G+M Worship – July 29, 2012

The following was written by Joshua for the service of worship and prayers held at Grace and Main Fellowship on July 29, 2012.

Worship on the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – July 29, 2012

Preparing and Setting the Altar

Be present among us, Lord. Fill this place with your Spirit.

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Sharing our Stories

 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us—sinners that we are—and hear these ours prayers:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

As we learn from our Lord who lived, died, and was raised for us, let us sing.

Singing


The 
Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.

Psalm 145:10-18
All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.
The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
2 Samuel 11:1-15
The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
Ephesians 3:14-19
The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.
We Listen and Interpret Together

 

Our brother, William Willimon, former preacher, professor, and current bishop of the United Methodist Church, writes in an article titled, “A Peculiarly Christian Account of Sin:” “Only Christians have a story that makes our actions comprehensible not as minor slipups, mistakes of judgment, or even as our inappropriate response to the facts of human condition but as sin , as our determined effort to live our lives as if God were not the author of our lives…Our story reads ‘autonomy.’ Yahweh’s story says ‘covenant’…David’s sin is revealed, by the prophet’s story, to be that of living as if he had no story, as if he were not already spoken for by Yahweh.

 

Prayers for OthersThe Lord’s Prayer

 

Singing

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” [Ephesians 3:20-21]


May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.
Amen.

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Stanley Rother, Shepherd of Guatemala

The following was written by Joshua for his collection of stories, Telling the Stories that Matter.

Stanley Rother experienced a life quite like that of many Midwestern Roman Catholic priests. He was born in 1935, attended seminary, and was ordained in 1968 (though he struggled with Latin enough to make this a challenge at times). He served as an associate minister at a few churches before being commissioned and called to the congregation of Santiago Atitlán in Guatemala. Stanley Rother, with his heart full of love and anxiety, left the United States of America and became shepherd of a people miles away in geography and culture.

After some time, he had mastered the language of his flock: a Mayan dialect of the Tzutuhil. He was the first to translate the scripture into Tzutuhil. More than that, he offered services in the language of his flock and became greatly endeared to them. Soon, more than 3,300 people were attending the Sunday masses. Stanley did not accomplish this with flash and programs aimed at reaching the unreached but, rather, by slowly pouring his life our for those whom he comforted, baptized, buried, married, counseled, trained, taught, and assisted. When he wasn’t busy about his priestly duties, he lent a hand in a field and offered love wherever he might be. Stanley did not see his life as something that was his own to hoard but, rather, a gift that he could gleefully spend on others to ease their pain and buoy them up in their distress. In short, Stanley Rother was much loved by the Guatemalan people because he loved them much. Because of this great love, he was honored with a Tzutuhil name: Padre A’plas.

Guatemala’s history is rife with violence and kidnappings. Santiago Atitlán had, for many years, been a haven from this violence and the country’s political distress had not stepped across the threshold of parish for some time. However, this peace would not hold once some politically minded people had determined to escalate the violence to accomplish their destructive goals. After all, the way of violence leads only to more violence and not into the way of life and peace. Stanley diagnosed the problem as such: “The country here is in rebellion and the government is taking it out on the church…The Church seems to be the only force that is trying to do something about the situation, and therefore the government is after us.”

Stanley was urged to flee and return to the United States but Stanley refused saying, “At the first signs of danger, the shepherd can’t run and leave the sheep to fend forthemselves.” He stayed and, eventually, one of the lay leaders from the congregation was kidnapped during the day by armed men. One day, as he walked through the streets, he was accosted and informed that his name was on a list of those condemned to death by the powers.He resisted leaving but, upon the advice of his friends and parishioners, returned to Oklahoma so that his flock might not be harmed because of him.

Yet, being the shepherd that he was, he was unable to stay away from the place where he belonged and where he was, truly, home. He left the chalice his parents had gifted to him with his parents and said good-byes to his family and friends. Stanley knew well that he was likely walking back into his death. Yet, As Archbishop Salatka said, “Father Stanley Rother did not go back to Guatemala to die. He went back to help his people.” He left Oklahoma near Holy Week and returned to Santiago Atitlán to celebrate the Gospel story: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. In the early morning hours of July 28th, 1981, armed men broke into rectory and seized Stanley. Apparently, they were intending to kidnap him and torture him. Stanley did not beg for his life or cry out in fear or pain but, rather, told his would-be-abductors: “Kill me here.” Stanley Rother died when one of the armed men shot him in the head twice. He died where he requested and where he had returned: among the people of Guatemala.

For Stanley Rother, there was no other place he’d rather be than in Guatemala among his flock whom he cared for. The powers could not stand that this one person would dare oppose them and help the people they couldn’t help. With closed fists they had tried to aid the people not knowing that it was only with a peaceful and loving open hand that aid can be given to the broken. His body was returned to Oklahoma for burial but his heart was buried where it truly belonged: Santiago Atitlán.

Titus Brandsma, who opposed the Nazis

The following was written by Joshua for his collection of stories, Telling the Stories that Matter.

Titus Brandsma was born Anno Sjoerd in the Netherlands in 1881. He was raised Roman Catholic and, eventually, became a Carmelite and priest. He was awarded the Ph.D. at Rome in 1909. He was a well-known authority on Carmelite mysticism. This principled man had the fortune of intersecting the Nazis in the Netherlands. Though it resulted in his martyrdom, it cannot be described as bad fortune because Titus knew his life was a story of the power of love in the face of death and domination–this was the only appropriate end.

Titus was the Roman Catholic adviser to the Netherlands’ several dozen Roman Catholic newspapers. This was a position of importance and one which Titus was equipped to do well. Holland was invaded by the Nazis in 1940 and tensions were high. Many Roman Catholics wanted to resist the Nazi occupation but were unsure of how much or how to do so. It is, most assuredly, a black mark that those bearing the banner of Jesus Christ–a crucified Lord–would compromise with the Nazi regime in trade for limited safety and security and, yet, that is often what happened. Many were willing to fight only for the safety and security of fellow Roman Catholics and felt that the Church should solely be concerned with the protection of its members. Titus disagreed and did so vocally. For Titus, there was no compromise to be had with those who dealt in death, destruction, torture, and pain.The Church has no room to join with others who promise only “controlled evil.”

Referring to Nazism as “the new paganism,” it was clear that Titus opposed the treachery and tragedy of the Nazi empire. Titus resisted the Nazi oppression of all people regardless of the religion, creed, race, or sex of those who were oppressed. After all, if oppression was evil, then it didn’t matter who did it. He publicly denounced and fought a German law prohibiting students of Jewish lineage from attending Roman Catholic schools. This further drew the ire of the Nazi empire. In late 1941, a Nazi edict demanded that all newspapers run Nazi propaganda.Titus Brandsma organized an effort to refuse and resist this edict. This was, apparently, the last straw for an empire that depended upon domination, control, and fear.

January 19th, 1942, was the day that Titus was arrested and seized by the Nazi death machine. Eventually, he was transferred to Dachau to be with the nearly 3,000 other clergy who were swept up by the empire that accepted no resistance. He was beaten and tortured before being transferred to a “hospital” for execution.

On July 26th, 1942–70 years ago, today–Titus Brandsma was injected with acid and murdered.Though the Nazis felt that they were punishing him for his resistance to the empire, they only spread his influence and further proved their own savagery. They killed a sickly, 61-year-old man who offered no physical resistance with a needle to make it “clean” but acid to make it vindictive–observing their methods, one wonders if there wasn’t the spark of fear in their hatred of Titus. They hoped to punish him for the state of his mind that offered resistance to their “new world order” but, instead, they crowned him as a martyr for the cause of a sacrificial and loving savior who resisted evil done to any and all people.

G+M Worship – July 22, 2012

The following was written by Joshua for the service of worship and prayers held at Grace and Main Fellowship on July 22, 2012.

Worship on the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – July 22, 2012

Preparing and Setting the Altar

Be present among us, Lord. Fill this place with your Spirit.

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Sharing our Stories

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us—sinners that we are—and hear these ours prayers:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

As we learn from our Lord who lived, died, and was raised for us, let us sing.

Singing


O Lord, your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

Psalm 89:1-8
I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:
‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.’”
Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord ,
a God feared in the council of the holy ones, great and awesome above all that are around him?
O Lord God of hosts, who is as mighty as you, O  Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds you.
 

O Lord, your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens
Jeremiah 23:1-6

O Lord, your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens
Mark 6:30-44

O Lord, your faithfulness is as firm as the heavensWe Listen and Interpret Together

Our brother, St. Theophylact of Ohrid, was an 11th century Greek Orthodox archbishop who was known for his biblical commentary. He is recorded as writing the following note about tonight’s passage from Mark, “Let us also learn, when we are sent on any mission, not to go far away, and not to overstep the bounds of the office committed, but to go often to him, who sends us, and report all that we have done and taught; for we must not only teach but act.”

Prayers for OthersThe Lord’s Prayer

Singing

Tonight, we have dwelt in the presence of our Great Shepherd. Now, go from here as God’s missionary to a wandering and suffering people. Go forth and give them something to eat—something upon which they can sustain themselves as you point them to our common Father who can and will care for them. Go with confidence in God’s goodness.


May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.
Amen.

Phocas, Gravedigger and Martyr

The following was written by Joshua for his collection of stories, Telling the Stories that Matter.

Phocas had finished tending his gardens and it seemed that yet another day had slipped away into dusk while he worked busily to grow the crops that had been planted and sustained. Giving thanks to God, he watched the Christian pilgrims sneaking away under the increasingly dark cover. Under the rule of Diocletian, food was becoming increasingly difficult to find for those professing Jesus’ name and lordship. More and more Christians were coming to Phocas to receive foodfrom his vast gardens along with the poor and oppressed that had been coming for some time. This was a blessing and, yet, there was a catch: the more he helped his brothers and sisters, the more the Empire’s gaze turned to Phocas’ home at Sinope near the Black Sea.

As is always the case for those who attract the hatred of the empire, Phocas was ordered to die by an imperial sword. For, you see, the power of the empire is ultimately rooted in the power to deprive you of your life. Diocletian sent soldiers to find and execute Phocas for his obedience to Jesus—a power besides Rome. And, so, the soldiers traveled to Sinope where they found the gates locked. Looking for a place to stay the night, they came upon the home of Phocas. They did not know what he looked like when they arrived at his home looking for him. Phocas promised to show them where they could find the man they were looking for in the morning but, first, invited them into his home for a meal and a place to sleep. He fed them, perhaps he washed their feet and he provided them with a place to sleep and recover from their travel. As they slept that night, Phocas went out and dug a grave near his garden. Praying while he dug, he prepared himself for his own martyrdom.When he had finished digging his own grave, he spent the remainder of the night in prayer.

In the morning, the thankful soldiers awoke and prepared for the day. They were appreciative of Phocas’ hospitality and kindness but were unprepared for Phocas’ confession. Phocas agreed to show them the man they were looking for and lead them out of his home. As they approached Phocas’ garden, he stood in front of the grave he had dug, turned to face them, and confessed to being the man they were looking for. The soldiers who had been tasked with killing Phocas—menace and rebel that he was—suddenly found their imperial resolve weakened. They offered to return to Diocletian and lie: “We couldn’t find him.

Phocas knelt in the dirt, bared his neck, and refused to let the soldiers lie, sin, and risk their own lives to save his. He assured them that he was not afraid of death—a concept entirely foreign to the threats of the Empire—and, instead, eagerly anticipated his martyrdom. Having given permission to his executioners, they decapitated him and finished the burial he had started the night before.

Phocas denied the power of the Empire over him and left an indelible impression upon not only his executioners—the soldiers—but, also, all who would hear the story of the willing martyr and grave-digger. The great power of the Empire—the ability to deprive you of your life—had failed to convert Phocas and, yet, Phocas’ seemingly incomprehensible willingness to love and die converted many.

Bartolome de las Casas, Opponent of Slavery

The following was written by Joshua for his collection of stories, Telling the Stories that Matter.

Bartolome de las Casas was born in Seville, Spain, in 1484 and so he was only nine years old when Christopher Columbus returned to Seville to tell of the world he had discovered to the west.Columbus had gained the favor of queen Isabella and king Ferdinand II by insisting that there was another route to the East Indies that didn’t involve traveling through Arabia but, instead, meant sailing west from Spain to approach the Indies from the other side. This interested the Spanish nobles because access to the East Indies, unencumbered by Italian and Arabian merchants and rulers, meant a lucrative trade in spices. In other words, the rich could get richer if Columbus was right. Columbus, of course, was wrong and had severely underestimated the circumference of the Earth but in his error he had stumbled upon the land we call the Americas. Bartolome wasfascinated by the tales of a distant land and different people and so he was thrilled when Columbus brought several of their men and women off of his ship and paraded them before the curious crowds. They came in chains and did so unwillingly but this fact was overlooked by those who were enchanted with dreams of foreign riches and conquest. When Columbus returned for his second voyage, Bartolome’s father and uncle went with him and Bartolome was left behind to imagine.

 

Bartolome’s father brought him a slave to be his servant and he developed a friendly relationship with the man. When Bartolome was eighteen, he went with his father and uncle to what we now know as Hispaniola aboard the ship captained by Nicolas de Ovando.Bartolome had spent years imagining that foreign land and it had become something mythical in his own imagination. Consequently, Bartolome was horrified to see the brutality and cruelty being perpetrated against the people of the island by virtue of their different appearance and different language. The Spanish settlers were given land to which they had no legitimate claim and slaves with which to work their ill-gotten gains. Bartolome was uncomfortable with the savage approach the Spaniards were taking and, as a Dominican priest, began to wonder if this wasn’t a repudiation of Jesus’ way of love and mercy. Columbus was sending native peoples back to Spain as currency to repay his debts to the crown and wealthy financiers. Bartolome began to question the rightness of such barbarism. Bartolome began ministering to the native people in whatever little ways he could but it never seemed to be enough. Then, one day, Bartolome heard a Dominican priest named Antonio de Montesinos preach about the evil being committed against the people and being called “progress.” Antonio’s preaching–he was the first clergy member to vocally oppose the Spanish actions in the colonies–seemed to give Bartolome permission to join the fight for liberation and love.

 

Bartolome’s first decision was to free every slave on his settlement and to renounce the land he had been gifted. Having set an example of the way of the Kingdom of God he called upon other settlers to do the same, yet they refused and Bartolome was forced to travel back to Spain to seek reform. At his impassioned request he received permission to establish a settlement at Cumana in the northern portion of the region we call Venezuela. Bartolome imagined a settlement where native people and Spaniards would co-exist and help each other to live peacefully and comfortably. The problem, though, was the tension that had already developed between the Spaniards and the native people in the region. When Bartolome left the settlement, fighting would break out and people would die. Eventually, Bartolome left the settlement after Spanish raids took most of the native people as slaves and went to the Dominican monastery in Santo Domingo. From there he began to write accounts of the brutal murders of native people by Spaniards who claimed the yoke of Christ the Crucified. He lobbied Spain for laws that would protect the people upon whom they had intruded so much already. Meanwhile, he engaged in missionary work among native tribes and led many to place their faith in Jesus even though counter-arguments abounded in the colonists with whom they were acquainted. Though it meant defending himself against treason, Bartolome returned to Spain and was able to bring about new laws that abolished Columbus’ way of doling out land for support and slaves for loyalty. When Bartolome died in July of 1566 he was in Madrid but his heart still rested with the people he had learned to love in a distant and fantastic world.

G+M Worship – July 15, 2012

The following was written by Joshua for the service of worship and prayers held at Grace and Main Fellowship on July 15, 2012.

Worship on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 15, 2012

Preparing and Setting the Altar

Be present among us, Lord. Fill this place with your Spirit.

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Sharing our Stories

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us—sinners that we are—and hear these ours prayers:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

As we learn from our Lord who lived, died, and was raised for us, let us sing.

Singing


Let me hear what God the 
Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people…

Psalm 85:8-13
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.


Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people…
Amos 7:7-15
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people…
Mark 6:14-29
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people…
We Listen and Interpret Together

Our brother, San Juan de la Cruz, whom we call St. John of the Cross, was a 16th century Spanish, Roman Catholic mystic and student of St. Teresa of Avila. In the second meditation of his Spiritual Canticle, he writes, “The more a soul loves, the more perfect it is in its love; hence it follows that the soul which is already perfect is, if we may speak in this manner, all love.  All its actions are love, all its energies and strength are occupied in love.  It gives up all it has, like the wise merchant, for this treasure of love which it finds hidden in God… As the bee draws honey from all plants and makes use of them only for that end, so the soul most easily draws the sweetness of love from all that happens to it.  It makes all things subservient to the end of loving God, whether they are sweet or bitter.”

Prayers for OthersThe Lord’s Prayer

Singing

Take up the prayer of our brother, St. Anselm, as your own prayer as you go: “Take away, you who take away the sin of the world, these which are sins of the world, which I carry from living in the world.” Go now, from this place where we have met to worship, with a heart freed from corruption and the power to speak truth in love to a world so desperately in need of both.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.

Amen.