An Advent Prayer

An Advent Prayer reflecting on themes in Isaiah 61

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for you deliver your people from their bondage. You set the Hebrews free from Pharaoh’s hand, led them through the Red Sea and established your covenant with them through your servant Moses. When your people were taken into exile, you overthrew the kings of Babylon and brought the captives home, just as your prophets had promised. In the fullness of time, you sent your son Jesus to deliver your people from their bondage to sin and death. You poured out your Holy Spirit to establish your church, so that all men and women everywhere might come into a life-giving relationship with your only begotten son.

As we wait for his appearing in final victory, we pray that you would deliver your oppressed church throughout the world. Save it from those who seek to harm it or destroy it. Deliver it from the schisms and heresies that threaten it to overcome it. Overthrow the sin and selfishness that too often characterize our life as Christians. Guide those who lead the church with your Holy Spirit and empower its members with the gifts they will need for the mission you have given us.

We also pray for the world still in bondage to sin and decay. We see the power of sin and despair at work every day as we watch the news, but we also know that suffering and hopelessness invade corners of the world that the cameras never see.

Give good news to the poor. Bind up the brokenhearted. Comfort those who mourn. Give hope to those who despair. Bring peace especially to our communities still divided by race and class and politics. Let our cities, towns and villages all be places of joy and beauty, so that all might give praise to you.

Draw all the people of the world to know you, to put their faith in your Son Jesus Christ and to love and serve you in the power of the Holy Spirit, for it is in Christ’s name that we pray. Amen.

Do Even Dogs Need Ritual?

Dog-in-santa-hatHumans are liturgical beings. The rituals and rhythms of our existence give meaning to life. They help us know our our place in the world.

Have we inherited the need for ritual in the genetic code that we share with our animal kin? Is it literally built into our DNA?

My dog demonstrates a strong need for ritual. Let me give you three examples. When I leave for work, he follows me into the garage and jumps up to put his front paws in my chest before I get in the car. It’s not primarily about affection; he seems more interested in taking a look down the street than in anything that I am doing. When I return home, he jumps on the bed to lean against me when I take off my combat boots. After supper, he carries his own leash when we walk home from the mailbox.

He repeats his rituals in the same way, at the same time, day in and day out. He becomes upset and insistent if he thinks that he’ll be unable to complete them. They don’t put food in his bowl or provide any other tangible benefit. They are just a part of his expected daily rhythm.  I don’t think that they convey “meaning” in the human sense, but I do think that their repetition makes him comfortable about his existence and his place in the world.

Who are the Moravians?

moravian-sealWho are the Moravians? The Moravian Church is formally known as the Unitas Fratrum, or in English, the Unity of the Brethren. I came to know the Moravians as a student in Winston-Salem which is rich in Moravian history. The Moravians were protestant before Luther, forerunners of modern evangelicalism, pioneers of the Christian missionary movement and teachers of John Wesley.

Protestant before Luther

In its earliest form, the Moravian Church predates the Lutheran Reformation. Jan Hus was a Catholic priest from Bohemia who tried to reform the Church in the early 15th century.

Many of Hus’ ideas presaged those of the Lutheran Reformation, and in 1415 he was burned at the stake for heresy. Following Hus’ death, some of his followers began a rebellion against the Holy Roman Empire. The rebels were defeated, but Hus’ ideas continued to inspire Christians in Bohemia.

In 1457, some of Hus’ followers decided to try a different approach. They founded the Unitas Fratrum as an autonomous church, seeking to return Christianity to a more primitive form. The Brethren church existed as a confessional community apart from the dominant culture and the apparatus of state support. The Brethren were a voluntary association, not a state church.

Continue reading Who are the Moravians?

A Christian pastor in Caesar's army