Archive for the ‘Prayer’ category

How Do You Go To Church?

March 25, 2011

I hear it all the time. “Where do you go to church?” I say it, too, sometimes. But it’s just not possible to “go to church” because “you ARE the church!” Jay Beech sang of this concept years ago with these words:

“You can go to worship, but you cannot go to church.
You can’t find a building that’s alive no matter how you search.
We are the church! The Body of our Lord.
We are all God’s children. We have been restored.”

This Lent, I have been “going to church” with some of our young adults (20s, 30s, & 40s) at Holy Cross on Thursday nights at 9PM. But there’s a new “twist” to this gathering. We’ve invited folks from all over the world to join us online for live chat around the basics of the Christian faith.

So, while there may be only 6 of us in person, another 10 are logging on to join us through Second Life. This is a 3-dimensional world where people connect from around the world, conduct business, go to school, and yes, gather with other Lutherans. It’s made for some rich conversation both in SL (Second Life) and in FL (First Life). Here’s what a friend of mine (Rev. Clint Schneckloth) said about it on his blog:

“The thing about Second Life is that if you haven’t been on it, you’ll think it is a game. It’s not. You’ll develop a whole bunch of opinions and ideas about what Second Life is or isn’t, all based on your experience of living in Real Life (RL). But this isn’t Real Life, it’s Second Life, and there’s no better way to discover the theological, philosophical, existential, sociological, anthropological, and cultural implications of Second Life than to simply go there.

If you had asked me, ‘What is Antarctica like?’ and I replied, ‘Come and see,’ you could, rightfully, challenge me and point out that it’s cost prohibitive and time-consuming. And you would be right. But Second Life is free, the software to view SL is free, and anyone reading this blog already has access to a computer. So what’s holding you back?”

As a pastor, I’m always looking for those “windows” of opportunity to open the door for meaningful ministry to occur. I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. And yet, I think it has some potential (at least for now) for the folks at Holy Cross and around the world who participate. All are welcome. Blessings to you and yours as we continue to Walk by Faith this Lenten Season.

Pastor John
“Where two or three are gathered, in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.” –Jesus (Matthew 18:20)

Feb 28, 2011 – my prayer to the MN Senate

February 28, 2011

Let us pray: O God, we pause on this day to ask your blessing on this assembly. Give focus and fortitude to these MN senators as they fulfill the duties that are set before them this day. Give them patience in shouldering the heavy burdens they bear. Bless their families and constituents back home. Make them faithful stewards of the land and the lakes and all the creatures that fill them. Fill their minds with wisdom and their hearts with compassion, as together they create a Minnesota for today and for generations to come. We pray in your sacred name. Amen.

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This week I was asked to lead the opening prayer for the MN Senate. I’ve been the guest chaplain a couple of times in recent years and have found it to be both and honor and a challenge as to what to pray. The last time I offered to pray it was a bit more lengthy. Here’s the text from the prayer I led last year (March 22, 2010):

“O God, we give you thanks for this day – for the season of springtime that is now upon us. We give you thanks for the bounty of this land, from the bluffs of the Mississippi to the western plains; from grandeur of the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior to the fertile farmlands of the south. From the metro area to the small cities that foster commerce and trade. Make us good stewards of the earth – and of the industries that drive this state.

Bless the people of MN – those we know and represent in our districts – teachers, lawyers, small business owners, medical professionals, those in the technology industry, farmers, manual laborers, journalists, retail professionals. For white collar, blue collar and every collar in between. For immigrants, new and old – and for our indigenous peoples, we pray O God.

Guard our children and their families that they may have the best possible start in life and an abundant future to look forward to. Bless our elders and those whose shoulders we stand upon to see and go farther than we ever could have without them. Bless our military personnel and their families. Even for our enemies we pray, as we seek to end the war on terror.

We pray for those soldiers and civilians (on either side of the conflict) who have died in the past week under hostile fire. Remembering especially: Steven Bishop, Erin McLyman, Richard Jordan, Robert Rieckhoff (Iraq) Jonathan Porto, Glen Whetten, Robert Gilbert II, Joel Clarkson, Adam Brown (Afghanistan) …and all those injured, prisoners of war, or suffering from the effects of the war. Bless, we pray the poor among us, and help us to pass fair laws that consider the common good alongside common enterprise.

For those suffering from flooding and other natural disasters – and for those who suffer from disasters of our own creating. Be with all who are unemployed or who bear the weight of rising debt and foreclosure – that we might end the hurt caused by the economics of greed.

Finally, O God, we pray for those gathered in this hall, appointed to govern justly your people in the state of Minnesota. Guide the proceedings of this day – help us to assume brilliance in every one we meet – to find joy and humility in the tasks with which we have been entrusted – and may all we say and do be pleasing in your sight.

Amen.”

Today, I decided to turn to the internet for inspiration. I found that the current Chaplain of the US Senate, Rev. Dr. Barry Black, has several opening prayers on YouTube. He kept it short, for the most part, so I figured I would too.

Perhaps the most famous (or most forwarded email) example of a prayer to the senate happened in Kansas, January 23, 1996, led by the Rev. Joe Wright. The prayer includes a laundry list of conservative values, with a call to repentance and cleansing of sin.

Fifty years ago, the Chaplain of the US Senate was Rev. Frederick Brown Harris. I found a link to his prayer to the senate the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated:

“Our Father, Thou knowest that this sudden, almost unbelievable, news has stunned our minds and hearts as we gaze at a vacant place against the sky, as the President of the Republic goes down like a giant cedar green with boughs goes down, with a great shout upon the hills, and leaves a lonesome place in the sky… Hold us, we pray, and the people of America, calm and steady and full of faith for the Republic in this tragic hour of our history…”

Clearly, the senate chaplain has an opportunity to minister to those who hold office, both in their struggles and as they wield power and decision-making. What would you pray? There are guidelines sent from the Sergeant at Arms for preparing a prayer. Here is an excerpt:

“In preparing your prayer please keep in mind that there are women and men in the Senate. There are a variety of religious faiths represented in the Senate (Christian, Jewish and other traditions among them). You are asked to pray here with all of our Senators, staff and members of the public who may be listening, and not be exclusionary of any faith. Therefore, we ask that your prayer be interfaith and nonsectarian, so it is inclusive of all. Please keep your prayer brief, about a minute in length, and please refrain from addressing political issues before the legislature.”

So, how would you interpret the guidance to “refrain from addressing political issues?” And, what would you pray if you had the opportunity to stand before your state’s lawmakers?