Archives for posts with tag: mercy

As is my custom I was present for worship at church last Sunday. The sermon was based on Micah 6:8. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The following was the Pastoral Prayer at that service of worship.

Loving God, You are a great God and a good God. Compassion, kindness, mercy, and generosity match Your power and might. You are great and worthy of our praise.

We gather in this place this morning after a week of tumult and trouble. We need respite from the anger, hostility, and harshness of our world. Our spirits are troubled by the struggles for power and control. Our hearts ache for those who are in distress and face an uncertain future.

We pray for those whose names have just been mentioned in our hearing and for the persons and needs that we hold in our hearts. For all who are sick, suffering, or mourning we pray that they will feel Your great love and will be reassured that they are in Your hands and that You offer healing, help, and hope.

We pray for persons whom we know only through the news media. For the accusers and the accused, the victims and the violators, the powerful and the vulnerable, the leaders and the followers, persons in places of responsibility and the common laborer. O Divine Creator, help us to realize that all are Yours and Your grace is available to everyone.

Help us to understand that You call us to do what is just, to adhere to the high standards of morality that we expect from others, to show constant love and generosity to our neighbors, co-workers, family, and strangers and help not to think too highly of ourselves as we live in in community and in fellowship with You.

Help us and all people everywhere to experience the grace You offer through Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Give us the will to follow His example of justice accompanied by mercy and kindness.

Father God, teach us how to live with a sense of right and wrong. Encourage us and guide us in our efforts to provide equity and protection for the innocent while promoting justice and mercy for all people. Help us to show love to our fellow humans and to be loyal in our love toward You.

Hear our prayer, O Lord, as we join our voices to pray as Jesus taught us:

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Jamie Jenkins

O Lord, we praise you because you are a great and mighty God. We praise you because you are a tender and compassionate God. We praise you because you are an all knowing and wise God. We praise you because you are a God of grace and mercy.

In recent days we have witnessed the unthinkable in Nice, Istanbul, Baghdad, Dhaka, Dallas, Orlando, Minneapolis….

Every day seems to bring a new disaster. Every day people are killed because of their religion, race, gender, lifestyle, or money. Every day children lose their innocence and often their lives. Every day people die because someone chooses to drive under the influence. Life seems to have little value to so many.

With the psalmist (Ps. 13) we ask, “O Lord, how long?” How long will our enemies cause unthinkable pain and suffering? How long will injustice prevail? How long will greed and hatred wreak havoc in our world?

With the prophet Habakkuk (Hab. 1) we know, “There is strife, and conflict abounds… (It seems that your) instruction is ineffective. Justice does not endure because the wicked surround (us) … (and) Justice becomes warped.”

Lord, we confess this morning that it is easy to get discouraged and become despondent because of the evil that seems to be everywhere. But we “trust in your unfailing love; our hearts rejoice in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).

Our hearts are broken and our spirits are sad because we have experienced the “sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, (that) threaten the soul with infinite loss.” But with the hymn writer, we declare that your grace is greater than anything. In the face of so much pain and sorrow, so much grief and fear, we claim that “marvelous, infinite, matchless grace” to cover us and our world in these difficult days. Our hope is in You, O Lord.

We pray for the victims of violence and injustice everywhere. We pray for those who are responsible for such heinous crimes. We pray for our world and all people that you created.

We pray not as a ritual without meaning but we believe that authentic prayer prompts action. It affects behavior. So, Lord, help us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but transform us by the renewing of our minds. Help us to think right so we can act right. Bring out the best in us. Guard us from becoming so well-adjusted to our culture that we fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix our attention on you, O Lord. Change us from the inside out so that our lives will be pleasing to you. Deep within our hearts we really do want to be like Jesus and we want our lives to reflect Him.

Hear our prayer, O Lord, for we offer it and ourselves in the name of Jesus. Amen.

*This is the Pastoral Prayer that I offered today (July 17, 2016) at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia

Ash Wednesday 4Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This forty day period (not counting Sundays) ends on Easter Sunday. This year it is from February 10 (Ash Wednesday) to March 27 (Easter), 2016.Lent 1

Lent is practiced by most, but not all, Christian groups. The emphasis is on spiritual purification, meditation and penance. The focus is not supposed to be on one’s self, but one’s relationship with God. Although it is not required, people often give up something during Lent as a means of self-discipline and identifying with the sacrifices that Christ made. Many choose instead to take on something during Lent like reading more of the Bible, diligently observing daily devotional times, or completing some work of charity.

Mardi GrasI grew up in Mobile, Alabama where Mardi Gras was a big part of our culture. However, I did not make the connection of this time of revelry with spirituality. I did not know that Mardi Gras meant “Fat Tuesday.” Since Lent always starts on a Wednesday, the day before is always a Tuesday. And it’s called “Fat” or “Great” because it’s associated with great food and parties. I suspect that most people see Mardi Gras as a big party that has little to do with preparing for the Lenten season of repentance and simplicity.

Fat Tuesday

According to The Upper Room,* “In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Since they didn’t want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they cleaned out their cabinets. They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available. It was a great feast!”

“Why ashes? In Jewish and Christian history, ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Mortality, because when we die, our bodies eventually decompose and we become dust/dirt/ash/whatever. Repentance, because long ago, when people felt remorse for something they did, they would put ashes on their head and wear “sackcloth” (scratchy clothing) to remind them that sin is pretty uncomfortable and leads to a sort of death of the spirit. This was their way of confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness.” (The Upper Room)*

I gathered with others for Ash Wednesday service last night. At the beginning of the service we joined in saying,

O God of endless mercy, we gather on this day to acknowledge our mortality and our complete reliance on you for compassion and forgiveness. If there is any hope for us, O God, our hope rests completely in you. Have mercy, O God, have mercy. You are the source of our mortal life. You are the source of our spiritual life. You are the destiny to whom we return in the hope of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior. May the mark of mortality remind us of our dust-to-dust existence, and draw us nearer to you.

Ash Wednesday 2

Later we knelt at the altar and one of the ministers applied the sign of the cross on our foreheads and reminded us of our mortality and our need for repentance and forgiveness. Then we united in the Prayer of Confession:

Most Holy God, your Son came into the world to save sinners. We come to this season of repentance, confessing our unworthiness, asking for new and honest hearts, and seeking the healing power of your forgiveness. Almighty and Everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are repentant; create and make in us new and contrite hearts, so that we, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our separation from you, may obtain from you perfect remission and forgiveness. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Ash Wednesday 1

We have started the Lenten journey which will lead us to the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. During these days with God’s help, I hope to become a better person and follower of Christ. I pray that the days of Lent will do the same for you.

Jamie Jenkins

*The Upper Room is a global ministry dedicated to supporting the spiritual formation of Christians seeking to know and experience God more fully. From its beginning as devotional guide, The Upper Room has grown to include publications, programs, prayer support, and other resources to help believers of all ages and denominations move to a deeper level of faith and service. The Upper Room is a part of Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

I received an email with the subject: “First and Final Notice.” It seemed both ominous and inconsiderate. Why would you notify me of something only one time? If I needed to take some action, should I not be allowed more than one chance? At least you would think I could have the opportunity to discuss the matter if I disagreed with the sending party.

Last chance 1

I thought, “Hey, cut me some slack.” If I need to do something, I will do it but don’t slam the door on me if additional communication would be helpful.

“First and Final Notice” is woefully lacking in “grace” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving.” Kindness. Common courtesy.

Philosophically and theologically speaking, grace is getting what you don’t deserve. It is unlike justice (getting what you deserve) which we often expect for others or mercy (not getting what you deserve) which seems to be the “right” thing for us. Maybe I should not have expected leniency (grace) but the ultimatum seemed like harsh justice.

Grace 1

Maybe I am just like the child whose parent is constantly saying, “I am not going to tell you again.” After hearing that false promise so many times, I begin to expect to be given another chance. No second chance seems so unreasonable. Unfair.

Last chance 2

I understand that sometimes an ultimatum is necessary. However, an ultimatum is generally the final demand in a series of requests. Quite the opposite of “first and final notice.”

I wonder how often I communicate “first and final” by my attitude. Unbending. Absolute. No other options. Not open to discussion. I hope my demeanor is very much in contrast to that closed-minded and harsh approach.

I am not suggesting that anything goes. I do not believe that everything is negotiable. There are principles upon which my life is based. There are some absolutes. There are some things that are “right” and “wrong” but I have learned that things are not “black or white” as often as I once thought they were.

Grace 7

Although there are instances when we need to stand our ground, the world would be a better place if “grace” were offered more often. I think that is how God relates to us. We are accountable for our attitudes and actions but God offers forgiveness and reconciliation generously. We would do well to do likewise.

Jamie Jenkins