"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering." (Romans 12:1, MSG)

Monday, March 31, 2014

#LukeActs2014 - Luke chapter 12

Luke chapter 12 is filled with warnings and the CEB paragraph titles convey to the reader the predominance of this theme.

Warnings to Jesus' friends. Luke 12:1-12. I like how Fred Craddock (Interpretation commentary) discusses Jesus' warning against hypocrisy in the opening verses of chapter 12. He acknowledges that we tend to view hypocrisy in the usual way...when someone pretends to be something they are not. In the Christian life, such a person would be pretending to be a true disciple of Jesus for the transformation of the world when in reality their heart and mind are devoted to other values. However, Craddock surmises that there are circumstances when the reverse form of hypocrisy may be the problem and that this is what Jesus is actually warning them about: pretending not to be a disciple when in reality one has made a commitment to following Jesus. Does Peter come to mind for any of you?

Warning against greed. Luke 12:13-21. This is the first of a two-part warning about concern over possessions. By now, Jesus is known for speaking out against greed and is once again holding up as the "standard for disciples the voluntary sharing of one's goods." Don't give in to the seduction of wealth and possessions.

Warning about worry. Luke 12:22-34. The second part of the warning is a bit simpler...don't become preoccupied with material things. 
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be too." (Luke 12:34)
Warning about being prepared. Luke 12:35-48. The final verse of this section of chapter 12 is true for virtually every aspect of discipleship:
"Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked." (Luke 12:48b)
(Note - My apologies for being late with this blog post. This week's reading is actually on Luke chapter 13 but, late or not, I did not want to skip chapter 12. A blog on chapter 13 will be posted by the end of the week to keep us on schedule.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

#LukeActs2014 - Luke chapter 11

"When you pray..." by Josh Wilson
 Teaching the disciples to pray
1 Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."
2 Jesus told them, "When you pray, say:
      ‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name.
      Bring in your kingdom.
      3 Give us the bread we need for today.
      4 Forgive us our sins,
      for we also forgive everyone who has wronged us.
      And don’t lead us into temptation.’" (Luke 11:1-4, CEB)
Nothing is more basic to the Christian life than prayer; but if I'm being honest, prayer has always been a rather elusive spiritual discipline for me. In fact, it wasn't until I took a spiritual formation class on prayer in seminary before I truly understood that prayer is more of an inclination of the heart than it is a ritual. More on that in a moment.

We are now eleven chapters into the 2014 Luke and Acts reading plan and one consistent and important theme that has presented itself thus far in Luke's gospel is the prayer life of Jesus.  Here are a few key moments:
3:21 - Jesus praying at his baptism

6:12 - Jesus praying before choosing the Twelve

9:18 - Jesus praying before the first prophecy of his death and resurrection

9:28 - Jesus praying at his transfiguration
We also know that the disciples, too, fasted often and prayed frequently (5:33). 

Still, here is what I find somewhat comforting from this passage in chapter 11...that prayer is a learned experience. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them, and as their Rabbi, Jesus did just that.

I am grateful for having been taught specific prayers like the Lord's Prayer. I am also fond of discovering other written prayers and blessings, like many I happened to see this week associated with Saint Patrick. I sometimes prefer to write prayers of my own for use when leading worship, like I have been doing in the chapel throughout Lent. Such things continue to teach me about prayer and strengthen my discipline. Even so, this aspect of my prayer life I associate with the "ritual" of prayer.

What I have appreciated learning about prayer more than anything else in recent years is that prayer can simply be understood as the heart language we share with God. Inclining our hearts to God in prayer permits our praise and thanksgiving, as well as our petitions and pleas for God's will, to flow up while also disposing us to hear the still, small voice of God as it flows down. In every moment of our everyday, ordinary lives. My dear friend and mentor, Dr. Steve Harper (who taught me more about prayer than he probably realizes), wrote in his blog these thoughts about the essence of prayer that speak beautifully to this:
"First, prayer is attitude. This means it includes occasional acts, but it is actually an ongoing disposition of the heart, not limited to fixed times of devotion.
Second, prayer is abandonment.  It is taking every moment and saying, 'Not my will but thine be done.'  It is the surrender of egotism and the offering of our lives to God–what Saint Francis called being 'an instrument of Your peace.'
And third, prayer is attentiveness, so that God can communicate with us as much in the ordinary moment as in the spectacular ones."
I hope that throughout this holy season you are encountering God in prayer like never before. May grace and peace continue to be with you as you make your Lenten pilgrimage.

Monday, March 10, 2014

#LukeActs2014 - Luke chapter 10

When Bishop Carter invited us to join him in reading Luke and Acts in 2014, it didn't occur to me to write a blog post each week on the associated chapter...that was the idea of a Trinity member. Once I made that commitment, however, I also dedicated myself to the idea of having ongoing conversations with people close to me about what we were reading. This has led to some really great discussions with a few people in particular, one such person being my good friend, Josh Wilson - one of Trinity's very own youth ministers.

If you happened to see the video blog a couple of weeks ago on Luke chapter 8, Josh was the creative source behind the visual content and he was also the one behind the camera (which in retrospect may be where I should have been). Anyway, the inspiration for that blog came from a conversation we shared in my office. 

This week we were discussing Luke chapter 10 and experienced similar inspiration. This time, however, I invited Josh to be a "guest blogger" on Everyday, Ordinary Worship and produce his own video. What you see below is the result and it's amazing! I hope you'll watch and join our conversation.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

#LukeActs2014 - Luke chapter 9

Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent - a season for opening our hearts to meet God through repentance, fasting, and prayer. It also marks the beginning of our annual pilgrimage with Jesus, from Jerusalem to the cross.

Having grown up in the Catholic tradition, Ash Wednesday has always been familiar to me. Yet, over the years its meaning has continued to take on greater significance. As a youth, Ash Wednesday simply began the season of giving up something until Easter and when we couldn't eat meat on Fridays. Today, the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday serves to remind me that I am a sinner in desperate need of God's grace and to help me remember just how far God was willing to go to make his saving grace available to me, to all of us.

I imagine by now you might be asking, "What does this have to do with Luke chapter 9?" Well, I'm about to tell you.

Following Jesus. 

I believe that each year's Lenten pilgrimage (when I attempt to follow Jesus on The Way to the Cross through prayer and fasting), helps to reveal the many ways I fall short at living like Christ, yet still manages to edge me closer toward becoming more fully who God created me to be. 

And isn't that why we follow Jesus? Isn't that the point of discipleship? To live more like Jesus and become more fully who God made us to be? I think so, and Luke chapter 9 offers us some important words about what it means to follow Jesus.

Jesus was off praying by himself after feeding the five thousand and asked his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

Peter replied, "The Messiah of God."

Then Jesus said this:
"It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the religious leaders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and on the third day be raised up alive.”
Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?"
So, there it is. Jesus tells us that we are not to run from suffering. Instead, we embrace it. "Follow me," he says, and we'll learn how. The Jesus Way is the way of self-sacrifice and it is to be our way, too...so that we can discover who we really are and who we are called to be. 

The forty days of Lent are a perfect opportunity for such discovery and it begins with humbling ourselves and carrying a cross of our own behind Jesus as he carries his. 

Let us pray together using this prayer from Henri Nouwen.

Lent is a time to be with you, Lord, in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.
I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.

I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are not times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.

Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life that you have prepared for me. Amen.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

#LukeActs2014 - Luke chapter 8

This week's post took a little longer than usual because we wanted to try something different - a video blog! (Thanks very much, Josh Wilson.)

I hope you will watch and respond with what spoke to you when reading Luke chapter 8 last week. The reading plan and our conversation will continue this week with Luke chapter 9.