the unity of your Church

image / Psalm 133 by Kyle Ragsdale / Bellwether Arts
 
O God, 
    whose will it is that all your children should be one in Christ;
    we pray for the unity of your Church.
Pardon all our pride and our lack 
    of faith, of understanding, and of charity,
    which are the causes of our divisions.
Deliver us from narrow-mindedness,
    from our bitterness, from our prejudices.
Save us from considering as normal
    that which is a scandal to the world
    and an offense to your love.
Teach us to recognize the gifts of grace 
    among all those who call upon you 
    and confess the faith of Jesus Christ our Lord.
 
French Reformed Church
 
_____________________________
 
 
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore.
 

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I want to stop running

image / pxfuel
 
Eternal God, you are a song amid silence,
    a voice out of quietness,
    a light out of darkness,
    a Presence in the emptiness,
    a coming out of the void.
You are all of these things and more.
You are mystery that encompasses meaning,
    meaning that penetrates mystery.
You are God,
    I am man.
I strut and brag.
I put down my fellows
    and bluster out assortments of my achievements.
And then something happens:
    I wonder who I am,
        and if I matter.
Night falls,
    I am alone in the dark and afraid.
Someone dies,
    I feel so powerless.
A child is born,
    I feel touched by the miracle of new life.
At such moments I pause . . .
    to listen for a song amid the silence,
    a voice out of stillness,
    to look for a light out of darkness.
I want to feel a Presence in the emptiness.
I find myself reaching for a hand. 
 
Oftentimes, the feeling passes quickly,
    and I am on the run again:
        success to achieve,
        money to make.
O Lord, you have to catch me on the run
    most of the time.
I am too busy to stop,
    too important to pause for contemplation.
I hold up too big a section of the sky
    to sit down and meditate.
But even on the run,
    an occasional flicker of doubt assails me,
And I suspect I may not be as important 
        to the world
     as I think I am.
Jesus said each of us is important to you.
It is as if every hair of our heads were numbered.
How can that be?
But in the hope that is is so,
I would stop running,
        stop shouting,
    and be myself.
 
Let me be still now.
Let me be calm.
Let me rest upon the faith that you are, God,
    and I need not be afraid. Amen.
 
Kenneth G. Phifer, Presbyterian minister and author
 
__________________________________
 
 
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

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the royal way of humility

image / Wilrooij, CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons
 
My dear Lord and Savior, I come to you burdened and oppressed by many worries and slavish work, by an unbearable yoke, which I have imposed on myself because of my lack of humility.
 
It is a burden which I have deserved, but it is also the heavy yoke of a sinful world, of collective pride and arrogance.  We are tied together in this lamentable condition.  I groan and sigh, realizing my plight in this double slavery of mine and the world.  What a relief if I listen to your invitation, “Come to me all whose load is heavy”! Yes, now I dare to come.
 
The more I meditate on the crushing burdens you have carried in your humility, accepting even the most atrocious humiliation from proud and arrogant human beings, the more I am filled with grateful wonder.  In your divine glory and your human humility you are totally Other, so different from the close-minded and high-handedness of man.  You are the wholly Other, the only true God, so unlike man-made gods.  You have come into the valley of tears where misery is constantly multiplied by humankind’s ridiculous pride.  You come with the astonishing remedy, the humility of the Son of God, of the Redeemer, who has freely made himself “one-of-us” in all things except sin: the totally holy and humble One.
 
You come to us whose vanity and pride are odious.  You come on the royal road of humility, showing us that this is the way to you and to the heart of the Father, the way to the hearts of our fellow men and the way of salvation.
 
Humble heart of our Divine Master, I entrust myself to your school.  I want to learn from you, day by day, the royal way of humility.  It is your own love that teaches us.  
 
Lord, transform our hearts, make them mirror images of your own heart.  Make them fountains of healing for many.  Lord, make us humble.
 
Bernard Häring 1912 – 1998, German Catholic moral theologian
 
____________________
 
 
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 
 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
 

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Let me be free

Photo by Vaishakh pillai on Unsplash

Jesus Christ, the beginning and the end, 
    the resurrection and the life, 
    the perfect man who gave His life for sinners, 
    I worship you, I adore you, I sing aloud your name. 
I am one of those whom you saved, whom you set free, 
    when you died on the cross. 
You redeemed me from the slavery of sin. 
And yet I cannot escape the overpowering sense 
    that I am still a wretched sinner, 
    that my every action is worthless or evil. 
I am like the dry sand of a desert thirsting for water.
I am like a criminal languishing in prison. 
 
Good people try to help me, and I pray that you will reward them; 
    but their goodness does nothing to assuage my sense of wickedness. 
Patient people try to teach me your ways; 
    but I am so stubborn that I cannot learn. 
Humble people seek to serve me; 
    but in my pride I cannot truly appreciate their services. 
Lift the burden of wickedness; break down my stubbornness; root out my pride. 
Let me receive your life-giving love. 
Let me be free.
 
Fulbert of Chartres, c.970-1028, bishop of the Cathedral of Chartres, France
 
__________________________
 
 
And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 
    let us go right into the presence of God 
    with sincere hearts fully trusting him. 
For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, 
    and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

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You justify the humble

Publican & Pharisee Icon
Publican & Pharisee Icon / Ted / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
 
Humility once exalted the tax collector,
    who bewailed his sin
    and cried: ‘Be merciful,’
    and was justified.
Let him be our example,
    for we have all fallen into the abyss of evil.
Let us cry to the Savior
    from the bottom of our heart:
  we have sinned, be merciful,
    for you alone love us.
 
Lord, you condemned the Pharisee
    who, boasting of his works,
    justified himself.
You justified the tax collector
    who, humbling himself,
    with sorrowful sighing asked for mercy.
For you reject proud hearts.
    but do not reject contrite hearts.
So in humility we prostrate ourselves
    before you, who suffered for us.
Grant us forgiveness
    and generous mercy.
 
From Orthodox Lent. Holy Week, Easter
 
_______________________
 
 
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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Sometimes I choose sin

Photo by Nick Gavrilov on Unsplash
 
Father – the truth about me is that often I choose sin:
    Sometimes I choose hatred.  Sometimes I choose slander.
    Sometimes I choose envy.  Sometimes I choose greed.
    Sometimes I choose pettiness.  Sometimes I choose lust.
    Sometimes I choose gossip.  Sometimes I choose pride.
    Sometimes I choose self-reliance.
    Sometimes I choose self-righteousness.
    Sometimes I choose self-aggrandizement.
    Sometimes I choose dishonesty.
    Sometimes I choose unkind words.
    Sometimes I choose to ignore the obvious needs around me.
    Sometimes I choose to hoard my resources.
    Sometimes I choose to neglect Your command to share the gospel.
The list of things I wrongly choose could go on and on.  And sometimes
I act on these things in ways that are darker than I ever care to state.
Each time I make such a choice, I choose death.
Today, I ask that You breathe life into my soul afresh
    and enable me to choose life – to choose You and Your ways.
 
Kurt Bjorklund, 1968- , American Minister and author or
 
____________________
 
 
For the wages of sin is death, 
    but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.