Christianity is not a religion; it is the announcement of the end of religion.
A prayer for Monday:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us to become better disciples and instill in us the knowledge and compassion we need to carry out your work.
We also ask you to help us broaden our commitment to your son, Jesus.
There’s much all of us can do to help relay your message to all people we come in contact with, daily.
We must actively commit ourselves to this mission. In your son’s name, we pray.
Our topic for tomorrow’s Bible study is the continual prayer mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Since it’s prayer Monday anyway, I thought I’d post some of the more interesting things I find.
- ‘Pray without ceasing: why anyone can do it and almost nobody does‘. This is a great post. Listen: “Prayer isn’t something I generate, it’s something I join in progress”, and “Prayer is where we begin telling the truth about our own lives.”
- “The position of our text [1 Thess 5:17] is very suggestive. Observe what it follows. It comes immediately after the precept, ‘Rejoice evermore;’ as if that command had somewhat staggered the reader, and made him ask ‘How can I always rejoice?’ and, therefore, the apostle appended as answer, ‘Always pray.’ The more praying the more rejoicing. Prayer gives a channel to the pent-up sorrows of the soul, they flow away, and in their stead streams of sacred delight pour into the heart. At the same time the more rejoicing the more praying; when the heart is in a quiet condition, and full of joy in the Lord, then also will it be sure to draw nigh unto the Lord in worship. Holy joy and prayer act and react upon each other. Observe, however, what immediately follows the text: ‘In everything give thanks.’ When joy and prayer are married their first born child is gratitude.” Maestro Spurgeon; read the whole sermon here.
- “Whether we think of; or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him.” –John Wesley
I have a confession to make. If you’ve read previous editions of ‘Ruminations from the back pew’ (and if you haven’t, good God man, save yourself), you’ll remember (perhaps unwillingly) that I’d staunchly refused to give in to any and all variations of ‘clappiness’ during worship (the Dutch Reformed Church, my religious alma mater, does not acknowledge any emotion that might make your mustache move). You will be thrilled (or horrified) to learn that I’ve thrown all caution to the wind and my hands up in the air like I just don’t care. Yes: I fear that I am now one of those worshippers.
It was Jack Hayward’s excellent book, Manifest Presence, that brought the change around. I finally figured out that worship isn’t about me. (Papa Rick will be ecstatic, I’m sure.) And you know, in realising that it isn’t about what I want out of worship, but what God wants out of worship, I’ve ended up getting more out of worship. Neat, huh?
Anyhow, yesterday we had a fantastic healing workshop at Trinity Methodist in Linden, Johannesburg, which is enviously beautiful and has floods (floods) of natural light in the chapel. We HMC folk are plotting a takeover even as I type this; I have already earmarked ‘my spot’ (my once and future spot!)
The workshop was led by Rev Ray Goddess and managed to be informative and practical without being too ‘how to’ and formulaic. Hearing the testimony and seeing the healing that took place afterwards during the healing service itself just reminded me that essentially we Christians are called to do no more and no less than bear witness to the greatness of God. Fantastic news considering that his awesomeness never stops.
It’s actually ironic that I’m posting a ‘Ruminations from the back pew’ on one of the few Sundays lately I haven’t been to church. This morning I worshipped in the grocery store by covertly singing along to Aretha Franklin’s ‘Natural Woman’ in the toiletry aisle (in my defense, I caught at least two other people doing the same thing), and then naturally proceeded to run into three people from my congregation.
Methodists! They’re everywhere.
I am glad that Jesus spoke to a woman at a well
that a woman touched his cloak and was healed
that a girl sat up when he told her to
that stones fell from the hands of an angry, self-righteous crowd.
I am glad that a woman bent double, straightened up;
that one with a fever cooled down,
that to a mother a son was restored,
that a Canaanite woman refused to be ignored,
that Mary sat by him and learned
and that he told her sister, ‘Martha, Martha.’
I am glad for tears that fell on dirty feet,
for precious oil spilled like precious blood,
for a woman who lost a son to a cross;
for women who insisted, “He is not there.”
I am glad that these women wept for him, believed in him, followed him, fought with him, loved him more than they could put into words.
Most of all, I am glad for this man, this Jesus of Nazareth.
This man who cared so much that he cared little about convention; whose love was bigger than disapproving disciples and a sexist society.
This man who served a God who picks the most vulnerable from the ground and holds them close, like pearls in the palm of his hand.
This is the God that I serve.
Our reading in church today came from John 4 (Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well). It’s the same section we read a few weeks back for the Women’s World Day of Prayer event. John 4:27 especially tugged at something in my soul: “Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman.” They marveled that he was talking with a woman. Marveled! I marvel at this man. At his love, his constancy, his fearlessness, his patience, his kindness. This Son of God, Son of Man.
This guy! :)
“But how can congregations be brought to that [preaching the Gospel successfully] unless there comes first an entire change in ministers, that they begin to see that the indispensable thing is not preaching, not pastoral visitation, not church work, but fellowship with God in prayer until they are clothed with ‘power from on high’ (Luke 24:49)?”
–The Prayer Life by Andrew Murray
In that spirit, here is a prayer for ourselves and our churches (which I’ve pilfered from Ephesians 3 and adapted slightly):
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen us with power through his Spirit in our inner beings, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. And I pray that we, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV).
Today is the Women’s World Day of Prayer. The WWDP is held on the first Friday of every March. This year’s theme is “Streams in the desert” and the official programme was provided by women in Egypt. Go here for more information.
We had a lovely and rejuvenating service over at Nigel Methodist. The Minister spoke about how, when we are fed by the wellspring of God’s grace, this has a ripple effect on our homes, our friends and family, our places of work and worship–because whomever we encounter will encounter others.
In that spirit, here is a prayer (for International Women’s Day):
Women are a reflection of the glory of God. Today we honor the women of all times and all places:
Women of courage.
Women of hope.
Women living fully.
Women experiencing joy.
Women delighting in life.
Women knowing the interconnectedness of the human family.
Women honoring the sacredness of the relational, the affective.
Women quietly tending the garden of human flourishing.
Women boldly leading the transformation of unjust global structures.
Women seeking Wisdom.
Women sharing Wisdom.
Women receiving Love.
Women giving Love.
Women: the image of God.
Loving God, we celebrate your faithfulness and love. On this day we commit ourselves to the promotion of the full humanity of all women everywhere. We know that whatever denies, diminishes, or distorts the full humanity of women is not of God.
Help us to be faithful to your call to love.