Clinton Marsh Benediction

REV. CLINTON MARSH BENEDICTION

 

Clinton Marsh was known for ending his worship services with different variations of this benediction.   Presbyterian Pastor, former General Assembly Moderator of the Presbyterian Church US; brother of former mayor of the city of Saginaw, Henry Marsh.   

 

“And now, I am supposed to say to you, “Go in peace.”  But how can I say, “Go in peace,” when you are going out into a world where you are insecure, whether at home or in your neighborhood street?

 

–Out into a world where race is set against race and ethnic cleansing is a name for genocide?

 

–Out into a world where people are hungry and homeless, while their governments squander billions of dollars on instruments of destruction that they dare not use?

 

–Out into a world were every night millions of mothers watch their children sink into a hungry slumber, only to awaken (if they awaken) to another hungry tomorrow?

 

With a world like that out there, how can I say to you, “Go in peace?”

 

But I dare say, “go in Peace”, because Jesus says, “I give you my peace.”

 

But – remember – he who says, “I give you my peace” also says, “If you would be my disciple and (thereby) I have my peace, take up your cross and follow me!”

 

So I dare to say, “go in peace!”  If you dare!

 

AMEN

 

BLESSINGS AND BENEDICTIONS

BENEDICTIONS AND BLESSINGS

It was back in June of  2010 that I put together a collection of my favorite benedictions and blessings.  The first in this collection is one that I created based on 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13.

Cundiff Blessing

Based on 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, our savior and friend;

May the love of God, binding us together and building us up;

May the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, knitting us together as a church family;

Be with us until we meet again.  Amen.

 

II Corinthians 13: 13

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.

 

 

Attributed to Benedict of Nursia, c. 480-547

Book of Common Worship, 1993, 24

Grant us, O God, a mind to meditate on You; eyes to behold You, ears to listen for Your word; a heart to love You; and a life to proclaim You; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Numbers 6: 24-26

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord be kind and gracious to you.  The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.  Amen.

 

 Dr. John Buchanan, Pastor

Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago

By God’s amazing grace, we are the body of Christ.  And because of that, let us go into the world in peace and courage, holding to the good, honoring all of God’s children, loving and serving the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.  And the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.

“A Prayer for Dorisanne”

by Katie Cook, 1993

Sacred Seasons, 2005

When the noise and haste surround you

and threaten to take you hostage,

May God’s gentle voice soothe you

and guide you to a place

of quiet strength;

When the days seem cold and dark,

and the nights unbelievably long,

May God’s smile illumine

and warm you from within;

When you feel alone and dismal,

May God send someone to you with a daisy.

May you truly go forth in joy

and be led back in peace;

May all creation sing around you;

And may the weeds of mourning

turn into flowers

wherever you walk.

 

Matthew 22: 37-40

Go into the world in peace.  Love the Lord our God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.

 

 Colossians 3: 12-14

As God’s own, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, and patience, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, and crown all these things with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

 

Romans 15: 13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Moderator Benediction

Rev. Douglas Oldenberg (1998)

No matter how frightening the world may become; no matter how frightening the individual circumstances of your life may be today or may become tomorrow, you need not be afraid, for God is with you.  God goes before you to guide you, beside you to be your best friend, behind you to protect you, beneath you to support you, and above you to give you vision and courage and hope.  If you will remember that, then the peace of Christ that passes all understanding will be with you too.

 

1 Thessalonians 5: 23

May the God of peace make you holy in every way; and keep your whole being – spirit, soul, and body – free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Dr. Frank Harrington, late Pastor of the

Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta (1996)

Remember by the goodness of God you were born.  Remember that in the mercy of Jesus Christ you have been redeemed.  Remember that He walks with you every day to comfort you, to strengthen, and to guide.  He promised He would, “Lo I am with you always.”  Remember while others have called you servant, He has called you friend.  In the strength of that mighty friendship, go forth now to serve in the Master’s name . . . Till we meet again.  Amen.

St. Patrick’s Benediction (St. Patrick’s Breastplate)

Bishop of Armagh (d. 461)

May the strength of God guide me this day,

and may his power preserve me.

May the wisdom of God instruct me;

the eye of God watch over me;

the ear of God hear me;

the word of God give sweetness to my speech;

the hand of God defend me;

and may I follow the way of God.

Christ be with me, Christ before me.

Christ be after me, Christ within me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me.

Christ at my right hand, Christ at my left,

Christ in the fort, Christ in the chariot,

Christ in the ship,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me.

Christ in every ear that hears me.

 

From the Book of Common Worship (pg. 45)

 

The Formal Dismissal and Benediction in the Presbyterian Church

God calls the church to join in the mission of Christ in service to the world.  As the church engages in that mission, it bears witness to God’s reign over all of life.  God sends the church in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel, to engage in works of compassion and reconciliation, to strive for peace and justice in our life and in the world, to be stewards of creation and of life, caring for creation until the day when God will make all things new . . . the dismissal shall include words of blessing, using a Trinitarian Benediction such as the Apostolic Benediction in 2 Corinthians 13: 14, or other words of scripture.  Assured of God’s peace and blessing, we are confident that God goes with us to our tasks.

 

St. Patrick’s Benediction (St. Patrick’s Breastplate)
Bishop of Armagh (d. 461)

St. Patrick’s Benediction (St. Patrick’s Breastplate)

Bishop of Armagh (d. 461)

 

May the strength of God guide me this day,

and may his power preserve me.

 

May the wisdom of God instruct me;

the eye of God watch over me;

the ear of God hear me;

the word of God give sweetness to my speech;

the hand of God defend me;

and may I follow the way of God.

 

Christ be with me, Christ before me.

Christ be after me, Christ within me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me.

 

Christ at my right hand, Christ at my left,

Christ in the fort, Christ in the chariot,

Christ in the ship,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me.

 

Christ in every ear that hears me.

Eternal Teenager

Eternal Teenager

 

My prayer each day is that whatever happens, I will keep traveling with my Lord, the one who called me to follow him all those years ago, who calls me “to be me”…..

 

This short prayer was written by Margaret Cundiff, one of the first women ordained a deacon and priest in the Church of England.   In her sixties, she describes herself as an “eternal teenager”.   Even though I am unable to physically run (or barely walk), I feel in my heart that I too am an “eternal teenager” when it comes to walking/running with God in our hearts..  While we are not related, I have enjoyed reading a couple of Margaret’s books.

 

I also enjoy the verse of a hymn she quotes in her short book “One More Step”:

 

“One more step along the world I go,

One more step along the world I go.

From the old things to the new,

Keep me traveling along with you.

And it’s from the old I travel to the new,

Keep me traveling along with you.”

 

FDR’s 1941 Second Bill of Rights

http://billmoyers.com/2014/03/07/remembering-franklin-delano-roosevelt-and-the-second-bill-of-rights/

FDR Economic Bill of Rights 1941

  (from Bil Moyers, 030714 originally found on FB)

“The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

In sum, he stated: “All of these rights spell security….”

Roosevelt did not leave it there, however. Distinguishing “clear-thinking businessmen” from the rest, he alerted his fellow citizens to “the grave dangers of rightist reaction.” And he then put Congress itself on the spot: “I ask Congress to explore the means for implementing this economic bill of rights – for it is definitely the responsibility of Congress to do so.” Finally, linking the question of addressing the needs of the war veterans to that of enacting the new bill of rights in a universal program of economic and social security, he declared: “Our fighting men abroad – and their families at home – expect such a program and have the right to insist upon it.”

 

 

Why Haven’t You Invited Me?

A seminary friend and colleague, Rev. F. Lee McDermott, is pastor of yoked churches in Fayette County, PA.   He has created a blog with a wide variety of sermon notes, stories and random thoughts on current issues.  I always remember Lee as a man with a lot of neat antidotal stories.

 

In many ways Lee has already accomplished what I hope to accomplish in creating a blog of thoughts and insights on issues that concern me.

 

In October of 2013 Lee posted a short little story/illustration I found insightful for this season of Lent.  It is a call for all of us to think about how promote our love for the church.  This question:    Do we have the same passion to invite a friend or neighbor to church as we do a concert or basketball game?  Rev. Lee McDermott’s short illustration/story:

 

 

Why Haven’t You Invited Me?

 

“But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Rom. 10:14-15)

 

 

   Nathan Williams told of two men who had been business partners for over twenty years. They met one Sunday morning as they were leaving a restaurant. One of them asked, “Where are you going this morning?”

 

  “I’m going to play golf. What about you?”

 

  The first man responded rather apologetically, “I’m going to church.”

 

  The other man said, “Why don’t you give up that church stuff?”

 

  The man asked, “What do you mean?”

 

  “Well, we have been partners for twenty years. We have worked together, attended board meetings together, and had lunch together, and all of these twenty years you have never asked me about going to church. You have never invited me to go with you. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that much to you.”

 

  We are told by Jesus that our task as the church is to extend invitations to “come and see” and share the good news, but most often we don’t. We allow our fears or embarrassment rule our behaviors rather than look around at the people we have know even for many years and we fail to act.

 

 

  What’s the point of any conversation? Is not conversation about sharing life together? Getting to know one another better? Connecting? The best conversations leave us with a mutual respect and increasing fondness of each other with the hopes of continuing the conversation soon. If our faith, our church, and our discipleship is important to us should it not come up in our conversations. But conversations like that seem to be few and far between, especially if they get wrapped up in what we think is “evangelism.”

 

 

  If our stories of what Jesus has done for us and the fellowship we have found in the church family is truly important to us should it not come up in our conversations.

 

   We often make assumptions about people about their appearance, their mannerism, and we form stereotypes in our mind about specific groups which in turn kills relationships. “Come and See” (John 1:46) are the words the disciple Philip says to his friend Nathaniel. On one level, it is an invitation to friendship, discovery and discipleship. Our faith can be communicated in this way and it can be done with respect and fondness for others. We don’t have to sell Jesus, the Holy Spirit will do this for us, if we are willing to share our own stories of what Jesus means to us.

 

   Today, I have a short video below called “Time to invite someone to church,” which illustrates that we make too many assumptions about people which may prevent us from extending an invitation. Watch the video and consider in your prayers and thoughts today, what prevents you from extending an invitation to others to come and see.

 

Rev. F. Lee McDermott

http://ordinarymeansofgrace.blogspot.com/search/label/conversation

 

 

URBAN LIFE AS GOD DREAMS

URBAN LIFE AS GOD DREAMS

 

“The end of the church is not more church—the end of the church is helping more and more people experience life as God dreams of it for them….”   Chip Hardwick. 

 

Chip Hardwick’s recent trip and blog, “Effectively Sawing Off the Branch We’re sitting On”,  has stimulated a few thoughts…..    http://www.pcusa.org/blogs/comings-and-goings/2014/3/2/efficiently-sawing-branch-were-sitting/ 

 

As a denomination (PCUSA) we talk about growing new churches.   What about the struggling churches we still have?  In my mind we are still closing too many doors to existing urban churches without going the extra mile to find new and creative ways to  connect with urban dwellers!

 

As presbyteries, are willing to risk doing what it takes with our limited resources to grow churches from the inside out?  Spiritually?  In our inner cities?  Urban churches and Presbyterian Seminaries need to be re-tooled with resources in order to meet people with the gospel from where they live within the reality of diverse, cultural settings.   We need to get away from the metrics of simply counting souls and buildings.  

 

As Chip Hardwick, director of worship and theology of the PCUSA recently stated in his blog (quoting Sergio Ojeda)[1]:

 

The problem is that we are adding churches, but we are not changing the culture.”  With this he helped remind me that there is a difference between the ends and the means.  The end of the church is not more church—the end of the church is helping more and more people experience life as God dreams of it for them, including both physical care and sustenance and the spiritual resources that come from our faith in Christ.   Many of the people who experience this care, sustenance, and faith will be inside the church, but many more will be outside the church.  More church is the means by which this end is delivered, but more church is not simply the end itself.  The more we remember that churches don’t exist for the benefit of their own members, but the rather for the benefit of the world, the more individuals and society and culture will resemble God’s hopes for them.

 

In my mind and heart as a Presbyterian, we should be searching for ways to help urban dwellers/congregations “experience life as God dreams of it for them”? 

 

 



[1] President Sergio Ojeda,  Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico.

 

Ash Wednesday Message: We Belong to God

 

Ash Wednesday Message:  We Belong to God

 

“We belong to God” – my Ash Wednesday message in preparing for a journey through Lent.  Reflecting on first words of the Brief Statement of Faith: 

We Belong to God

 

 And the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism:

 

“I belong—body and soul, in life and death—not to myself

but to my faithful savior Jesus Christ”

 

Trusting through the grace of Jesus Christ that “I belong to God”, I risk sharing some of my personal story and the story of the church I served[1]  – seeking not the “sound of the trumpet of praise” and the “sober testament of God’s involvement in our lives”, but rather God’s voice in helping me prepare for One who lived and died for me[2].

 

A glimpse into my personal story: 

 

I.  THE PHOENIX

 

I have been going to the same doctor for over 28 years. Dr. Caroline Scott is an active Episcopalian worshipping in a church just a few blocks from Warren Avenue Presbyterian.  When I go in for an office visit, we always spend some time talking about our common interest in doing Christ’s work in downtown Saginaw.    

I am fortunate to have found a doctor who is as passionate about God’s work in the city as in taking care of her patients.  As a volunteer she provides free health screenings/advice to members of her inner-city congregation the first Sunday of each month.  Truly a servant-physician at her best!  

 

I mention my own physician  because her medical practice is appropriately named PHOENIX FAMILY PHYSICIANS.

 

The Phoenix is a majestic mythical bird, a fire spirit that can live for 500 to a 1000 years.  Near the end of life the Phoenix builds a nest of twigs that then ignites;  both nest and bird burn and are reduced to ashes, from which a new young Phoenix emerges, reborn, to live again.

 

My family and friends and church have helped me rise like a Phoenix from the flames of a heart attack over 25 years ago.  Take note, my young colleagues, you can have a heart attack at the age of 35.  At the age of 50 I had double knee replacement that ended with a septic infection that almost took my life.  My family and friends gathered thinking this might be the end.  It took me more weeks to recover than I can remember.  THANKS BE TO GOD!

 

The Phoenix rose again just a few years later when another infection shut down my kidneys…..I escaped meeting St. Peter one more time!  My wife was out of town.  The Lake Huron Presbytery Executive, Rev. Louise Brokaw, was the one who got me to the Emergency Room.  The church and presbytery have always had my back!  

 

Like the Phoenix, I have been given several opportunities to emerge from the ashes.   Good things have come from these experiences. 

 

For me, I couldn’t avoid sharing my personal story with the congregation I served.   We lived through these experiences together.  Just as I walked with members of the congregation through tragic times, this congregation walked with me.  New doors opened in relating with congregants with compassion and a deep sense of empathy for what they were going through.  These experiences made me a better pastor.   

 

I was reminded, each week as I enter worship with two canes or a walker, that together as pastor and congregation we enter the flames of illness and mental anguish and spiritual despair.  Together we struggle to emerge from the ashes to discover again, as Joel says, that the “Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 

 

For you, my friends and colleagues, may this season of Lent be a time of personal reflection on what it means rise out of the ashes of whatever you may be going through in your lives—surrounded with God’s “abounding and steadfast love.   

 

II. A LOCAL CHURCH STORY

 

Working hard not to boast, the church I served has an amazing story to share  — an amazing story of rising from the ashes of significant challenges that have befallen downtown Saginaw throughout the years.

 

Literally, the church burned on January 2, 1898.  Ten months later the church emerged from the ashes rebuilt and rededicated under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Joseph Tewell.  This pastor then died a few years later from a heart-attack at a relatively young.

 

Throughout the years the church has had to adapt and change and re-tool how it does ministry as the community around the church has changed – growing to 1400 members in the 1950’s, currently just over 80 active members looking for new pastoral leadership.   As pastor and congregation, we spent many years re-inventing  ourselves in how we did things—as a spiritual island in a city that has been devastated with crime and blight and poverty—always focused on ways we could share God’s “abounding and steadfast love” with others. 

 

Some our re-tooling through the years of my pastorate involved discovering we can’t do ministry as an 80 member church alone.  In recent years we partnered with the East Side Soup Kitchen that used the church to serve the homeless and hungry poor.  The Soup Kitchen eventually moved into a new building called the HungerSolutionCenter….and we enjoyed partnering with them through the years.   

 

After several years of intense planning in partnership with Healthy Community Partners, St. Mary’s Hospital, Neighborhood Renewal Services and the FirstWardCommunity Center….the church opened its doors rent free to the Mark Neumeyer Cathdral District Youth Center. The late Mark Neumeyer was the man who called up one day and said:  Let’s talk about ways we can partner together in serving  children in the community.  40-50 children now come to this after-school program every day…..and the church doesn’t run the center, The First Ward Community Center that actually runs the program.

 

Several more examples one being the Women of Colors Inc. who also use the church building rent-free. 

III.  GROUNDING

 

There is one short sentence in the Book of Order, G.3.0400 has been central for me in helping the church define her mission:

 

The church is called to undertake this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting in God alone as the author and giver of life….

 

A similar affirmation is found in the NFOG F-1.0301:

 

Christ gives to the Church all the gifts necessary to be his body……..a community of faith, entrusting itself to God alone, even at the risk of losing its life.

 

 IV.  CONCLUSION

 

When I have been ill, there is no denying my fear in not knowing about the future.  The same is true in the church.  In various different contexts, we fear what is going to happen to us if we continue to do things the ways we have always done them.  In what new ways is God leading?  What is going to emerge from the flames of all the “unknowns” before the church in discerning God’s calling?    

 

We must carry with us this affirmation:  Whatever happens in our respective contexts, personally or as a church, there must always be knowledge that we are not alone.  God is always going to be with us.  God has our back. 

 

Let us again, as we enter into Lent, rise from the ashes of change to experience, again:   WE BELONG TO GOD.   IN LIFE AND IN DEATH….I BELONG TO GOD….WE BELONG TO GOD!

 

Amen

March 5, 2014

 

        Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17

 

2Blow the trumpet in Zion;
   sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
   for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
2
a day of darkness and gloom,
   a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
   a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
   nor will be again after them
   in ages to come.

 

12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
   return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13
   rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
   for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
   and relents from punishing.
14
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
   and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain-offering and a drink-offering
   for the Lord, your God?

 

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
   sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
16
   gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
   assemble the aged;
gather the children,
   even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
   and the bride her canopy.

 

17 Between the vestibule and the altar
   let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord,
   and do not make your heritage a mockery,
   a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
   “Where is their God?” ’

 

Matthew 6:  1-4  NRVS

CONCERNING ALMSGIVING

 

Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

 

So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.         


 

[1]   The church I served for over a quarter century:  The Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church, Saginaw, Michigan

 

[2] I first shared this message with the Presbytery of Lake Huron in March of 2011