Another Sunday, another Clarendon Hill service. This morning I had my voice back, so I was given the privilege of running the service (with the exception of the sermon itself), being as I was out of commission last week with Laryngitis.
The Topic: Names for God.
My Job: to Pray on behalf of the community and to make it sound nice.
So I have basically figured out during the course of my internship that I have issues with extemporaneous anything… I just sorta need to have something in front of me in order to feel confident– perhaps its a panacea or placebo effect or whatever, but even have a bunch of nonsensical scribbles on a sheet of paper is better than nothing. Without it, I feel lost, nervous, and unprepared.
So I went with my instincts and wrote some notes today based upon the sermon… which worked out great. Karl preached a bit on the names we call God and why the act of naming is important. Basically it came down to this: the act of naming God is a dynamically and essential practice in which we recognize the divine in our lives and then honor it. You can’t name God, says Karl, until you have the experience of God. I liked that. And I think that the reason that I liked it so much was because so many times I hear people railing against ‘inclusive language’ and what they fail to see often is that it isn’t so much a rejection of old language but rather an acknowledgment that God is more expansive than the language we used to use, that the only way to express what God is to us is to find a new name, a new way of defining what we have already experienced. Of course, I also think that it is possible to redefine the terms, and that the old names still have value. But i think that this perspective was important to me because it provided a new way of thinking about the value and importance of keeping language and our worship in conversation with our lives.
So anyways, I think today at church went well. I was able to give some pretty cool prayers, especially the prayer of assurance, which went something like this:
“There is good news, my friends, and it is this– the story doesn’t end here. For when we are feeling our most low, our most sad and alone in the world, a loving God, our God, the one of many names–God of the high places, our Rock, our protector, the Sustainer and eternal parent–that God comes to us and whispers in our ear, saying “I love you. You are MINE. When you are feeling your most alone, I am by your side, holding your burdens as though they were my own and loving you through it all. Your sins I have taken from you in the radical redeeming act of Jesus Christ. Your sins are forgiven, child.” Hallelujah, Amen.”
And then the Prayer of Christ, which began something like this:
“Gracious and merciful God, we come to you today, praying to you with many names from many places. Redeemer, Sustainer, Provider, Awesome One, The Great I AM, Creator, Abba, God. You have so many names, O God, that we cannot begin to know their limit. We therefore call to you in old names and new, seeking to find you as we pray together in this community. Whatever the name, O God, we pray to you from the deepest parts of ourselves. For today are hearts are full–with blessings and thankfulness for the ways in which you have touched our lives, but also with the wounded aching of a heart brought low with loss, of deep grief and sadness over the places in our lives that need your providing and sustaining presence most….. Your names reveal our thankfulness as well as our sadness, and we cry out to you with one voice–God of the Mountain! You are so high and wonderful, but sometimes seem so far from us! …. Help us to find a vocabulary of belonging in you, O God, that we might find a home that is rooted in you, our hope and our loving Friend.”
In other news– the congregation provided me with a “Entemann’s Devil’s Food Cake Donut Cake” courtesy of Katherine and Sarah. It was most excellent 😉
Adult Ed also went well, we finished up our discussion of the Pullman Trilogy and then decided to talk about the historical Jesus next time around. I think that shall be interesting!
And finally…. Alex walked me home 🙂 He’s sweet.