Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Joy of the Lectionary


Using a tool like the Lectionary to let the Lord speak to you through work of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures is a wonderful way to keep your dialog with God on track.  So often Christians of all ages say, “I would read the Bible more often, but I simply don’t know where to start.”  The lectionary takes that variable out of your hands. 

The advantage for modern Christians of a lectionary vs. a Bible reading plan is that the Lectionary isn’t trying to get you through the entire Bible in a year.  That’s a great goal.  But I’m a slow reader and I simply don’t have an extra hour to read three chapters of Leviticus (much less try and pronounce all the names) at 8 in the morning.  Finally, the Lectionary sometimes surprises you with a happy or profound mosaic when the passages are read in sequence.  This morning is a great example:

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Did you wake up fearful of something this morning?  I was joking with my daughter Beth yesterday.  She has just graduated from college and is out looking for her first real job.  She told me it was looking bleak and that she might have to become a B.S.  in Psychology barista at Starbuck’s.   I told her, “Don’t be afraid… everything depends on this.” 

If you’re over 30, you know that feeling can just run away with you.  Some mornings you just don’t want to get out of bed for fear that something new bad may happen to you or a loved one.  God knows this.  So he starts this morning with the reminder that he is the covers on the bed that you can pull over your head.

Psalm 97
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!

Whew!  That means that even though I’d like to hide away “under the shadow of his wing” or under a rock (funny, where we think we may find safety), God is sovereign… no God is THE Sovereign, and that will bring a smile to my face because I know the Sovereign over me is wise and knows what he is doing..

Psalm 96
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Knowing something is true and acting on that truth are always two very different things.  In the midst of my troubles I can nearly always tell you that God is our refuge.  I just can’t always act that way.  But there is something about rejoicing in God that is infectious.   This isn’t just AA telling you to “fake it till you make it.”  This is applying present truth.   And once I really practice rejoicing in God, it leads somewhere.  It makes my heart glad.  And then, frankly, it makes me sing.

Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!  Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing!

While I do like to sing – alone in my car or at the piano in the basement or even on a mountain trail – I love to sing in a choir or a congregation all the more!  That’s why he tells us later in Psalm 100 to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.  There really is nothing like corporate praise.  I guess that’s why, even with all the sinners around the church, so many of us still brave entry into that soup and are willing to put up with their political shenanigans just to be there for those few moments of corporate praise.

Isaiah 49
The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.

One of the natural outgrowths of intentionally placing yourself “in the great congregation” (or in a little church of 20-30 on a Sunday) is not so much the fellowship that may result.  We have to work at that.  It is that sense that you belong to something larger than you alone.  The mistake we often make is in thinking the something larger is the church.  The reality is that what we belong to is the Lord. 
And the passage goes on (at verse 15) to say, astoundingly, that God is so huge that he functions as both father and mother to us in a way no single earthly parent could.

Revelation 21
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

We belong to God himself, not to a location.  We are not members of this church or that church (if it were up to me, church membership as a qualification for voting would be done away with).   We are members of one another, the Bible tells us, and grafted into the vine of Christ.  He is the temple.  We worship together not toward an altar, but toward a presence.

Matthew 12
But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

There are lots of reasons why the “principalities in heavenly places” don’t want you to really worship God.  When corporate praise breaks out in your church, your home, or anywhere else, watch out!  There are very real, very malevolent forces arrayed against it.  These would take away praise, take away joy, take away security, and would very gladly find you cowering under that rock or under the blankets you tentatively crawled out of this morning.   Don’t listen to them.  Cling to the truth: you are the servant of the Lord this morning – right now! -- whom he has chosen, with whom his soul is well pleased.

Jon


PS… here’s a link to the Daily Office Lectionary.   Once you’re there, use the calendar on the right side to pick today’s date, and it will take you to the passages assigned for today (or any day!)   http://www.esvonline.org/devotions/bcp/2011-01-06/

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