Saturday, May 16, 2009

God's Love through the Ages and Stages of Our Lives

We'll be using this at East Hills Moravian Church as we offer blessings on behalf of our graduates. Besides the liturgy, we'll have a special time of praying for the people marking such transitional milestones. Using projected photos--both baby pictures and senior pictures--we'll be able to pray for each graduate in a personal way.

From the very beginning, from before we even slipped into this world to gulp a first breath and wail a borning cry, God has cared for us deeply. Like a mother snuggling her cheek against her newborn’s fuzzy head, like a father amazed by his infant child’s fingers and toes, so has God marveled at us and nurtured us.

We love because God first loved us.

When we have been open to the joys of discovery, when we have been enchanted by a shiny soap bubble blown through a plastic wand, or fascinated just to watch a toad in the backyard, God has shared our delight. When we have hoped to become astronauts and ballerinas and Jedi knights and princesses, God has smiled. As we have grown a bit each day—in body, mind and spirit—God has taken pride in our progress.

We love because God first loved us.

In the thick of becoming self-aware, when we have begun to sift out our talents and fine tune our interests, when we have started to catalog our abilities and unleash our uniqueness, God has provided inspiration.

We love because God first loved us.

For every milestone we have collected, every “first” we have undertaken, every accomplishment we have earned, God has cheered us on. At all of our crossroads, God has hoped to be consulted. In all of our decisions, God has desired to be included.

We love because God first loved us.

In our maturing, as we have created the relationships of a lifetime and engaged in purposeful work, and as we have journeyed through nights of dark challenge and days of brilliant opportunity, God has empathized with us and provided encouragement.

We love because God first loved us.

We are not always at our lovable best. In our moody moments and selfish months, our unflattering tantrums and our awkward stages, God has seen us through, waited patiently, kept us close.

We love because God first loved us.

In every age, in every stage, God’s constancy has been and will be the hallmark of God’s unconditional love.

For the peace that comes with knowing such security,

For the joy that comes with knowing such devotion,

For the freedom that comes with knowing such faithfulness,

We practice love on one another because God first loved us. Amen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Call to Worship--Call to Love

Love is what draws us here.

Our desire to be loved entices us.
Brother-Sister love invites us.
God’s creative love unites us.

Love is what fills us here.

A handshake or embrace warms us.
Holy conversation informs us.
Christ’s grace reforms us.

Love is what encourages us here.

A compassionate tale stirs us.
A need made known prompts us.
God’s pervasive Spirit inspires us.

Let us practice such love with hearts open to God and God’s possibilities.

Let our worship be a wondrous act of love!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Confession at the Cross Good Friday 2009

We know what is coming, Jesus. We wince as we glance at the scaffold, almost unable to stare at it straight on.

Your Cross is in our face, and we squirm as we remember the reason for its placement.

It is there because of us. It is there because we build walls of will over and above the will of the One who created us and cares for us.

Your Cross is there only so that we may climb our way back to Love.

Once in awhile we are bold enough to examine ourselves, shamed enough to recognize the accumulated bulk of our sins, and humble enough to comprehend that we need your help to demolish such a heap.

Hear us, Jesus. Hear us and offer us your restoration.

To start with, we admit that days go by—maybe even weeks and months—and we pay you no mind. We become absorbed in ourselves, going about accomplishing what needs to be accomplished and figuring out what needs to be figured. Unintentionally, for the most part, we squeeze you out as we seek to live our lives. Ironically, we forget that you ARE our lives. We are sorry.

Hear us, Jesus. Hear us and offer us your restoration.

Then there are the moments of grand hypocrisy—the times when we claim to be your followers, but when we strike off on our own course instead. We fail to love our neighbors with even a smidgen of the amount you demonstrate. We demand to have what we believe to be rightfully ours, not bothering to notice if justice and kindness and mercy are being applied in our wake. We think shallow thoughts and speak heartless words. We disappoint you. We are sorry.

Hear us, Jesus. Hear us and offer us your restoration.

Sometimes—and these are the sins that are most difficult to acknowledge—we intend to do harm. We lash out on purpose to cause someone pain. We laugh at someone else’s misfortunes. We humiliate. We plot. We judge. We hate. We are sorry.

Hear us, Jesus. Hear us and offer us your restoration.

Your Cross is still there, coercing us into all kinds of confessions, both enormous and miniature. We will not experience relief until we have unburdened ourselves of the unnamed offenses that weigh us down and devastate you. Stir us to identify the jagged chunk in the wall that most separates us from you. Allow us to name it, and inscribe it. Then let us use your Cross to destroy it.

Hear us, Jesus. Hear us and offer us your restoration. . . .

(While the choir sings, please use the paper and pens provided to record your confession of sin. When the choir has finished its anthem, please proceed to the Cross where you may attach your paper.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Woundedness: A Good Friday Litany of Confession

We used this at East Hills Moravian Church in 2008. At the conclusion of the litany, we took time to record our sins on slips of paper, nail them to the cross, and later burn them in an outdoor ash can (a tradition for which we thank our former student pastor Josh Viste).

In the sorrowful twilight on this evening of heartbreak, meditate on Jesus,

Concentrate on Jesus,

Fixate on Jesus and his woundedness.

In the bitter gloaming just past the sun’s darkening, mourn for Jesus,

Weep for Jesus,

Cry for Jesus and his anguish.

Inside your own skin, what does it feel like to be betrayed, rejected?

Like swallowing broken glass.

Inside Jesus’ skin, what did it feel like to be betrayed, rejected?

Like swallowing broken glass.

Who is not distressed by His followers’ abandonment?

Who is not horrified by the violence of the outcome?

Yet who among us is innocent of desertion?

Who among us is guiltless to the core?

Who here has inflicted further wounds upon The Savior?

Who here has not?

Name them.

Name the wounds?

Name the abuses of Love that injure Him as sharply as the whip, the thorns, the nails.

We lash out and leave stripes by our impatience, our bitterness , our arrogance and our envy. We raise welts by our unkind words, our icy attitudes, our thoughtless actions. We cause scars when we are self-centered , when we put our own desires ahead of another’s needs. We do damage when we are indifferent just as surely as when we are malicious. We draw blood when we claim him as Lord, then fail to follow where he leads.

Aren’t we despicable? Aren’t we condemnable?

Aren’t we unforgivable?

So you would think. . . .

A Short Litany as Holy Week Begins

Today we have cheered you on as our champion and hailed you as our hero.

Forgive us tomorrow when our enthusiasm wanes.

Today we have entrusted you to rescue us from our pitiful circumstances.

Forgive us on Tuesday when we decide we can take care of ourselves.

Today we have made you the centerpiece of our very existence.

Forgive us on Wednesday when we forget to remember who you are.

Today we have called out to you loudly by name.

Forgive us on Thursday when we pretend that we’ve never met you.

Today we have stared at you with the star struck eyes of fans and groupies.

Forgive us on Friday when we avert our eyes because it’s too painful to see you on the cross.

Today we have expressed our unsuppressed hopefulness in the future you have in store for us.

Forgive us on Saturday when we believe all is lost.

Today we have been boldly certain of the earthly ways you will redeem us.

Restore us on Sunday when we are startled and awed by your rising.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Hymn: The Debut

This Christmas hymn is sung to the well-known tune Jingle Bells. I wrote it a few years ago, and it was featured on the favorite Moravian Church publication known as "the bulletin back." I am often requested to share the words with others, so here they are. Celebrate!


In this crowd sing out loud: Glory to the One!
God has made things personal by sending us the Son.
In this crowd sing out loud: Glory! Allelu!
Celebrate the birth of Christ --the day of his debut.

The faithful waited long for God to intervene--
To rule with power and might, to give them what they dreamed.
What a big surprise! The Savior was a child!
The Christmas story goes to show God’s plans are really wild!


God’s love is for all, there can be no doubt.
The poor, the weak, the small--no one is left out!
The reason Jesus came: God wanted to be near;
God wanted to draw close to us, and that is why we cheer!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Lively Christmas Song: Rockin' Around the Manger Scene

The lyrics to this fun and spirited Christmas song were written by the 4th/5th Sunday School class and their teacher, Laura Kemmerer, at East Hills Moravian Church. Written to the tune Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, the congregation joined in easily and heartily when we sang it yesterday during the annual Sunday School Christmas Worship Celebration.

The 4th and 5th graders are glad to share their creativity with the world. If you make use of this song, though, please let me know so that I can tell the kids.

Rockin' around the manger scene
Where Jesus Christ was born
Everyone's gathering here to praise
On this joyful Christmas morn

Rockin' around the manger scene
With the donkeys, cows and sheep
Jesus Christ our Savior there in
His mother's arms asleep.

Shepherds come to see the little
Baby when they hear
Angels singing, "Glory! Glory!"
"Tell the world our Lord's new story!"

Rockin' around the manger scene
Where everyone will sing:
"Follow the star to Bethlehem
To praise our newborn King!"