Chemotherapy Vials, photo by Bill Branson on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, via Wikimedia Commons
I wrote this prayer in July of 2013. The husband of one of my clergy friends had cancer. He was preparing to receive a triple lumen cath followed by 4 days of chemo before receiving a bone marrow transplant the following week.
I admired how transparent they were about the whole experience. She posted on social media, “With a healthy dose of fear and much hope, we are walking this path together with the support of each of you and the grace of God to lead us.” She also posted his words before receiving the cath: “and so it begins.”
And so it begins… so much in so few words.
Their faith and the promises of God inspired this prayer.
Over the years, I’ve sadly returned to it. Every time my heart hurts. Every time God remains true and near.
This week my prayers begin for a sixteen-year-old I’ve known since she was a baby. She has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
May this prayer be a blessing to her, to you, and to all at the beginning of a medical journey. – Lisa <><
And so it begins,
You are The Alpha and Omega
The Beginning and the End
The First and the Last
Unmatched Majesty, yet you draw near
to this beginning
to my frailty, my brokenness
closer than breath
closer than pulse
You are with me
You are for me
You are Spirit
Way, Truth, Life
Glory Itself, yet you walk with me
on this small path
through the shadowy valleys
unknown or anticipated
My Guide and Guardian
Every day of my life
My eyes are open to my need
You make space to feel it fully and honestly
You meet me there with
Goodness and Mercy
Help and Wholeness
You are my Hope and Peace
I love you and trust you and place myself into your compassion and care
Today and Tomorrow
Sermon Series: Parables Message 1 of 4: The Plumb Line
Scripture: Amos 7:8
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 7/28/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.
Rev. Jose Nieves
Pastor First UMC, Kissimmee
Leads school/church partnerships with several local schools
A faithful man of God, a powerful man of prayer
Two weeks ago, preacher for the High School students, while I was the preacher for the middle school students at camp
One morning at camp, I see him, he looks awful. I thought he was sick.
He was brokenhearted- Up late following the developments in Puerto Rico
He was born there and much of his family still lives there
I suspect you’re brokenhearted over Puerto Rico as well
The recent confirmation of extensive corruption among the ruling elite
Extortion, Fraud, Favoritism, Mishandling public funds
The injustice, abuse, and neglect are hard to take. It rends your heart. But at the root of what makes this possible, is how the ruling elite viewed those they were elected to serve.
The revelation of deep-seated disrespect, mocking, contempt of the people, people still trying to recover from hurricanes
People rose up, they joined together and used their voice to speak out against the evil, the injustice, the oppression, and the devaluing of human beings. The people rose up and became prophets. They spoke. truth to power and called for change.
A prophet is empowered by God and called by God to speak truth to power. This is hard, uncomfortable work. It takes tremendous faith and courage and discipline to speak what people don’t want to hear, but need to hear.
How many of us like to read the Old Testament prophets? Not many. It’s hard to read them, the level of truth-telling and pain.
We’ll be spending time with the Old Testament prophets for the next few weeks. The prophets feel very fresh in our day and time. We need to read the prophets regularly.
I need their example of truth-telling and courage. I need the reminder as a child of the One, True, Living God, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I too have a calling to be prophetic. To use my resources, and my influence, and my resources, and my voice to speak out against evil, injustice, and oppression. It’s a part of our calling as the people of God.
I need to hear their message. This is what happens to the people of God when things get twisted and crooked and we lose our way. I need the reminder so I don’t do it. And so that I don’t condone it by my silence and my apathy.
Some of you are asking, but I thought we were going to be studying parables? We are: Old Testament Parables
Parables are stories and metaphors with deep spiritual meaning
Parables are used by prophets to help people listen; to call people to justice, righteousness, and action.
Where do you think Jesus got the idea to use parables? From the prophets!
Amos helps us to have a heart after God’s heart, not a crooked twisted heart.
Amos was a very ordinary person. A shepherd and sycamore-fig farmer.
Called by God to be a prophet (not his family business, not a professional corrupted prophet)
Lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, traveled to Bethel in the northern Kingdom of Israel to speak truth to power
That power was King Jeroboam II
Powerful King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
Successful military leader
enlarged their territory
generated great wealth for some, a ruling elite
Misused his power as king of God’s people
Promoted the worship of false gods. As the worship became false, twisted and corrupted, so did their hearts.
Promoted corrupt, predatory business practices, an injustice especially harmful to the poor
Amos 8:4-6, The Voice. Like a bowl of ripe fruit, the time was ripe. God would overlook their injustice no longer
4 Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor to ruin, 5 Who asks, “When will the new moon festival be done so we can sell our grain? And when will the Sabbath end so we can sell our wheat? Then we can tamper with our scales and make the bushel measure smaller and the counterweight heavier to cheat our customers. 6 We can buy the needy for silver and the poor and their property for the price of a pair of sandals. We can even sell the chaff we sweep up as grain.”
False weights and measures, selling food that was inedible, human trafficking, taking over people’s property and lives
People with voice and influence were either and active part of the corruption or fat, happy and apathetic to it.
I read that and ask, “Lord is that me?”
Amos begins speaking out against the injustice. Speaks truth to power so things can change.
How could this injustice come from people who were once denied justice and enslaved in Egypt?
How could this be if you are children of Abraham, chosen and privileged and covenanted to be a blessing to the nations, to care for the stranger and the poor, to proclaim the salvation of God in word and deed?
How could you do this to fellow human beings beloved of God, made in the very image of God?
How could this happen if you still worship the One True Living God who rescued you from oppression and established you in the Promised Land?
That was the problem- Their worship was full of hypocrisy, all show. We show something but it’s not the truth of our hearts and souls. It was crooked and their hearts grew crooked
People faithfully attended worship- making offerings and ritual sacrifices
Yet became apathetic to injustice or downright embraced injustice
Their worship did not change their actions, affect their choices, give them eyes to see every single person as a beloved child of God worthy respect, dignity, and access to resources we all need.
Their worship was disconnected from how they treated people
Lord is that me?
Amos 5:21-24, NRSV 21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Righteousness = right relationship. Equal, compassionate treatment no matter the social differences
Justice = concrete actions to create righteousness. Right relationship in action. Love in action. God’s beauty, power, and grace in action flowing through us.
Our of our worship flows right relationship with others, ourselves, and the earth.
When we see something that isn’t right we act, we speak, we do something to make it right. The flow of worship in right relationship and justice.
Isaiah 28:17, NIV. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.
This is probably the most famous image from the prophet Amos. Someone reminded me you could use a plumb bob as a weapon. It’s heavy and pointed.
Its proper use for thousands of years is to make sure what’s being built stays true. If the ground is uneven, what you’re building can stay true if you use a plumb line. If we just eyeball it, it will be crooked.
No matter how you twist or swing a plumb line it will quickly return to true.
Amos 7:8, The Voice. Eternal One: What do you see, Amos? Amos: A plumb line. Eternal One: Watch what I’m about to do! I am going to put a plumb line up against My people Israel to see what is straight and true, And I will not look the other way any longer.
What would it be like for God to hold a plumb line up next to our lives, up next to our hearts? Would they be shown to be true? Would they be shown living and flowing with grace, hope, justice, and mercy out of the very worship of God?
Or would they be shown to be twisted and crooked?
We do not have to shy away from allowing God to hold up a plumb line to us. With God, there is always the chance for change, for mercy, redemption, forgiveness. The chance to repent and turn. The chance for the healing of our hearts.
May we accept our calling to live true. To be a prophet of God. To walk alongside another. To give voice to one who has no voice.
What keeps you up at night saying, “God something should be done about this?” God is calling you to action.
Lord, help us to hear the call. To lead a life worthy of the call and the grace and hope we’ve found in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The closing prayer is based on this devotion by Steve Garnaas Holmes.
A plumb line held straight
by the gravity of love,
without curve or spin of human twist,
plumb line of blessing
unbowed by curse,
unbent by fear or greed,
plumb line seeking, unerring, the center,
all creatures’ belovedness and belonging,
the wellbeing of all Creation.
Measure your acts, O human,
judge your policies, O Nation,
by this and no other.
Does it bless without cursing?
Does it serve without stealing?
Does it join and not divide?
God’s plumb line
will not slide sideways
to favor some over others,
but loves all dearly;
it will not sway to sacrifice one’s thriving
for another’s desires.
The ground is uneven but the line is set.
The corrupt tilt their heads;
the wise discern
and build accordingly.
Would you join me in praying for educators and students as they start a new school year? Below you’ll find a few prayers for your quiet time. Pick a few to pray each day between now and the end of the month. The prayers are inspired by a resource called Keys to the Kingdom by Prayer Point Press. May you and your community be blessed and grow in the wonder of God’s good earth and the hope of Rabbi Jesus. Lisa <><
Covering our Community in Prayer
August Emphasis: Education
Comforting One, bring peace to all those who are feeling anxious about the first days of school. Fill them with confidence and encouragement. Amen.
Father, every good and perfect gift comes from you. Open the windows of heaven in each school in our community. Supply what they need. Help students, teachers, and administrators to use your gifts to bless others and bring you glory. Amen.
Mighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, reveal your wisdom in every teaching moment. Draw students to you as they study the wonders of your world. May your truth be evident and rise above false voices. Amen.
Gracious God, thank you for those who serve as administrative assistants, food preparers, and maintenance workers. Their example inspires us to serve others with love and humility just as Jesus did. Show us how to do all things, big or small, as unto you. Amen.
Holy Spirit, our Companion, and Counselor reveal yourself to school social workers and guidance counselors, especially when they are working with students. Give them supernatural wisdom and insight. Use them to enlighten, encourage, and confirm your purpose in young lives. Amen.
Jesus our Savior, raise up Godly role models in our schools. Give them the courage to live both humbly and boldly for you. Empower them to be wholesome examples in speech, life, faith, and purity. Let their light shine for you. Amen.
Creative One, thank you for those who sacrifice their time to help with extracurricular activities. Bless them with joy and enthusiasm. Help them see good and lasting fruit from their labor. Amen.
Loving God, your joy is our strength. Fill classrooms and administrative offices with delight and hope. Help educators, students and parents to see you at work and to give you glory. Replace fatigue, frustration, and fear with joy. Amen.
Welcoming One, help every student to feel that they belong- that they are precious and important to others and to you. Protect them from teasing, isolation, bullying, discrimination, and despair. Fill them with truth and hope. Amen.
Holy Spirit, our Guide, and Guardian thank you for bus drivers, crossing guards, and police officers who work so hard to keep students safe. Protect students as they travel to and from school, field trips, and other events. Place an extra hand of protection on student drivers. Amen.
Prince of Peace, cover every school campus with your shalom. Make them safe sanctuaries of learning and growth. Guard hearts, minds, and bodies against every type of evil. Bring an end to bullying, abuse, discrimination, prejudice, and violence. Build bridges across dividing lines. Amen.
Heavenly Father, give young people a healthy attitude toward competition and achievement. Keep them from unhealthy pride, perfectionism, and from making success an idol. Amen.
Jesus, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Show students the way out when they are tempted. Keep them far from pressures which tempt them to cheat in order to get ahead. Keep them far from compromising integrity or purity in order to fit in. Give them a strong No! to sin and a resounding Yes! to wholeness and holiness. Amen.
God of the nations, thank you for the great gift of education. Thank you for making us a thinking people and for the blessings of curiosity and discovery. Bless and help developing nations to provide education for their people. Help us never to take education for granted. Amen.
Loving God, bless every home in our community.
Bring peace where there is anxiety.
Provision where there is need
Wisdom where there is confusion
Understanding where there is anger
Freedom where there is addiction
Recovery where there is illness
Reconciliation where there is division
Shalom where there is brutality
Unity where there is prejudice
Hope where there is despair
Faith where there is none
Thank you for your help and healing power
Thank you for your presence and salvation
We need you Lord Jesus, come quickly.
This hymn text was written at the request of a pastor friend many years ago. She wanted a hymn which expressed the themes of John 15:1-17. I share it today remembering her; thankful for her friendship and encouragement back when I was first beginning to write. I pray you would feel the abiding love of God and others this day and every day. – Lisa <
You Are the Source
Meter- 86.86 with Refrain (CM with Refrain)
Suggested Tune- GIFT OF FINEST WHEAT (United Methodist Hymnal #629)
You are the Source of grace and life,
The Root of all that’s true
You join us to this mystery
As we abide in You
Dear children of this fallen sod
The Gard’ner knows our need
In grafting us to Christ the Vine
We gain eternity (Refrain)
For we are branches of the Vine
Joined cross both time and place
No fruit is grown apart from Christ
For what is grown needs grace (Refrain)
You prune our lives with utmost care
So we might bear more fruit
The fruit of justice, peace, and love
Lived out in all we do (Refrain)
Eternal Vine, most Holy Seed
Sewn as Your willing Son
So intertwine Your family vine
That we might live as one (Refrain)
Greetings Dear Ones,
Why was the blog so quiet last week? I was away at the Warren Willis Camp. I had the joy of leading worship for 168 middle school campers. 5 sermons in 5 days! Whew…
This week I’m writing prayers and liturgies to submit for next year’s United Methodist General Conference worship. It feels big with all that’s going on in our denomination. Thank you for your prayers. I so want to be faithful and helpful.
The theme verse for the conference is Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
The image of pressing on captured my heart. Journeying, persevering, springing, sprinting, running, pursuing, reaching out, moving forward, moving on.
This reminded me of the moment in the musical Sunday in the Park with George, where George has lost his way. He wants to explore the light, to get through to something new, but he doesn’t know how. His great grandmother, a loving witness from the distant past, encourages him to step out in faith, to try, to move on.
Maybe you needed to hear this encouragement today as well. Just keep moving on.
We do not press on in fear
anxious and competitive
We do not press on in duty obligated and mechanical
We press on in hope In your abiding presence In your saving love Your love, O Christ, urges us on