We're fully into summer rhythms at Incarnation! This is a season when we slow down, rest, play, and enjoy the many good gifts of God's creation — including in one another — like gathering in a rich summer harvest.
Our summer kids' program, Wild Wonder, meets each week at 9:30am in the courtyard to pray Psalm 96 and explore different aspects of creation together. July will bring art, balloon animals, a reptile visit, and more. Email Josie (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you'd like to lead a Wild Wonder session this summer — this is such a fun and easy way to share your interests with the kids of our church!
The sanctuary (ahem, cafeteria) feels a bit more sparse as people travel near and far. For those who aren't traveling, perhaps you'd like to invite a friend? And for those who are, we've prepared a Summer Family Prayer guide for use during your summer adventures. Despite the name, these prayer guides can be used by anyone and any type of household; they take their name from the Family Prayer section of our Book of Common Prayer, which contains daily prayers especially designed for short attention spans and busy lives.
Throughout July and August, our processional hymn will be "For the Beauty of the Earth," a song of "grateful praise" for God's good creation in earth, sea, and sky; in human love; in the human body; in redemptive history; and in the church. Katie Foran recently introduced me to this fantastic version from A New Liturgy, and threw down a summer challenge to our musicians: "feels like we could figure this out with our ukuleles, choir, drums by the end of the summer... just saying." Musicians, take it away!
Throughout July and August, we'll be preaching a sermon series called "The Psalms that Shape Us," focusing on psalms that hold special importance for members of our congregation (thanks to all who submitted psalm suggestions!). I'm really looking forward to this extended time studying and praying the psalms together, and hearing how the psalms have sustained each other. Sometimes hearing other people's stories can help us freshly imagine the work of God in our own lives.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the psalms as uniquely human speech. In a world of automation, social media, and Artificial Intelligence, the question of what it means to be human feels ever more pressing, and the church’s response to that question feels ever more unique. We are very intentional at Incarnation about preserving the “creatureliness” of our worship, to remember we are embodied human beings in the presence of God, so needy, so very loved. (Someone wrote to me and Katie a few weeks ago to ask us, point blank, for assurance that we would never use generative AI to write a sermon. I loved that question’s appreciation for the creatureliness of preaching. And of course, Katie and I both responded with a resounding never.)
There’s nothing artificial about the psalms. These prayers are Divine Intelligence—Real Intelligence—for human lips. The psalms, like the humans for whom they are given, are unpredictable, evocative, eruptive, at turns angry, tender, awkward, confused, and joyful. They are human speech, yet they reach for the God who is beyond the bounds of speech, and you can often feel that reaching in their surprising outbursts and jarring imagery and unresolved longings.
Eugene Peterson calls the psalms "tools for being and becoming.” Humans are tool-wielding creatures, and we wield these particular tools simply by praying them. Every day, in order, again and again, for a lifetime (our Book of Common Prayer is designed to help in this task, organizing the psalms in 30- or 60-day reading cycles; ask me if you’d like an intro!). Over time, with practice, the psalms form our habit and language of prayer. This prayer helps us “be and become” human in the way God intended, embodied creatures of enormous emotional complexity and creative capacity, intimately dependent on our maker at every moment.
I hope that this summer, you’ll extend the sermon series by praying the psalms. Use the tools! Katie reminded me of this wonderful video on the psalms featuring Eugene Peterson and Bono and Anglican theologian David Taylor; enjoy!
For the beauty of the earth,