Hungry Hearts

Scriptures: Lamentations 1:1-6, 3:19-26

Bulletin-TL 10-6-2019 YC P22

Let us pray:

O Keeper of our Souls, we pray that your Holy Spirit would breathe through us, fill our hungry hearts this day with words of Hope. Fill us, too with bread and fruit made for everlasting life. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be welcome to you. Amen.

The beginning of today’s reading in Lamentations makes an interesting contrast with the book of Job. After debating with his friends, and in the face of God speaking, Job places his hand over his mouth and speaks no more. As faithful as he was through his sorrows, he still had to come to terms with them. Jeremiah, in Lamentations, does not place his hand over his mouth. He protests what he understands to be God’s actions against Jerusalem, God’s city, and Judah, home of the remnant of God’s people Israel.

Sometimes, we have to protest what is happening all around us and give voice to hardships, as Lamentations has done. This, students are doing around the world to bring awareness of the state of the planet and to demand action from those who have jurisdiction over the lands, rivers, forests, and even quality of air over our One Earth. I have hope in the Creation Care movement and see it as a part of a faithful response to God. This is a long view, one that starts now and looks forward for many decades to come. Jeremiah sees through the bitterness of the demise of his homeland in a longer view, too. He is convinced God’s faithfulness and steadfast love will overcome; and that is what gives him hope, and feeds his soul.

“Soul” is what I have been drawn to in my spiritual pilgrimage for as long as I can remember. When it came time for me to go through confirmation class I remember learning about as much as an 8th grader could tolerate of theology and polity and salvation history and my first attempt at a statement of faith. But it wasn’t what really drew me to God, or to church and the community of Creation. There was – and still is – a deeper longing and a deeper calling involved. This deeper sense of something calling is what continues to pull me today.

I was baptized as a baby, as our tradition commonly does, drawing out promises from my parents and from my home church that they would raise me in the faith, teaching as much as they could until my own confirmation and avowal of belief would propel me forward in spiritual formation. But at the heart of it all has always been a draw to soul…what at first I called the human spirit, and which drew me to long for a closer connection – like a clarion call, an inner prompting spoke to me without words. My hungry heart knew I wanted to know more about it, to sense it, to feel it, to live into and recognize my unique and authentic piece of God-in-me spiritual center and how that related to the rest of my life and all of life around me.

I now understand soul-tending as part of Christian vocation. Spiritual formation is at the heart of an internal relationship between our soul, our daily expressions of living, and the reality of our made-in-the-image-of-God relational and communal existence.[1] Eugene Petersen and others have been extremely gifted at focusing on the challenges we face “dancing around” current culturally imbued self-centeredness, or whenever God is taken out and the human being stands alone, soul-less.

In a sense, to call the human spirit “soul” is to confirm for oneself and others that there is a single divine commonality which ties all of humanity together, breaking down all barriers.[2] In spiritual formation, one’s journey brings a deeper connection to God, creation, cosmos, other beings, and the inner reality human beings share as God’s children. Formation, then, is utterly about nourishing one’s soul. One of the ways to do this is with prayer.

For this World Communion Sunday, I want to recall four different kinds of prayer which are mirrored in the movements of our corporate worship together. These four ways to pray are Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. These prayerful ACTS also help me to remember that when we are following in the footsteps of Jesus and the Disciples, we too are engaging in Acts of Discipleship. Following our order of worship, let us examine each of these four kinds of prayer a bit closer.

Adoration is a prayer of praise. During most worship services after the candle lighting and prelude, we begin with a call to worship, a hymn of praise, and a daily prayer. Together these parts of the service gather and prepare us to be in God’s presence together, glorifying God and expressing our devotion. There are many Psalms of praise we can turn to for inspiration in these movements of worship. Indeed, often times excerpts from the Psalms are used as a call-and-response liturgy for the Call to Worship.

The next thing in the order of worship is Confession. The first thing I think about when I hear that word is the cloistered closet space where a penitent worshiper goes before a priest confessing his or her sins under the seal of the confessional, and seeks absolution – a very Roman Catholic practice. Presbyterians use more of a corporate rhythm of confession and pardon in worship together, which we interpret as God’s grace given to us. We usually read aloud together a pre-printed “prayer of confession” that has been prepared for us in the bulletin. Then we usually have a moment of silence for personal confession and move right on to the Assurance of Pardon. This rhythm of confession and pardon is as old as the beginnings of formalized Church worship services.

There is another, more ancient meaning of confession however. When John the Baptist saw Jesus walking along the road, he said to those around him, “Look, there goes the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world!” This kind of confession, often called the “Good Confession,” is the kind we often forget. When John spoke those words, he was confessing his belief – belief in Jesus Christ. Those that were with him and heard these words were John’s own disciples, or followers; When John confessed Christ, his disciples left him and followed Jesus. It kind of put John out of a job, eventually, but he still proclaimed what he believed, and indeed the scripture was fulfilled when John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

The third kind of prayer to consider is Thanksgiving, when we express celebrations in the life of the congregation and give thanks to God. We say a Prayer of Thanksgiving and Dedication, and we celebrate Communion using more formal liturgies referred to as the “Great Thanksgiving,” which is to say we are thanking Christ for his sacrifice on our behalf. Other times outside Sunday worship when we express thanksgiving may include when we rise each day and thank God we made it through the night, or when we give thanks before each meal for the nourishment that has been provided for us. We may say a prayer at the end of the day thanking God for everything we have been given and for bringing us through the day.

Finally, the fourth kind of prayer is Supplication: this is when we ask God for help. Often marked in our worship services by sharing our concerns, we pray for members of our congregation and say, “Lord, hear our prayer.” Sometimes we pray for personal things, but often we pray on behalf of others and their needs.

A.C.T.S. All of these ACTS of prayer are ways in which we can deepen our own prayer life and begin to satisfy hearts that are hungry for God. It is also a way we can order our prayers if we are unused to praying on a regular basis. Much like an order of worship, we can begin with adoration, move on to either kind of confession, then give thanks to God, and finally speak aloud to God our requests.

Only one thing remains: with these four means of prayer always comes the need be active listeners as well. Prayer is a two-way street. This may mean, as Jeremiah knew, that we might have to sit down and wait; sometimes for a long time, before we understand how God has moved in our lives.

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] For an excellent resource that bridges the gap between evangelical and main line protestant sensibilities, Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005) discusses these challenges and more for Christian spiritual formation. For a more traditional evangelical perspective, Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, 1 edition. (San Francisco: Harper, 1998) also discusses this. For a classic main line protestant perspective, consider Howard L. Rice, Reformed Spirituality: An Introduction for Believers, 1st ed. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991). A more Roman Catholic understanding is found in Richard Foster’s classic, Celebration of Discipline, Special Anniversary Edition: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2018).

[2] Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015) Adobe eBook, 43

 

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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