Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to School, Camp Meeting Fervor, and a Prayer

These busy days of "back to the routine" with the start of school and the return of the regular church schedule offer more opportunity to work than time allows! There is a LOT going on for almost everyone this time of the year. Overlap some of the anxiety, tension, anger, and uncertainty in the world and the emotion on top of the busyness creates a strange dynamic.

With all this I am finding even more reason to enjoy time in a community of faith, and in particular in worship which inspires, renews, and challenges.

August is our time for summer camp meeting during our Sunday morning services at the church. That usually means we dress more casually, & enjoy the old standard hymns and very upbeat music. Today the congregation sang "I Stand Amazed in the Presence," "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," and "I Need Thee Every Hour." An African American soloist got our attention with "His Eye is on the Sparrow" and then with the sanctuary choir joining her reminded us that "He Never Failed Me Yet." The preacher then tackled James 1:22-25 with an emphasis on "Doing Faith." All in all, a memorable day!

I offered the morning prayer in both worship services. I generally look over the worship service the night before, think about the direction of sermon and music, consider the needs of people on the prayer list, and jot down a few thoughts. And that scrap of paper gets scribbled on a good bit Sunday morning before and even during worship. Of course, in the moment I ad lib rather freely so I can seldom duplicate verbatim what I say in either service! With the preacher's sermon in James today I was praying about active, everyday faith. Here 's part of the prayer that I offer as we all launch into new endeavors here in late summer/early fall:

Holy God We seek You on this day. We need You God- we need Your grace, Your mercy, Your forgiveness. We need Your presence in our world today more desperately than ever before.

God we need You! We can not do what we most need. We try to create but it looks and sounds like Babylon all over again, like Sodom and Gomorrah.

We confess we are a guilty people- guilty of seeking our own self pleasure, guilty of disobedience, guilty of putting ourselves before You and Your will and way, guilty of idolatry as we center our lives around so many things & relationships other than You. Guilty of trying to hold onto everything in the world even as we try to hold on to You!

But deep in our heart we know there is more. Deep in our soul we know we have need of something more. The heart sickness, the faint whisper, the unfulfilled dreams, the holy yearning is still there. We have run to the pigsty, and now bankrupt, and with little hope, a distant memory of You awakens us again to the truth.

We recall that You know us in the deepest ways. We remember that You know every detail of who we are… and who we are called to be. And we remember that You are waiting for us, anticipating our return, eager to run and meet us and welcome us back into your embrace.

In these moments we are reminded of our need for You, our yearning for You. We are empty—please fill us! We offer ourselves to You once again at Your altar. We are inspired to live a life beyond the ordinary and routine. We are not content with what has been and eager for what You will do. We hear the call again to follow the Living Christ- we hear the message of loving our neighbor as ourselves, and to care for widows, and orphans, and strangers. We remember the sick and the grieving, the prisoner, and those without hope.

Unleash Your Holy Spirit in our lives, in our families, in our church, in our community and world. Move us forward in perfection so we reveal a real holiness, a true redemption, a deep and abiding faith that changes everything. We ask this so the Living Christ would be honored, and we would be conformed to His image. Amen.

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