Friday, April 30, 2004

Friday, 30 April. 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

So here are the practices of holiness: Establish the meeting. Make it memorable, intense. Strengthen the leadership. Heighten the sense of participation. Exercise its symbols beautifully. Enliven the communal voice. Yet, because of Jesus Christ at the heart of this meeting, because of the enfolding of the assembly in the flowing life of the triune God, discover how the inevitable sense of boundary such a meeting always creates – the “we-ness” of the participating group – is subverted.

It is subverted because this type of “we-ness” is usually limited to the definition of who is already a part of the meeting. The holiness of the assembly creates no boundaries that exclude. You could say that if the assembly does do that, it must take another look at that which is at the center of its meeting. For, as the Christ is center – at the very heart – the body will begin to reflect the brilliance of Christ’s presence and no one is outside that life-giving, loving presence. We can work on any part of our life of holiness within the community. We can get this right…time that right…raise enough money to purchase this or that…and yet, the shape of our holiness is always a gift from the one we call Lord. Jesus will always provide us with, a sub-version of what is essential and enough to gather in the whole of creation.

Connection: When there is an open chair at a table sometimes we will take from Jewish tradition and say it is a chair for Elijah – when he returns. For us, we leave the door open to our assembly at worship. Not just the door at the entrance of the building…the door to our hearts. In that way, anyone who comes will find a place of welcome…a home…a people into which they are welcome as brother and sister followers of Jesus.

Open our hearts, O God of all holiness, and enliven our expressions of love so that we too may give our lives for the sake of others and be not afraid to see your glorious body renewed by the presence of you within those who are not quite like “we” would want the world to be. Praise to you, most precious gift of life. Amen.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Thursday, 29 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

The meeting is to become a paradigm of God’s intention for the world, a sign of God’s own holiness.

Take the time to read the wonderful “But then” that starts off verse 21 of the third chapter of Romans. It designates a reality that comes into being in Christ…a new life and a new way to be together with others. The holiness of God defines the community and makes our doors open wide because the one who invites us to enter, invites all without any proof of having done a thing or become a specific kind of person in order to be a part of the whole. The meeting of God’s people in Christ cannot be judged by the ways we would like to judge and set up our world. In Christ we gather as the beginning of a new reality…a reality we say has already been established for us in the untouchable future that bids us to come and live already in its graciousness.

Connection: Invite someone to worship and as you do that, know that already - in that invitation – you have made the community at worship a greater expression of God’s graciousness.

Lord, by your grace you invite us into one body even though we are so diverse we cannot accept each other. By your grace you expand us and open our eyes to the blessedness of your Reign. Praise to you for this life that is not ours but yours given to us freely. Amen.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

WEDNESDAY, 28 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

Please excuse the early send that is due to an out of town retreat.

Assembly, like all the central materials of Christian worship, like Baptism and Eucharist themselves, involves the transformation of cultural goods. We have ways to meet, ways to be with each other, ways to enter into such a meeting and these ways may differ from culture to culture.

…Christianity receives our meetings. If anything, Christianity intensifies them, reawakening our need for healthy and beautiful assembly. Have we forgotten, in the age of “bowling alone” and electronic, “virtual community,” the exhilarating possibilities of festival, town meeting, parade, pilgrimage, fair, corroboree? Church may still remember something of that communal meaning, larger than the intimate family.

I’m glad he said “church ‘may’ as Lathrop referred to the assembly of Christians – for the assembly may be a place that allows people to be unrelated and unconnected to others. It takes deliberate planning and action to create the interaction and exchanges that may be a part of the time in and around our worship. I can go to a movie with friends but we don’t connect much at all during the movie. Afterward the movie we still have to be intentional about talking and sharing our thoughts and feeling. When we gather within the assembly of the Church, the sacraments (baptism and the meal) are like clowns that try to grab our attention and say “look here”….”look here and see what we are…see what we can be…see how we are met by our God…see how full life can be!” That look at God present among us and for us is the power to transform us in the assembly and in our relating throughout the week.

Connection: How many times during this day are put into a situation when you have the opportunity to be a part of what could be a transforming event, conversation, presence…?

Lord of this time and place, you bring the history of your people to this moment and you invite us to move into the moment to come with all the saints so that our day may continue to be a part of the great unveiling of your gracious Reign. Encourage our life together. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

One encounters the presence of Jesus Christ in the word and sacrament at the heart of the meeting and this presence transforms the meeting, pulling its participants to be where Jesus Christ is, with the world in its need.

If you don’t want to be pulled into the blessed Reign of God – stay away from worship. I know that many want to march right into the Reign of God because we have a sense of how it is to be set up and what it is to look like. But, on the contrary, we would tend to run from its open doors because those doors are as open as the one who was slaughtered so that they would indeed be open – for all. The pulling is done by the Holy Spirit…even as we try to run away. Within that room…that space…that sanctuary we are present in the midst of Jesus’ real presence and that position knows no bounds for it is wrapped within an embrace of love that is visible in the bread & wine, the font, and the cross as it leads us into and through the Lamb’s High Feast.

Connection: It is good to be pulled into the domain of God’s grace in Christ, Jesus. It will bring us into the world of this day in a way that we may not have traveled if it was simply up to us.

Blessed Lord of the Banquet, it is by your grace that we stumble and then stand in the presence of all your saints. You support us and move us and call us by name so that your name might be announced through our lives this day. Be for us that encouragement to live within the needs of this world as you yourself have been known. Amen.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Monday, 26 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

This assembly (the people gathered for worship), constituted by God’s holy voice going out to the nations, discovers that the central content of that voice is the word of God’s mercy to the ungodly in Christ. This holy gathering is consecrated by that washing in the cross which does away with ritual purity. This convocation of the holy ones eats that meal which is for the hungry, turning its participants toward their neighbors. So the Christian people do borrow that language of the Sinai assembly, hearing God say: “You have seen…how I bore you on the eagles’ wings and brought you to myself (Exodus 19:4). Only they understand the “eagles’ wings” to be the Holy Spirit enlivening the meeting around the word and sacrament of Jesus Christ. And they understand that astonishing intimacy with God, God’s powerful election of this people, to be an election not to go away with God but to practice this assembly in each place and bear witness and act in loving service in the world.

God’s mercy to the ungodly in Christ! We are not about an internal “mutual admiration and we-sure-are-good society” in which we throw stones at anyone who does not fit into our perception of the way we would like things to be. We embody and announce mercy to those who, if we could vote on it, would not qualify for a word of mercy or loving-kindness. I really don’t know how else to say that…but we can and we must. The prevailing wind of this day…and every day that has been and all that will come blowing through our lives will not be a wind of mercy. Only the Holy Spirit encourages and empowers us to breathe a word and life filled with the love of the merciful Lord of All.

Connection: How is it that we are so afraid of mercy?!? How is it that we love gossip and speculation rather than good, honest dialogue in which the Lord of Love is present within our conversations? Well, today is always a day to hear again that voice going out to the nations…even to us.

Lord God by your mercy you establish the Reign of your Beloved, Jesus. Count us as ambassadors of your love and support us by your Spirit of truthfulness and hope. Amen.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Friday, 23 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

…the Christian practice of holiness must always involve the subversion of all religious ideas of holiness. If Jesus Christ is our holiness, then holiness is no longer separation and ritual purity and perfect observance. In Christ, holiness is connection with others. It is the unclean cross and life through death and welcome to the outsiders and transformative mercy for the world. If the meeting constitutes just us as the insiders, then Christian holiness involves the subversion of the meeting. It involves the transformation of the meeting to be much more than our social conventions of gathering from any culture, could ever make it. The practice of holiness involves the constant work on the open door, both that all others may come in and that what is seen in the liturgy may flow out. The practice of holiness is the discovery of God’s gift to all of us together.

Rarely do I hear holiness as “connection with others.” It may be used as connection with a certain group of people but that group is always considered separate from the “others.” Here we see holiness as the ongoing openness to others that opens up the world - not just my corner of it - but the whole world to the life of God Reign. This may be the first time I have heard the expression “transformative mercy.” It is the whole story of Jesus and his actions with any and all people during his life. It is the walking into the homes of “sinners and tax collectors” and touching the “untouchable.” This mercy cannot be something left within a club or a special meeting of just a few people. It is the power to change all things. No wonder Lathrop sees holiness as connection with others. We praise our God for such a gracious action on our behalf and then we are invited to take that gift out into our world and embody it.

Connection: The one verse from “This Little Light of Mine” goes: “Hide it under a bushel – NO! I’m gonna let it shine…” Well!

By your mercy you touch the whole world and give life and hope and place to all your people. Gracious Lord, open our hearts that we may boldly be instruments of your holiness that does not fear touching and holding and loving our world. Amen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Thursday, 22 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

The practice of Christian holiness, then, has a two-fold character. It involves the continuous reconstitution of an assembly in communion with all the other assemblies of Christians, a continual rediscovery of the force of the biblical name – “the holy assembly of God” – as applied to this gathering, and a constant extension into daily life of practices learned in the focal practice of the gathering. It involves seriousness about the meeting and what flows from the meeting.

We meet and we engage. In the time when we worship, all time is touched and all time is renewed. Therefore, when we leave our place of assembly the character of the Word and the Sacraments shapes our character within the daily dynamics of our day. I appreciated that we are reminded that our worship is not merely our worship as in one place or building. Rather, the whole Church in every place gathers and nurtures the gracious presence of God’s beloved. We are a body that is not meant to over run or rule the world, we go out to make peace, to give up our lives for others, to welcome those who have no place or no people to support them and thus we add a character of grace to the world that is always trying to find a source of power to rule rather than to serve. In the warring madness of our world it would be good to look at how the Church takes the Good News of the community in worship out into the anxiety that tries to find security through the logic of the powers of our world. We meet and engage…in the grace and peace of Christ, Jesus.

Connection: Where fear and anxiety is met this day, take a moment to return to the Word of God shared within the community at worship, then step back into the context of fear and anxiety with another voice…the voice of peace.

When you send us our into the world, O God of New Life, you send us out carrying the banner of the resurrection so that we will be reminded that no power within this world can over power you word of loving kindness, mercy and compassion for all. When we are overwhelmed, continue to whisper your love to us so that in that still, small voice, we will be encouraged. Amen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Wednesday, 21 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

A Christian assembly is the “holy people” only in the sense that the prophet of the return from the exile used the term: a people that might have been called “no people at all” or “forsaken people” shall now be called “The Holy People” (Isaiah 62:12). The Isaian sense is even further intensified for the Christian community is made up of people from many different nations, of sinners and outsiders, with no birth claim to the holy inheritance of the Word. They are “called to be the holy ones” (1 Corinthians 1:2) with the same “call” that makes them part of the ekklesia. Not many of them are wise, powerful, or noble “by human standards” (1 Corinthians 1:26).

We cannot forget that we are a people who could be called “no people at all” in regards to how we behave or hope to behave. We say that God makes us a people. The notion of being “no people at all” and then being a people beloved by God in a manner that is up to God – that is unconditionally – is a notion that is beyond our comprehension. Therefore, we are encouraged by the Holy Spirit to simply trust what God does. But take note: in a fear-filled world, allowing people who are “no people at all”…that is people who don’t count or people who are not like me or different than mean…may mean that we would rather not go along with the breath of the Spirit. Instead, it is easy to put up barriers and limitations and qualifications so that the “holy people” will be exactly who we would want them to be. I can sense the prophet Isaiah being very disturbed.

Connection: How do we train our eyes to see others in the light of God’s gracious Reign and not bound up by our prejudice as we walk through this day?

O God of New Life who takes what is and brings to life that which is blessed among us, transform us by your grace and hold us within your loving embrace so that we will be shaped by you as we touch those around us and come to see your holiness reigning among those we may not want to call holy. Amen.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Tuesday, 20, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

According to the Christian faith, the God who acted in the exodus, forming a holy nation of witnesses and priests for the world, also promised to assemble all nations at the end of time to hear the life-giving Word. The faith says that this promised assembly of the nations is beginning to occur now in every local Christian meeting and the great “assembly” which the whole Christian movement throughout the world is becoming. The word “holy” can be applied to Christians, primarily, as they are members of this assembly. So 1 Peter asserts to the churches in first-century Asia Minor: “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called you out of darkness into the marvelous light of God” (2:9).

The “we” of the Church is a vital note for us to understand. The pictures drawn from the words of 1 Peter press that point. WE proclaim the mighty acts of God by being a “we” who carry the stories of the past with us and then march into the stories of God’s people being in touch with our identity as a “holy people.” I’m always amused by those who have grand visions of the church but rarely take part in the gathering of the community in worship. Excuses for not being in worship can be legion…but then, go someplace where you may have less excuses and therefore you may be willing to be a part of a community in worship. TV assemblies don’t make it…internet assemblies don’t make it…UNLESS, you have no access to a gathering people. In some ways, it is the responsibility of the community to make sure those who cannot be present for worship are, in some way, connected to the holy community.

Connection: We are all responsible for our part of the “we.” If we are not there in the midst of the community and we are able to be there, then we have chosen to be a “me” rather than a “we.”

By your gracious love, O God, you bring together people from every walk of life and each and every place within your creation. Help us to see the value there is when we come to worship you as one people – broken & confused…and yet still your people. Amen.

Monday, 19 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

By our reckoning, this ancient name – “the holy people” – is a sort of short-hand for “God’s assembly,” as that idea is known in the Hebrew Scriptures… As a figure of speech moving through time, the name evokes and stands for the story of God gathering the people of the exodus at Sinai and calling them “a holy nation,” God’s own “treasured possession out of all the peoples,” a people who are set aside – “holy” – in their hearing of God’s voice and who live in that holiness by keeping the requirements of the covenant (Exodus 19:5-6). “Holy people,” “holy church,” “all the saints” – such names then apply that story in faith to the present assembly gathered in the name of Christ, borrowing the language of the story to speak of Christian eschatology and make sense of the Christian meeting.

There is the grace-filled history that continues even among us as we come together for worship. The beloved of God gather in line with all those about whom we read when we pick up the Scriptures and are, at times, simply amazed by their lives. The “holy people” are not far off…they…we are in the room together in the midst of our worship and then as we go out to be the “holy people” present to and with the world everyday of our lives. What a line of hopefulness!

Connection: Take a look in the mirror before you leave for work or when you are simply whipped and taking a bathroom break in the middle of the day and remind yourselves whose you are…and the simple fact that no matter how you feel…you are God’s holy ones.

Lord of the Resurrection, when you bring new life, you bring it here and you bring it now and forever. Inspire us to step within the bound of the place you have already set for all your beloved. Amen.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Friday, 16 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

…modern western celebrations of All Saints Day have frequently come to be observed as festivals of the church, of all the baptized, including the local and living community. In Slovakia and in Slavic communities elsewhere, Christians since the seventeenth century have made remarkable, ecumenical use of an extensive collection of hymns, assembled by the Lutheran pastor Jiri Tranovsky and called the Cithara Sanctorum the “cithera of the saints,” the harp of the holy people.”

There is nothing more moving than hearing the whole assembly sing with bold voices. One hymn sung in unison or in parts brings everyone together within one task. It is one of the times in worship that I notice people smiling, sometimes crying. The blend of words with music and our heart being lifted up within the hymn is an emotional time together. That is the important part, together. Some people may be soloist and some may never attempt to sing alone…but we sing together as the saints of God and that is a choir that is willing and longs for everyone to join in as we praise our God.

Connection: Lift every voice and sing…that’s what one hymn tells us…and it is good for our hearts and our character to jump in and take part in the choir.

Remind us of the power that comes as we join in one voice to give you praise, O God. A power for life and a power for whatever we may have to face sometimes breaks into our lives as the congregation sings and lifts us beyond the thought of ourselves and into the blessed presence and support of all your saints. Amen.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Thursday, 15 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

Since earliest times, the church throughout the world and the assembly in each local place have been called the “holy assembly” or the “assembly of the holy people” or, especially in Pauline writing, “all the holy ones.” …The regularly repeated ecumenical creeds invite us to confess our faith in the “holy catholic church.” In the eastern churches, the assembly hears again and again, in the presider’s invitation to communion, an offer of “holy things to the holy people,” a phrase which is rightly understood as a warning but also as a description of the communicants.

We need only look around the sanctuary of place where we worship this Sunday and we will notice that these are regular folks. Yes, there will be those who look out of place…those who appear to think everyone else but them are out of place…those who are not sure of how things are to go…those who are not sure what they believe but they still come…and those who wonder about God and what God does for ordinary folks and the condition of our world. But we call the whole mess of us – holy. Holy because it is God that brings us together and God that makes us God’s people and we are continuously being invited into the character of the community of saints…beloved and redeemed.

Connection: When you hear words that fuss over the presence of some who gather for the Meal and the Word and the praising of God at worship, think “holy are you” and remember that the "you" is always plural…always.

Forgiving and Uniting Lord, you do not hesitate to make us your own. Even when we cannot see one another as sister or brother, you call us to be one and you go a step farther to say we are already one, even before we agree to sit down at the table together. As your holy people, continue to inspire in us lives that welcome your gracious vision and presence. Amen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Wednesday, 14 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

…in an older Christian use, the term “holy” is applied to the church itself, to the assembly. The vocation to propose an alternate way of understanding the world comes profoundly, basically, not just to certain “athletes for God,” but to the liturgical assembly.

When we say the assembly, we mean the whole bunch of us…holy! Not merely the priest, minister, pastor…not the nun, monk, bishop…but all of us. The image of those “athletes of God” is unfortunate. Yes, there are people in every generation to whom our eyes are drawn because we see courage and character and sacrificial love that is utterly remarkable. But then again, they are holy as are the rest of us in the assembly. This kind of talk always gets my goat because it is the similar way we talk of saints. The ancient custom and long process of people being designated saints because of what they have done...the witnesses that saw them…the miracles they performed…makes the term saint and holy into something perverse. I would also say it is an inappropriate use of the word holy. Holy are we…as God’s beloved who gather together in the name of our Lord. Saints are we by grace alone. The need to build a system of holiness on the fabrication of goodness and the tales that make that goodness seem to glow a bit more must be ignored. Instead, let us look around the room at worship this Sunday and thank our God for the presence of God’s holy saints who praise and live and love as we are able – maybe not as we should but as we are able.

Connection: Remember, every child on that first soccer field or baseball diamond or dance floor is already in the game or in the dance. They are not less than an athlete or dancer…they are there – participation is a powerful beginning.

Lord of the Dance, we give you thanks for inviting us to play within your blessed Reign where you nurture us by your love and shape us into the loving people you already see within us. Encourage us to gather and share in the wealth of your community of saints. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

The liturgical assemblies we have been considering, assemblies constituted through Baptism and continually renewed through the use of the Scriptures and the Eucharist, take place amid the many peoples and cultures of the world. Present in specific localities, in dialogue with local cultures – with all the ways in which groups are formed, time is kept, location is known, wisdom transmitted, communal survival cultivated – these assemblies nonetheless propose an alternate way to see the world itself, in the light of God’s great mercy. One way to speak of that vocation to the alternative vision is to say that the assemblies are called to holiness.

Holiness is not a “better than thou-ness.” Holiness is the journey and the path upon which we take our steps into this world as people who have heard the stories of God’s faithfulness in Scripture and through the sacraments and have had our lives pulled in a new direction. The assembly of people who gather for worship could be doing something else and be running out into the world with many sorts of agendas for life. But we gather for worship. We gather to stand/sit/kneel with others as we all await news that is the power to transform life. We gather expecting to be taken up into a way that may not be the way things were yesterday but will be a new way to experience today. Worship has everything to do with vision…our faithful viewing of the life as it is offered to us from the open tomb and how it contrasts with the way things usually are in our world. Holiness…is not a bad word or an outdated word. It is a radical presentation of the life handed to us by God.

Connection: Don’t be afraid of being called into a holy life…and don’t think that this means we are to right a “high horse.” In fact, it means we get off the horse and enter into the lives of those around us in a resurrected kind of way.

Remind us, O God, of how you come to us within the ordinary events of our life. Remind us so that we may see within this day how we are sent as your holy people to be involved in the very mundane activities in life with a new sense of worth and purpose as we follow the way of your beloved Jesus. Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Monday, April 12, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

The church is an assembly. The church is a gathering of people in a particular place who are, together, through concrete means, participating in the mystery of Christ and so are being formed into the holy assembly. The church is not a collection of consuming individuals, choosing religious goods according to their own self-perceived needs or desires. It is not a club supporting a particular ideology. It is not the audience for a speaker’s eloquence, a choir’s concert, or a priest’s rituals. The local church-assembly is itself, as gathering, the primary symbol. By its participation, by its communal mode of song and prayer around Scripture reading, meal keeping, and bathing, it is being transformed into a primary witness to the identity of God and the identity of the world before God.

This is a wonderful picture of the church. Everything about the assembly since the first days of people gathering together in what is called the church is a living word that points to the Christ of God. There may be many things that attract us to worship but it is the act of gathering that makes us the body of Christ and not simply an individual on a journey for something or a consumer wanting to be satisfied.

Connection: Once we gather, we are given the opportunity to grow beyond our own world and to see and feel the power of a simple community fed and nourished by our God. Try it.

When you bind us together through the Word and make us a people, O God, you offer us a vision of life that is not readily available to us through other pathways in our world. Continue to inspire us to gather with other to share in the power and joy of your presence. Amen.

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Friday, 9 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

We belong to several groups or assemblies within our communities. Here is an ancient example:

Ancient Christians themselves knew about this double character of their communities. One anonymous second – or third-century Christians wrote about his or her co-religionists: “Living in Greek and barbarian cities…and following the local customs, in clothing and dwelling places and the rest of life, they demonstrate the amazing and confessedly unexpected (paradoxon) character of the make up of their own citizenship. They are at home in their own countries and they endure all things as foreigners. Every foreign country is their homeland and every homeland is a foreign country.”

We are a different assembly…alien in some ways to the world around us. It is odd to me that in our own country, Christians want to be considered the norm…the standard of citizenship. Though I don’t put much thought into the all the battles about God being used in mottos or the pledge of allegiance to the U.S., I don’t see the point. Yes, I think we are blessed…but so are all of God’s people even when they live in what we might call “God forsaken” places (although I do not think God has forsaken any place…God is there in its forsakenness). We are not people who are to receive special consideration…special notice…special power within the governments of our world because we claim Jesus as Lord. If anything, it might fit us best if the governments looked as us with a bit of suspicion. We obey the laws of the land, but when they try to pull us from the gospel center of our faith that embraces the welfare of all…we go to the cross.

Connection: It may be very difficult to see ourselves as aliens to our culture and all of its trappings. And yet, when we gather for worship, it is within the sanctuary of time and place in which we expect only the grace of God to rule in our lives. That may indeed cause conflict as we head out the doors. It may also send us out as a strange gift to the world we encounter.

Lord God of all that is, it is by grace that you send us out and make us your people. Help us as we attempt to clarify the way you lead us as aliens in this time. Amen.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Thursday, 8 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

For the Christians…the ekklesia (church) met to gather around the same thing the ancient biblical assemblies had at their heart: the presence of the Word of God. The biblical Word gave their assemblies a name. It gave them a chain of images with which to interpret their own meetings, to give a history and a future to what was being done with them. It also gave them an actual practice – Scriptures to be read and interpreted, psalms and hymns to be sung, prayer to be prayed, the biblical meal to be held, a pattern of consecration to be followed by those who came to join them, a faith to be taught.

What we do in worship is nothing new…nor is it a “mere” tradition. It is the vehicle in which we reach back in time to hear again the voice of our God and simultaneously we are pulled into the vision of what will be. The pattern of worship is designed to do that. There is no hocus-pocus…no magic. It is an orderly way of making the transition between yesterday, today and tomorrow. That is why the music we use can be quite varied. There is no musical style that is liturgical music for worship. When we sing we sing with the voices and styles of music of every age but with a story line that is common and eternal. Yes, we are a part of an ancient bunch of folks but they are also a part of our modern day assembly.

Connection: When someone says they have a ‘contemporary’ worship at their congregation, ask how it connects to the ancient church…is there the meal…the singing….the lessons…the peace!?! Or is it all made to fit into another style that is only as old as the members alive in the congregation?

Lord God, you gather us in to take part in the grand parade of saints who come to follow our Lord, Jesus, into a world that is often hostile or even indifferent to your grace. Help us to learn from the day gone by so that the days to come may be full of your loving and gracious Word. Amen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

John, the seer of the Apocalypse…is an exile on Patmos, presumably alone as a Christian. “In the Spirit, on the Lord’s day: (Revelation 1:10), the day of Christian assembly, this exile encounters the risen one. But this encounter is no a lonely engagement with the divine. It is also, from the outset, full of the presence of the churches – the churches in the midst of which the risen one stands, the churches held in his hand, the churches to which the letters are then addressed (Rev. 1:10-20)… Being “in the Spirit,” encountering the risen Christ, means contact with the assembly, direction toward the assembly, evocation of the presence of the assembly.

One of the beautiful aspects of our faith is that we are not to be alone…ever. Some read that as Jesus will somehow be with us even when we are alone…literally alone. That is indeed the case. But also, the promise has to do with the assembly. With “all y’all” in the picture, how can I be alone? We sing…we listen…we gather…we are called to be concerned with the overall well-being of each other. Even as our memories go back to a time and place when the lone “me” was a part of a “we” it is a source of empowerment and hope. I’m reminded of the people who suffer from dementia and yet when we are in the middle of the Lord’s Supper in their room, they are present within the assembly as they still are able to join in the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father…”

Connection: One of the best ways to be an evangelist is to simply invite people to come to where we gather and listen with us to what has to be said…and sing if you like…or simply listen…and come to the meal with us…or simply watch and listen. The assembly has this Spirit present that gathers and inspires and changes us.

O how wonderful it is that you, O God, are present with us. Just as you lead the people, Israel, out of the clutches of Pharaoh when they appeared to be alone and abandoned in slavery, you are present here to lead us into this day by your gracious and loving power. We give you thanks for your eternal faithfulness. Amen.

Monday, April 5, 2004

Tuesday, 6 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

Similar things can be said of hymnody or the Eucharist or of Baptism. One can sing a hymn alone, but the “we” of the assembly always keeps appearing in the text of the hymn, and the other voices – those of the hymn writer and of all the hymn’s singers through the ages – sing along in the inaudible harmony.

We do not have to apologize for the fact that our faith involves a “we.” Actually we could argue that since we are an assembly even when people are not present, it would do us well to be incarnate to those who are not present. Sure we lift them up in the public prayers but there are other ways to have them present with us and we with them. When we gather for worship I love to hear the people sing. I would suggest it may do us well to sing out for those who cannot be present – now that would make the roof shake…because we would be singing not merely for members who are not present, we would be singing out for the whole church of all time and every place. That is amazing and, as many may say, powerfully out of our control.

Connection: Sometimes it may be good for the vitality of our own lives and the lives of the whole church to sing out or merely be aware of those seen and unseen who, like you, claim the Christ as Lord.

Lift every voice and bring us within the harmonious celebration of all your saints, O God. By your power you move us beyond ourselves and enable us to hear the precious lives of your saints and to not be afraid to sing and live with them even now in the ordinary days of our lives. Amen.

Monday, 5 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

…the Bible is none other that ta biblia, “the books,” collected together under one cover…as the list of books accepted for public reading in the church. When I take a Bible into my hands, even when I am alone, I take up the whole community of voices that addresses me there as well as all the people with whom I read these books in a continuing community of interpretation. The very fact of the books being gathered together as one book is a liturgical fact. The Bible is a set of books written by, collected by, and intended for assemblies.

Even within our “private” reading of the scripture we come with the voices of the assembly of saints. It is as we remember the assembly that we help to bring to mind the many ways a text is interpreted. When the Bible is read among us we are called to respond to it…that is, offer what we hear in its reading. The beauty of the assembly is that it is the vehicle of the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the printed Word we hear other bring a word and then we are caught up in a dialogue of faithful listening that may not be what I myself hears. “The books” do pull me into conversation with the written text but there is so much more power and meaning when I am also pulled into conversation with the others who pick up the book and see life in new ways.

Connection: In our “personal & individual” faith kind of society, it would do us well to intentionally think about the corporate word that is being offered when scripture is read…just think about the passion story read this last Sunday.

By your Word, O Lord, you call us and lead us. You pull us up so that each one of us may be drawn into a community of faith in which we continue to hear your word in many and various ways. Keep our hearts and our lives open to your word of grace and love. Amen.

Friday, April 2, 2004

Friday, 2 April, 2004

We continue with pieces from “Holy People” by Gordon Lathrop.

Continuing from yesterday’s statement about personal worship…

But these central matters of Christian worship are misunderstood if, even in this solitary use, their essentially communal context is not recalled. The very prayer that the Matthean Jesus proposes to the one who prayer “in secret” is a prayer to our Father, for our daily bread, for the forgiveness of our sins and for our rescue (Matthew 6:7-13). The God encountered here is the God of the community… When one prays in secret, that “room” becomes crowded with many other people: all the people one is called upon to forgive as well as all the people with whom one shares God’s gift of bread and the hope of God’s rescue.

Even the person who lives in seclusion under a vow and considers his/her life one that is dedicated to prayer…prays for the whole of the Church and the well being of all. Maybe another way to look at worship as both personal and communal is to consider the Lord’s Supper. I go forward or I am given the bread and given the wine. But if I would raise my eyes during that meal, you…are doing the same thing. The meal is simultaneously an event in which I take and eat…as we take and eat. This makes me think of the times I take Holy Communion to people who are homebound. I always connect the individual to the community…as in the praying of the Lord’s Prayer. We also share one of the lessons that was shared with the whole community. Most times, I take the meal with the person to emphasize the “we” who are fed even in this living room or kitchen. The Words of Institution tells of “our” Lord. Yes, this is definitely the Lord of the person who receives the meal…the Lord who comforts and heals and forgives…me. It is also our Lord.

Connection: The next time you are in prayer or taking part in the Lord’s Supper, lift up your eyes…your imagination – and look around at the saints who gather with you. In fact, if we take our faithful imagination seriously, we will see the multitude that gathers throughout the day and throughout the world – one Meal for one people – all God’s children.

Lord of the Banquet, draw us together that in the adventure of my life I may encounter the holy community and find a place in the midst of them so that my days will never be in isolation. Amen.