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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, August 09, 2013

Friday Focus: Sempter Paratus

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

"Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.  If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

"But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." -
Luke 12:32-40

Besides helpful hints on water safety, we can learn a vital lesson from the U.S. Coast Guard. Their motto is “Semper Paratus.” But “Always Ready” is more than their motto; it is their way of life. And it has served them well through two centuries of hurricanes and shipwrecks, floods and wars. Living with the certain knowledge that potential peril is always looming can either paralyze or empower. Being always ready makes threats manageable. It empowers the Coast Guard to meet the inevitable with courage and competence. And that is Christ’s message to us in this week’s gospel: Semper Paratus… be Ready Always.

“Awareness” is the first stage of readiness. God, who made our every atom, who went to the cross for our salvation, is intensely aware of us. In return we must be intensely aware that our every thought, word and deed is performed in the presence of God. We have no secrets from him. His presence is not nine to five. He doesn’t take coffee breaks, much less holidays. God is with us, around us and in us at all times. Accepting that fact and living aware of God’s presence leads us to “Commitment” -- the next phase of readiness. God is committed to us; we must be committed to him. God is not a disinterested spectator in our lives. He did not create the universe only to check in every now and then to see how things are going in our little corner of the galaxy. Commitment means that we accept that we are God’s beloved. We accept his loving presence in our lives. And we commit to a life of sharing and returning his love.

Readiness is not a passive posture. It is a keenly proactive stance. God is an active partner in our life, not a distant scorekeeper. Working with and for God requires: “Conversation”, the next phase of readiness. God is not a silent partner. Knowing his will requires constant conversation with him. We talk and we listen. We call that conversation “prayer.” Whether scheduled and formal or impromptu and informal, prayer is our vehicle for presenting God with all the obstacles and opportunities in our life and seeking his will in all things.

“Constancy” is the final element of readiness. Our Awareness must be constant. Our Commitment must be constant. Our Conversation must be constant. Constancy adds the essential “Always” element to our readiness. How many of us have ever crammed for an exam, trying to squeeze a term’s worth of learning into a single evening? It is a painful and usually disappointing exercise. It’s certainly is no substitute for being thoroughly fluent in the course material and being always ready for the test. And that is for a test which is scheduled in advance for a specific date. But as Jesus warns us our ultimate test will come: “…at a time when you don’t expect.”

Truly being prepared means trusting in the Lord; knowing God loves us; knowing he is not playing "gottcha" games with us. Our preparation is not to fend off his vengeance, but to rejoice always in his love. Being prepared means to live in hope, not in fear.

So “Sometimes Prepared” is not an option. Neither is “Always Just About to Get Ready.” Jesus teaches us that “Always Ready” is our only option. Let’s embrace the serenity of Semper Paratus with a heartfelt Deo Gratias.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Feast Focus: Transfigurations

Feast of the Transfiguration, August 5

Well this is more like it. Brilliant lights and shining garments, a voice from the clouds, Moses and Elijah in attendance...this is what the coming of the Messiah was meant to be. No wonder Peter is ready to set up shop right on top of the mountain. Let's get some tents up here and start the kingdom right now.

Poor practical Peter, what else was he to do? In the face of the divine, his reaction is so very human. Jesus has come to redeem the world and build an eternal, heavenly kingdom. And Peter can only think about the trappings of an earthly kingdom. Jesus is operating on a completely different, elevated plane and Peter is bound by the limits of his expectations, his experiences and his senses. Once again Peter is our "every man." He stands in for all of us in our trivial, human frailty before the face of God. How like us he is.

How would we behave before the transfigured glory of Jesus? It is not a hypothetical question. In our final hour, it is a certainty that awaits us all. Surely we'll be in unimaginable awe. But after a lifetime of Christian instruction and worship, will we finally, fully understand the message or continue to project our own expectations? By the grace of God, we know the answer. All will be made plain. And since that meeting is a certainty, let's take the little time we have here to prepare for it...better to meet with an intimate friend than a neglected stranger.

While Peter is a prime, first-hand witness to the wonders of Jesus, for him up on that mountain, the good news is still unraveling? Where is it going? Where will it end? If you think they were confused before, what's this all about? Once again we have the advantage of perspective. We have been taught the full story. Over and over we have learned of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus.

But what have we done with that ultimate good news? Is it filed away for some distant death bed referral? Or do we live by it, shaping our choices and decisions every day? Are the life, death and resurrection of Jesus immediate imperatives that impact our lives or are they fabled abstractions, dusted off and taken out to lend texture to traditional holiday celebrations?

That is the challenge of the Feast of the Transfiguration. Live real lives, right here, right now... with and in the dazzling, transfigured Jesus. In the words of the Father: listen to him. Follow him to glory. God loves you no less than Moses or Elijah. Make loving, praising and thanking him a part of your day. And you will be transfigured, too

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