Category Archives: Worship

Christmas: Shepherds

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I’ve been thinking about Shepherds since Christmas Eve.

Shepherds.  Providing for every need:  clean water, good food, safe shelter.

Not just the men (and women?) who seemed to simply leave their flocks in the fields to rush off in search of a baby in a manger.

Shepherds.  The men and the women who shepherd congregations.  Through the high holy days and the mundane every days, through great joy and deep sorrow – providing water and food and shelter.  Offering rest and healing, play and opportunities to learn.  Sharing story and art and music and movement and so much more.

Shepherds.  The women and men who care for our children – at home, in day care, at school and more – providing water and food and shelter.  Offering rest and healing, play and opportunities to learn.  Leading and teaching with story and art and music and movement and so much more.

Shepherds.  The women and men who care for our elders – at home, at care centers, in hospice and more – providing water and food and shelter.  Offering rest and healing, play and opportunities to learn.  Using story and art and music and movement and so much more.

Shepherds.  Feeding and sheltering and caring for others.  And being fed and sheltered and cared for by others (including the Great Shepherd)!

Thanks be to God.

 

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Thanksgiving Sunday Pastoral Prayer

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I’ll be preaching in a small country church tomorrow – country as you can only get there via gravel road, small as in maybe 50 total members with an average worship attendance of 15 or 20.  I’ve met a few of them in person and talked to two others on the phone (the organist and the one printing the bulletin).  In other words, I don’t know them so the pastoral prayer will be somewhat generic.  But it’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving and gratitude is never out of season.  Please join me in prayer.

PASTORAL PRAYER

Turning to God in prayer, I invite you to take a slow, deep breath.  In the silence, count your blessings and give thanks.  (silence)

Creator of Life, Giver of all good gifts,  having paused to count our blessings, we are amazed.  Thank-you.

Thank-you for the breath of life, the gift of birthdays, and for all who bear your image – the people around us, neighbors and strangers, nearby and far away; infants and children; teens and young adults;  those in the middle years of life; and those living their last days.

Thank-you for family and friends, for partners and encouragers in life’s journey.

Thank-you for love and laughter and even the tears that remind us of the most important thing:  we are all beloved – beloved by others, beloved by you.

Thank-you for land and sunshine and rain, for orchards and gardens and grain.

Thank-you for providing all that we need – food and drink, clothing and shelter, music and art, poetry and prose, rest and play and so much more.

Thank-you for the curious and the brave, for the imaginative and the practical, for hard workers and gentle spirits, for all who make your world – this earth – a good place to call home.

We are grateful to trust you with the concerns of our hearts and so we pray

for the people on the prayer chain…

for all dealing physical and mental illness and for those who love them…

for refugees fleeing for their lives, for immigrants seeking to survive, for individuals everywhere dreaming of a way to thrive…

for communities reeling from disaster – wildfire and tornado, flood and famine, hurricane and earthquake…

Holy One, send healing, send hope, send wisdom.  Use us as answers to our prayers.

We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Remembering after an Overdose

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.”  (Isaiah 40:1 NRSV)

Until Tuesday morning I had never heard of the young man.  By Tuesday noon I had met him through stories his parents shared.  Today, I’m preparing to preach at his funeral.

A drug overdose.

He’d been in rehab and was doing so well.  Relatives commented at his grandfather’s funeral just a month ago.  He looked so good.  So clean.  So clear.  (“Clear” is such an interesting description.)

Addiction is a disease.  An illness.  Brutal – for addict and loved ones alike.

“Comfort, O comfort, my people.”

Tomorrow we’ll name the ugly, the gut wrenching, the heart breaking.

We’ll turn to the words of our faith  and to the One who offers comfort like no other.  Nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39 NRSV)

And we’ll remember this one particular child of God.

As an elementary student he welcomed a new kid in the class.  Befriended him.  Helped him fit in.  A decade or more later, that kid remembers.

As an employee he was glad to cover for a fellow worker – to the extent management made him take a day off a week.  His associates remember.

As a member of the family, he loved to cook.  Great food.  Leaving an equally great mess in the kitchen.  His parents remember.

As an uncle he took delight in children.  “Uncle X” they’d squeal in delight at the sight of him.  “Where’s X?” they’d ask, over and over and over until he appeared.  Siblings remember.

He’d strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere.  Strangers may not remember him exactly.  But the smile, the kindness, the few moments shared surely are held in more than one heart.

He was one of those who’d give you the tie-dyed shirt right off his back.

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”   Matthew 25:34b-35 NRSV

We’ll remember with tears and laughter.  We’ll give thanks for his life.  We’ll pray for strength and comfort.

And we’ll go out, I hope, to gladden the hearts of those we meet, resolved to love, and practicing kindness with ourselves and others.

“Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us.  Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”  (Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss Philosopher, 1821 – 1881)