633

633.

I preached to 633 people on October 10th, 2010. Preaching on 10.10.10 meant a lot to me. Andrew and I once planned to get married on 10.10.10. Venues were full, the engagement seemed too long, and we moved our wedding to 7.10.10. Instead of standing at the altar on 10.10.10, I stood at the pulpit.

At Lindenwood, ministers usually turn in sermon drafts two weeks in advance. We need to coordinate the media ops, visual representation on the order of worship, music selections, prayers, communion reflections… the list goes on. All of our 81 staff people need to plan for the service. We start the planning with the scripture and sermon. As a last minute person, I worried about the 2 week deadline.

I also worried about my content. As I prepared my sermon, at first my worries paralyzed me. I drew a blank. I felt like my sermon must live up to all the expectations and hopes that my new congregation must have for me.

To make a long story short, I focused and stretched myself. I made the 2 week deadline. I wrote a sermon from my heart.

The senior minister brought in a drama coach to work with me on my delivery. The media ops team worked with me to set my microphone on the right frequency. The worship planning team worked with me to develop a slide show to accompany my sermon. By the time 10.10.10 arrived, I felt ready and calm.

633. A month ago, that number would have terrified me. But after all of the support and encouragement I received as I prepared for the service, I preached from the pulpit with the assurance that I would survive.

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Personal, Pulpit, Prayers

My sweetest, most beloved cat, Oliver, was diagnosed with cancer. We began the long road of treatment: leg amputation, chemo, vet visit after vet visit…. It is painful and tedious, and too much to handle sometimes. In the midst of all our change, all our upheaval, all our adjustments, we cannot lose Oliver. He is a source of comfort and peace. He is our steady companion and friend.
When I was asked to pray on October 3rd, even though we were focused on World Communion Sunday, my heart was focused on St. Francis. I wanted to pray for the animals in our lives, for creation, for environment. My heart was with Oliver on October 3rd, so I brought the personal to the pulpit and the pastoral prayer. I did not name Oliver in my prayer, but instead, I held him in my heart as I prayed for and with Lindenwood.

Pastoral Prayer, October 3rd, 2010

Adapted from the Canticle of all Creatures by St. Francis of Assisi
Most High, all-powerful, all-good Creator,
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor and all blessings.
We praise you, sweet Spirit for all Your creatures,
especially for the sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light, beautiful and radiant with great splendor.
We praise You, gentle peacemaker, for the moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

We praise You, our source and sustainer, for wind and air,
for all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

We praise you, thoughtful shepherd, for water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

We praise You, our guide, for our Earth who sustains and governs us,
producing fruits and flowers and herbs.
We praise you, our loyal companion for the loving animals and pets that we adore.
While our brother and sister churches hold Animal Blessings today during service, we ask for a simple blessing upon all the animals in our lives through our worship today.
Thank you for your steadfast love and compassion in our lives.
We pray all these things in Jesus’ sweet name, Amen.

Experiential Learning

As my journey at Lindenwood continues to unfold, I learn things every day. I learn what church staff meetings look like. I learn about church budgets. I learn to balance family life with my love, Andrew, and church life. I learn to take care of myself as I take care of others. I learn about worship. I learn about community. I continue to pray out loud in church. The act I once feared is one I now cherish.

I continue my practice of praying for Lindenwood during services. I’ve started hearing from members of the church about my prayers. ‘We like knowing more about your faith through your words”, “we like hearing a woman’s voice during our services”, “Thank you for speaking slowly”. Other comments. Other conversations start from my prayers. Praying aloud in church allows me to know Lindenwood, and be known by my community.

Pastoral Prayer, September 27th, 2010

Loving Creator, we come to you with a simple prayer of gratitude today. Hear us as we say thank You, thank You, thank You.
We are filled with joys, concerns, hurts, and questions. You collect all of these prayers. You are present to us in our worry and in our celebration.
And so, we come to You today to say thank You for warm shelter.
Thank you for enough to eat.
Thank you for loving community.
Sweet spirit, we also know that You have been working hard through this community.
On Wednesday night You were with us as we bagged groceries for 144 Memphis families. Give us the strength to never stop working for our brothers and sisters who do not have enough to eat.
You move through us as we raise money for our Habitat for Humanity project. Give us the courage to never stop creating refuge for Your people who do not have warm shelter.
You are knitting us together as Your Church, Your beloved community. Help us to find the endurance sustain the hard work of loving and serving the world.
We pray all our prayers, those said and unsaid, in Jesus’ sweet name. Amen.

Continuing to Pray

Again, the senior pastor here asked me to pray for our congregation in our services. Be known by your prayers, he said. So I wrote another prayer. Not only would Lindenwood continue to know me by my prayers, but I realized that, as I write these prayers, I am learning too. I am getting acquainted with my own ministerial identity. I continue to know and learn about our tender creator as I write prayers for my community.

Pastoral Prayer, September 19th, 2010

Gentle Peacemaker, be with us at Lindenwood Christian Church this morning.
Shape us into the image of Your peace, Your compassion, and Your justice.
Open our hearts and fill them with deep love for our community.
We know there is so much work to do in the world.
We come to church this morning to hear the good news that You have written into our fate and our future.
Gracious teacher, walk with us and teach us how to love our neighbors fully.
Patient creator, Give us the strength to hear Your call.
We are all here this morning because we long to serve our world with our whole hearts.
Move us toward Your mission.
Use us as instruments of Your will and soften us with tenderness and humility.
We bring our joys and concerns to You this morning.
Help us to lift up all our rejoicing and all our hurting to You and Your beloved Church.
Hear all of our prayers, those said and unsaid.
We pray all these things in Jesus sweet name, Amen.

Known By Your Prayers

In the first few days of my Lindenwood journey, senior pastor Ron suggested that I take on the pastoral prayer for the upcoming services. “We want the community to get to know you through your prayers.” As he said this I remembered the challenge I put on myself (or, perhaps, that God put in my heart) several months ago: learn to pray.
Let me be clear, I’ve prayed my whole life. Prayers formed in tears of joy, heart flutters in times of beauty, laments in times of trial… however, I rarely prayed verbally or aloud. Sometimes my mind would single out words in my prayer. I would pray: strength, God. Courage, God. Help me, God. Thank you, God.
When the senior pastor asked me to pray aloud at our three services on my first Sunday, I felt a gentle tap on the shoulder from the divine, a subtle reminder that my path to Lindenwood was paved long before I moved here. My future was known and decided before I knew it. My heart was focused on prayer for Lindenwood, and the time had come to pray out loud.
Here is my first prayer from September 12th, 2010, Lindenwood Christian Church:

Loyal Shepherd, constant companion, compassionate creator, God.
Be with us.
We are gathered today at Lindenwood Christian Church to hear you wisdom, to feel your adoration, and to love one another by your example.
Be with us.
Lean your ears close to us and outstretch your arms to us.
Tender Spirit, eternal sustainer, loving advocate, God.
Rejoice with us.
We bring our joys to you. It is a season of new beginnings, starting semesters, warm welcomes, crisp, fall nights, anniversaries and birthdays.
Rejoice with us.
Hear our prayers of gratitude.
Gentle comforter, sweet nurturer, friend to the weary, God.
Embrace us.
We bring our sorrows to you this morning. There are those among us who are on their knees in pain, in grief, in anger. Our neighbors are weeping and hurting and broken.
Embrace us.
Lift us up to your warmth and your light and make us whole again.
God you are our compass, our polar star, our steady anchor. Remind us to love our brothers and sisters across the world who also rejoice; Who also mourn; who also long for your presence.
Hear all of our prayers, those said and unsaid.
We pray all these things in the sweet name of Jesus. Amen.

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