Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Worship Recast

An Inkling
Make new friends, and keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold.  The old aphorism about friends new and old is true as well for worship songs. 
I have been lifted in worship for nearly forty years (!) by the music of John Michael Talbot.  Many of his songs, which glistened as silver initially for me, have become as gold through repeated encounters with the Lord carried on their wings.
So I was reminded recently during a morning prayer walk as I sang along with one of his songs, Let Us Adore the Lord.  I had first heard it on vinyl, and had not heard it for some years, until hearing it afresh via iPod.  But quickly it captured my heart up in praise, now aglow for me with a deeper understanding than it was when I first heard it.
I know little of jewelry and such, but understand that the beauty of fine jewelry is often enhanced as it is reset.  So it is with these songs, as they’re reset in another season of life, and illumined by the Lord’s light from new angles.
The artists themselves are finding ways to reset these songs.  This link is to one of John Michael Talbot’s songs that first came out on vinyl, then CD, then iPod, and now in video.  The videography for this piece, The Pleiades and Orion, really sets it off.  Scout around on line, and you’ll find more and more of your golden worship pieces reset to video art, as the lovers of Jesus seek to make his praise ever more glorious.
His, and thus yours,

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Real Public Prayer

An Inkling
I beg to differ – not for reasons of constitutional law, but for reasons of prayer.
Monday our local paper criticized the Pittsylvania County Supervisors for offering specifically Christian prayer to open their meetings, saying that this violates the First Amendment’s Establishment clause.  Their suggested solution:  “nondenominational invocations seeking the blessing of a generalized Almighty.”
One small problem:  there is no such thing as a “generalized Almighty.”  Voicing prayer to a made up deity renders the whole exercise a caricature, and takes the name of the Lord in vain.
I also beg to differ with one of the Supervisors in Pittsylvania, again, not for reasons of constitutional law, but for reasons of prayer.  He reportedly justified his prayer by saying, “I want to take a stand for Jesus.”
Fine.  Take a stand for Jesus.  I’ll stand with you.  But don’t co-opt prayer to do it.  Talking with God is not about “taking a stand.”  However well intentioned, that takes the name of the Lord in vain.
To avoid establishing one religion over another, we need neither to fabricate some lowest common denominator deity, nor to co-opt prayer for taking a stand.  We can simply allow people of various faiths to voice prayer as they really do, and let it be as it really is, prayer in their own voices.  Boards who open with prayer can show respect and courtesy by inviting people of various faiths to pray – Muslim, Hindu, Jew, or Christian.
And for the Christians who pray in such settings, if we’re to serve Jesus well, we should not just invoke his name, but signify his character by offering prayers that reflect his kind of humility and love – for all present. 
As one who has offered prayers in such public settings, here’s what I’ve tried:

  • I begin with words that can gather a variety of people into addressing God, something like “Almighty God, we’re a people of many beliefs, and it is my privilege to lead as we ask your blessing.”
  • Then I move to thanking God for the many blessings we have in common as Americans, such as freedom, a bountiful land, etc.
  • Then I ask blessings for all public servants, and specifically ask for wisdom for those who must make difficult decisions in this meeting.  Obviously there are many other petitions that could be offered, but the occasion welcomes such focus, and brevity enables people to engage.
  • Such a prayer can gather the sentiments of almost anyone present.  But as a Christian, I must offer this prayer in the way the scripture directs, in Jesus’ name.  And to make it plain that I do so as one praying, and not as one proving a point, I say something like, “Lord, you see that we’re a people of many beliefs, and that we pray in many ways.  But in behalf of all, I pray as I know best, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”  
If the courts disallow such prayer, then it’s best not to pray in such settings – just to pray all the harder for the courts!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hidden in Plain Sight

An Inkling
I’m definitely out of season, but here’s where my mind is wandering today…
Have you ever watched children on their first Easter egg hunt?  I’m always amazed that they don’t see what I can easily see, that egg right there before them on the ledge, or propped between the branches.  They have to learn where to look and how to spot.  And gradually they do learn.  After two or three egg hunts, and some tutoring from their parents, they gain an eye for finding the eggs, and then seize them eagerly.
I think the Lord must have a similar experience with us.  His gifts are right there before us, and still we don’t see.  So he does what parents do with their toddlers.  He points out the eggs to us, and even moves us toward the not-so-obvious treasures – until we see and grasp. 
And with the Lord, the eggs never run short, not even when the big kids have combed the turf first.  What gifts has he hidden in plain sight for you?