Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's morning time

Hear it! [It's morning time MID]
Read it! [It's morning time PDF]

There’s nothing quite like sleeping in on a Saturday morning. But my 22-month-old daughter is too full of life to let that happen. Zoe climbs up on our bed with toy cups in hand. In her pre-verbal way, she announces that it’s morning time.

A song comes back to me. It first came to me several months ago, but I had forgotten all about it and hadn’t written it down. This morning it awakens me again.

When a forgotten song comes back to me time and again, I take it as a sign that it is worth writing down and sharing. I hope you like this little wake up song.
To you I give this day
O lead me in your way
My heart would give you praise
It’s morning time!

Well, I suppose it’s my turn to watch Zoe, so my wife can catch a little more sleep.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Entering the vulnerability of prayer

I have come to believe that the essence of Christian faith is vulnerability. It is definitely not to meet the world on our own terms of power, prestige or security.

Rather we enter the world as little babies and learn to follow Jesus' example of vulnerability. We trust only the will of the Father and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer is one entry point. To pray is to become vulnerable.

Sometimes we are dull, distracted or hardened and do not touch vulnerability in prayer. To break through this, we can pray the Jesus prayer:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Following the spiritual traditions of the Orthodox Church, we can repeat the Jesus prayer until it sinks in. Over time the prayer will plow into our hardness until we come to compunction of heart. We will experience a tangible soreness near our physical hearts.

Compunction of heart is true vulnerability in prayer and openness to work of the Holy Spirit.

At other times, we may have the opposite problem. Rather than hardness of heart, we may be all too fearful or anxious. We withhold ourselves from prayer because we are afraid of what we may find. We do not want to feel our own vulnerability.

But we do not enter prayer alone. The Holy Spirit will go with us as guide and protector. Mother Teresa taught a wonderful little prayer to get us started:
“Come Holy Spirit, guide me, protect me.
Clear out my mind so I can pray.”

This was the starting point for one of my favorite opening songs.

[Come Holy Spirit guide me PDF]

Come Holy Spirit, guide me
Come Holy Spirit, protect me
Clear out my mind so I can pray
Pray Holy Spirit within me

Try this song and see if it helps.

Monday, February 12, 2007

You are my child

Hear it! [Abba’s Lullaby MID]
See it! [Abba’s Lullaby PDF]

Romans 8:14-16 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

How do we know that we are following the Spirit of God? We are the Children of God when we recognize a deep longing within us, a spirit that cries out, “Abba! Father!”

How do we know when we are not following the Spirit of God? We fall back into fear. The spirit of slavery traps us in fear. We discount, even reject, the witness of the Spirit within us.

But God’s Spirit has not rejected us, but continues to cry out within us. Our struggle is between a spirit of adoption and a spirit of fear. Still the Holy Spirit cries out, “You are my child.”

The ministry of reconciliation is hopeful. It is does not induce fear, shame or despair. Rather the spirit of reconciliation encourages a deep trust, a deep listening, and a deep awakening. The Spirit bears witness within us that at our deepest self we are the children of God.

Those who are enslaved by a spirit of fear have not heard this for themselves and cannot speak this to others. This is why our ministry fails.

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are hopeful. They recognize within themselves the work of the Spirit, and they recognize in others that same working of the Spirit.

So it is that the Spirit sings to me and through me Abba’s Lullaby:

You are my child, my beloved
In you I am well pleased
You are my daughter, you are my son
All my beloved, be as one

May we sing this to each other. May we hear this from each other. And may we sing it more confidently for those who most need to hear it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Children of the vine

a hymn to the tune of “In the Bleak Midwinter”

We your children look to you, O root divine
Not a mouth would you refuse simple bread of life
Your love pours out for us, pours out for all
That we may taste life anew, children of the vine

Come now all you people to this bread and wine
Not a soul would we exclude where our lord says, "Dine!"
Come you wounded and you scorned, come and be whole
Anointed life now welcomes you, children of the vine

We who walk upon this earth mindful of our time
Look for justice and some bread, some will never find
Yet in mercy we may live, in mercy may we die
Till justice press upon our lips, children of the vine

When the spirit calls to us, time will be no more
Hearts that look upon the latch tremble at the door
Come my wounded, come my loved robed in radiance fine
Your beloved waits for you, child of the vine

Children of the vine, Copyright © 2004 by James Hilden-Minton

We proclaim Christ more boldly

Today I am grateful for the conclusion to my pastor’s trial. [See trial update at]

I thank the hearing committee for their careful work and their thoughtful and thought provoking decision. They have clarified the situation and laid the core issue in the hands of the whole of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. They recommend that the judicial appeal process or the churchwide assembly correct what they see as "at least bad policy, and may very well violate the constitution and bylaws of this church."

I thank Bishop Warren for his pastoral concern in this matter. In the face of a highly politicised issue, he has pressed for accountability in ministry. I truly believe that he works for the wholeness and unity of our synod and the greater church. He stands as an example to the opponents of homosexuals in ministry of how to confront faithfully a brother in Christ.

I am also a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Atlanta, GA. I am proud to call Pastor Brad Schmeling my pastor and equally proud to call the congregation of St. John’s my church home. We, too, are working for the wholeness and unity of the church. With humility before Christ, we seek to speak truth with our brothers and sisters, to confront what we veiw as harmful policy and to not let the sun go down on our anger.

Together we have witnessed an amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

This outpouring of which I speak is not that the hearing has effectively challenged problematic church policy against recognizing the calling of gay ministers who are faithfully partnered.

This outpouring of which I speak is not that the ELCA as a whole body will be engaged to discern God's will on this issue. We will be speaking truth to one another and listening all the more.

This outpouring of which I speak is not the prayer and support of thousands for Bradley and our congregation as we faced this trial. We pray that God's word will be spoken and that we will have the courage to listen and be changed.

This outpouring is not our immediate hope of urgent justice that has been denied to too many for too long , but is an outpouring that began a long time ago.

No. The outpouring of which I speak began when our Lord Jesus took the cup, and having given thanks, he gave it to us, saying,
“Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin.” Mt 26:27b-28

By faith, our congregation takes this cup. We do not trust in our own ability. But only at Christ’s bidding, we hold forth that this covenant is extended to all, especially to those who have been called sinners, to those who have been estranged from church and sacrament, to those who have been shamed for their sexual self-understanding.

At St. John's, we have seen the bad fruit that comes of legalistic readings of the Bible. We have witnessed the loss of faith, despair, suicide, abuse, violence, and utter abandonment to sin. This happens in the lives of both gay and straight people. Biblicism directed against homosexuals does not lead to faith; rather, by its devastating fruit, it is sin with grave and eternal consequences.

When we participate in our Lord’s supper through the ministry of one such as Pastor Brad, we proclaim Christ more boldly. The old ways have died, and we are born anew in the Holy Spirit.

At St. John's, we bear witness to the positive fruit that comes when faith is restored. We have seen the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that leads us to seek Christ presence among the faithful, to love the neighbor and welcome the stranger, and to leave behind the empty and destructive works of the flesh. Come and see.

We trust that the Holy Spirit comes with the power to heal, guide and sanctify the entire church.

We pray for the wholeness and unity of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

We know that the world watches us to see how we live out the gospel together.

My personal prayer for those who faithfully disagree with St. John’s is that you not give up on us or dismiss us out of hand. We are your brothers and your sisters. Follow the example of Bishop Warren; confront us in love in accordance with Scripture. But do not give up on us. Do not let the sun go down on another brother or sister. Otherwise, we shall both be handed over to Satan. Rather, let us confess our brokenness and our need for reconciliation.

May the Spirit empower us to speak truth to one another wherever we each may stand. And as one whole body, may we proclaim Christ more boldly. Amen.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

My heart has trusted

[My heart has trusted PDF]

Wherever you go, be the presence of Christ, be the flesh of the gospel—not with words or actions that draws attention to yourself, but with an inner smile, a lowly heart and loving eyes.

Learn to see what the Spirit sees. See what it is that God loves in each person, what it is in your own soul that moves God’s Spirit to empty Godself to take the form of a servant.

Remember that God looks continually and attentively to your heart. No matter how dark or clouded our souls may be, God sees clearly with no obscuration. Meditate on this.

The essence of prayer is attentiveness. Pray with eyes that look to Christ in every situation. Pray patiently with a trusting heart.

With watchfulness and prayer, you will come to see how the Shepherd watches over you. Catch his eye and see eternity.