From the Psalms:
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him,
and speak of all his marvelous works.
Glory in his holy Name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Psalm 105:1-3 – June 28, 2012)
I probably should say the Daily Office and read the lessons before reading anything else, but that’s not what I did this morning. I read these opening verses of the morning psalm today after reading an essay a friend had written about “the real issue in the Episcopal Church.” His thesis was that our problem is failure to keep it simple, to stay focused on Jesus. As an illustration, he pointed to a more-than-five-minute video on church planting by a church leader in which the name of Jesus was never mentioned! I read that and then I read this psalm: “Call upon [the Lord’s] Name; make known his deeds among the peoples.” ~ My friend is probably right. If it’s not the “real issue” for our church, it’s certainly one of paramount importance. We don’t talk enough about God and about Jesus; we don’t “make known his deeds among the peoples.” We do a lot of God-talk within the four walls of the church, although even there we sometimes forget to mention Jesus, as my friend’s illustrative video shows. But talk about our Lord and Savior outside, “among the peoples”? Fuggidaboudit (as a current insurance advertisement might put it). ~ Opportunities to do so abound. In conversations about church growth recently, members of my parish have confessed to missing openings with cashiers in the supermarket, with friends on the golf course, with wait staff in restaurants, and in numerous other settings. With 20-20 hindsight we see where we might have said something; the goal is to train ourselves to see these opportunities when they arise, not after they have passed. ~ I believe there are two elements in this self-training. The first is developing awareness of the presence of God in every moment of life. One way I try to do this is to remember that in each encounter with another person, I am also encountering God. Before (and often after) I meet with someone, I say this prayer: “Lord, thank you for letting me serve you in the guise of this person.” Say something like this about the cashier you are about to encounter before entering the grocery store, about your friends before teeing off on the links, about the waiter who is about to take your order in the restaurant. ~ This also illustrates the second element, adding short prayers into the structure of your day. In addition to these sorts of prayers and the Daily Office, I recite prayers at odd times. For example, while driving, in place of singing along with whatever’s playing on the oldies station, I say the Rosary (and then I sing along). ~ Keeping God in Jesus at the forefront of our awareness helps in seeing the openings to mention his Name, to make his deeds known, to give those we encounter in everyday life an opportunity to hear the Word and rejoice. I don’t know if my friend is right that failing to mention Jesus in a leadership video points to the “real issue” in the Episcopal Church, but I’m pretty sure that failing to mention Jesus is a real issue in our own lives! ~ (My friend’s essay can be read on his blog.)