Category Archives: Scripture Reflections

Prayer of the Day | Zacchaeus | From the United Church of Canada | Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

The following liturgy is from the United Church of Canada.

Like Zacchaeus, help us, O God,
to lose our fear of stepping outside our place,
of doing things differently,
of seeking Christ in our lives.
Christ’s invitation awaits us
to start anew,
to make amends,
to live in Christ’s way.
God of change and renewal,
we give thanks for your love
that makes this possible
for each one of us.
Amen.

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Confession based on Psalm 32 | Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

Liturgy by Stephen M. Fearing.

I haven’t been writing a lot of liturgy lately so I am trying to get back into the swing of things.  Here is a call to confession, prayer of confession, and assurance of pardon for this upcoming Sunday, November 3rd, 2013.  It is based off of Psalm 32.  As always, I welcome your thoughts!

Call to Confession:

The Psalmist tells us that our silence causes us to waste away.
There is so much that is heavy upon us,
so much that we carry.
so much that we dare not utter.
Let us dare together to declare our brokenness.
Let us no longer remain silent.
Let us acknowledge our sin to God.

Confession:

God of Goodness and Mercy,
You created us good and we have not lived up to your expectation.
We have stayed silent when we should have spoken.
We have spoken when we should have stayed silent.
We have tried to hide from you rather than trust your protection.
We have been chosen to be covered by our sin
     when we could have been covered by your goodness.
We have done all these things…
     We are doing all these things…
          We will do these things…
               Hear our prayer this day…

(silent confession)

God of Deliverance,
You create us even this day and in the days to come.
     This alone is our hope.
     This alone is our life.
     This alone is our salvation.
Create within us a hearts of repentance, trust, and faithfulness.
Surround us with glad cries of deliverance
     that we may hear your grace,
          receive your song,
          and sing your goodness.
This we pray in the name of our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Friends, hear the good news of the Gospel:
God has heard our cry,
God has forgiven us,
God has renewed us.
Hallelujah! Amen!

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Zacchaeus Was a Tax Man | Hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette | Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Year C)

I found this great new text by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette at her website here.  It is sung to the tune of AURELIA (to which “The Church’s One Foundation” is often sung).  It is based off the gospel lectionary passage for this upcoming Sunday, November 3rd (24th Sunday after Pentecost – Year C).  Enjoy!

Zacchaeus was a tax man who one day climbed a tree,
For he was short in stature and said he could not see.
And yet he had a problem that mattered even more:
He didn’t see the suffering his greed had caused the poor.

O Lord, you saw Zacchaeus — so wealthy, yet alone.
You said, “Come down — and hurry! I’m coming to your home.”
For you broke bread with sinners and saw within each one
A person loved and treasured — God’s daughter or God’s son.

It wasn’t just the treetop that helped Zacchaeus see;
Your love and welcome showed him how different life could be.
He said that he’d start over and work to make things fair;
He’d speak the truth, bring justice, and find new ways to share.

O Christ, you bid us welcome and help us all to see!
May we respond by building a just society.
Then children won’t be hungry and all will share your bread.
Then those who now must struggle will live in joy instead.

For more great hymns by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, check out her website here.

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A Prayer of Confession Inspired by Psalm 106

The following prayer of Confession was written by Stephen Fearing and used at Conyers Presbyterian Church in Conyers, Georgia on Sunday, October 27th, 2013.  On this date, CPC dedicated the newest addition to their worship life, the new Presbyterian Hymnal, Glory to God.  The sung response throughout this confession is hymn number 576 in Glory to God.  It is a simple, heartfelt, and concise sung confession that can be easily learned in almost any group.  The confession is based off of the text of Psalm 106.

Forgive us for what we have done….
                                We have sinned.
                                We have rebelled.
                                We have forgotten your works.
                                We have put you to the test.
                                We have worshipped idols.
                                We have grumbled, provoked, and angered you.
                                We have sinned.
                                          (Kyrie #576)

Forgive us for what we have left undone….
                                We have not considered your wonderful works.
                                We have not remembered the abundance
                                               of your steadfast love.
                                We have not waited for your word.
                                We have not had faith in your promise.
                                We have not served you.
                                (Kyrie #576)

Remember us, O Lord.
                                Show favor upon us, your people.
                                Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us
                                that we might give thanks in your holy name
                                and glory in your praise.
                                           (Kyrie #576)

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Holy Week Devotional Guide (Year C)

The following is a Holy Week Devotional Guide organized by Hillary Ann Golden via asacredjourney.net. The opening prayers for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are taken from prayers previously posted on this blog. May God continue to bless you through this Holy Week as we prepare to praise the Risen Christ! You can download this free devotional guide here.

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Psalm 126 | Paraphrase by Michael Morgan | Fifth Sunday in Lent (Year C)

The following paraphrase of Psalm 126 is from my dear friend and mentor, Michael Morgan. This paraphrase of Psalm 126 (and, in fact, every psalm) can be found in his published psalter, Psalter for Christian Worship, Revised Edition. The suggested tunes for this Psalm (8.7.8.7. D) are IN BARILONE, HOLY MANNA, and BEACH SPRING. Psalm 126 is the lectionary psalm for the fifth sunday in lent, year c.

When the Lord brought home our treasure,
     All delights were like a dream;
In defeat, a shout of vict’ry;
     In the sand, a flowing stream.
Mouths that once were parched with anguish
     Now with shouts of joy are filled;
Laughter now displaces sadness
     For the goodness God has willed.

Bring us back to former glory,
     Lost through years of exile’s pain;
Generations long forgotten
     Seek God’s favor to regain.
Those who plant their seeds with grieving,
     Wetting soil with falling tears,
Shall rejoice in time of harvest,
     Reaping hope for all their years.

Used with permission from Michael Morgan.

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Back to the Text – 1st & 2nd Timothy and Titus

The following series of blog posts will be inspired by a class I am taking with Anna Carter Florence and a group of about a dozen classmates at Columbia Theological Seminary this semester (Spring 2013). The class is entitled “Back to the Text” and is a “communal exercise in getting “back to the text” by reading and performing together an entire book of scripture—in this case, the First and Second Letters of Paul to Timothy. Students will read widely in Biblical Studies pertaining to I and II Timothy, experiment with various ways of reading, rehearsing, and improvising a scriptural narrative, and finally create a group performance of I and II Timothy, which we will offer to the community.” (Description in the CTS Academic Catalog).

I will be blogging throughout the semester on our experiences in this class and welcome you along this journey!

I was drum major for much of my high school career in Northwest Georgia. A rite of passage to this office of leadership was that the newly elected leader would receive the “Drum Major Box.” Filled with everything from an ancient whistle to a bottle of Advil, the centerpiece of the collection was a well-worn notebook filled with pieces of advice from previous drum majors. It was the tradition of this community for each drum major to receive the box at the beginning of his or her tenure and then pass it along to his or her predecessor after contributing both an item of significance as well as recording some words of wisdom for the drum major(s) to follow.

In fact, when I received it, it wasn’t even a box; it was a tattered brown paper bag that looked like it had been to hell and back. My contribution was to purchase what is now the box you see below (the remains of the tattered paper bag still reside safely inside!). The box is again residing in my home in Dalton, Georgia because my sister, Sarah Kate, is now drum major. At the end of her tenure, she will do as I did and contribute wisdom of her own to those that will follow both of us.

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This ritual is a curious thing. While one might look at this plastic box and its tattered contents and see nothing but meaningless items, those of us who know both the blessings and stresses of being such a leader cherish the history and the wisdom of that box. Its meaning (that is, the story of the community) transcends any one of us and embodies the history of both those that have gone before us that those that will inevitably follow when we faithfully hand off the reigns to another generation.

In yesterday’s class with Anna Carter Florence & Co., we read through the entirety of 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus (as we will every week this semester). For each chapter of the three books, one person played “Paul” and read the chapter directly to “Timothy/Titus” who sat in the chair and listened fervently. “Paul” then recruited other members of the class to improv the other characters in the letter(s). Some of us even were able to play both the parts of Paul (the passing generation) and Timothy/Titus (the new generation).

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This process of bringing life to the text (or, perhaps better said, the text “bringing life” to us) surprised me in a significant way. When I first “played” Timothy, I thought that having “Paul” stand over me and rant would be condescending. In fact, it was the exact opposite. As I sat alone in the chair and received the wisdom of Paul, I felt comforted, relieved, cared for, and renewed.

As I was reminded of my days as drum major (and the days my beloved sister in currently living), I thought of the trust that existed between Paul and Timothy/Titus. It occurred to me that Paul was entrusting the gospel to a new generation. As the new generation, and as “Timothy,” I felt honored that Paul would take the time bluntly tell me what I needed to know to “fight the good fight.”

So…whether your a past drum major or a new drum major, an old pastor or a new pastor, an outgoing pope or an incoming pope, remember the larger narrative! Remember those who have gone before you and those who will follow after you. Take heart and do not lose courage for you are in good company. Thanks be to God!

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