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Wednesday Words, April 24, 2019

Wednesday Words

April 24, 2019

Pastor Paul Cannon

Praise God

3Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

-Psalm 150: 3-6


Alleluia! Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Wherever you are, I hope you said that out loud. I hope you shouted it in front of your computer screen at work, at school, or on the Metra while reading on your phone. I hope you dusted off your old boombox, pumped the music and ran out into the streets dancing. I hope you I hope you knocked on your neighbors’ door, barged into their home to share the good news until they finally relented and agreed to see what all the fuss is about.


But I’m guessing you didn’t. Jesus rose from the dead, didn’t he? Same as last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. And the preceding two thousand years before all that (give or take a few decades). Kind of hard to get excited about it again. Isn’t it?


Maybe you didn’t do any of those things, but I still hope you feel the excitement, because even two thousand years later, this God on the Cross deserves our praise – not just for what Jesus did, but what he continues to do.


Why do we still break out the trumpets every Easter? Why do we bring out all the choirs? Why all the fanfare over something that happened so long ago? Our Psalm for Sunday is a reminder that God deserves our praise today, just as much as yesterday and the day before.


Every Easter we celebrate something old, but we also remember that we are called to celebrate all the new things that God is doing among us. We are celebrating all the ministry, all love, all the community that God has provided for us.


That is worth our praise. That is worth our shouts of Alleluia! That is worth our time, energy, and labor of love. Praise God!

Wednesday Words, April 17, 2019

Wednesdays Word
From Lasting Hope Devotional 

Psalm 31:15-16

My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.

To ponder
Through all the world with devils fill
and threaten to devour  us,
we tremble not, we trust God's will:
the cannot overpow'r us.
- Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"

Rescued by steadfast love
One summer while serving as a camp counselor, I was trying to impress another counselor.  She challenged me to swim from the boat to the shore.  I didn't think we were out that far out, and I didn't want to be beaten by her.  I didn't know at the time that she was a professional swimmer.  I was not.  I jumped into the water and began to swim as hard and fast as I could, until I got a cramp in my legs.  I panicked and felt as if I was going under.  I screamed.  I cried.  Then a life preserver was thrown my way, and I was pulled back into the boat.

Often the rescue we need from our enemies is rescue from our own egos.  We are often our own worst enemies and persecutors.  As the psalmist cries out, "Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love." We too cry out.  We cry out for God's face to shine on us and be ever present.  We cry out for God to save us with God's steadfast love.

This steadfast love is never-ending and never tires.  It's the type of love that is made manifest each time we tell the God-defying forces of this world that they cannot overpower us.  This steadfast love is a love that will stretch itself upon a cruel cross, in the face of its enemies, and will rescue the whole world.

God of steadfast love, thank you for rescuing us from ourselves and from the enemies of this world that get in the way of our receiving and sharing this love.  Amen.

Wednesday Words April 10, 2019

Wednesdays Word
From Lasting Hope Devotional 

Psalm 126:3

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.

To Ponder

Nelson Mandela emerged from prison not spewing words of hatred or revenge. . . He had been harassed for a  long time before his arrest, making impossible  a normal family life.  By the time of his release on Feb. 11, 1990, he had spent all of twenty-seven years in jail.  No one could say that he knew nothing about suffering. . . Everything had been done to break his spirit and to make him hate-filled.  In all this the system mercifully failed dismally.  He emerged a whole person. -- Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness

Inextinguishable Spirit
If you travel to South Africa and visit Robben Island, you will see the prison that held people like Nelson Mandela, people who stood in public opposition to the apartheid system of racial segregation.  You can receive a tour of the remote, sea-surrounded prison from an ex-prisoner who will tell you first hand of the horrors inflicted upon him during an extensive stay on the island.  You will have to reckon with the unfathomable ways that human beings exert power and force over the lives of other humans, all in an attempt to maintain a position of dominance.

The miraculous thing about Nelson Mandela's story is that while he was in prison, while a powerful and dominating force attempted to diminish and extinguish his spirit, something was being cultivated in him.  His spirit would not break.  He maintained a level of wholeness that would not be snuffed out.

God has done great things, indeed!  God frees captives from their bondage  But what is more, God is present in the suffering, cultivating something whole, with a poewr even greater than the powers of domination and fear.  For this we can be glad indeed!

God of the cross, you meet us in the place of the crucified, and it is there that you begin to cultivate your resurrection.  Continue to meet this world in its suffering places and make it whoel and glad indeed.  Amen.

Wednesday Words, April 3, 2019

Wednesdays Word
From Lasting Hope Devotional 

Psalm 32:6

Therefore all the faithful
will make their prayers to you
in time of trouble
when the great waters overflow,
they shall not reach them.

To Ponder

The arc of history is longer than human vision.  It bends. We abolished slavery, we granted universal suffrage.  We have done hard things before.  And every time it took a terrible fight between people who could not imagine changing the rules, and those who said, "We already did.  We have made the world news." -- Barbara Kingsolver, "How to Be Hopeful," commencement address

Unyielding hope
We are no strangers to troublesome times and circumstances.  Bad things happen to good people every day, and we are at a loss to explain why these things happen and to reconcile them with our faith and who we believe God to be.  We may question whether our thoughts and prayers are enough to wipe away the tears and mend the brokenness.  

Our hope and faith in God, however, allow us to reframe these troubles and meet the challenges of today.  Just as it is essential to be loved to action, we must continued to pray, knowing that God hears our cries, God knows our troubles, and God is at work.  Our hope is grounded in God's promise to be faithful and never abandon or forsake us.  As we pray together, our hope exposes our faith in Jesus, who sets out to save and change our world, and thereby change our troubles and change us.

God, our hope, your ears are always open to hear us in our time of need.  When troubling waters overwhelm us, receive our fears and anxieties and renew our hope in your promise of faithfulness.  Amen.

Wednesday Words, March 27, 2019

Wednesdays Word
From Lasting Hope Devotional 

Psalm 63:4

So will I bless you as long as I live
and lift up my hands in your name.

To Ponder

There was a young couple strolling along half a block ahead of me.  The sun had come up brilliantly after a heavy rain, and the trees were glistening and very wet.  On some impulse, plain exuberance, I suppose, the fellow jumped up and caught hold of a brand, and a storm of luminous water came pouring down on the two of them, and they laughed and took off running, the girl sweeping water off her hair and her dress as if she were a little bit disgusted, but she wasn't.  It was a beautiful thing to see, like something from a myth.  I don't know why I thought of that now, except perhaps because it is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing and only secondarily for grown vegetables or doing the wash.  I wish I had paid more attention to it - Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Lifelong Blessing
Ritual has power. When I train leaders in my congregation to serve as assisting ministers, I tell them that what we do with our boides in worship is as important as the worlds we say with our mouths.  We beckon worshipers toward holy ground.  On our own and with others, our praise and worship of God ought to be enacted bodily, by kneeling; by lifting up our hands, with candles, icons, incense.  As we receive God's grace in tangible ways, so too we praise God in tangible ways.

All the gestures of Christian worship exist to communicated in an unmistakable way God's promised blessing.  The action of blessing another person or thing does not, of course, make something holy or sacred.  Blessing acknowledges and declares the reality of something or (someone's) sacredness.  The psalmist's act of blessing God makes sense:  God does not need our blessing, but we need to be reminded of God's worthiness and glory.  

You bless us with your presence, Lord Jesus.  May all we say and do magnify you and your steadfast love for us.  Amen.


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