Monday, June 15, 2009

Continuing invitation to receive the Word of God as spirit and life

Since this blog began in March 2008, most of the posts have focused on the scriptures provided in the Revised Common Lectionary for each week’s worship service. Each blog post preceded the Sabbath or Sunday when the scriptures would be used. In that way, the dated blog entries were available to help lay members or clergy prepare for the next worship service.

There was also a more essential purpose for each of these posts. This purpose continues to be served by the posts at this blog about scriptures. That most essential purpose is to invite you, the reader of these blog posts, to receive the scriptures as spirit and life, for yourself. That essential purpose can be realized, no matter which scriptures, and which dates, are involved.

In addition to reflections on Scriptures, many of these archived posts include thoughts about how to receive scriptures as spirit and life. By reviewing these thoughts, and by reviewing the basic suggestions at, you can grow in the ability to receive scripture as spirit and life.

Currently, weekly reflections on the lectionary scriptures are not being posted. However, please remember you can still use the archives to increase your capacity for receiving the Word as spirit and life.

In addition to providing the archives at this blog, I plan to establish a Facebook site soon in order to network about growing in worship. How are Christians growing in worship? How are individuals and congregations increasing their interest in and capacity for reverence? How are individuals and congregations growing in other foundational aspects of worship such as the human encounter with the divine; a sense of the holy; heart as center of whole person; repentance, confession and forgiveness; prayer as two-way communion with God; holy fear, and holy joy.
What congregations already have, or want to develop, a worship statement? How have they developed it? How are they using it to good advantage? How do they revise it? These are some of the questions I hope to raise and network about through Facebook.

Your responses here, or in the future at Facebook, are welcome.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Receiving February 14, 2009, worship scriptures

Scriptures for February 14, 2009
2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Mark 1:40-45

Part I - Receiving the Word as spirit and life for yourself
What do you know about receiving the life in physical food? Many of us take a lot for granted when it comes to eating. Yet when we pause to think about it, when we pause to hear competent food experts, we discover that we have some choices about just how life-giving the food is that we eat. It doesn't take dialog with experts to hear phrases like "five a day" and "whole foods." When we pause to listen just a little and to think about it just a little, we discover we have choices about receiving life in physical food.
Just as we have choices about receiving life in physical food, we also have choices about receiving life in spiritual food. Jesus said his words are spirit and life. Staying aware of this, and receiving the Word as the spirit and life it is matters a great deal!
Here are a few suggestions to help you do this:

Part II - Reflections on this week's Scriptures (one place for you to compare notes after you've received the Word as spirit and life for yourself)

Prayer for receptivity
The spirit of receptivity. Let it increase in me, please God.
Spirit of receptivity includes hospitality to You, includes loving and being drawn to what You give. Loving and being drawn to Your words as spirit and life. Thank you God for making them so! Thank You for increasing my receptivity; thank You for increasing my desire for greater receptivity. Thank You.

2 Kings 5:1-14
"If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" (vs. 13)
What if it's much simpler than anticipated?!
What's a person to do when prophets act and talk in ways that stir up hurt and rage?

Psalm 30
"You have turned for me my
mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and
clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing
praise to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks
to You forever." (vss. 11, 12)

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Run as the one winner in the race. Be temperate, certain, productive, disciplined. Consider how this passsage relates to loving and being loved--more and more.

Mark 1:40-45
"Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed.'" (vs. 41)
This leper and Naaman were both lepers, but did they each need the same kind of healing?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Receiving January 24, 2009, worship scriptures

Scriptures for January 24, 2009

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62:5-12
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

Part I - Receiving the Word as spirit and life for yourself

Let the Word be what it is--spirit and life.

As you prayerfully read a passage, does a particular word or phrase stand out for you? Let that be your starting point. The spirit and life in the Word will expand forever, as you prayerfully and faithfully receive it. The following links you to a few suggestions that may help you do this:

Part II - Reflections on this week's Scriptures (one place for you to compare notes)

Prayer for receptivity
Receiving Your saving distance that combines with Your saving closeness, God. Your saving distance and Your saving closeness filling these words with spirit and life--this is what I want to enter into now.

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
"So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them." (vs. 5)

"Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it." (vs. 10)

Psalm 62:5-12
"My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.
Trust in Him at all times you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us."

1 Corinthians 7:29-31
"For the form of this world is passing away." (vs. 31b)

Mark 1:14-20
"Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.'" (vss 14, 15)

Today's scriptures are short. Their brevity emphasizes their message. They show me two things: Action, and repentance as the route. The Ninevites acted; they believed and repented. Jesus preached repentance. The disciples acted; they left everything, immediately, and followed Jesus. Wealth (Psalm 62:10), grief, rejoicing--everything, including the world, is passing away. The kingdom of God is at hand. Believe God. Repent and enter the kingdom of God. From that location and with that perspective, we are prepared to remain in the world that is passing away.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Receiving January 10, 2009, worship scriptures

Scriptures for January 10, 2009

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

Part I - Receiving the Word as spirit and life for yourself

For suggestions about receiving the Word as spirit and life for yourself, please see

Keep in mind that receiving is something to "grow into" (to learn more and more about) just like giving is something to grow into. Only there seems to be more stigma (isn't it selfish to want to receive?) and neglect (haven't even thought about learning to be receptive) connected with receiving than there is with giving.

Part II - Reflections on this week's scriptures (one place for you to compare notes)

Prayer for receptivity

In receptivity, God, I acknowledge Your otherness and Your closeness. Receiving You is not the same as receiving my own best thoughts or imagination! Show me how to receive You in Your Word, which is spirit and life.

Genesis 1:1-5

"Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light." (vs. 3)

Light shining in darkness happens at the very beginning of the Bible, at creation; it also happens at the beginning of the Gospel (see John 1). A few days ago Epiphany was celebrated by many Christians who recognize and value the Light.

Psalm 29

"Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." (vs. 2b)

This is a phrase that has long been familiar to a lot of God's people--from Old Testament times to today. As I received this familiar phrase this week, it occurred to me to ask how we do that. Here's what's opening up for me about it: The more we realize and enter into His holiness, the more worship can become what it's meant to be. Holiness is beautiful; it's appealing; it draws us when we approach it humbly, and with repentance and reverence. A little child who cautiously and eagerly tip toes forward into adventure is a teacher for us; a teacher about how to enter into holiness. Learning to repentantly, reverently relish holiness calls for all the child and wisdom in us, and it calls for the so-much-more of the Spirit who draws us into, and satisfies us with, the beauty of holiness.

"The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The LORD is over many waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
The voice of the LORD is full of majesty." (vss. 3,4)

Acts 19:1-7

"'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?'" (vs. 2a)

Belief (faith) and the Holy Spirit go together, at baptism and forever after. In fact, when we first believe anything Jesus was, did, or said, that initial belief needs to be combined with the Holy Spirit--in order for it to be life-giving, and not just a belief or a good idea. What about all the times we remember a belief? What about the times we recall a scripture? It's the same. We can ask ourselves, "Did I receive the Holy Spirit as I thought about that belief? Did I receive the Holy Spirit as I recalled that scripture?" The Holy Spirit and believing go together.

Mark 1:4-11

"... 'He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'" (vs. 8b)

Jesus "saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove." (vs. 10b)

"Then a voice came from heaven, 'You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'" (vs. 11)

Light, baptism, Holy Spirit, and God's voice--there is so much in this week's scriptures to receive and love again and more fully.

One way of doing this is to let this week's portrayals of God's voice come together, especially the voice of God as portrayed by the Psalmist and the voice at Jesus' baptism. Rolling thunder helps put us in touch with the power and majesty in God's voice. It's a start anyway. I wonder just how small a start! This is the speak-light-into-existence voice of Genesis 1:3. Was that the way the Father's voice sounded at His Son's baptism? It's likely that some heard it as if it were thunder and nothing else. But how did Jesus, and perhaps John the Baptist and others, hear it? "My beloved." What's the dearest and best way you've ever said or heard that? What's the dearest and best way you can imagine anyone ever saying that? Remember the very, very best you've ever heard; then stretch your imagination to its very limits to make the best you've already known into the very, very best you can imagine. That's a start, and how small a start, toward hearing God say, "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Receiving December 13, 2008, worship scriptures

Scriptures for December 13, 2008
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Part I - Receiving the Word as spirit and life for yourself
For suggestions about doing this, please see previous posts and the following

Part II - Reflections on this week's scriptures (one place for you to compare notes)
Prayer for receptivity
Increase my receptivity, please God. Let Your Word be spirit and life in me right now, the way You want it to be.

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
"He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted" (vs. 1)
There are things we can do about grief, but we can't really heal our own broken heart. God sent Jesus to do that. It's not that we refer people to Jesus instead of comforting them the best we can. It's just that none of us is the Ultimate Comforter. God sent Jesus to do that. Yes, sometimes Jesus becomes real and available to people through other people. Sometimes Jesus uses indirect means. But the Ultimate Comforter is Jesus--personally and directly. "He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted" is Jesus promised to heal each broken hearted one of us.

"And they shall rebuild the old ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations." (vs. 4)
In ruined cities, children can't play safely outdoors. Ruined cities include ruined homes where children aren't safe indoors either. As the desolations of many generations compound, homes and cities are ruined. The desolations of many generations have caused, and continue to cause, more pain and suffering than we can begin to imagine. The desolations of many generations bring disease, divorce, and death with them. Experiencing the suffering that comes through the generations gives a deeper appreciation of this verse. Imagine! The desolations of many generations will be repaired! It's a wonderful thing to realize that the suffering and ruin that come down to us through the generations will be repaired.

Psalm 126
"Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing" (vss. 5-6)
Tears turn to joy; weeping turns to rejoicing. That's the movement in this and the Isaiah passage.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
"Rejoice always
In everything give thanks" (vss. 16 and 18)
The rejoicing and the thanks can be always.
"He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it." (vs. 24)
He will do what prophets and promises say He will do. He will do it. That is cause for rejoicing and thanks in the midst of everything.

John 1:6-8, 19-28
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He said: 'I am
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Make straight the way of the LORD,'"
as the prophet Isaiah said.'" (vss. 6 and 23)
During the Advent season we renew our capacity for receiving Jesus as Infant and as the soon-coming King with all the angels. Among other things, Advent is a season to identify with John, and to explore the ways that we make straight the way of the LORD. How can the path in my heart be prepared? What valleys can be exalted and what hills made low? What rough places smoothed?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Receiving November 29, 2008, worship scriptures

Scriptures for November 29, 2008
Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

Part I - Receiving the Word as spirit and life for yourself
Let the Word in this week's worship scriptures be spirit and life for you. For some simple suggestions for doing this, see
After you have received the scriptures as spirit and life for yourself, compare notes with others who have done the same.

Part II - Reflections on this week's scriptures (one place for you to compare notes)
Prayer for receptivity
Let my receptivity be
right now
what You, God, want it to be.
I'm listening,
open my ears to really hear.
My heart is Yours
open, soften and strengthen it to be
Yours completely.

Isaiah 64:1-9
"That the nations may tremble at Your presence!" (vs. 2b)

"We have sinned--
In these ways we continue;
we need to be saved." (vs. 5)

"We are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;" (vs. 6a)
"There is no one who calls on Your name,
Who stirs himself up to take hold of You;" (vs. 7a)
No one--not the nations (we want to see them tremble in Your presence!), not us either! No one calls on You or takes hold of You.

"But now, O LORD,
You are our Father;
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all we are the work of Your hand." (vs. 8)
No one takes hold of You, yet you take hold of us. As child is to father, as pottery is to potter, that is what we are to You. We are Your children, and the work of Your hand. Being Yours, being clay in Your hands, defines us more than our continuing sin and rags.
This is something to really let settle in! Belonging, as child to Father, as clay to Potter, is the surpassing reality! Our need to be saved is huge, and must be acknowledged, it is just not the final word. Our sin and need of being saved must be given their place and also kept in their place. Contrition, confession, and forgiveness keep us from making belonging into presumption.

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
"Come and save us!" (vs. 2b)
Compare Isaiah 64:5;, "We need to be saved."
Also compare "How long will You be angry" (vs. 4) with "You are indeed angry" (Isaiah 64:5).

"Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!" (vs. 3, 7,19)
When the face of God shines is that a glow of love and approval; is that a Father's love made visible? It's a saving thought just to imagine God's face shining, so shining it's saving!

1 Corinthians 1:3-9
"Grace to you and peace..." (vs. 3)
" come short in no gift,
eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end,
that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called in the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (vss. 7-9)
The prayer of Psalm 80: 3, 7, and 19, "Cause Your face to shine..." is fully answered! How the face of God shines in, and because of, Jesus Christ!
We are called into the fellowship of His Son, not into the achievement of righteousness.

Mark 13:24-37
"Watch!" (vss. 33, 35, 37)
The call to watch includes anticipating. Advent is a season of anticipation. What has anticipation been like for you? Happy anticipation can even make it hard to sleep. A longed-for trip to the beach; a major milestone; marriage; or the birth of a child. Think of what anticipation has been like for you.
This season is about anticipating the Coming of Christ.
What was anticipation like for those who looked for His birth as an Infant?
What is anticipation meant to be like for us now as we watch for His glorious Second Coming.
Anticipate with all your heart, even if it means losing some sleep!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Receiving November 15, 2008, worship scriptures

Scriptures for November 15, 2008
Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

Part I - Receiving the Word as spirit and life for yourself
This part is a continuing invitation to grow in receptivity. Give thought, and heart, to how you receive. Receiving the Word gives you life. That is something to ponder in your heart and to cherish! For a few suggestions about receiving the Word as spirit and life go to Part I in the previous posts in this series. Also see

Part II - Reflections on this week's scriptures (one place for you to compare notes)
Prayer for Receptivity
My mind tries to grasp and explain things
Your Word included.
My heart takes things in.
It's there in my heart the center of
my whole being
that Your Word, God, is
spirit and life.
I'm receptive and
wanting to be
more receptive.
Let Your Word be
the spirit and life it is
not so much wrestled with as
waited on.

Judges 4:1-7
"...the children of Israel again did evil..." (vs. 1)
They were sold and harshly oppressed; they cried out to the LORD, and they came to Judge Deborah and were sent to war. Hard, complicated, disturbing, yet not hopeless! The passage ends, "...I will deliver him into your hand." (vs. 7)

Psalm 123
"Unto You I lift up my eyes,
O You who dwell in the heavens.
"Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us!
For we are exceedingly filled with contempt." (vss. 1 and 3)
Israel was harshly oppressed and aware that they brought this on themselves by doing evil again. Imagine the contempt they received from the ruling power that scorned and oppressed them. A harder-to-bear contempt came from within them. I can imagine how they felt about themselves for getting themselves into their oppression. Yet this is not hopeless. Although they were filled with contempt from outside and inside, they knew the One who sold them into harsh oppression was the One to ask for mercy. They also knew it was mercy they needed. That was enough.
Mercy responds to the hard, complicated, disturbing, yet-not-hopeless circumstance. Mercy responds, it occurs to me, by first changing self-contempt into healthy guilt, guilt that is confessed and forgiven.
Have mercy on us, today also, O LORD, have mercy on us! Things are still hard, complicated, disturbing, yet-not-hopeless! We need self-contempt turned into healthy guilt, guilt confessed and forgiven.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
"But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
"For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (vss. 8 and 9)

Matthew 25:14-30
"'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance..." (vs 29)
Faith, love and hope (1 Thessalonians 5:8) are what we have! More faith, love and hope are given. There is no limit to how much more!