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Posts Tagged ‘restoration’

I’ve been awake for some time, after a pretty restless night, and a rather grouchy afternoon yesterday. I feel anxious and out of sorts, and maybe that’s because I feel like my beloved little church has turned into a war zone. It’s not the first time I’ve had these feelings in the 1 1/2 years I’ve been here, but this time, the feelings are hanging over me… it’s been weeks since I haven’t felt this way.

It feels like the church is so permanently on edge that every decision we make starts another round of battle. And I, as the pastor, feel like I’m more or less beating my head against a wall. Every Sunday, I wake up beyond excited because I get to preach the word of God. Every Sunday, and especially on Communion Sundays, I wake up and think “It will be different today. Today we will be the one body of Christ, the church.” But before I can even preach, I hear about all the ways which we’re not acting like one body at all. I don’t hear a lot of the actual conversations (though thankfully, someone will usually fill me in), but as DH is doing the powerpoint and gets in the sanctuary before I do, he hears a lot of these waring things. It’s not that people are shouting at each other, but rather they are refusing to talk to each other. One little group will be in one corner talking about another group, and in another corner there’s another group having another conversation about another group that they don’t like.

I wish I could remember which book this came from, but it was one I read during my first few months at at my church. As I’m remembering it, the author had used several churches as case studies, and one of the churches sounded like ours (though I was still in the honeymoon phase so I didn’t know it sounded like our church.) The people were always fighting and no growth could happen. And the pastor was so frustrated that he said something to the author of the book along the lines of “the best thing that could happen to this church is for the building to burn down. First of all, that would get rid of the sense of ownership and “mine, mine,mine” but it would also give every person something to rally behind: a common goal that would bring them together.” I wish I could go back and read that part, because the church didn’t burn down, but the author and the pastors found a way to bring about earnest change, and the church is now a success story.

I wish there was something that all of us could rally behind, but so far I can’t think of anything big enough to overcome the factions. One of the things that is always in my heart is to pray for peace around the world–because in a lot of cases, we don’t even remember why we’re fighting. I have prayed for an absence of conflict, but more frequently I’ve prayed that there might be reconciliation even in the midst of what is sometimes inevitable. But these days, as I pray for war-zones around the world, I stop, and pray for this little church. I believe that God’s love can and will transform these troubled spots and people, but I’m about ready to see that happen.

God, your church was never meant to be a war zone. But you know that churches are made up of imperfect people. Change our hearts, O God. Make us one body whose only goal is to serve you as fully as we’re able. Bring about the healing, and the restoration, and the transformation that we need to move farther. God, you know.

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The prayer of my soul, for our restoration. It came out of preaching the Valley of Dry Bones on Pentecost, as I realized how much all of us ache to be brought to new life. I realized as I was preaching that Psalm 23 has a lot to say about restoration too– and maybe I even like it better when I pray it as a prayer for us, not just for me.

Even as we continue in a rhythm of prayer, living God, we remember that you are the one who sets the patterns of our days. Just when we are the weakest, you hold us with surprising strength. Just when we feel dried out, you bring to us your living water.
We pray now for the skeletons that we have become—bring us back to life, O God.
We pray for those around us that lack hope, that lack promise, that lack direction. Restore them, O God.
We pray for the ones who feel broken open, and have nothing with which to heal themselves. We pray for the addictions they face, for the bandaids they try instead of resting in you. Put them back together, O God.
We pray for the ones who don’t have enough to eat—either real food, or the spiritual sort. Feed them with the bread of Life, O God.
We pray for the ones who haven’t felt loved enough—Put your arms around them, O God.
We pray even for your church, which we tell ourselves is quite healthy, but isn’t at all what you’d have it be. Help us fling wide the doors, and take your good news to all whom we meet. Set us on fire with your spirit, to do your work, O God.
You, LORD are the shepherd, We shall not be in want.
You make us lie down in green pastures,
you lead us beside quiet waters,
you restore our souls.
YOu guide us in paths of righteousness
for your name’s sake.
Even though we walk
through the valley of dry bones,
We fear nothing, for you are with us– your rod and your staff,
they comfort us.
You prepare a table before us
in the presence of our enemies.
You anoint our heads with blessing
our cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow us
as love as we live,
and we will dwell in your house forever.

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