Archive - Devotionals RSS Feed

For the Love of Liturgy

A_Bronwyn

We received the warmest possible welcome when we arrived at the church that was to become our new home. We had moved half way around the world and we were lonely. On that first Sunday we visited, complete strangers offered us the use of their camping gear, in case we wanted to attend the all-church camp-out the following weekend. Week after week, the gospel was preached, and we were loved. We were bowled over, encouraged, included.

And yet, I grieved.

I grieved because we had been in a small church, and this was a large one. I grieved because we didn’t know the words to the songs, and it made me feel out. I grieved for another reason, too, although it took me several weeks to be able to name the sadness that pressed on me each Sunday.

I grieved because I missed the liturgy.

Our new church was buzzword compliant: it had communityworship, biblical preaching, and God-focused and people-loving congregants. Those were non-negotiables we had been looking for and we were so grateful to be there.

But they did not have a liturgy.

At first, I didn’t understand why I missed it so much. I was not raised in a Christian family and my first taste of the faith had been in exuberantly charismatic happy-clappy circles. However, in my college years I had found myself in a little church plant that met in a university lecture hall. There were no robes or smells and bells—but it was a ­low-church Anglican group, and every service had aspects of the Book of Common Prayer woven into the worship.

At first, I hated it. The congregational readings seemed rote, and I wondered how heartfelt a prayer truly could be if one were reading it off a page. But as the weeks stretched into months, and then into years, I found my soul gratefully sighing into the rhythms of the ancients.

The liturgy taught me to pray in a way I hadn’t before. The collects took the words of scripture and gave me words of intercession for God’s people and God’s world which had been breathed by the saints for centuries before me. I was grateful and aware that I was learning to pray.

The liturgy taught me to participate in a way I hadn’t before. Reading prayers and scripture responsively during a worship service forced me to see myself as part of a congregation, rather than as part of an audience. Communal prayers expressed the priesthood of all believers in a beautiful and practical way. Prayer was no longer something I did at home, while others prayed on my behalf at church. No, now we prayed together. I was grateful and aware that I was learning about corporate worship.

However, it was only after we left and I found myself grieving that I realized I had come to love one more thing about the liturgy we had left behind, and that was this: the liturgy taught me the beauty of beginning all worship with repentance.

For nearly ten years, each of our corporate worship services had begun with a prayer of confession:

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against thee
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in thy will,
and walk in thy ways,
to the glory of thy Name. Amen.

We began every service with a time of reflection and confession for the things we had done wrong, or things we had failed to do right. And then, in every service, the words of grace were spoken over our community.

The Almighty and merciful Lord grant you absolution and
remission of all your sins, true repentance, amendment of
life, and the grace and consolation of his Holy Spirit. Amen

Week after week, we began our worship by being called to the carpet for a good, hard look at who we really were. No matter how lipsticked and well-put-together I may have appeared when entering the building, the first few minutes of the service always undid me. The real me, the authentic me, the one who disappointed and screwed up and underperformed and overcompensated—THAT me was acknowledged. And then, O glorious words of grace, that same foolish and fallible me was forgiven and reminded of his love and grace.

The real me was seen. The real me was forgiven. And so, the real me was now free to worship. Restored and forgiven. Known and loved.

I love my new church. I love the faces I see each week, the songs we sing, and the way that people dive fiercely into loving, serving and seeking God. But every now and then I find myself feeling a little too glossy on a Sunday morning, and the smile on my face betrays the ache in my heart.

On those days, I miss the liturgy most of all, and sometimes I find I need to stop singing (yet-another) wonderful Chris Tomlin song, and quiet my heart for just long enough to remember those words, “God, I confess that I have sinned against you, in thought and word and deed, and in what I have left undone….”

Weekly, I need those moments of true repentance, so that I can enter into the moments of true joy.

This article was written by Bronwyn Lea (www.bronlea.com) and first appeared in She Loves Magazine (shelovesmagazine.com)

http://cesa.org.za/for-the-love-of-liturgy/

 

Hopelessly Devoted (to Tony):No Longer an Orphan

Women’s Retreat Registration

REST.
VCV Women’s Retreat
February 7-9, 2014

Forrest Hills Mountain Resort & Conf. Center
Dahlonega, GA

bear

We invite you to step out of your normal day-to-day routine and join us for a restful weekend retreat in the beautiful setting of Forrest Hills Mtn. Resort.  The weekend will entail a few big-group sessions led by various women in our church community, small-group time, and plenty of free-time to relax by the fire, go for a hike, partake in one of our group optional activities, or whatever it is that provides you with a restful, enjoyable weekend.  Mark Miller and Melissa Walker will lead us in worship.  We hope you can join us for a weekend of hearing afresh the life-giving, liberating news of the Gospel and the deep rest it offers.

You can check-in anytime after 4pm on Friday, Feb. 7th.  Our first session will begin later that evening.  Checkout is 9AM Sunday morning so everyone has a chance to make it back to VCV for worship.

Cost:  $125 for shared room (queen bed) / $195 for single room
Contact:  Carlyn Defnall at [email protected]

To register for the retreat, fill out the form below!  

 

Advent Daily Devotional: Day 17

Prayer
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Psalm 46
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though hits waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Galatians 4:4-7
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Even in these “days of good cheer,” it’s easy for us to get trapped in the mindset/heartset of slaves and orphans. So let’s allow Dr. Luther bring us home on this last day of Advent.

(From his commentary of Galatians):

The fact that the Spirit of Christ in our hearts cries unto God and makes intercession for us with groanings should reassure us greatly. However, there are many factors that prevent such full reassurance on our part. We are born in sin. To doubt the good will of God is an inborn suspicion of God with all of us. Besides, the devil, our adversary, goes about seeking to devour us by roaring: “God is angry at you and is going to destroy you forever.” In all these difficulties we have only one support, the Gospel of Christ. To hold on to it, that is the trick. 

Christ cannot be perceived with the senses. We cannot see Him. The heart does not feel His helpful presence. Especially in times of trials a Christian feels the power of sin, the infirmity of his flesh, the goading darts of the devil, the agues of death, the scowl and judgment of God. All these things cry out against us. The Law scolds us, sin screams at us, death thunders at us, the devil roars at us. In the midst of the clamor the Spirit of Christ cries in our hearts: “Abba, Father.” And this little cry of the Spirit transcends the hullabaloo of the Law, sin, death, and the devil, and finds a hearing with God.

The Spirit cries in us because of our weakness. Because of our infirmity the Holy Ghost is sent forth into our hearts to pray for us according to the will of God and to assure us of the grace of God. Let the Law, sin, and the devil cry out against us until their outcry fills heaven and earth. The Spirit of God outcries them all. Our feeble groans, “Abba, Father,” will be heard of God sooner than the combined racket of hell, sin, and the Law.

Let us never doubt the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, but make up our minds that God is pleased with us, that He looks after us, and that we have the Holy Spirit who prays for us. With the Holy Spirit in our hearts crying, ‘Abba, Father,’ there can be no doubt that God has adopted us for His children and that our subjection to the Law has come to an end.” We are now the free children of God. We may now say to the Law: “Mister Law, you have lost your throne to Christ. I am free now and a son of God. You cannot curse me any more.” Do not permit the Law to lie in your conscience. Your conscience belongs to Christ. Let Christ be in it and not the Law.

 

 

Advent Daily Devotional: Day 16

Prayer
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalm 62:5-8
5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

Zephaniah 3:14-18
14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.

Homily
God’s Smile
A wise man once asked me, “When you think of God’s face, what expression do you see?” Great question.

When I wallow in my sin I see stern disappointment, passive indifference, or outright rage on God’s face. According to the prophet Zephaniah he wears none of those expressions.

Because of Jesus, the judgments we deserve have been taken away. Jesus dropped the charges! We’re not under condemnation anymore, because Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, was condemned in our place.

So now God rejoices over us, his children. He’s glad when he thinks of us. He quiets us with his love, right in the midst of the neurotic and anxious recesses of our souls. And here’s what really amazes me – he sings over us. Loudly! All because he loves us.

So, Christian, when you think of God’s face you can confidently know this: his smile is on you. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Page 1 of 612345»...Last »
Ebola