Fifth Sunday of Easter: The Psalm Passage – Coming to the Lord . . . . when there is illness

Seeker: “In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.”
Preacher: There are those amongst us who seek a special refuge and deliverance – those who are ill and do not foresee healing soon. Illness that is prolonged and every increasing is difficult to handle. It is not unusual for those who suffer from it to feel depressed and alone. They come to the Lord for healing and sometimes the answer is “no.”
Seeker: “Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.”

Preacher: They are children of God, who suffer like this. But the Lord can seem far from them, remote and uncaring. The Lord is not like that, but from the middle of their illness it may seem like that. An answer of “no” to healing does not mean the Lord is not with them. In fact, the Lord may be especially close to them, walking with them day be day. They need not be ashamed. Their deliverance may come in different ways and at different times, but it will come in the Lord’s time.
Seeker: “You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.”

Preacher: For those in ministry, and those who simply walk beside them in life, it can also be a heavy burden. To see someone suffering, and know that there is nothing you can do, can drain even the best of saints. The Lord is there for them too!
Seeker: “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.”

Preacher: The psalm passages can be used in such times – times of illness and suffering. Times of depression and downheartedness. The Lord is there at the bottom of one’s endurance and at the end of stamina.
Seeker: “My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.”

Preacher: Who can say what may come of such suffering? The Lord does not bring suffering just to draw us closer, but uses the suffering that comes in this life to invite us to a closer walk with the Divine.
Seeker: “Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16)

Preacher: Let us pause in our reflections to remember those amongst us who suffer in the body, whose suffering is brought on by illness that defies human understanding. Let us come to the Lord, and in our thoughts bring with us those who come to mind. May the Lord minister to all us, and in the Lord may we find the healing that lifts us to live everlasting. Selah!

 

[There is a group that I am part of that supports myself and others who are chronically ill. This reflection goes out to them. And the prayer is for them, and for myself. Here I am both Seeker and Preacher – sufferer and minister. In need and giving support to others. If it were not for my own suffering, I would have no idea how much of a privilege it is to support and minister to others. Selah and Amen!]

Liturgy of the Palms: The Psalms Passage – Preacher and Seeker welcome the Messiah

Seeker: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Preacher:
From the time of the psalmist up to and including present day, the Lord has undertaken for all people. Not just those who have heard and heeded the call of the Lord, but all peoples. For the Lord’s plan from the beginning was to provide for creation, keeping a delicate balance of the Lord’s providence & protection, and the freedom of the human will.
Seeker: “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.”

Preacher: Humanity has a choice. When the Messiah Jesus Christ was on earth, he entered Jerusalem and was welcomed by the multitude. He was observed and planned against by the temple authorities, the Pharisees and the scribes who feared what he represented and what he might do. Unto this day the Lord waits for us to allow the Divine in. We also enter into the Lord’s presence, to worship, give thanks, and to raise petitions and ask for intercession.
Seeker: “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.”
Preacher: Many keep themselves outside of the Lord’s presence, either through fear or unknowing. Some hesitate to give themselves over to the Lord. Others come slowly. The Lord has patience with us, but warns there will come a time when it is too late to decide. And those who have waited too long be outside of the Divine’s domain forever.
Seeker: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”
Preacher:
The Divine is the foundation upon which all other things are laid.
Seeker: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”

Preacher: Those who have seen and believed in the Lord are blessed. Never again will they be alone in the world. Both the Holy Spirit that is in the world and the family of the Lord surround us, comfort us, and undertake for us.
Seeker: “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Preacher:
Those who believe lift up a mighty cry; but they do not cry in vain.
Seeker: “Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!”
Preacher:
For the Lord hears the cry of the faithful and the prayers of those who have placed themselves within the Lord’s righteousness.
Seeker:” Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.”

Preacher: The Messiah Jesus Christ came into Jerusalem on a donkey; with compassion and gentleness he stirs our souls and fills our empty spirits. The Lord Jesus Christ still comes to humanity, seeking opportunities to guide us and under gird us. In the Lord God all of our deepest needs are met.
Preacher & Seeker: “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29)

Week Leading Up to Christmas: The Psalm Passage Year A – Christmas Eve; gentle night leading to glorious day!

Seeker: “O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.”
Preacher: Sing Creation, and all who hear the word, Christ is born!
Seeker: “The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.”
Preacher: The Lord is victorious! But the Lord’s victory comes in a new and unique way. Not through physical strength and military might, but through innocence, faith, and love.
Seeker: “He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.”

Preacher: The house of Israel and every house throughout the world celebrates this night, and the gift that has come from our Lord!
Seeker: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.”

Preacher: We celebrate the beginning of the Lord’s plan for humanity. From the beginning of creation the Lord has had a plan. It comes to us slowly and at a distance. We ponder its meaning. Then the Lord, not wanting us to wait any longer, bursts through the heavens and comes down to earth. But not as a king with armor and army. But as a babe, so that we might learn from how to live in this life as the Lord would have us life. Sing praises to the Lord, a gentle Lord who looks upon God’s chosen people with compassion and mercy. As gently as any parent looks upon a beloved new born child, the Lord looks upon humanity.
Seeker: “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” (Psalm 98)

Preacher: The new born babe lies sleeping, in innocence. Not knowing the world, knowing only quiet and warmth, tenderness and peace. The world awaits, as it has been waiting for so many generations. In the days and years to come there will be turmoil, upset, and violence. The world demands what it wants and needs, and rejects that which is contrary to its nature. The time of reckoning and judgment will come. But for now all is peaceful, quiet and mild. The hope of the nations lying in the hand of a child. Shalom and Selah!

Season After Pentecost: The Psalms Passage – Preacher and Seeker (when I step into Preacher’s voice)

Seeker: “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might, and come to save us!” (Psalms 80:1-2)

Preacher: Lord God, You have placed yourself as the leader of all peoples. Who ever they are, where ever they are, and when ever they are. You are in your holy place, where no mortal has been and has lived in this world to tell about it. But, Lord God, your people need you! Help!

Seeker: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches;
it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River.

Preacher: Lord, many years ago and in a place far away – so far away that its existence is shroud from modern eyes, You brought your chosen people out of Egypt; several times you rescued them from exile and imprisonment, and established them strongly in the land. And over the generations your people, who grow from one called nation to many diverse nations, have rescued themselves and established themselves in new lands – each time claiming the God they worshiped brought them to the new place and established them. Or, lead them to re-establish a claim they felt they had before. All over the globe, Lord God, you people have “established” themselves, sometimes pushing out those who were there before. Lord God, we have to wonder, how could so many “establish” themselves in violent ways and claim the God of Peace ordained it? Perhaps that is why your people are now such a broken people. And we ask,

Seeker: “Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.”

Preacher: O Lord God, it is such a mess. And we ask, who has made it such a mess? The psalmist says it was you, Lord God. But now, so many generations down the road, we have to admit humanity has also broken down the peace and good will between the people who should be united under your name.

Seeker: “Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted.
They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.”

Preacher: “They”, Lord. It is so often them, those people, that have ruined it. But Lord, in truth, it is us! We have done this to ourselves, and to each other. We have burned each other with fire! We have cut down others! Oh Lord, all the ways we have cut each other down! We have perished! Have you rebuked us Lord? Is all the devastation your rebuke? I do not think so, Lord God! I think, and I believe you have wept at we have down. What we have done as we claimed to be doing it in your Holy Name!

Seeker: “But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.”

Preacher: Your favor, O Lord! On the person or people who You have designated for a certain task. We look around us; we look within us. Who is the favored of the Lord? Who is at the Divine’s right hand? Many claim that favored spot, and of those many deserve it. But some do not. Lord, if there is a person who sees clearly what needs to be done, and has been prepared for that task, let Your Strength and Spirit be upon the ones chosen.

Seeker:Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.”

Preacher: O Lord God! If there was such a person, or such a people that lead forth, we would follow them! Give us direction and guidance; give us hope and peace; and clutching that to our soul and spirit, we would go forth calling Your Name!

Seeker: Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved. (Verses 8-19)

Preacher: Amen!

Season After Pentecost: The Psalms Passage – Preacher and Seek speak out

Preacher: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
Seeker: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.”

Preacher: We are spread throughout the globe, beloved listeners. On every continent there are people of good hearts and of strong faith who mourn what has befallen their brothers and sisters. We pray to our Lord that those are hurt, in pain, and whose lives have been devastated might be gathered up in the Lord’s comfort and grace.

Seeker: “Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town.”

Preacher: But it is not just the task of the Lord’s, beloved listener, to gather up those who are hurt and broken. It is our task to! We are the hands and feet of the Lord. We carry within us the capacity to show similar love and carrying as the Lord does. No, we cannot heal as the Lord does, and sadly we cannot love with the same consistent and eternal love as the Lord does, but we can bring that love to those we meet.
Seeker: “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.” (Psalm 107:1-9)

Preacher: What more can I say to you, beloved listener? What can I say that will move your heart? That will move your spirit and soul? How much longer must I and those who speak and believe as I do preach to you – until love covers the world? As long as one act of violence, one instance of hatred is carried out, our mission will not be over. We must preach and exhort love until it rules and guides each heart!

Seeker: Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” (Verse 43) Selah!

Season After Pentecost: The Psalms Passage – Prayer for the Restoration of God’s Favor

LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin.

Selah
You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.

(Psalms 85:1-3)

I can not take any credit for the title of this, beloved reader, because it is what the NRSV has for the heading for this psalm. I can take credit, however, for deciding it is a good one for me to use. Just as we can take no credit for the grace and blessing that God bestows on us, but we can take credit for passing on that grace and blessing to others. And in light of the recent events in our world, I think it would be a fine thing to give grace and blessing to each life in our global community. It seems there has been far too little of that going one. And, it is a fine thing, a very very fine thing, to pray for restoration for a our global community.

Certainly there is every appearance and fact that not everyone in our global community wishes to live in harmony with each other person. The events fo the past two weeks give ample proof of that. I can just imagine what Preacher and Seeker would have to say. And it may not be to farfetched a thing to say they are in mourning over the recent events – not to mention what might happen between the time I write this and you read it.

Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us.” (Verse 4)

God’s favor is something that our world desperately needs. It may not be something that some think others deserve, whatever the reason, rationale, or (dare I say it) bias/prejudice. But I tell you . . . exhort you . . . assure you . . . that God’s favor is for all. The writer of psalms may have thought God’s favor had left the people in light of what was happening. Remember, however, this was written before the coming of Jesus and the assurance through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that God’s love in eternal and unchanging.

“Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?” (Verses 5 -6)

Ah, here is the key beloved reader. And Preacher/Seeker would be the first to point it out that many times . . . too many times . . . the “people” rejoice in God only when things are going well. When things are going . . . not well – think of the recent events in our world – the “people” fear and bemoan the times, the situation, and the other “people” who have caused the “not well-ness.” But that is the whole problem beloved reader; this “them/us” mindset where one group of people are given lesser value and important than others – it is literally killing us! We need to, for our very survival! Extend God’s favor and blessing to everyone! EVERYONE! Yes, EVERYONE!!!! If we allow the hatred that one person’s or one group’s action effect how we relate to each other, we have denied the possibility of God’s favor extending to them, and have set the stage for more violence.

Now, you may think I just mean certain groups or situations, but I am talking about even those who oppress, persecute, and yes, kill others. That does not mean we do not recognize their sin and evil intent. And we must restrain and stop them from allowing their sin and evil to cause more harm. But we also must make sure that our rejection to the sin and evil does not cause us to spread sin and evil that forms and festers in our own hearts! We, those who are suffering in all manner of ways, need God’s restoration too. And let it be that God’s favor heals the wounds in our hearts and the hearts, souls, and lives of those who have been brutally wounded.

“Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.” (Verses 7 – 8)

I have often asked myself in these last two weeks what I can do in the face of this. What can I do? I am not a person who attends rallies and speaks to the crowds. I do not belong to any group that marches or demonstrates or protests. I once did such things, but not now. And I have found that my efforts to add to what has been written social media forums has not resulted in good outcomes. So here I am, simply writing here on my blog, trying to address the issue of the day by putting forth scripture and commenting on it. And living peaceably with all those around me. Not much when you add it up. Yet . . . . .

Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.” (Verse 9)

If I can, through my small efforts, show “fear” for the Lord and encourage “fear” that is love, honor, reverence, and devotion to/for the Lord – then I have done much. And you, beloved reader, can do the same!

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.” (Verses 10 – 13)

This is a prayer, and a hope, that the psalmist set forth. And it is also a promise that some day will have its fulfillment. We wait for that day, we long for that day; and, most importantly, we work towards that day in whatever ways we can and when ever we can spreading that love that we KNOW is from God. Because in these days human love just is not enough. We need to connect to the love that is from and of God. And that love will restore us! Selah!

Season After Pentecost: The Psalms Passage – Preacher and Seeker preach to us

[No, beloved reader, you did not miss seeing this one. Apparently it did not post correctly. My apologies if you were looking for something on the 28th. Here it is, better late than never!]

Seeker: “O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”
Preacher: Dear listener, consider how often nature has been exhorted to praise and worship the Lord. Creation, itself, at any given moment is praising its Lord and Creator. From the swaying of leaves and branches to the blooming of flowers, and all the animals of the land, water, and sky going about their assigned tasks are raising praises to the Lord.

Seeker: “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.”

Preacher: Do not question and wonder at what I say. To us nature is simply going about its own business doing what is instinctive and natural. And if at times nature seems harsh and unforgiving, that is what nature is – starkness of life and death. But we, dear listener, are not caught in the cycle of nature. Flesh we may be, and from humble earthly beginnings. But our higher natures are modeled after the Lord. For us the exhortation to worship and praise means more than just following our earthly natures.

Seeker: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.”

Preacher: We are called to know and acknowledge our God. To us the Lord has given wider and deeper understandings. From the very beginning when humanity was called into relationship with God we were given a vital role in the Lord’s “marvelous works.”

Seeker: “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.”

Preacher: If we lift our eyes only as far as our own concerns, we do no more than the animals of the land, water, and sky. Our gods are the gods of earthly concerns which die when the flesh dies.

Seeker: “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.”

Preacher: The Lord God is more and greater than that. Do not let our thoughts and minds stop at only our concerns. Let us lift up our eyes farther, to the heavens where the Lord dwells and where our truer home is.

Seeker: “Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.”

Preacher: The things of this earth do not last long. So let us not put those concerns ahead of the precepts and statutes of the Lord. Let us strive for those things that last, that survive beyond the death and end of flesh. What is beauty on the earth is not the beauty that is in heaven. What is truly honorable may have its beginnings in this world but will find its truer meaning and fulfillment in the world to come. The Lord does not measure strength by our terms but by Godly terms. Majesty belongs to the Lord, and it is in the Lord’s sanctuary that we should build up our treasures.

Seeker: “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.”
Preacher: Will we be satisfied by what we find in this world? Or will we look beyond this world to the next? Hold out, dear listener, for the gifts that come from the Lord and are the Lord.

Seeker: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts.”

Preacher: Worship the Lord while you are in this world; but realize that this world can not contain the power and the glory that is the Lord.

Seeker: “Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.”

Preacher: But, you may ask, how can we adequately worship what is so beyond us? How can we understand what is so far above us? It is true, we can see only this world. It is the only reality we can know. We are flesh. We are bound by this world. If we are made in the image of the Lord God, it is in fleshly sinew and bone that the image is cast in.
Are we doomed then? Do we look up to the heavens seeking and hoping for the Lord’s favor and glory, but still find ourselves mired in flesh and the hold it has over us?

Seeker: “Say among the nations, “The Lord is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.”

Preacher: The Lord created this world, and we who are in it. We cannot free ourselves from the hold that sinew and bone has over us. But remember, dear listener, that the Lord reigns over the world and all creation remembers that the Lord cares for it and nurtures it. In the Lord’s time all of creation and all of humanity will be set free from the sin and imperfection that holds it back. That is why all of creation rejoices; not for what it is now but what it will become!

Seeker: “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it.”

Preacher: So dear listener, let us rejoice with creation that our Lord watches over us, tends to us, cares for us and plans for our fulfillment.

Seeker: “Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth.”

Preacher: Wait, dear listener, wait for the Lord. Keeping watch for the Lord and praise while you wait. Praise with tongue and soul, with body and heart.

Seeker: “He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.” (Psalms 96)

Preacher: Hold to the commandments that the Lord has set before and the teachings that Christ have given us. For it is by these things we will be judged and through these things that we will be set free. Selah!