Saturday, June 21, 2008

Eastern District Synod Vesper Worship

This devotional material was prepared for the 2008 Synod of the Moravian Church--Eastern District.

Scriptural Inspiration 2 Corinthians 6: 1-10

As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says,
"In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Devotion Notion

I have a wristwatch that usually works properly. It will go for days or weeks keeping time just as it’s expected to. Only occasionally does it halt, and if I give my wrist a good, firm shake, the watch will miraculously restart. The trouble with this scenario is that I can never be sure what time it is. I can be on time for my dentist appointment on Monday, punctually pick up the kids from school on Thursday, make it to the movies just as the previews are getting underway on Friday, and even arrive at church before the Sacristans get there on Sunday morning. But say the precision instrument just stops ticking at—oh, I don’t know—11:37 on that same Sunday morning, I might just keep on preaching until every worshiper’s stomach rumbles, body squirms and children whine. (This is how I originally discovered the quirkiness of my timepiece.)

Some thirty years ago, the band Chicago popularized the philosophical question, “Does anybody really know what time it is,” and tonight I resurrect a variation of that question with you. In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul says, “Now is the time of God’s favor.” But when is now? At the same time Paul was speaking to his contemporaries, he was also referencing a quote from centuries previous (Isaiah 49:8) which noted that then may have been the time of the Lord’s favor. And, of course, as we read the passage tonight, we have to wonder if now might be that time of favor.

Certainly, we want this to be the case. It would be beyond disheartening to put so much effort into discerning and negotiating and crafting and refining plans for our Moravian Church only to learn that God wasn’t paying attention! Still, when we go about this work knowing that our denominational membership has been in decline since the aforementioned band Chicago topped the music rankings, and that our financial resources are stretched as tightly as the top of a drumhead, and that our people are influenced—not always to the good—by the prevailing culture, we might feel that we are out of sync with the Lord.

But it sounds like Paul was up against the same sorts of challenges, doesn’t it? And it sounds as though Paul and the others on his team kept moving forward—intentionally—in spite of hindrances far more daunting than we can begin to number. And they did so presuming that as long as they were about carrying out Christ’s purposes, they could also presume that they were on schedule and fully synchronized with the God who was and is and always will be. Cannot we presume the same?

Though it is late in the evening, let’s depart from this session assured that when we are one in mission and one in call with our Transcendent Timekeeper, our timing is on the dot.

A Timely Litany

Transcendent Timekeeper, the sun has set and the sky has darkened. We look forward to the delightful sensations of head touching pillow, of relaxation overcoming muscles, of drowsiness crossing the threshold of slumber. Sleep is a marvelous gift to all who are your beloved.

Thank you for engineering us to receive the refreshment of sleep.

And yet it seems as though there is hardly time for such pleasure, barely enough hours for such luxury.

How will we do the work of your church in such a compressed framework, and one which is already half over?

Remind us that as the Architect of All Time, there is an appropriate period for all things to be accomplished. As surely as there is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

There is a time to labor and a time to rest.

As surely as there is a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

There is a time to press forward, and a time to recuperate.

Like there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

There is a time to drink coffee, and a time to play basketball.

There is a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

There is a time to debate, and a time to mull things over.

As you give us a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

You give us a time to brainstorm, and a time to polish.

Because there is a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

There is a time to pray, and a time to decide.

If there is a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace,

There must also be a time to remember, and a time to dream dreams.

Release us to dream those dreams in full color as we are regenerated in these coming hours.

Bring us together again once the clock has advanced to a new day, and give us revitalized imaginations to make the most of your favor. Amen and good night.

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