Tag Archives: prayer

Catching the wind

On a recent trip to cross the Ambassador Bridge, Julie and I passed miles and miles of wind farms on highway 401 between Chatham and Windsor.  These huge towers with their 20+-metre blades catch the prevailing wind and transform it into electricity.  And in that wide-open southwestern Ontario landscape between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, the wind blows quite briskly and quite often.

Wind power is a promising form of renewable energy, but the wind can be hard to catch on a regular basis.  The best winds don’t blow at ground level.  The strongest and most consistent winds blow high up in the air, where they carry many times more energy than down below.

Because the tallest wind turbine is only about 200 metres high, harvesting this high-energy wind is a challenge.  But leave it to human ingenuity.  Sky WindPower, an Australian company, has developed a flying generator that looks like a cross between a kite and a helicopter.  The rotors lift the frame to a high altitude, and cables tether it to the ground.  The generator inside the frame catches the high-velocity wind, converts it into electricity, and sends it back down to earth through the cables.

Moral of the story:  to catch the wind, you have to be at the place where it is blowing.  Wind engineers know this.  And that was also the experience of Jesus disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2), which we shall celebrate on Sunday, June 8.  The disciples have followed the ascending Jesus’s instruction to return to Jerusalem and wait.  Suddenly the group is caught by a mighty wind—the wind of God’s Spirit—and amazing things begin to happen.  In fact, the rest of the book of Acts shows the energy produced by this Spirit/wind as the disciples radiate outward into the world with preaching, teaching, healing, confronting political authorities, and building up their own Christian community.

If we at The First Mennonite Church wish to experience the dynamic, renewing, transforming energy of the same Spirit/wind of God, how can we position ourselves to catch it?  Perhaps the attitude and activities of the disciples on the threshhold of Pentecost can be instructive for us.  Luke, the writer of Acts, tells us they were gathered together, “constantly devoting themselves to prayer” (1:14).   And then, in God’s time, the Spirit/wind came upon them.

We cannot summon or control the Spirit/wind of God.  It blows when and where it pleases.  But perhaps by gathering regularly in worship, and engaging in prayer—constant, ongoing prayer, including prayer to be open to God’s Spirit—we, too, can be in a position to catch the wind of Pentecost.

 

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Who calls us to worship?

One of the things that we do fairly often at our church is say the Lord’s prayer together.  It’s a good prayer that Jesus gave us.  It’s a prayer used by churches around the world since the very first churches began meeting.  So when we pray it, we are not only praying together as a congregation, we are joining together with the larger church, over space and time.

Last time we said the Lord’s prayer, I remember hearing the voice of one of our children in the church saying it along with us.  Except that the child was one beat behind the rest of the congregation.  He obviously knew each line, but it took him a moment to remember which line we were on.  I could feel that as we said this prayer, everyone was listening to his clear voice praying along with us.

For me, this was a call to worship.   I felt like this boy was calling us to worship.  It reminded me of the fact that other older people, long gone taught me this prayer.  What did I think it meant when I learned these words as a five year old?  How have these words changed and deepened in my life?

This Sunday we will be talking about being called to worship.  God calls us to worship, but we call each other to worship too.  See you  at our service!

This week’s prayer:  Jesus stand among us, in your risen power, let this time of worship, be a hallowed hour.

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Praying on our knees

The congregation I grew up in was big in lots of ways.  A big group of people, a big building, big programs; the one thing we were not big into was using our bodies in church.  We walked sedately into church, and then we sat down.  We stood up when asked, and filed politely out at the end of the service.  There was no clapping in our church, no moving of our bodies and almost no laughing.  It was a great church, a good place to grow up, but pretty restrained.

Children did not attend communion services at that church; the children would be sent downstairs, and only the members participated.  So I never saw a communion service happen, until I was actually baptized at the age of 17.

I was expecting the little pieces of bread and the cup; that had been explained to me.  What I was not expecting was that before we had communion, we would say the Lord’s prayer together, and we would say this, on our knees.  On our knees!!!!   Even Rev. H.P.Epp and Rev. Gerhard Thiessen were kneeling.  On the ground.  Everyone, the old ladies with their hats, the rows of men and their wives, everyone, down on their knees to pray.   Me, and everyone else, with our knees on the red carpet.  It was as astonishing to me as if everyone had broken into a waltz.

And the words we said together on our knees was “The Lord’s Prayer”.  I will never forget it.  I knew that prayer, of course, but saying it all together on our knees was a different experience. 

Why would you kneel to pray?

This weeks’ prayer:  The Lord’s Prayer on our knees.

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A prayer to remember

Did you memorize the Lord’s prayer when you were little?  For those of you who are part of the Christian tradition, I am betting that you did, either at home, or in Sunday school.  Many churches have the Lord’s prayer as part of their services.

When I was growing up, I was the youngest of three girls.  At night we would get into our pajamas.  I had my own bed, and my dad would come and sit on my bed and I would say, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”  Then my dad would kiss me good night, and he would go and sit on my older sisters’ double bed, and they would recite the Lord’s prayer.  So I heard the Lord’s prayer every night of my life for at least four years, and I always heard it when I was really tired and I was lying down just before I fell asleep.

One of the results of this childhood experience is that I always yawn (or try not to yawn) during the Lord’s prayer. It’s living proof of Pavlov’s dog:  I hear the prayer, I yawn!    But there’s something more there, of course.  That prayer is deep inside me, it’s a part of me.

I also had a grade 6 teacher who had us pray the Lord’s prayer every day in class.  He must have heard some funny words coming out of our mouths, because he had us all write down the Lord’s prayer and submit it.  My paper came back with a big red circle around the first line.  I had always been praying, “Our Father who aren’t in heaven”.  Because didn’t we know that Jesus was right here in our hearts, and Jesus and God are one?  So I learned something theological that day!

In the coming weeks we are going to be looking at the Lord’s prayer phrase by phrase…what do the words mean?  And more importantly, what can this prayer mean in our lives, as followers of Jesus, who taught us to pray.

This week’s prayer:  Our Father, who ART in heaven.

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The year I put God on the Christmas list

It never occurred to me till this year
to put God on my Christmas list.
Heaven knows, I’ve been on the receiving end
too many times to count,
with a God whose giving knows no ending.
Maybe God would like a gift,
for a change.
What do you get Someone who has everything?
Slippers?  Does one size truly fit all?
A book?  What hasn’t God read yet?
An ipad?  Are there apps made in heaven?
Can everyone really use socks?
Tickets to a show…theatre?  sports?
Is God hopeful enough to be a Maple Leafs fan?
Maybe I should get God something more personal.
A home-made gift perhaps,
like a coupon book.
What God might really like
is a coupon that says,
“One minute of world peace”.
I wish we could send messengers to God,
holy angels singing,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will from all people.”
This Christmas, a present for God
seems out of reach.

If I can’t get a present,
maybe I can be a present,
by being present for God.
This minute, this hour as my present.
I will completely turn my attention to God;
tuning in instead of tuning out,
deciding to be an active listener.
I will take the Bible at its word
and believe that God wants to hear from me.
I will present my requests to God
humbly, gratefully, honestly.
It`s not wrapped in shiny paper,
it`s not a perfect gift for the Father of Lights;
but I will try to be a cheerful giver.
Here`s hoping that God will say,
“This is just what I’ve always wanted!”

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How do we remember 9/11?

September 11 is coming up…a day that is seared in the memory of a generation of people. Close to 3,000 people were killed in the attacks that day, almost entirely civilian casualties (with the exception of some Pentagon personnel).  Casualties included firefighters and police who were responding to the attack when the towers collapsed.

Since Sunday is the tenth anniversary of this day, there has been a lot of coverage in the media, recalling the lives of people who died, and the effect this attack still has on people. Although 3000 is the number of casualties, many more were injured, and hundreds of thousands experienced post-traumatic stress because of what they witnessed, or through injury or the loss of a loved one.   It’s important for the Christian community to remember and pray for the suffering of all these people.

I have noticed, however, that there is very little coverage in the media about the deaths that were the result of the response to 9/11.  The United States and others (including Canada) launched a war on terror because of this event.  To not talk about the response is like trying to talk about the significance of the attack on Fort Sumter, without talking about the Civil War.  (For those of you who aren’t into American history, in April 1861 the Northern United States attacked Fort Sumter in the Southern United States and that started a civil war.)

Less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its allies attacked Afghanistan in “Operation Enduring Freedom”.  That war still continues.  Civilian casualties are very difficult to document in Afghanistan; I haven’t found a single source that will claim a number for the ten year war.  But many more thousands of people have been killed there than were killed in the 9/11 attacks.

The war in Iraq, which began in March 2003 and still continues, was also framed by America as a war on terror.  The Bush administration made allegations that Iraq had been involved in the 9/11 attacks to justify the war.   Because Iraq is more modernized, statistics are available, and the numbers are staggering.  There have been 100,000 – 150,000 casualties, up to 80%  of these are civilian.  Because of the Iraq war, 1.8 million people have become refugees from Iraq to other countries, while 1.6 million people were internally displaced.

I wonder who will make the news reports and films that document the human tragedy of these numbers.  They are all God’s children; as Christians we weep with those who weep, no matter which side of the conflict they are on.

It’s tempting to make 9/11 a day where we remember how we in the West were victimized.  Let’s instead make 9/11 a day of prayer, a day where we commit ourselves to work for peace between all people.

This week’s prayer:  God, we weep with all who weep.  We remember your American, Afghani and Iraqi children who have died; we pray for peace for our world. 

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A prayer for the federal election 2011

(This is a prayer written by Dave Rogalsky, pastor of Wilmot Mennonite Church, Wilmot, ON)

Lord God, Ruler of the Universe, King of kings and Lord of lords, in this federal election in the spring of 2011, we come and bow before you, our first and last allegiance.  You have created powers and principalities, governments and institutions to regulate human life. We acknowledge them as your servants for good. Thank you God for your good gifts.

In this election, we are given choices between policies, leaders, parties and local representatives. Thank you Lord for your gift of free will to choose.

In the many choices we are sometimes confused by the messages that are carefully shaped to communicate what the leaders and parties want us to hear, by the media’s commentary, and by the opinions of party supporters. Sophia God we ask you for wisdom, clarity of thought, depth of passion, love for all those who run and those who vote, both for ourselves, and the candidates themselves.

Some of us have been turned off from the whole political process, including exercising our privilege and responsibility to vote by attack ads, character assassinations, impolite behaviour on the part of candidates, parties and leaders. Lord of hope, forgive us our apathy and cynicism, and help those who run in the election to rise to standards of behavior and truth befitting leaders in our country.

We come from many political perspectives and opinions. God of the marginalized, as we vote, may we always remember our neighbours, the poor, the downtrodden, “the widow, the orphan and the refugee” in our midst.  May we remember justice, righteousness, mercy and grace.

This is a huge expenditure of time, money and human talents. God of faithful work, we pray for those who do the work of making votes possible in every city, town, village and every area of our country, may they have energy and integrity in the task.

God who remains the same day after day, the end result is unknown to us, may we support our leaders with prayer, good advice, fair criticism, and honest praise, whether we voted for them or not. May your creation of government rule humbly, and honestly, working for the common good in our country.

We pray this in the name of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of peace. Amen.

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