Tag: spiritual formation

When You Pray: The Lord’s Prayer (Part 1)

Here’s the first message in a seven-part series on The Lord’s Prayer.  We’re using The Lord’s Prayer to form us spiritually during Lent this year.  Join us in these days of preparation by praying The Lord’s Prayer each day.

When You Pray:  The Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 6:5-15

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

Continue reading “When You Pray: The Lord’s Prayer (Part 1)”

Finding the rhythm of God’s grace

My post, Is Feb 3 Really Super Bowl Sunday?, rhythm-by-mondrian.jpghas been viewed 1,263 times since I posted it on January 22.  We’re obviously interested in the Super Bowl and how our churches can be effective on that day.  My point was that for followers of Christ, Sunday does not belong to the NFL, it belongs to Christ and His church.  On Sunday morning in Chatham, we’re celebrating Transfiguration Sunday, not Super Bowl Sunday. 

Helping others find the rhythm of God’s grace in their lives is the mission of the church, in my opinion.  If we can lead others to pattern their lives with a consciousness of God’s work in God’s world, we go a long way toward helping people grow in their relationship to God.  Several years ago, I heard a preacher say, “You can tell what priorities people have by looking at two things — their calendars and their checkbooks.”  I think he was right, and the way we not only plan our time, but understand the meaning of time is important for followers of Christ.

So, that’s why I like the Christian Year as a framework for church worship and planning.  And, that’s why I preach from the revised common lectionary.  And, that’s why Debbie and I follow the practice of “keeping the hours” by praying the daily office each day.  Those rhythms govern our lives and remind us that we do indeed live in sacred time. 

The Old Testament examples of yearly festivals (Feast of Tabernacles, Passover, Pentecost, etc), and the 3-times daily prayer of people like Daniel are biblical examples of what I’m talking about.  These practices were long ago reinvented for the Christian church in the form of the Christian Year, the daily office, and recommended scripture readings.  Churches of all sizes — ours is small with about 80-100 each Sunday — can do the very things I am suggesting and bring a new awareness to their members.  We’re doing it here in Chatham in a 151-year old congregation that has embraced positively the Christian Year, the lectionary, and my references to the daily office. 

What’s your experience?  How is your church shaping the lives of your members each week, month, and year?  Others are interested in this issue, and I look forward to your comments and stories about how you find the rhythm of God’s grace in your life and your church. 

Preaching from the lectionary

I am a Baptist.  Each Sunday I preach from the texts of the revised common lectionary.  What’s wrong with this picture?

These are not contradictory statements, believe it or not.  Although I come from a free church, and not a liturgical tradition, I choose my preaching text each Sunday from the revised common lectionary.  Here’s why:

  1. Millions of churches around the world read the same passages each Sunday.  I like being a part of the global church as it gathers for worship in thousands of different expressions, united by common scripture. 
  2. The revised common lectionary covers the entire Bible in a three year cycle.  So, you want to preach through the Bible — use the lectionary as your guide.  Somebody else figured it out for you.  Saves you a lot of time, plus a lot of thought, prayer, and study was invested in choosing these texts. 
  3. The RCL follows the church year or liturgical year.   I like the flow of the church year — advent, Christmastide, epiphany, lent, easter, pentecost, then ordinary time.  Two years ago, I announced that we would celebrate the “birthday of the church” on Pentecost Sunday.  Many had never heard the two connected.  On Pentecost Sunday, we all wore something red (the liturgical color of Pentecost) and celebrated together.  Our church loved it and we repeated it last year.  We were already using an advent wreath, we have community lenten services, so this was a natural addition for us.  To explore more about liturgical elements in an evangelical church, read Robert Webber’s Ancient Future Time and the other books in his  Ancient Future series.   Webber is a former Wheaton College professor-turned-Anglican who has brought liturgical worship to evangelicalism.  I don’t think it is an accident that emerging churches are using the symbols, practices, and format of ancient worship, and it’s more than candles and coffee. 
  4. I preach from texts I would never preach from if I did not follow the lectionary.  Sometimes that poses a challenge.  Sometimes I think the texts are not that great (oh, don’t tell me you don’t like some passages better than others).  But I dig into them and have been blessed by that discipline.
  5. Preaching becomes about God’s Word rather than my ideas.  I, too, have done the sermon series, God’s Way to Health, Wealth, and Happiness or 15 Ways to Deal with Your Teenager Who Wants to Get a Nose Ring.  Rick Warren calls this “preaching for life change” and I can’t argue with Rick’s success.  But, it’s not for me.  I want the text to speak to me, rather than me speak to the text.  I can’t tell you how many times the lectionary texts have hit right on a subject our church is dealing with.  Several times I have had to say to my congregation, “I didn’t choose this text, it’s in the lectionary.”  God’s timing is amazing, plus it gets me off the hook!
  6. The readings tell a coherent story.  We are trying to do more reading the Bible in our church.   The readings each Sunday — from the Old Testament, Psalms, Gospels, Epistles — work together and weave a tapestry of witness and story that is majestic.
  7. You can choose all or some of the texts each week.  The RCL tends to run in blocks — you’ll read from the same gospel for several weeks, for instance.  I lean toward preaching from the gospel reading, but this month I’m preaching from Isaiah.  I have also preached from the readings from the Psalms.  There is more to choose from than you can ever cover.
  8. It creates a missional practice in worship that I like.  We are following an ancient arrangement of texts like millions of other churches.  We aren’t picking and choosing our favorite verses, passages, themes, or issues and then finding scripture to reinforce our own preconceived ideas.  We are trying to let scripture form us, rather than us form scripture.  If missional is about the missio dei, shouldn’t we let the text speak to us?

So, there you are.  A Baptist preaching from the lectionary each week.  One more thing — I also wear a robe, but that’s another post for another time

This post originally appeared at Amicus Dei, my blog about becoming a friend of God in a community of faith.