Friday, May 18, 2012

Why this Blog?

The Background for this Blog
First Devotional Coming Thursday, May 24, 2012

Centenary United Methodist Church is a wonderful congregation in downtown Richmond.  We are located at 411 East Grace Street.  Our website is  I consider myself very fortunate to serve this church with a great history and an exciting future.

We are a church of about 400 members.  We are a diverse congregation in many ways.  We are located all over the Richmond metro area.  It is hard for us to get together in face to face groups as often as we'd like.  But all who are part of our ministry feel a strong sense of calling to our downtown ministry that extends from near the capital of our commonwealth througout the Richmond metrolpolitan area.

These writings are driven by several personal factors.

1) Centenary is a  church that uses the lectionary ( a calendar for reading from Scripture based on the Christian year)  in our worship.  I have been looking for a way to link my own sermon study and preparation based on the lectionary readings for Sundays to my personal devotional practices throughout the week.  Other liturgical traditions have prayer books with prescribed daily readings.  What would be an equivalent resource for mainline Protestants?

2)I believe in the power of traditional, liturgical worship which Centenary has done for many years with excellence.  There are many valid ways to worship, but I believe Centenary has something to offer that the world needs--a place to experience the transcendence of one greater than ourselves who inspires awe, loyalty, and devotion.

3) These convictions were crystallized for me about two years ago.  My brother, age 47, was dying of colon cancer in Dallas,TX.  The week before he died I went to visit him.  He was not lucid for very long intervals.  But on several occasions, when he was awake, he asked for help to find his way to the daily readings from the Book of Common Prayer from his Episcopal tradition.  That was what gave him comfort in his last days.

4)  Our family made another trip to Dallas about a week after that first visit for his funeral.  His service was carefully planned before his death with his priest and was a full Episcopal service with majestic hymns, creeds, and the eucharist.  It was one of the most powerful worship services I've ever experienced and convinced me that worship that is grounded in the church's great ecumenical tradition and conducted in the presence of the communion of the saints is what we really need to face life's greatest challenges and to be formed as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Method

The idea of writing brief devotionals came to me in part from hearing the stories about one of Centenary's former legendary ministers, Dr. A. Purnell Bailey.  Dr. Bailey was well-known for writing brief devotionals entitled Our Daily Bread which were published daily in newspapers and read by thousands.  He was able to communicate great truths in less than 250 words each day to help people orient their thoughts toward Christ.  These writings won't compare with those--and I am discovering it's harder to say what you mean in 250 words than 2500 words!  So, I am inspired to try to communicate with you, our congregation, and any others who are interested through these brief daily devotionals, with the hope that I'll get better with more practice!

These devotionals are based on a list of Scripture readings entitled Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings (Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2005).  (You can order this from Cokesbury or if you'd like your own copy).   This work was an attempt by mainline Protestant scholars involved in a project entitled the "Consultation on Common Texts"  to develop a daily lectionary somewhat like the Book  of Common Prayer, but simpler.  This format offers a New Testament Lesson and an Old Testament Lesson for each day and a psalm for each week.  I've chosen one reading for each day of the week, except Sunday to guide my prayers and reflections. 

The readings for Thursday, Friday and Saturday of each week are designed in a broad way to prepare us for the Scripture readings we will hear on Sunday in worship.  The readings and devotionals for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday lead out of Sunday and look back on the themes highlighted in those readings. 

 My hope is that in some small way, we can allow these readings during the week and what we encounter on Sunday mornings to give us some common texts for reflection, discussion, and more than anything,  living.

My hope is that these brief Scripture readings and reflections will connect us to one another and the church universal.  I would love for you to respond to these thoughts and Scripture readings.  We can certainly learn from each other and encourage one another in our attempt to be disciples of Jesus Christ, sent forth to witness and serve each week, from the heart of our city!

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