Tuesday, August 27, 2013

We Accept This Sacred Trust

   Another prayer shawl, made with loving hands by gifted persons in the Epworth community, waits in my office to be picked up and delivered. They go to persons celebrating and those mourning. They go to those who are recovering from surgeries or welcoming babies or in need of the simple reminder that people care and that God's love overcomes whatever life throws at us.
   In between their creation and their use, the prayer shawls receive a word of prayer. Every one that has been delivered - each with a little tag that indicates it is from Epworth along with a prayer designed for the person receiving it - has been prayed over. But, I have to admit, I did not know exactly what words I'd use when I was first asked a couple of years ago to consecrate the first prayer shawls. I went to the United Methodist Book of Worship and did not find anything at first, until I stumbled upon a brief service called An Order for the Dedication of Church Furnishings and Memorials. Now the title of such words might deceive you as to their relevance, but listen to the liturgy:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit I consecrate these prayer shawls to the glory of Almighty God and for service by this church. Let us pray: Most loving God, without you no words or works of ours have meaning. Accept the gifts of our hands as symbols of our devotion. Grant us your blessing, as we have consecrated these gifts to your glory, that they may be an enduring witness before all your people, and that our lives may be consecrated in your service;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

   There is a response that I don't always read that comes in the middle of this service. It says, "We accept this gift as a sacred trust and will guard and use it reverently." That line strikes me: these words are universal. These words could (and should) be applied to just about everything we do. These children in our classrooms, on our playgrounds, and in our hallways are a part of a scared trust that we have with their families, but also with God. The monies we receive on Sunday are a sacred trust. The buildings and classrooms we occupy are to be used for the glory of God in the best possible ways to shine the light of Jesus into the lives of God's children (of every age). None of this is ours. Everything is a gift and a sacred trust. Surely this is why Jesus gave such stern warning to those who would violate this sense of stewardship (see Matthew 18:1-7).
   I hold firmly to the belief that this sacred trust is not limited to our leaders or parents or direct participants of a class or program or shawl. We are all recipients of this sacred trust. This is what it means to be Epworth, to be Christian, to be Human. Grace and Peace, Scott

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