Church as Family

belonging ducklings1 Peter 2:16-17a (NRSV)
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers…

A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week— we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

At our Spanish-speaking immigrant church, people don’t have the luxury to think too hard about what it costs to raise their kids. Most have children (it probably never occurred to them not to) and keep busy making ends meet. The kids in my church don’t have Baby Mozart albums, parents who attend every school function, or a neighborhood in a top school district. Yet, they seem to be doing just as well as kids who have it all. Why? Because their moms and dads love them exorbitantly, and everyone in the church parents them as well. My church, though not perfect, does better job than most of living up to the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” An older empty-nest couple, for example, used to take care of a younger couple’s two daughters. The pastor’s wife goes out of her way to pick up children for Sunday school when their parents can’t come. We treat each other like family, and we treat all the children in the church as our own. – Liuan Huska, It Takes a Church to Raise a Child

Like the strongest biological families, God’s family at its best shelters, teaches, and supports its members — because loving other people is often tough whether we’re talking about biological or spiritual kin. Communities of faith have the opportunity to offer each other and to model for those beyond their walls a place where people can learn to love and fail to love — and yet be accepted either way.
Mary Lou Redding, The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide

An essential part of wholeness is the sense of belonging. Belonging within nature. Belonging to one another. Belonging in your own skin. At first, Jesus rejects the Syrophoenician woman’s entreaty to cure her daughter, because she does not belong to his people. The woman cleverly dismantles his sense of limitation however, and now the Gospel belongs to all of us. (Mark 7:24-30)
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

An extended quote from Prodigal Brothers by Steve Garnaas-Holmes (Luke 15:11-32)
The failure of our love—distancing ourselves from God and one another— is at the heart of our sin. In our self-centeredness, we break our family bond with God and with others, as if we’re not related. It is not just of our disobedience that we repent, but of our distance, our refusing to get close to God and to others, including those whom we judge.

The good news is that in the end, we are unable to break that bond. Despite our attempt to disown God and each other, God stays related to us and keeps us related to each other. The father puts a ring on the younger brother’s finger—a symbol of family. And he corrects the older brother and calls the younger one “this brother of yours.” Despite their failures, he invites them both into the party. The righteousness that we need is not obedience. It’s a loving relationship—and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God. In repentance, we pray toward both God and neighbor, “I am not on my own. I am yours.”

Acts 2:41-47 (NRSV)
So those who welcomed [Peter’s message concerning Jesus Christ] were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body … For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
– John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity

Prayer: Make us your children
Heavenly One,
Your reach extends to every person, every nation
Offering grace, forgiveness, wholeness, and hope
A saving embrace
Drawing us to you and each other

Make us your children
Grateful for a place in your family
Humble before your love and generosity
Faithful in honoring and welcoming all
Joyful in sharing what we have found in you
Amen.

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Click Here for Steve Harper’s discussion as to “why ‘churchless Christianity’ will never work, even though some of the concerns it carries are valid.”

For a post entitled Trinity, Community and Love, click here
For a post entitled One with God, One With Each Other, click here
For a post entitled Quotes: Community, click here

Prayer: Make us your children © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Jesus, only speak the word (Matthew 8.5-11)

only-speak-the-word-matthew-8-8_0

Based on Matthew 8:5-11

Jesus, only speak the word
Speak peace and the storm is calmed
Speak hope and the trouble is overwhelmed
Speak life and the new is born, and it is good

Jesus, only speak the word
Speak justice and the oppressed are seen and freed
Speak truth and the masks of hypocrisy fall
Speak grace and the path of peacemaking appears

Jesus, only speak the word
Speak light and we are light, saved from the shadows
Speak our names and we are found, we come to ourselves at last
Speak welcome and we are home

Jesus speak
We are listening
We trust in you

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Jesus, only speak the word  © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Anointed for Peacemaking, a prayer for unity (Psalm 133)

anointed-oil-pour-on-head

Based on Psalm 133

How good is your unity, O Lord
How rich
How abundant
How merciful

Flowing down over our heads
as blessing and balm
as wholeness and hope

Flowing down over our faces
our eyes, ears, lips
now consecrated for peace

Flowing down over our collars
our shoulders now bearing one another’s burdens
bearing crosses not weapons
Your compassion not strife

Flowing down over our hearts
a holy ordering and ordaining of our desiring

Flowing down over our souls
You alone on the throne, blessed Savior
our Deliverer and Reconciler
the One who makes all one

Flowing down over our hands
instruments of conflict no more
grabbing and hoarding more
now open in welcome
sharing
holding all things sacred.

How very good is your unity, O Lord
How great and glorious your peace
Bring to fulfillment your perfect will
Amen!

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Anointed for Peacemaking, a Prayer for Unity  © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer to the Holy Trinity

holy-trinity-2
Holy Trinity:
Creating Love
Saving Love
Sanctifying Love
You welcome me to your unity
Your community
You do not condemn
but make the way to new life, eternal life,
with you through Christ
Hallelujah!

Grant me grace to receive the fullness of your mercy and healing and transformation.
Free me from all things that block me from living your love fully,
that I may be joyful and faithful in all things,
that I may speak your words with truth and fruitfulness,
that I may live and lead wisely,
that I may be your instrument of peace and hope,
that I may love as you love.

Glory to you, forever
Honor to you, forever
Praise and blessing to you, forever
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!

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Prayer to the Holy Trinity © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer: Holy Trinity, Community of Love (Genesis 1 and 2)

trinity-stained-glassHoly Trinity, Community of Love,
Draw us together in your creative light

Root us in the ground of your being,
Vulnerable before one another,
Unashamed in your presence and each other’s

Make us joyful in the ways you gift each of us: Quick to celebrate, serve, and share
Quick to live your love
Amen.

This prayer was inspired by the story of the creation of humanity found at the end of Genesis 1 and the beginning of Genesis 2.

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Prayer – Holy Trinity, Community of Love © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer for Holy Resistance

true-love-requires-actionBreak our hearts Jesus
That we may weep as You weep
Love as You love

Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging

Lord Jesus
take away our fear, our apathy, our silence
Grant us
Your courage, Your strength, Your perseverance, Your Word

That we may be Your sanctuary
Your safe and sanctified place of presence

That we may live Your justice
and use Your power with wisdom and humility

That we may be Your whole and holy people
people of integrity

That we may speak and act and love
again and again and again
till every dividing wall of hate, fear, and mistrust
comes crashing down in Your Powerful Name

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, Savior of the Nations,
teach us to pray and teach us to live Your prayer…
Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

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Click here for Comfort Ye based on Isaiah 40 by Steve Garnaas Holmes, a word of encouragement to those experiencing horror and abuse, and those striving to bring justice and healing.

Prayer for Holy Resistance © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayer- Make us Your Sanctuary (Ezekiel 37:26)

safe place quote

Ezekiel 37:26 NRSV
I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore.

John 1:14 NRSV
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Glorious One
Covenant Maker
Peacemaker
Our Savior and God
You multiply your goodness
You fill the earth with people and provision
You set your safe place in our midst
You pitch your tent
You abide
Not for a moment or a span
Nor for a year or an age
Forevermore
We glory in your presence
Our living and moving and being is in you
Make us your dwelling place
Make us your sanctuary

Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy tried and true
With thanksgiving I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You
– Sanctuary by John W. Thompson and Randy Scruggs (CCLI Song #24140)

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Make us Your Sanctuary by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia © 2016
You are welcome to use this in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa directly for publishing and posting consideration.