A prayer on the third Sunday of Easter

Merciful God, 

It is so hard to trust in you sometimes. Our needs and our fears and our anxieties seem so immediate and so real. We worry about having enough money to last us through the month or through our retirement. We worry about what’s happening to our kids and our community and this country and this world that we live in. We worry about bombs and guns, we worry about our jobs and our schoolwork, and we worry about people that we love – and we wonder how we can go on in light of loved ones that we have lost. 

God, it is so hard to trust you sometimes. Yet you tell us to cast our burdens on you, you tell us to lean not on our own understandings, you tell us to follow you, you tell us that you have overcome the world, you tell us that you are with us even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you tell us your yoke is easy, and you tell us that your burden is light.

God, it is so hard to trust you sometimes. But we are a people gathered together in this place because we believe that two thousand years ago you raised a crucified Jewish Rabbi up from the dead. So help us to know your resurrection New Life more intimately, help us to take your power and your grace and your perfect love more seriously than our need and our fear and our anxiety, and help us to lean more intently into your everlasting embrace. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, and in the power of your Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.

A prayer for Saving Daylight

Merciful God,

This morning a lot of us are tired. We’d like to think that’s just because Daylight Saving Time took an hour of sleep from us last night, but if we’re honest, we’re tired a lot of the time. We’re tired because we give so much of our time to being busy. We’re busy with our jobs, we’re busy with homework and with housework and with hobbies and goals and all kinds of other activities. 

God, you invented work and creativity and order, and you created us to take part in working and creating and ordering. But you also invented Sabbath rest. Help us to find space in our busy lives to rest so that we can focus on the fact that the value of our lives is not about what we do or what we produce; the value of our life comes from the fact that it is a gift from you. 

God we are tired and we are busy. Help us to be still so that we can connect more deeply with our families. Help us to be still so that we can be more present in the moment with our friends. We are busy, but you are the God who fights for us; help us to be still and know that you are God. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, and in the power of your Holy Spirit we pray. Amen

A Pastoral Prayer for the week of Super Tuesday

Prayed this morning at Montgomery United Methodist Church, Montgomery, TX

Merciful God,

We approach your throne in worship this morning, aware that a lot of our neighbors seem anxious. They’re anxious about an uncertain economy, they’re anxious about things that are happening across the world, they’re anxious about things that are happening with our children, and they’re anxious about the results of an election this Tuesday and next November.

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A lot of our neighbors are anxious about these things. God, we know in our heads that because we fear you we have nothing else to fear. But God, if we’re honest, we’re kind of anxious about some of these things too.

Help us to remember – especially this week – that although worldly powers rise and fall, you are still Lord over them all. Help us to remember that since we are a people of hope, we don’t have to take despair seriously. Help us to remember that since we are a people of light even the deepest darkness is no big deal when viewed with the eyes of eternity.

Some trust in chariots, and some trust in horses. Some trust in tanks, some trust in banks, some trust in candidates, and some trust in caliphates. But we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

In the name of Jesus Christ, and in the power of your Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.

UMC Candidacy Questions: Most Formative Experience

As a part of the candidacy process for ordination in the United Methodist Church one is required to type up and submit answers to a number of different questions and prompts. As I approach my meeting with the District Committee on Ordained Ministry on Thursday, February 23, I will be posting a few of my responses here. The first of these responses follows, below. ¶ 311.2.a.i: What is the most formative experience of your Christian life?

I could answer this question by talking about my church growing up, or the amazing and encouraging friends that God has blessed me with, or my experience in seminary and how it was probably exactly what I needed right when I needed it - all are wonderful gifts from God. But I think at this point I’d like to say that the most formative experience of my Christian life has been my current job as director of youth ministries at Aldersgate UMC in Santa Fe, TX.

This charge is strengthening my faith. I loved seminary, but writing an exegetical paper on a passage from Isaiah (for instance) is much easier to me than convincing a roomful of skeptical 9th graders that God has done something dramatic and beautiful -— even exciting -— for us and for our world, and that God wants us to participate in the continuation of that drama, beauty and excitement that he’s still doing today. It’s not that I don’t already have faith, or that I don’t already believe these things that I teach. I most certainly do. But the exercise of having to explain my faith and why I’m so excited about it, and having to do so in different words and from different angles, has been deeply formative for me. It’s as if my mouth having to form the gospel is teaching my heart all over again how to love it. Having to explain why the good news is so good enhances and enlivens that goodness for me. Talking about how exciting God’s reign is has made God’s reign even more exciting.

Further, being at Aldersgate encourages me to pray. There’s nothing that has encouraged prayer more consistently and humbly in my life than my being responsible for the spiritual formation of this small band of young people. Jesus claims that there’s a lot at stake here. Evidently messing this up might end worse for me than if I had a millstone tied around my neck at the bottom of the sea. But I’m also humbled and driven to prayer by the simple fact that I love these teens that I get to work with, and I care deeply for the families with whom I interact. And so I give thanks often, and I intercede on their behalf. What a gift!

Lastly, my time at Aldersgate continues to grow my love for Christ’s church. Churches are messy. Sometimes we fight or bicker. Sometimes we spend way to much time talking about things that are really just silly distractions. And sometimes we do a terrible job of loving each other, not to mention our neighbors and our enemies. But sometimes the church gets it. Sometimes we catch a vision, if only a fleeting one, of God’s mercy and grace, and sometimes we even act on that vision. Sometimes we live out our allegiance to God’s Reign instead of trying to fortify our own reigns. Sometimes, if just for a moment, the church lives into her calling by really and truly worshipping God, and by really and truly living into God’s mission for which he’s sending us out into the world. Church is messy, sure. But by a miracle of grace God nurtures and shapes these messy bodies into what will become his bride. Aldersgate can be messy. And yet somehow God still manages to offer us his Sanctifying grace. And that has been deeply formative for me.