Mission First!

Archive for the ‘Pray for Mission First’ Category


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December 23 Call to Prayer


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by Eugene W. James, Jr.

Inspiration

The glow of inspiration warms us; this holy rapture springs from the seeds of the Divine mind sown in man. — Ovid

When Dr. Sharon Watkins introduced the concept of Mission First! to the College of Regional Ministers, I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve never mentioned this, but it was similar to an idea that has floated in my mind for years, but I wasn’t quite sure how to articulate it and didn’t have any idea how to go about making it happen. I believe when people have input in creating something, they are inclined to put effort into it being successful. I would think that this is an expected outcome of all the work coming out of the Mission Gatherings and the Mission Council. And, quite frankly, it just makes sense to involve as many people as possible in the discernment of where God is leading the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) United States and Canada.

It’s my hope that along with the critical information that is being obtained from all the discussions and deliberations, that inspiration will continuously percolate to the surface and permeate every phase of this initiative. “…seeds of the Divine mind…”; the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Gracious and loving Jehovah, holy and righteous is your name; you are worthy of all praise, glory, and honor. We are grateful for the diligent efforts of so many Disciples in so many places as we strive to understand your will for us as we seek to truly be a movement for wholeness in a world, a country that has become even more fragmented. Though the task may seem daunting, help us to put our hope and trust in you. Help us to remember that which seems immensely difficult can be accomplished by the strength you make available to those who trust in you.

Thank you for the dedicated and committed persons at every level of our structure who have given of their time, gifts, and resources to Mission First! Anoint them in a very special way; may their hearts be fertile soil as your seeds of inspiration are sown. We thank you even now for a bountiful harvest.

In Jesus name, Amen

 

 

December 16 Call to Prayer


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by Lori Tapia

Gracious and Merciful God:

Oh loving Lord, you know all, see all and examine all, receive the gratitude of our hearts knowing that we come before you humbled by your grace and mercy, and pausing to intercede for the Mission First process. While a gathering of the Mission Council has moved the process into the next stage, only your Holy Spirit knows the direction of your will, your plan and purpose.

We thank you for your faithfulness, knowing this is uncompromised. Help us to understand that every step of the process is a step into worship, a piece of the bigger puzzle of your Kingdom. We recognize that as your children, we are called to be a beacon of your light, to be a witness of courage and humility, a people who pray and seek your glory.

We pray that you continue to be with every member of the Mission Council during this time of discernment, filling their cups to the overflow with wisdom. We thank you for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who has stepped out in bold action to hear your voice, to seek your guidance and your Spirit. It is the desire of our hearts to be led by you, in step with your Spirit, trusting that your Word is with us as a light to our feet, and a lamp to our path.

We are a people called to mission, a people called to step up and act boldly in a fragmented world, a world that strives on friction, division and contention. Strengthen us beyond comfort to a place of courage and action as we collaborate, partner and strive to walk in joy, love and mercy, witnessing to the world around us the power of your Holy Spirit in your Church.

Remind us every day as your followers that mission is not an occasional event, but an everyday call on our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. Break down the walls of division and help us to build bridges of understanding and communication that enables us to go deeper into relationship with one another, with ourselves and with you.Teach us to be your Church, a church of mercy, grace, and love, a church that extends a helping hand to the one in need, clothes the naked, feeds the hungry and stands against the injustice that perpetuates oppression in a world you have set free.

Oh gracious God, in the next steps of this Mission First process, we seek to hear from you, and wait for your move. Open the eyes of our hearts, do your will in us and through us as and may we bring honor and glory to your name in the process. We pray in the matchless name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

December 2 – Prayer for the Mission Council


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by Nadine Burton

Gracious and Loving God:

We pause today to enter into a time of prayer around the Mission Gathering Initiative. We thank you for the work of your Holy Spirit throughout this process, understanding that it is prayerful and necessary Kingdom work! We recognize that WE are beginning where a great cloud of witness ended, so we approach this work with humility and courage.

This weekend, leaders from around the country are meeting to pray and listen, to discern and discover ways to move forward with mission imperatives. We thank you for every Mission Gathering group that gathered in 2016 to share in this ministry of discernment.  We thank you for every facilitator and team, who took time to navigate and discover meaningful ways to uncover the treasures of creativity, wisdom and dialogue.  We thank you for the Mission Implementation Team, whose wisdom and guidance continue to lead us to a place of discovery.

We pray that you move us beyond complacency, status, bickering, and selfishness.  We are joyful that as we seek to give the best of ourselves, you desire to give us the best of your Spirit. Move us to collaborate for the good of the church!  Encourage us to not waiver to the left or to the right, but to center our hearts and minds on the transformational work.  We desire to walk worthy of the calling that you call us to walk with mission priorities. We are the Church! We are hopeful that who we are becoming will be a spring board into new wineskins of mercy and justice.

As followers of Jesus Christ, remind us that we are called to mission in our everyday, ordinary lives: Inside the church, outside the church, wherever we live, work, and have our being in you.  We dare to touch lives to the fullest, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to structure our lives around grace, to uncover the depths of your love and mercy toward us, as we extend the same grace and mercy to others. We are strengthened by a witness and perseverance that calls us to think more highly of others than we do ourselves.  While we profess our love for the Christian Church (DOC), awaken us to the realities that we face. So that we will seek remedies for injustice, to give hope to those who are marginalized, to provide food for those who are hungry, a lamp for transforming churches, and unity and wholeness for broken communities.

Oh God, in the coming days, help us to see what you see, to hear what you hear, and TO move as you move. Open our hearts to do thy Holy will, to bring a “Good Report” on behalf of the Body of Christ. In Jesus name, this is our prayer. Amen.

November 25 Call to Prayer


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by Allen V. Harris

Philippians 4:4-9

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Isn’t it so like us human beings that when this or that doesn’t go the way it always has or the way we had hoped it would, that our minds go into a tailspin?  You had your day off planned perfectly (in your mind, at least) from the early morning yoga, to the coffee with a dear friend, to watching a good movie playing at the metroplex at night!  Ahhhhh!  Then something happens and your day changes dramatically: a friend calls from the hospital, your car needs to be transformed into a taxi for a group of teenagers, a distraught friend drops by unannounced, or the tickle in the back of your throat becomes a full-throttle sore throat.  Argh!  And, if you are like me, my mind then becomes my worst enemy, and I become obsessed with how things aren’t going my way – sometimes to the point that I jeopardize the rest of the day due to the depression or frustration in which my mind has chosen to dwell.

I’ve experienced the very same thing with congregations and mission.  Sometimes we get so caught up in how we have done this or that project or endeavor, as worthy as it may be, that we get thrown off course quickly if something doesn’t go quite our way when planning or implementing the mission.  The pancake supper to raise funds for Week Of Compassion seems impossible when the primary pancake-flipper decides to go to a family wedding that weekend.  The women’s shelter that has been the focus of your Christmas Angel Tree for decades closes and all the energy and enthusiasm seems to dissipate into thin air.  The pastor who was beloved and seemed to be taking your congregation into a bright and shiny future gets called to another church in another Region.  Darn it!  And then we worry.  We worry about funding.  We worry about energy.  We worry about numbers.  We worry about growing older.  And our worries get the best of us!  Well?  In the words of a great Indigo Girls song, “You can stand there and agonize, ‘Til your agony’s your heaviest load.”

The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Philippi, gives us solid words of advice about how to change our mind’s obsessive focus on the negative with a few helpful suggestions: “Rejoice!”  Gratitude is the greatest antidote to negative thinking.  “Let your gentleness be made know.”  Honest vulnerability, especially with those we know and trust and love, can transform hardened hearts. “Let your requests be made known to God.”  Pray.  Pray.  Pray.  “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”   Choosing to focus on the best life has to offer allows us to more fully receive the peace of God, which bypasses all human understanding.

When we as individuals or our congregations begin to fixate on how our perfect plans have been thrown into a tizzy or on how we cannot do what we’ve “always done before,” let us turn to Philippians 4 and remember that a refocusing of our minds might just refocus our hearts, and therefore our mission.  If we allow it, becoming a taxi to a bundle of teenagers might just be a ride overflowing with joy and laughter.  If we are open to God’s Spirit leading us, the loss of one mission focus might allow us to connect with new and more pressing needs in our community.  If we allow it, gratitude, vulnerability, prayer, and pondering that which is good might just change our lives.

Prayer: “O God, when life doesn’t go the way I had hoped and my anxieties and frustrations take over my mind, help me find a way to stop, refocus, and try a new path that I might continue to follow Jesus to where I am most needed in the world.  Amen.”

November 11 Call to Prayer


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Luke 6:27-30 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.

Jesus’ message often centered on turning conventional wisdom and custom on its head. He was an agent of change who asked his followers to consider an alternative future, a future in which the immediate reaction would not be revenge. In fact, in this lesson from Luke, he even encourages his followers – and by extension, us – to pray for those who abuse and even to give to those who rob you.

The Gospel offers us wisdom for today. Western culture has a marked tendency toward “me and mine” but the Way of Jesus is marked by reaching out, by walking alongside, by caring with and for others. Showing God’s love to the world is not an easy task, but it is ours to do as disciples – and Disciples.

As the first weekend in December approaches and the members of the Mission Council prepare to look at what more than 2,300 Disciples had to share, we pray that they will look beyond “conventional” wisdom for inspiration that comes from the Holy Spirit. We pray that they will have insights that will move us toward wholeness both nearby and around the globe. We pray that they will help us focus on God’s call for God’s Beloved Community.

Prayer: O Source of all we are and all we have, move us toward our call to bring wholeness to this divided world. We pray particularly for the Mission Council as they listen for the Spirit whispering through the people of God. We pray you will work and move in them to make God’s call to love our own.

November 4 Call to Prayer


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by Jim Cullumber

Haggai 2:4

Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts,

All Saints Sunday is this weekend. We use this occasion to recall the saints in our lives and our congregations – those people who showed courage by working through adversity, exemplifying faith for us and others. The saints include family members, but also include former pastors and Sunday school teachers, nursery attendants and choir directors, and the countless individuals who helped shape our faith. It is on their shoulders we stand today. God bless them!

It is right to celebrate the saints in our lives. Yet God reminds us that our work – our mission, if you will – is still in front of  us. We live in a world where there is suffering, loneliness, homelessness, discrimination, hatred. This list goes on and on. There will be future  generations who will look at us and what we did, how we lived our faith and the impact we made in our church, our communities and our world. Will they consider us as courageous saints? Or will our names simply be forgotten?

The prophet Haggai’s words today offer us encouragement, even in the strange days we now live. We need courage. We need to work for peace and justice. But we must remember we are not alone: “For I am with you,” says the Lord.

So even as we celebrate those who have nurtured our faith, let us re-commit ourselves to be an example of what is right in our world. Let us seek to be a church, in the words of Micah, that demonstrates true community, deep Christian spirituality and a passion for justice. With the Lord walking alongside us, let us have the courage to be the faithful people we are called to be.

Prayer: We give you thanks, O God, for the many saints of the faith who have touched our lives. Empower us to be that witness to future generations so that they, too, may be inspired for service in the name of Christ. Amen.

October 28 Call to Prayer


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Habakkuk 2:3 (NRSV)

For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.

John 17:20-21a

‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.’ – Jesus

Last summer’s Biennial Session of the National Convocation centered on verses from this section of Habakkuk – words of hope and vision. Mission First! is another way Disciples are focusing on hope and vision. With the help of the discernment of the Mission Council in December, we hope to have a sense of the call of God on our collective lives when we meet in Indianapolis in July.

The theme for the 2017 General Assembly comes from Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17. In our individualized Western culture sometimes it is a challenge to understand our call to think in terms of the good of all, but as Disciples, we have a head start. Community is essential to our understanding of life as ONE in Christ – ONE at the Table, ONE baptism, ONE God. And being part of our local communities outside the walls of our meeting places, walking alongside and accompanying others, is part of our call.

As Paul says, “If ONE member suffers, all suffer together with it; if ONE member is honored, all rejoice together with it,” in 1 Corinthians 12 (NRSV).

Prayer: Creator of All – you have given us the gift of community. We are so very grateful for every chance we have to gather whether in our local churches, our regions or with others across the denomination. Help us to remember we are not alone and that the love of ALL your children is in your very heart.

October 21 Call to Prayer


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by Patricia Donahoo

Luke 18:9-14 – The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Have we forgotten the value of humility? In our world today it seems that we often give credence to those who speak the loudest and who insist on being thought of as better than those around them. I fear we lose the inspiration to be the best ‘me’ we can be…instead, we are satisfied to be better than our neighbor or strive to drive our neighbor down so that I am in a better position.

It seems we judge, or are expected to judge, someone not on their own character but how that character compares to another…Like the Pharisee, “I thank you that I am not like other people.” Some of us have our ideas passed off as someone else’s or credit is taken for our hard work. While it is not just or fair, sometimes we realize that surrendering what might be good for our ego for the good of the group, or the world, can ultimately have the result we were hoping for and choose not to make the point. This requires humility, recognizing that the outcome for the good is what matters rather than how others think of us.

Displaying the gift of humility, however, does not mean self-deprecation. Each of us has gifts and talents and there is nothing to be gained by denying that God has blessed us with those. In fact, God can be glorified by claiming our gifts as God-given. With humility we can use our gifts giving glory to the giver of those gifts rather than trying to claim that glory as our own.

Prayer: Holy and Loving God, be with us that we may recognize that this mission and ministry is not our own, but your call on our lives. Help us to serve you and be the people you created us to be with various gifts that together we are fully equipped to do your will. Amen.

 

October 16 Call to Prayer


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Note: Our volunteer was unable to submit a prayer prompt this week. This commentary/sermon on the text is abridged from Rev. Amy Butler’s “Talk to the Preacher” sermon of Oct. 19, 2010 at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington DC found on the Patheos blog site.  If you would like to submit a prayer prompt, please e-mail  cwilliams@disciples.org for details.

Luke 18:1-8 New Revised Standard Version

1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.
3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’
4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,
5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.
7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?

“But I can say that, while it might be different than that of the early Christians, our context is also one in which we are dogged by hopelessness from time to time.  There are some days when we wonder, even if we don’t have the courage to say it out loud, if God is really listening to what we have to say because, well, there’s quite a bit around here that needs divine intervention.  We look around at our lives and our community and our world and, well, let’s be honest: it’s not hard to feel doubtful.

“We want to be hopeful people of faith. ….  But we still feel alone sometimes, and we wonder if God will come quickly to help us, that God will keep our lives, as the Psalmist insists, or whether we’re offering up our deep pain and hopeless wondering to an empty, dark void.

“Our Calvary context this morning specifically is the context of stewardship, of the reminder that all of our lives belong, not to us, but to God.  And we’ve each been led in one way or another to plant our lives in this place, in this community of faith, to live in community with each other remembering always that corporately and together: we belong to God.

“It all sounds great at first, doesn’t it?  … We challenge each other to live the radical Gospel Jesus came to preach as we grow and build this community of faith together, tending it carefully and making it ready for those who are still in need of a place like Calvary Baptist Church.

“Aww, that’s so nice.  I think we can all remember the first blush of love, when we encountered this family of faith and found, unbelievably, the perfect place for us.

“But, life goes on, as it has a tendency to do.  This beautiful church becomes the subject of long and (some would say) torturous committee meetings during which we struggle with all our might to take care of this physical plant we’ve inherited.  And this wonderful, friendly, diverse community of faith, with a little bit of living, almost inevitably from time to time becomes a community of . . . human beings, that is, people who are sometimes not so friendly, who often don’t understand each other, and who, even despite their best efforts, sometimes allow their differences to divide them rather then bring them together.

“And the discovery that this place, this holy, wonderful place, is not as perfect or beautiful or spiritual fulfilling all the time as we had originally thought . . . well, this can be a little disillusioning, can’t it?  … [S]ome days it can seem just as devoid of God as everything else.  And those thoughts are enough to maybe even make you want to pack it all in and head home…

“Perhaps Luke, if he had been writing to us, would have said that it’s here, in these moments, that the parable of the persistent widow speaks to our context.

“How better could we, the people of Calvary Baptist Church, live the lives of faith we’ve been given in a world devoid of faith and lacking in hope, than remembering that we belong, not to the many things that pull at our lives demanding our attention or to the whims that drive our behavior most of the time, but rather . . . we belong to God.

“And because we belong to God, we will keep offering everything we have and everything we are with the brave and faith-filled hope that God is here, and God’s work is well underway.”
 Prayer: Jesus, it is not easy to stay hopeful. Give us the persistence and drive to bring that special brand of hope to the world that only God can give. Amen

October 7 Call to Prayer


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by Bethany Watkins Lowery

Psalm 66: 1-12 (NRSV)

Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2   sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise.
3 Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you,
sing praises to your name.’
Selah 

5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
7   who rules by his might for ever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let the rebellious not exalt themselves.
Selah 

8 Bless our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept us among the living,
and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid burdens on our backs;
12 you let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
* 

As Hurricane Matthew continues to make its way from the Caribbean to the southern United States, we have seen what destruction is possible with over 140 people dead (mostly in Haiti) and many communities destroyed by Thursday afternoon. We lament the loss of life and livelihood that is already known, and we fear what might come as the storm nears and grows in intensity.

The words of praise and glory in the psalm may seem strange in the face of this fierce storm. The psalmist is writing from the other side of the Exodus salvation… and we are still on the front end, stuck between the un-parted Red Sea and Egyptian army. We can see the destructive force coming.

Yet, we do know that our God is awesome and glorious and worthy of praise. We know that salvation and new life is always possible through our miraculous God. And, we also know that God calls on us – God’s beloved children – to be a part of God’s great acts of deliverance.

The psalmist invokes “all the earth” and reminds us that what happens to us happens to us all, for we are all woven into the fabric of God’s delightful creation. We are the invitation to “come and see what God has done.”

Prayer: O, awesome God, we know of your many deeds. Guide us to offer hope in the face of hopelessness. Use us as vessels of your restorative power.  Help us sing praises to your name through our living testimony. Amen.


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