Morning Prayer Summary for   Thursday, September 14, 2023

Morning Chapel Prayer Playlist

Pastor Heather…

What’s happening on the Jewish calendar…

I’m excited to bring forth this Word. Every once in a while, I like to Google “What’s happening on the Jewish calendar.” And I know we’re not Jewish, but our God is a Jewish God, right? I was looking “what’s happening on the Jewish calendar?” Every once in a while, I like to just kind of check in and make a touch point with that. And I always find it really interesting about their holidays, their celebrations, their feasts, and all those things. What I was finding out is right now they are in the month of Elul, is what they call it. And tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah, which is like their new year. So it’s kind of like New Year’s Eve for them right now. Which is exciting, and that’s the holiest day in the Jewish culture. So that’s tomorrow at sunset, technically. And it means “head of the year,” or “first of the year.” Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and it marks the creation of the world.

The month of Elul…

So that is tomorrow at sunset. But leading up to that is the month of Elul. And I love what that represents. So I’m just going to share a little bit of that today, and whatever else the Lord kind of gathers together out of all of that, all of my Googling and searching this morning. I had shared this once before, and it just was so impactful to me. So I find it… Well, we’ll just say anointed. It was a divine appointment that all of a sudden the Lord, just that came up in my heart again, like, “Where are we at on the Jewish calendar?” It’s so funny because the last time I did this, we were in Elul. So, it’s something that is important to my heart and you’ll see why as we get into it. And also, the picture that it paints is so beautiful. So, I wanted to share that today. And so, we’ll start out with that.

Elul is the twelfth and final month in the Jewish calendar. It’s a month that connects the past year with the coming year. A time when we reflect on where we stand and where we should be going. As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul is traditionally a time of introspection and stocktaking. A time to review one’s deeds and spiritual progress over the past year and prepare for the upcoming high holidays, or days of awe, of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as a month of divine mercy and forgiveness, for it is the most opportune time to return to God.

And I love that. Every day of Elul, the Jews blow the shofar as a wakeup call. So imagine that, every morning you wake up to the blast of that horn. They recite special prayers and psalms, most specifically Psalm 27 is one that they recite quite a bit. And we’ll read that shortly here.

The month of repentance…

It is called the month of repentance, the month of mercy. And when they’re blowing the shofar, that’s like a reminder. Like, that day is coming soon. Like, where are you at? What are you doing? What are you doing with your life, with your heart? Where are you at in your relationship with God? Just kind of a reminder that that day of the Lord is coming. It’s called the month of repentance, the month of mercy, and the month of forgiveness. Moses ascended to Mount Sinai for a third 40-day period until Yom Kippur when he descended with the second tablets and God’s word of joyful, wholehearted forgiveness. These were days when God revealed to the Jewish people great mercy. Since then, this time has been designated as a time of mercy, and forgiveness, and an opportune time for repentance.

Elul is an acronym…

The four letters of the name Elul are an acronym for the phrase in Song of Songs 6:3, “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.” I am my beloved. We approach God with a desire to return and connect. And my beloved is mine. God reciprocates our love. This is a time to reconnect with our creator, rekindle love, and renew this most precious relationship.

And anybody that’s heard me speak before you know, Song of Songs is one of my favorites, and just that analogy of how we are His bride and how much He loves us and He reciprocates that love. I think sometimes we forget that, “Oh Lord, I love you. I love you. I love you.” And He’s going, “Yes, I love you too. I loved you first, actually.”

Jews have holy months and mundane months. This month is like a meeting of the two where the mundane and the holy meet. This is the month when the king is in the field. And that’s really where I want to go today. I love that phrase. The king is in the field. God our king can be found in the field, traveling on His way to the palace. No appointment is necessary. Anyone who so desires may have a personal one on one encounter with the king. He is accessible to all. And we know who that King is. Why would the king leave his palace in the first place? Does he not own everything? He doesn’t even need to snap his finger, so to speak. Anything he so desires avails itself to him. Does the supreme being need anything at all? Apparently, the king does have a desire. That we renew our relationship with him.

In Judaism, a king is not a despot. But an elected leader positioned by people who willingly submit to his will. The relationship is reciprocal. So God is in the field, hoping that we renew our bond, reminding us, lest we forget, that we have a connection. Sometimes, even when we’re not looking, the king seeks us, finds us, and reminds us that he is involved.

I love that phrase: The King is in the field. And so you just think of that, that beautiful picture that that paints of like, he’s out of the palace, he’s coming down off of his throne to go out in the field. And what does the field represent? That represents where we work. That represents where we’re sowing, where we’re toiling, where we’re plowing, where we’re putting our hands to something, and he comes to meet us where we are in that field. And I just think that’s such a beautiful analogy of Him just coming down just to meet us where we are as we are in that very moment.

And you know normally if you were going to visit a king, there’s just a lot of protocol and things you’ll have to go to get to that palace. You’ll have to make an appointment. He’ll have to say yes, you’re accepted… if we’re just talking in the natural. There are certain things you’re supposed to wear, not wear. There are certain things you’re supposed to do, and not do. There are all these officials that have to approve you and say, “yes, you can come into the presence of the King.”

But in this month leading up to the Jewish new year, the King is in the field, meaning he’s out and he’s coming to mingle with us. And he wants to connect with our hearts. And so I love that. And that just paints such a beautiful picture. And it made me think of just a couple of times when I was little. I would go to my grandma’s house, and these were the days when kids played outside, mostly. I’d go to my grandma’s house, and my grandma and grandpa were dairy farmers, so they had cows and chickens and fun little places for a kid to explore, right? Some of my favorite memories are being on my grandma’s farm.

Grandma and Grandpa had an area behind the barn. It was just this big field and it had a trail that led down to a creek. And that was my favorite place to just go and I’d go by myself. You know, as a kid, I had a vivid imagination and I just remember walking and walking in the field. Being by myself and just feeling in those times… what I didn’t know then, but I know now, the presence of God. Just peace. I just felt peace. And I didn’t receive the Lord into my heart until I was 18.

And growing up, I had a difficult childhood. My biological dad was not a part of my life and so … My mom was a single mom; we were living in a trailer court, she was working and trying to go to night school and trying to make something of herself to raise me and my brother. And so we had a rough time of being bounced around to babysitters and whatnot. And so going to grandma’s house was kind of an escape from that. And I later found out in life too, that my grandma was praying for me all those years. Both my grandmas honestly praying for me. And I believe that I’m the fruit of those prayers of them praying, that I found God because of those prayers.

But just thinking of that the King is in the field. And so I would walk through those fields and just play and sing and imagine and just childlike imagination and innocence and remembering those times. And then I would say maybe like nine years ago, I was walking. And Bunker Hills has a beautiful park, and I was walking through the park. And there’s one area where you’re kind of going through a field. And the Lord just brought that time to my remembrance, and He said, “You didn’t know, but in those times, that was Me. When you felt that peace and you felt that love, that was Me! And you didn’t even know who I was, but I knew who you were.”

And He was wooing me. He was out in the field wooing me with His love and His peace. And as a young kid not knowing Him, knowing a little bit about religion, but that to me meant we had a harsh judgmental God. And I had to do everything right or He would be angry with me. That was my knowledge of God. So when He told me that it just made me weep because He’s so beautiful because I was just in His presence walking and walking through the field and experiencing His peace and love. And He just brought me to that moment and He said, “That was Me. You felt My presence, you felt My love, you felt My peace in those moments. And though you didn’t know who I was, I knew who you were.”

And so during this month of Elul I love that picture of the king is in the field. He’s out and He’s seeking us. And He’s seeking us right where we are, as we are, and He loves us right where we are, as we are. And even me, here I am today, I’m wearing my jeans and my baseball cap. And I want people to know, because I know some people that feels offensive. It’s not offensive to me. I feel like there are times where I have to come to the Lord as I am. And there are times that you dress up and you put on your best, and I do believe that too. But also, I believe there are times where I have to get my eyes off of myself and just come as I am comfortable, come as I am. And knowing that God loves me in that state. He loves me in every single state that I’m in at that moment.

And honestly, some of the best times He’s used me has been the times that I just came as I was. There was no pomp and circumstance. I didn’t have all my fancy hair done and makeup and fancy clothes on. I just came as I was. Humble. Acknowledging that here I am, I just come as I am, and there’s something wonderful about that, and even in this month of Elul, like we’re talking about, just the king is in the field. He wants to meet you right where you are. And you think again of that beautiful analogy.

So back in the day, most people worked. They were farmers. They plowed, they had harvest. So picturing a farmer out in the field, okay, he’s dirty. He’s wearing overalls. He probably has a straw hat on to keep the sun off of his face and out of his eyes. And the king just comes to meet him. So what does he do? Does he run home? Does he change? No, he just meets him right as he is. Right where he is in that moment.

And so today I just want to encourage everybody just come as you are. He loves you right as you are in this moment. And He’ll show you things. If there’s things that He wants you to change, He wants you to start, He wants you to stop, there’s always things like that, but even in that, He loves you right as you are in this moment. He’s coming out into the field to meet you and because He wants to connect His heart to yours. And that’s what’s most important.

And I think sometimes, we get so caught up in the work of our relationship with Him, the work of ministry… I have to do everything right… We get so focused on the work and we forget that true worship is when we have our eyes on Him, not ourselves. And a lot of times in our relationship with Him and I’ve caught myself doing this, I’m very focused on myself. I’m very focused on my shortcomings. Or I’m very focused on what I need from Him. I’m very focused on my needs, my wants, my desires, my shortcomings, my faults, my failures as I come to Him. And it was just such a beautiful reminder that He’s coming to us today. Like just focus on Him and coming back to that heart of worship where it’s about Him. It’s not about me, what I feel, what I don’t feel, what I need, what I don’t need. It’s really about Him.

And if we can get to that place where we are focusing on the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, it says when we seek Him first, all these things will be added. And I think sometimes we’re seeking all the things to be added first. We’re seeking like, “Okay, Lord, if you can just fix this, then I can focus better on you.” Or “If I could just get to this place, then I will feel close to you.” Or “If you could just do this or move this way in my life, or you could speak to me in this area.” And He’s saying, “Eyes on Me. Seek Me first and all those things will be added.”

So going back to the month of Elul… In traditional Judaism, the month of Elul focuses mostly on repentance and returning to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, it has major bridal overtones. Since an acronym for the Hebrew letters of Elul is … Look it up. The Hebrew words are letters that are actually an acronym for the verse of the scripture from Song of Songs, 6:3, “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.”

Traditional Jews are encouraged to renew their love relationship with their God, believing that He is like a great king who leaves His palace once a year to mingle with the people of his kingdom and have fellowship with him. And so just going back to that, the bridal overtones of that, I like that. And this is a month where he’s coming out. I really believe, honestly, He always is like that. But it’s neat to know that this is a time where we can be just very aware of that and we can remind ourselves that the king is out and He’s looking for us. He’s looking to connect to our hearts. He’s looking for His bride to have this moment with her of connection and love.

Psalm 27…

And so focusing on that, I wanted to read Psalm 27, because that’s one of the Psalms that they read a lot during the month of Elul. In the Passion translation it says…

“Yahweh is my revelation light and the source of my salvation. I fear no one. I’ll never turn back and run, for you, Yahweh, surround and protect me. When evil ones come to destroy me, they will be the ones who turn back. My heart will not fear. Even if an army rises to attack, I will not be shaken, even if war is eminent. Here’s the one thing I crave from Yahweh. The one thing I seek above all else. I want to live with Him every moment in His house. Beholding His marvelous beauty of Yahweh, filled with awe, delighting in His glory and grace. I want to contemplate in His temple. In the day of trouble, he will treasure me in his shelter. Under the cover of his tent, he will lift me high upon a rock, out of reach from all my enemies who surround me. Triumphant now, I’ll bring him my offerings of praise. Singing and shouting with ecstatic joy. Yes, I will sing praises to Yahweh. Hear my cry, show me mercy, and send the help I need. I heard your voice in my heart say, come, seek my face. My inner being responded, Yahweh. I’m seeking your face with all my heart. So don’t turn your face away from me. You’re the God of my salvation. How can you reject your servant in anger? You’ve been my only hope, so don’t forsake me now when I need you. My Father and mother abandoned me, but you, Yahweh, took me in and made me yours. Now teach me, Yahweh, all about your ways. Tell me what to do. Make it clear for me to understand, for I am surrounded by waiting enemies. Don’t let them defeat me, Lord. You can’t let me fall into their clutches. They keep accusing me of things I’ve never done. Breathing out violence against me. Yet.”

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