Boast

Ezra 8:21-23
“There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.  I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’  So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.”

Jeremiah 9:23b-24
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.”

Galatians 6:14
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

All power, wisdom and matchless majesty is yours, O God.

boastWhat can we claim that is not a benefit from your hand?  Yet surpassing all is the wonder of how you stoop low to allow us to gaze upon you.

Fill us with awe and delight that our Lover has laid down his life for us.  May we boast only in your accomplished work to prove to all people the faithfulness of your name.

For Christ’s sake, who preserved the integrity of your word by becoming the protection from our great Enemy, we come boldly before your throne.

Listen to ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ by Ordinary Time

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Breath

Genesis 2:7
“…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Ezekiel 37:1, 9-10
“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones…Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’’  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”

John 20:20b-22
“The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’  And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”

Sacred Spirit of God, you move in currents as mysterious as the wind.

You have blessed us with the intimacy of your breath, stirring life into our dry souls.  We feel a holy warmth in your approach.

breathRecreate us, O Creator.  Resurrect us with the essence of your Spirit so that we become a vast army prepared for the work of your kingdom.

We ask this in Christ’s name, whose divine breath was paused and bones dried in death to fill us with life everlasting.

Listen to ‘Breathe on Me, Breath of God‘ by Lisa Bloecher

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Recognized

Daniel 5:1, 5-6, 10-12
“King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them…Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall…His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way…The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall.  ‘O king, live forever!’ she said.  ‘Don’t be alarmed!  Don’t look so pale!  There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him…Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.’”

Matthew 27:19
“While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.’”

1 John 4:5-6
“They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.  This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”

Holy Spirit, with persistence and gentleness you impart all truth.

recognizeYou mystify the proud but speak through lesser voices.  Even in the courts of the worldly you declare yourself, and inspire receptive hearts to testify to your wisdom.

Remove our vain thoughts so that we recognize your voice.  Humble us by using unexpected advisors to offer sound judgement when we are perplexed.

For the sake of Jesus Christ we ask this, the unrecognized revealer who came from God to write the truth on our hearts.

Listen to ‘A Voice is Sounding’ by Sojourn

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Tents

2 Samuel 7:4-6
“That night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying, ‘Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says:  Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?  I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day.  I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.’”

Luke 9:57-58
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’  Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’”

2 Corinthians 5:1
“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

Eternal One, you are the immortal God who deigned to become familiar with humanity.

tentFor a time you allow us to stretch our canopy in a place that is not meant to be our true home, and you join us in our wanderings.

Help us to remember that while our fading bodies are no more than a skin of shelter pitched in a hostile country, our souls dwell in the home you have built for us.

Thank you that we can have imperishable hope because Christ tented within a perishable body, and was staked to a bare hillside in order to welcome us over heaven’s threshold.

Listen to ‘This Is Not My Place of Resting’ by Jeremy Casella

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Forty

Deuteronomy 8:2
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”

Luke 4:1-2a
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”

Hebrews 4:14-15
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who in unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”

Jehovah God, you have chosen us and you long for us to choose you.

You lead us into the lonely wilderness so that by our hunger we learn of your provision, in our wandering we learn of your purpose, and in our laments we learn the strength of your word.

fortyWhen we are tempted to make an idol of our self-sufficiency or believe we are entitled to grumble, correct us with a vision of the Tempter’s will for us to be swallowed in the sands of self-pity.  Turn our eyes then upon the One who walks the path with us in unremitting humility.

This we ask in the sinless name of Jesus, who experienced a generation of human trials, remaining faultless in each test so that in faith we can claim his perfection.

Listen to ‘A Higher, Deeper Praise’ by Ordinary Time

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Riddle

Judges 14:6a, 8-9a, 12a, 14a
“The Spirit of the Lord came upon [Samson] in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands…Some time later, when he went back to marry [the Philistine woman], he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass.  In it was a swarm of bees and some honey, which he scooped out with his hands and ate…‘Let me tell you a riddle,’ Samson said to [his companions]…‘Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.’”

Matthew 26:26
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’”

1 Corinthians 1:18-19
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’”

Holy and mysterious God, your designs are unfathomable.

riddleWe confess an ignorance to your purposes.  We do not see the sacred in the ordinary; we are blind to the profound.

Explain the enigma of your word to us by your Spirit.  Enlighten our dull minds to see that Christ is all and is in all—and that salvation’s riddle is understood in the cross.

By the incomprehensible power of Christ’s broken body, the strong out of which comes the sweet for us to feast upon, we humbly present our prayers.

Listen to ‘The Mystery of Godliness’ by Bruce Benedict

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Beauty

Isaiah 61:1a, 2b-3a
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”

Mark 1:40-41
“A man with leprosy came to [Jesus] and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.  ‘I am willing,’ he said.  ‘Be clean!’”

Song of Songs 2:1
“(Beloved)  I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.”

Lover of the unloved, your compassionate eye sees unlikely beauty in us.

Though in the sight of the world our disfigurements bring us rejection, you come close to us and touch us, and call us exquisite.

beauty

Take our shame and bestow a loveliness upon us that speaks only of your transforming hand.  Look upon our despised faces and name us beloved, so that we become radiant with the strength of your love.

Through Jesus we ask this, who understands the marred and rejected, and out the ashes of his death we claim our adorning crowns.

Listen to ‘My Heart is Restless‘ by Wen Reagan

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