Even during Finals week, we must rest.

To all my teacher and student friends who are still going with school… the below is adapted from an e-devotional I wrote that went out over email to Gordon students in December 2011.

fallow field

It may seem strange to talk about Sabbath-keeping during end-of-the-semester crunch time. Who has any time to spare for rest, let alone a whole day?

Last week I was reading from Exodus during Morning Prayer, with the people with whom my family lives in intentional community. Exodus 34:21 jumped out at me, “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”

Regardless of our familiarity with agrarian lifestyles and metaphors, this text speaks to us of a God who invites his people into rest. Sabbath-keeping, as with all of God’s commandments, brings life to those who keep it.  Even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

You all are in the midst of final papers and exams—you likely can’t just up and take a day off, since that might mean missing an important exam. But you can seek pockets of rest, times to sit down in God’s presence and ask for him to guide you through all your comings and goings. If Israel must rest even during their plowing season and harvest, we ought to seriously consider following this timeless pattern, taking rest even during our busiest seasons.

So close your email. Go to bed (especially if you’re reading this at 3am). Go outside and walk around (even if it’s raining). Go eat a snack and talk to a friend. Some of you will need more encouragement to this than others, of course, but heed well God’s life-giving words. Even during Finals week, we must rest.

More than 125 youth workers at Open Boston

Open Boston Worship More than 125 youth workers gathered at Gordon College on Saturday, February 2 for Open Boston. An initiative of The Youth Cartel, Open Boston brought together more than 20 speakers to lead sessions on topics ranging from student leadership and youth ministry innovation, to soul care and strategic relationship building. Interactive sessions enabled mutual collaboration throughout the day, evident from the event’s Twitter hashtag. An opening and closing session of worship served as bookends to the day.

Open Boston was preceded by Open Seattle and will be followed by Open Paris. The Open events are about “celebrating fresh ideas in youth ministry.”

I spoke about developing student worship leaders. Here’s the handout (PDF) I used.

Derrida, Caputo, and David Walk Into a Psalm

Joel Robine/Agence France Presse-Getty Images, via NY Times
Joel Robine/Agence France Presse-Getty Images

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:2

The heading of Psalm 51 gives its setting: “When the prophet Nathan came to [David] after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.” The Hebrew text is more explicit in its description of David’s adulterous act in the Psalm heading. David had had sex with another man’s wife—and then had him killed in battle.

The French philosopher Jacques Derrida could have found himself at home in this Psalm. Derrida might point out that for David to follow up his sins with a plea for God to “wash away all [his] iniquity” is to ask the impossible. (For Derrida, as John Caputo puts it, the impossible is “something that exceeds the horizon of foreseeability and expectation.”)

In this sense David asks for the impossible. The affair with Bathsheba was sordid enough, but he also called Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, back from battle to sleep with her in the hopes that no one would know David made her pregnant. When this plan failed, David oversaw military orders that sent Uriah to an unjust death. How audacious is David to ask for forgiveness from these sins that so “displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27)? Doesn’t David make an impossible request?

Caputo, in a somewhat Christianizing read of Derrida, writes, “[H]ope is truly hope when it has been pushed up against the impossible and everything looks hopeless.” All must have looked hopeless to David, who wrote, “My sin is always before me” (51:3). Yet he held out hope in God, praying, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (51:12).

With God the impossible is possible. We can be forgiven for even the unspeakable sins of our past. Some Psalms later David writes, “Praise the Lord, my soul… who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (103:3).

Don’t we often feel “pushed up against the impossible”? Don’t we sometimes look at our sins, only to see that “everything looks hopeless”? And yet, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (103:12).

God exceeds the foreseeable. He transcends our expectations. He does not visit upon us the punishment that our sins deserve. David’s impossible request for forgiveness is possible, because God is the God of the impossible.

The above is a reflection I wrote for the Gordon College Lenten Devotional, “The Hope Before Us.” You can access a pdf of the whole devotional here.

A Prayer for Difference amidst Unity, and Unity amidst Difference

Gordon's Beyond Colorblind logo
Gordon’s Beyond Colorblind logo

Does race matter? Is ethnicity important? How do cultural backgrounds affect our everyday lives?

This week at Gordon College we have a special emphasis week, BEYOND COLORBLIND:

BEYOND COLORBLIND is a focus week to help start new conversations about race and culture on campus.  We hope the lectures and discussions help us consider how our racial and cultural identities and experiences shape our views of ourselves, others, and God.

You can watch the first large group session of the week (chapel) here. Richard Twiss was the main speaker. It’s well worth your time.

Two weeks ago I shared a prayer for the first day of school. Today I’m sharing the congregational prayer we prayed in unison this morning in chapel. This came after the passing of the peace.

God, lover of all people,
Creator of all nations,
We praise you for all that you have made.

Thank you for the rich mosaic that is the body of Christ.
Thank you for difference amidst unity,
for unity amidst difference.

Give us a spirit of understanding and appreciation of each other.
Help us to see your image clearly in those around us.

Bless us now as we gather,
and may we declare your praises with our whole lives,
through our risen Lord Jesus.
Amen.

Find out more about the week here.

A prayer for the first day of school

2012 to 2013
 
This semester is the first day of classes at Gordon. This morning in chapel I led us in a responsive prayer, offering thanksgiving and petition to God at the start of a new semester. I offered the prayer in italics, then we all as one congregation read the bold responses.

For the start of a new semester and all the promise that it holds:

We give you thanks, our God.

For the joy we have in seeing friends for the first time in a month:

We give you thanks, our God.

For those with whom we live in dorms, apartments, and houses:

We give you thanks, our God.

For the chance to gather freely in worship:

We give you thanks, our God.

For all that we will learn: in the classroom, in this worship space, in Lane, in labs, in practice rooms, in the library, in relationships, on campus and off campus:

We give you thanks, our God.

For wisdom for all students, staff, and faculty, as we seek to offer God our very best in all that we do:

Lord, please be near us.

For family relationships that we’ve invested in over the last month but now step away from in some ways:

Lord, please be near us.

For perseverance and diligence in our studies:

Lord, please be near us.

For healthy sleep patterns, motivation to exercise, self-control in eating good, healthy foods:

Lord, please be near us.

For those areas of life in which we struggle, where we despair, and for those things of which we are ashamed:

Lord, please be near us.

I’m Speaking at Open Boston in February on Student Worship Leaders

open ymIn a couple of weeks I’ll be one of a group of speakers at a youth ministry event called Open Boston. It’s February 2 and takes place at Gordon College.

From Open’s What to Expect page:

The content of sessions is firmly focused on ideas, concepts, and best practices for developing a youth ministry for your context. Expect presentations that cover issues around working with high school students, middle school students, and every combination of adolescents in your community.

The general idea behind Open is that we believe that the best ideas in youth ministry are “out there” being tried–right now–by youth workers just like you. But most other events don’t give those voices an opportunity to share what they’re learning.

Open is exactly the opposite. We exist to celebrate innovation, discover new ministry ideas, and hopefully inspire the collective us, the tribe of youth ministry, to dream about reaching students in new ways.

The session I’m leading is called “Raising Up Shouts of Praise: Developing Student Worship Leaders.” Here’s the writeup:

Worship through song is key to a community’s sense of connection to God and each other. God deserves our praise, and God delights in the praise of his people. What role can and should your young people have in leading worship? How can you recruit youth to lead worship, and train them to do it faithfully and effectively?

In “Raising Up Shouts of Praise,” Abram Kielsmeier-Jones will share some lessons he’s learned in developing student worship leaders: from big picture methodology concerns (like how to select a team; Biblical principles in which to train them) to nuts and bolts (like how to coach worship leaders in what to say between songs, how to help them find and teach new music). Abram especially looks forward to hearing others’ lessons learned that he might take back with him to his own worship leading context.

I’m really looking forward to being a part of this, both as speaker and attendee. Click here to read more about The Youth Cartel (not an actual cartel), who is helping to organize the event. Open Seattle happened in October; Open Paris is coming up in the spring. You can go to the Open Boston site to find out more.

Day of Prayer

Here’s part of a writeup I did on our Day of Prayer that took place last week:

In the evening we worshiped again as one in the chapel with a congregational expression of the Psalms through song. From a lone voice in the darkness expressing the cries of the Psalmist in Psalm 130, to voices in unison reading the Psalms of Ascent; from hymns to contemporary music to bluegrass; from a Taizé chorus to Gospel music led by the Gospel Choir, we raised our voices in prayer and praise together, using the words of the Psalms.

The whole post is here, at Notes Along the Way, the blog of Gordon College.