Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review of 40 day Journey with Howard Thurman

Edited by Donna Schaper

ISBN 978-0806657691

Published by Augsburg Fortress

Review by Clint Walker

Howard Thurman is one of my favorite leaders and thinkers of the twentieth century. He was a social activist, a theologian, and a pastor. He wrote over twenty books, and he was respected around the world. Thurman was an inspiration to leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., who was known to take Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited with him wherever he went. Much of the civil rights movement was based on his thinking. He lived from 1899 to 1981. His impact is underappreciated by most. He was a man ahead of his time.

In recent years, Augsburg Fortress has tried to gather snippets of the work of well-respected Christian thinkers and leaders from contemporary times and history. They then took these snippets and placed them into a devotional based on that person’s work. Included are luminaries such as Luther and Julian of Norwich, as well as more recent leaders like Parker Palmer and Kathleen Norris. Howard Thurman was selected as one of the people whose work would be guiding people’s spiritual reflections. The result is the book entitled 40-Day Journey with HowardThurman.

The 40-DayJourney with Howard Thurman is organized in an intelligent manner. Each day has a paragraph or two from a sermon, essay, or book by Howard Thurman. Then a Scripture is shared that relates to the quote. After some time for silence, the reader is given a few questions to help guide the readers thinking about the issues that Thurman presents in his writing. Then there is a Psalm reading, and some further questions to guide a reader that wants to go deeper by journaling as they work their way through this book. The day’s devotional guide then concludes with a couple of prayers for the reader to recite. By organizing the 40-Day Journey in this manner, this devotional is helpful for those who want to go deep in their theological reflection, as well as those who don’t have time to be as thoughtful and contemplative.

I thought the actual selections in 40-Day Journey with Howard Thurman were well-chosen, although I did enjoy some days more than others. What impresses me as I read through the whole book is just how contemporary Thurman sounds, even though he was born 112 years ago. His writing speaks both to issues in these times, and to the state of his readers’ hearts and souls.

This book is an excellent primer to the work of Howard Thurman, as well as a great book for further reflection on Thurman’s work for Howard Thurman admirers. I would recommend it quickly to friends, and especially to friends who are interested in theology and recent history.

A Metaphor for discipleship

Thanks to J.R. Briggs, I saw this video about swordmaking. It is about being a craftsman and an apprentice. I think it is brilliant, and a metaphor for apprenticeship and discipleship in faith. Very moving.

Handmade Portraits: The Sword Maker from Etsy on Vimeo.

Book review of Xealots by Dave Gibbons

Click to see a larger image of Xealots by Dave Gibbons

Book Review of Xealots

Xealots: Defying the Gravity of Normality

By Dave Gibbons

ISBN 978-0-310-32702-8

Published by Zondervan

Dave Gibbons is an innovator, a leader, and an artist. He is also a pastor of a fast-growing, cutting-edge church that is based in Southern California. That church is planting churches in urban areas all around the world.

Dave Gibbons’ latest book, Xealots, is a tour de force on his philosophy of life and leadership. While the focus of what he is saying comes out of his experience of being a ministerial leader, it is useful for anyone wanting to live a life of impact and beauty.

Xealots is divided into two parts. The first part, entitled “mind”, speaks to attitudes and mindsets that Gibbons believes are essential to producing the kind of wisdom and character that form effective leaders for the future. The second section is entitled “movement”, and this section shares about some basic habits to form as a Christian leader. They include obedience, being open and receptive to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, and giving and receiving blessings.

 Dave Gibbons

This book has some good ideas, but reading it is more than an instruction manual, or a book with a few helpful thoughts. Reading Xealots is an inspirational experience. I was especially moved by the chapters “Scars” and “Becoming a Father”. “Scars” speaks to the transformational power of heartache and pain, and how experiencing these challenges empower leaders to develop deeper faith and form a ministry with greater power and impact. “Becoming a Father” is about our need to be blessed by those in authority over us and by those who have influence upon us. It goes on to challenge leaders to not only seek blessings from others, but to be aware of opportunities to offer approval and blessing to others.

Xealots is a joy to read. It has the ability to challenge and inspire those who read it to be all they can for God and for others. It touched my heart. I know it will do the same for others.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sermon 11.27.11

A Present and Future Hope

1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

       2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days

      That the mountain of the LORD’s house

      Shall be established on the top of the mountains,

      And shall be exalted above the hills;

      And all nations shall flow to it.

       3 Many people shall come and say,

      Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

      To the house of the God of Jacob;

      He will teach us His ways,

      And we shall walk in His paths.”

      For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

      And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

       4 He shall judge between the nations,

      And rebuke many people;

      They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

      And their spears into pruning hooks;

      Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

      Neither shall they learn war anymore.

5 O house of Jacob, come and let us walk

      In the light of the LORD.

I love Christmas. I love Advent more.

Christmas these days is about songs and gifts, food that is bad for you and cards from people you do not otherwise hear from, lights and color, and people  reciting the story of Jesus’ coming into the world, and remembering what that means. It is a time of the year that is filled with joy. I love the smell of pine needles and I love sitting in front of the tree in the dark and counting my blessings. I love remembering all the details and challenges that Mary and Joseph had as they brought Jesus into the world, and I love opening gifts in our jammies first thing in the morning in the living room. There is much to love about Christmas.

However, like I said, I like Advent more. Advent is all about a journey. It is full of anticipation both as we remember the hope we have through Christ’s second coming, and as we walk along with the stories of Scripture we get to remember how Jesus came into the world 2000 years ago, and what that meant for us today. Advent speaks to the sense of longing that many of us experience in our lives. It speaks to the yearning for God to have a more powerful influence on our lives and in our hearts. Advent has depth. It runs counter to the corruptions of Christmas. Advent challenges us to worship fully, pray honestly, and to live expectantly in our relationship with God.

In the last three years, I have preached from Matthew, Luke, and John during the Advent season. This year, I am going to follow the lectionary readings from last year, and study the prophetic passages from Isaiah that point to what Christ’s coming means.

Nearly all of the prophetic announcements in Isaiah that apply to the hope for the Messiah have at least two meanings. In some senses, they point to the life and work of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. At the same time they also point to the end of time, the “day of the Lord”, the moment when Christ will return and set everything right.

Isaiah 2:1-5 is very typical in this sense. It speaks about the life and work of Jesus, and how it has had an impact on the whole world. At the same time, it speaks even more strongly to the future, and what hope we confidently look forward to as believers in Jesus.

As Advent begins, and Isaiah begins to share his prophecies, we begin to hear God’s Word. And God’s Word comes to us in this passage in the form of an invitation. Three times in these five verses the call to come appears. “Many people shall come” it says. They will say to one another, “Come, let us go to the mountain of God”. Then the passage ends with the words “come let us walk in the light of the Lord”.

In this passage Jerusalem has become a destination place. It has become a hub for the whole world. Zion becomes that place that people come because it is the center of power. Jerusalem has become that place that people flock to for learning and knowledge.  The capital of Israel is the place people want to be to learn a new way of living, and to find a new and eternal hope.

And so the invitation goes out. COME! Come to the place where God is at work. COME! Come to the place where God presence resides. COME! Come to the class where God can teach us and give us understanding. COME! Come to the light!

It is interesting. The word “Advent” means the same. It is Old English for someone or something coming. It specifically refers most often to the arrival of something new that has been eagerly awaited or expected. The “Advent” of the NBA season will be Christmas day this year—two months late. Specifically, in Christian thought, Advent refers to the coming of Christ.

When we read Isaiah in the light of Advent, and in light of the context it is written, it appears to be saying this. God is on the move. His kingdom is coming. His power is more manifest each day—even if you cannot see it. And he is offering people like you and I an invitation. Come learn from Him. Come study under Him. Come to join him in what he is doing. Come and learn how to live God’s way.

As we think of that first Christmas day, we forget that everyone at that manger was led there from somewhere else. Joseph and Mary were in someone else’s barn, and lived on the other side of the country. The wise men came from afar. The shepherds came in from the fields and found Jesus lying in a manger.

Even more, we remember that everyone who came to visit the family of Jesus was issued an invitation to come visit Him. The wise men followed God’s invitation through following the star God had put in the sky to guide them, and by obeying what the angel had told them via a vision. The shepherds were greeted by a chorus of angels singing in the sky, and then invited to go into Bethlehem and see the baby Jesus.

I am sure many of you have received many invitations to different parties, events, and performances throughout your life. You have gotten a card in the mail inviting you to a wedding of a friend. You have received that invitation to a high school graduation from a niece, nephew, grandchild, or neighbor. Sometimes even funerals can be invitation only kinds of events.

When I was a summer missionary in the Alaskan village of Stony River, AK I had a strange experience of invitation and exclusion that will help illustrate the value of invitation, and the crushing disappointment of being not-invited. It all had to do with a funeral dinner. You see, especially in these isolated villages, a funeral potlatch (not to be confused with potluck) dinner is a big deal, and it is all about honor.

I had been trained on such occasions that as a missionary it was important to attend these events, and that it was also very important to place yourself near the back of the line in this funeral dinner, because one’s place in line was a matter of how important you were to the family. Presume too much, you are bound to embarrass yourself. So, I grabbed a piece of firewood lying in the middle of the yard outside the trailer where the meal was being served, made it into a stool, had a seat, and visited with folks here and there as they came by.

Well, the family that was hosting the meal I was fairly close to by the end of the summer. They saw me waiting my turn, and insisted I come to the front of the line. I meant so much to them and the family. I needed to be in the front. This felt awkward. Both because I already had food at the cabin while many of the other guests were travelling, and because I was white and most of the other people there were not.  But, if I rejected the invitation I risked insulting the host. So I reluctantly went toward the front of the line as I was told. I felt honored. I had been included and invited to a place in line that showed I was valued by the family.

As the line went along, several people would be invited into this double wide to grab their food off the tables in the living room, visit briefly, and then make their way out the door. When people exited the back door, someone would come and get more people from the front door. When the other family member came outside she invited people in, and then told me that I needed to get out of line so that others could come in. I would be included later, I was told, if there was enough for me. Needless to say, this was embarrassing to experience in front of the whole family.

So I left the line. I was intending to leave the whole event. As I was going I was visiting with other people I had gotten to know in the village. I started to play ball with one of the kids. Another member of the same family came outside, grabbed me, told me to move up toward the front of the line. Then the family member again came out who did not know me, and reminded me to wait my turn.

At this point, I just decided not to visit but to leave the event completely. Another one of the family grabbed me before I could get very far before I could get away, instructed me to come with her, grabbed a hold of my elbow (super assertive for that passive culture), pulled me past everyone, and brought me into the house. Her mother at the same time explained to the family member who I was and what had happened and what I meant to them. She apologized, which was also a rare action in that setting. I was served all sorts of traditional native finger foods, and visited a little bit.

You see, invitations convey to those not invited and to those invited their value to the one issuing the invitation. At times it can feel like an honor to be invited. It can also, at other times, just crush us when we are not invited to spend time with family and friends that we treasure. In the situation I described above, I experienced both the honor of being a special guest, and the utter shame of being uninvited at the same event. More than once!

I think some of us wonder if the life of faith is like that potlatch dinner. Sure the invitation is extended to us. And we may even be tempted to accept Jesus’ invitation to come and learn from Him. But we are afraid once we start on the Jesus Way, that somehow we will be found to be somehow unworthy of the invitation. And so then, we wonder if it is even worth responding to the invitation in the first place.

But as we read through this passage we come to see that God does not just issue invitations to wise men and shepherds 2000 years ago. He does not just issue invitations to the well-educated, the spiritually elite, or the people that were born to the right family, or in the right country. No, his invitation to come, to learn from him, to understand, to truly live is an invitation he offers to everyone. Isaiah 2:2 says all nations will “flow toward Jerusalem” and that nations will learn to “turn their swords into plowshares”. It also says that “many peoples” will be there. To every nation, and to every person, God issues the invitation through Jesus to journey with Jesus, to walk with Him, to learn from Him, to be led by his light.

If you don’t believe Isaiah, listen to the invitations of Jesus throughout the gospels…

“Come follow me” (Matthew 4:19)

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10: 9)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46)

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

This list goes on and on.

God invites us on a journey. He invites us to move toward Him. He invites us to join Him in what he is doing in the world, and to do our part to serve Him and love Him and his people in that place.

He invites us to come to Him and learn from Him. He invites us to be in his presence, and to learn what life is all about.

And what is interesting is, if we respond to this invitation by accepting it, and journeying toward God’s grace and his presence, we will find that God has been pursuing us, making his way to us, watching and waiting for us since the beginning.

He has been pursuing us when he came to earth in that manger. He had been making his way to us when he lived a sinless life, and taught us what God was like, and how to live. And, when he died on the cross and rose again to forgive us of our sins, he again issued an open invitation to each of us. He sent the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. And the Scripture is clear, He is coming again. He is returning.

At that moment I wonder, how will you have responded to his invitation?

Prayer for the Day from the Church of Scotland

Ever present God,
you taught us that the night is far spent and the day is at hand.
Grant that we may ever be found watching for the coming of your Son.
Save us from undue love of the world,
that we may wait with patient hope for the day of the Lord,
and so abide in him,
that we may wait with patient hope for the day of the Lord,
and so abide in him,
that wen he shall appear, we may not be ashamed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Presbyterian Book of Common Worship #254)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Prayer for the Day by Ruth Duck

In the Advent seasons, whe the past has fled, unasked, away
and there is nothing left to do but wait,
God, shelter us.
Be our surrounding darkness;
be the fertile soil out of which hope springs in due time.
In uncertain times, help us to greet the dawn and labor on, love on,
in faith awaiting your purpose hid in you
waiting to be born in due time.

(Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, #253)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Review of Ten Commandments from the Backside by J. Ellsworth Kalas

I recently finished a preaching series on the Ten Commandments. In the coming days, I am reviewing some of my resources that I used in preparing those sermons. This is one such review.

J. Ellsworth Kalas is a professor of homiletics at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is also a prolific author. Perhaps some of his most popular books are in the "from the backside" series. In this "from the backside" series, Kalas helps his readers see the good news in Scripture by guiding them to see the Scripture from the vantage point of someone who has a "backstage pass" to the awesome things God is trying to do through his Word.

In  The Ten Commandments from the Backside Kalas produces a solid book that explains the good news of the Ten Commandments for the common person. He often addresses his readers by restating the "thou shalt nots" as positive statements for living well.

Kalas shares a number of good stories throughout this book. He also brings a down-to-earth practicality to the text which reminds his readers about why each of the Ten Commandments is important.

If you are interested in understanding the Ten Commandments as grace and truth, I recommend you purchase this book soon. I found it very helpful in enriching my understanding of the text. I am sure you will too.

Advent from Isaiah--Isaiah 2:1-5--CEB

Isaiah 2: 1-5  
1 This what Isaiah, Amoz’s son, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
 2 In the days to come 
   the mountain of the LORD’s house 
   will be the highest of the mountains. 
   It will be lifted above the hills; 
      peoples will stream to it. 
3 Many nations will go and say, 
“Come, let’s go up 
to the LORD’s mountain, 
   to the house of Jacob’s God 
      so that he may teach us his ways 
      and we may walk in God’s paths.” 
Instruction will come from Zion; 
   the LORD’s word from Jerusalem. 
4 God will judge between the nations, 
   and settle disputes 
   of mighty nations. 
Then they will beat 
their swords into iron plows 
   and their spears into pruning tools. 
Nation will not take up sword 
against nation; 
   they will no longer learn 
   how to make war.
 5 Come, house of Jacob, 
   let’s walk by the LORD’s light.

I am working through this text to preach on this Sunday. It is from the lectionary texts from last year. Thankfully, I have a few resources to work with, but I am still attempting to figure out this passage.

Here is what I have noticed so far:
  •  This passage seems to have a chiastic structure
    • Verse 1 and Verse 2 contain and invitation to come to the mountain of God and be led by Him
    • Verses 3a and 4 both speak concerning the nations
    • Verse 3b is the center of the chaism, and thus contains the theme of the whole passage. What is that theme? That we will be able to learn what God says and be able to live it!
What do you think? What do you see in the passage? What themes speak to you?

Prayer for Today from St Augustine

O loving God
to turn away from you is to fall,
to turn toward you is to rise,
and to stand before you is to abide forever.
Grant us, dear God,
in all our duties your help;
in all our uncertainties your guidance;
in all our dangers your protection;
and in all our sorrows your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(from Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, p. 23)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Psalm 100
 1 Shout triumphantly to the LORD, 
all the earth! 
 2 Serve the LORD with celebration! 
   Come before him with shouts of joy! 
3 Know that the LORD is God— 
   he made us; we belong to him.[a] 
   We are his people, 
   the sheep of his own pasture. 
4 Enter his gates with thanks; 
   enter his courtyards with praise! 
   Thank him! Bless his name! 
5 Because the LORD is good, 
   his loyal love lasts forever; 
   his faithfulness lasts 
   generation after generation.
(Common English Bible)

I have always loved this Psalm. It is probably the most common psalm to pray or read during the day of Thanksgiving. Sometimes, when I read passages in a different version I notice different things. This was true as I read this passage in the Common English Bible.

Notice, as you read, the short declarative statements. Many of them, as I read them here, are punctuated with exclamation points. They are commands. Specifically, they are joyful, even jubilant commands.

Most specifically, verse 5 stands out to me. It speaks to me because it explains the first 4 verses. We worship joyfully and praise jubilantly for the following reasons:

  1. The Lord is good
  2. His love is loyal
  3. His love lasts forever
  4. His faithfulness goes on not just for us, but for generations to come, even those yet unborn
I am reminded as I read this that God is full of grace. He treats me better than I deserve. I owe Him everything.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Prayer for the Day by Teresa of Avila

Govern everything by your wisdom, O Lord,
so that my soul may always be serving you
in the way that you will
and not as I chose.
Let me die to myself
so that I may serve you;
let me live to you who are life itself.

Book Review of Praying the Jesus Prayer by Frederica Mathewes-Green

Praying the Jesus Prayer (Ancient Spiritual Disciplines)

Praying the Jesus Prayer
by Frederica Mathewes-Green
ISBN 978-1-61261-059-7
Paraclete Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

This year Paraclete Press has put out a little book called Praying the Jesus Prayer by Frederica Mathewes-Green. It is more of a pamplet really. The entire text is only 56 pages plus notes. When you order the book you will get a package of 5 of them, perfectly designed for a prayer or study group seeking to understand this text.

I think you find that if you order this book, you will read through it over and over again. Especially if you are in any way interested in contemplative spirituality from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, or if you are more specifically interested in understanding the Jesus Prayer.The Jesus prayer is a sentence prayer, drawn from Scripture, that a person prays repeatedly. Specifically, the words of the Jesus Prayer are, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner". This is most specifically drawn from the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

This book is designed to be a primer to the Jesus Prayer, and to a lesser extent Orthodox Spirituality as a whole. Green has written a book with the same title that is much longer and more in depth.

There are several things that make the book an asset for persons interested in meaningful prayer life. Green is skilled at bringing concepts in Orthodox spirituality that come to bear on the Jesus Prayer down to earth. For existence, her discussion of "the little radio" in one's head that allows one to develop spiritual conscientiousness and understanding is brilliant. Relatedly, her discussion of the Orthodox concept of the "nous" is very helpful to prayer novices and prayer scholars alike.

Also refreshing is Mathewes-Green's exhortation on how to prepare one's heart and life to pray effectively. She is aware that some spiritual consumers view any kind of prayer as one more technique on the market place to gain an experience of a sense of divine power. She eschews this mentality, and asks her readers to truly become serious about growing closer to God before praying the Jesus Prayer in earnest.

Over and over again, in this short book, Mathewes-Green shows profound insight about her own tradition from the perspective of an outsider, and of the human condition and its fraility and inability to pray well. She also is down to earth, and Mathewes-Green clearly communicates in a way that people can understand and believe that the way she has found is possible for others. What a good book!

The Common English Bible: A Test Case in Inclusive Language from Evangelical Perspective

Ok, so I am remiss on doing any real original posts leading up to this holiday season. With a job change and a new baby on the way, as well as Karis teething with both of her incisors this week, I have not had a chance to do any real study on specific verses and chapters for this blog.

I have, however, been slowly looking at the videos that the CEB put together to share about their new translation. I have been appreciating all that the PR people at the CEB are sharing.

Below is a video about the CEB's translation of a particular phrase. Traditionally, it is translated "Son of Man". However, this phrase tends to be misunderstood in many ways. Joel Green of Fuller Seminary explains the term, and why the CEB translates it "The Human One". Enjoy.

The "Human One" Explained from Common English Bible on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We have an announcement to make...

National Bible Week and the Common English Bible

This is National Bible Week. It comes and goes with little fanfare, in part because there is another holiday that happens Thursday of this week that ends up stealing a lot of the glory away from this week of celebration and remembrance.

This week, to remember the National Bible Week, we are spending most of our time focusing in on the Common English Bible, and what its recent release means to Bible lovers everywhere.

I have several friends that complain, "Why do we need another Bible translation?" Certainly I understand where they are coming from. But, because language, culture and people are constantly changing, sometimes it helps to have folks to come around every now and then.

Below is a video telling the Common English Bible's story. I hope as you watch this little slideshow you will get a feel about why this new translation is such a joy and an asset to Bible lovers everywhere.

Common English Bible from Common English Bible on Vimeo.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Moving to United Churches of Hot Springs, SD

For those of you who have not heard, the Walkers are moving to Hot Springs, SD. We appreciate our ministry in Fowler, but we feel like God has opened up the door for us to accept the call to minister as Pastor of United Churches of Hot Springs, SD. There is much to say about Hot Springs, and I will be sharing about those things in future weeks.

For now, I thought I would offer a few pictures to let you know a little bit about where we will be living.

View of sanctuary from parking lot

A view of the church sanctuary and fellowship hall from the other side of the river

Picture Share: A Walk around Our Future Home

Front Entrance

Another picture of the front entrance

Side yard

Back porch

Downstairs in back of the house

More Yard Pics: Wild Turkeys

A Whole gaggle!

Close up of a turkey--they were quite large

The turkeys are heading up the hill out of the back yard

Picture Share: Dad and Karis in Hot Springs

Karis and I in the back yard of the parsonage in Hot Springs

Another pic on Veteran's Day Weekend

Book Review of The St. Francis Prayer Book by Jon M. Sweeney

In recent years, as readers of this blog know, I have experimented with fixed hour prayer. I have also had a long-term interest in St. Francis' spirituality, especially his ability to combine depth in spirituality with a compassionately activist faith. For this reason, when I saw The St. Francis Prayer Book I snapped it up as quickly as possible.

Once I recieved The St. Francis Prayer Book, I was impressed. The first thing I noticed is how the book was organized. The book is divided into four very helpful sections. The first section presents a summary of the nature of St. Francis' prayer life. The second section presents the "St. Francis office". It includes morning prayers and evening prayers for one week. This section of the book does not necessarily include a lot of the words of St. Francis. Instead, it contains Scriptures and prayers inspired by St. Francis' sprituality what we know of the form and content of his prayer life. The next section shares occassional prayers that are attributed to St. Francis himself. Then there are some very helpful appendices to further model one's prayer and spirituality after St. Francis.

I have read several books on Francis of Assisi. Jon Sweeney gave me new insights in his brief summary of Francis' prayer life. I was really impressed by the introduction with this book. If you buy the book you must read it. It sets the stage for everything that follows.

I thought the actual "St. Francis office" was very helpful and well done. It was laid out in a way that seemed to both provoke me to mediation on the Lord and prayer to him. It mixes Scriptural and historical prayer resources well. And, as a Protestant, it was nice not having to work through a lot of veneration of Mary in a prayer book published by a Catholic publisher.

I also the other parts of the book helpful. The occassional prayers, while I have similar resources elsewhere, I felt was well laid out. Also, the appendices were also intriguing to read and think about.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in either fixed hour prayer, or St. Francis of Assisi's spirituality.

More on the Common English Bible

I have written earlier this month about the Common English Bible. The more I read about it, the bigger fan I am becoming!

Today I discovered this video about some of the ideas behind and issues in translation with this stellar version of Scripture which combines academic rigor, everyday language, and sensitivity to contemporary issue of inclusion in the way we use language.

Goals for the CEB from Common English Bible on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Prayer for the day from Harry Emerson Fosdick

O God, you have built your church
upon the foundationof the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.

Save the community of your people
from cowardly surrender to the world,
from rendering to Caesar what belongs to you,
and from forgetting the eternal gospel
amid the temporal pressures of our troubled days.

For the unity of the church we pray,
and for fellowship across the embittered lines
of race and nation;
to growth in grace, building in love, enlargement in service
increase in wisdom, faith, charity, and power,
we dedicate our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen

(Harry Emerson Fosdick, from UMC Book of Worship)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Prayer for the Day from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Beneath Thy Tender Care
O Lord my God, thank you for bringing my day to a close;
Thank you for giving me rest in body and soul.
Your hand has been over me and has guarded and preserved me.
Forgive my lack of faith
and any wrong that I have done today
and help me to forgive all who have wronged me.

Let me sleep in peace under your protection,
And keep me from temptations of darkness.
Into your hands I commend my loved ones
and all who dwell within my house;
I commend to you my body and soul.
O God, your holy name be praised.

(by Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Prayers from the Heart ed. by Richard Foster)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Prayer for Today--From St. Thomas Aquinas

Give us, Lord
steadfast hearts, which no unworthy thought can drag downwards
unconquered hearts, which no tribulation can wear out
upright hearts, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside

Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God
understanding to know you
diligence to seek you
wisdom to find you
and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(From UM Book of Worship #530)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hearing God call us to endure

Revelation 14
1 Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion. With him were one hundred forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 I heard a sound from heaven that was like the sound of rushing water and loud thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3 They sing a new song in front of the throne, the four living creatures, and the elders. And no one could learn the song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. 4 They weren’t defiled with women, for these people who follow the Lamb wherever he goes are virgins. They were purchased from among humankind as early produce for God and the Lamb. 5 No lie came from their mouths; they are blameless.

6 Then I saw another angel flying high overhead with eternal good news to proclaim to those who live on earth, and to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

8 Another angel, a second one, followed and said, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She made all the nations drink the wine of her lustful passion.”

9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them and said in a loud voice, “If any worship the beast and its image, and receive a mark on their foreheads or their hands, 10 they themselves will also drink the wine of God’s passionate anger, poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will suffer the pain of fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. 11 The smoke of their painful suffering goes up forever and always. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, and those who receive the mark of its name.”  (Common English Bible)

As I read this passage, the first thing I have to remind myself is that this part of Scripture was written to the church as an encouragement. I have to remind myself that this is written to the church, because the passage sounds downright scary. I believe what Jonathan Edwards said about fearsomness of being under God's wrath. I don't want to experience this kind of judgment, and it is only a confidence in God's saving grace that can hear even this passage as good news.

What I think is happening through this passage is that God is encouraging believers to stay strong and endure in their faith. He is challenging us to not put our faith in the powers of this world, because they are in fact temporary. Babylon may seem strong, but she will fall in God's good time. As will the kingdoms of this world, including the American kingdom. Will our faith endure in the midst of this hardship? This seems to be what God is asking.

He is doing more than asking or encouraging though. He is pleading with us. Stay strong. Remember where your victory is. Trust in God's power, not in earthly power. Ultimately, your life and eternity is in his hands. Endure!

(this post is part of the Common English Blog Tour)

Prayer for Today

You raised up Your Son, O God and seated Him at your right hand as shepherd and king who seeks what is lost, binds up what is wounded, and strengthens what is weak. Empowered by the Spirit, grant that we may share with others that which we recieved from your hand, to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(From Revised Common Lectionary Prayers by the Committee on Common Texts)


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