Dark, Doubt, and Hopeless

19APR2014—Saturday

Holy Saturday—Dark, Doubt, and Hopeless

Readings: Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16  Lam 3:1-9, 19-24  1 Peter 4:1-8  John 19:38-42

I can’t even imagine what the disciples were thinking. I won’t even try. My imagination tells me it was a very dark, doubt-filled, and hopeless situation. Heartbroken, guilt-laden, and no direction…they sat hiding throughout the day and night.

Holy Saturday Prayer

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of thy dear on was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Paradox of Dark and Light

18APR2014—Friday

Good Friday—Paradox of Dark and Light

Readings: Psalm 22  Isaiah 52:13—53:12  Hebrews 10: 16-25  John 18:1—19:42

I’m a bit at a loss for words today… not in a somber way, but more akin to numb and empty. Today is one of the days Christians recognize as dark and solemn; it is a day we reflect upon the crucifixion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. My mind is all over it. I’ve got the narratives from the gospel accounts memorized and read again. I’ve attended a Good Friday service and participated in a Tenebrae service even on this day, but I’m seriously lacking with any connecting emotion or spiritual burden that announces some sensory acknowledgment of the Good Friday event that is the Passion of our Lord Jesus.

He was despised and we did not care.

It was our weaknesses he carried;

It was our sorrows that weighed him down.

He was pierced for our rebellion,

Crushed for our sins.

He was beaten so we could be whole

He was whipped so we could be healed

He bore the sins of the many

And interceded for rebels. -Isaiah 53:3-5, 12

Something tells me I should feel a bit guilty for the way feel or more accurately, the way I don’t feel. I think that’s rubbish though; I don’t feel because I know Christ is victorious and He is not absent from me. I have felt, rejoiced, and enjoyed the presence and conversation with Jesus (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) all day today. I cannot fool the Spirit in me into believing something that is not true. It isn’t that I don’t feel it necessary to commiserate with others or commemorate the occasion of the season. I get it; I do, but I don’t feel it honest to contrive a false sense of emotion for the sake of “looking” right. No, I think it best to celebrate the victory of Christ instead—maybe quietly so as not to offend others, but celebrate nonetheless.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (Psalm 22:1)

He bowed his head and released his spirit… (John 19:30)

Today I can only imagine what Jesus’ closest friends, family, and his disciples must have thought. They saw him die. No matter what he might have told him about rising again, I do not think Scripture teaches or hints that even one, including the women and Jesus’ mother believed he was going to come back to life. Therefore, this day (the day Jesus was crucified and died) was the end of all they had hoped for. The promises, the miracles, the hope, the great teaching… all of it gone and now their own lives may be in jeopardy as well. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in that situation or anything close to it, so I can barely begin to understand what they were going through. Their darkness was going to explode like a super Nova into everlasting Light, but not just yet…

Good Friday Prayer

Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed and given up into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

An Example to Follow

17APR2014—Thursday

Lent.43—An Example to Follow

Readings: Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19  Exodus 12:1-42  1 Cor. 11:23-26  John 13:1-17, 31-35

Words that are sticking in my throat and I find difficult to digest are found in today’s readings for this Maundy Thursday. Our Lenten journey is nearing its end and several culminating thoughts from Scripture are stirring my own resolve.

I read; “On the night he was betrayed…” (1 Cor. 11:23) and we know that the words are directed toward Judas and to some degree the disciples who left him…and maybe even there is a hint of the betrayal of Jesus’ own people, which would ultimately lead to his death by crucifixion. I wonder though; is there another betrayal to consider? Might we, even those who profess to be “washed” by him, qualify as his betrayers. I know in some abstract sense we might cast a nod of self-righteous agreement to that betrayal… standing firm on our knowledge of grace and redemption, but might we be mistaken? Could our betrayal be even more profound? Might our betrayal be closer to our immediate present? I think maybe…it could be we are real time betrayers still today.

He looked to his disciples and he told them; “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them. Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:15, 17, 34). What is the example Christ left us? Can we even recount that example? Can we tangibly say in actionable words what the example of Jesus’ life and model for us is, without qualifying those actions or watering them down to the point they no longer resemble the life of Jesus in the gospel accounts. I wonder. I am convicted that I am still a betrayer. I tell myself lies and try to qualify my own failure to follow wholly the life of Jesus by blaming my surroundings and the context of my culture. And I’m tired of it. I don’t want to be a betrayer anymore. I’m tired of fighting my own people. I understand tolerance and I understand grace and I understand patience…but I also understand selfishness and hard-heartedness and I do not want to live there anymore. I do not want to betray the things I know are true and life-giving… I do not care about culture. I do not care about demographics. I do not care about hard-hearted and self-centered people. I care about Jesus. I believe his teachings and I will live to appropriate them fully in my life no matter who else comes alongside. I know there are others who wish to follow this path and I will find them and I will love them…as Christ loves me. I will no longer be a betrayer.

My Psalm Prayer and Affirmation:

I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the LORD’s name for saving me. I will keep my promises to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Psalm 116:1-2, 13-14

Maundy Thursday Prayer

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, did institute the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal , the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Betrayed

16APR2014—Wednesday

Lent.42—Betrayed

Readings: Psalm 70  Isaiah 50:4-9  Hebrews 12:1-3  John 13:21-32

What is it like to be betrayed?

I think we’ve all experienced on some level in our lives; a good or cherished friend, a loved one, or perhaps a trusted colleague turns their back on us and becomes our betrayer. How do we respond? Are we capable of forgiveness? Can we put our trust in God and remain confident that His will be done? What was it like to be a betrayer? Can you remember a time where you have betrayed another soul? I wonder what went on between Jesus and Judas and I wonder what occurred to them as they pondered betrayal and betrayed respectively.

Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” (John 13:21)

I have set my face like stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame. (Isaiah 50:7)

“We must have faith during the period of our grief. We think that our afflictions will be greater than we can bear, but we do not know the strength of our own hearts, nor the power of God. He knows all. He knows every folding of the heart and also the extent of the sorrow that he inflicts. What we think will overwhelm us entirely only subdues and conquers our pride. Our renewed spirit rises from its subjugation with a celestial strength and consolation.” -Francois Fenelon

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

An Evening Prayer

Speak to our hearts, O Christ our overseer; say to us, “Hail, be strong and of good courage.” You who did this of old, can you not do the same now? You can, you can indeed! For you are almighty. You can, O most Loving, you can do what we cannot conceive; for nothing is impossible to you, almighty God! Truly, O Savior, for us your body is red with blood; you have “washed your garment in wine and your clothes in the blood of grapes;” for you are God alone, crucified for us, whom the old transgression gave over to death; by your wound have been healed the countless wounds of our sins. And now, O loving and crucified Christ, redeem us with your own; save us, O loving Goodness, O God, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever, throughout all ages. Amen. Old Gallican Missal

We Want to Meet Jesus

15APR2014—Tuesday

Lent.41—We Want to Meet Jesus

Readings: Psalm 71:1-14  Isaiah 49:1-7  1 Cor. 1:18-31  John 12:20-37

One of my all time favorite passages of Scripture has been John 12:24-26; I cannot recall how many times I have quoted it and used it in sermons or personal testimony…maybe hundreds. Today and tonight as I’ve been pondering this reading, I am making connections that I have not made previously—I’m hearing with different ears and seeing with different eyes—the gravity of these words has increased exponentially.

20 Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration 21 paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! 28 Father, bring glory to your name.”

Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” 29 When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.

30 Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate how he was going to die.

34 The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”

35 Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going.36 Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”

After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.

37 But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him.  (John 12:20-37)

There is simply too much going on in this passage of Scripture to unpack in a single blog post, but there are a few highlights worth bringing to attention. First, the context is worth mentioning… for some reason I have not made this connection before, but Phillip’s friends want to meet Jesus. Phillip and Andrew ask Jesus if their friends can get a meeting and Jesus begins; basically saying, “You want to meet me? You need to be willing to lose your life, because I am the life you want to meet… And here’s how you meet me; You follow me. Where am I going you say? Watch and I’ll show you… It’s for this very hour that I came.”  This commentary from Jesus might lead the persons hearing to conclude these are the ravings of some radical lunatic, but then… “A Voice from heaven” And we hear the affirmation of God pronounced over the words Jesus had shared.

An interesting note about the voice from heaven some heard it as thunder and others heard it as the declarations of an angel… interesting. Pay attention to how you listen (Luke 8:18).

Another point, Jesus had told his listeners (perhaps Phillip and Andrew’s friends) that to “meet him” or become his disciple, they must follow him and he further explains where he is going (vs. 32); “When I am lifted up from the earth…”

Next, Jesus puts down a few more cryptic lines and we are told, “After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.” It almost seems the time for trying to figure Jesus out and discern whether his was Messianic truth or not was over. He was hidden from them…

Finally, these last words are bone chilling to me. I think because they mirror the heart of so many “friends of Jesus” today. People who profess to know Jesus, but are unwilling to become the kernel that falls into the ground first—unwilling to follow where Jesus is when he is lifted up. John writes; “but despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe him.”

Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

All that we have today, and most of the people, even those who profess to know Him, do not believe. On what basis do I make such a broad generalization? There is far too much “self” existing in those who profess to follow; a clear indication that the crucial part of becoming a disciple, denying the self, has not taken place.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone.

An Evening Prayer:

We praise you, Lord, for the gift of wisdom that allows us to hear and obey your word. We thank you for the call you have given each of us, to spend our lives in your service. Help us to reject the folly that the world considers wisdom. God of Mercy, your Son Jesus chose suffering and the cross in place of the joy that was held out to him; teach us to carry one another’s burdens, that we may die and rise again to live in him who is our Saviour, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Holy Week

14APR2014—Monday

Lent.40—Holy Week

Readings: Psalm 36:5-11  Isaiah 42:1-9  Hebrews 9:11-15  John 12:1-11

Today begins Holy Week, the final days of the Lenten season leading to the Paschal Tridium. The readings this week help us to focus on the servanthood and mission of our Lord Jesus, his holy sacrifice that provides the means of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of humankind to God.

Christ brings justice to the nations; it is He who demonstrates the righteousness of God; it is He who is the Light that guides the nations; He opens the eyes of the blind and sets the captive free. Everything God has spoken through his prophets has and will come true. Christ will die… and Christ will rise again. Those who are found in him will die… and rise again with him. -Inspired from Isaiah 42:1-9

“He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him (John 14:21

Our Prayer

We praise you, Lord, for the gift of trust. We thank you for the witness of so many people throughout the ages who have placed their trust in you and who now inspire us with their example of faithful and loving service. WE thank you for your unfathomable love revealed to us in the scriptures, in the law, and in the life, death, and resurrection of your son Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Book Review: Ecovillages

Book Review: Ecovillages

Author: Karen T. Litfin

Publisher: Polity Books ISBN: 9780745679501

Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community

I really liked this book and truly appreciated the broad-spectrum approach of Karen Litfin’s research and chronicle of her sabbatical adventure. Ecovillages is not an egg-headed, ivory tower, theoretical diatribe, which can often be the case when talking about the environment and sustainable living. No, this book is about thoughtful, studied, objective, and first-hand analysis of communities engaging in the process of living in community with different approaches to sustainability. This approach made all the difference in the world to me and kept my mind open, listening, learning, dreaming, and hopeful.

Chapters one and two set up Litfin’s year-long journey and exploration of sustainable communities. Here she describes her personal interest and how she winnowed her selection of ecovillages to visit. The next four chapters (Ecology, Economy, Community, and Consciousness) explore significant aspects of and different approaches to living together in sustainable community.

I have been intrigued by intentional communities for several years now and have explored mostly those communities centered around spiritual values. While this has been my core value, a strong second focus has been ecological sustainability, so Litfin’s journey was of keen interest to me. I was not disappointed in the least with her recounting of her experience. I appreciated the insights and diversity of the communities especially from the multinational perspective. Additionally, the glimpses into economy and logistical challenges were a helpful inclusion for details I may not have previously considered.

Because of my primary motives for interest in sustainable communities, I was most interested (and enjoyed) the chapters on community and consciousness. It was in these chapters that Litfin really digs into the people dynamic delving into issues of governance, charism of the community, and conflict resolution. I think Karen’s words nearing the end of the consciousness chapter kind of sums up the entirety of the book for me as it relates to the journey of human community on the whole; she writes the following:

As I spoke with ecovillagers around the world, I found my mind’s dichotomies softening into a bigger picture. Science vs. mysticism, Christianity vs. evolution, simple living vs. big-picture thinking, selfishness vs. altruism – these old antinomies were making peace in my mind. As my either/or categories dissolved into a more embracive, both/and perspective, my internal experience of myself and the world felt larger and more generous. I began to see my own foibles and those of others as transitory deficiencies of consciousness, rather than irredeemable character flaws. I came to view the story of separation as a means of creating individuals capable of consciously giving themselves to the whole. In framing our contemporary predicament as a developmental process, rather than the catastrophic consequence of human stupidity or God’ punishment for our sins, I could see larger possibilities for action and compassion – possibilities that grow exponentially in the context of community. I could see that each of us has the potential to become, quite literally, a force of nature (pp. 185-186).

If you have in interest at all in ecovillages, sustainable and/or intentional community living, this book will be a helpful and insightful read for you. I continue to be hopeful for my own journey into a community of some sort and this has been a great addition to my education and preparation for that day.

Who Is This Man?

13APR2014—Sunday
Lent.39—Who Is This Man?
Readings: Psalm 31:9-16 ◊ Isaiah 50:4-9 ◊ Philippians 2:5-11 ◊ Matthew 21:1-11

Palm Sunday and Jesus arrives in Jerusalem…so many people have made the pilgrimage to the City of David for the Passover Feast. Jesus was in the center of a procession that was making its way into the city. The Scriptures teach us people all around were tossing their garments on the road and cutting branches from tress to “pave” the way for Jesus’ private entry. By the time Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, the Scriptures teach us, the entire population of Jerusalem was in uproar… and they asked “Who is this?”

The crowd replied, “It’s Jesus the prophet from Nazareth

“Blessed is the King, who comes in the Name of the LORD…”

A Prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, has sent thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humilty: Mercifully grant that we may both follow, the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Who is this man. Who Indeed…

A View of God…

12APR2014—Saturday

Lent.38—A View of God…

Reading: Conversations; “A Journey into Joy” by Trevor Hudson, Spring|Summer 2014 issue.

Our picture of God is critical in a number of respects. First of all, it profoundly affects the way we relate to God. If we have a vague, fuzzy, impersonal picture of God then our relationship with God usually turns out to be vague, fuzzy, and impersonal. Or if we picture God to be against us or always out to get us, it will be highly unlikely that we will want to get too intimate. Or if we feel that we have to earn God’s love, then we will spend our lives huffing and puffing trying to put ourselves into God’s good books. How we understand God influences powerfully the nature of our relationship with God.

But there is another reason why our picture of God is so important. Our picture of God rubs off on us. We become like the God we worship. If we believe that God is violent, we will tend toward aggression. If we understand God to be against certain people, we will be opposed to them as well. If we see God as overly serious, we will most probably come across as heavy ourselves. It would seem that we shape our picture of God, and then that picture shapes us. -Trevor Hudson; A Journey into Joy, Conversations 12.1 (p.21)

It has been my understanding that this experience Trevor Hudson speaks of is but one malady that typifies the journey of many Christians. Another side of this story is the person who considers their picture of God final. People may get a glimpse of God…real—through the reading of Scriptures and/or general or special revelation—and this completes their search for God. They believe they have “seen” him and understand him… they know him. Their search is complete. As Trevor mentions in the above quote, the rest of their journey is shaped by a single vision and/or glimpse of God.

This is an unfortunate course, mainly because the knowledge of God and all that is God is incomprehensible and near unsearchable (Eph. 3:8). The consequence of the finalized vision and search is that person shuts themselves down from the transforming power of the always-revealing-God and becomes shaped by a god of their own making. Arrogance, Apathy, and (spiritual) Atrophy become the triplet shapers and mentors to this individual.

This is not true for the person who continues to seek God and is granted more understanding, wisdom, and knowledge; “Pay attention to how you listen and hear…” (Luke 8:18).

An Appropriate Prayer

11APR2014—Friday

Lent.37—An Appropriate Prayer

Readings: Psalm 22  Exodus 9:13-35  2 Cor. 4:1-12  Mark 10:32-45

Lord Jesus, Living Christ:  You are the answer to my deepest questions. You are my stability in all my uncertainty. You are provision to all my needs. Your love dwells with me in the temple of my heart and mind. In you, there is nothing that can separate me from God. With these prayerful intentions, I declare my deepest truth in the face of life’s deepest darkness. I challenge the shadows of doubt, depression, anger, fear, and judgment with the life of resurrection love. Amen.

(From Centering Prayers by Peter Traban Haas)

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