A Prayer for Dusty People: Entering Lent – 2019

This is what the LORD says—”Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland…I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”

Isaiah 43

O Lord, how we long for you to do a new thing in our midst.
How we long to see the way made in the wilderness,
the stream flowing through the wasteland.
For we are indeed your people, formed to praise you.
And so we do.

We praise you that you are the God of new things.
That you are the God of wilderness way-making,
that you are the God of life-giving water in the midst of life’s wastelands,
that you are the God who reminds us to ‘forget the former things,
because you are in the business of making all things new.

Start with us, please, Lord. Start with us.

Make us new, inside and out.
Teach us to live as new creatures –
not because we’re fad-hungry
or driven to own the latest new tech device;
not because we’re bored with life and need a new kick;
not because we’re in need of a diversion.

Make us new because we need your transformational energy at work within us in order to live as whole and holy people.

Make us new because we’ve worn out the old ways, we’ve tried them repeatedly and learned the hard way that they just don’t work. Make us new because we want to be people who radiate the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus – that amazing, multi-faceted, lovely fruit-of-nine-sides that Paul listed out for us:

Love, Joy, Peace,
Patience, Kindness, Goodness,
Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control.

So…start with us in this making-new business.
Because if we’re truly open to the newness your Spirit can bring
and if we truly live out of the fruit your Spirit grows in us,
then we can carry that newness into every situation and relationship
we find ourselves in whether that’s
our family home, our dorm suite, our place of business,
our classroom, the grocery line, the traffic jam,
the blog comments, the political debate,
the kitchen table or the table at our favorite restaurant,
the well-worn beach path or hiking trail,
or the sidewalk right in front of where we live –
wherever our lives lead us –we can bleed newness, your newness, into our world.

So, we ask that your church worldwide might be a sign of newness,
a whisper of beauty, a word of kindness,
a presence of hospitality, a ray of civility”
in an increasingly uncivil and terrifying world.

Convict us when we fall short of this worthy goal;
convince us that we, with you at work within us,
have the inside scoop on the hope this world needs.

Consider that we are but dust – but then . . . continue the work of new creation even in our dustiness.

And please, bless our very dusty leaders, denominational and political,who are engaged in important decision-making on many fronts.

Grant us peace in our churchly dialog and in our civic discourse,
wisdom in our personal and our national decisions,
and grace with one another when the day is done.

Thank you, Great God of all things new,
for your everyday goodness and grace,
for your mercies which are new every morning
and which sustain us our whole life long.

In the name and for the sake of Jesus, your son, who makes it possible for us to be made new each and every day.

Amen.

This post is a re-post from a few years ago. It originally appeared as a Lenten column in The Covenant Companion, a publication of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

Remembering to Ask — for the Covenant Companion

Every other month, I get the remarkable job of writing a column for our award-winning denominational magazine. I love who we are, our history and our identity. Like many Christian denominations, we sometimes struggle as we seek to follow the Spirit’s lead, but we have one important distinctive that is highly valued: we agree to disagree on any doctrinal issue not considered central to the message of the Gospel. (One example: as pastors, we are ordained to baptize both infants and adults, depending on the convictions of the individual family.) We are small but, with God’s help, we are also ‘mighty.’ My contribution to our current issue was highlighted today at the online version of the magazine. Here’s a piece of it with a link to connect you to the entire piece:

IMG_8399

Everyone has a story. Everyone. You do, I do, the cranky checker at the supermarket does. The profanity-prone cabdriver, the arrogant teacher, the shy first-year college student, the exhausted gray-haired pan-handler on the corner — everyone has seen more, done more, experienced more than we can imagine. We haven’t a clue what another person has had to deal with in their lives, or even in the last ten minutes!

And yet, we so often act as if we’ve got it all figured out, that life is simple rather than complicated, that easy answers are readily available for any and all situations. We wonder, silently or aloud, why the one moving slowly can’t pick it up a little bit, why the one who is angry can’t put a cork in it, why the one in tears doesn’t pull him or herself together, why the one we can’t agree with is so dense and uninformed. We’re embarrassed, or we’re frustrated; we’re anxious or we’re judgmental. Too often, we default to defensiveness and reactivity rather than breathing in for a few seconds and remembering to ask this all-important question, a question I heard articulated perfectly by one of my pastors in a recent sermon. He gives his wife credit for this one, and I am grateful to both of them for it:

What don’t I know?

What DON’T I know? Truth be told, we don’t know much, do we? Some days, it feels like we know less and less about who and how people truly are. The pace of life in the twenty-first century doesn’t leave much space for easy conversation during the course of our days. We have to move on to the next appointment, tick-off-the-next-errand, tackle the task that nags at us from the back of our minds. We have no time for stories, no interest in distraction . . . unless, of course, the internet calls our name. . .

Come on over and finish it at the magazine . . .

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