Thursday, February 21, 2013

If at first you don't succeed…

Whether it's Moses or Matthew, Joshua or John, Solomon or Stephen, Saul or Paul or Peter, Job or James, or Jesus, witnesses of faith in Scripture embody and live out their faithfulness as living examples to and for us of persons who show unto others the way of the Christ. The way of the journey in faith, however, is not always, if ever it seems, straightforward. Its approach or experience in navigating through life's events and various callings are fraught with the challenges and difficulties faced by such leading witnesses along the path of a faith-filled pilgrimage.


In our reading of the scriptural narrative, we find each of these and other leading characters at one point or another facing failure in some form, if at least from a worldly, if not otherwise biblical, perspective. In view of this, a number of typically conventional sayings come to mind. Among these are the following:


"If at first you don't succeed, try and try again." "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results." "God helps those who help themselves."


While on the surface these sayings might seem to make sense on their own, we may upon further examination find them inherently contradictory in contrast with each other and actually nonsensical even within themselves, especially when delving into them more deeply in the light of the Word of God which exposes their folly and fallacy. More and more as I grow in my experience in the journey of faith as a student of God's Word, I find many such common sayings inadequate, if not actually antithetical to the gospel in the biblical account(s).


We who are seeking to be disciples of the way, the truth, the resurrection and the life in Jesus Christ are at times too quick and easy to adopt or become adopted by such insidious ideas in the world surrounding us. If we are blessed, we may discover a deeper awareness of ourselves being so readily acquiescing to the wily ways of this world in which we are called to live, but not be of it.


Rather than giving in, subscribing, surrendering and/or becoming submitted to the so-called wisely popular notions of the world around us, we would do better, beloved, in the way of the Word as the apostle Paul writes in Romans (12:1-2), urging us in view of God's mercy, to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God in a reasonable way through loving acts of service with a worshipful attitude in the Spirit of the Lord. As Paul urges us on:


"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."


Other verses from Scripture come to mind as well. "I am the vine, you are the branches… apart from me, you can do nothing." (Jesus in John 15:5) "God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in time of trouble." (Psalm 46:1)


If I were to begin attempting to rewrite, reform and reformulate the more worldly saying(s) listed earlier above in the light of Scripture, it might go something like this:


If at first you don't succeed, don't be afraid to "fail" and "fail again" as you learn along the way, always falling on your knees to pray and pray again and again, keeping on keeping on in the way of faith. Indeed, if at first you don't succeed, read and reread and heed the Word. The definition of insanity is thinking you can succeed in being and/or becoming a faithful witness without or apart from God. God actually helps those who ask God for help!


All the more to and for the glory of God, in this Lenten season, as well as forever and always, toward being and becoming faithful witnesses, may we remain and continue in the Lord,


Pastor Rex

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Revive Lenten Evening Service of Prayer & Praise


1 Year A B C

Matt. 4:4

One does not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

    Firm Foundation


3 Year A B C

God of the covenant,

as the forty days of deluge

swept away the world's corruption

and watered new beginnings of righteousness and life,

so in the saving flood of Baptism

we are washed clean and born again.

Throughout these forty days,

unseal within us the wellspring of your grace,

cleanse our hearts of all that is not holy,

and cause your gift of new life to flourish once again.

Grant this through Jesus Christ our Redeemer,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever. Amen.

    Holy Love


God of mercy,

you sent Jesus Christ to seek and save the lost.

We confess that we have strayed from you

and turned aside from your way.

We are misled by pride,

for we see ourselves pure when we are stained,

and great when we are small.

We have failed in love,

neglected justice,

and ignored your truth.

Have mercy, O God, and forgive our sin.

Return us to paths of righteousness

through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

    Breathe On Us Again



Jesus, remember us when you come into your kingdom.

Hear our intercessions.

For your church around the world,

we ask new life.

For all who carry out ministries in your church,

we ask grace and wisdom.

For people who have accepted spiritual disciplines,

we ask inspired discipleship.

For Christians of every land,

we ask new unity in your name.

For Jews and Muslims and people of other faiths,

we ask your divine blessing.

For those who cannot believe,

we ask your faithful love.

For governors and rulers in every land,

we ask your guidance.

For people who suffer and sorrow,

we ask your healing peace.

After a brief silence, the leader concludes the litany:

Holy God,

your Word, Jesus Christ, spoke peace to a sinful world

and brought humanity the gift of reconciliation

by the suffering and death he endured.

Teach those who bear his name

to follow the example he gave us.

May our faith, hope, and charity

turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, and death to eternal life;

through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    The Reconciliation Song



O Christ,     Jesus, Jesus

out of your fullness we have all received grace upon grace.

You are our eternal hope;

you are patient and full of mercy;

you are generous to all who call upon you.

Save us, Lord.

O Christ, fountain of life and holiness,

you have taken away our sins.

On the cross you were wounded for our transgressions

and were bruised for our iniquities.

Save us, Lord.

O Christ, obedient unto death,

source of all comfort,

our life and our resurrection,

our peace and reconciliation:

Save us, Lord.

O Christ, Savior of all who trust you,

hope of all who die for you,

and joy of all the saints:

Save us, Lord.

Jesus, Lamb of God,

have mercy on us.

Jesus, bearer of our sins,

have mercy on us.

Jesus, redeemer of the world,

grant us peace.

After a brief silence, the leader concludes the litany:

God of love,

as in Jesus Christ you gave yourself to us,

so may we give ourselves to you,

living according to your holy will.

Keep our feet firmly in the way

where Christ leads us;

make our mouths speak the truth

that Christ teaches us;

fill our bodies with the life

that is Christ within us.

In his holy name we pray. Amen.

    Shout to the Lord


An offering may be received. The minister gives God's blessing to the congregation.

1 Thess. 5:23









Monday, February 11, 2013

Revive! Ash Wednesday Evening Service of Prayer & Praise 2013 February 13

All silently gather. Any procession should be in silence.


Joel 2:1–2, 12–17; Ps. 51:1–17

Let us return to the Lord.

God is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and abounding in love.

Have mercy on us, O God,

according to your unfailing love.

Wash away our iniquity;

cleanse us from our sins.

The sacrifice acceptable to God

is a humble spirit.

A broken and contrite heart

God will not turn away.

"Even now," declares the Lord,

"return to me with all your heart."

With open hearts

we call upon the name of the Lord.

Let us worship God

Come, Let Us Return


Let us pray.

After a brief silence, the following prayer may be said:

1 2 Year A B C

Gracious Almighty God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and neighbors.

You despise nothing you have made and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Call forth our prayers and acts of tenderness, and strengthen us to face our mortality, that we may reach with confidence for your mercy… Create in us new and contrite hearts, that truly repenting of our sins, and acknowledging our brokenness, we may obtain from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness; through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. [208] Amen.

Turn Our Hearts


Joel 2:1–2, 12–17; Isa. 58:1–12; Ps. 51:1–17

O Lord, you are gracious and merciful,

slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

You have called us to return to you with all our hearts.

Forgive us, for we have been slow to share with the poor,

but quick to point the finger and pass judgment.

Even when we do not withhold from those in need,

we hope for some reward or recognition

for doing only what we ought to have done.

Hide your face from our sins, O Lord, and blot out all our iniquities.

Do not cast us away from your presence,

and do not take away your Holy Spirit.

Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and sustain in us a willing spirit.

Create In Me a Clean Heart


Let us pray.

After a brief silence, the following prayer for illumination may be said:

God our helper, by your Holy Spirit open our minds, that as the scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may be led into your truth and be taught your will, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Open the Eyes of My Heart

GOSPEL READING and REFLECTION Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21

Open Our Eyes


The following or similar words may be spoken:

Friends in Christ, every year at the time of the Christian Passover

we celebrate our redemption through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration and to renew our life in the paschal mystery. We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance, and for the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If ashes are used, the following may be said:

We begin our journey to Easter with the sign of ashes.

This ancient sign speaks of the frailty and uncertainty of human life,

and marks the penitence of this community.

The minister continues:

I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent

by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting,

by works of love, and by reading and meditating on the Word of God.

Let us bow before God, our Creator and Redeemer,

and confess our sin.

The people may kneel or bow down.

Silence is kept for reflection and self-examination.

PSALM 51        Psalm 51:1–17 is sung or said.

Psalm 51:1–17                 Tone 7; PH 195, 196; PS 48

Change my heart, Oh God, make it ever true, Change my heart, Oh God, may I be like You

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *

and cleanse me from my sin. R

3 For I know my transgressions, *

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned *

and done what is evil in your sight.

And so you are justified when you speak *

and upright in your judgment.

5 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *

a sinner from my mother's womb. R

6 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

7 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

8 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins *

and blot out all my iniquities. R

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *

and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from your presence *

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

12 Give me the joy of your saving help again *

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. R

13 I shall teach your ways to the wicked, *

and sinners shall return to you.

14 Deliver me from death, O God, *

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation. R

15 Open my lips, O Lord, *

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

16 Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice, *

but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

17 The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. R


Let us pray.

Holy and merciful God, we confess to you and to one another,

and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth,

that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed,

by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.

We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.

Have mercy on us, O God.

We have not listened to your call to serve as Christ served us.

We have not been true to the mind of Christ.

We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

Have mercy on us, O God.

We confess to you, O God, all our past unfaithfulness:

The pride, hypocrisy, and impatience in our lives,

we confess to you, O God.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways and our exploitation of other people,

we confess to you, O God.

Our anger at our own frustration

and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,

we confess to you, O God.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts,

and our dishonesty in daily life and work,

we confess to you, O God.

Our negligence in prayer and worship,

and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,

we confess to you, O God.

Accept our repentance, O God, for the wrongs we have done.

For our neglect of human need and suffering

and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,

accept our repentance, O God.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors,

and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,

accept our repentance, O God.

For our waste and pollution of your creation

and our lack of concern for those who come after us,

accept our repentance, O God.

Restore us, O God, and let your anger depart from us.

Favorably hear us, O God, for your mercy is great.

IMPOSITION OF ASHES     Change My Heart, Oh God

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth. May these ashes be for us a sign of our mortality and penitence, and a reminder that only by your gracious gift are we given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. [210]

PRAYER              Refiner's Fire

God of compassion, through your Son Jesus Christ you reconciled your people to yourself. Following his example of prayer and fasting, may we obey you with willing hearts and serve one another in holy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.



An offering may be received. The minister gives God's blessing to the congregation.

1 Thess. 5:23

May the God of peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.

All quietly depart.