Category Archives: Praying for A Purpose

Thousand Word Fridays: #BringBackOurGirls

IMG_20140509_064757

Please pray for the 276 girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria on April 14th, for their families and for those involved in the effort to rescue them. #BringBackOurGirls !

Almighty God, we lift up to you the many victims of kidnapping and abduction, that they may be strengthened by your love and protected by your hand. We pray also for their families and their communities, that they may find solace and comfort in you and in one another. We pray especially for  Deborah, Awa, Hauwa, Asabe, Mwa, Patiant, Saraya, Mary, Gloria, ​Hanatu, Gloria, Tabitha, Maifa, Ruth, Esther, Awa, Anthonia, Kume, Aisha, Nguba, Kwanta, Kummai, Esther, Hana, Rifkatu, Rebecca, Blessing, Ladi, Tabitha, Ruth, Safiya, Na’omi, Solomi, Rhoda, Rebecca, Christy, Rebecca, Laraba, Saratu, Mary, Debora, Naomi, Hanatu, Hauwa, Juliana, Suzana, Saraya, Jummai, Mary, Jummai, Yanke, Muli, Fatima, Eli, Saratu, Deborah, Rahila, Luggwa, Kauna, Lydia, Laraba, Hauwa, Comfort, Hauwa, Hauwa, Yana, Laraba, Saraya, Glory, Na’omi, Godiya, Awa, Na’omi, Maryamu, Tabitha, Mary, Ladi, Rejoice, Luggwa, Comfort, Saraya, Sicker, Talata, Rejoice, Deborah, Salomi, Mary, Ruth, Esther, Ether, Maryamu, Zara, Maryamu, Lydia, Laraba, Na’omi, Rahila, Ruth, Ladi, Mary, Esther, Helen, Margret, Deborah, Filo, Febi, Ruth, Rachael, Rifkatu, Mairama, Saratu, Jinkai, Margret, Yana, Grace, Amina, Palmata, Awagana, Pindar, Yana, Saraya, Hauwa, Hauwa, Hauwa, Maryamu, Maimuna, Rebeca, Liyatu, Rifkatu, Naomi, Deborah, Ladi, Asabe, Maryamu, Ruth, Mary, Abigail, Deborah, Saraya, Kauna, Christiana, Yana, Hauwa, Hadiza, Lydia, Ruth, Mary, Lugwa, Muwa, Hanatu, Monica, Margret, Docas, Rhoda, Rifkatu, Saratu, Naomi, Hauwa, Rahap, Deborah, Hauwa, Hauwa, Serah, Aishatu, Aishatu, Hauwa, Hamsatu, Mairama, Hauwa, Ihyi, Hasana, Rakiya, Halima, Aisha, Kabu, Yayi, Falta, Kwadugu.

We pray for the many other girls whose names we do not know.

We pray for their abductors, that they may be convinced to release them to their families, and that your justice be served. And we pray these things in the name of your most precious son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Advertisements

True Kingship of Jesus

by Charlie McClain
I have been doing a lot of driving lately.  I’ve seen some beautiful sights along the backroads of Middle Tennessee.  I was struck recently by the blankets of purple clover that have covered the cotton fields of Franklin County in a couple of short weeks.  My thoughts turned to one of my favorite hymns.  O how deep how broad how high… as we sing we tell the story of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.
For us to wicked hands betrayed, 
scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed…
They put Jesus in a purple robe to make fun of him, to pronounce the end of an illegitimate kingship that threatened the Jewish establishment, and worried the Roman governor.  As I drive I am confronted with the ways I want to limit the kingship of Jesus, to deny the pull and demand it makes on my life.
he bore the shameful cross and death; 
for us gave up his dying breath. 
Then I am pulled out of myself, and I see the clover again.  The fields of Tennessee cannot hold their peace.  They are erupting with the true kingship of Jesus.  For a minute I consider pulling over, and laying down in the field myself.  I think better of it, and decide for the moment to wait… at least until Easter.

Thoughts for (Maundy) Thursday

by Jamie Osbourne

Mystical SupperFor I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

In today’s reading from I Corinthians we read about the last meal of Jesus. We don’t have all the details about Jesus’ betrayal, but the writer assumes that we know the context. He assumes that we know one of Jesus’ inner circle, Judas, betrays him. He is also probably assuming that we know that Jesus’ disciples run off when he is taken into custody. He is most likely assuming that we know the strongest and most vocal of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, denies he even knows Jesus. We are reminded in Corinthians that on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, Jesus knew all of this was going to happen before he washed his disciple’s feet or shared his last supper with them.

None of these things catch Jesus by surprise. He institutes the sacred meal by which his life and death and resurrection and love will be known – he shares this knowing full well that he will be betrayed, abandoned, and denied by his closest friends. Knowing all of this, he looks tenderly at his friends he loves dearly, washes their feet, and lets them know he gives all of himself for them.

It strikes me that Jesus knows me in the same way. He knows the ways that I will fail him, deny him, and even betray him. Then he stoops down to the dirty task of washing my feet. After washing my dirty feet he breaks bread and gives the wine. He knows all the ways I will fail. He sees how the idol of my own pain can blind me to everyone’s needs but my own. He knows the fear deep inside of me. With soft eyes and a tender heart, he sees my moodiness and short temper that sometimes make it difficult for others to live with. He sees all the ways that I betray, abandon, or deny him in other persons.

Jesus sees it all and I can hear him say: “Come share this sacred meal with me and see that I’m giving everything I have for you. Take it. Remember it. I’m here to show you what love is because I am Love. You can throw the bread of heaven away and deny you ever tasted it. You can reach past the cup of salvation in order to drown yourself in the cheap wine of the current world system and self. But I’ll always be here, breaking my body and pouring out my very life for you and the world. And one more thing, I want you to pay attention and do this – Love like I have loved you.”

———
Jamie lives with his wife, Lauren, and their two children, Rowan and Phoebe, in Huntsville, Alabama. Jamie is a Postulant for Holy Orders and will be attending seminary this upcoming fall.

Tim Tebow Rule

By Longkee Vang

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverancethe race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

(HEB) (12:1-2) The first time I ever saw this passage, this is how it was written out.  It wasn’t spray painted across a concrete wall, nor was it written in something spiritual.  The first time I saw this passage, it was scrawled across the face of University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.  At the time, Tebow was the most polarizing player in college football, and would write inspirational Bible quotes on his eye black.  He would be asked in post-game interviews what the scripture was and every time he would recite it from memory.  Every game brought a new passage, and more interviews about his face AND faith.  Suddenly, Tim Tebow was a spokesperson for young Christian communities across the United States, whether they wanted him to be or not.  Some players stated that they didn’t mind Tebow being a Christian; they just minded him being loud about it.  They would mention how they were as devout; they just chose a quieter path.  And of course, some people just hated the fact that an already annoying player was being EVEN MORE annoying.  The next season, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) adopted a rule banning all players from writing messages on their eye black, nicknamed The ‘Tim Tebow’ Rule.

My father passed away in 2008, and not only did my life change, but people’s view of me changed as well.  I remember that we had at least a hundred people over at my house every weekend the 3 weekends leading up to the funeral.  Traditional Hmong funerals are 4 days long (Friday-Monday) and are open 24 hours; in total, there were approximately 700 of my dad’s closes family, friends, and colleagues who stopped by that weekend.  I had never experienced such love and support from the wider Hmong community before.  But once the funeral ended, so did that atmosphere; and reality began to sink in: I had no dad.  The Hmong Community is so patriarchal that having a father means EVERYTHING.  How you are viewed in regards to status and self-worth in the community all depends on who your father is as a person.  Fathers are so important that it influences the very language that we speak.  In the Hmong language, there really isn’t a word for children of widows; they’re all grouped together with and called orphans.  If you lost your mom, your dad could easily remarry and move you on with your life.  But if you lost your dad, it was a lot tougher, and the “orphan” label was harder to shake.  I remember going on dates with Hmong girls and meeting their families, only to have them tell me later they couldn’t date me because I didn’t have a dad.

“You’re great Longkee, but I don’t know how my family is going to react with you not having a dad.”

I figured I was going to hear this for the rest of my young adult life.  However, when I started working with youth, my view on the whole situation began to change.  I was working with some youth whose fathers had minimal involvement in their lives.  The mothers were so involved in their children that, at one point, I thought that I didn’t need to build a relationship with the dads.  If I could do it without a dad, these guys could too.  But as I became closer with them, the flaw in my logic became more apparent to me.  You see, from my dad’s passing to this point, all I cared about was proving people wrong.  I only saw people who doubted me in my ‘cloud of witnesses.’  I had forgotten about all the people who had been there, encouraging and nurturing every crazy pursuit I had.  I was so dead set on life being a sprint that I forgot it’s actually a marathon, and marathons have multiple facets to make it work.  I had forgotten that life is about balancing that which is good and bad.

Believe it or not, we all have a little Tim Tebow in us; I think that’s what makes him so fascinating.  People hate and judge him all the time, yet he keeps moving and doing what he believes he is called to do.  He understands that having detractors and motivators are necessary for us to grow in life.  He understands that God has set the path out for us and that we need only trust in the Lord.  Most importantly, we all have things that hinder us from moving forward.  It can be the disappointment of not being promoted at work, losing a loved one, or the inability to throw a football accurately.  But I’d like to think that during this Holy Week, it’s more about overcoming our hindrances to reach our goal than it is about the hindrance itself.

—-
Longkee Vang is a Youth/ Young Adult Minister in the Diocese of Minnesota. When he’s not out and about disturbing the peace, he can be found in his secondary career as a Teen Heartthrob.

Why do you wear your cross of gold?

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

When I was in the sixth grade our youth choir performed Michael W. Smith’s song “Cross of Gold” . If you don’t have time to watch this rad live performance of the song, I’ll boil down the gist: Michael W. Smith is calling out other pop stars (most likely Madonna, though he doesn’t call her by name) about their rationale behind wearing a cross. He asks them “Tell me why you wear your cross of gold?”

So what is the meaning of the cross? Why does anyone choose to wear the symbol? For some, the cross is a means of warding off evil— an insurance policy against demons and vampires and other things that go bump in the night. For others, it is a sign of allegiance to their faith, a way to publicly proclaim which side they stand on.

Prior to Jesus’ death, the cross had its own imagery. The Roman empire used the cross to publicly torture and make examples of revolutionaries. The cross was intended to say “We have the power. Anyone who dares to try to overthrow us has this to look forward to.” When Jesus’ followers saw Him on the cross, they saw the loss of all hope. The “King of the Jews” was supposed to change everything. His crucifixion was the symbol of ultimate failure. Truly, the message of the cross was a warning against foolishness. It is what happened to the idiots who dared to believe life can be different.

Jesus’ followers hoped that he would overthrow the Roman Empire and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. This was the threat to Rome, and the reason he was sentenced to die on the cross.

But Jesus’ revolutionary message was so much more subversive than the one the crowd before Pilate pinned on him. He redeemed prostitutes and tax-collectors. He fed the hungry and healed the sick. He cast out demons and condemned those who felt they were beyond reproach. The crowds of the day saw the Roman Empire as the ultimate enemy, but Jesus knew His battle was one of even greater importance.

And in His death and resurrection, Jesus also subverted the original message of the cross. For those of us who believe, the threats of political powers, abusive leaders, oppressive societal structures, even internal demons, are empty.

We can hope foolishly, fight passionately, love completely.

To those of us who are being saved, the cross is the power of God.

——
Janna McClain lives with her husband, dog, and two children in Sewanee, TN. She is a staff member at Sewanee: The University of the South and parishioner of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Murfreesboro, TN.

Death to Life

Raising LazarusThere are so many miracles in the lectionary readings for today. Christ himself, the messiah, a miracle in the form of a man. God’s love for us, immense and mind boggling, a miracle in the face of all of our flaws. Lazarus’s resurrection, a glimpse of Jesus’ true power over death.

In Isaiah 42, God predicts the coming of Christ and proclaims His loving approval. He describes His servant, who’ll walk in his spirit, as compassionate and merciful. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.” When we are trampled by circumstances, when our spirits feel like a dull flicker, Christ is our hope, our healer, the bringer of light. He perseveres in face of injustice, always a voice for the marginalized, affirming the value of the castoffs of society. Psalm 36:7 assures that no matter what our struggles, we may all take refuge in the shadow of God’s wing, because He so loves us. His love for us is humbling and incredible. We who are doubtful, cruel, selfish, and broken are so loved by our Creator that He sent Christ to embody his love, and to die that we might be restored.

Christ— who was blameless. Christ— who performed miracles, both of everyday kindness and compassion, and of incredible power over both the natural and supernatural world. Christ—who even displayed power over death itself.

Resurrection is the miracle Jesus worked in Lazarus, of course, but let us not forget:

Resurrection is also the miracle Christ is working in each of us. No one but Christ—perfect, compassionate, persistent in the face of injustice, steadfast in the redemption of the broken, the marginalized, the suffering, can bring hope and meaning into the ruins of our desperate and ragged hearts. Through our daily failures, Christ persists in perfect, transformative compassion and grace, and renews and redeems us. In our suffering, he comforts us.  He changed the course of Lazarus’s life and people came from miles around to witness the transformation for themselves.

Death to life.

Rot, stench, and utter stillness had become a walking, breathing, living, person through Christ.

This is a powerful story because of how it still resonates in our own circumstances today. Because of how desperately, and if I’m honest, how frequently I need Christ to restore me from the grave of my own failures and shortcomings, even now. Lazarus’s life pointed so strongly to the love and power of Christ that people marveled and Christ’s enemies plotted his death along with Jesus’. May we all be so well known for the resurrection Christ is working within us. Amen.

—-

Cindy Sullivan is an educational assistant in Murfreesboro, TN. She is an artist and a nerd and a follower of Christ, doing her best to love and serve while taking the scenic route through life. She attends First Baptist Church Murfreesboro. 

Palm Sunday

Reading through the liturgy of the passion what strikes me the most, today, is just how broken we are, and how Jesus forgave and loved us anyway.

Judas, who betrayed someone he loved and had followed for years.

Peter, who denied Jesus even though he said he would die with him if it came to it.

The rest of the disciples, who couldn’t even stay awake with Jesus as he waited and prayed.

The false witnesses who came forward at the high priest’s courtyard.

The chief priests who convinced the crowds to call for Barrabas to be released, and the crowds that went along with it.

The soldiers who stripped, flogged, and mocked Jesus before hanging him on the cross.

When I read through this story my heart aches because I know that I am Judas. I am Peter. I am all of those people. I have done things I truly regretted, I have spoken words of promise and not fulfilled them. I have gone along with the crowd instead of setting myself apart. In my shame and brokenness I have knelt before God and asked for forgiveness.

And I am forgiven. I am loved. So are you.

But it doesn’t stop there. When I get up from my knees and go out into the world, I’m striving to be worthy of that forgiveness and love. I may never be, but that doesn’t mean I stop trying. I want to show that forgiveness and love to everyone I meet.

As we march triumphal into Holy Week this Palm Sunday and bear witness to Jesus’ suffering, may we remember who we are in the story and what we are called to do in response to it. Amen.

 

Thoughts for Thursday

One of the many things I love about The Episcopal Church is our radical inclusiveness. ALL are welcome at Christ’s table, and we truly live that out.

This week I read a blog post from Bishop Diane Bruce (Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of LA) that brought tears to my eyes and reminded me that God meets us where we are, and we are called to do the same. I wanted to share this story with you all, and I hope it inspires you to find a way to meet people in your life where they are.

Fish and bread — how Biblical!

This past Sunday I was at St. Paul’s in Ventura. The Rev. Susan Bek came down to Los Angeles to have lunch with me before the visitation, and shared with me the Good News of God in Christ that is happening in Ventura.

She told me, before I got there, “Bishop, there is one thing. We have one beautiful little girl that has some challenges, one of them is food. We have worked with her, but she cannot take the host. We asked her Mom what would work, and she told us “goldfish”. So you will see on the paten the priest’s host, and a goldfish cracker. We will point her out to you as you distribute communion.”

Susan did, and I about cried.

Talk about being present for someone who is challenged, but is such a beautiful child of God, and of one member of the clergy who “gets it” and responds with what is necessary to not exclude one of God’s children.

Here is Susan’s note to me about this, and a picture of the goldfish cracker on the paten with the priest’s hosts. This past Sunday, as there often is, there were Gluten free wafers as well — we need to meet our people where they are to be able to offer them the Body of Christ!

gold fish eucharistEach Sunday we bless a priest’s host, plenty of regular wafers, a few gluten-free wafers and one Pepperidge Farms goldfish. Every time the Deacon sets the table and I come forward to celebrate, we look down at the paten and glance at each other, nearly in tears. We know that it’s unusual to bless a goldfish, but the story of why we do it, and who we do it for, means so much to us that the mere sight of it makes us emotional. We have, in our congregation, a little girl who has some special needs. Among her various challenges she has some food rigidity. She is unable to take the wafer; not because she’s allergic, because it is not one of the very limited number of things she is able to accept and eat. Not long after I arrived at St. Paul’s I had the great pleasure of baptizing this girl’s younger sister. Following the baptism, and because it was their family’s wishes, the younger girl received Eucharist for the first time. Sadly, the older sister could not receive. We tried many times. We met outside of Sunday service and offered her the opportunity to see, hold, smell and examine wafers in the hope that she might be willing to accept one and eat it. Much as she wanted to, she simply could not accept the body of Christ when presented in this form. I asked their mother whether there was a cracker of some kind that she was able to eat and that’s when we found out that she likes goldfish. Now there is a box sitting in our sacristy and every Sunday one little orange goldfish adorns our paten. When I place it in her hand I say, “this is the body of Christ, the bread of heaven for you.” She looks up and, ever so quietly, says, “thank you…I mean, Amen!”  She is welcome at this table as all are welcome at this table. And if we have to make some accommodations so that all may join us, so be it. 
Matthew 10:14:  “but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”’
I have been wanting to take a picture of the paten with the priest’s host and goldfish. I will do that tomorrow and send it to you. 
When I have the opportunity to return to St. Paul’s, I hope to give this beautiful child of God what she needs to be included in the meal so many of us take for granted each Sunday — but which, for her, because of her condition, she could not partake of before the Rev. Susan Bek became the loving vessel of God that she is. I wonder what I will find the next time I show up at St. Paul’s?
—-
Thank you for sharing this story with us all, Bishop Diane! God bless you, Rev. Susan, this little girl, and her family.

Thoughts for Thursday

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ.
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.

O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.


(St. Richard of Chichester)

I love this simple prayer. It may not be the exact words St. Richard spoke on his deathbed but they are beautiful all the same.  (You might recognize this as Day by Day  from Godspell)

How can I know Jesus better? Love him more? Follow Christ?

Those are hard questions to ponder, at least for me. I guess that’s why St. Richard is praying for help from Jesus, because he knows that these are beyond his own human understanding. And, at least according to the song, you just have to take it day by day.

One day at a time, because that’s all we really have, y’know? Every day we wake up we can find new ways to love, know, and follow. And there’s not one right answer–I think we have to figure out what that looks like for ourselves.

What can you do, today, to know Jesus better? to Love him more? to follow him?

Surely we can’t be blind?

by Ed Watson

‘Surely I can’t be blind, can I?’ It’s amazing how often I implicitly say this to myself, whether I’m making a theological argument or judging the quality of a film. ‘Surely I can’t be blind!’ I’ll say. ‘I’ve thought about this issue long and hard. There are thousands who agree with me who are equally certain. It has been shown that the other side are not simply wrong, but actively harming the world. It has been shown that they are blind: and if that’s so, then surely it can’t be that I am too!’

It’s easy for me to become complacent in my views, whatever they may be. It’s simple to surround myself with people who agree with me, whether on the internet or in the real world; people who reinforce those views, who speak so well that they must be right (so well that I, of course, must be right as well!). It’s easy to forget that in doing this I don’t become the blind man gaining sight: I become the Pharisee, so set in my ways I become incredulous at the very idea that I might be wrong.

Jesus is the light of the world: nothing is seen truly except through him. This is what I must constantly remind myself. Whenever my eyes or mind land on anything with certainty, even (especially!) when I think it is shown by Christ, I must remain prepared to move again when he calls me onward. I must be ready to bow down and say ‘Lord, I believe’, again and again and in new ways. I must be ready to do so in front of those who currently agree with me, but who may judge me for humbling myself; for changing my mind.

It is, of course, all too easy for this readiness to collapse in on itself; for faith to become Pharisaism. I can claim to have gained such knowledge of God’s Word that I become the authority: that it is not the Word of God which speaks to me, but I who speak the Word. I might believe that what appeared true to me is the only way that things could ever be, failing to remember the earth’s contingency, even when inspired by God’s constant love. Believing myself to have seen the only truth, I might forget that a part of loving those I think to be my enemies is to listen to them, to remember that apart from the person of Jesus Christ I am just as blind as I might accuse them of being. I might now become so sure of my faith that it becomes faith in myself as opposed to God. I must remember that God always finds me in new ways, reaching me where I am and as I am not so I can rest in the safety of my assumptions, but so that by unsettling my own authority I can find rest in him.

At some point I must make a decision, of course. I must act one way or the other, praying that through God’s grace I might make the right choice. If I am not to become blind in my complacency, however, I must ever listen anew, ever pray anew, ever bow anew. I must never stop asking to be made well, asking to see Christ’s glory. I must remind myself this Lent to challenge myself by truly listening to those who disagree with me, rather than assuming from the outset that I know what they have to say and why they’re wrong. I must read all things with charity, lest Christ be trying to reach me from some expected place in some unexpected way (as per usual), but I become deaf to him by my pride. Otherwise I will find myself in the position of the Pharisees, incredulous at the idea that I might be blind because I have forgotten the one from whom I received my sight: the One Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. This then is my prayer today: that I might constantly remind myself that without Christ I am blind, so that I might never close my heart to seeking and seeing Him anew.

——–
Ed is a Brit living in America as part of The Red House, an intentional religious community in New Haven, CT.  He divides his work between helping Forward Movement with its social media, working in Graduate Support at St Martin de Porres Academy, a middle school for under-privileged students, and otherwise living community life. He manages to fill his spare time reading, supporting Liverpool FC and Scottish Rugby, attempting to understand American sports, and enjoying the company of his wonderful housemates.