The Challange of Living in Unity

Our Speaker this week, Sandi DeMaster, is the Pastor and Priest for Lumen Christi; a community who shares our values and our Sanctuary, so has found their home here at McMinnville Cooperative Ministries.  To read more about Lumen Christi click here:  Lumen Christi: Home

We are honored to have Sandi share her words with us this week!

REFLECTION

Perhaps you’ve heard the old story about two aged Quakers chatting contemplatively as they sat in their rocking chairs, watching a summer sunset from their country house porch. The one said to the other, “You know, sometimes I think that everyone in the world is a bit off except for me and thee. And, sometimes I wonder about thee!”

We laugh at that story because we recognize ourselves in it. Privately, we think “I alone see things clearly and everyone else is a bit off.” Family life especially fosters this attitude. When individuals from different genders, backgrounds, and personalities come together, misunderstandings and conflict eventually arise. Adding children escalates the potential for problems. Now take a local church and multiply those numbers by 1-200. It’s easy to imagine that conflict is inevitable.

What was going on in the Christian community in the city of Ephesus that inspired the writer of this letter to pen the words we read today?   It sounds like there was some kind of divisive energy in the air. Maybe leadership was in question, maybe there were economic injustices at play in the community, maybe there were some theological differences floating about as people tried to figure out who this man Jesus had been and how his teachings ought to be practiced. Whatever it was, the writer of this letter was looking to address the human tendency toward division by using the word “one” and “unity” multiple times.

Oneness is a universal principle to which all nature is called to yield. The story of evolution teaches us that life evolved from one cell. Over billions of years, the process of replication and diversification produced complex organisms of unity in diversity. Each cell and each organism made up of cells had its own purpose- a purpose that made a contribution to the entire web of life. To think about it boggles the mind! But in today’s scripture passage, the Divine Power that created this unity of nature calls us to recognize and honor this unity in the way that we live our Christian faith in community.

“We are called to live as one in the spirit of Christ.  I plead with you, then, in the name of our Redeemer, to lead a life worthy of your calling.”   Our calling is to live in unity. We are charged to pursue the goal of reconciliation, not only our personal relationships, but in our faith communities and finally, into reconciling all creation into relationship with the God who intended unity to be the real condition of life.

So how do we move back towards this ideal condition? Many of us “old timers” memorized this KJV verse years ago: “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,  endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Today we hear it in these words: “treat one another charitably, in complete humility, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the spirit through the peace that binds you together.”   Our worthwhile calling is to the kind of love that is willing to yield one’s own personal position and comfort level for the sake of the whole community.   This is a love that is an act of the will, not an act of emotion. Our calling is not first and foremost to a feeling of coziness and warmth toward one another, but to a choice of actions that maintains unity.

Humility, gentleness, and patience are the qualities that enable preservation of “the unity of the spirit through the peace that binds you together.” How are those qualities being fostered in you as you make the effort to lead a life worthy of your calling?

SCRIPTURE

Ephesians 4:1-6,11-16 (The Inclusive Bible) We are called to live as one in the spirit of Christ.  I plead with you, then, in the name of our Redeemer, to lead a life worthy of your calling. 2 treat one another charitably, in complete humility, gentleness and patience. 3 do all you can to preserve the unity of the spirit through the peace that binds you together. 4 there is one body and one spirit—just as you were called into one hope when you were called. 5 there is one savior, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and creator of all, who is over all, who works through all and is within all. 

QUOTES

Look out into the universe and contemplate the glory of God. Observe the stars, millions of them, twinkling in the night sky, all with a message of unity, part of the very nature of God.

Sai Bab

“Nothing unites people as sharing the same affliction.”

Jack Hyles

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

 J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“Sometimes the thing that brings us together also pulls us apart. Sort of like a zipper.”

 Jarod KintzThis Book Title is Invisible

“All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.”

Alexandre DumasThe Three Musketeers

“The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.”

T.H. White

FOR REFLECTION

As we work toward the realization of the unity that God has created, consider:

Which of our own preferences do we value more highly than the experience of this God-given unity?

To what degree do we desire less unity than God intends?

Do our personal lives and community efforts contribute to the realization of the high goals set forth in the Epistle to the Ephesians?

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Acknowledging Our Humanness In Our Search for Compassion

This week’s Devotional was written by, in my opinion, a brilliant and discerning mind:  Susan Means.  Susan brings us a theme that resonates deeply with any soul.  I sincerely hope that you enjoy Susan’s words as much as I have…

It will be somewhat difficult to make today’s scripture elaborate my chosen topic so with some trepidation I will make a valiant effort to show a connection.

There are times when, like the psalmist, we cry out to God from what seems like the “ends of the earth”. We feel vulnerable and weary, we cannot see what is ahead and we don’t know what to do. Disagreements, hurts, indifference and self-concern divide us. Reaching out we take a hand that helps us to climb and see a new perspective. Learning to become more open to others teaches us many things. Openness cultivates in us an attitude of honesty. We see ourselves, as well as others, more clearly. We identify the ways in which we need one another. Little by little our hearts, which can be so easily become hardened to the needs of others, are changed into caring and compassionate hearts.

SCRIPTURE

Psalms 142:1-7 The Message

I cry out loudly to GOD,

Loudly I plead with GOD for mercy

I spill out all my complaints before him,

And spell out my troubles in detail.

“As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away.

You know how I’m feeling,

Know the danger I’m in,

The traps hidden in my path,

Look right, look left___

There’s not a soul who cares what happens!

I’m up against it, with no exit___

Bereft, left alone.

I cry out, GOD, call out:

“You’re my last chance, my only hope for life:”

Oh listen, please listen;

I’ve never been this low.

Rescue me from those who are hunting me down;

I’m no match for them.

Get me out of this dungeon

So I can thank you in public

Your people will form a circle around me

And you’ll bring me showers of blessing”

QUOTES FOR THE WEEK

“Real training for service asks for a hard and often painful process of self-emptying. The main problem of service is to be the way without being in the way.”

Henri J. M. Nouwen

“Find the poem in all persons. Listen to their music and find the tunes they hear.”

 William Carlos Williams: M.D. and poet

“God is as dependent on you as you are on him.”

 Mahalia Jackson

REFLECTIONS

As you think about the week ahead, consider the things you might do to reflect God’s presence in the world.

Perhaps you could call or visit someone who is housebound.

Smile at a person that looks and acts different.

Remember three positive things that happen each day.

QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK

What are the situations that discourage you?

What do you need to control?

What might God be inviting you to risk?

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Finding the Silver Lining

Our speaker this week, Delia Hammond, is a beautiful person inside and out.  A member of the Coop and a huge supporter of our outreach ministries and organizer of Saturday Morning Breakfast, Delia is a vision of living into her faith.  Thank you Delia for your willingness to write for us today, and speak for us Sunday.

In the Episcopal Church Psalm 40 is listed in the Lectionary as one to be used on the second Sunday of Epiphany. We are actually using it for the seventh Sunday after Pentecost. However, it is relevant for any day or season of the liturgical year or indeed season of our lives.

Psalm 40 was written by David. We are not sure at what time in his life he wrote it and he may have written it in two parts. Our focus is on the first part verses 1 – 10. Some scholars say that this Psalm is a prayer of thanksgiving, or a song of thanksgiving and deliverance. Others say it is a song about pits, falling into pits and what to do when in one. I believe this Psalm has great meaning and purpose for us as we journey together through this time of transition and anticipation at the CoOp

In verse 1 we read that David, the psalmist has “waited patiently” for the Lord. The Hebrew verbal root here is qavah, which carries the idea of “hopeful anticipation” or “anxious waiting.” I believe that is an accurate descriptor of where we find ourselves at the CoOp right now! We might be feeling anxious as we wait for our interim pastor to arrive on September 1st but I hope that our anticipation, is hopeful!

But wait we must! And apparently we should wait patiently! For me and maybe for you waiting patiently is almost impossible. My timing is not God’s timing and maybe one day I will understand that completely. Waiting with patience is a virtue, I for one, still need to learn and maybe one day I will master!

The Psalm continues with thankful acknowledgement to God for hearing the psalmist’s cry for help, for rescuing him from the pit of despair, from the bog and mire and setting him upon a hard, firm path and steadying him as he walked along. I hope we don’t feel like we are in a pit of despair but certainly we are in a time of transition. It is comforting to know that if God lifted David out of such seemingly dire circumstances, set him on solid ground and continued to walk with him, then certainly God will do the same for us.

David responds by celebrating the work of God with singing and proclaims: “He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God.” I pray that over time we will celebrate what God is doing for us here and we will sing a new song.

Many blessings are given to those who trust the Lord says the Psalmist. David is trying to describe a deep sense of contentment that is above and beyond the feeling of happiness. It is not a fleeting emotion but a deeply rooted feeling of calm peace. David attempts to describe the huge pile of miracles that God has performed and he exclaims that the list is so long there will never be enough time to tell of them all. Typically in his time, people would have thanked God by bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, but he somehow understands that God doesn’t want those things. David acknowledges that the deep contentment he feels isn’t derived from the things that the world worships, or from listening to the shallow words of the proud, it comes from trusting in God.

Oh that we might feel that same deep sense of contentment and profound trust that comes only from God. While we might feel anxious about the uncertain times ahead, we really have nothing to fear if together we put our trust and hope in God to guide us.

So here is a collective challenge for us as we move forward together: Let us keep our eyes wide open. Let us acknowledge God in all things and in all circumstances. Let us look for the silver lining which God promises us does exist no matter how negative the situation might feel at the time. As a church, as the body of Christ, let us move forward together, looking for God’s miracles, offering praise and thanksgiving with such confidence and contentment that we are compelled to sing a new song to all who gather here both inside and outside these walls. Above all, may we put our faith and trust 100% in God. Oh, and you know, you could take this on as a personal challenge too, just as David did. What a beautiful world we would have if we each sung a new song of loving kindness and truth.

 

Psalm 40: 1-10 – The Living Bible

I waited patiently for God to help me; then he listened and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path, and steadied me as I walked along. 3 He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God. Now many will hear of the glorious things he did for me, and stand in awe before the Lord, and put their trust in him. 4 Many blessings are given to those who trust the Lord and have no confidence in those who are proud or who trust in idols.

5 O Lord my God, many and many a time you have done great miracles for us, and we are ever in your thoughts. Who else can do such glorious things? No one else can be compared with you. There isn’t time to tell of all your wonderful deeds. 6 It isn’t sacrifices and offerings that you really want from your people. Burnt animals bring no special joy to your heart. But you have accepted the offer of my lifelong service.[a] 7 Then I[b] said, “See, I have come, just as all the prophets foretold. 8 And I delight to do your will, my God, for your law is written upon my heart!” 9 I have told everyone the good news that you forgive people’s sins.[c] I have not been timid about it, as you well know, O Lord. 10 I have not kept this good news hidden in my heart, but have proclaimed your loving-kindness and truth to all the congregation.

Quotes:

The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow. Don’t give up – Robert Tew

The triumph can’t be had without the struggle – Wilma Rudolph

Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity – Og Mandino

The silver lining – A hopeful or comforting prospect in the midst of difficulty. When you search for the positives during difficult circumstances, you begin to find peace on the other side. That is the silver lining. – Until She Flies

The struggle of life is one of our greatest blessings. It makes us patient, sensitive and Godlike. It teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it – Helen Keller

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness and deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Questions:

When have you been in a pit? What did you learn from it and how were you blessed by the circumstances?

When have you experienced a time of hopeful anticipation or anxious waiting? How did you cope with that?

What are some of the positive things you already see coming out of the transition here at the CoOp?

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Conflict and Healthy Communication

This week begins our summer of lay speakers and guest devotional-ists.  Our writer and speaker for the week of July 5th is Robert (Bobby) Langhorne, a member of the Coop and McMinnville UMC.  We are happy to have Bobby open our summer program and look forward to a season of new voices!

James 1:1-8, 19-25 (NRSV)

1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:

Greetings. Faith and Wisdom

2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy,

3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance;

4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.

6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind;

7, 8 for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;

20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.

21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.

23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror;

24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.

25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

Devotional

The book of James is probably my favorite in the Bible. The Epistle – another word for letter – has a lot of great things to say about ways we can structure our lives to be good Christians. It has a lot of beautiful language and metaphor, using Greek that is rarely found in the Bible. For instance, that part in verse 6 – “the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind” – it’s a beautiful image. In verse 16, not quoted above, he refers to God as the “Father of Lights.”

James paints a vibrant picture. He speaks of “testing our faith”, using the Greek word δολιμιον (dokimion), which was used in 1st century Greek to mean striking coins to ensure they were true – a great image. He also talks about doubt as δίψυχος (dipsychos) being double-minded, but he doesn’t mean doubt like the small doubt you get occasionally. Here, James is talking about doubt that is a permanent division – a literal dividing of the soul.

It might be fitting that James talks about doubt so strongly – the Epistle is part of Luther’s Antilegomena – books that he questioned the authenticity of. Luther refers to it in different ways, once as “an Epistle of straw and destitute of an evangelic character,” but later Luther described it as a “good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God.”

The Church has had many conversations and arguments about what is canon, about how to worship, how to live, how to be a Christian. At the Co-op, we have those discussions too. In the last two thousand years, there have been times when the divisions in Christianity looked like the survival of the fittest, but that does not have to be our experience here. We have room for many voices and many opinions. Tolerance has room to occur at the Co-op because we recognize the game does not have to be zero-sum.

James is often described as a book of “how-tos”, Proverbs for the modern man. At the time that the book of James was written, the book of Proverbs was several hundred years old – well past the time for things to be updated. The time that James was written is disputed by Biblical scholars, much like many other Epistles. Some scholars say that the Epistle was written by James the brother of Jesus before his death in 62 AD. Other scholars claim it was written around 90 AD and attributed to James by an unknown writer in order to carry more authority. Regardless, the book has been around since at least the 2nd century AD (it shows up in essays by people trying to decide what books should be in the Bible), which was many hundreds of years ago. Perhaps it is time to add some more Proverbs to how we should approach Christianity today.

An Eastern Orthodox Protopresbyter by the name of Thomas Hopko had a similar idea. He came up with 55 modern Proverbs for how Christians should live, just as James had written his “how-tos” earlier. I’ve chose twelve of Fr. Hopko’s Proverbs for brevity here – I wanted a nice even list of 10, but I just couldn’t get it down that far:

  • Be always with Christ.

  • Pray as you can, not as you want.

  • Spend some time in silence every day.

  • Do acts of mercy in secret.

  • Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings. Cut them off at the start.

  • Read good books a little at a time.

  • Live a day, and a part of a day, at a time.

  • Be totally honest, first of all, with yourself.

  • Be faithful in little things

  • Be grateful in all things.

  • Accept criticism gratefully but test it critically.

  • Get help when you need it, without fear and without shame.

I recommend you read the rest of his list if you get a chance, it is really great: http://www.virtueonline.org/modern-proverbs-55-maxims-christian-living-0

I do not always agree with all the things Fr. Hopko had to say in his life, but that is the point. The church is not made up of one voice only, but many voices that blend. Sometimes they blend into unity, but sometimes that point of unity is only if you are standing far enough back.

Here at the Co-op, we have room for many voices, many debates, many ideas. The church is a reservoir filled up by the individual drops of each person’s mind. That reservoir is going to be there for us for a long time, but we have to treat with some care. Strife, unreasoning discord and violent thoughts will drain the drops away until we have nothing left. But if we approach every issue, every situation that we may come across, with the wisdom of James or even Fr. Hopko, that reservoir will be around for a long time to come.

Quotes of the Week

“Yelling at living things does tend to kill the spirit in them. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts…” – Robert Fulghum

“It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do” – Robert Fulghum

“In the end, the aggressors always destroy themselves, making way for others who know how to cooperate and get along. Life is much less a competitive struggle for survival than a triumph of cooperation and creativity.” – Fritjof Capra

“We must never despair; our situation has been compromising before, and it has changed for the better; so I trust it will again. If difficulties arise, we must put forth new exertion and proportion our efforts to the exigencies of the times.” – George Washington

“Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a goodly Christian weapon.” – Martin Luther

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley

Questions for the Week

If you were to put together a guide for how modern Christians should live their life, what kind of things would you include in it?

Can conflict be healthy?

How would you structure a conversation with many differing opinions so that it does not degrade into unhealthy discord?

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From Lament to Praise

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

Lament. The longer you live, the more you will pray these prayers. Life is hard, and relationships are difficult. Our church is in the midst of some lament. We are grieving the loss of pastors and friends. I’ve heard so many times in the past few weeks “This is not an end, it’s a beginning.” And that it true, but we must also do the difficult work of saying goodbye, grieving our losses, and embracing the pain that is present in such separations.

I really believe that some of the most messed-up people I have ever had to deal with were people (and churches) who tried to by-pass grief. Grief is a valley that must be shlogged through. It is very difficult work, but to go around it is to court mental dis-ease.

That’s my prognosis as the spiritual physician in this place. I was encouraged to not use this Psalm as my preaching text for my final Sunday, but I think it is important. However, it is not the end. So I’ve changed the reading to the end of the Psalm. We pick up at the very end of the lament. This Psalm is so loaded. It is the Psalm that the disciples remembered when Jesus cleansed the temple. “Zeal for your house has consumed me” (Psalm 69: 9). At the crucifixion of Jesus they recall verse 21 “for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” This is, in fact, a sad place.

But it does not end there. The Psalmist is able to look up and praise God. Notice that the Psalmist does not do this after they have been saved. It is in the midst of a very troubling time of betrayal and humiliation that the focus changes. After crying out to God the very real pain, the Psalmist is able to entrust their life to God and THEN they are able to praise God. “I will praise the name of God with a song”.

The final word is one of dwelling and future generations. David has received God’s assurance that someone from his family will continually sit on the throne of Israel. His decedents will live in the city forever. This is the three-fold pattern of lament. It is a stark and realistic cry to God of the pain in which we find ourselves living. It moves into a word of trust for God, and praise of God’s work in the world and finally moves onto trust and hope in the next generation.

My father use to say that it was silly to leave a church because of a pastor. “Pastors come and go” he used to say. (He waited one out for over 25 years!) My father knew that churches are made up of faithful people who have dedicated themselves to praising God, providing fellowship to one another and to others, and to working in the world to help those in need. Pastors help to lead those things, but they are carried out by the church–by the people of God. It has been my great privilege to walk down difficult paths with many of the people of this church. It has also been my joy to celebrate the good things that have happened here. I’m going to grieve not being a part of this community any longer. It is indeed a special place doing wonderful things, so I’m sad to have to leave. But I know the wonderful things we are doing will carry on, and I give God thanks for that and for the years that Robin and I have been able to walk with you.

Quotes for the Week

“I was tired of well-meaning folks, telling me it was time I got over being heartbroke. When somebody tells you that, a little bell ought to ding in your mind. Some people don’t know grief from garlic grits. There’s some things a body ain’t meant to get over. No I’m not suggesting you wallow in sorrow, or let it drag on; no I am just saying it never really goes away. (A death in the family) is like having a pile of rocks dumped in your front yard. Every day you walk out and see them rocks. They’re sharp and ugly and heavy. You just learn to live around them the best way you can. Some people plant moss or ivy; some leave it be. Some folks take the rocks one by one, and build a wall.”     Michael Lee West

“Someday you will wake up feeling 51 percent happy and slowly, molecule by molecule, you will feel like yourself again.”  Amy Poehler

The only way to overcome the grief is to go through it!”  Dr Paul Gitwaza

And, finally, the Anne Lamott Section:

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

“You can either practice being right or practice being kind.”

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”

“Laughter is carbonated holiness.”

“You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town”

Lesson Psalm 69:28-36

Strike their names from the list of the living;
No rock-carved honor for them among the righteous.

29 I’m hurt and in pain;
Give me space for healing, and mountain air.

30 Let me shout God’s name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.

31 For God, this is better than oxen on the altar,
Far better than blue-ribbon bulls.

32 The poor in spirit see and are glad—
Oh, you God-seekers, take heart!

33 For God listens to the poor,
He doesn’t walk out on the wretched.

34 You heavens, praise him; praise him, earth;
Also ocean and all things that swim in it.

35 For God is out to help Zion,
Rebuilding the wrecked towns of Judah.

Guess who will live there—
The proud owners of the land?

36 No, the children of his servants will get it,
The lovers of his name will live in it.

Questions for the Week

What are some of the “rocks of sorrow” piled up in your front yard? How do you deal with them?

What is one thing about the future of the church that fills you with hope?

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Praise and Justice

Devotional for Sunday, June 21

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

This is a classic praise Psalm. But it has a twist. Notice this is a command, not a suggestion. People of faith have no choice but to praise God. That’s first. Next we are told that to even remember God is to be blessed. And we are to be continually praising God, in every moment of our day–no matter where we find ourselves.   We are also instructed to observe everything God has done and to find praise for that as well. Looking at creation and seeing how beautiful it is and actually taking the time to notice all God has done is also praise. I think that is the most common form of praise in this part of the country. It is also natural that the Psalms are songs. Singing is the number one way I like to give praise to God.

Praise of God is not something that comes easily, or naturally to people. It must be taught; it must be studied and learned. The Psalms are a school of sorts to help us learn how to praise God in this life, and, in a way, training for the life to come. It doesn’t require a fancy building, or a place of quiet (although that can help) or even the right attitude. Just stopping and noticing the beauty around us can lead us into praise.   God is good and has created such a wonderful universe with such astounding creatures and a rich diversity of human beings. It’s amazing. But praise by itself is not enough.

In the last paragraph the whole Psalm changes. God is worthy of praise, but God also acts. In this case God acts powerfully for the poor and forgotten of the earth. God picks them up out of the dirt, and “rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash.” And what does God do with them once they’ve been rescued? God throws them a banquet. This is once again the great reversal. The rich and powerful are ignored, and the poor and oppressed are lifted up and set down to a banquet.

It is hard for me to find quotes for this week. Most people of faith emphasize exclusively the praise part and ignore social justice, or focus only on helping people and seem much weaker on praise. A faithful life requires both. Trying to keep that balance is not easy. Personally when I see all of the poverty and suffering around me it can be difficult to give praise. However, most of that suffering and the system that makes people poor is human-made, not God-made. It is possible to thank God for all of God’s goodness and still be quite angry about the systems that oppress people.

Quotes for the Week
“We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.”                      Pope Francis

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”   Dalai Lama

“God wants us to know that life is a series of beginnings, not endings.   Just as graduations are not terminations, but commencements. Creation is an ongoing process, and when we create a perfect world where love and compassion are shared by all, suffering will cease.”      Bernie Siegel

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”                       Albert Einstein

“When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, ‘Yes, but is it the God of Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?”   Quentin Crisp

Lesson—Psalm 113 (The Message)
1-3 Hallelujah!
You who serve God, praise God!
Just to speak his name is praise!
Just to remember God is a blessing—
now and tomorrow and always.
From east to west, from dawn to dusk,
keep lifting all your praises to God!

4-9 God is higher than anything and anyone,
outshining everything you can see in the skies.
Who can compare with God, our God,
so majestically enthroned,
Surveying his magnificent
heavens and earth?
He picks up the poor from out of the dirt,
rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash,
Seats them among the honored guests,
a place of honor among the brightest and best.
He gives childless couples a family,
gives them joy as the parents of children.
Hallelujah!

Questions for the Week

Do you have a harder time with praising God, or showing compassion to other people?

How do you praise God in your everyday life?

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Praying the Psalms

Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

Praying the Psalms. Jesus did it. It guided him through the heights of glory to the pit of despair. I really like Eugene Peterson’s introduction to the Psalms. I’m going to quote from it liberally today. He talks about how in his life as a pastor people were always asking him how to pray. He would place the Psalms in their hands and say, “here, pray this.” People are frequently confused by this. Aren’t the Psalms songs, after all? They are, but they are sung prayers. As Martin Luther said, that those who sing, pray twice.

People often feel they have to learn the correct language for prayer. You don’t. The Psalms are evidence of that. They are honest and earthy and filled with just about every human emotion there is. Peterson said that his parishioners were often surprised by the prayers they discovered in the Psalms. He expressed surprise at their surprise. “Did you think these would be the prayers of nice people? Did you think the psalmists’ language would be polished and polite?”

Peterson continues: “Untutored, we tend to think that prayer is what good people do when they are doing their best. It is not. Inexperienced, we suppose that there must be ‘insider’ language that must be acquired before God takes us seriously in our prayer. There is not. Prayer is elemental, not advanced, language. It is the means by which our language becomes honest, true, and personal in response to God. It is the means by which we get everything in our lives out in the open before God.”

I relied on the Psalms a great deal when I was on leave for two months. I discovered that no matter what I was experiencing, the Psalmist was there to greet me. Phrases like “I stood there saved—surprised to be loved”, or “God’s word is better than strawberries in Spring, better than red, ripe strawberries”, or “God, my God, why did you dump me miles from nowhere?” It doesn’t matter what emotion you are feeling, it’s in the Psalms. Are you feeling betrayed? How about this, “Don’t let them cut my throat; don’t let those mongrels devour me.” It may be shocking to see such raw emotion as prayer.

I have been praying Peterson’s version of the Psalms for over ten years. I try to read one each morning before I begin my day. Sometimes I am called to reach out beyond myself and praise God, but just as often I am greeted right where I am, in my messed up, non-perfect, secretly wanting revenge, depressed self. I am so pleased to have this chance to preach and pray the Psalms on my way out the door. It is wonderful company. In today’s Psalm we see a stark contrast between those who follow God and those who do not. Those who “Chew on God’s Word” are like trees planted in Eden bearing fruit every month. Those who do not are like wind blown dust. There is something to an authentic life, and a part of that life is struggling with the highs and lows of life and faith. Contrary to what some people say, faith is not all happiness and celebration. It contains the whole gambit of human emotions, and they are all in the Psalms.

Quotes for the Week

“We have to stand up for what we believe in, even when we might not be popular for it. Honesty starts with being ourselves, authentic and true to who we are and what we believe in, and that may not always be popular, but it will always let you follow your dreams and your heart.”   Tabatha Coffey

“Our lives improve only when we take chances – and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” Walter Anderson

“The secret of life is honest and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Groucho Marx

 

Lesson Psalm 1 (NRSV/AS/PTC Version)

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,                      and do not take a stand in the path that sinners,                              nor a seat in company with cynics,

2 but their delight is in the teaching of the LORD,                                      and on the LORD’s teaching they                                                    reflect both day and night.

3 They are like trees planted by streams of water;                                       bearing fruit in due season whose leaves never wither,                                In every work that they undertake they prosper.

4 How different the wicked are, how very different!                                         Like chaff blown by the wind

5 the wicked will not stand firm at the Judgment,                                          nor sinners in the gathering of the upright.

6 For the LORD watches over the way of the upright,                                     but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Questions for the Week

What is the reward for living a faithful life?

Is your life fruitful? How are you being fruitful, and where are you struggling to be?

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