Monday, January 12, 2009

Prayer Before Reading the Bible

Saint Jerome is a saint in the Catholic Church, best known as a scholar who translated the scriptures from their original languages into Latin. His version of the Bible is still considered an important translation in the history of the early church.

The following prayer is considered his prayer for use before reading the Bible:

O Lord, you have given us your word
for a light to shine upon our path;
grant us to to meditate on that word,
and to follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light
that shines more and more
until the perfect day;
through Jesus Christ out Lord.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Ruth Duck

Ruth C. Duck is professor of worship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois, and a widely-published author of hymn texts.
She has written and edited several books of worship resources.

In a 1981 book entitled Bread for the Journey, published by The Pilgrim Press, she includes these thoughts in the book's Introduction:

The image of life as a journey is another way of saying that faith and worship grow out of our stories and the story of God's people moving through time. This approach to faith and worship assumes that the experiences out of which they grow are important.
She later adds the following comment: From scripture one is reminded of the manna from heaven, which fed the Exodus sojourners in the wilderness. At this time in the life of the church, there are burdens to be borne and struggles to be endured for the sake of justice and peace and the wholeness that comes from incorporating all sorts of people into our life.

In the book she offers this prayer for the season of Epiphany:

O Spirit that flows through all of life, you were powerfully present in the life and ministry of Jesus. Yet many of his contemporaries were looking for something more dramatic, someone less simple. Like them, we do not always recognize your presence. Give us spirits that respond to you Spirit as an instrument resounds to a musician's touch, that we may glorify your name in Christ Jesus. Amen.

May that prayer go with you on this, another day on your journey through life.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rabbi Hillel

Rabbi Hillel was one of the great heroes of the Jewish People. He served in a position that combined religious and secular leadership, and was the highest position of leadership in Jewish Society during the several centuries preceding and several centuries following the destruction of the Second Temple. Hillel himself lived at the beginning of the century preceding the Destruction.

In addition to his contributions to the understanding of Jewish Law, he is famous for a number of incidents in his personal life, and "ethical" pronouncements that he made:

Most famous perhaps is the incident which occurred before his rise to leadership, when he was not yet a scholar, but had a burning desire to study Torah. At that time, Torah study was tightly controlled and limited only to those of the highest caliber and to those who could pay for it. Hillel, working then as a woodchopper, did not have enough money to pay for entry into the Beit Midrash. On a freezing cold snowy day, he climbed onto the roof of the Study Hall, and lay at the "skylight" listening to the lecture, until he froze. When the scholars below observed his form above, they retrieved him, and changed the policy such that anyone who wished to study Torah could come in and do so.

A certain non-Jewish "wise-guy" came to scoff at the Torah, first to the home of Shammai, then to the home of Hillel. He said, "Teach me the Torah while I am standing on one foot." Shammai, sensing his true intention, had him thrown out forthwith.

When the individual came to the home of Hillel with the same request, Hillel responded. "No problem! The main idea of the Torah is 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Everything else is commentary. Now, if you're really interested, go and study the commentary." So impressed with Hillel's response, according to Jewish Tradition, was the visitor, that he took Hillel up on his instructions, began to study the Torah seriously, and became a Jew.


This final quote which grows out of the same theme:

"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow;
that is the whole Law; all the rest is interpretation."

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Prayer for You

Each of us, as we journey through life, need prayers. We need to know that others are praying for us in our time of need and we need to remember others in our own prayers. Here, from an unknown author, is a prayer for you today.

I Said A Prayer For You Today

I said a prayer for you today,
And know God must have heard;
I felt the answer in my heart,
Altho He spoke no word.

I didn't ask for wealth or fame,
I knew you wouldn't mind;
I asked Him to send treasure
Of a far more lasting kind.

I asked that He'd be near you
At the start of each new day;
To grant you health and blessings
And friends to share your way.

I asked for happiness for you,
In all things great and small;
But it was for his loving care,
I prayed for most of all.

May God bless you today on your journey through life.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson is most known for his contemporary paraphrase of the Bible known as The Message. In this fresh paraphrase of Scripture, Peterson's exegetical abilities are strengthened by his way with speaking in the language of today, forged by some thirty years of pastoring.

"The pastorate," says Peterson, "is one of the few places in our society where you can live a truly creative life." Indeed, this man has been creative. With eighteen books, numerous contributions to others, and dozens of journal and magazine articles to his credit, his writing career has been nothing short of prolific. No minor accomplishment for a man who at the same time pastored Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland, for twenty-nine years before retiring from the pastorate in 1991.

Among Peterson's books are several designed from one pastor to other pastors. In his book, Under the Unpredictable Plant, Peterson used the story of Jonah to speak to the vocation of being a pastor. Two brief quotations follow from this book:

I want to study God’s word long and carefully
so that when I stand before you and preach and teach
I will be accurate.
I want to pray, slowly and lovingly,
so that my relation with God will be inward and honest.
And I want to be with you, often and leisurely,
so that we can recognize each other as companions
on the way of the cross and
be available for counsel and encouragement to each other.

I want to be a pastor.
I want to lead people in worship each Lord’s Day
in such a way that they will be brought
into something large and beautiful -
into God and his salvation (not reduced and demeaned).
And I want to be with them through the days of the week
at those times when they need verification
or clarification
of God’s continuing work and will in their lives
(not promoting sure-fire moral schemes,
not bullying them into churchly conformity)
so that they can live orginally and praisingly.

Few of us will take the time or consider ourselves qualified to re-write scriptures in contemporary language...
but consider the possibility that your lifestyle
may be someone's introduction to God's Message for the world today.
You may not be called to be a pastor...
but is that any reason not to study God's word
long and faithfully
so that you may be prepared
to share it accurately when the occasion presents itself;
or to pray slowly and lovingly
to maintain an inward and meaningful
relationship with God;
or to be available to others
for counseling and encouragement.
May your Journey this day lead you inwardly to God and outwardly to others.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Howard Thurman

In 1944, Dr. Howard Thurman helped found the first intentionally interracial church in this country, where he served as co-pastor with a white clergyman. A professor as well as a pastor, he became the spiritual advisor to the next generation, including Martin Luther King, Jr.
This African-American pastor and poet,
wrote these words in a poem called
“The Work of Christmas”—
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins.
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner,
To teach the nations,
To bring Christ to all,
To make music in the heart.
As the season of Christmas and New Year's Day vacations come to an end, as you presumably find yourself returning to a more normal routine, and the Christmas tree and decoration have been put away until next year - may you also find that the work of Christmas begins.
On your Journey through Life, look for opportunity to keep Christmas alive each day.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Creation Stories

Today's Gospel Lectionary reading comes from the 1st chapter of John and begins with John's Creation Story:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.
The Bible includes two additional Creation Stories from the Hebrew tradition:
Genesis 2:4 -3:24 from the Yahwehist tradition, and
Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 from the Elohist tradition.
Other Creation Stories from Around the World may be found here.
One of my favorite stories comes from the Potawatomi Indian tradition. It begins with the "Earthmaker" creating the earth and all within it except for humans. In this tradition, Earthmaker three times scoops clay which is baked to create a figure - white, black and red. The story continues with wars and the creation of peace. Read this Creation Story.
We are beginning a new year - 2009. It is a time of beginnings and as the various Creation Stories attest, "In the beginning God..." As you journey into this new year, may you find God in your beginnings.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Ludwig van Beethoven is a well-known German composer who remains one of the acclaimed and influential musicians of all time. As a young man he began to lose his hearing with a ringing in his ears that made it difficult for him to hear and appreciate music. Nevertheless, he became one of the great composers.

The story is told that in his later years Beethoven would spend hours playing a broken harpsichord. The instrument was worthless. Keys were missing. Strings were stretched. It was out of tune, harsh on the ears. Nonetheless the great pianist would play till tears came down his cheeks. To look at him, you'd think he was hearing the sublime. He was. For he was deaf. Beethover was hearing the sound the instrument should make, not the one it did make!
-told by Max Lucado
What makes your heart sing as we move into this new year? Do you hear only the "Out of tune" sounds coming the world press today? Are you burdened by the sounds that are harsh to the human ear? Or are you able to hear the music that God means for us to hear in our lives and relationships with others? Are you able to hear what God intends rather than what is?
May this be a day in which you hear the sound of music all around you on your journey of life.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Mayberry USA

In a book titled, Coming Home: Timeless Wisdom for Families, Dr. James Dobson begins one chapter with these words:

When it comes to family-related matters,
I'm known as a traditionalist.
In fact, there are some who think I would like
to take the American family back to the days of
Ozzie and Harriet.
But that criticism is preposterous.
I don't want to go back to Ozzie and Harriet.
I want to go back to Mayberry -
with Sheriff Andy Taylor and the gang.
I loved it when Barney Fife said,
"My whole body's a weapon!"
Obviously, I know that Mayberry never existed -
that Aunt Bea and Opie were figments
of the writers' imagination.
But there is validity to the theme of that sitcom....
Here I have found something that Dr. Dobson and I agree about. While Mayberry never existed as small-town America, it remains for many of us as a figment of our imagination as well as that of the writers of the sitcom. Mayberry becomes the place where living is simple, peaceful, and built on the relationships that draw us together. Even the issues that arose were never too difficult to be overcome within thirty minutes.
2009 is a different kind of place than is found in Mayberry 1959. And yet ... are we not called to use our imagination to build the kind of world in which we want to live? Can we not begin to build a community within the world where we can live ... peacefully, simply, together?
This remains my hope for this coming year. May your journey today down the yellow brick road take you through the Mayberry of your imagination.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Dag Hammarskjold

A New Year brings a new direction for this web site. During 2008 we focused on the 300th Anniversary of the Church of the Brethren. We recalled individuals of the church who preceded us on this Journey through Life.

In 2009 we hope to take a wider look at Life's Journey as seen through the eyes and thoughts of other travelers on the Yellow Brick Journey. Today we begin with Dag Hammarskjold who served as Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953 until 1961. Many of his private thoughts were later published in a book titled simply Markings.

Dag Hammarskjold was born in Sweden in 1905 and died on September 18, 1961, in an air crash will flying to Northern Rhodesia to negotiate a cease fire.

I have long valued the phrase with which he begins one writing in 1950:

The longest journey
Is the journey inwards.
I pray that 2009 might for many of us be a journey to our inner life as we become more in touch with who we are as a child of God. I believe that this longer journey will help us to better understand who we might yet become.
Again, in 1952, Hammarskjold wrote these words:
How long the road is.
But, for all the time the journey
has already taken,
how you have needed
every second of it
in order to learn
what the road passes - by.
I pray that during this coming year you may value each moment of journey as you keep all your senses open to learn as you continue your journey down this yellow brick road of life.