Tag Archives: the church

A Prayer for Unity

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I discovered this prayer for the unity of the church on a website for the Church of England. I hope you like it as much as I do.

These prayers may take place around a unity candle, the font or some other symbol of the Church.

Jesus prayed that his followers may all be one.
In the power of the Spirit, we join our prayers with his.

The following may be used

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace:
give us grace seriously to lay to heart
the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions.
Take away all hatred and prejudice,
and whatever else may hinder us
from godly union and concord;
that, as there is but one body and one Spirit,
one hope of our calling,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of us all,
so we may henceforth be all of one heart and of one soul,
united in one holy bond of peace, of faith and charity,
and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

I am the vine and you are the branches.
All: Abide in me as I abide in you.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.
All: Abide in me as I abide in you.

No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
All: Abide in me as I abide in you.

You are my friends if you do what I command you;
love one another as I have loved you.
All: Abide in me as I abide in you.

Intercessions are offered for the unity of the Church.

This response may be used

Lord of the Church
All: hear your people’s prayer.

Silence may be kept.

This Collect is said.

Lord Jesus Christ,
who said to your apostles,
‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you’:
look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church
and grant it the peace and unity of your kingdom;
where you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
All: Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer is said.

The peace of the Lord be always with you
All: and also with you.

These words may be added

Let us offer one another a sign of peace,
God’s seal on our prayers for the Unity of the Church

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In the Perfect Place

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“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  Romans 12: 4-5

I think that the analogy of the body is the best way to describe our oneness with Christ and each other.  I have to admit it’s a difficult concept to explain, and the writers of the New Testament were certainly inspired by God to present it in a way that we can understand and appreciate.

The parts of our body, each with a unique purpose, work together to comprise one living organism.  When one part of the body stops working, or is injured, the whole body suffers.  Some parts are less visible, some are not so pretty ( to illustrate this, my husband would cite the quote “God takes no delight in the legs of a man”) but all are needed.  In the same way, the body of Christ needs all of us.  We need preachers and teachers, cooks and cleaners, carpenters and prayer warriors.  Not only that, but God has placed each of us in the perfect position to use our abilities:

“But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose.”  1 Corinthians 3:18

Isn’t it amazing?  God chose you and me for a particular purpose, in the time and place where we are needed most.  You and I are called to our congregation, just as much as the Pastor!

Of course, the body will not work if each part goes its’ own way.  Every body needs a way to be organized and perform well.  In our physical body, if our brain is damaged all kinds of systems break down.  The same is true of our spiritual body.  Christ is the head, and must direct our actions and our goal.

“…and in him (Christ) all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church.”  Colossians 1:17-18

You are called, gifted and positioned perfectly for peak performance.  God and His people need you just where you are.  Are you doing your part as a member of the body?

 

Fruitful Gifts

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“Love is patient and kind;  love does not envy or boast;  it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on it’s own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;   it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

You’ve probably heard these verses many times before.  1 Corinthians is known as the “love chapter” (my Bible titles it The Way of Love) and it is often read at weddings.  However, placed in its context, Paul is speaking these words to the Christian community and it follows a description of spiritual gifts.

It is certainly good advice about how to behave towards our spouse, but it is much more than that.  These verses tell us how we should behave as part of the church.  Love is the “greatest” gift and the one that will remain when all our works have ceased. Love is not just what we do, it is who we are.  Notice that love also encompasses the fruit of the spirit:  patience, kindness, self-control, joy.

Paul goes on to tell the Corinthians at the end of chapter 13 and in chapter 14 that love is an indication of spiritual maturity.  He advises us to put away childish things (13:11) and be mature in our thinking (14: 20).

So “pursue love” (14:1) and “strive to excel in building up the church.”(14:12).  The fruit of the spirit will follow and will be a blessing to you and to others.

God loves you and so do I!

All the Glory to God

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This is the talk given by one of our congregational members during a recent workshop held. The amazing thing about this is that he is young and autistic, but he managed to grasp the concept better than some adults. The Lord was definitely speaking through him, It is with his permission that I post this. Thank you Nicolas for a heartfelt look into the Glory that should always be God’s.
Worthy Are You
Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Revelation 4:11.
The topic I have chosen is Glory to God. For my starting point, I would like to acknowledge that some people without knowledge of the Lord and his works might think its “selfish” of God to expect us to give glory to him. So I would like to start off with “why” should we give glory to God, and I will try to explain his works by putting them into perspective to do so.
Let me start off in the Old Testament with the Israelites. God’s people were in slavery in Egypt, but Moses did as God told him, and was able to lead them out. God even provided them with food and water in the wilderness. They still disobeyed God however, and were stuck there for 40 years. But even so, God still provided for them, and even allowed them to conquer Jericho as time passed. History went on with a similar cycle, that being: God lets Israel thrive and prosper, they disobey God and are disciplined for it, and God forgives and lets them prosper again and so on. There were several more specifics and details, but that sums up most of it until Jesus came. No matter how much they disobeyed, God always made things well in due time, he constantly forgave without limit.
Now let me talk about my own life for a bit. My Mom and Dad didn’t mean to start a family, they didn’t even love each other, and obviously this was a dysfunctional family. Eventually, they divorced, and took turns with the kids. One hand, you have a guy with a really loud and scary voice, coupled with a short temper. On the other hand, you have a woman who has anxiety, and is now has low income working day care. Combine both with two 6-8 year olds with autism, and a big sister to boot, and that will not go well with my Dad’s temper, or my Mom’s anxiety. They were put in this situation in the first place by disobeying God, by being intimate before marriage. But just like with the Israelites, God provided. My Mom got remarried to the ultimate male role model that is my stepdad, and is now so very happy. My brother & I were also put in a small Christian school, and a social skills group. It’s safe to say we have been much happier, and become more mature ever since. Also just like the Israelites however, I have done and said many things that I regret, and overall sinned against God, and I’m sure my family has too. And just like the Israelites, God has always forgiven me. To ensure that, he has his own son, Jesus, die on the cross, taking my sins with him. At this point, I hope it’s really been put into perspective.
Not only did he send his son to die so myself, and all of you can have a reserved seat in heaven with our names on it, because no matter how much I endlessly sin and disobey, he endlessly forgives me to no end! On top of that, he takes the time to provide for me and my family, and makes hard times good while we’re still here on earth! He did this exact same thing with the Israelites over 2000 years ago, and is still doing that now with no signs of stopping or slowing down in sight! He provides for us all, even when we sin, we may have to be disciplined, but he always forgives and continues to provide no matter what. He’s been doing that forever at this point.
The amount of mercy, grace, and love it takes to do that is so massive, it’s far beyond comprehension, and always will be. Every human has a breaking point for that sort of thing, a point where they snap, but God has been doing this for years and counting for everyone on earth! That’s a lot of tolerance, a lot of mercy, and most of all, a lot of love. For him to love, give, and provide unconditionally for thousands of years, for all his servants at once, deserves far more glory than we could ever give. If that doesn’t deserve the highest amount of glory we could possibly give and more, than nothing will.
Now we know, and hopefully understand why we should give glory to God, now we ask “how do I do it”? Well, to put it simply, we should thank, praise, and acknowledge God in everything we experience and do. We can lead by example doing God’s work, and by that, I mean showing Gods love to everyone around us, and making sure to acknowledge it is God’s love. To do that, we are to humble ourselves, if we are not acknowledging that it is God’s love we are showing, we would be getting all the credit, therefore glorifying ourselves, not God.
One simple, but effective way to glorify God is simply by thanking him for everything we have. An important thing to note however, is that even if we glorify God, that doesn’t mean everything is just going to be unicorns and rainbows in our lives. However, just like I mentioned earlier, when times are bad, God will still provide. So when we are in these times, it is important that we still take time to glorify God. If you glorify him in the good times, but neglect him in the bad, then did you really mean any of it at all?
So, in short, we show Gods love to our neighbors, acknowledging that it is God’s love, and thanking God for everything we have, any chance we can get, no matter our current situations. Those are just some examples, but the main point, is that we are to be “channels” of God’s love and glory to others, not sources of our own glory.
However, many Christians today misunderstand glorifying God, it is important to note things we should not do, as to not misunderstand. There are three main points I will mention, however, all can stem from one thing, pride.
The first is idol worship; idol worship is putting anything above God. An example for me, and probably many of you, is most forms of entertainment. Think for a moment, are there any movies or shows you watch, games you play, or books or stories you have read, that God would not be a fan of? If you’re like me, chances are there is for all three of those categories. For me to use these, is basically me saying “well, I suppose it couldn’t hurt, it’s just a game/show/book”. By me thinking that, it’s basically me saying “I don’t really care enough”. I’m putting my own interests over Gods, and that is my own pride at work. There has to be a line, where if we cross it, we just say no, and turn it off.
The second is hypocrisy, or judging, they fall into similar categories. This seems to be the most noticeable problem Christians of today have. We say we should obey the law, but many of us drive 5 miles higher than the speed limit on the highway. We say to turn the other cheek when wronged, yet we often feel the need to provoke another when they insulted us. There are more examples that many modern Christians tend to condemn. Homosexuality or transgender, abortion, believing in evolution, and many others. We know all of these things are not what God has willed, but if we see others doing these things, we should not condemn, or look down upon them in any way. Not to mention God can forgive any of those sins if asked, just like he can forgive any of ours. Even though we have not done those things specifically, if he can forgive them all the same, then what reason do we have to condemn them, and not our own sins? When we judge others, we think we are better than them. That is your own pride taking over, but that’s not the only sin here. By judging others for their sins, it gives others the impression that God is a God of condemnation and hate, which is not true. By doing this, we are not glorifying God, we are tarnishing his name.
The last of these things is lying. When we lie to others, it is most likely to protect ourselves or our reputation. But if found out, what does that say about God? It gives the impression that our priority is our own wellbeing, rather than that of God’s, which is not true. By lying, you are putting your own reputation above Gods reputation; you think you’re better than him. You know what that is? You guessed it, pride.
When we glorify God, it is important to not let our own pride get in the way. If you do, it will lead to various other things that do not glorify his reputation, but tarnishes it. If we are humble, and acknowledge it is all God’s work and love, we are most definitely glorifying him, but letting pride take over, does the exact opposite.
Now, are we expected to always do this without fail? Of course not, we may be the channels for Gods glory to others, but we are not God. We will make mistakes, we will disobey him, and we will do things that tarnish Gods reputation. Why? Because we are human! We have a sinful nature by heart, so we will continue to sin, that’s why it is important to keep a level head, and be understanding. If someone does bother us, if we lose our temper, and get angry or upset, we are more likely to have an irrational way of thinking. When in this state, we are more likely to say, and do things we will regret, and do things that tarnish God’s reputation.
So, in summary, to glorify God, we must keep a level head, be humble, understanding, and free of self-pride, acknowledge God in all things, at all times-good or bad, and show his love to others, through us.
Now, is this something we absolutely have to do to gain God’s forgiveness or salvation, in other words, are we forced to glorify him? No! We shouldn’t think we give glory to God because we have to, we should as a way to thank him for all he has done for us, it’s the least we could do. And after seeing, hearing, and experiencing Gods love firsthand in our own lives, what joy it would bring to show that same love of God to others who don’t know, haven’t seen, or don’t realize it yet. It makes God happy, and it makes us happy too.
Glory be to God everyone, it’s the least we could do, and it will make us and others happy too.

By: Nicholas Marquez

What Stands Out -Hebrews Chapter 7

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“On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect);  but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.”  Hebrews 7:18

Sometimes the church and the people in it disappoint us, because they’re not perfect.  People can be rude, self-righteous or lack compassion.  The church itself can become bureaucratic, rigid or even teach poorly.  Be real!  Sometimes we even disappoint ourselves when we lose our temper, gossip or exhibit other behavior that is clearly not Christlike.

This verse in Hebrews stands out to me because it clearly says we cannot expect perfection from humans or human systems.  We cannot save ourselves by our actions, and we cannot save ourselves through church membership.

Thankfully we have a better hope–Jesus Christ. He is that anchor for the soul that we discussed in Chapter 6.  He is how we are able to draw near and be reconciled to God.  No wonder a rallying cry of the Reformation was Christ alone!

You’re Part of the Story

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I started a new devotional book today, it’s called “Climbing with Abraham” by David Ramos. (by the way, I got it on my kindle through Bookbub FREE).  The first devotional starts out by saying that most of the time, in the Bible, a person is first described by listing where they came from, who their parents were, etc.. The author says this is to  show that their story begins long before they do.

The same is true of our churches.  They have a story that began before we were members (at least most of the time).  So when we join a church, we become part of a bigger story.  As an adult I have been a member of two churches.  The first was a mission congregation and although I was not a charter member, it was a “young” church.  I got to be a church builder.  I was there through more than 25 years and three locations.  It was started by a small group of Midwesterners who wanted a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, and there were none in the area.  My current congregation is “old”…. we just celebrated our 190th anniversary.  It was started by German farmers who just wanted a Lutheran church in their community.  In this congregation, I am maintaining a legacy.

My first congregation has grown and changed since my husband and I were called to St. Paul’s.  A time will come when we leave St. Paul’s as well.  We’re only a link in the chain that has kept these churches going. We will have spiritual descendants who will do the same.

So what’s your church’s story?  What ‘s your role?  Isn’t it exciting to be part of God’s plan?  Send us your thoughts and comments.

 

The Church Family

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I read this definition of a family once and liked it so much I copied it down and saved it.  No family fulfills this description better than the church. 

A family is a deeply rooted tree with branches of differing strengths, each receiving nourishment from an Infinite Source.

A family is where character is formed, values learned, ethics created, and ultimately where society is preserved.

A family is where all members contribute and share, cooperate and work, accepting their individual responsibility for the good of the group.

A family is where holidays are celebrated with feasting, birthdays remembered with gifts, and thoughts of other days kept alive by reliving fond memories.

A family is a place where each member can go to find solace and comfort in grief, pleasure and laughter in joy, and kindness and encouragement in daily living.

A family is finally a haven of rest, a sanctuary of peace, and most of all a harbor of love.

Anonymous

The Ship of the Church

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Ship image found in Christian catacombs

The ship (bark or barque, barchetta) was an ancient Christian symbol. Its is the Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution but finally reaching safe harbor with its cargo of human souls. Part of the imagery comes from the ark saving Noah’s family during the Flood (1 Peter 3:20-21). Jesus protecting the Peter’s boat and the apostles on the stormy Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). It was also a great during times when Christians needed to disguise the cross, since the ship’s mast forms a cross in many of its depictions..

Bronze lamp of ship of St. Peter and Paul
Ship-shaped lamp with Pietro e Paolo Apostles, Bronze, late 4th-early 5th century. Uffizi Gallery, Florence

“In the Apostolic Constitutions (II, xlvii) the bishop surrounded by the assembly of the faithful is compared to the helmsman of a ship; but the idea is as old as Tertullian (De bap., xii; P. L., l, 1214) and it was varied sometimes by comparing the Church to the Ark of Noah. In any case the ship was a recognized Christian symbol and Clement of Alexandria approved it for a signet ring. “Let the dove or the fish”, he says, “the vessel flying before the wind, — or the marine anchor be our signets” (Paed. III, ii; P. G., VIII, 633). Numerous representations of ships, sometimes serving as the design for a lamp, with the figure of Christ or St. Peter as helmsman are preserved to us. The name which we still retain for the “nave” (French, nef) of a church bears testimony to the persistence of the same idea.” (Herbert Thurston, “Symbolism,” Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909). The ship is also sometimes used as an emblem of St. Jude.

Gravestone of Firmia Victora, showing ship symbol
Gravestone of Firmia Victora, Museo Pio Cristiano, Vatican, Rome

In an illustration for Psalm 69 from the Belleville Breviary, chosen to accompany the sacrament of Confirmation, St. Peter lies in a boat on a storm-tossed sea while God blesses him from the heavens, symbolizing the soul’s refuge in time of trial in the ship of the Church which is blessed by God. The final traditional symbolic meaning of the ship is a means of conveyance between this world and the next. In Christian tradition, in which earthly life was seen as a pilgrimage, the ship of the church transports the faithful through the seas of the world to the heavenly home. (Ideas from Chaucer and the Image of Narrative, by V. A. Kol

 

 

 

 

A Poem About the Church

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Diary of a Church Mouse

Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun.
 All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle's brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes .
.
.
 it's rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher's seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear our organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God's own house,
But all the same it's strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.