Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A portion of the sermon from July 29, 2012 ... and a few prayers written during the service:

Do you have a prayer story that took the form of a miracle, somehow?
Maybe the answer was not what you wanted, but what you needed?
Maybe the prayer itself moved you to a place where you were ready for whatever came next.
Or the prayer was answered in a way no one expected, but in the end, it was the best answer give the circumstances.


With a closer look at our second lesson we see that this is a prayer from the apostle Paul ... a prayer for the children of God ... a prayer for us ...

“I pray that ... you may be strengthened in your inner being ... in the Spirit ... and that Christ may dwell in your hearts.” 

“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend ... the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ  ... that, with Christ, we may accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine  !!!!” 

Amen?  Amen.

What an empowering and loving prayer.  
People of God, we are blessed to be prayed for ...
we are empowered to be about the message and love of God ...
we are invited to pray such powerful prayers and trust in our God to answer our prayers.

So, what are your prayers for this congregation?  For this neighborhood?  For your community?  For this world? 
Lord, listen to you children praying,
Lord send your spirit in this place.
Lord, listen to your children praying
Send us love, send us power, send us grace!

With you, for Christ,
Pastor Brenda

A couple responses from the congregation:

"Dear God, Please continue to show your love to the people of Bethel.  May your love for them and their love for you so shine that the congregation grows.  Be with all who gather at Bethel services of praise and thanksgiving, so all feel welcomed and loved.  Be with each of us while we are in church and in the community.  Amen"

"I pray for Bethel's growth, that we are able to reach out to our neighbors, family and friends to join us as a family of love.  For world peace and decline in homelessness, hunger, lost people and those in pain.  Help us strengthen our family units, beginning with our own."

"Pray for the kids who need to be adopted."

"God, Please help our congregation come together and grow in your Word and outreach to our surrounding community.  May we be able to broaden our horizons and welcome all who have a desire to worship in our name.  Amen"

Did you miss your opportunity to share a prayer for Bethel, our neighborhood, your community and/or our world?  Feel free to share it here ... or email it to bethel@bethel-mpls.org (let us know if you want your name attached when we use it on Facebook, in this blog, in a bulletin or newsletter!)  Thank you!  And God's continued blessings.  PB

Monday, July 23, 2012

Allow me to share with you a promising and bold paraphrase of Psalm 23 … originally written by a blogger named Geoff McElroy … and something I have quoted and expanded upon.  A paraphrase:

I am not certain about what is going on in my life right now,

BUT the Lord is my shepherd.

I may be struggling to make ends meet,

BUT I will not lack.

I might have trouble sleeping because of everything going on around me,

BUT God MAKES me lie down in good pastures.

Storms, tsunamis, floods, and hurricanes may bring damage to life and limb,

BUT God will lead me beside still waters, and God will splash newness upon my soul.

Death happens every day – naturally, savagely, accidently, unexpectedly, in war, at home, on the streets, and in hospitals

BUT I will fear no evil, for my God is with me.

I might be beaten down and hurt and broken right now,

BUT my very being is daily restored by my Shepherd, my God!

The details of life overwhelm me and I may be to busy to care about taking care of others, let alone taking care of myself,

But God anoints my head with oil, God knows the numbers of hairs on my head, and God likely knows me better than I know myself.

In the midst of all the chaos of life, sometimes I believe I am lost, I am alone,

BUT only goodness and mercy will follow me because I belong to God.  My past, my present and my future remain with my Shepherd, this day and forevermore.

Psalm 23.  This is a psalm of comfort and proclamation, but it sometimes gets a bad reputation.  As you know, it is often used in funerals.  Which is certainly appropriate, extremely appropriate ... however, because that is where we hear it the most, we often ONLY associate it with death ~ when, in truth, Psalm 23 talks about every aspect of our life now, as well as our life eternal to come. 

o   Psalm 23 brings us compassion and guidance,
o   lessons and healing,
o   certainty and relationship.
Psalm 23 brings us Jesus.

As truth tellers, this Psalm is hard, maybe impossible, to believe in times of crisis.  The Psalms of lament, like Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” might well feel more appropriate in Aurora, Colorado this week.  Psalm 22 is a call for God to be present in crisis, in terror, in hate, in cruelty, and in fear.  Psalm 22 groans for God's presence, God's intervention, God's compassion.

Friends, it is not a mistake that Psalm 23 follows such a psalm of laments.  Psalm 23 is
God’s answers to our prayers. 
God’s tears in our sadness.
God’s compassion in our lives ... individually, as a community, and in all of creation. 

So, let us claim the fullness of this Psalm.  Let us find the compassion, intervention and presence of God in our lives today, as in our eternal lives to come. 

So be it.  Amen.

(sermon, in part, July 22, 2012 at Bethel Lutheran Church)