Tag Archives: Lent

Confession and Pardon

Great and Holy Auditor of the Way we spend our time and gift:

We have been selfish in our generosity

and break the budget of 24 hours daily

cramming fruitless and self-serving endeavors.

We borrow from Peter to pay Paul, Mary, Josephine, and more…

We have no intention of settling debts.

We rob you of time with us.  

We ignore your advice and whispers of love.

We owe love.

We owe humanity more respect.  

We owe each other a second chance.

Our line of credit is bankrupt, our love has filed chapter 11.

Our lack of love embarrasses you, your church, your message.

Our apathy grows in our portfolio of abuse ensuring our own safety and self-preservation at other’s expense.

Forgive our interest and lack of faith principle.

Free us from greed and complacency.

Elevate us beyond market values into Kingdom values through your deposit on the Cross of Christ Jesus.

Hear the Good News!  Christ collected our debt and paid it all.  God’s love loosens the belt and gives us grace.  We are free.  We are loved.  We are forgiven.  Share peace and forgiveness as you have received in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Temptations

Lord, we hunger.
“Turn the stones into bread”
Lord, we want easy answers.
“Isn’t it written…”
Lord, we want power.
“I will give you all of this if you bow down to me…”
God calls us to care for creation
not to reshape it for our own purpose.
God calls us to follow Christ
even when we don’t understand everything.
God calls us to lay down our desire for power
and take up the Cross.
 
Then we will be filled.
No more hunger.
Then we will find peace.
No more searching.
Then we will bow before the one true God.  Amen.
Nathan Decker, Worshipswake.wordpress.com

Ash Wednesday Call to Worship 2014

Jesus was Baptized in the Waters of the River Jordan

and the Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove

                   And a voice was heard from heaven

“This is my Son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”

                   And immediately, Jesus went into the desert…

 

Lord Jesus, we follow you…

                   We will be tempted, tested, tried, troubled…

Lord Jesus, we follow you…

-Nathan Decker 2014

Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting

Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting from Matthew 6:16-25

 

A husband and wife were in bed one night.   The husband was a business leader in the community – 500 employees.  That night was particularly difficult as he had a lot on his mind.  He was tossing and turning, stealing the covers from his wife, getting up and down to go to the bathroom, mumbling to himself.  Finally, his wife got up out of bed, grabbed her pillow and blanket, and left.

“What’s wrong?  Where are you going?”

“This bed’s not big enough for 502 people, I’ll be on the couch.”

 

Ever feel like life is too full?  We work – 40 hours a week for 30-40 years then we retire and things really get busy!  We have kids/grandkids – the back of our car has this random collection of balls (soccer, baseball, basketball) and let’s not forget the bags (for gymnastics, ballet, dance, scouting) and perhaps a musical instrument or two.  We try to make time for recreation and leisure – gardening, watching the game, reading a book, going to the movies, Facebooking.  And at the end of the day if there is anytime left – sleep.  Oh, and church – somewhere we’ll fit God into all that.

 

Fasting is limiting.  In ancient times as well as today, some folks choose to give up food to provide space for spiritual reflection.  They gave up the time where they would set at table and instead set at the table with the Lord.  It is the concept of limitation as a method of honing in on what is important.  Focusing our effort.

 

I want to be the Best Dad I can be, but something has to give.  There are days that I have to make a decision between work and play.  Yes, sometimes I get to sit in the stands a yell praises to my children on the basketball court or on the baseball field, but there are also nights when I don’t get to tuck them in because I’m away at meeting that’s related to work.  It’s frustrating, but choices have to be made and priorities have to be set.

The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting is about setting a priority and setting aside space for God moments.  I could buy that coffee from Starbucks or I could give that money toward Stop Hunger Now.  I could stay at home and spend time with my family watching a 2 hour movie or I could spend some ten minutes in prayer for the church to find renewal.  I could tuck my children into bed and simply tell them good-night, or we could read a Bible story together as a way of passing on the faith and calming them down for sleep.

 

A lot of us miss out on God moments simply because there is no sacred space in our lives for God to come fill.  As a people of God we need to limit the agendas in our meetings to one or two items so that we have time for God.  As a people of God we need to limit all the stuff we feel we have to do so that we can focus on what God wants us to do.  In a culture of more, bigger, super-sized, fasting teaches us that less is more.  Jesus says, “Isn’t life more than just your needs?”

 

Fasting is sacrificing.  There is a difference between bringing your best to God and bringing leftovers.  Recently I attended Ettrick UMC where a new worship service is being held by the students and campus ministry of VSU.  It was an exciting service.  There was poetry, dance, song, and most of all, Passion.  These ‘kids’ gave intentional time to God to create and to give what they had to offer.  It was their very best.

 

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.”  In Fasting, by saying no to commercialism and consumerism, we say yes to allow the Spirit to flow through us creatively.  In the series 7th Heaven, the family doesn’t buy Christmas gifts to give to one another.  Instead, they have to give something you already have or something you’ve made.  What if worship was like this?  What if I told you today that you weren’t allowed to put money in the offering plate but instead had to provide an offering of your time, your service, your prayers, and your witness?

 

I saw this kind of worship at a Church in Cambodia.  I watched as the community came together.  One man had some batteries he brought from home.  A woman carried an old 1980’s style mini radio.  Still another man brought a coil of wire. Finally, the youngest among them climbed up on the roof to attach the wire to the peak of the old ‘barn shaped’ building as an antennae.  They gave what they had and what they could create so that they could hear music, prayers, preaching, and news that wasn’t controlled by the government.  They gave what they had and what they could create.

 

Jesus said, “If your eye is healthy, the whole body will be full of light.”  When we follow Christ, we take up our cross.  When we follow Christ, we follow the only one who can see life and our journey clearly.  When we follow Christ, we walk as a people with vision.  We walk as children, full of light.

 

Fasting is giving up to get real.  How many masters do we have?  In “The Devil Wears Prada” a woman tries to serve her demanding boss while at the same time having a life, satisfying a boyfriend, and getting a better job somewhere else.  I watched the movie and got lost by the number of people who keep telling her what she should do and how she should do it.

 

“No one can serve two masters.”  Jesus says.  By Fasting, we give up earthly pursuits and desires to get real with the Holy Spirit – the one true God who knows our deepest essence.  D. Bonhoeffer wrote in the Cost of Discipleship, “It is only because Christ became like us that we can become like him.”  Fasting offers us an opportunity to be like Christ.

 

Lent is a season in the church’s life when we often focus on Fasting.  Fasting is limiting how much to provide sacred space.  Fasting is sacrificing to receive true life.  Fasting is giving up the earthly masters to serve the Heavenly Lord and be more like Christ.  In a culture that often asks us, “What do you want to get out of life?” I challenge you today with “What will you give out of life to receive a glimpse at true life?”

Begin the Fast

In the old days people would go for days, weeks, without eating.

Jesus in the desert.  Peter on the rooftop.  Paul in prison.

                   There is a part of us that knows why:

In giving up we gain,

                   In letting go we receive,

                   In the practice we find the presence.

                   So during these 40 days, Lord, ignite our spirits.

Limit our busy and our stuffy

                                that we find you in the fasting.

 

(C) 2015 Nathan Decker, Worship’s Wake

Disciples are…

Disciples Are…

“Remember from dust you came and to dust you will return.”

Traditional phrase used on Ash Wednesday

 

In our faith, we often use earthy elements as a means of God’s grace upon our lives.  In Baptism, the water reminds us that a free flowing grace has marked us as loved by God, called to be a part of the church, and a force of salvation in the world.  Ash Wednesday places a different mark – a reminder of our mortality and a call to change our ways as disciples.  What is a disciple?  Here are four possible answers this Lent.

A disciple is faithful.  This means our “yes” means “yes,” and our “no” means “no.”  We show up.  We promised God we would serve, and as followers of Jesus, we intend to live out this promise in the power of the Spirit.  We don’t let petty arguments, worldly priorities, or even theological disagreements cause us to abandon God and one another.  In our consumer society, we are told the lie that life should be filled with effortless happiness and products and services of pleasure.  People stop coming to this church or that church because they know they can find a church that scratches their itchy ears.  The Bible teaches us that to truly be disciples; we have to faithful to one another and to God in showing up.  “The one who claims to be in the light while hating a brother or sister is in the darkness even now.” 1 John 2:9.

A disciple is loving.  At both worship services recently we’ve sung, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  This is a quote from Jesus from the Gospel of John.  The love of a disciple is a love that is selfless and self-giving.  We don’t mind giving up something that we enjoy so that we can provide for the needs of others.  When we see poverty, we look for opportunity and ways to change the system.  When we see hunger, we share our food.  When we hear that someone is sick or dying, we give hugs and prayers of hope.  What is most amazing about this love?  It is given freely – without price or membership.

A disciple is holy.  1 Peter 1:15 says, “you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy.”  Holy is one of those words that has been smeared and overused to the point that it has no meaning.  Holy is Other.  We are called to be other, just as God is other than this world.  We are not citizens of this world.  We are citizens of the Kingdom of God that is here and is coming.  Are there things that we need to avoid in our pursuit of being other?  Yes.  We probably should avoid hate, apathy, and abuse of anyone or anything.  Are there things we need attend that will help us on our journey?  Yes.  We should often pray, read the Bible, study, take communion, sing the songs of our faith, and give of ourselves in charity.

A disciple is disciplined.  In the Gospels, Jesus would say “be stricter than the Pharisees in your faith” at the same time he put his arm around a prostitute welcoming her to forgiveness.  Following Jesus isn’t easy.  We have to fail, fall down, and get back up each and every time.  We are called to be comforted.  God loves us.  We are called to be challenged.  God wants us to change our behavior and the world.  Discipline means training like a weight-lifter, going to the gym and aching the next day.  Pray for ten minutes each day.  Try to give more time and money to the God through the church.  Give up that bad habit and take on a good one.  Discipline means no more milk and cereal because it’s time for meat and potatoes.  Read the Bible and let it change your opinion about politics, economics, and how you behave.  Bring Christ into the relationships you have with people so that they know you are a follower of the Savior.  Discipline means no more giving up.

This Lent, God doesn’t want you to give up.  God wants you to take up this cross, the cross of being a Disciple of Jesus.  More than anything the life of a disciple is the life of discipline.  During this season of Lent and for the rest of your lives: be a disciple.

 

“Repent and Believe in the Gospel.”

 – Mark 1:15