Friday, December 21, 2012

Violence Spirals

As I was reading a post by my friend Mark Holland, he put his finger upon something that has been disturbing me in a sort of subconscious sort of way. Each time I hear someone make the case that teachers in Newtown should have been armed, or that teachers now should be armed, it would not sit well in my spirit. But I could not articulate well as to why this is. I would think of Jesus' teachings on forgiveness, and turning the other cheek, but I still was not satisfied.

Today, Mark posted a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. and when I read it, I thought "yes, this is what has been churning in my mind, that I could not quite articulate. Thanks Mark.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, 
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, 
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. 
Through violence you may murder the hater, 
but you do not murder hate. 
In fact, violence merely increases hate. 
So it goes. 
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Prayers from the Vigil for Newtown

It was good to gather on Sunday night at 5:00 for the Vigil to remember and to pray. Below is what we used to guide us in prayer; perhaps you would like to continue to use some of these prayer resources. 

PRAYER VIGIL Dec. 16, 2012
Wesley United Methodist Church

A word of welcome: you are welcome here. All are welcome here. Tonight we gather in the ancient practice of holding vigil. We watch and wait in hope, even as we grieve. We light candles to protest the darkness that pervades, especially the darkness that has befallen Newtown, CT. You may stand, or be seated. Be a part of this gathering as you feel comfortable. It is not necessary to close your eyes and bow your head for each prayer. You may prefer to look at the flickering candlelight, or at the stars, or at the leader. Do what feels comforting and right for you in the presence of God, as together we join our hearts in lament and prayer.

Everliving God, in Christ’s resurrection you turned the disciples despair into triumph, their sorrow into joy. Give us faith to believe that every good which seems to be overcome by evil, and every love that seems to be buried in death, shall rise again in life eternal; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you for ever more. Amen. (UMBOW164)

Matthew 2: 13-18
We remember this night the slaughter of the innocents that took place in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth.

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
   “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation,
          Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled,
               because they are no more.”

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents in Bethlehem by King Herod. We remember the slaughter of innocents in Newtown, Oak Creek, Aurora, Oakland, Toulouse, Chardon, Rio deJaneiro, Omaha, Baku, Winnendon, Oxnard, Tuusula, Blacksburg, Columbine, and too many more. We pray into the arms of your mercy, all the innocent victims. By your great might, frustrate the designs of evil people and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Christmas Sourcebook, p.81, Collect for the Holy Innocents, adapt.)

Let us remember the names of those who have died. As each name is read, and the bell is rung, let us pray for all who grieve their passing, even as we give thanks for the hope of eternal life.

  Rachel Davino
  Dawn Hochsprung
  Anne Marie Murphy
  Lauren Rousseau
  Mary Sherlach
  Victoria Soto

  Charlotte Bacon
  Daniel Barden
  Olivia Engel
  Josephine Gay
  Ana M. Marquez-Greene
  Dylan Hockley
  Madeleine F. Hsu
  Catherine V. Hubbard
  Chase Kowalski
  Jesse Lewis
  James Mattioli
  Grace McDonnell
  Emilie Parker
  Jack Pinto
  Noah Pozner
  Caroline Previdi
  Jessica Rekos
  Avielle Richman
  Benjamin Wheeler
  Allison N. Wyatt

Almighty God, in your keeping there is shelter from the storm, and in your mercy there is comfort for the sorrows of life. Hear now our prayer for those who mourn and are heavy laden. Give to them strength to do your will. Lighten their darkness with your love. Enable them to see beyond the things of this mortal world the promise of the eternal. Help them to know that your care enfolds all your people, that you are our refuge and strength, and that underneath are your everlasting arms. Amen.

Gracious, loving God, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray. You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking. Give to us now your grace, that as we shrink before the mystery of death, we may see the light of eternity. We lift before you our schools and all of the people who learn, teach, and serve within them. We pray to you for one another in our need, and for all anywhere who mourn with us this day. To those who doubt, give light; to those who are weak, strength; to all who have sinned, mercy; to all who sorrow, your peace. May our schools be filled with learning, laughter, and joy and may they be freed from sorrow, grief, and pain. Surround them with a hedge of your protection. Bless our children that every day they may grow more and more into the persons you have created them to be. Bless our educators, administrators, and support staff that they may know be filled with your grace and comfort, for we pray in the precious and holy name of Jesus. Amen.
(UMBOW adapt.)

Psalm 28: 1-2, 6-9. NRSV
Leader: To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest if you are silent to me, I become like those who do down to the pit.
People: Hear the voice of my supplication, as I cry to you for help, as I lift my hands toward your most holy sanctuary
Leader: Blessed by the Lord, who has heard the voice of my supplications!
People: The Lord is my strength and shield in whom my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to the Lord
Leader: The Lord is the strength of the people, the saving refuge of the anointed.
People: O save your people, bless your heritage; be their shepherd, and carry them forever.

Lord of all nations, keep our country under your protection. Wipe out sin from this land. Lift us up from the depth of sorrow, O Lord our shining light. Bless us in the midst of our grief. Grant us your wisdom, so that we may learn your ways of peace. Free us from the vain belief that violence is a solution. Strengthen our leaders with courage and discernment as they consider policy changes. O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the nations, and our Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord, our God.
(UMBOW and UMH, adapt.)

The season of Advent is one in which we seek to open our hearts afresh to the transforming love of God. As we grieve the sin and evil that has wrought such heartache, let us pray for the mind of Christ to be in us, knowing that is through the power of the Spirit that sin is defeated.

We believe in a bright and amazing God,
  who has been to the depths of despair on our behalf;
 who has risen in splendor and majesty;
  who decorates the universe
with sparkling clear water, clear white light,
  twinkling stars and sharp colors,
   over and over again.

We believe that Jesus is the light of the world;
  that God believes in us, and trust us,
  even though we make the same mistakes over and over again.

We commit ourselves to Jesus,
   to one another as brothers and sisters,
   and to the Creator’s business in the world
We thank you for the gift of salvation,
    for we cannot save ourselves.
May the mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus.
50 Great Prayers from the Iona Community, Helen Lambie (adapt.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I did not sleep well last night. I went to bed heart broken, lamenting the tragedy of Newtown. I have been thinking and praying and crying, along with the rest of our nation.

As a pastor, my next response has been to help organize a prayer vigil. That will be Sunday at 5:00 at Wesley Church on Lookerman St. You are invited. So is everyone you know.

Now, as I sit at my dining room table, watching my two precious children play with their friend from down the street, I am struggling to re-finish my sermon for tomorrow. So I share with you some of the thoughts, theological and otherwise, that are running through my mind.

1. Ben Gosden's blog post was excellent... here is an excerpt:

If Advent teaches us anything, it’s that One is promised to us who will bring salvation to the world. And if this tragic event teaches us anything, it’s that we are NOT the authors of our own salvation. It’s hard to admit that we cannot save ourselves no matter how hard we try.

Today families are hurting because their babies didn’t come home from school. Today children are without parents and spouses are left without partners. Today a nation is crying out for salvation from the evil that is all too real among us. The time for abstract discussion about policies can wait until tomorrow (note: tomorrow is about right). Today God is busy weeping with us. Our congressmen and senators cannot save us. President Obama cannot save us. Only God can save us — and we have to come to terms with that.

If this season of Advent means anything, it means we are preparing for the coming of a Messiah — one who will save us — in the form of a helpless and vulnerable baby. And that baby is to be found lying in a manger. Or maybe nursing at the loving bosom of his mother. This mother will tenderly hold that baby not knowing that one day she will also lose him to the violence of this world. And we cannot explain the mystery of why this event is so beautiful, but it just is. Maybe it’s because if violence, tears, and heartache are to be defeated, then they will be defeated by One who knows all too well the consequences of such evil realities.
In the meantime, we grieve with those who are grieving this day. And in our grief we sing the words of the carol when it says says: And in despair I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth, I said. For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. We need you more now than ever. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

2. I received an email from a clergy colleague, with a suggestion that perhaps tomorrow, we should not light the third candle. This candle is traditionally known as the candle of Joy. I can certainly understand the sentiment. It does not feel appropriate to be joyful in the midst of this tragedy. Indeed, this is a time of lament and sorrow.

But I am actually looking forward to lighting those Advent candles tomorrow in worship. Here's why: the overall message of the Advent Wreath is to light candles in the face of the growing darkness of shorter days and thus proclaim that the darkness can never overcome the light.  I think it will be important to proclaim that this Light is the light of hope, and darkness does not overcome it.

I was reading Adam Hamilton this week. In his book The Journey, he noted that "joy, unlike happiness, can come to us independent of our circumstances. It comes not from changing our circumstances but from viewing them through the eyes of faith."

Even as we are deeply sorrowful and unhappy in the face of this tragedy...and we are right to lament and grieve.... we are not without hope... or even joy... because even in the midst of our profound sorrow, Emmanuel is among us.

3. I have been thinking about an email exchange I had with a friend. After a teen's death in a car accident, she kept hearing people make comments about God needing another angel in heaven; how she had accomplished her purpose on earth. It was driving her crazy. I replied in agreement that God does not cause such tragedy to happen. Here is what I wrote:

I am reminded of Dr. Larry Stooky threatening us in worship class in seminary (and he is a gentle sweet man) "If I ever hear that you preach a child's funeral by saying 'God needed another angel in heaven' I will come to your church and shout you out of your pulpit"

I think it reflects a poor understanding of what we mean by God's purpose. We all have an overarching purpose in life: To love God with all our being, to love our neighbor as ourselves...especially the overlooked, to care for creation (our first charge in Genesis), to use our spiritual gifts for ministry and service, and thereby make disciples of all nations.

I do not believe that these are accomplished on only "one path" or "plan"...but are the overarching purpose that is supposed to inform our journey.. and may be accomplished on a myriad of "paths" through choices.

To say that she had accomplished her purpose on earth and therefore God called her home is to have a poor understanding of God. As Leslie Weatherhead writes, it is frankly to accuse God of murder. His book on this topic is short, sweet, and well written.

Yes, I believe God welcomed her home. Yet no one was more sad than God to see her die so young.

I remember a sermon, which I wish I could find. It was preached by Peter Gomes, the late chaplain at Harvard. He lost a son to a car accident. He preached that "God wept the first tear when my son went over that bridge" He railed against the idea that God caused it and celebrated God's presence and comfort in the midst of it.

I think that people want to believe that life has an unerring order to it. The idea that her death was "God's plan", especially if there is any sense of fault or blame or grey area, want to find comfort and certainty. For the driver especially this may be comforting.

But in general, I find it damaging to the do you my friend.

I do not believe, cannot believe, that the deaths of these children and teachers was "a part of God's plan." They are evidence of the evil, sin, and death which Jesus came to end. Although the Kingdom of God is not yet complete, it has begun.

And so in this season that is proclaimed by the Church as a time to watch and wait, in hope and expectation, for the Holy One to return, I groan with all of creation and say "Come, Lord Jesus."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Controversy, Suffering, and Hope... Sunday Sermon May 20, 2012

A few notes:
1. This was first preached on May 27, 2001 at Summit UMC in Middletown. The (updated/edited) version below was preached on May 20, 2012 at WesleyUMC
2. I cannot figure out how to get blogger to accept footnotes. If you want the footnoted version, please contact me. For editorial integrity, please know that this draws from three books. Two are by the same author: Trinity and Kingdom, and The Crucified God,  by Jurgen Moltmann. The third is Holy Listening by Margaret Guenther
3. I wrote this at a time when I preached from a manuscript; I now use outline notes.

Ascension Sunday/Easter 7
Luke 24:44-53

This morning is the seventh Sunday of Easter the seventh Sunday of our celebration of the Great Fifty Days of Easter.

If you have ever wondered why the Easter Season is called “The Great 50 Days, ” it is based on a Jewish festival of fifty days that began with the opening of the harvest season two days after Passover and continued until what came to be called Pentecost.

The number seven is highly regarded by Jews, and indicates fullness. On the seventh day of creation, God celebrated the fullness of creation. The number seven came to be known as a week; and if seven is a good number,

then seven squared- forty nine- is even better. So a 49 day period is a “week of weeks,” and as one seventh of the week is holy, so one seventh of the year is held in special regard.

Fifty also has sacred meaning. In Leviticus 25, the 50th year was the year of the Jubilee. This was to be a year of liberation and debt forgiveness, overthrowing business as usual. So the number fifty points to the renewing of Creation, and Christ’s coming return and restoration

Thus it makes sense that forty nine days of festival with a fiftieth day that represents newness and rejoicing
make up the Easter Season.

This morning is officially called “Ascension Sunday” for reasons that are probably clear, now that we have heard the scripture for this morning. We have just heard the story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

This mornings’ scripture also contains Luke’s version of the commission to the disciples. In each of the gospels there are actually last words by Jesus to the Disciples, where Jesus commissions the disciples for ministry.

Matthew’s version beginning in 28:18 is the most widely recognized commission.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always,even to the end of the age”

We have heard John’s version from 20:21“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Mark says in 16:15 “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned."

This morning, we hear Luke’s version in 24:46:
“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in h is name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

This is Luke’s version of Jesus’ final commission to the Disciples. Notice that it is rooted in the Jewish scriptures. It begins with the words “Thus it is written…” referring to the Jewish scriptures as a way of saying ‘This is what God has been up to for a very long time…’

The message is familiar: Christ has suffered, died, and been raised to give us the gift of repentance and forgiveness of sins. It is this message that is to go to all nations.

The early church struggled in both of these areas almost immediately. They struggle to embrace belief in a Messiah (a Savior) who suffers and dies, because this meant showing weakness by the world’s standards. They also struggled to embrace all nations, initially having a hard time welcoming non-Jews without distinction, and struggling to welcome people from all classes of society.

We see evidence of both struggles other places in scripture…In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul defended the message of the cross, saying  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.

Continuing in verse 22 Paul goes on "For Jews demand signs and Gentiles desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”

We see evidence of the early church struggle to welcome non-Jews in Acts 15 and Galatians 2, called the Jerusalem Conference. Jewish food laws were hotly debated.  And in 1 Corinthians as well as James, believers were encouraged to welcome all people, including the poor… to treat all people well.

If you have ever spent time looking forward to a time when the church will not be divided by controversy, I encourage you to maintain that hope in the context of Jesus’ return. Because the church as we know it has always had points of controversy and disagreement.

We may consider food laws arcane; but consider how difficult a debate this was for the early church. Imagine that for your entire life, you were taught practiced a very important, daily way of honoring God by observing food laws, and practicing circumcision. Now imagine that this daily practice is declared unnecessary. Conversely, imagine that you have no experience with food laws and circumcision, and you have an experience of the Holy Spirit, and the saving power of Christ. How might you react to food laws and circumcision?

Ultimately, the controversy was settled in Paul’s favor (over Peter). Orthodox Christian practice holds to the doctrine that since Christ has fulfilled the law, food laws and circumcision are not necessary for salvation.

Today, with Jesus’ words ringing in our ears,we continue to face the same struggle: to proclaim a Savior who suffers and dies in order to accomplish God’s will, and to welcome all people in without distinguishing between them.

These are two foundational beliefs in the Christian faith.

So now that we have a clearer understanding of Jesus’ commission in Luke, let’s focus upon the crucifixion
and resurrection, since this is what we celebrate this Easter Season.

What are the implications of believing that our Savior has been crucified? Certainly it means that we must be willing to appear foolish to the world. We all know people who think that religion is just some human invention that people make up to deal with the difficult parts of life. I used to be one of those people.

Not only do we believe in God- we believe in a God who is willingly weak and vulnerable – in order that the world might be saved. This is different from the world’s belief in power and might as the safest and best path forward. And who hasn’t had an experience of wishing God would act more powerfully in the world, and set things “right” according to our judgments?

Another implication of believing that our Lord and Savior has suffered, died, and been raised, is that we are able to wrestle with an important question in a meaningful way. The question of suffering is a question that has existed  since time began. The crucifixion and resurrection help us to engage this question.

The fancy word for this question is “theodicy.”

There is a theologian named Jurgen Moltmann who has devoted his life to the theodicy question. This stems from his personal experience as a German soldier in WWII.

In a book called The Trinity and the Kingdom he writes this about theodicy, the question of suffering:

“It is the open wound of life in this world. It is the real task of faith and theology to make it possible for us to survive, to go on living, with this open wound. The person who believes will not rest content with any slickly explanatory answer to the theodicy question. And he will also resist any attempts to soften the question down. The more a person believes, the more deeply he experiences pain over the suffering in the world, and the more passionately he asks about God and the new creation”

Questioning human suffering leads us to the cross of Christ, where God suffered. It is on the cross, that the Father and Son are most deeply separated. And so it is here that God experiences suffering.

At the same time, the Father and the Son are most inwardly one in their surrender.

As a result of the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit, who comforts and saves all of us who suffer. Because God is intimately familiar with suffering, God is able to fill us with God’s love…. love so strong that it can even make the dead live.

Thus it is our God who suffers, who can offer us hope and new life even in the face of suffering and injustice.

It is the God who knows our suffering completely; who has been crucified for the sin of the world, and who has been raised from the dead. It is THIS God who offers us the hope and the strength to make it possible for us to go on living with the open wound of suffering in the world.

God IS love- completely and totally. We know this is true because God takes upon himself the grief and pain that flow from the contradictions to life. God does not angrily suppress the contradictions. Rather, God willingly allows himself to be forced out God suffers on the cross of Christ, and allows himself to be crucified, showing God’s unconditional love. This love is filled with hope, because we know through the resurrection that suffering is never the final word.

Real love is free. Love cannot be forced to exist. Real love cannot be a requirement. Choice must be allowed. Therefore, love cannot prohibit the things that cause suffering.

Think about it: if you knew that your spouse, or someone else in your life whom you love, was hard wired to love you. If they were incapable of doing anything else, would it feel like real love? Real love requires the freedom to choose.

This is the closest we come to an explanation for suffering: that to eliminate suffering, freedom and love would also cease exist.

However, that is not a complete answer to our question. Honestly, there is no complete answer that is revealed to us at this time. It is one of the most difficult mysteries and contradictions of life.

What Love CAN do, is to take suffering upon itself- and take on the grief over this contradiction using the grief as a protest against suffering…This is what happened on the cross of Christ.

Suffering is a part of the human condition. Suffering does not come from God, but rather is part of our world, broken by sin and evil. God cares so deeply about our sufferings, that God himself has suffered for us, giving us hope through the resurrection, and giving us the gift of knowing how intimately God is familiar with our suffering.

I was at a luncheon several years ago, where a man was sharing with us about a difficult time in his life. As he recalled those years, he talked about one man who really, truly understood what he was going through. And so they talked about it.

He related this story with tears in his eyes, as he said “you know what? I’m here to tell you that you can go through HELL as long as somebody else understands….”

Our God understands. God knows what it is to suffer, and God offers us hope through the resurrection, with the promise that one day, all things will be made whole and new.

And in this in between time, we know that our God loves us suffers with us. We also know that we are called to suffer with our brothers and sisters. Paul talks about this in Galatians when he tells us that we are to
“bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”

It is when we listen compassionately to one another, we are able to bear one another’s burdens. It is when we willingly enter into pain and the grief with a sister or brother in Christ that we are able to take another’s burden upon ourselves. And it is in this way that the burden becomes bearable.

In her book Holy Listening (29-30) Margaret Guenther says that after a day of listening she feels “heavy and very tired, with queasy stomach and aching head. It helped me to understand my somatic reactions when I remembered novelist-theologian  Charles Williams and his theory of “exchange” and “substituted love.”

She quotes this writer, who said: “St. Paul’s injunction is to such acts as to ‘fulfil the law of Christ,’ that is, to acts of substitution. To take over the grief or the fear or the anxiety of another is precisely that; and precisely that is less practiced than praised.”

The one who gives has to remember that he has parted with this burden, that it is being carried by another, that his part is to believe that and to be at peace. The one who takes has to set himself – mind and emotion and sensation- to the burden, to know it, to imagine it, receive it- and sometimes not be taken aback by the swiftness of the divine grace and the lightness of the burden”

So we are to rejoice and to suffer with others- to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ- because it is in this way that we experience God. It is in this way that we are in relationship with God. In the suffering and death of Christ, and in his resurrection, we find hope in the midst of Godforsaken circumstances because we have the promise of the world’s never dying salvation and renewal.

This morning, I invite you to consider how it is that you experience God in the midst of suffering I invite you to consider how you are being called into relationship with the God who is intimately familiar with all suffering and into relationship with fellow Christians.

Suffering is perhaps the greatest mystery. There are no easy answers to these questions. What we have, though, is even greater- God’s awesome, ever present love- and hope through the resurrection- Amen.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back to Blogging: Reflections on Festival of the Christian Home

I have been feeling nudged to blog again. I know I said I was done... but it would seem that I was in truth on hiatus. I am not yet sure where this will lead... but I continue on the journey. Thanks for musing with me.

 Here is what I wrote for the June newsletter on faith and family and spiritual formation:

 Festival of the Christian Home 

 I have begun reading a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. One of the things that has struck me about his childhood is how steeped he was in the faith. By the age of 5 he could recite Scripture and sing entire hymns from memory. Granted, this was an example of what a bright, precocious child he was. However, it got me thinking: my kids are in church every Sunday and they are “PKs” (preachers’ kids), just like he was.

Many of us are raising children in the faith, and care deeply about their spiritual development. All of us have entered the baptismal covenant, promising God to raise these children in the faith. How many of our children could sing and recite, even at age 10? 15? How many of our adults could?

If the answers to these questions make you squirm, join me in feeling uncomfortable.

 In the Month of May we celebrate Mother’s Day and in June Father’s Day. There has been a movement within the church for many years to rename these days “Festival of the Christian Home.” Although I am not in the habit of using this term in general conversation, I do find it helpful and challenging; for what we celebrate in the church on these days is the faithful witness of these men and women in the lives of families.

We learn what we live, the old saying goes. Do our homes reflect the life of faith we seek to embody? As I have been meeting with families preparing for baptism, and people preparing for membership vows, I have been sharing my ideal for family prayer and scripture. My ideal is that I would pray every morning as my children go off to school, read Scripture and devotion together at dinner time, and pray with them every night as they go to bed. Here is my reality: we pray every night before bed, and sometimes in the morning, and sometimes at dinner we get out the Bible and discuss it. We are still “going onto perfection” as old Methodists would say.

As my children grow older, I am feeling increasingly convicted that the time I have to share the faith with them is short and precious. So I am resolving to do better, by the grace of God in the strength of the Holy Spirit. I want my children, and all of our children, teenagers, and adults, to hear God’s Word spoken into our daily lives. I challenge us to wrestle, and pray, and talk, and share together, when we gather on Sundays, and every day of the week. Regardless of your family configuration, age, or experience, I invite and encourage you to reflect upon how you live together in a Christian home.

 I close by suggesting some resources to use.
 • The Upper Room is a wonderful devotional guide that is available for pick up at church, and also can be delivered to your email inbox.  (This is good for all ages.)

 For Families raising children:
The Beginner's Bible, Karyn Henley and Dennas Davis, Word Publishing, 1997. (This is my favorite children’s bible for toddlers and elementary school.)
365 Family Devotions: Little Visits. Concordia Publishing
Family, The Forming Center: A Vision of the Role of Family in Spiritual Formation, Marjorie J. Thompson, Upper Room Books, Nashville 1996. (This is a good foundational read.)
Children and Prayer: A Shared Pilgramage, Betty Shannon Cloyd, Upper Room Books, Nashville 1997. (Another good read.)

 For Adults and older youth:
The Wesley Study Bible, William H. Willimon (Editor), Joel B. Green (Editor)
The Life with God Bible NRSV, Renovare. Richard J. Foster, Dallas Willard, Walter Brueggemann, Eugene H. Peterson, Bruce Demarest, Evan Howard, James Earl Massey, Catherine Taylor, Rebecca Gaudino
 • A Disciple's Journal - Year B: A Guide for Daily Prayer, Bible Reading, & Discipleship, Steve Manskar
 • Openings: A Daybook of Saints, Psalms, and Prayer, Larry James Peacock Striving to be faithful, Pastor Amy