Month: April 2015

For Baltimore…

God of peace, justice, and mercy,
Savior of faith, hope, and love,
There is so much to pray for today, Lord.
Lord, in your mercy, hear these prayers.
Tonight, we pray for the family of Freddie Gray,
That they might experience peace
and comfort in their time of despair.
We also pray for those officers involved in his untimely death,
That they and their families may be kept safe
from threats of violence and revenge.
Still, we pray for justice.
We pray for justice.
We pray for justice.
With these prayers,
we pray for all the women and men
who have sworn their lives to protect us.
Grant them pure hearts
that they may avoid any anger and indiscretion
that comes with their work,
and keep them from corruption and arrogance.
Protect them as they offer their lives in service to others,
And keep us ever conscious
of the difficulties that come with their vocation.
We also pray for those who our society continues to neglect,
or pretends doesn’t exist.
Those at the bottom of the ladder,
who have long given up the hope of abundant life.
Those the system has failed,
and so they’ve grown understandable cynical of the system.
The education system,
the economic system,
the political system,
name it,
it has failed.
Open our eyes to see these realities
of the injustices in our own country and communities.
We pray for the city of Baltimore,
a town so dear to so many of us.
Help us remember words like “believe”
so that Baltimore might restore words like “charm.”
We pray for the mayor
as well for our Governor,
Give them wisdom to know what is right,
and hearts strong enough to do it.
Regardless of whether or not their favorite animal
is a donkey or an elephant!
Teach us that,
while we must never condone violence,
It does not give us the right to condemn others
when we have never worn their shoes.
May the media stations,
from the peacock to the fox,
Learn to exercise better caution
when painting a rhetoric that divides,
rather than unites.
Remind these public voices
that there is more at stake than sensationalism
and ratings.
Help a portion of our country understand that,
Saying #blacklivesmatter
doesn’t mean that, “whitelivesdon’tmatter”
Because we profess that all lives matter,
and that’s not a hashtag
for all are made in the image of God.
This means the image of God can be found
in the so-called “thug,”
the “punk,”
and the “hoodlum,” too.
Correct the delusional thinking
that believes “protesting,” and “rioting,”
are one in the same.
Strike terms like “them,” and, “they,” from our vocabulary
Replace them with a desire to love our enemy,
care for the stranger,
and respect the “other.”
Give us strength to remove the rubble
left over from the chaos
we have made of your Creation,
So that finally,
all people may begin to see the Kingdom of God
that is already among us.
We pray all things in the name of your Son,
who is Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

FOR BALTIMORE, by Pastor Kyle Durbin
Centenary UMC, Shady Side, MD
A prayer delivered at a Community Prayer Vigil for Baltimore
A prayer of unity, peace, hope, and love.

Baltimore

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LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #1 – “Stairway To Heaven” – Led Zeppelin

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #1 – “Stairway To Heaven” – Led Zeppelin
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

Ever since high-school, when I first started getting into punk music, and all the other kids starting bands were offering less than eloquent dissertations as to why classic rock was the superior music form, I have always had a problem with Led Zeppelin. Nothing against them musically, but it’s just the way it is. Nevertheless, the impact that, “Stairway to Heaven,” had on classic rock and continues to have on American rock and roll is absolutely undeniable, so it earns the number one spot in our “40 Days Of Classic Rock” Lenten Devotional Countdown.

Released in 1971, “Stairway To Heaven,” was written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Paige and recorded for the band’s fourth studio album. The title of the song has always reminded me of Genesis 28:12, where Jacob, while on the run from his brother Esau, “dreamed and saw a raised staircase, its foundation on earth and its top touching the sky, and God’s messengers were ascending and descending on it.” This “stairway to heaven,” was a sign that God was with Jacob, even when he didn’t notice it, and that God would stay with Jacob no matter what he went through in life. The same is true for us. However, the final line of the song, “and she’s buying a stairway to heaven,” makes the relation to scripture more immediate. See, it is not possible to purchase a ticket to heaven. It is not possible to earn our salvation at all. This is why Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.” From his suffering, to his death on a cross, to his resurrection, the salvation offered by the grace of Jesus always was and always will be completely by Christ’s own initiative. The good news of Jesus Christ is that his grace is free and that his salvation is always available.

God of Heaven and Earth, we spend our lives trying to follow your will and to abide by your commandments, in order that we might earn your favor. Give us the patient understanding that the work of salvation was already completed by Christ on that first Easter morning. Give us the determination to live a life that honors you in response to that assurance. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #2 – “Dream On” – Aerosmith

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #2 – “Dream On” – Aerosmith
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

“Dream On,” was actually released twice, once in 1973, and then again in 1976. It was the reissue that garnered the most notoriety for Aerosmith and Steven Tyler, who wrote the song when he was only 17 years old. Tyler has stated that it was the only song on the album where he used his natural voice, instead of trying to sound lower and more mature. That iconic voice was made famous again in 2002 when Eminem included the refrain in his hit, “Sing For The Moment.”

The song may have been a bittersweet lament written when Aerosmith had not yet reached the level of recognition they enjoy today. Still, the ballad is a resilient anthem for pursuing one’s goals. Whether we are “singing [through] laughter,” or “singing [through] tears,” the encouragement to “dream on,” is one that has endured since biblical times. We are reminded by the prophet Jeremiah in 29:11, “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” With this confidence, we can boldly “bless the Lord in all times,” whether good or bad, just as Psalm 34 begins.

God of hope, we place our future in your hands. Use us to do your will, and whether that results in prosperity or adversity, we will praise you nevertheless. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #3 – “Back In Black” – ACDC

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #3 – “Back In Black” – ACDC
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

It’s hard to believe that “Back In Black,” the album from which our number three song takes its title, was ACDC’s seventh album, coming hot of the heals of their hugely successful, “Highway To Hell.” As the first album featuring new singer Brian Johnson, the song “Back in Black,” was written as a sort of tribute to their late, former lead vocalist, Bon Scott.

As it stands, the song is a celebration of life, as the band refused to write a morbid or depressing song to say farewell to their longtime friend and bandmate. I have to credit the United Methodist Men of Centenary UMC for tackling this song in a morning devotional activity the other week. It was noted that the lyrics, “I been too long I’m glad to be back. Let loose from the noose…I keep looking at the sky…Forget the hearse cause I’ll never die,” have strong Christian undertones. After all, we worship a savior who was crucified hanging from a cross, spent three days buried in a tomb, and then, after it had “been too long,” he came “back,” and through his grace, we’ll “never die.” As a matter of fact, Jesus promises that himself in John 11:26, saying, “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Giver of Salvation, we know that we are saved by grace through faith. Strengthen our trust in you, so that we might live into the abundant life you bring, and receive the eternal life you promise. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #4 – “Paint It Black” – The Rolling Stones

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #4 – “Paint It Black” – The Rolling Stones
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

“Paint It Black” was a single written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger for The Rolling Stone’s fourth album, “Aftermath,” and quickly claimed number one status. The song, which included Bill Wyman using his fists on the pedals of an organ for percussion, and Brian Jones playing sitar, was originally intended to be nothing more than a comedy track.

While Jagger has stated that the song was originally about a girl’s funeral, the lyrics are certainly open to interpretation.

The song begins, and then repeats, “I see a red door and I want it painted black,” a hopeless, cynical refrain caused by experiencing certain tragedies in life. In the book of Exodus, God commands the Israelites to paint their doors red with the blood of a lamb. The reason being that the Egyptians had enslaved God’s people, and despite almost ten plagues, including the Lord literally painting all of Egypt black by covering the land in darkness, the Pharaoh would not let the Hebrew people go. Therefore, the final plague was the angel of death visiting the country, but the Israelites, by painting their doorposts, would be saved. This event from Exodus 12 became known as the first Passover, and was followed by Moses successfully leading the people out of slavery and bondage. Exodus begins, after explaining the poor condition of the Israelites, with Exodus 3: 23-24, “They cried out, and their cry to be rescued from the hard work rose up to God. God heard their cry of grief, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham…” When we feel hopeless, when we feel like the world should be “painted black,” we must remember that we have a God who hears our cries, will answer our call, and will deliver us from our afflictions.

Holy Liberating Deliverer, when we survey the world around us, it is easy to become pessimistic and disillusioned. When darkness seems to cover us, remind us that your anger will always pass us over, and that only your love will remain, a love that sends mercy, healing, and hope. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #5 – “Let It Be” – The Beatles

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #5 – “Let It Be” – The Beatles
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

Depending on musical preferences, “Let It Be,” is probably either your favorite or least favorite song by the Beatles. The statement is true for the members of the Beatles as well, with Paul McCartney writing the song that would go on to be their best selling single of all time, and John Lennon always deplored the song, essentially calling it a “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” knock-off that McCartney may as well have written for Wings. Unsurprisingly, McCartney left the band after the song’s release, and has continued to play it at solo concerts ever since.

While many attribute the lyrics to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, of the Christian faith, McCartney claims the lyrics were written for his mother. However, “let it be,” is a clear reference to the Annunciation of Jesus birth to Mary, where she replies to the angel, Gabriel, in Luke 1:38, “Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” This submissiveness to the Lord’s will, whatever it entails, has become one of Mary’s most recognized traits. However, McCartney sings, “whisper words of wisdom, let it be,” which conjures Old Testament themes more than those of the Nativity. Proverbs 4:5-6 encourages readers, “Get wisdom; get understanding. Don’t forget and don’t turn away from my words. Don’t abandon her, and she will guard you. Love her, and she will protect you.” Whether it’s saying a prayer while reflecting on “Mother Mary,” or digging through scripture for, “wisdom,” and “understanding,” the faithful will always benefit from committed, spiritual disciplines that bring us comfort, and bring us closer to God.

Divine Giver of Wisdom, never abandon us. Keep us close. Keep us safe. Whisper gently into our ears, bringing us understanding of your ways, so that we can commit our lives to your will. Amen.