Wednesday Morning: 31 Jul 2019 – Ephesians 1:15-23 ~ The church is the body of Christ.

Wednesday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (A Collect for Grace – Wednesday)

O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, you have brought us safely to the beginning of this day: Defend us by your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin nor run into any danger; and that guided by your Spirit, we may do what is righteous in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – Ephesians 1:15-23 (NLT)

Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Wisdom

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.
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Morning Reflection:

The church is his body;
it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

– Ephesians 1:23 –

In today’s reading, Paul has moved from praising who has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ” (vs 1:3), to praying that the church might grow in wisdom and understanding of the “incredible greatness” of God’s power given to us in Jesus Christ, the head of all things, for the benefit of the church which is his body.

I recently read of a several high-profile pastors/teachers who have fallen away from the faith and denied Christ. The author posed the question: “If this is happening in public, how many low-profile pastors have fallen away privately but labor on in unbelief because they need a job?” It’s a sad state of affairs for them, but worse for the people in their churches; they don’t know who they are in Christ, or the power God has given to all who believe in Christ.

This is why Paul’s prayer speaks to us today, as the devil prowls this world seeking those whom he can deceive and destroy. Consider again Paul’s praise and prayer –

+ Praise: God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms – not simply the temporal blessings of this earth and this life, but the eternal blessings of heaven. We are God’s holy people – his rich and glorious inheritance.

+ Prayer: That God’s holy people would appreciate the spiritual blessings they already have and grow in intimacy with God through faith and trust his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Morning Prayer Pray for Your Church

  • That your pastors/teachers may be protected from the wiles and deceit of the evil one.
  • That together you may grow in wisdom and understanding of the spiritual blessings you have received in Christ.
  • That together your relationship with God may grow deeper and fuller through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • That together your hearts would be flooded with the light of God’s Word and the insight of God’s Spirit.
  • That together you would live confidently in the hope God has given you in Christ.
  • That together you would understand the greatness of the power God has given you – resurrection power, enthronement power.
  • That together you would gladly yield to the authority of Christ who is head over all things for the benefit of the church.

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“Build my life” – Housefires

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Tuesday Morning: 30 Jul 2019 – Ephesians 1:1-14 ~ The Mystery of the Church.

Tuesday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Opening (A Collect for Peace – Tuesday)

O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – Ephesians 1:1-14 (NLT)

Greetings from Paul

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.

I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Spiritual Blessings

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.
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Morning Reflection:

The Mystery of the Church

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan.
– Ephesians 1:9 –

The Apostle Paul knew Ephesus and the church in that city well. He had ministered in Asia Minor, the Roman province of which Ephesus was the capitol, with Ephesus as his headquarters, for about three years, A.D. 53-56. This letter was written to the Ephesians church while Paul was imprisoned in Rome (A.D. 6-62) with the expectation that they would subsequently circulate it among the other churches. In Ephesians, Paul develops the theme of the mystery of the church – as the body of Christ – a union of both Jewish and Gentile believers bound together in love.

In today’s reading, Paul praises God for the new life of blessing that He has given us in Jesus Christ –

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms
because we are united with Christ.
– Ephesians 1:3 –

In the original Greek, vs 3-14 are one sentence, as the Holy Spirit led Paul’s thinking from one blessing to another. Here are the highlights –

+ God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy, without fault in his eyes.
+ God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.
+ God has poured out his grace on all who belong to his dear Son.
+ God has purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgiven our sins.
+ God has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
+ God has revealed his plan to us – at just the right time, he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ.
+ God has made us one in Christ – he chose us in advance, and makes everything work out according to his plan.
+ God’s purpose was to save the Jews first and then the Gentiles through trust in the truth of Jesus Christ.
+ God identifies believers in Christ by giving us the promised Holy Spirit as the guarantee that we are his people and will receive his promised inheritance.

And God has blessed with every spiritual blessing so that we would praise and glorify him.

Questions for consideration:

  • Review the highlights listed above, or re-read the passage itself. Which of these blessings stand out for you as a reason to praise and glorify God? Please explain.
  • For example: What does it mean to you to have been chosen by God?
  • For example: What does it mean that God decided to adopt you into his family?
  • For example: What does it mean that God has given you the Holy Spirit?

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Morning Prayer: Gloria in Excelsis.

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

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“We praise Thee, O God (Te Deum laudamus)” – Sung by the Rev. Benjamin Mayes, melody as used within the Lutheran Liturgical Brotherhood Prayerbook. This is the official 1662 book of common prayer translation of the Te Deum laudamus, written by St Nicetas of Remesia in 386 A.D.

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Monday Morning: 29 Jul 2019 – Jude ~ Remain Faithful

Monday Morning

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening (A Collect for the Renewal of Life – Monday)

O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading – Jude (NLT)

Greetings from Jude

This letter is from Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.

I am writing to all who have been called by God the Father, who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ.

May God give you more and more mercy, peace, and love.

The Danger of False Teachers

Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

So I want to remind you, though you already know these things, that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful. And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment. And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.

In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings. But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction. What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion.

When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.

Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.

A Call to Remain Faithful

But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

A Prayer of Praise

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.
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Morning Reflection:

Remain Faithful

Tradition identifies Jude as the half-brother of Jesus, as was James. Most likely he was living outside of Palestine at the time of writing, c. A.D. 67-80, and directed his letter to Jewish believers. Jude’s two-fold purpose in writing is to warn against false teachers and to encourage believers to remain faithful.

False Teachers:

Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share.
But now I find that I must write about something else,
urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.
– Jude 1:3 –

Jude identifies these false teachers as ungodly people who have wormed their way into churches – teaching that God’s grace allows believers to live immoral lives, and rejecting the moral authority of Jesus. Whether or not these ungodly people were once believers, we don’t know. But we do know they are condemned by God.

These people “claim authority from their dreams — live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings…. [They] are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want…. They cause divisions and do not have God’s Spirit in them.”

Remain Faithful:

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith,
pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

– Jude 1:20-21 –

By contrast, believers remain faithful to the teaching of the Bible and strengthen one another spiritually, as empowered by the Holy Spirit in prayer. And most importantly, they remain (abide, live) safe and secure in the love of God – awaiting the eternal life that Jesus Christ has mercifully prepared for them.

Questions for consideration:

  • Jude identifies lust, rebellion, and irreverence as the marks of false teachers. Have you run into anyone like this inside, or outside, the church? What gave them away? Please explain.
  • Often public figures live immoral, rebellious, and irreverent lives but still claim moral authority to tell others how to live. Would they be considered false teachers? Can you think of examples? Please explain.
  • Can you think of another believer who has strengthened you in your faith? Have you strengthened another believer in his/her faith? Please explain.
  • Do you live safely and securely in the love of God? What effect does knowing that God loves you have on your life? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer: (Jude 1:24-25)

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.
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“Blessing and Honor” – Terry MacAlmon

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

7th Sunday after Pentecost, 28 Jul 2019 – Luke 11:1-13 ~ Persist in Prayer.

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Opening Prayer:

Father God, with the prayer your Son taught us always on our lips, we ask, we seek, we knock at your door. In our every need, grant us the first and best of all your gifts, the Spirit who makes us your children. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen
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“Lead On O King Eternal”

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A Reading from the Gospels: Luke 11:1-13 (NLT)

Teaching about Prayer

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:

“Father, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
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“Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” – Larnelle Harris

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Intercession:

God of glory and majesty, thank you for hearing and responding graciously to our prayers. Good Father, hear us now as we pray –

+ That all of your people may learn to rely on your mercy and help in their time of need….
+ That your people may share what you have provided with those who are needy….
+ That your people may show respect and kindness to all indigenous peoples….
+ That those who are sick or infirmed may receive your healing and comfort….
+ That all the members of our families may receive your protection and blessing….
+ That all who are travelling may return home declaring the wonders you have shown them….

God of glory and majesty, you answer the prayers of those who call out to you: than you, in advance, for giving us just what we need at just the right time, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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“The Lord’s Prayer” – Hillsong Worship

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Closing: Colossians 2:6-7

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
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+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday Morning, 27 Jul 2019 – 3 John ~ Practice hospitality.

Saturday Morning

+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Opening:  (A Collect for Sabbath Rest – Saturday)

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and set aside a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared to meet you in worship, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Morning Reading: 3 John (NLT)

Greetings

This letter is from John, the elder.

I am writing to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth.

Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.

Caring for the Lord’s Workers

Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers. So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.

I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.

Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.

Everyone speaks highly of Demetrius, as does the truth itself. We ourselves can say the same for him, and you know we speak the truth.

Conclusion

I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.

Peace be with you.

Your friends here send you their greetings. Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.
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Morning Reflection:

Practice hospitality.

Dear friend, you are being faithful to God
when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through,
even though they are strangers to you.
– 3 John 1:5 –

hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

Early Christian preachers normally received material support from other believers, or they supported themselves. They did not solicit or accept funds from unbelievers. Giving financial and hospitable aid made the believing giver a partner with the receiver in his work.

And so it is today – Christian ministers and missionaries live in the faith that God will encourage his people to provide for their needs. Sometimes that provision is monetary, and sometimes it’s more personal – by extending hospitality (opening your home and heart) to those who are passing through.

Questions for consideration:

  • Some cultures have a tradition of extending hospitality to strangers? Do you live in such a culture? Please explain.
  • While traveling, have you ever been a recipient of hospitality from people you didn’t know? Please explain.
  • Have you ever extended hospitality to believers who were traveling through your community? Please explain.
  • How would you assess the costs and benefits of extending hospitality to strangers? Please explain.
  • Is there anyone who needs your care now, someone who is visiting your church on the way to somewhere else? Look around you on Sunday? Please explain.

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Morning Prayer: A House Blessing (Brigid of Kildare, c. 450-523)

At the Doorway

+ May God give His blessing to the house that is here. God bless this house from roof to floor, from wall to wall, from end to end, from its foundation and its covering.
+ In the strong name of the Triune God all evil be banished, all disturbance cease, captive spirits freed, God’s Spirit alone dwell within these walls.
+ We call upon the Sacred Three to save, shield and surround this house, this home, this day, this night, and every night.

In the Living Room

+ There is a friend’s love in the gentle heart of the Savior. For love of Him we offer friendship and welcome every guest.
+ Lord, kindle in my heart a flame of love to my neighbor, to my enemies, my fiends, my kindred all, from the lowliest thing that lives to the name that is highest of all.
+ We call upon the Sacred Three to save, shield and surround this house, this home, this day, this night, and every night.

In the Kitchen

+ I would welcome the poor and honor them.
+ I would welcome the sick in the presence of angels and ask God to bless and embrace them.
+ Seeing a stranger approach, I would put food in the eating place, music in the listening place, and look for joy in the blessing of God, who often comes to my home in the blessing of a stranger.
+ We call upon the Sacred Three to save, shield and surround this house, this home, this day, this night, and every night.

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“Bless This House” – Tennessee Ernie Ford

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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen