The last time we talked about worshiping the Triune God we focused on the Prayers of the People. As I said then, for some churches this prayer occurs after the Sermon. However, we generally take time for these prayers of intercession before the Message. Then we’ll often sing a Song of Preparation before hearing God’s Word proclaimed. Part of this preparation for hearing God’s word usually involves a Prayer for Illumination, which is a prayer asking God to speak to us through his word and for help in listening to the word that is given. As we read in The Worship Sourcebook (Faith Alive, 2013): “The prayer for illumination explicitly acknowledges the Spirit’s work in this part of worship by requesting God’s Spirit to act through the reading and preaching of Scripture. This prayer may also acknowledge that we all come to Scripture with varying degrees of faith, trust, and knowledge.” (p. 139) We pray this prayer before the Sermon because we believe that God speaks though his word, which the pastor’s message is based on. This is God’s word for us today, and we don’t want to miss it. So, we pray a prayer something like this one based on Psalm 25: “Lord God, help us to know your ways; teach us your paths. Lead us in your truth, and teach us, for you are the God of our salvation; for you we wait all day long. Through Christ our Lord. Amen!” How blessed we are to have a God who speaks to us through his word. May God help us to become excellent listeners and doers of the word. Amen?
Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? I generally don’t make any formal resolutions, but I tend to be more reflective in January. How was my last year with the Lord? What is God calling me to do in the New Year? Are there any changes I need to make to facilitate my spiritual growth? These are the kind of questions I ask myself in January (and often in August, before the fall ministry season begins). And as I reflect on them, some new ideas and directions often emerge. And the one that has surfaced for me this year is based on a book I read at the end of last year by Michael Horton called, Ordinary (Zondervan, 2014). Horton is concerned that we North American Christians are always looking for the next big thing, when God most often uses the ordinary things to grow us spiritually and change the world. What sort of ordinary things? Things like the weekly communal worship service; daily Bible reading; the regular administration of the Sacraments; loving our neighbors. He argues that God prefers to use the ordinary means of grace, like the spiritual practices mentioned above, to form our faith. But being “ordinary” is not popular today, so it takes a lot of courage to become an ordinary Christian. Our culture celebrates the extraordinary (i.e., the beautiful model; the successful business person; the talented athlete, etc.). But as Horton argues, God most often works through ordinary things to change us. Christmas provides a prime example: God becoming human through Christ. The irony is that as we seek to be “ordinary Christians” God uses us to do extraordinary things, like give hope to the hopeless. So, if I had to pick a New Year’s Resolution, I would say that it is to be an “ordinary Christian.” I wonder what would happen if we all decided to become ordinary Christians this year? . . . Care to join me?