Written by: Rachael Keefe

Promise, Prophecy, and Prayer

As I drove to work yesterday morning I found myself singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” I sang it all the way through before I realized what I was doing. It …

Promise, Prophecy, and Prayer

As I drove to work yesterday morning I found myself singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” I sang it all the way through before I realized what I was doing. It filled me with a strange nostalgia. The next thing I knew I was thinking of other songs and hymns that mark different eras in my life.  “Beautiful Savior” was the first hymn I learned in youth choir. “Crown Him with Many Crowns” was a favorite in high school. In college it was Petra’s “For Annie.” In seminary there were many, but “Here I am Lord” was at the top. Later, “It is Well with My Soul” topped my list of favorites. These days, I often find myself humming “Grace Like Rain.” My ride to work went by very quickly.

Today it occurred to me that in a generation or two these songs that have such meaning and power for me, will fade away. Of course, I experienced a twinge of sadness that this music doesn’t connect with younger generations so much today. But then excitement and wonder pushed any sadness away. What songs will the church of tomorrow sing? Will another generation be able to create a soundtrack of hymns and praise songs for their lives?

And strangely, I kept thinking about Abram. In one conversation with God about the promise of children, he entered into a covenant that changed nearly everything about his life. Did he know that he stood on the brink of something totally new? Did he wonder how God would speak to future generations? Did it occur to him that his sons and grandsons would know God in ways he couldn’t imagine or foresee? Did he look to the future with hope and expectation? God made him a promise that changed everything.

We don’t have these kinds of conversations with God today. Partly because the world is different. Partly because Jesus took away the need for such promises. Jesus is the conversation we have with God. Love. Grace. Forgiveness. Salvation. Words spoken right out loud.

But things change. We forget. We get lost. Lent is a good season for remembering. It is the perfect time to be still and listen for God. How is God speaking today? Where is God speaking today? Who is listening and what are they hearing?

Things can change and still be okay. God can lead us anywhere. No matter what changes, as long as we are in conversation with God, it is okay. We are not alone, lost in the wilderness and left to our own devises. Everything may feel and look different, and yet people still find a way to praise God, come together to worship. It has been happening for thousands of years. We don’t worship the way Abram worshiped. We don’t worship the way the disciples worshiped. People that come after us aren’t going to resemble our practices either. That’s not important. What matters is the relationship we have with God, one another, ourselves. THAT is what gets lost in the cacophony of sound around us. And when the worship itself, or the music itself, becomes more important than the relationship, we are not listening anymore.

I don’t know about you, but I think there is prophecy and promise still to come.

 I believe that I shall see the goodness of God in the land of the living. Wait for God;    be strong, let your heart take courage; wait for God!

RCL – Year C – Second Sunday of Lent – February 24, 20132013-02-16 14.51.27

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17–4:1
Luke 13:31-35

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

0 thoughts on “Promise, Prophecy, and Prayer”

  1. Was the selection of the photo intended to support your essay about how worship will change? Pew polls show an increase in the number of people who call themselves spiritual but not religious. It is sad to think that what we look forward to is churches closing and becoming day spas.

    • Susan, yes. I chose the photo on purpose. It isn’t that I want churches to close necessarily. But the idea that church can change, worship space can change, and people can still be faithful. I don’t think “spiritual but not religious” is going to be the way of things for very long because it has no grounding. The church has a unique message to offer about identity and belonging and we are finding ways of bringing the Christian message into the world today in a way that is inclusive and transformative and may not need church buildings such as they are.


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