Tag Archives: church

Photo Challenge: Worship

Where does one begin to capture an image of worship?  As an ordained pastor and teacher in the United Church of Christ, my mind went in dozens of directions – not all of them church related!  I settled on sharing photographs related to two Sacraments celebrated as a part of Christian worship.  The things pictured are just things until they are used by a gathered community to remember, to share stories, and to celebrate what God has done, is doing and will do.

EUCHARIST (‘thanksgiving’) – COMMUNION – THE LORD’S SUPPER

“O taste and see that the Lord is good.”  – Psalm 34:8a NRSV

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Communion Table, Psalms Retreat, Pilgrim Heights Camp & Retreat Center, Montour, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 9/11/14.

These first two pictures are from a one-day retreat I led based on the theme “Taste of God.”   We gathered for Morning Prayer, had a chance to work in the garden harvesting vegetables, and shared in a time of Worship with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

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After Sharing the Bread and Cup, Pilgrim Heights Camp & Retreat Center, Montour, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 9/11/14.

Did you notice the honey pot in the second picture?

“I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
– Psalm 81:16 NRSV

My preference for Communion ware is definitely not the shiny plates and wine/juice trays for individual cups used in every church I’ve served.  Nevertheless I am always fascinated at the way the surfaces reflect candles and lights and windows!

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Pastor’s View of Communion Table, Faith UCC, Muscatine, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 4/8/12.

My husband and I were in Seattle for a wedding last fall and dropped in for Sunday Worship at the UCC congregation nearest our hotel.  The chalice, paten (plate holding the bread) and cloth were beautiful.

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Chalice, Broadview Community UCC, Seattle, Washington.  Photo:  TLClark, 10/7/18.

BAPTISM

More reflections on shiny church things!  The pictures were taken before Sunday morning worship in two different congregations.  Each had a silver pitcher from their early days that we used to pour water into the bowl for a baptism.

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Window Reflections in Baptismal Bowl, Bethany UCC, Baxter, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 5/29/16.

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Rose Window Reflected on Pitcher, Faith UCC, Muscatine, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 4/17/13.

Just because I like it, here is a picture of me introducing Elle – a newly baptized “child of God, follower of Jesus, member of the church” – to the congregation.  

Worship - Bethany - Baptism (2)

* * *

Following the news of the devastating fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Frank at Dutch goes the Photo! wrote, “it was immediately obvious to me that the theme for this week’s challenge is to be Worship. Regardless of religion, faith or belief system, we can all worship; whether it’s a universal being, nature or the love of our life… Please take this challenge into the direction of Worship that speaks most to you and share it creatively!”

Thank-you, Frank, for encouraging a broad definition of worship.

Unwilling to Understand

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Photo:  TLClark, 4/14/19.

It’s Palm Sunday.  But the sermon I heard this morning could have been given any Sunday of the church year.

I remember exactly one phrase:  “unwilling to understand.”  It fit beautifully with whatever the Deacon (we were worshiping with Roman Catholics) was saying.  But I’ve already forgotten the exact context and that’s OK.  Even when I’m the preacher I don’t necessarily remember the sermon.

How often are we willfully unwilling to understand?
Whether it’s the changing climate or the plight of the refugee,
whether it’s the rising water or the post-storm debris,
whether he is an unknown immigrant or a well-known relative,
whether she was born recently or decades ago,
whether they live a world away or just down the street,
whatever the situation
it’s ever so much easier to simply ignore what is reported,
to look away from what is shown,
to shut mind and heart to what is revealed,
so we can pretend it is – or they are – someone else’s problem.
I know I’m guilty.

Meanwhile we Christians say we follow Jesus – one who did not ignore what was going on around him.   Jesus did not look away from the people before and beside him.  He did not shut his heart and mind to the great needs of the world.

Lord, make me willing to understand.  And willing to act.

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Photo: TLClark, 4/14/19.

The Golden Rule at Church

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 7:12 NRSV

“Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.” – Luke 6:31 CEB

Love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)  But sometimes what we call kindness or think is a kindness is not experienced by another as such because it is not kind.  It is an insisting on our own way (see 1 Corinthians 13:5).

I’ve long said church – my church, your church, all church – would be perfect if it didn’t have any people.  But then it wouldn’t be church.  (sigh)

We human beings are a contentious lot.  We are eager to get our own way.  We frequently forget – and too often choose to ignore – the Golden Rule:  do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Getting church right is hard, hard work.  It’s been that way for a long, long time.  Just read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to get a glimpse of the turmoil in the early church.

And yet the church – the body of Christ – in all its imperfection continues.  There are many faithful leaders – ordained and lay.  There are countless loyal followers of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit still sheds wisdom on those who have ears to hear and hearts to heed her teaching.   The same God who created “in the beginning” is still at work doing a new thing.

Some days I believe it.  Other days I don’t.

Which is why we need each other.  Some days I keep the faith for those who struggle.  Other days I’m held through the struggle by those keeping the faith.

May it be so for you.