Weekly Worship Thought – Into the World

mutter_teresa_von_kalkuttaRiffing on an idea from Pastor Kerry’s sermon on Sunday: Mother Teresa (canonized as a saint on September 6) offers us a model of how faithful, Christ-centered spirituality does not primarily lead to mountain-top experiences of private “me and God” time. The call to give our lives away for the life of the world begins at our baptism. Jesus’ own baptism is our model. Jesus’ baptism marked his ministry and propelled him deeper into the world, not away from the world. If anything, Jesus’ own baptism wasn’t a cleansing of sin but an identification with the rejected and outcast. Jesus was baptized as a sign of solidarity with the marginalized of the world, even unto death. Our baptism, our continual dying to sin and rising to new life, is our call deeper into the world, not away from it.

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” ~Mother Teresa

Weekly Worship Thought – Whole Heart

photo-1469571486292-0ba58a3f068bPsalm 111:1 says, “Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.” At the very center of all true worship is an attitude of thankfulness. The word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word for “thanksgiving.” We call communion “thanksgiving” because the scripture tells us that when Jesus was eating with his disciples “he gave thanks, broke it, and said, this is my body….” Following Jesus’ lead, our worship at God’s table is centered in an attitude of thankfulness. Back to Psalm 111. It says “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.” I’m interested in the idea of whole-heartedness. What does it look like to give thanks with a whole heart? What are the things that divide our heart and keep us from wholly giving ourselves in thanks to God?

Weekly Worship Thought – Vigil Against Violence

vigil-against-violenceLast week we held the Vigil Against Violence on Thursday evening. This event was in response to the shooting in West University Place on Monday, September 26, 2016, which is only a few blocks away from the church. We felt that the best way to respond as a church was to offer a place of peace and reflection, as well as lift up the idea of non-violence. Our culture has turned increasingly more violent. As followers of Jesus, we walk in the path of a Savior who willingly allowed his own execution in order to tear down systems that violently oppressed the weak and vulnerable.

If you didn’t catch the news interview you can see it here:

You can also take a look at the readings and prayers from the vigil as well.

Vigil Against Violence

September 29, 2016 / 7:00 PM



Song – ELW 721 Goodness Is Stronger than Evil

Reading – Psalm 37:1-9

Do not fret because of the wicked;

do not be envious of wrongdoers,

for they will soon fade like the grass,

and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;

so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD;

trust in him, and he will act.

He will make your vindication shine like the light,

and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him;

do not fret over those who prosper in their way,

over those who carry out evil devices.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.

Do not fret — it leads only to evil.

For the wicked shall be cut off,

but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.


Let us pray: God of peace, we come to you on behalf of our community. We are in need of healing. We grieve for those are killed and those whose lives are forever changed by violence. We ask for comfort for those who have lost loved ones. We pray for a change of heart for those who resort to violence. You desire peace in our world. Let it begin with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.




Song – God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us, stanza 1

God of mercy, you have shown us ways of living that are good:

Work for justice, treasure kindness, humbly journey with the Lord.

Yet your people here are grieving, hurt by weapons that destroy.

Help us turn to you, believing in your way that brings us joy.

Reading – Studs Turkel

“Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say: This is my community, and it is my responsibility to make it better.   Interweave all these communities and you really have an America that is back on its feet again. I really think we are going to have to reassess what constitutes a ‘hero.'”


Let us pray: O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace. Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to your church, peace among our neighbors, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.




Song – God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us, stanza 2

On a street where neighbors gather, shots are heard; a young girl dies.
On a campus, students scatter as the violence claims more lives.
In a family filled with anger, tempers flare and shots resound.
God of love, we weep and wonder at the violence all around.

Reading – Kofi Annan

“It may seem sometimes as if a culture of peace does not stand a chance against the culture of war, the culture of violence and the cultures of impunity and intolerance. Peace may indeed be a complex challenge, dependent on action in many fields and even a bit of luck from time to time. It may be a painfully slow process, and fragile and imperfect when it is achieved. But peace is in our hands. We can do it.”


Let us pray: Gracious and holy God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.




Song – God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us, stanza 3

God, we pray for those who suffer when this world seems so unfair;
May your church be quick to offer loving comfort, gentle care.
And we pray: Amid the violence, may we speak your truth, O Lord!
Give us strength to break the silence, saying, “This can be no more!”

Reading – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral; begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” (1967, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?. p. 67.)


Let us pray: Gracious God, bless our cities, Bellaire, West University, and all of Houston, and make them places of safety for all people, rich and poor. Give us grace to work for cities where neighborhoods remain vibrant and whole, where the lost and forgotten in society are supported, and where the arts flourish. Make the diverse fabric of the city a delight to all who live and visit there and a strong bond uniting people around common goals for the good of all; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.




Song – God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us, stanza 4

God, renew our faith and vision; make us those who boldly lead!

May we work for just decisions that bring true security.

Help us change this violent culture based on idols, built on fear.

Help us build a peaceful future with your world of people here.

Reading – Matthew 5:1-16

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”


Let us pray: God, our creator, by your holy prophet Jeremiah you taught your ancient people to seek the welfare of the cities in which they lived. We commend our neighborhood to your care, that it might be kept free from social strife and decay. We pray for our elected leaders and law enforcement, that they may be kept safe and allowed to serve and protect all people. Help us to be advocates for peace in our neighborhoods, working for that day when guns and weapons of destruction are transformed into instruments of healing. Give us strength of purpose and concern for others, that we may create here a community of justice and peace where your will may be done; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.





(God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us, Tune: The Sacred Harp, 1844; attributed to Benjamin Franklin White (“God Whose Giving Knows No Ending”) Text: © 2009 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Prayers adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, © 2006 Augsburg Fortress.)

Weekly Worship Thought – Spiritual Content

A photo by Jezael Melgoza. unsplash.com/photos/2ktKz6CnNk0When we gather together for corporate worship, the people assembled are engaging with the music at a variety of levels. I like to simplify this into three layers, or sections of a pyramid. At the top of the pyramid, the outermost layer, is the musical content. Some people engage and respond to the music used in worship purely at the musical level: melodies, harmonies, rhythms, and dynamics. The next layer down in the middle is the lyrical content. Some people engage and respond to the music and also recognize that there are lyrics and the lyrics have a quality. They are poetic and have rhyme, meter, and beauty. The bottom layer is the foundation that we want all people to get to. It is the spiritual content. All of the musical and lyrical content being presented is prompting us to recognize the spiritual reality of who God is and what God has done. Our songs in worship are there to move us into participation with God in the work of recreating and renewing the whole world.

Weekly Worship Thought – Confession

456903_381360738576439_143418169037365_1103943_1194963067_oOne of the elements of worship at The Gathering will change this week. It is the Prayer of Confession that takes place before the presider speaks the words of institution and we share communion. We added this confessional liturgy into The Gathering worship earlier this year and use it every week. I have been writing and compiling these prayers and this week will be our fourth iteration of it. The structure is the same from season to season:
  • Introduction (which might include acknowledgment of God’s attributes, thanksgiving for the offering that was just collected, and a call to confession from the presider)
  • Silence for reflection
  • Communal confession of sin (spoken in unison by the assembly)
  • Words of Forgiveness (which might include a call to the meal, transitioning us to the table and the words of institution)
One of the tricky things about curating this confessional prayer is to not transition into the meal focused on my sin and my forgiveness. Although the words of the confession us “us/we” language, there is a tendency to make confession about personal wrong-doing and personal forgiveness. However, the table is not so narrow. The table is not only concerned about me as an individual. The table is broad enough for the universe, and is the place where I “become what I eat” and am in turn made to be bread for the world. My goal in this prayer of confession is to set our minds and hearts on the cosmic reach of God’s forgiveness at the table, not merely what God has done for me individually.

Eucharistic Prayer of Confession @ The Gathering
Easter Season 2016

P:        Let us pray. God of all creation, we joyfully give back to you what you have given to us in abundance. All you have made is good, and your love endures forever. You give us bread from the earth and fruit from the vine. We do not presume to come to your table trusting in our own righteousness, but in your overflowing mercy. Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.

Silence is kept for reflection.

P:        God of grace and glory,

All:     you have brought us from death to life in Jesus’ resurrection. Yet our lives are still shadowed by sin. Make us alive in Christ, new creations in you. Rescue us in our time of need, renew us in grace, and restore us to living in your holiness, through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. Amen.

P:        Brothers and sisters, we have victory in Christ who has defeated the powers of sin and death through his glorious resurrection. Join in the meal of God’s forgiveness. As we eat and drink the body and blood of our risen Lord, may we live in him and he in us, a foretaste of the feast to come.

In the night in which he was betrayed…

Weekly Worship Thought – Can We Talk?

14237698_10154491382356804_4811150322787948244_nThis week I will begin to lead our worship band through some discussion using the new resource: Can We Talk? Engaging Worship and Culture. This resource is a type of study guide to help churches practically flesh out how and why worship intersects with culture. It uses the Nairobi Statement as a lens to view worship. Although our worship band mainly provides the music for the service, it is helpful to think about worship as a whole and how our music serves it. We will have some discussion about what worship looks like (how is our space used and what can visual arts do?) sounds like (music and the proclamation of God’s word), and how worship engages mind, body, and spirit through ritual practices like prayer, the sacraments, and blessings. I was thrilled to be a contributing author for this resource and highly recommend checking it out.

Weekly Worship Thought – Food

photo-1448794363755-de84d6a770bcLuke 14:1: “Now it happened that on a Sabbath day he had gone to share a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees…” One of the centerpieces of Jesus’ ministry was eating. Over and over again, Jesus shared food with people. Jesus shared food with his friends, the disciples. Jesus shared food with those who opposed him, the Pharisees in this story. Jesus shared food with people that got him in trouble with the Pharisees: the unclean, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors. Jesus shared food with people by way of miracles that fed thousands. On the night before he was crucified he shared a Passover meal with his disciples and gave us a new commandment to love one another. Even after the resurrection, Jesus was still sharing food with people. He cooked breakfast for the disciples when they had returned to fishing. He appeared as a stranger to the two on the road to Emmaus, explaining the meaning of God’s plan of restoration, and then when they sat down at the table, he was revealed to them. The reason why we eat bread and drink wine every Sunday is because Jesus’ life was mostly about eating with people. Jesus still eats with us today.

Weekly Worship Thought – Welcome to Baptism

riverIf you were with us in worship last Sunday you got to see the “Welcome to Baptism” rite by which we introduce our candidates in the First Steps @ Faith catechumenate process. The rite of welcome is an important transitional moment for these folks. It signifies that they are committing to growing their faith in Jesus in a very intentional way. It also lifts up to the church the fact that we have disciples sprouting in our midst, and our job is to nurture and encourage them in their journey of following Jesus. The ritual we witnessed is one of the most ancient rites of the Christian church. Record of its existence goes as far back as Hippolytus in 235 AD. “New converts to the faith, who are to be admitted to hearers of the word, shall first be brought to the teachers before the people assembled. And they shall be examined as to their reason for embracing the faith, and they who bring them shall testify that they are competent to hear the word.” (Webber, Journey to Jesus, p. 83)

(Welcome to Baptism starts at 34:42)

Q&R: Where do you get your motion backgrounds for your songs?

TWOTP_Blog_AdI get video loops and graphics from several places:

What are your favorite sites for graphics and videos?