Tag Archives: love

Gardening God

Gardening God, who patiently works in Grace in our lives:

-till our soil;

-pick up the rocks of selfishness and fear;

-plant seeds of hope, mercy, and compassion;

-and harvest from us a crop of service in love.

Jesus, take us to your garden:

-Where suffering with you our sweat drops

–water the hopes and dreams of those in poverty, pain, silence.

-Where dying with you we join the compost heap

–fertilizing the blessings that generations to come will inherit.

-Where rising with you in glory

–We bask in the sunshine of your grace and love.

Spirit, lead us in suffering and glory to follow our Lord, Amen.

Advertisements

Prayer from Psalm 23

Lord, be my Shepherd.
Provide, lead, guide, show me the way to rest and to life.
Lord, be my Shepherd.
When I walk through the darkest valley, take away my fear.
Protect me with your rod and staff.
Lord, be the host at this table.
Set a seat for me right in front of my enemies.
Fill my cup, overflowing abundance and generosity.
Lord, be the host at this table.
Welcome me to your house, to be with you, and to live forever in goodness and steadfast love.  Amen.

Prayer based on the Ethiopian Eunuch

God was not ashamed to love me.
He loved so deeply with the waters of my baptism.
He loved so fully with good news of salvation.
Jesus didn’t mind that I was different.
Jesus didn’t cast me out 
but embraced me as a part of his creative diversity.
Come, Spirit, come!
Fill us with this unashamed love.
Come, Spirit, come!
Lead us to share.
Come, Spirit, come!
Let us be your witness.  Amen.
(C)2018, Nathan Decker, worshipswake.wordpress.com

Advent Candles Lighting 2017

LIGHTING THE HOPE CANDLE

 

This year has been devastating…

Wildfires, hurricanes, shootings, turmoil

It would be so easy to give in to apathy,

to let our hearts grow dark with despair.

But there is a light shining in the darkness.

(the candle is lit)

A single candle, a small voice, a still reminder…

Hope.

Hope in the Word proclaimed by the prophets.

Hope.

Hope in the Promise of Emmanuel.

Hope.

Hope in the birth of our Savior.

Hope.

 

LIGHTING THE LOVE CANDLE

 

She places a hand on her belly to feel the kicking from within as they journey down the road toward Bethlehem…

a Babe will be born, a Savior will arrive, Love will come down.

The lost world pushes on drudgingly, slaves to a never ending care-less-ness.

It would be so easy to give in to apathy,

But there is a light shining in the cold winter.

(the candles are lit)

A simple hope, a wonderful gift…

Love.

Love nurtured by a Mother’s embrace…

Love.

Love shared from the Father’s strength…

Love.

Love in the birth of our Savior.

Love.

 

LIGHTING THE JOY CANDLE

 

Cheerless faces marching in the land of misery…

Chained to our desires, held captive by our regrets, slaves to our brokenness.

It would be so easy to give in to apathy,

to let our hearts grow deaf, our open lips mute with pain.

But there is a song shining in the silence.

(the candles are lit)

A simple hope, the gift of love, a song of joy…

Joy.

Joy brought the Angel’s song to the shepherds.

Joy.

Joy inspired the Wise to follow their starry dreams.

Joy.

Joy in the birth of our Savior.

Joy.

 

LIGHTING THE PEACE CANDLE

 

War affects more than those who are fighting.

Men, women, children, babies, refugees.

Turning a blind eye, pretending it isn’t our problem,

It would be so easy to give in to apathy.

But there is a light shining in the night.

(the candles are lit)

A simple hope, the gifts of love, a song of joy, the peace of Christ…

Peace.

Peace born in a prince lain in a manger.

Peace.

Peace waging in our hearts, seeking justice, offering mercy.

Peace.

Peace in the birth of our Savior.

Peace.

 

LIGHTING THE CHRIST CANDLE

 

(all the advent candles are lit)

She gives him a nod; he realizes it is time,

There is no room in the inn.

It would be so easy to give in to the apathy that surrounds them,

Yet they don’t give up, pressing on to the stable.

Light is born in the darkness.  A child is born unto you.

(the Christ candle is lit)

A simple hope, the gift of love, a song of joy, the peace of Christ…

His name is Jesus.

Wonderful, Counselor,

He is Emmanuel – God with us.

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,

He is the Christ child.

Amen.

Pastoral Prayer “Do Not Be Afraid”

Wellspring of Hope, Whisperer of Wisdom, ceaseless Winds of Change:

You, Lord, have spoken everything into being in love,

You have weathered the storms and shifting sands of culture,

You have conquered depression and death.

We are so thankful as your people today.

 

Mighty God, we need your strength today.

Defend us when we are attacked by cancer, illness, and disease.

Reach into the pits of despair and pull us out of our darkness.

Hold us, Lord, as we grieve the loss of loved ones.

 

There is so much to fear today – yet your Kingdom is not a Kingdom of Fear,

But one of Love.

Send your courageous Spirit into our hearts

Send your resurrected Church into the world

Send us as we pray, Amen.

Prayer for the Shootings to Stop

Prince of Peace, Comforter, Creator –

while we placing offerings in the plate,

a shooter was putting a bullet in the chamber;

while we were counting attendance,

he was sizing up ammunition;

while we came to pray, giving thanks for life,

he came to kill.

The people gathered in the sanctuary,

yet evil ripped through hymnals, pews, and people.

God have mercy.

Comfort your people’s pain.

Help us lay down our fears and weapons of massacre.

Aid us as we unload our anger and guilt.

Wipe the tears from our eyes so that our aim might be as true as your aim.

Gently trigger us into a holy conversation about peace

so that we might lead through this tragedy,

so that we might prevent another from occurring.

All in the name of the innocent crucified Savior, Jesus, Amen.

Love is the only Torch We carry

Love is the only Torch we carry

By Nathan Decker

O, Virginia… watching the events of this weekend in Charlottesville brought me pain.   To see torches again used as beacons of hatred in my lifetime, Lord, have mercy on us.  When a group of white nationalists with anti-immigrant beliefs rapes the torch of Lady Liberty, the irony should not be lost.  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” has once again been trampled on by members of the Know-Nothing party of the 1800’s.  We shouldn’t be afraid of the light.  The flame of torches usually represents people coming together.  In the past, I have proudly watched the torch represent efforts for peace at the Olympics, hope for new discovery in Education, and the eternal flame of Wisdom guiding us.  Shame on us for making it symbol of division and fear!

Much of what transpired this weekend was based in fear and grief.  The city of Chartlottesville’s decision to take down a statue ripped off the band-aid on the surgical wound our nation has been dealing with ever since the Constitution told African-Americans they were 3/5 human.  Our nation’s history is complex and up for interpretation and retelling.  Each generation takes up the momentous task of looking back with guilt and pride in an effort to plow a new path into the future.  There are always attempts at shouting the loudest to diminish the voices of others.

As we stand up against the evil of white supremacy, we have to acknowledge the grief that is being expressed.  The way history is told in this nation has mostly been from a white perspective as if whites were the only leaders and contributors.  In recent years this wrong is being righted.  Those who were silenced and oppressed have had the opportunity to add their story to the history of our nation.  White nationalists and supremacists see this as diminishing white history.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Adding missing slices to the pie only makes the pie more full and does not require us to make other slices smaller.  Yet, this is the fear I see in the eyes of those carrying torches of darkness and yelling hate.  They believe they are losing their part of the story.

We can bravely shine brighter than the faces of fear.  We can learn to build relationships with those carrying torches of hate so that we might show them light, love, and the Christ who welcomes all tribes and nations together.  We can, as friends of mine did in Charlottesville, have peaceful conversations with those with whom we disagree.  We can listen to their concerns as well as make our concerns heard.  Through the conversations that lead to relationships, we can admit that all lives matter to Christ, we are one nation made up of many, and love shines brighter.  Love is the only torch we are called to carry into the dark night of hatred and apathy.  We shall overcome by letting peace on earth begin with each of us lifting up love.  After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

 

Goodness is stronger than evil;

                Love is stronger than hate;

                Light is stronger than darkness;

                Life is stronger than death;

                Victory is ours through Him who loves us.”

                                -Bp. Desmond Tutu

Let’s be Honest, some folks aren’t going to make it!

From Matthew 13:1-9

Mrs. Smith was one helluva teacher sent from Heaven.  I know because I had her for English.  I know because I watched her put up with Ed.  Ed didn’t want to be in school, Ed didn’t want to learn the puns of Shakespeare or the alliteration of Blake, and Ed didn’t want to be told what to do.

Through it all, Mrs. Smith never gave up.  She’d offer extra time on tests he had no intention of completing.  She’d push him to enter rap lyrics into a poetry contest, but Ed didn’t do extra work.  She’d encourage him to redo the homework he turned in before she graded it, but all this was casting pearls before swine.  Ed didn’t care.  His apathy, a black hole, sucked the energy and impetus around him.  Ed didn’t care.  But Mrs. Smith cared, and she never gave up on him.

Today’s world has joined what some psychologists call the ‘cult of self.’  At the expense of self-awareness and self-limitations, we boost self-esteem eclipsing reality in exaggerated egocentric effigies of us.  We know the education system is failing, yet more students get A’s and Honors than ever before.  If a C is the average, how come so few kids get them?  Ivy League Students were surveyed and 80% of them claimed to be in the top 5% of their class.  And everyone gets a trophy.

But it’s not just kids… Social Media enables us to tell the world about us and to live in a world that revolves around us.  We Instagram what we’re eating, tweet the songs we’re singing, and post “Best Vacation Ever” every time we slip away.  Narcissism rises as we can literally count how many likes, shares, comments, friends, and followers we have.  We create monsters who no longer can be told they are incorrect and will not admit that they made a mistake all in the name of the god called self-esteem.

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us a parable about farming.  We show up clutching to our report cards, trophies, awards and affirmations; Jesus ruins it.  God loves us, but some of us just aren’t going to get it.  The parable of the sower casting out his seeds is pretty familiar to all of us.  We know about the different types of soils: the path, the rocks, the thorns, and of course the good soil.  And each time we hear this parable, we tell ourselves the same things:  “I’m so glad I’m the good soil,” or “I used to be like that soil, but now I’m the good soil,” or “here’s a list of things I have to do to make sure I’m the good soil.”  We are so focused on ME! ME! ME! we’ve retitled this parable.  No longer is it the parable of the sower but the parable of the soil.

Jesus tells us about God.  Jesus lets us know God doesn’t give up on us.  Jesus is tells us about God’s wasteful generosity.  A farmer goes out to plant.  How many farmers do you know cast seed out on Highway 58?  How many farmers do you know throw seed on rocks or among thorns on purpose?  How many farmers do you know who are tighter than spandex on an 800 lbs gorilla?  Farmers I know count their fingers after they shake your hand.

God is not your average farmer.  Our Lord is so generous every soil gets seed.  God loves the road.  God loves us when we are hard and mean as asphalt.  God loves the rocky soil.  God loves us when we are shallow, undisciplined, and unwilling to let his love affect us deeply.  God loves the soil with thorns and thistles.  God loves us when we let money, worry, friends, and family come before what really matters.  God loves the good soil.  God loves us when we are ready to receive his Word, take it into our lives, and bear fruit.

This is not a story about us.  This is a story about God’s wasteful generosity.  God is willing to love even when there is little chance the love will be returned.  Our part in the story is to love like God loves.

Jesus sat down by the sea and told us a story about God: the most generous, loving, wasteful farmer the world has ever known.  Let’s be honest, some folks are just not going to get it, but that doesn’t stop God from loving them.  It shouldn’t stop us from loving as well.  God gives so much grace in the world that some of the grace is going to waste.  Some folks just aren’t going to follow Jesus.  Yet, God doesn’t give up on them… and neither should we.  After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

Dramatic Reading for Matthew 28

Dramatic Reading for Matthew 28

Needs four readers, one off-stage, three on.  One has luggage, one has a hammer, and one has a camera.

Voice off stage:                                As you Go-

Reader 1:                             “Yes!  We’re going on a trip!  I wonder where God is sending us.  I can’t wait!”

Reader 2:                             “I hope it’s exotic!  I’ve always wanted to travel overseas!”

Reader 3:                             “I’ll bring my camera and some dough, you know souvenirs will be so cheap there!”

Voice:                                   <Clears throat until they listen>  As you are going, Make-

R2:                                          “YES!  It’s a construction trip!  I wonder what God will have us build!

R1:                                          “I bet it’s a church or a school or maybe even a hospital!”

R3:                                          “I’ll bring my old shirts from college!  We can hand them out to the poor children!  We can even get the kids in church to collect happy meal toys to hand out!  Those kids will be so blessed by our presence!”

Voice:                                   <Clears throat again>  As you are going, make Disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow everything I’ve taught you.

R3:                                          “What’s that mean?”

R2:                                          “Disciples?  How do you build those?”

R1:                                          “All nations… including this one?  Does that mean we’re not going anywhere?”

Voice:                                   As you go about your life where ever you happen to be, share what you have been given.  Invite people to see my love in you.  Bring them to me to experience my love in the baptismal waters.  Teach them to follow the my path of peace.

R1:                                          “This isn’t going to be easy.”

R2:                                          “Yeah, I mean, folks around here already know me.”

R3:                                          “But they don’t all know Jesus.”

R1:                                          “Do you think we can share Christ here, in our homes and at our jobs?

R2:                                          “Do you think they will see Jesus in me?”

R3:                                          “Do you think I can still get a souvenir?”

Voice:                                   You don’t have to go anywhere to share the Gospel.  God has already placed you where you are an expert on the culture, language, and people.

Make disciples, immerse them in Christ’s love, and teach them the way of peace.  Amen.