, be friends with, touch, or even see. But in any case, prayer is not partisan, though it may be political (because it can be about how we live together as a global human community).

So the next time you have the opportunity, remember to pray (even out loud!) for these situations and the people in them. We aren’t going to be judging your political party based on what you pray for–instead you are helping us to remember all of God’s people, around the world, and to pray for God’s peace and justice and grace to be known throughout the world.

As we gather together, even in this virtual space, I invite us all to pray for God’s people who know violence, fear, hunger, anxiety, and grief, and for those places like Iraq, Darfur, Egypt, Afghanistan, Kenya, Israel and Palestine, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Chicago, and even Crystal Lake that need to know God’s presence, peace, and love. And to pray also for ourselves, that we might be bold in prayer and in action. Amen.

baptism, confirmation, teaching, and living

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When a child is baptized, at least in a Presbyterian church, both the parents and the congregation make promises. The parent promises to “live the Christian faith and to teach that faith to your child.” The congregation makes promises to “guide and nurture” the child “by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and to be faithful members of his church.”

This past week we baptized an adorable young boy and we made these promises to him, to his family, and (most importantly!) to God. It is our responsibility to love and nurture and guide, to show Christ’s love with our lives, to teach and pray.

We have a number of young people in our congregation who are baptized members–they have had promises made on their behalf and they participate (at varying levels) in our common life. There are many in our congregation who have taken very seriously and literally the promise to guide and nurture–we celebrated many of them this past Sunday. Our Sunday School teachers and youth leaders have undertaken a huge project–teaching, building relationships with, praying for, and loving our children and youth week after week. It takes time and commitment and we are so grateful to them for their work in this important ministry.

In two weeks we will celebrate another milestone on this journey. Several of our youth have completed a nine-month confirmation class in which they have studied Scripture, our faith tradition, and ways to practice their faith. On May 18th we will, as a community, tell them that “we rejoice that you now desire to declare your faith and to share with us in our common ministry.” These teens will make a public commitment to following the way of Jesus, to joining us in worship and ministry and mission, to seeking God’s call for them. It’s a big day and I hope you’ll join us as we celebrate their journeys and re-commit ourselves to walking the road with them.

So–many thanks to those of you who have taught in the Sunday School, the confirmation class, or led in the youth program. And many congratulations and prayers to those youth preparing to publicly take up the cross and follow Christ.