Month: May 2015
I confessed to my church this past Sunday before I preached that when I woke up that morning, I didn’t feel like going to church, which is an awkward confession for a minister to make. But, I didn’t. I had a 3 year old coughing in my ear all night, and my wife was up and down feeding our newborn. So, sleep was scarce. Not to mention having seen on Facebook over the weekend all of my friends who spent their holiday weekend lounged on the beach. It was easy to be tired, and not want to get up after sleeping 3 hours to come to church. However, my almost 2 year old and I came. And I am so glad that we did.
I’ve said before, and I continue to say, the Table is the most significant thing that happens when we gather. It is the reason that we gather. I appreciate some at our church who are trying to think of ways to put more emphasis on that moment and remind us that we gather each week, not at an altar, not in rows, not even in a worship center, but at a table. In a world of churches that are larger than a household or two, we need words, thoughts, and pictures to recover that imagery. This past Sunday was a neat table experience for me, and for a moment the imagery was recovered.
We had our typical welcome and invitation to the Table. It’s a welcome and invitation extended by Christ. We acknowledged his presence there, acknowledged the only reason we were there was because of him, that all are welcome, and then one of our Shepherds invited us to bow as we prayed for the body and blood of Christ in which we were about to partake. However, he took it one step further. With no one standing up front (this gentleman was seated on the front row), he called to mind the table in his home and how when they pray before their dinner, they join hands. Then he invited us all to join hands.
And for a moment, I caught a glimpse of the table. All of us in that room, a part of one body, joining together with Christ at the head. Though not physically, for that moment our hands were joined with other brothers and sisters all around our community, our state, our nation, and our world. All one body, with one head and one host, Jesus Christ. No matter what church we were gathered in, or what our worship services looked like. For just a moment, I recovered the imagery of table in my mind, and I broke bread with a large family. No one was greater, no one was lesser. It was a table of forgiveness, reconciliation, unity, hospitality, and welcome. I left that table filled with Christ, learning more to live the way of Christ in the world, dying to self that others may live. It was a beautiful moment.
So, nothing profound here, but just wanted to share a table experience with you that made me glad I wasn’t out of town this holiday weekend. I’m thankful for my church that is helping me grasp the kind of community God is forming us to be.
Confession time: I’m not a good pray-er. There are those that pray and the words just flow eloquently from their mouths. I’ve been around those people, and I deeply respect them. They always have a prayer on their hearts and lips, and I used to find myself feeling spiritually lesser than these individuals. Over the past few years though, I’ve found that maybe I don’t have to be the best pray-er. I think some people have a gift, and maybe for some they work a bit more at it. I work more at it, and I’ve found that written prayers prayed over and over seem to work well for me. I’ve found a rich history of prayers in the Christian faith that still work well when prayed today. And, I’ve found that I tend to pray the same prayer often.
So, with all of that, I wanted to share a prayer with you, my church, that I pray for you most everyday. I hope this prayer blesses and encourages you. For any of you who struggle to pray, I hope this encourages you to know that you are not the only one. And for anyone who wants to pray for their local church, I hope this gives you a starting point.
I pray today for my church. Not the building or institution, but the people scattered all over this community in their neighborhoods, schools, places of work, and anywhere else they find themselves today.
For those who are hurting and sick, I pray for your healing, peace, and comfort.
For those who struggle with addictions, I pray for freedom.
For those who feel lonely, I pray for them to find community from this church family.
For those who feel far from you, I pray that you would be near.
For those who feel lost in the routine of life, I pray that you give them purpose.
For those who are faithful and dedicated, I pray for renewed energy to continue faithfully following you.
And for everyone within our church, I pray they know they have been called to partner with you in your mission of restoring the world, beginning right where they are today. Help them to see you at work all around them, and to see Christ in others. Grow within them the fruit of your Spirit, that they may be more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled people, so that they may live lives that point to you, and proclaim the nearness of your kingdom in the River Region.
In the name of the one we call Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,