A Call to Worship from Zambia :: Worldwide Prayer

As we prepare for worship this weekend, may our hearts return to this challenging prayer from Zambia. Despite differences in liturgy, in setting, in size, in culture, in language, in privilege, and in wealth, let us be united in worship by our awe and wonder at the beauty of our Creator’s work of creation, at the horrifying toil of our Savior’s work of salvation, and at the empowering call of His Spirit for us to join Him in his work on behalf of our cities. — John

Scripture: 2 Timothy 1.8-10
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Exodus 15:2
He is my god and I will praise Him.

Reflection: A Call to Worship from Zambia :: Worldwide Prayer

Almighty God, our Father,

Through your great love and mercy you have redeemed us and forgiven our sins.

Father, our worship has degenerated into empty ritualism. Every week, millions and millions of your people meet on the Lord’s day to worship you as creator and redeemer. We want this worship to declare your worth and to offer you praise. Some believers worship you formally, liturgically, some free and spontaneously but we all want to worship in “Spirit and in truth.”

Lord, fill us with wonder and with gratitude for your love and for our salvation. Help us to worship you joyfully and to give you the praise you deserve. Enable us to remain faithful to you.

In Jesus’ name we pray.

The Call the Prayer
Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God and worship him upon his holy hill; for the Lord our God is the Holy One. — Psalm 99.9

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 8 (Listen – 5:18)
1 Timothy 5 (Listen – 3:22)

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 9 (Listen – 6:32) 1 Timothy 6 (Listen – 3:16)
2 Kings 10 (Listen – 6:30) 2 Timothy 1 (Listen – 2:37)

The Beautiful Feet of Lepers

Scripture: 2 Kings 7.9
Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.

Reflection: The Beautiful Feet of Lepers
by John Tillman

One of the joys of regularly studying and reading scripture (Especially when following a reading plan of the whole Bible) is finding the treasures hidden in the forgotten places, the stories in-between the Stories, and the nameless characters that never had a flannelgraph made of them. Down in one of these forgotten, skimmed over cracks are four outcast lepers.

Most stories of lepers in the Bible end with them being healed but these weren’t. In fact Jesus singled out this era of scripture as a time when not a single leper was healed except for a Syrian raider. He was a foreign fighter, a kidnapper and enslaver of children, and in many ways a man we would consider a terrorist. Yet, two chapters ago Elisha healed that man, sending him home without extracting either financial gain or even promised reform. But these lepers at the gate of Elisha’s own city went ignored.

The four are outcasts between the besieged and the besiegers. Those in the city are struggling with the economic fall-out of a siege that is severe enough to cause the desperate to resort to cannibalism. In this climate, the outcasts decide that death by the surrounding army can’t be worse than starving to death, so they walk out to surrender and discover instead that the battle is won and the spoils are strewn about waiting to be picked up.

At first they gorge and hoard the secret victory they have found. But before long they realize what they are doing is wrong. The resources they discovered, the wealth they stumbled upon, and the good news of the victory they did not have to fight for must be shared.

We are these outcast lepers—forced to the margins of a culture hostile to faith. We are these unarmed conquerors—walking boldly into the abandoned camp of the enemy. We are these unemployable lottery winners—suddenly gifted riches we could never earn. We are these gorging celebrants—filling emptiness that no other meal could quench. We are these messengers with beautiful, leprous feet—staggering awkwardly to share good news with the city that cast us out.

We may be diseased and unclean but we share the undeserved victory we have discovered. This is the gospel—that terrorists can be healed and saved and the rejects of society can bring the news of salvation and the testimony of victory unimaginable to their city.

The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. — Psalm 43.3

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 7 (Listen – 3:55)
1 Timothy 4 (Listen – 2:05)

Weaponized Shame

Scripture: 1 Timothy 3.7
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval. — Jon Ronson

Reflection: Weaponized Shame
The Park Forum

The full removal of evil in our world is one of the breathless longings of Christianity. We hopefully await a time where death, cancer, genocide, abuse, and countless other atrocities are vanquished. And though we count on this, it can be difficult to picture life without the petty evils that accost us daily.

We don’t even think of things like stress and life’s regular anxieties and discouragements as stemming from evil—perhaps because we try to individualize evil and these are systemic forces that plague us all. Though we have sinned, we are also all victims of a broken world.

Shame and bullying, which in the past were among the ongoing pains of our world, have taken on a force of their own through the internet. Far too many people—some who have done legitimate wrong others who were simply imprudent or taken out of context—have had their lives destroyed by a maelstrom of anonymous digital hate. In extreme cases people have lost jobs, struggled with depression and PTSD, and had to leave their home after their addresses were posted online and linked to death threats.

We once glorified Twitter as a great global town square, a shining agora where everyone could come together to converse. But I’ve never been to a town square where people can shove, push, taunt, bully, shout, harass, threaten, stalk, creep, and mob you.

Twitter could have been a town square. But now it’s more like a drunken, heaving mosh pit. — Umair Haque

Though this disproportionately affects children and students, the modern digital age has made it something nearly all of us can suffer from as victims—or participate in as perpetrators.

A marketplace has emerged where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry. How is the money made? Clicks. The more shame, the more clicks. The more clicks, the more advertising dollars. We’re in a dangerous cycle. The more we click on this kind of gossip, the more numb we get to the human lives behind it, and the more numb we get, the more we click. All the while, someone is making money off of the back of someone else’s suffering. With every click, we make a choice. — Monica Lewinsky

In her TED talk, “The Price of Shame,” Monika Lewinsky opens up about the profound toll public shaming can take on a person, “In 1998, I lost my reputation and my dignity. I lost almost everything, and I almost lost my life… The public humiliation was excruciating. Life was almost unbearable.”

Lewinsky’s talk focuses outside the guilt of her actions on the weight of public shaming—our active roll in disintegrating another human being through quips and clicks. “It was easy to forget that ‘that woman’ was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken.”

In a Medium post this month Umair Haque, who writes on economics and technology for the Harvard Business Review, chronicles the way technology has weaponized our ability to harm one another:

The social web became a nasty, brutish place… What really happens on Twitter these days? People have self-sorted into cliques, little in-groups, tribes. The purpose of tribes is to defend their beliefs, their ways, their customs, their culture — their ways of seeing the world… and if you dare not to bow down before it…or worse still to challenge it…well, then the faithful will do what they must to defend their gods. They will declare a crusade against you.

We are at the beginning of a large cultural conversation about shame, guilt, bullying, and behavior in the public square. Christians have the opportunity live as salt and light in a bland, rotting, and dark digital world. What we click, how we respond — if we we respond at all — shares a testimony to the world.

Nietzsche warned, “Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one.” Though the gospel takes it one step further: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In this‚ in what we post, and click, and share — we join Christ in bringing heaven to earth now.

The Refrain
Those who sowed in tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. — Psalm 126.6-7

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 6 (Listen – 5:05)
1 Timothy 3 (Listen – 2:10)

Related Articles
Why Twitter’s Dying. Umair Haque on Medium.
How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life. Jon Ronson for The New Yorker.
Monica Lewinsky and the Shame Game. Alexandra Schwartz for The New Yorker.
The Bully Business. Cevin Soling for The Atlantic.
Parents: Focus on the Family has a helpful web resource on bullying among kids.

Thoughts and Prayers

Scripture: 1 Timothy 2.1-2
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Prayer is not a passive, calm, quiet practice. — Tim Keller

Reflection: Thoughts and Prayers
by John Tillman

In our world, there is now pushback against even saying that we will pray over a situation. Thoughts and prayers as a hashtag has become a philosophical battlefield where people of faith and people frustrated by people of faith clash about the efficacy of prayer and the pointlessness of faith without works. (The language is, of course, not that academic.)

This pushback is based on a cultural assumption about prayer and an assumption about those who say they will pray. The first is that prayer is pointless and can’t help any situation. The second is that those who say they will pray, will not actually pray, and worse than that, will not follow through with any actions at all.

The cultural version of this type of empty prayer is engaging in the equally empty gesture of clicktivism—liking or sharing a post about an issue, but doing nothing substantive to address it. In a way, those who are decrying thoughts and prayers are praying unknowingly—they are calling out, they know not to whom, for real, tangible change and action.

The culture Paul was in prayed a lot. Prayer was everywhere. But in no religion was it so personal and direct as in Christianity. The type of prayer that Paul practiced and taught confronted both modern and ancient cultural assumptions and was attractive, not repulsive, to his culture. How?

One reason we see is that the kind of prayer that Paul engages in is fruitful in creating action—good desires and the deeds that follow. Paul’s prayers were not just words, but will and work. According to Paul deeds are prompted by faith, and faith is fueled by prayer life.

It is our actions, growing directly from the cultivated soil of prayer, that bear fruit that our world will gladly partake of.

When we follow the lead of godly, broken-hearted prayer, we will find ourselves acting in undeniably loving ways (against which there is no law), seeking out the lost, marginalized, and broken with Christ’s love, and suddenly realizing that people are no longer repelled by our thoughts and our prayers.

The Greeting
Seven times a day do I praise you, because of your righteous judgments. — Psalm 119.164

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 5 (Listen – 6:17)
1 Timothy 2 (Listen – 1:38)

A True Example of Repentance

Scripture: 1 Timothy 1.15-16
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

Reflection: A True Example of Repentance
by John Tillman

Since Paul wrote 1 Timothy, a parade of feigned repentants has damaged our understanding of repentance and mercy. We often see repentance as a trick, even if we initially can’t resist being pulled in by it.

There’s one thing they can never resist and that’s a reformed sinner. — Billy Flynn, Chicago

Reporter, Maurine Watkins, famously based Billy Flynn on the real-life law partners, W. W. O’Brien and William Scott Stewart, who defended and gained acquittal for Belva Gaertner and Beulah Annan, the real-life women upon whom Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart were based. Watkins’ barely fictional play, after her death, was sold and adapted. Broadway and Hollywood made Chicago a cultural touchstone.

What Chicago touches on—perhaps “shoots for” is a better metaphor—is our culture’s deep cynicism of repentance. The repentant politician, the repentant serial adulterer, the repentant murderer, the repentant addict—they are a syndicated show we’ve seen before; the reruns of a cynical joke we are in on even when the joke is on us.

Individuals, companies, leaders, and even industries wish to cheaply replicate the public relations (and sometimes legal) benefits of repentance without the moral investment of altering a single action or outcome. We want the caché of repentance without the change it brings.

Not only that, but when it comes time to grant mercy to a repentant, we are stingy. As permissive as our supposedly modern culture is, we are remarkably tribal about mercy. Members of our own tribes, whether religious, political, or racial are more likely to be shown mercy than those of tribes we’d rather continue to point fingers at.

Paul, however, demonstrates the power of true repentance that goes beyond a surface-level, placating facade; he teaches us about mercy beyond any that culture is willing to grant—even to allies.

The repentance Paul exemplifies and teaches is destructive to pride, selfishness, and our very way of thinking and living. This Gospel repentance is more than remorse, but reconstruction. It is fueled not by our own inner strength, but is activated when we admit openly our inner weakness.

We cannot fathom the mercy of God, until we experience repentance. We cannot truly experience repentance, until we see ourselves as Paul saw himself—chief of sinners. If our culture is cynical about repentance and doesn’t understand mercy, it’s probably because they need to see the real thing up close from us.

The Greeting
Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long. — Psalm 25.3-4

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 4 (Listen – 6:17)
1 Timothy 1 (Listen – 2:59)

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