Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Prayer for Openness

The following is a prayer based on Ted Loder's, "Gentle Us Open," from his book, My Heart in My Mouth.

Lord of life and light,
Help us not to fall in love with the darkness that separates us from you
And from each other.
But to watch with wide yes, open hands and eager minds for your Word.
Let us dream and hunger and pray for the light of you and the life
for each other.

Lord, in the midst of our white-knuckled busyness in this season,
We realize deep within us that your gifts of mercy and light, peace and joy,
grace upon grace, can only be received if we are open and receptive.

So this is our prayer, Lord. Open us. Pry us open any way you can. Shock, beguile, knock, amaze, squeeze any way you can open us.

Open us to see your glory in the coming again of the light of each day,
The light in children's eyes and lovers' smiles, the light of truth wherever
it is spoken and done.

Open us to the songs of angels in the rushing traffic, the rustle
of shoppers, in the hum of hope and the longing within each of us,
In the cries of our brothers and sisters for justice and peace, and in
our own souls' march toward goodness.

Open us to share the gifts you have given us, and to the deep yearning to
share them gladly and boldly. Open us to initiate the exchange of
forgiveness, to risk a new beginning free of past grievances, and to find
the gifts of a larger love and deeper peace,

Open us, Lord, to the miracles of the ordinary,
To the heart-pounding wonder of birth,
To a mother's fierce love and a father's tender guidance.
Open us so that we may born anew in the fullness of your image,
The fullness of a just and joyful human community,
The fullness of your kingdom,
In the fullness of time.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Biblical Proportions"

While reading a New York Times article on the unusual weather we've been having this year, I came across the phrase "biblical proportions." This phrase was used to describe the October 29 freak snow storm that knocked out power to over 2 million homes on the East coast.

So what are "biblical proportions"? They are huge, gigantic, enormous and immense. When something happens on a massive scale, the word "biblical proportions" describes its immensity.

I wonder what events from the Bible qualify for this two-word adjective. Certainly, the creation of the world decribed in Genesis would qualify, as would the Flood Story. Perhaps the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt in the Exodus might also be an event large enough to evoke a response of "biblical proportions."

In modern times, we would probably use "biblical proportion" to describe large-scale catastrophes such as the 2005 southeast Asian tsunami or Hurricane Katrina in 2006. Surely, the explosion of an atomic bomb would also qualify.

Yet, I wonder if this phrase causes us to focus too much on visibly spectacular events and causes us to miss significant things that happen on a small scale. Some believe that, when God acts in our world, massive displays are the result. However, we need not be so impressed by largeness of scale that we forget the "still small voice" in which Elijah heard God addressing him.

Our world and our lives are changed in both large and small ways. To limit God to events only of "biblical proportions" is to overlook the subtle ways that God is present in our world.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Paradox of Newness

On November 1, I began a new venture as a part-time interim pastor. In any new venture, there is a mixture of excitement and anxiety. This is a paradox of newness: even though we welcome it, we also fear it.

I feel a sense of excitement about being a pastor of a congregation again. It's been three and a half years since I served a congregation and I've missed things about being a pastor. The main thing I've missed is the closeness you can enjoy in a church community. I have also missed preaching regularly.

There are some anxieties as well. After three years will I remember how to preach a decent sermon? How will I juggle my other two jobs (teaching and writing)?
Will I be pushed out of my "comfort zone" and will I be able to grow from this? Will I be a good leader for this particular congregation?

I don't believe there is any way around the paradox of newness. In any new venture there are things to be excited about and things that can stir up our fears. Being human means accepting this paradox. Feeling excitement and anxiety are signs that we are alive!