Collect Moments With God: Do

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 10:12-22

The “Do” of the Collect prayer form is the petition portion of the prayer.  Contained in the petition is a double “do” – (1) what we want God to do which in turn will (2) lead us to do for others.  For example, “Show us mercy (God do this) so that we can show mercy to others (we will do for others).”

But what about the times when you do not feel you can do one more thing?  Those times when you feel like more things are being “done” to you and I am not talking about a day at the spa, shopping spree, or tickets to see your favorite team take on their biggest rival.  I’m talking about those days when you have two flat tires on the side of the highway and it is pouring down rain and the bolts are so tight on your tires that the tire iron will not loosen them and you are two hours late arriving to an event two hours away.

I’m not speaking from experience…but events like these come close to a day that Andrew lived a few months ago.

It is moments like these where we feel like all of this junk is being “done” to us and it jades us from wanting to “do” anything at all.  Or if we do anything…it is for “me”.  Human nature is to defend and secure ourselves when we feel under attack.  Thoughts of caring for others quickly disappear.  Like a turtle we shrink back into ourselves.

Sometimes the question of “why is all this junk being done to me” can be answered.  There are causes and the “done-ness” is the effect.  But sometimes we ask that question and the answer we receive is silence.  We do not know why.  What we do know is that God has been here before.  God has been here with God’s people – not understanding, asking why, feeling used and abused, feeling frustrated, feeling angry, wanting to care only for self, consumed with survival and not turning an eye to the revival of others.  God has been here before – and God has seen God’s people through time and time again.

I treasure God’s love letters to God’s people contained with the Torah – like our text for this week.  The words of these love letters bring incredible assurance:

“Remember, you were once a slave and stranger in a foreign land and I brought you out of that.”

“Remember, there was a time when all of this junk was being done to you and I was your constant companion, your hope, your guide.”

“Remember, there has never been and there never will be a time when I will not do for you…and because I do, you will do also.”

Junk happens.  Junk is done to us.  Sometimes we can control it and sometimes we cannot.  So lament the junk and let it roll off your back.  As my colleague Lisa says, “Breathe in the goodness of God and exhale the garbage.”  I am sure we will question “why” junk happens and is done to us for the rest of our lives…but we will never have to question whether or not God is with us in it and if God will lead us through it.  Our God is faithful.  Our God does for us.  And in gratitude for all God has done and continues to do, we are invited to do for others.

Prayer: “All who love and serve your city, all who bear its daily stress, all who cry for peace and justice, all who curse and all who bless: Risen Lord, shall yet the city be the city of despair?  Come today, our Judge, our Glory, be its name, “The Lord is there!”* Amen.

*”All Who Love and Serve Your City,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 433.

Collect Moments With God: Who

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 139:1-6

I think name tags have super powers.  Yes, they reveal the names of the people who wear them – as long as every person is wearing their corresponding name tag – but they also have the power to make people forget their names.

And by people…I mean me.

Inevitably when I am wearing a name tag on a lanyard around my neck and I meet someone I do not know, I look down at my name tag to confirm what my name is before I say “Hi, I’m Sarah.”  Uhhhh…how is it that I have forgotten my name?!  Obviously, name tags have super powers.

After meeting someone new and exchanging salutations the conversation shortly turns in the direction of “Tell me about yourself.”  This is a who question…yet many of us – myself included – interpret this question as a do question.  “Tell me about yourself” = “Tell me what you do.”  And so we respond with a litany of tasks we complete or roles we fulfill.  At times throughout our litanies we will reveal who we are…but we need to be sure we do not collapse who we are into what we do.

Our Scripture text for this week affirms that God knows every bit of us – our comings and our goings, our thoughts and our feelings, our joys and our sorrows, our strengths and our growing edges, our trials and our triumphs.  God knows our faithfulness and our waywardness.  God even knows my utter disdain for water chestnuts.  God knows what we do and God knows that what we do has an impact on who we are…but what we do is not in totality who we are.

Who are we?  First and foremost we are God’s children.  We are beloved.  We are precious.  We are known individually.  We are treasures.

At times, though, we forget who we are because of what we do.  When we sin we cloud, mask, hide, and possibly even forget who we truly are.  God’s truth that we are God’s children, beloved, precious, known individually, and treasures becomes obscured.  We forget, but God does not forget.  Our God is so faithful.  Our God continues to provide witnesses in our lives to remind us who we are by recalling for us God’s faithfulness through the ages.

Scripture tells these stories.  We tell these stories.  Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, and fellow pew sitters – we tell these stories.

Our God is faithful.  Our God knows who we are – blemished by sin and redeemed by grace.  We are not what we do.  We are who God created us and calls us to be.

Recently I was introduced to the song “Never Once” by Matt Redman.  This song sings to God’s faithfulness.  “Never once did we ever walk alone.  Never once did God leave us on our own.  You are faithful, God.  You are faithful.”

I am assured that when we forget who we are because of what we have done, that God is quickly drawing us back to God’s side, whispering into our hearts and confirming in our minds, “I know who you are.  You are mine.  And I am with you.”

Prayer: Lord, “refresh thy people on their toilsome way; lead us from night to never-ending day; fill all our lives with love and grace divine, and glory, laud, and praise be ever thine.”* Amen.

*”God of the Ages,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 698.

Collent Moments With God: You

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7, 2:18-22

This week the Tuskawilla community begins a four-week series exploring the collect prayer form. The collect prayer form dates from medieval times.  The collect prayer has four components. Each week of the series we will explore one component of the prayer. This week we begin with you.

The you in the collect prayer refers to the entity to which we are praying.  As Trinitarian Christians the you we are praying to is the Triune God and our God has many names. Growing up the names I typically used for God were God, Lord, and Father. I was comfortable with these names because I was raised and my faith formed around these names for God.

And then I went to college…and I was exposed to a new way of thinking about names for God. Unfamiliar words, concepts, and descriptors of God seeped into my worldview. I was rocked by the teachings of women like Rosemary Radford Ruether, Mary Daly, and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. Offerings from female and feminist theologians and philosophers began shaping me. God can be God the Father / He, but God is not limited to God the Father / He.  What about God the Mother? God the Bakerwoman? God giving birth through the act of creation?

What about conceptions of God beyond God the Father?

Why is this necessary?  Why do we need so many names for God?  Is there something wrong with God the Father/ He?  I do not think there is any wrong with these names, descriptors, or conceptions of God.  But I think the Father / He descriptors limit how we describe our God.  Father / He places God in a box…God created the box, but God does not exist in the box.

True, our fallible, imperfect human language can only glimpse in words all that our God is, but expanding our vocabulary and conceptions of God breathes incredible life and vitality into our understanding of God.  Additionally, there are persons present in our world that have terrible horrors in their past.  Referring to God as Father, King, Conqueror, Mother or others may stir up hurt feelings or painful memories that they do not want to relive in their personal communion with God; therefore, they find a name that is comfortable or approachable in their relationship.

I am privileged to serve as the leader of a faith community and in my leadership I am sensitive to inclusivity concerning names for God.  Whereas I grew up using Father / He now I refer to God as God, Lord, Savior, and balance my imagery for God with masculine and feminine descriptors.  This personal practice helps me remember that God is beyond gender stereotypes.  God created us in God’s image – the way that God wanted us to be – male and female God created us.  I believe God bears within God’s self all the possible expressions and descriptors; so, the treasure trove of descriptors and names for God that we have at our finger tips is as deep and as plentiful and as full of surprises as Mary Poppin’s carpet bag.

What name do you use for God?  What names or descriptors for God are comfortable for you to use and known to you?  Which names or descriptors for God challenge you or call you out of your comfort zone?  Consider these questions as you pray this week.  Explore if God is calling you to breathe into using a new name in your relationship.

Prayer: “God, like a bakerwoman, you bring the leaven which causes our hopes to rise.  With your strong and gentle hands, shape our lives.  Warm us with your love.  Take our common lives and touch them with your grace, that we may nourish hope among humanity. We pray trusting in your name, through Jesus our Christ. Amen.”*

*Prayer by Ruth Duck, The United Methodist Book of Worship, 469.

Carry The Message With You

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Romans 10:5-15

A not-so little known secret about me – I do not like feet. Nope. Not at all.

Shoes – yes.

Feet – no. No no no.

Why don’t I like feet? Well I am pretty sure it originated from my feet being very ticklish as a child…but then it evolved. I’m a good Polk County girl. I grew up on a dirt road. There was wooded acreage behind my house and a creek down the street. Who needed shoes when you had all of that to explore? I wanted to feel the earth between my toes…the earth and anything and everything else. So I’m okay with dirty feet…as long as the only encounter I have with dirty feet are with my own during the cleansing process.

Encountering someone else’s dirty feet…I’m going to have to do some praying about that.

It’s a big joke in my family about me not wanting anyone to touch my feet. From time to time my father-in-law will try to sneak a jab at my feet…but I’m usually one step ahead. Poor Andrew…one time he touched my feet…and I accidently had a true “knee jerk reaction” and broke his nose. For years this had been the reason I never had a pedicure…for fear I would end up with a fine for causing bodily harm to an unsuspecting pedicurist.

I will say that my friend Melissa coached me through my first pedicure for my birthday this year. My permanent record remains unblemished.

My friend Sara shares my disdain for feet…and as we were reminiscing this week about our lack of love for feet, Sara said, “I don’t like feet, but I love the beautiful things my feet can do.” What are those beautiful things? For Sara, those beautiful things include caring for her newborn and toddler sons as well as her husband. Those beautiful things include shepherding two United Methodist flocks in the Memphis Annual Conference. Those beautiful things include consistent service and advocacy for the rights of others – the widow, the orphan, and the stranger – in whatever form they present themselves. Why does she show this kind of care? Because that is who Sara is. She lives into the meaning of her name – servant. How beautiful are your feet, dear Sara. How beautiful, indeed.

The band Gungor sings a song entitled, “Beautiful Things.” This song choruses how God makes beautiful things out of ashes and dust. God makes beautiful things out of us so that we can do beautiful things in a world so full of shame, and pain, and fear. Paul’s letter to the Romans shares the good news of God making beautiful things – “No one who believes in [Christ] will be put to shame…for ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’” (Rom 10:11, 13).

Those who call on the name of the Lord will be made new and beautiful creations. We will be saved. Our feet will be set soundly on the cornerstone that is Christ and then we will join him in service. Our feet may get dirty along the way – who knows what we will step in or pass through? What we do know is that Christ is and will always be our faithful companion – and united with him, our feet will lead us to do beautiful things.

Prayer: “All this pain / I wonder if I’ll ever find my way /I wonder if my life could really change at all.  All this earth / Could all that is lost ever be found / Could a garden come up from this ground at all.  All around / Hope is springing up from this old ground / Out of chaos life is being found in You.  You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust.  You make beautiful things.  You make beautiful things out of us.  You make me new.  You are making me new.  You make me new.  You are making me new.”* Amen.

*”Beautiful Things” by The Michael Gungor Band, 2010.