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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, March 28, 2008

About Prayer

Prayer has a thumbprint. The type, style, frequency, method of prayer each person uses is as unique as the individual using it. At its heart, prayer is a means of conversation with the Divine.

In today's news came a report from Weston, Wisconsin that an eleven year old girl, Madeline Neumann, died Sunday after a month-long illness. Her parents, Dale and Leilani, chose to pray for her recovery rather than take her to a doctor. An autopsy of the girl's body revealed that she died from a condition which debilitates the body by not producing enough insulin.

When our friends and family are ill, we pray for them and ask others to do so as well. One need only listen to the Prayers of the People during a Sunday Eucharist as evidence of this fact. The list tends to be long...very, very long.

Coincidentally (?) I have been asked four times in the last week some version of the following question: "If whatever is going to happen to people happens no matter what, why do we bother praying?".

We pray because it is our own interaction with God. We pray together because prayer draws us closer to one another and closer to God. In praying together we acknowledge our interdependence and build community. We pray because it bolsters our hope and bolsters the hope of the person in distress. That byproduct of prayer is incredibly powerful. Prayer can assist in the healing process. If there is a glitch in our perception of prayer it may well be that we know precisely what the person in distress needs and wants to be healed. There are many things beyond the outside physical body that may be far more tormented, diseased and failing.

Medicine -- whether conventional or alternative -- has its place in our lives. Read the Bible and note that Jesus is never reported to have advised people to avoid physicians. Reflect on the actions of Christ in the Gospels when faced with someone who begged or longed for healing. More often than not - although He could see into the very heart and soul of each individual who pleaded to Him - He would ask them what and if they wanted to be healed. In my younger days, reading of the healing of the paralytic, I was stupefied that Jesus asked him what the man wanted. Duh, the guy can't walk, can't move. Of course he wants to walk!

After missteps in my journey of faith to be a conduit for God's healing I have grown keenly aware that I must ask: How are you? Would you care to share anything with me? What in you (or your life) would you like to pray for? Do you want this (condition or relationship) to change and be healed? I have also learned that it is arrogant of me to presume to know all the answers or even half of the questions.

As Christians we live in hope. Yes, God can and does heal!! God has also given us reason and intelligence in order that we may do our part, drawing on all the tools and resources available to us, combining our various gifts on the healing team. Some of those resources are medical, some emotional, some psychological, some spiritual.

Prayer, the intimate, essential, connective conversation we have with God allows us to see what we might not see otherwise: that we all must work in tandem with God for the common Good.

Peace be with you, Madeline, as you make your transition from this side of life to the next. We know that God will welcome you to paradise. We pray that God will hold your family and all of us gently in loving hands, providing what is best for each of us, those things which God alone knows. Amen.


p.s. Friends who answered the "Change" request: I got over 250! Each day I plug moving your replies to word documents under categories (ex.)'Methodist to Episcopalian'and so on. I'm getting computer callouses on other than my fingers. Please be patient. When they've been sent to Matt, he'll post them. Each will be entitled "The Results are IN!" followed by the change.

Next weekend I'll be with the Daughters of the King from Bethlehem, PA. Check out the website for retreats on under 'News and Events'.

A Page from a Journal

I was driven to write these things down. This entire week seemed a blur and at the same time each moment was captured in my mind separately. From the end of the Sabbath last Saturday after we had been with Lazarus, Martha and Mary to the time I sat down close to a small lamp in our cramped room to write down all that has raced through my mind again and again.

It started as one of many weeks. We were on another walk. On this one my Master made arrangements to have a donkey brought and he rode on it into Jerusalem itself. Half of us crowded around him staving off some of the throng that joined along the way. Peter and Andrew were before us asking others to join in. and they did. I'm certain that almost two hundred came with us into the city, treating Him as the King of us all, the King of the Jews.

Next came the incidents in the Temple and our short return to Bethany. I could feel the air around me crackling and the sand and dirt below groaning but nothing -- not even everything our beloved Master had plainly told us -- could have prepared me for all that has followed.

We spent the Passover meal in the same room we now occupy. The servants of the hall and our sisters had things prepared in advance of our arrival. We changed into our best clothes and were about to eat when Jesus insisted on washing our feet. Most of us were humbled by his actions, even after Peter's normal overreaction. He gently washed and dried my feet tenderly and looked up at me for a short moment with a tear in His eye.

He started our meal with the required stories and prayers - and then added to them. "This IS my body, given for each of you. When you break bread in this way, remember ME". He looked at the bread, yet through it; He looked at each of us, yet through us to the very core. "This IS the cup of my own blood shed for each of you. When you drink in this way, remember ME". The same piercing stare was on his face, an uncommon combination of pain and peace. We all took part in the ceremony. Judas left in the middle of the recitations. The Master asked Peter, James and I to go with Him to pray. We had prayed for hours, but there was so much quiet pain in His voice I suggested to the others that we should go with Him.

I fell asleep, tired from the week and full of food and wine. I woke when someone bumped into my outstretched leg. Judas had returned with mercenaries of Rome. They arrested Him and He explicitly told us not to become involved. They took Him away.

James and I went back to the room, Peter went his own way. I broke the news to His mother who crumbled to the floor, rocking back and forth moaning "…it has come to this. His time has come and my labor begins again; it has come to this". Her voice was gone and her body shook with grief, yet she made no sound. I believed her heart must be breaking.

It took hours to summon the courage to accompany Mary and His mother to the Roman quarter. Pilate stood on the balcony trying to reason with a mob. Our Master stood, covered in a tunic shirt stained through with old and fresh blood. Mary was nearly uncontrollable while His mother stood, eyes glazed over with tears and disbelief.

We walked along as he made his way to Golgotha, old blood stained posts in place from prior crucifixions. He was stripped of the tunic and nailed down, naked to the crude T form. There were others being slaughtered at the same time and my beloved Rabbi and friend was secured between two robbers I was told. My sisters prayed with me to spare him from a lengthy death. I had heard that many are slow to die.

He called to me and His mother and with few words put her life into my care. Of course I will make certain she wants for nothing. After praying to His Father and whispering He had finished His work His pain distorted face became relaxed. He took a wheezing breath, exhaled and died, his eyes half open.

We all felt a rumble beneath us as if the earth groaned for Him and in a moment it was over. None of my brothers were with me; no Peter, no Judas. A minister of the temple had secretly made arrangements to take His body for burial. Joseph, a legionnaire and I pried him off the wood and lowered his body, covering his shame, into the arms of His mother and mine. She took a cloth, spit on it and wiped the blood, sweat and tears from His face. We took him to the burial place quickly as the Sabbath was closing in. The tomb was closed and I thought I saw a soldier approach.

We four, Joseph included, went back to the rented hall. It took some coaxing to get inside the door, but Matthew finally let us in. Peter was not there, nor Judas. My mother and Mary went to one side of the room to speak and console one another while I told my brothers what I had seen. Peter didn't return until early morning, nearly incoherent repeating over and over about the cock crow and saying "I lied, I failed Him". The Sabbath day was dark and dismal. Although Andrew tried to encourage us to pray, our pain prevailed.

On Sunday the women, keeping with our traditions went to perfume the Lord's body, only to find it gone. Angels dwelt where He had been and said "He is Risen, as He said He would". They thought they saw him among the brush near the tombs and, on the Master's instructions told us He would meet with us soon.

Is it too good to be true? While my mind remains fixed on all I had seen, my heart knew He would be with us again. Peter and I ran to the tomb, only to find it as the women had said. We came back chattering like madmen. Belief is more than simply seeing and I believe we will see Him -- as never before -- soon. John, the servant of Jesus, the Messiah.

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