Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lord's Prayer Doxology: Why Have I Not Read Jan Milič Lochman Sooner?

Potentially the most crucial line in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples is one that the Messiah probably never spoke: "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen."

Matthew incorporates this line, albeit with an asterisk as reminder to the reader that the earliest manuscripts did not contain these words.

Luke does not have the doxology at all.

So where did this liturgical addition come from?

1 Chronicles 29:10-13?

"Then David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly; David said: ‘Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, for ever and ever. Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name."


The Didache?

This collection of early apostolic teachings prescribes disciples gathered and scattered thrice daily to recite this prayer, including the doxology.

There are probably as many suggestions as there are stars in the sky for the origin of the doxology that concludes the traditional rendition of Jesus' Prayer. Regardless of where the doxology comes from, the lyric is critical for liturgical, theological, and related missional purposes.

True. Jesus may not have said it when initially asked about how to pray. After all, he needed no reminders in regards to whom the kingdom, the power, and the glory belonged.

But I do.

The church does.

We all do.

Maybe that's why it was added later, lest we forget.

As I have worked through this late arrival to the Abba Prayer, [1] much of my reflections have been guided by Jan Milič Lochman. The Czech theologian delivered an address to the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in 1982, "Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory," and his words continue to echo relevance throughout a world saturated in unjust kingdoms, graceless powers, and quests for glory no matter what the cost.

So I find it best, as I muse about the doxology, to simply throw out a few snippets from the address and add my own commentary 30 years after these words were initially spoken in Ottawa, Ontario.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Final Reflections from Honduras: Hope in the Hills and Call Me, Maybe...

Tuesday morning began with a heart-wrenching, impromptu story from a local Honduran. He shared how he grew up in so much poverty and with so little assistance from the church that he thought "God loved the rich and did not care about the poor." His prayers seemed to fall on deaf ears when a child, as day after day not a single bag of corn was delivered by any sort of divine messenger.

So he decided to work his way out of poverty was more effective than spending time in church.

And he slowly has done just that.

This story put poverty in perspective for all of us gathered in the kitchen. So often short-term missions romanticize the poor with statements like, "they have so little but seem so happy" and "they have such a strong faith despite their circumstances." When our students heard this story they quickly learned that there is a deep darkness that hovers over poverty. The presence of God and the hope for all things to be made new are not always easy to discover in the wake of so much suffering.

But as one of our adult team members remarked, "there was hope today in the hills."

A two-and-a-half hour ride through the mountains landed us at a farm with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and innovative and organic agricultural technology, e.g. stoves fueled by methane generated by pig manure. The family who lives on this farm is supported by the Raos Cooperative, a Fair Trade Certified organization whose primary harvest is coffee beans.

There is nothing like sipping a cup of joe on a Honduran hillside with a side of fried plantains.

After our visit to the plantation, we sat in on a presentation by the Director of Quality Control at the Raos office. He shared with us the ins and outs of the coffee industry and how they go to great lengths to assure justice in farmer's wages and responsiblity towards the environment. They do this while at the same time harvesting premium roast coffee that trumps anything our Seattle-based corporation produces.

Needless to say, Upon my return home I will be switching brands for my morning brew.

Our group was captivated by what goes on behind the scenes in regards to the food and coffee we purchase. We also were encouraged by organizations like Raos, and Heifer International as one of their partners, who have dramatically improved the lives of families represented by the one we met today.

This past week has been an emotional roller coaster. We have seen the depths of Rural and urban poverty and encountered brilliant witnesses to the kingdom of God alive and well through organizations like Association for a More Just Society and Heifer International. We have had conversations about partnership and contemplated what the word means for us as Honduran and American youth.

Yet for me the weekend could not have ended any better than it did. While one of our vans traveled to and from the plantation, accompanied by our friends from Peña de Horeb, I played D.J. One of the van members suggested we attempt to reproduce a youtube video gone viral. I was not sure if the choreography was possible or if our Honduran friends would be interested.

I could not have been wrong.

The result was potentially one of the better illustrations of our partnership. Over the course of four hours, we were able to create, to laugh, to sing, and to move in rhythm together. What seemed impossible in the beginning became more than possible in the end.

And it took a long time and a whole lot of patience.

I cannot be more excited for our Youth-to-Youth Missional Partnership in Honduras. While we have only just begun, we have certainly made great strides in new directions. Even more, we have started to share common understandings as they pertain to what partnership is really about.

"Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth" (3 John 8).

I am hopeful for the years to come. Our students are eager for the future.

And so our our friends in Honduras who left us a note that concludes my reflections for this week:

"Espero, en lo personal que esta bonita amistad perdure por muchos años y que nuestros hijos tambien puedan compartirla!"

(I hope, personally that this beautiful friendship will endure for many years and that our children can share it.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Paying to See Jesus? More Reflections from Honduras

Youth Directors Reunited

I was able to reconnect with Edin Rodas of Peña de Horeb, one of the youth directors. I also met another youth and music director from a church in Guaimaca, Marlon. Their love for the young people of Honduras is so contagious and reminds me that the youth in Honduras can and will have a voice in their churches today and tomorrow.

We visited El Picacho again this year. This beautiful park that overlooks the city of Tegucigalpa and also tells the religious and philosophical history of Honduras. This includes Mayan replicas, busts of Plato and other philosophers, and statues of Confucius and Jesus. But unlike last year, now you have to pay 10 Lempiras, i.e. $.50, to approach the feet of the Messiah. I paid the debts of my team of 26 and led them to Jesus. So much easier than preaching and teaching.

Elementary School Visit

We were able to visit the elementary school in Guaimaica, about 2 hours from Teguc. The school was beautiful and the children were thrilled to see us as we toured their classrooms. Marlon, the youth and music director at the church across the street, teaches commuter classes alongside his wife.

I will never forget how we were greeted when we walked up the steps and opened the front door of this church. Twenty youth, whom we met from the weekend retreat, surprised us as they shouted, "Welcome!" I cannot think of a better attestation to the identity of the church than this, opening the floodgates of hospitality and embrace to strangers. In fact, that was our evening Scripture as selected by a high school youth, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have enetertained angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2).

On a side note, the youth from Guaimaca had a full afternoon planned for us. However, their plan was overturned by their pastor who wanted us to see a variety of church projects in need of on-going finacial support. While I was grateful to learn more about the rural regions and congregations, I was grieved by the vision of the youth being negated. As Gloria Wheeler reminded us, this was a real illustration of how the youth are often not given voice in their communities. Furthermore, when we visited one of the church buildings we were exposed to deep the financial dependency has become.

The Pastor shared with us that they had started construction with the materials they had purchased and through the labor of their community members. They finished half of the building when they were informed that a U.S. congregation wanted to come down and help build. So they stopped. They waited. They let them finish the building. The pastor said, "it was not their best work." This is precisely what we are trying and feel called to avoid. I pray our partnership moves beyond finances, elevates the voices of young people, and ultimately becomes our best work in partnership.

Honduras Gardens

We also visited a few homes in Guaimaca. One of the homes had a very large garden with every tropical fruit you can imagine, e.g. bananas, plantains, guava, mandarin oranges, lemons, mangos, etc., coffee beans (pictured), sugar cane, and more. All of this has motivated me to work harder to develop a more organic, locally harvested, and fresh produce diet.

This has been an incredible few days. We have been exposed to a variety of conversations, experiences, people, and communal dynamics that all need to be taken into consideration as we continue to explore how this partnership will move forward in years to come. I continue to be energized and blessed by the youth and adult leadership on our team, who have had their eyes and ears open to what God is up to in this place.

Continued prayers appreciated....


Read other reflections on to include fantastic post from a parent...


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Regresamos a Tegucigalpa: Early Reflections on Year Two of Partnership

The trip began fairly smooth, as we ventured back to Teguc for year two of our youth-to-youth missional partnership with the Presbytery of Honduras. While we experienced a brief layover in Atlanta (the plane scheduled to transport us to Honduras was, and I quote, "broken"), a disappointing in-flight showing of The Hunger Games (such a let down of a film), and a very long morning/afternoon of travel, we safely arrived.

And we were thrilled to be greeted by familiar faces and fellow disciples in Central America.

We have a pretty jammed pack week ahead of us, thanks to Tim and Gloria Wheeler and the Presbytery of Honduras. And they did not hesitate to launch us right into a schedule chalk full of conversations concerning culture and context.

On Friday morning, a workshop was facilitated by an administrator from a local NGO, Fundacion Simiente, which works to alleviate poverty in their community development programs. They broke us up into small groups and invited us to consider poverty broadly defined and the causes of poverty for men, women, children, and the elderly. She reminded us that the poor and those who long to partner in community development strategies cannot do so without first knowing what poverty is. So the photo to the right was our group's creative attempt to define poverty.

The remainder of the conversation was too vast even to attempt to summarize via this blog. So I will update soon with a few notes from the workshop, to include minor reflections on some of the more significant and controversial socio-political events that have taken place in the past four years.

On Friday, we also headed to another retreat center where we spent the weekend with over 100 Honduras youth from throughout the country. Some walked for over five hours to participate. That made for nearly 130 campers gathered for worship and the exploration of the theme, venciendo gigantes (defeating/overcoming giants).

As I type, I confess that the experience has been both beautiful and exhausting. We are immersed within a culture not our own, speaking a language not our own, and encountering preaching that has challenged many of us. We feel like toddlers, constantly processing new information, people, and language that cause our brains to work on over-drive. Thank God for coffee and ciestas!

The youth leadership of the Presbytery of Honduras have put together a great program with fantastic and lively worship and incredibly creative and messy team activities. We have entered into sacred community together.

I also had to develop and impromptu sermon and speak for the requested hour! Yep, they asked me to preach for an hour!

My team told me I would have no problem, given that I like to talk, but they also asked that I share a bit of Amercian church culture by preaching closer to 20-25 minutes.

I compromised. The combination of having a translator, a clever dramatic rendition of Mark 2, a few photos to share about who I am and who we are, and reflections on Romans 8:35-39 and 1 Timothy 4:6-16, led to the shortest sermon of the weekend: 35 minutes.

The focus:

God is love.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God.

God can and will do incredible things through the youth in Honduras and Pennsylvania to transform their present as they move towards a beautiful future.

But the best part of the evening was the jubilant celebration and worship that broke out in the temple as we celebrated how God has overcome all of our giants: venciendo gigantes.

Our kids joned right into the charismatic expression of God's love and grace, even as they chanted prophetic statements that have more power than most of us may realize: Christo libre. Christo vive. Christ frees. Christ lives.

I am so glad to be here this week. I feel blessed to be able to reconnect with friends in Central America. I am not sure what this partnership will look like in the days ahead. We are still in the earliest beginnings. We simply must continue to be open and conversant, willing to pursue mutuality in mission.

This takes time. A lot of time.

Please continue to pray for our team, especially as we conclude the retreat and continue our adventures in the days ahead.

Stay tuned...



  • Many thanks to Tim and Gloria Wheler of PCUSA World Mission and Heifer International and Mark Wright of PCUSA World Mission. They have worked extremely hard to pull together this week in partnership!
  • Also checkout Further reflectins fom youth and parents in regards to this partnership:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Forgiveness as Jubilee: Uncovering Sins, Trespasses, and Debts in Lord's Prayer

Forgiveness is difficult for us to wrap our brains around. We have been the offended and the offender; we have been the one in need of extending forgiveness and find it difficult, if not impossible to offer. We have also been the one who has longed to be offered forgiveness, but wonder if the mistakes we have made have burned bridges beyond repair.

So when we hear Jesus' words, forgive us and forgive others, they may sound well and good, but is forgiveness really as simple as apologies delivered and accepted?

Still more, the matter is complicated whenever you walk into an ecumenical setting, with believers from Lutheran, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian traditions. We don't even say the same things are being forgiven.

If you have ever concluded a prayer circle with the Lord's prayer and you get to this line, you know what I mean, "Forgive us our sins/trespasses/debts as we forgive...well...all those things, Lord."

So it may be best, when trying to engage this line in the Lord's Prayer, to explore the witness of each tradition's interpretation.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hacemos La Misión en Colaboración: Honduras Youth Partnership 2012

One of the ways I have felt called to exercise my vocation as a youth pastor is through the development of a wide variety of missional partnerships. The kingdom of God is so vast and diverse, yet the temptation looms large to assume that our context is the only context whereby the gospel speaks and God's people dream.

What are missional partnerships?

Missional partnerships are pilgrimages that enable disciples in one context, i.e. the suburbs of Philadelphia, to travel with and work alongside disciples in another context as the church collaborates and conspires together.

Missional partnerships are immersions within the missio Dei (mission of God), which is to reconcile the whole world, through Jesus Christ, to God's good and beautiful intentions. The mission of God can also be understood as God's movement to save the world from all forms of suffering, injustice, evil, and chaos. And this reconciliation, which began in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, continues as God's people, in places like West Chester, PA and Tegucigalpa, Honduras, are formed and sent by God's Spirit to live into good news of God's deliverance.

Missional partnerships emphasize collaboration and reject imposition and inquisition. Missional partnerships are conversations. Missional partnerships assume nothing and work together on everything. Missional partnerships risk the sharing of leadership. Actually, missional partnerships shift leadership from the hands of the travelers to the hopes and dreams of the hosts who call the "foreign" context their home. This is what Hunter Farrell refers to as "mutuality in mission." [1]

Missional partnerships take short-term missions to the next level and extend interactions and collaborations beyond the one-week excursion and continue the dialogue and dream even after photos have been swapped and t-shirts washed and buried at the bottom of drawers.

Missional partnerships become covenanted relationships that extend well into the future- God's future!

I am a firm advocate of the "come and follow" and "look and see" discipleship model first embodied by Jesus in the calling of the Twelve. These missional partnerships are adventures in such discipleship, whereby youth are awakened by the kingdom of God and transformed by the power of the gospel alive and well all over the world. These partnerships empower youth to develop the eyes and ears to see and hear how God may be calling them to exercise their unique gifts and callings to participate in the very dreams of God locally and internationally.

That said, as the Imago Dei Youth Ministry prepares for a return to Honduras and year two of our youth-to youth missional partnership with the Presbytery of Honduras, I thought I would muse about a few of my hopes and dreams. Imago Dei Youth, feel free to comment and add your own :)