Category Archives: Bible

Related to Scripture

Musing: Be Merciful

Shadows on Path. Photo: TLClark, 9/15/19.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”

“Happy the kind — because they shall find kindness.”

– Matthew 5:7 New Revised Standard Version (merciful/mercy) and Young’s Literal Translation (kind/kindness)

I’ve been humming a song off and on since worship Sunday morning. Every once in awhile I sing a few words of the refrain: “So be merciful, just as our God is merciful.” It’s a newish hymn – published in 2015 – by Ed Bolduc. The tune is new and the refrain is new. But the verses are from a hymn first published in 1854: “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” by Frederick W. Faber.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in [God’s] justice, Which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind.

– Frederick W. Faber, “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy,” stanzas 1, 5

According to Hymnary.org, one version or another of Faber’s hymn has been published in at least 757 hymnals. Faber’s other famous hymn – “Faith of Our Fathers” – shows up in at least 728.

From what I can see there were at 12 stanzas in the original “There’s a Wideness to God’s Mercy.” Different folks mix and match the stanzas into verses (typically two per verse), usually leaving out a few. There are, of course, several different tunes to which it can be sung – which is exactly the sort of thing that can lead to my confusion when leading worship in a new (to me) place!

I began this blogpost thinking about mercy – hence the beatitude at the top – and was delighted to discover Young’s Literal Translation of kindness. The dictionary at the back of my Greek New Testament lists both mercy and compassion as suitable translations. Whatever word we use, we are called to be merciful / kind / compassionate in response to God’s mercy / kindness / compassion.

So be merciful, just as our God is merciful.
Be merciful, just as our God is merciful to us.
Let there be a wideness in our mercy.
Let there be a kindness in our hearts.
Oh, may our lives be merciful.

Ed Bolduc, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy / Be Merciful,” Refrain (c) 2015. World Library Publications.

My you know mercy, compassion and kindness.
May you be merciful, compassionate, kind.
Teressa

p.s. Here’s a link (I hope!) to a video of the Bolduc’s version. Enjoy!

Musing: Prayer

“[Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.'”  – Luke 11:1 NRSV

Who taught you to pray?

“My sister,” was the quick, first answer when I asked the congregation last Sunday.  I have to admit that I was a bit surprised.  But I shouldn’t have been.  Our siblings – biological or spiritual – teach us all kinds of things when we pay attention.  Why wouldn’t a sister be a teacher of prayer?

Other answers were more along the lines of what I expected.  More than one mother taught the bedtime prayer “Now I lay me…”.   At least one father made sure the family said grace at mealtime.  A grandmother was mentioned.  And a Sunday school teacher.

Earlier in the worship service the three children in the small crowd, their father, and I enjoyed Tim Ladwig’s beautiful interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer.  Ladwig’s illustrations in this children’s book are exquisite and a great way to talk about the meaning of each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer in ways younger children – and the rest of us – can understand.

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Whenever I preach on the prayer, I remember one question from the old Evangelical Catechism:  “What is prayer?”

101.
What is prayer?
Prayer is the conversation of the heart with God
for the purpose of praising [God],
asking [God] to supply the needs of ourselves and others,
and thanking [God] for whatever [God] gives us.
Ps. 19:14. Ps. 34:3. Ps. 103:1-4. Matt. 6:6. Matt. 7:7- 8. Matt. 18:19-20. Matt. 21:22. Ps. 92:1. 1 Tim. 2:1-2. 1 Thess. 5:17.

Evangelical Catechism, https://www.ucc.org/beliefs_evangelical-catechism

“Prayer is a conversation of the heart with God.”

A conversation.  Speaking and Listening.

For praise. For help. For giving thanks.


I didn’t use it last Sunday, but here’s my favorite prayer by Saint Francis.

The Prayer before the Crucifix by Saint Francis

Most High,
glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me
true faith,
certain hope,
and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
Lord,
that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.

May it be so.

Musing: Sing

“O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” – Psalm 95:1 NRSV

One of the best parts of leading worship last Sunday was being in a congregation that knows how to sing!  It was a small group (just eleven not counting the guest pianist, her family, my husband and me), but they knew how to make beautiful, joyful noise.

“O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”  – Psalm 96:1 NRSV

This week I provide Pulpit Supply (lead worship and preach) in another small congregation.  Having been there before I know they have amazing instrumental musicians and solid singers among their membership.  It’s too bad their numbers have dwindled and the choir has been disbanded.  But we’ll still make joyful music!

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Kitchen Table as Makeshift Desk.  Photo: TLClark, 7/15/19.

On an entirely different note (pun not intended but noticed), here’s part of a paragraph from the book I’m currently reading.

“This is our role: To weave together those disparate energies.  To manipulate and mitigate and, through the prism of our awareness, produce a singular force that cannot be denied.  To make of cacophony, symphony. …”

– N. K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky (Series: The Broken Earth, Book Three), http://www.orbitbooks.net, 2017.

Our role:  “to make of cacophony, symphony.”  Such a rich image!  Especially since Jemisin is not writing about musicians.

Whatever the cacophony of your life, may you discover a joyful noise, a song, a symphony.  May you sing.

 

Substitute Pastor

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“Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2 CEB

Pastor S called late Tuesday afternoon.  “My son’s been in a bad motorcycle accident.  Can you cover for me this Sunday?”

Yes.  Of course.  I’m available.  And that’s what I do: lead worship and preach when one of my colleagues will be away.  We call it pulpit supply in the United Church of Christ.

“Oh,” one of my husband’s relatives said once she understood what I do, “you’re a substitute pastor!”   I’ve been called worse.

Pastor J called Wednesday morning.  “Is there any chance you could do some pulpit supply?”  She was asking for a congregation down the road.  They and their (now former) pastor have had a parting of ways.

Yes.  Of course.  Just not this Sunday or the 21st because I’m already committed.  But that’s also what I do:  step in as a stable presence to lead worship and preach, to love the people through an unexpected difficult time, to remind them they are not forgotten by God.

When colleagues are headed for a conference or taking a vacation, they ask early.  When there’s a family emergency, they call as soon as they realize they may need to be gone on Sunday.   When a church and a pastor have parted ways, Pastor J or someone in her position will call.

So today I’m looking at a bulletin that was handed to me, writing prayers, thinking of a children’s message, and trying to figure out where Pastor S might have been going with the sermon.  I’ve pretty much decided to ignore her sermon title.  But we won’t know the details until Sunday morning.

If you’re looking for a substitute pastor, I may or may not be available the 14th and 28th.  But I should know by Monday.

Blessings,
Pastor Teressa

Children: The Ring of Life

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I noticed the pool before I really saw the figures as I walked around the campus of Iowa State University this morning.  Real children playing tend to capture my attention – especially  when I have no where else I have to be at the moment.  These kids caught in stone deserved a closer look.

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The words on the rim of the pool are from a poem by James Whitcomb Riley.

The Hired Man’s Faith in Children
by James Whitcomb Riley

I believe all children’s good,
Ef they’re only understood,
Even bad ones, ‘pears to me,
‘S jes’ as good as they kin be!

Of course they are “as good as they kin be!”  These children are playing with a water lily and a turtle; there are a couple of frogs behind them.

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Titled “The Marriage Ring” and also known as “The Ring of Life,” the original sculpture was done by Christian Petersen (Danish-American, 1885-1961) during his tenure as professor and artist-in-residence at ISU.   Because of vandalism, the sculpture was recast in reinforced concrete in the early 1990s.

“The circular basin of the pool represents a wedding ring and the valuable gems of the ring are symbolized by the three children, which Petersen considered the jewels of a marriage.”

– Iowa State University, University Museums, http://umsm003.its.iastate.edu/view/objects/asitem/326/542/title-asc?t:state:flow=86c383ec-25f2-47ba-b6ff-8609eb50a7c3

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As is often the case, the pastor/teacher in me was reminded of a few words of scripture.

“Allow the children to come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.”  Then he blessed the children.  – Matthew 19:14-15a, CEB

Whether with a child, a friend or on your own, may you have time to play today.

Musing: Pentecost

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” – Acts 2:1-4 NRSV

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Pentecost Sunday, Trinity UCC, Quincy, IL.  Photo: TLClark, 6/9/19.

Noise.  Like Wind.
Light.  As of Fire.
Thunder and Lightning?

I don’t remember ever thinking of the Christian Pentecost event as being accompanied by thunder and lightening.  But something the preacher said Sunday caused me to wonder … why hadn’t I thought of it before?  could there have been a wild storm?

Whatever happened, it transformed about 120 of Jesus’ first followers.
Fear flew out.  Courage blew in.
Timidity dissipated.  Boldness gathered.

Easter is the central event of the Christian faith.  But without the Spirit’s work at Pentecost, I’m not so sure the good news of resurrection would have spread very far.

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Glass Wall.  Photo:  TLClark, 6/9/19.

If you haven’t guessed from the pictures, RED is the color of Pentecost.  Actually, red is the color most often associated with the Holy Spirit.  Since Pentecost is a celebration of the giving of the Spirit, red is assigned.  The sanctuary at Trinity UCC had dozens and dozens of potted geraniums with red blooms throughout the chancel (front of the church); they will be planted on the church grounds as a reminder of the Spirit’s work.

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Centerpiece for Confirmation Breakfast.  Photo: TLClark, 6/9/19.

My youngest niece was confirmed on Sunday.  Since I’m not currently serving a local congregation we took the opportunity to be there.  Bonus: we were included as part of the family for the Confirmation Breakfast – a long standing tradition in that congregation where confirmands, their families, and their mentors are served a sit down breakfast before worship.  Added bonus:  just getting to spend time with family!


Note (because I know not every knows what “being confirmed” means): Confirmation is always associated with Baptism – a fact we sometimes forget when children are baptized as infants and confirmed as teenagers.  A confirmand/confirmation student usually goes through a season of education that lasts from a few months to a year to two years depending on local tradition.  Typically lead by a pastor, the class looks at key Bible stories and learns a little church history.  Sometimes they do mission or outreach projects.  Often there is a mentor who spends time with the student exploring questions of faith.  The process culminates in the Rite of Confirmation when the young people 1) affirm the baptismal vows that were made for them at their baptisms and 2) are welcomed as full members in the life of the church.