The power of a name

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.
~Tess Scott

In John 20:11-18, angels, titles, roles, designations – mommy, wife, daughter, reverend, sister, friend – cannot break through Mary’s blinding loss and grief. Yet by uttering her name, Jesus changes EVERYTHING!

What, then, does the name that I use for God change?

What would I name You, God?

Father, with a lap more expansive than the night sky You created and all-enfolding arms,     stronger than the mountains but gentler than the ocean’s breeze?

Redeemer, with a servant’s hands and humble heart and broken body upon the cross?

Liberator, who flings wide the gates of death and turns the valley of trouble into a door of hope? 

Do I name You Love, with and within me; patient, forgiving, reconciling, enduring, inspiring, alluring?

Or God of Israel, Holy One, full of power and might; zealous for my affections; worthy of may adoration?

Nay, Lord, though these You are, and thousands more beside … friend, teacher, master, healer, Spirit, Light, Shepherd, breath, living waters, eternal word ….

At Your invitation, I dare this day to call you “lover,” “husband” – my beloved, my betrothed;
  to risk a deeper intimacy with you than I have ever known;
   a full surrender;
    an absolute and unequivocal “yes” to life walked with You day by day and hand in hand.

To You alone
who knows my secret name,
my hidden depths,
I give my life
as I say “YES!”

 

 

 

God’s love will never fail us

An adaptation of Psalm 136 for personal or corporate prayer.
Works well as a call to worship.

***

Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.
God’s love will never fail us.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
God’s love will never fail us.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
God’s love will never fail us.

For God alone does that which we thought impossible,
creating by hand the heavens,
charting the rivers and the seas,
raising up snow-capped mountains and liveable land,
setting the rhythm of our days and seasons
by the light of the sun and moon and stars:
God’s love will never fail us.

Indeed God alone does not leave us
in places of darkness and desolation
but stretches out child-embracing, leper-touching, sight-restoring hands
to rescue us from our despair
and bring us safely through insurmountable obstacles,
and unbearable, inhospitable circumstances.
God’s love will never fail us.

God alone remembers us at the lowest point of our lives
and humbles those who seek to keep us there.
God reignites our hope,
promising us not only the comfort of heaven
but also the provision of daily bread –
to us and every creature.
God’s love will never fail us.

So give thanks to the God of heaven
and Lord of earth;
God’s love will never fail us
the Keeper of your life and mine.
God’s love will never fail us
In God’s love we are made,
God’s love will never fail us
in God’s love we are set free,
God’s love will never fail us
in God’s love we find hope and comfort.
God’s love will never fail us.

The Best Way of Living

Once upon a time there were people who lived terrible, painful, back-breaking, heart-aching lives in a country called Egypt.

They were not Egyptians. They were slaves to the Egyptians. They hungered and they thirsted and they worked. They worked and they hungered and they thirsted under the baking heat of the sun and the cracking sting of the whip They worked from the moment the sun came up to the moment the sun went down and then they lived and loved and slept and shared of simple food in simple shelters.

Day after day, night after night this went on – from one generation to another – until they knew nothing but hunger and thirst and work and cruelty, and their groaning and their crying were always in the air.

Then came a man sent from God. He came to ensure that they were set free. He came so that they could remember who God was and who they were – children of the Great I AM who would be all that they needed.

This man, Moses, led them from the agony of Egypt into the dangers of the desert. He was leading them to a land of milk and honey, a land full of promise. But again the people had to hunger and thirst and work and walk and trust that I AM was with them and would not let them die.

And so they began to complain, to moan and groan. Some of them even missed the days in Egypt where at least they had had simple food and simple shelter. But I AM sent them a cloud of smoke to lead them by day and a fiery pillar to warm them by night and let them know that I AM was with them. And I AM helped Moses to find the food and the water that they needed to survive.

These were great gifts. But the greatest gift of all was given on the day that the people reached the safety of a holy mountain covered with fire and smoke. This was I AM’s mountain, and I AM’s servant, Moses, climbed to the top of it to meet with I AM face to face and receive the greatest gift.

What is the gift that I AM gave to the people, the gift greater than food or water or shelter or freedom or reassuring presence?

I AM gave these beloved people who had known such hunger and thirst and pain, the ten best ways to live in community in such a way that they would never become like the Egyptians to anyone else.

  1. Don’t serve other gods.
  2. Make no idols to worship.
  3. Be serious when you say my name.
  4. Keep the Sabbath holy.
  5. Honour your mother and father.
  6. Don’t kill.
  7. Don’t break your marriage.
  8. Don’t steal.
  9. Don’t lie.
  10. Don’t even want what others have.*

I AM knew that these ways would be difficult to walk in, but I AM also knew that those who had suffered in the land called Egypt and faced the dangers of the desert would have the courage to try and walk in the best ways. Most importantly, I AM knew that if they could keep to the very best ways, the memories of Egypt would become a thing of the distant past and they would be able to live in peace and harmony in their Promised Land.

10 best ways – so amazing, so precious that they were placed in a chest made of acacia wood which was covered in gold that could only be carried by holy people called priests who dedicated their lives to God.

But over time, the priests started to think that because only they were allowed to carry the very best ways, they were better than the people that God had given them to. They became full of the sense of their own importance. They became like the Egyptians from whom they had fled – beating the people not with whips but with extra words; with laws for living that they added on to the 10 best ways.

10 best ways for living became 613 commandments through which the priests grew rich and powerful and the people began to groan and cry out again in their suffering and their sinfulness, their brokenness and their illness, their loneliness and their poverty.

Then came a man sent from God. He came to ensure that they were set free. He came so that they could remember who God was and who they were – children of the Great I AM who would be all that they needed.

The truth is that he was more than a man. He was the Son of God and the Son of Man. He was I AM living and breathing and walking among us.

“I AM the bread of life,” he said and fed the hungry and ate with sinners.

“I AM the light of the world,” he said and cast out the darkness within people and opened the eyes of the blind.

“I AM the door,” he said and welcomed in women and lepers and children.

“I AM the good shepherd,” he said and healed those for whom no one else had cared.

“I AM the true vine,” he said and turned water into wine and shared the cup with those who would betray him.

“I AM the resurrection and the life,” he said and he brought Jairus’s daughter and Lazarus out of the grave.

“I AM the way, the truth, and the life,” he said so when one of the Pharisees who had prospered and profited from people’s pain asked him which is the greatest commandment, I AM pointed him back to the very best ways.

This time, he took the 10 and summarised them into 2 so that the priests and the people could always remember:

Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: Love others as well as you love yourself.**

O Ancient of Days,
help me to remember
where I 
have come from
and where I am going;
what it has cost
for me to live free.
And in my remembering
let there be a re-ordering:
of my passions,
of my priorities,
of my relationships,
of the beginning of every sentence –
That rather than “I,”
every moment originates
from my love for “I AM.”
Amen.


* From the Godly Play series

** Mark 12:28-31, The Message

A Passionate Prayer

An opening prayer for a Wedding ceremony

Let us pray:

Praise be to You O Passion-maker: You made us to crave the company of another when a thousand technicolour stars shoot in every cell of our bodies as eyes meet and hearts beat and we are left a little breathless at the beauty of the other.

Praise be to You O Life-weaver: You take us as we are – shaped and coloured by millions of separate experiences of joy and grief and growth and love and loss and pleasure and You knit us together into something more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.

Praise be to You O Soul-Companion: Your faithfulness is more heartening than old couples laughing at the same time at the same joke shared a hundred times or carrying bags for each other down the street in simple, loving service.

Praise be to You O Story-Teller: Your generous love surrounds us and everything we enjoy comes from You.  This day we pray for the ongoing telling of Love and love in the passion and the living and the companionship of A and and we thank you for the privilege of being part of this portion of their story as we bear witness to their love and to Yours.

In Jesus’ name.

Amen.