Being Present to One Another

Hebrews 10:24-25 NRSV
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching

Let me describe what it means to be truly present. Being present involves letting go of our constant preoccupations, immersing ourselves in the here and now, and giving ourselves wholeheartedly to whatever is at hand. … It’s about becoming more aware, alert, awake to the fullness of the immediate moment. If we are with another person, it means engaging with him or her with all of our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength. Such wholehearted attention requires patience, time, and disciplined effort. And it is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to those around us, especially our suffering neighbor. — Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes

1 Peter 1:22 NRSV
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.

Though any sincere prayer of the heart seems valid to me, I must admit that my own practice of intercessory prayer has changed over the years. One day I received a disturbing phone call about a friend’s illness; my heart twisted in concern and love. At the same time my head raised the question “How should you pray for her?” From somewhere deep inside me, I heard “You just did.” Maybe the quickening of compassion formed the heart of the prayer. Maybe the actual words were for me, not God. Maybe God hears the soul’s sincere desire, not only our carefully crafted words. We pray more unspoken prayers than we realize. – Linda Douty, Rhythms of Growth

Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing . ~ Rachel Naomi Remen

You can survive on your own
You can grow strong on your own
You can prevail on your own
but you cannot become human on your own.
– Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey

“How do you work with the poor?”
“You don’t. You share your life with the poor.”
It’s as basic as crying together. It is about “casting your lot” before it ever becomes about “changing their lot.” Success and failure, ultimately, have little to do with living the gospel. Jesus just stood with the outcasts until they were welcomed or until he was crucified—whichever came first.
– Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

Empathy communicates trust. And people perform best when they feel trusted. When I sit with you in your mistake or failure without trying to change anything, I’m letting you know that you’re okay, even when you don’t perform. And, counter-intuitively, feeling okay about yourself — when you fail — makes you feel good enough to get up and try again. Most of us miss that. Typically, when people fail, we blame them. Or teach them. Or try to make them feel better. All of which, paradoxically, makes them feel worse. It also prompts defensiveness as an act of self-preservation. (If I’m not okay after a failure, I’d better figure out how to frame this thing so it’s not my failure.) Our intentions are fine; we want the person to feel better, to learn, to avoid the mistake again. We want to protect our teams and our organizations. But the learning — the avoidance of future failures — only comes once they feel okay about themselves after failing. And that feeling comes from empathy. – Peter Bregman, The Right Way to Respond to Failure

Romans 12:9-10 NRSV
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

My Bishop, Allan Bjornberg, once said that the greatest spiritual practice isn’t yoga or praying the hours or living in intentional poverty although these are all beautiful in their own way. The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up. And in some ways Mary Magdalen is like, the patron saint of just showing up. Because showing up means being present to what is real, what is actually happening. She didn’t necessarily know what to say or what to do or even what to think….but none of that is nearly as important as the fact that she just showed up. – Nadia Bolz Weber, Sermon about Mary Magdalen, the masacre in our town, and defiant alleluias

I say to my non-Christian friends and neighbors, if you want to see the gospel of Christ, the gospel that has energized this church for two thousand years, turn off the television. The grinning cartoon characters who claim to speak for Christ don’t speak for him. Find the followers who do what Jesus did. Find the people who risk their lives to carry a beaten stranger to safety. Find the houses opened to unwed mothers and their babies in crisis. Find the men who are man enough to be a father to troubled children of multiple ethnicity and backgrounds. And find a Sunday School class filled with children with Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy and fetal alcohol syndrome. Find a place where no one considers them “weird” or “defective,” but where they joyfully sing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” That might not have the polish of television talk-show theme music, but that’s the sound of bloody cross gospel.
– Russell D. Moore, Pat Robertson vs. the Spirit of Adoption

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Pentecost: Power to Witness

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Acts 1:8 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

We are witnesses. Witnessing is not just something we do; it is something we are. We don’t go to witness, we witness as we go. With every breath we take, with every word we utter, with every action we make, we are witnessing. It’s been said that when Stanley discovered Livingstone in Central Africa and had spent some time with him, he said, “If I had been with him any longer I would have been compelled to be a Christian and he never spoke to me about it at all.” The witness of his life, his being, was irresistible. – William Richard Ezell, God’s Redemptive Plan

Acts 2:4 NRSV
[On the day of Pentecost] All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering.
– Howard Hendricks

The Christian’s life in all its aspects – intellectual and ethical, devotional and relational, up-surging in worship and outgoing in witness – is supernatural; only the Spirit can initiate and sustain it. So apart from him, not only will there be no lively believers and no lively congregations, there will be no believers and no congregations at all. – J. I. Packer

Acts 4:29-31 (NRSV)
“Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

When I live by my own power and strength, relying solely on my natural talents to see me through, then people naturally praise me for how I am living. But when I am living in a way that requires me to depend on the Holy Spirit, people respond by praising my Father in heaven.
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

This Spirit is not some magical, mysteriously supernatural aura of a dynamistic kind, not a magical being of an animistic kind, but God himself in his especially personal and self-giving aspect: as a power which creates life. The Spirit is God himself, a merciful power establishing his reign over man’s heart, over the whole of man, inwardly present to man and apparent in his workings to man’s human spirit. – Hans Kung, The Church

After the wait, with the power of the Father, the church is unleashed into the world with incredible energy and authority. It is unrestrained by the authorities it encounters; it is unimpeded even by imprisonment. Its impact is “to turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). I do not know about you; this prospect and possibility seem remote from the church as I know it . . . except, it is the work of the Spirit! When the church waits and receives, it is emboldened in way that transforms.
Walter Brueggemann, Blogging Toward Sunday

Click here for the Rev. Dr. Steve Harper’s important insights on the meaning of “Jersusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the Earth,” the locations of our witnessing.

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Prayer Service: Naming and Claiming the Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit by Sheila Yackley

Naming and Claiming the Holy Spirit
A service of prayer, scripture and song inspired by Francis Chan’s excellent book, Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.

For a PDF of this service,
click here –> Prayer Service: Naming and Claiming the Holy Spirit

This service may be led by one or more persons. If you are using multiple readers, invite persons to read prior to the service or invite persons to read as they are gathering before the service. If they accept, hand them a full service script with their portion highlighted. When it is time for their reading, they arise from their place in the congregation and move to one of several microphones preset throughout the congregation. Choose a variety of persons to read.

This service may be offered in place of the sermon or following the sermon.

Scripture and Meditation
Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is a Person, not an indistinct “power” or “thing.”

ONE: John 14:16-17 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is God, not a lesser or different kind of Being than God the Father or God the Son.

ONE: 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NRSV)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

In his book Forgotten God, Francis Chan wrote, “How ludicrous it would be for anyone to say they were going to explain the Holy Spirit. The Bible says we cannot fully understand God, and I am certainly not the exception to that rule. There are things about God that are mysterious and secret, things we will never know about Him. But there also are things revealed, and those belong to us (Deut. 29:29)….The point is not to completely understand God but to worship. Let the very fact that you cannot know God fully lead you to praise…

For Illumination by Christina G. Rossetti   
United Methodist Hymnal #477
Open wide the windows of our spirits, O Lord,
and fill us full of light;
open wide the door of our hearts,
that we may receive and entertain Thee
with all our powers of adoration and love.

The following songs or others may be used.
Come, Holy Spirit
by Bill Gaither
CCLI #10934

Holy Spirit, Thou Art Welcome
by Dottie Rambo and David Huntsinger
CCLI #12994

Holy, Holy, Holy 
United Methodist Hymnal #64

We Exalt Your Name
by Kari Jobe & Matt Maher
CCLI #5866478

by Brooke Ligertwood
CCLI #4785835

The following testimony or another may be used.
The testimony of Dave Phillips who founded the Children’s Hunger Fund as retold in Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God (pp. 135-136).

Scripture and Meditation
Basil the Great said, “What does the Spirit do? His works are ineffable in majesty, and innumerable in quantity. How can we even ponder what extends beyond the ages? What did He do before creation began? How great are the graces He showered on creation? What power will He wield in the age to come? He existed; He pre-existed; He co-existed with the Father and the Son before the ages. Even if you can imagine anything beyond the ages, you will discover that the Spirit is even further beyond.”

The Holy Spirit is omnipotent, all powerful.

ONE: Zechariah 4:6 (NRSV)
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, always everywhere.

ONE: Psalm 139:7-10 (NRSV)
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.

The Holy Spirit is omniscient, all knowing.

ONE: 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (NIV)
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

The following prayers are printed on an insert. Other prayers may be substituted as desired. Persons are invited to pray at the communion rail, pray in their seats, or to move from pew to pew praying for the Spirit to fill all who come into the sanctuary. Persons pray at their own pace, in silence or aloud. Soft instrumental music or silence may accompany the prayer time. The prayer time concludes with The Lord’s Prayer.

Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition                           
United Methodist Hymnal #607
I am no longer my own, but Thine.
Put me to what Thou wilt, rank me with whom Thou wilt,
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for Thee or laid aside for Thee,
Exalted for Thee or brought low for Thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am Thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen

Come, Holy Spirit by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Come, Holy Spirit
Breathe into us the breath of new life
Come, Generous Spirit
Bring peace and bring hope
Bring courage for change
Bring freedom from all falsehood and fear

Come, Holy Spirit
Embolden us with the fire of Your heart
Come, Pentecost Spirit
Bring light and bring strength
Bring tongues filled with truth
Bring passion for the world to know You

Come, Holy Spirit
Unify us in the ways of Christ
Come, Creating Spirit
Bring gifts and bring fruit
Bring life to dry bones
Bring wisdom to live justice and love

For Renewal of the Church by John de Gruchy                                                       
United Methodist Hymnal #574
Renew your church, Lord,
Your people in this land.
Save us from cheap words
and from self-deception in your service.
In the power of your Spirit
transform us, and shape us by Your cross.

Scripture and Meditation
Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit prays with us and for us.

ONE: Romans 8:27 (NRSV)
And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit brought creation to life and continues to sustain it.

ONE: Genesis 1:1-2 (NIV)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

ONE: Job 33:4 (NIV)
The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

ALL: Psalm 51:10-12 (NRSV)
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is eternal and holy.

ONE: Romans 5:5 (NRSV)
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

The following testimony or another may be used.
The testimony of Esther Ahn Kim, who was imprisoned for her faith, as retold in Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God (pp. 97-98).

Offering and Doxology
The following songs or others may be used.
Holy Spirit, Truth Divine                                               
United Methodist Hymnal #465

All Creatures of Our God and King
David Crowder version
CCLI #3608102

The following songs or others may be used.
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
United Methodist Hymnal #103, v. 1, 2, 4

by Chris Tomlin and Reuben Morgan
CCLI #5677399


The following songs or others may be used.
Sweet, Sweet Spirit
United Methodist Hymnal #334

I am Free by John Egan
CCLI #4220974

Books Referenced:
Francis Chan, Forgotten God (David C. Cook, 2009)
Esther Ahn Kim, If I Perish (Moody Publishing, 2001)

Scripture quotations marked NRSV are taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

For more of Sheila Yackley’s artwork, click here

Prayer: For Renewal of the Church © 1986 John de Gruchy

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Service Compilation: Naming and Claiming the Holy Spirit
© 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use my work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact me for information and permission to publish a work in any form.

Wisdom, Healing and Openness

Open to Growth by Carly Swenson

Proverbs 22:17-19 NRSV
The words of the wise: Incline your ear and hear my words, and apply your mind to my teaching; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today— yes, to you.

In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.
– Phil Collins

Knowledge is indispensable to Christian life and service. If we do not use the mind that God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality and cut ourselves off from many of the riches of God’s grace. -John Stott

Maybe wisdom is not having it all figured out, but being open to God. In wisdom we never finish paying attention, never close our minds. We continually become more open to new awareness and perspectives, by what Paul calls “the transformation of our minds.” In wisdom we become more open to wonder, attentive to the Spirit, and receptive to God. We become more sensitive, enlarging the territory of our care, and welcoming others into our compassion with open arms. We become more transparent to God’s grace. Wisdom is allowing ourselves to be changed.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Open Me

Conversion is going on all the time within us and within the world. … While the change of turning toward God may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it is in reality a continual process. We may think that we have turned fully toward God; then we discover another dimension of God, and we know immediately that more conversion is possible and necessary if we are to move Godward in all of life.
– Norman Shawchuck and Rueben P. Job, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God

Being guided by God does not guarantee we will have perfect families, perfect jobs, perfect health, with no problems or challenges. But genuine guidance does mean we will experience basic fulfillment and renewal. It means we will feel vitally alive in our giving and receiving. It means that our lives will not be barren but fruitful. We will not be left empty, desolate, depleted. Abundance will be present at our center. The word abundance means an overflowing fullness. The root of the word is associated with undulation, a rhythmic, wavelike motion, like the flow of tides in an ocean. When we walk in God’s guidance, a full, rhythmic flow of life pulses within us.
– Flora Slosson Wuellner, Enter by the Gate

Genuine spiritual formation, being conformed [to the image of Christ], is the great reversal of the negative spiritual formation of our culture. It reverses our role from being the subject who controls the objects of the world, to being the object of the loving purposes of God who seeks to “control” us for our perfect wholeness. Genuine spiritual formation reverses our role as the controllers (who act to bring about the desired results in our lives) to beings who allow the spirit of God to act in our lives to bring about God’s purposes. Genuine spiritual formation reverses our habitual expectations for gratification to a poster of patient, open-ended yieldedness. Genuine spiritual formation brings about a fundamental shift from being your own production to being God’s creation. – M. Robert Mulholland Jr., Shaped by the Word

Extended quote by Nadia Bolz Weber
from Sometimes It Hurts: a Sermon on Healing
based on Mark 7:31-37
It’s painful to be open.  There’s no control in it. No self-determination.  But Jesus is like that, taking us away from whatever the THEY thinks about us, getting all up in our business and insisting on our wholeness.

Be opened he says.

  • Be opened to a life where you aren’t the broken one anymore.
  • Be opened to the possibility that there is healing in the world and it might not look like you think it should.
  • Be opened to knowing that your own brokenness doesn’t need to be hidden behind someone else’s brokenness.
  • Be opened to the idea that you are stronger than you think.
  • Be opened to the idea that you aren’t as strong as you think.
  • Be opened to the fact that you may not ever get what you want and that you will actually be ok anyway.
  • Be opened to finally being happy.
  • Be opened to your own need for healing especially if you yourself are a healer.
  • Be opened to life and life abundant.

Maybe that’s what healing really is. We think it’s about identifying what’s wrong with someone else or with ourselves and then having that thing cured, but I wonder if spiritual healing has more to do with being opened than being cured.

Click here, to check out the diverse work of today’s featured artist, Carly Swenson.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

The "Nones"

Why Go Alone from the Wallmay wallpaper site

I subscribe to the weekly letter from the Rev. Dr. James A. Harnish, author and pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, Florida. This is a terrific, faithful congregation. If you live in the area, or are in the area, be sure to check them out.

In this week’s letter, Jim brought to light an important, disturbing trend in western society. Below you will find Jim’s remarks and a call to prayer. – Lisa <><

The “Nones” 
A front page story in “The Tampa Tribune” reported that one-fifth of the American public – and a third of adults under 30 – now indicate “none” as their religious affiliation. The majority of the “nones” say they are “religious” or “spiritual,” but they have either rejected, been burned by, or simply don’t see any need for their religious or spiritual life to be practiced in community with others.

That same day, I came across an address by Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, which described the “deadly individualism” of our time. He compared it to Frank Sinatra singing, “I Did It My Way.” He called “undemanding, individualistic, homemade, sentimental spirituality” the “new religion” which “turns the human impetus to worship inward, toward the self.”

So, what could be more countercultural than Scripture? The Bible simply has no place for a totally individualistic relationship with God. Biblical faith is always personal, but it is never private. It begins in the transformation of our individual lives, but it is lived out in community with others. Worship draws us together from our inherent need to be in community with others and turns our attention away from ourselves and toward God.

That’s why John Wesley said, “‘Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social, no holiness but social holiness.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 NRSV
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself. – Lillian Daniel

Let us pray
Eternal God, You are One, You are Three. You live in beloved community and pass on this great blessing to us. Save us and save the nations from deadly individualism. Return us to You and to one another. Draw us out of our homemade worlds, our homemade tombs. Draw us forth into holy communion and companionship, into life that really is life. We ask this in the strong name of Jesus, the Name above all names, the One who makes us one. Amen.

What are you doing to build beloved community where you live?

For a post entitled Church as Family, click here
For a post entitled Trinity, Community, and Love, click here
For a post entitled Be the Church, click here
For a post entitled Quotes: Community, click here

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.