Monday, March 24, 2008

The Easter Effect

As recent posts reveal, I have just been captivated by the richness of the historical language of the Christian faith, both the language of God's inspired Scripture, and also the richness of the practice of prayer known as the "Daily Office" or fixed hour prayer. One aspect of the daily prayers is known as the "collect," which is a kind of prayer that specifically reminds us that we don't just pray personally and individually, but as part of the larger Story of God and as just one member of the community of God. Jesus himself gave this kind of collect reminder when in the Lord's Prayer he called us to say, not "my Father," but rather, "Our Father." With this in mind, I turn my attention to the collect for Easter-time, in which we find ourselves now. This prayer not only connects us to the larger community of faith, but reminds us of our calling, of the effect that Easter is supposed to have on us. Here is the Easter Collect:

In the Paschal Mystery, Almighty God, You established the new covenant of reconciliation. Grant, we pray, that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith.

I thank you my God, for reminding me and all your people that Easter is not just a time when we recall the fact that Jesus is alive and working to bring about your new creation in the world, but that you invite us to display in our lives the reality of this very new creation which we profess. For your glory we pray that you might fulfill this prayer in our lives this season. Amen.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Morning Sun has Risen

This is one of those times of the year I most treasure, when after what seems like weeks of gray, spring is fighting its way through the clouds and making its presence known. It reminds me of the lines in the classic prayer known as the Daily Office which reads: "In Your tender compassion, the morning sun has risen upon us, to shine on us, we who live in darkness, and to guide our feet into the paths of peace." There have been countless days in recent weeks when I pray those lines by faith, so to speak, knowing that the sun has risen, but not seeing it shine. I very much prefer saying these lines when I have to squint, with the morning sun's rays in my face.

I suspect God's gracious presence is like that too. I find myself in seasons when I'm squinting because He is so obviously near; but there are times when I accept his presence in my life and our world only by trusting what I know to be true, because I cannot see. My friend challenged me years ago when he said, "we shouldn't pray, 'God be with me,' because he already is." The daily prayers remind me that he's probably right. Perhaps I should pray instead, "Lord give me the eyes of faith to know your presence, even on those days when I cannot see evidence of it anywhere." And I thank God for the times of Spring, literally and spiritually, when he amplifies his voice to shatter my deafness. Enjoy the sunshine my friends!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Coffee Shop Musings

I had an interesting conversation today with a friend of mine who is incredibly wise, a spiritual guru of sorts. I asked him what advice he had for how our churches can pursue spiritual formation, to grow spiritually to be more the Jesus-followers we were created to be. His response was interesting: he said, we need to focus on doing the one thing that will not happen unless we do it--worshipping our God. Basketball leagues will be started for kids, people will learn to sing, counseling will be offered by therapists. But, he said, only the church will worship our God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And if we do that well, if we train people to genuinely and authentically worship (not just to craft things in churches to please themselves) it will change us over time. We will take on the character of the One we worship and we will impact the communities in which we live. I'm am captivated by this wisdom. Are we allowing ourselves to be distracted by a consumer mindset of offering what the crowds want? Of catering things to fit our lifestyles and our tastes and ignoring the One who made us and for whom we're made? My God, call us back to an utter abandonment to You. Capture us with your beauty and wonder and, as the ancients instruct us to ask, "turn our eyes from wanting what is worthless and grant us life in your ways."