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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, May 04, 2012

Friday Focus: Connections

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. John 15: 1-8

There’s an old expression that: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. You need the right connections to get ahead. In this week’s gospel Jesus assures us that we’ve got the right connections. We’re not on our own. We’re connected. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. He abides in us, and we in him.

“Abide” is such a lovely, arcane word. It conveys a sense of timeless commitment. It says that we not only live in the Lord, but we have a long-term, iron-clad lease.  Jesus is not the flavor of the month. He’s here to stay. And we are bound together so tightly, that in time it becomes hard to tell vine from branch. Our every thought reflects his will. Our every action serves his purpose.

We know that’s where we ought to be. It’s where we want to be. But how do we get there? To begin with, Jesus has done the hard work. He took our every sin with him to the cross. In him we are redeemed. But our state of redemption is not a passive one. In scripture we have learned that our salvation is a gift from God. We did not earn it. We cannot pay for it. But just as often Jesus tells us that we must partner in his work. We must witness his love. With redemption comes obligation.

Our first obligation is to know God. It is the prerequisite to loving him, to praising him, to serving him. And like any other task we take seriously, knowing God begins with the basics. It starts with reading, studying and meditating on the Bible. And that takes time, commitment and discipline. That investment in knowing the Lord leads inexorably to abiding in the Lord … an intimate and sustaining presence, a serene sense of “connectedness” with the will and the work of Jesus.

Our connection with Christ was never meant to be a nodding acquaintance on holidays. In the starkest terms possible, Jesus tells us our connection comes with an obligation to be fruitful. At times being fruitful can seem such an impossible stretch. We feel so spiritually needy. Our faith can be so frail. But we are not on our own. That is the beauty of being a branch. Over time we draw health and vigor from the vine. With the turn of each season, the fruits of grace and Christian sanctity swell within us, ‘til they burst forth to the glory of God … in worship and fellowship, in service and stewardship, in love and in joy. And so we pray: I am yours, Lord. Abide in me. Nourish me. Make me fruitful in your service. 

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Look at the World -- with New Eyes

I wish I had come across this YouTube presentation before  Earth Day ... but this may well be a case of better late than never!  You may or may not be familiar with the work of John Rutter, contemporary English composer. If the name rings a tiny bell it would most likely be for his Christmas compositions sung by The Cambridge Singers, a choral group he formed to sing his catalog.  Their collaboration has resulted in many recordings of his sacred music.

I had never heard this particular piece -  Look at the World - before; it was posted on an Episcopal church's website and I wanted to share it with you.  In this video, Mr. Rutter's music has been paired with images of  the amazing creatures of  'this fragile Earth, our island home', each in its natural (and diminishing) environment.

Click on the link below.  Watch. Listen. Bring your reactions to prayer and/or discussion with others.

Look at the World (Lyrics by John Rutter)

Look at the world - everything all around us;
Look at the world and marvel every day;
Look at the world - so many joys and wonders,
So many miracles along our way.
Look at the earth bringing forth fruit and flower;
Look at the sky, the sunshine and the rain;
Look at the hills, look at the trees and mountains,
Valley and flowing river, field and plain.
Think of the spring, think of the warmth of summer
Bringing the harvest before the winter's cold;
Everything grows, everything has a season,
Till it is gathered to the Father's fold.
Every good gift, all that we need and cherish,
Comes from the Lord in token of His love.
We are His hands, stewards of all His bounty;
His is the earth and His the heavens above.

Praise to Thee, O Lord for all creation;
Give us thankful hearts that we may see
All the gifts we share, and every blessing,
All things come of Thee.

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