Scholarship Award Luncheon Prayer

Holy God, creator of all, you give your sons and daughters the ability to acquire knowledge and you rejoice when they gain true wisdom. We ask to know the blessing of your presence here this afternoon as we honor these young scholars.

We thank you for the food we share, for the work of this organization and for the generosity of those who made these scholarships possible.

We praise you for the leadership, intelligence and creativity that we see in these young adults. We thank you for caring teachers and mentors who nurtured their minds and shaped their character. We thank you for friends and parents who supported and encouraged them.

You helped them become who they are; now help them grow into the men and women they can become.

Be with them and strengthen them for whatever the future holds. Lead them in the paths that are best for them. Help them fully develop the gifts of mind, body and spirit that you have given them. Use them to make the world a better place for everyone. Guide them in the way of truth and life. For the sake of your Holy Name, Amen.

Looking for the Easter Vigil

The United Methodist Book of Worship contains an order for the Easter Vigil, a beautiful and moving liturgy that dates back to Christian antiquity. The service, which takes 2 – 3 hours to complete, begins outside with the kindling of a fire, from which the Pascal Candle is lit. The congregation processes inside by candlelight for the opening liturgy and the reading of the Old Testament story of creation and redemption. The readings are interspersed with prayers and psalms (or hymns). Permit me to recommend highly the responsorial chanting of the psalms. Be a monk for a few hours. The chants echoing in the darkness are a taste of heaven. It feels as if one is actually a participant in the great divine drama. The liturgy of the word concludes with readings from the New Testament and a sermon. The service then moves to the sacrament Holy Baptism and a renewal of baptismal vows by the entire congregation. The service concludes with a celebration of Holy Communion and the normal closing elements of worship.

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Skip the Atonement Theories on Good Friday

Today is the day to tell the whole story of Jesus’ last hours in earthly flesh: his agony in the garden, his betrayal and abandonment by those closest to him, his arrest, his trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, his torture at the hands of soldiers, his crucifixion, his words and his conduct on the cross, the reaction of witnesses and bystanders, the heavenly events that accompanied his crucifixion, his death, anointing and burial. Telling the whole story is important.

This is not the day to reduce the gospel narrative to a bare fact – Jesus died – and then use that fact as a springboard for an exposition of the doctrine of atonement or the history of sacrifice in the Old Testament. It is not the day to reduce the meaning of his crucifixion to a single theory of salvation. The church’s observance of Good Friday focuses on retelling the story of Jesus’ last day, not on a theological system.

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The Holy Week of Memory

Washington D.C. is a city built on memories. Monuments to Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln dominate the skyline as visitors approach the Potomac River. Museums of American history and memorials to America’s wars line the National Mall. Statues of America’s heroes populate the city like an army of ghosts.

Christianity, too, is built on memory. It’s not primarily through statues and monuments, however, that the most important Christian memories are passed from one generation to the next. Rather, it is through telling the story of Jesus Christ when we gather to worship that our memory comes alive. And this week, with its story of Jesus’ final hours in earthly flesh, offers us the most important memory of all.

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