Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fanning the Flame #2

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“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”  Philippians 2:1-2

Voting on the fanning the flame project was delayed for a few more weeks in order to insure that the requirements of our church constitution for a special meeting had been met, and proper notification received by all.  However, discussion at the meeting revealed a couple of things.

The good news — enough people volunteered to serve on the planning committee, if the program is approved.  As we are a small congregation, this was a legitimate concern.

The bad news — there is not yet complete agreement.  Some are concerned about the cost;  others don’t really understand what will be achieved.  There is probably even some fear — what will happen, and how will we have to change?  Will I be able to do what is asked of me?  Do I even want to do it?

My prayer for St. Paul’s is for unity in whatever decision we make.  Total unity is, of course, not possible this side of heaven, but if we’re sharply divided, if we’re angry with one another, if we’re intent only on getting our way, no plan will succeed. This is a time for listening — to one another and to God.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

Pray with me friends and readers, as we attempt to discern the will of God in this matter.

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I Am the Bread of Life — Book Review

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A few months ago when our theme was “Food, Feasts and Gluttony” I purchased a copy of I Am the Bread of Life by Sister Suzanne Toolan and Elizabeth Dossa.  Sister Suzanne is the composer of the song, as well as many others and is also a gifted teacher of music.  The book is made up of a series of essays –some are biographical, others Sister Suzanne’s thoughts on topics such as Silence, Liturgy, Ritual, Celebrations, and some contain practical advice on prayer, music and liturgy.

I Am the Bread of Life

As a Lutheran, I didn’t agree with everything in the book, but much of the material on liturgy resonated deeply with me.  It’s obvious that to Sr. Suzanne, music is a spiritual practice. She took care to make sure her students understood what they were singing.  She felt the music should encourage their faith. She speaks about liturgy not as something to study, but as a beloved and thoughtful discipline.  Here are some of her quotes:

“A good hymn is almost instructional.”

“Entertainment or liturgy as theater has no depth to it.”

“There is a unity of spirit in the singing.”

“The Liturgy is about leading the congregation to the Real Presence.”

Sister Suzanne is an amazing woman, and anyone interested in the liturgy and music of the church will enjoy this read.

 

The Story Behind “Good Christian Men, Rejoice”

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This is another of my favorite Christmas hymns. I seem to gravitate toward the really old ones. Still waiting to hear from readers and authors about their favorites!

The Road To Emmaus

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“Good Christian Men, Rejoice” is also one of the more older of the carols. This song remains with us today because of two priests who were exiles in their respective times and too radical for their contemporaries.

Heinrich Suso was a German nobleman who decided to become a priest during the 14th century. He was a Dominican monk with mystic beliefs that brought him conflict with the church. He was a religious populist who wanted to help the common man understand more about God, this in a time when the church believed that the average person had no interest in theology. After writing a couple of works that were influenced by the teachings of Eckhart, who was condemned as a heretic, Suso was exiled to Switzerland.

One night, Suso found himself immersed in a dream so real that he became a part of it. In his dream, the priest saw…

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ADVENT MEDITATION: To You Christ Is Born by Martin Luther

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ADVENT MEDITATION: To You Christ Is Born by Martin Luther

I enjoyed this devotion by Martin Luther and I hope our readers will, as well

The Value of Sparrows

The angel said to them, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you this day a savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10)

The Gospel teaches that Christ was born, and that he died and suffered everything on our behalf, as is here declared by the angel.  In these words you clearly see that he is born for us.

He does not simply say, Christ is born, but to you he is born.  Neither does he say, I bring glad tidings, but to you I bring glad tidings of great joy.  Furthermore, this joy was not to remain in Christ, but it shall be to all the people.  This faith no condemned or wicked man has, nor can he have it.  Christ has a pure, innocent, and holy birth.  Man has an unclean, sinful, condemned…

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Simplify–And Satisfy

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Did you know that simplicity is a spiritual discipline?  Not something we think about much, is it?  I’m currently reading a book, Awake My Soul by Timothy Jones and I just finished a chapter titled, “The Soul and the Simple Life.”  He says that learning to live simply will allow us to be freer and less anxious, but it requires radical trust.  Here’s a quote:

“When I follow God, generosity becomes an option.  Knowing that today will provide the daily bread I need allows me not to exhaust myself in storing up what I think in my worst moments I will need.  I leave the issue in hand far bigger–infinitely so– than mine.”

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I admit this is not easy for me.  I like to be prepared for the worst (or at least fool myself into believing I’m prepared).  However, Jones is right.  It can be exhausting trying to imagine and provide for every potential problem;  it’s probably not even possible.  How much easier to simply (no pun intended) trust God and do our best day by day.  I try to work on that, but often fail.  Here are some words of advice on simplification from Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline.

  1. First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status ….Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life. ..

  2. Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.  Learn to distinguish between a real psychological need, like cheerful surroundings, and an addiction.  …(he says if you find you cannot live without something such as particular foods or technology get rid of it).

  3. Third, develop a habit of giving things away.  If you find that you are becoming attached to some possession, consider giving it to someone who needs it.

    Sounds pretty scary and drastic doesn’t it.  What it boils down to is stop worrying about how to impress others, avoid the things that tend to control you, and be generous.  I know even I can take baby steps in trying to do this.  What about you?  Can you simplify your life so that it becomes more satisfying?

 

 

Taste and See

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From a young age, we are told that we need to have a balanced diet. Our bodies require a variety of nutrients. Although some foods are more wholesome than others (and some have no redeeming nutritional value whatsoever), there is no one superfood that provides one hundred percent of our needs.

Like our bodies, our spirits require feeding so that they do not wither and die. We “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). The difference is that there is only one food for the spirit: our Lord Jesus Christ. We receive this food in many forms: the waters of baptism, Christ’s body and blood in communion, God’s divine Word, confession and absolution, corporate worship and fellowship with other Christians, solitary prayer and meditation–and so many ways that God reaches out to us in our daily lives.

Just as we give thanks for our meals, we should give thanks–daily, constantly,  not just one day in a year–for God’s grace, mercy and love, our source of life.

Taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8)

Back to the Garden

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 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that it was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3: 6

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Yes, gluttony started in the garden of Eden.  Seems I’m always going back there.  Eve committed a number of sins when she ate the fruit (it doesn’t really say it was an apple).  She disobeyed God, trying to put herself in His place(idolatry), and because she thought she knew what was best (pride).  She lusted for the fruit with her eyes and she was a glutton, wanting to consume it, even though her hunger should have been satisfied with the good things God had already given.  She and Adam had companionship with one another;  they were blessed with the presence of God;  they had been given the entire garden “to work and keep it.” Genesis 2: 16 They lacked for nothing, but they wanted more.

Gluttony continued to be a problem for mankind.  In his letter to the Philippians, Paul speaks of those who “walk as enemies of the cross.”  (3:18).  He says,

“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”  Philippians 2:19

How often are our minds set on earthly things?  I know I also find myself wanting more, when what I have is already good and sufficient.  Just a few more material things, and I know I’ll be happy.  Enough to live the way want to live, instead of the way God wants me to live.  Enough to look successful in the eyes of the world, instead of the eyes of God.  So I think this month as we explore the theme of food and gluttony, I’m going to pray for contentment.  That’s the opposite of the thoughts of more, more, more that clamor at us from society and from our own minds.  In 1 Timothy Paul writes,

“…there is great gain in godliness with contentment.” (3: 6)

When we’re content we can relax;  we can feel gratitude;  we have time to commune  with one another and with God;  we can enjoy the world He’s given us.  A bit of that original Eden will be restored.  Will you join me in a month of contentment?  Tell me how it goes for you!