I posted this prayer on Facebook this morning. It was so popular that I decided to add a photo and post it again here. enjoy!
Today on the liturgical calendar, is the day we celebrate the circumcision of Christ. Since our cultures are more squeamish than were those of our ancestors, modern calendars usually list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Just like every Jewish boy, Jesus as circumcised and formally named on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, while we are still celebrating the wonder and the joy of the Saviour who came to dwell amongst us, we celebrate this occasion In Jesus day, a name was far more important than it tends to be today. Introducing a person just about gave you their whole genealogy and sometimes even reflected their personality.
As a celebration of then naming of Jesus why not get together with a group of friends for a party maybe not today but after those New Year hangovers have settled. This could be a good way to shake off those post Christmas blues. Bring a name book with you. Look up the names of each person in your group and discuss their meanings. Get each person to share the story of why they were given that name. Then ask the question: In what ways does your name reflect the call that God has placed on your life? Some of you may like to consider a new name that reflects what you believe is God’s call on your life. One friend of mine changed his name from Bill to Will because he felt it better reflected his desire to use his life “doing the will of God.”
Next spend time discussing the names of Jesus. Get each person to write down the names that they remember as being applied to Jesus in the Scriptures. You might like to have a competition to see who can think of the most names. Or you could write a poem or song that reflects these names. End your time with a discussion about how you could represent these different aspects of who Jesus can be to those who live around you.
Names matter. What we call Jesus matters. If we see him as Lord it can imply a distant and unapproachable God who is unconcerned for human suffering. If we call him servant, we see him down in the dirty places of our world and we want to join him. I have written about this previously in the post: Sometimes I want to Call God Mother. Think about it for a few minutes and then listen to this powerful 5 minute sermon by Rev SM Lockridge entitled That’s My King.
Or you might like to use this liturgy to reflect on:
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I am currently rereading E Stanely Jones‘ The Way. It is one of my favourite devotionals and I find myself coming back to it time and time again. This week I am working through a section where Jones talks about Jesus as being greater than the Bible, greater than the Ten Commandments, greater than the Creeds, and even greater than faith itself. It is a challenging and thought provoking series of devotionals.
Jesus is greater than the Bible, there is only one mediator, ( 1 Tim 2:5) and one way to God. All scripture, all creeds, all revelation must be viewed and judged through the filter of Jesus Christ – his life, death and resurrection. Eternal life is not in the pages of the Bible, it is in Christ who is uncovered through the scriptrues. The Word is not made printer’s ink, says Jones, The Word was made flesh, not a page buta person.
It is true that we would know little about Christ if it were not for the Bible. The Old Testament is the period of preparation for Christ, the New Testament is the revelation of Christ. We need to remember however that the New Testament is the report of various people’s impressions of Jesus, it is not Jesus himself. Yes it is divinely inspired and it has caught the essential meaning of who Christ is but as Jones says: we always have the feeling that they were trying to tell the untellable and express the inexpressible.
All of life is an ongoing revelation of Christ. We see him revealed in the face of friend and stranger. We see his presence in God’s wonderful creation. We see his miracles in our daily provision, in our healing from illnesses and more than anything in loving acts towards one another. He existed before the Bible was written. His presence fills all things, and holds all creation together (Colossians 1:15-20). It is good for us to remember this and give thanks.
Living Christ I give you thanks for what you reveal,
Something fresh each morning, something new each evening.
You are a constant surprise to me,
I hold my breath as new things unfold in every moment,
My soul tingles with expectancy and I thank you.
I would love to know your thoughts on this.
I was sent this prayer by St Francis of Assisi a few days ago by Jamie Arpin Ricci. It was posted at Dating God: Franciscan Spirituality for 21st Century. It seemed a very appropriate prayer for me this morning as I have been meditating on what means to keep Jesus always in my sight and to enter into prayer with all my heart and soul and mind.
A couple of days ago in my post Can We see the Face of God and Live, I mentioned that I have been reading Lord, Teach Us To Pray by 19th century Scottish pastor Alexander Whyte. He reminded me that “prayer is the very highest energy of which the human heart is capable.; prayer, that is, with the total concentration of all our faculties. He goes on to say: Believe me, to pray with all your heart, and strength, that is the last, the greatest, achievement of the Christian’s warfare on this earth.
let us desire nothing else,
let us want nothing else,
let nothing else please us and cause us delight
except our Creator, Redeemer and Savior,
the only true God,
Who is the fullness of good,
all good, every good, the true and supreme good,
Who alone is good,
merciful, gentle, delightful, and sweet,
Who alone is holy,
just, true, holy, and upright,
Who alone is kind, innocent, clean,
from Whom, through Whom and in Whom
is all pardon, all grace, all glory
of all penitents and just ones,
of all the blessed rejoicing together in heaven.
If you are wanting a challenging approach to prayer you may like to download a pdf of Whyte’s book here
Over the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of God I believe in. This is a practice that I like to do regularly, affirming my faith and my trust in God in the process. Here is a beginning place in my ponderings.
What are the truths that hold you strong in your faith?
A couple of days ago in my post Why Do We Hide From God I said:
You cannot meet God face to face and live the Old Testament prophets often proclaimed. God’s greatness passes all comprehension. God’s love and holiness is beyond our imagining.
So my question this morning is – Can we meet God face to face and live? In some ways the answer is no. The light of God’s radiance is so blind, the revelation of God’s character so mind boggling that we cannot see and hear it and live. Fortunately God knows that and does everything possible to reveal the divine presence in such a way that we can face this revelation and live.
It is Jesus Christ, Word made flesh, that enables us to see God. It is the birth, the whole life, the words, the works, the death, the resurrection, the ascension and the ongoing revelation through the Holy Spirit that reveals who God is to us. I love this quote from Lord, Teach Us to Pray by nineteenth century Scottish pastor Alexander Whyte:
There is nothing, in earth or in heaven, to our imagination now like the Word made flesh…. The truly Christian imagination never lets Jesus Christ out of her sight. And she keeps him in her sight and ever before her inward eyes in this way. (p249)
To meet God face to face we must constantly keep Jesus in our sight. We must lift our faces always to see the compassion and love in his face, to see the heartache and the suffering indelibly etched in his countenance, to see the grace and the forgiveness so lavishly expressed to us through it. Our hearts should ache with longing for this kind of revelation.
Perhaps however the God revealed through Jesus is still too radiant for us to look at face to face. Is it possible to read the Sermon on the Mount fully attentive to what Jesus is saying without looking away in shame because of how poorly we have followed these commands? Is it possible to gaze into Jesus face hearing him say “love your neighbour as yourself” and “love your enemies” without feeling we want to run away and hide?
If when we read the gospels we truly opened our eyes to see the God revealed in Jesus Christ, if we stopped to imagine that Jesus was actually standing in the room with us as we read these words what difference would it make? Or perhaps we need to imagine ourselves in the stories. Jesus healing the leper is our story. We feel the self-loathing, the despair, the uncleanness of our souls and hearts that separates us from God, but instead of crying to Jesus for cleansing we hide. Perhaps we feel like Lazarus in the grave or Mary Magdalene, or Peter disowning Christ, or Judas selling his saviour for a few coins. All of their stories are our stories and the true miracle is that each of these people had the opportunity to meet Jesus face to face. The unnamed leper, Lazarus, Mary and Peter were transformed. Judas could not face the revelation and turned away.
When was the last time you were fully attentive to God? When was the last time you felt God’s heart beating within you, sensed God’s upon you or heard God’s loving whispers? When was the last time you met God’s eye, repented of your sins and listened to the joy that rang through heaven at your renewal?
This morning I know these are questions I need to ask myself and I would encourage you to do the same.
For the April 2012 Synchroblog, we are exploring the question,“What if the resurrection is a lie?”
Make no mistake, we are not challenging the historical fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. We firmly believe in the historical reality of the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus.
But we also know that soon after the resurrection of Jesus, Christians were accused of inventing this story. Some critics claimed that Jesus never died. Others said that the apostles stole the body of Jesus from the grave. Today, there are countless millions of people who still believe that the resurrection is a hoax.
Here is a list of bloggers who contributed to this month’s Synchroblog. If you participated, please include this list of links on your blog!
This morning’s post from Sarah Styles Bessey at Emerging Mummy. It was first posted as In Which I Am Expecting Something for Advent. It was also posted as a part of the pre-Advent synchroblog but makes a great reflection for us as we move towards the middle of Advent. _______________________________________________________________________________
I’ve already set out my plain white pillar candles in anticipation of this coming Sunday, the start of Advent. They’re perched in a sea of river stones, on a black slate plate, on my kitchen table. We lay our treasures from our daily walks onto these stones; small pine cones, bright red leaves, a sprig from the hemlock. The flotsam and jetsam of magpie-tinies all resting between the unlit wicks, waiting for Jesus to breathe life reborn again. It’s my made-up Advent wreath, a cobbling together of my version of the Church tradition and I think it says something about me but I’m not sure what.
He’s coming soon; so what do I expect?
He’s coming soon, the Christ child. This year, I am eager for the liturgy, eager for the prayers of the saints spoken by so many lips for so many years, for the lighting of the candles. A happy-clappy anti-establishment Jesus follower, am I, and yet these rituals have become one of the most important parts of my year. The liturgy and holiness, tracing the line of time backwards through saints and sisters, matters to me. It pulls me away from commercialization, from crass misrepresentation. The practice of Advent gives me an exhale, a focus, an active waiting.
There is also the mother-part of me that always lines up with Mary, Mother of God, to wait with her in anticipation. (If there is one thing that mothers come to understand as they grow heavy with life, as they mother small souls in all their storming and resting and growing and learning, it’s waiting.)
And then there is me in the world waiting, aching, yearning, for the restoration of all things, for the beautiful redemption of all pain, all sorrow, all brokenness. Advent is just as much about waiting for what God has yet to do as it is the commemoration of what he has already done. And those lines, the now and not yet, they blur for me most days, a tension.
So do I expect my version of the Messiah? Do I expect a soon-coming King to overthrow an evil empire and set all things to right as I see fit? (Apparently, I am no different than a group of Galileans and Zealots two thousand years ago.) My eye is already kingdom focused, the work of the Church one of making space for God’s way of life and true humanity. Or do I expect Jesus, the Christ? A kingdom that moves not by armies and decrees and laws written in stone but one that moves like yeast, like a seed, written in the hearts and flesh of people like us?
My expectation this year, in my honest self, knee-deep in living, is only this: Make it matter to me.
Jesus, make the fact that you came, the fact that you are still arriving, matter in my life. My life should show the new dawn, my heart, my brain, my soul, the very lines on my face should show how the glory of God is the woman fully alive, truly human. I read a phrase of Eugene Peterson’s once and he called this God-life one of “robust sanity.”
So I’ve got my candles set up. My Bible is open, my Common Prayer beside. My other faithful, oft-underlined companion of Advent, Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation, by Luci Shaw, waits.
I pray my soul will welcome always that small
seed. That I will hail it when it enters me.
I don’t mind being grit, soil, dirt, mud-brown,
laced with the rot of old leaves, if only the seed
can find me, find a home and bear a fruit,
sweet, flushed, full-fleshed – a glory apple.
On my lips, one prayer for these Advent weeks, wherever it may lead: Be it unto me, as You have said. I’m waiting, watching, a midwife of the Kingdom.
It is the first Monday of Advent. Black Friday sales are behind us (just found out that the name means that this is the weekend when most stores expect to go from red to black in their accounts) and many are feeling weary.
This post from Ron Cole seemed appropriate for the day. It was first posted on his blog Weary Pilgrim as Advent – Re-imagining Everything. Ron is a musician, writer, artist…a day dreamer. he makes his living employed as a laboratory technologist in a local acute care hospital. He lives on a small island off the West Coast of Canada. He is consumed by thoughts of faith on the fringe of all religion, that is found in the midst of humanity in the global village. IHe is consumed by redemptive imagination rebirthing the reality of kin-dom of kinship…One creation, One humanity.
Two thousand years of wandering down the corridor of history and things are looking a little dilapidated. We look out the window and see a climate that is less predictable, in some cases best described as extreme. We see a global economy that has best looked like a poker game where none of the big name players had the sense to fold their cards and walk a way…and realize it wasn’t just money, it was lives. As the gap between rich and poor widens, the middle class vanishes, slipping way, and the chasm widens even further. Social well-fare by government and society, taking care of the least, is now dog eat dog, every man for himself. What was once short term unemployment has become a constant way of life for many. Oppressive, dictatorial political regimes can no longer control the message in cyberspace,in a internet connected world. The middle ground of level headed, hospitable and open-table conversation has been lost in the polarization of left and right, liberal and conservative…democrat and republican. And the west continues to try and preserve the status quo, to maintain it’s deserved life style…it grows increasing more blind to third world poverty. The so called dark continent becomes darker only because we have turned the lights out. In the world of religion there have been some break through, but still there can only be one that is right, and the rest wrong. As the church in many places shrinks it has the distorted perception it is being persecuted by the secular world.
So on the threshold of Advent 2011 again humanity waits, and is more desperate than ever for some kind of divine intervention.
We want a divine Mr. Fix It, some one who can do an extreme make over, some one who can do an extreme renovation. We want divine business administrator who can wave a wand and generate jobs, and at the snap of a finger…make money. We want a kind of divine farmer whose good a building fences keep ” us ” on the greener side of the fence…and everyone else over there. We want a God that’s like us, and likes what we like. And well, we want a savior that is more of a retirement planner that can guarantee a reservation in an all inclusive resort when time on earth winds down to nothing.
Again, as every christmas, Christians want everything except…Jesus.
Maybe we’re asking for something Jesus never really offered? Maybe, we just didn’t get Jesus? We, as humanity were asking for one thing…a savior, a divine Mr. Fix It…and Jesus offered something just too profoundly redemptive beyond our imagination. In John’s gospel it say’s, Jesus pitched his tent, moved into our neighborhood…into the midst of humanity. He didn’t move in with them, the others or just ” like ” us…he moved into the reality of all humanity, all its diversity, and beauty. Jesus embraced it ” all “…he became one of ” Us ” all of us. Emmanuel, ” God with us.”
In his divinity, this God-man gravitated towards the oppressed, the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, the sick, the sinner, the widow and orphan…it’s because it’s the reality of what God is, ” compassion and justice.” The arc of this God, who Jesus described as ” Love ” has always bent towards compassion and justice. But that is not to say Jesus did not engage the wealthy, and the middle class. He erased borders, boundaries and knocked down fences to where we could see the image of God in each other.
It was here in this messed up world in the midst of poverty, oppression, war, the empire selling it’s story of prosperity and security…where we kept asking and waiting for a Messiah. Fix the mess, put the people we like, and the people like us in charge…and affirm ” our ” religion and we’ll be happy. And Jesus had the nerve to say ” you can’t mark the time on a calendar; you can’t say it’s over there or over here…because ” it’s ” here among you…it’s in your midst.”
” It “, was the ” Kingdom ” this wild scandalous redemptive place the blew the mind of humanity. It was world so unlike ours, it was the world upside down…or really ” right side up. The manifesto of the Kingdom could be summed up in the opening of his journey in which he shared on the side of a hill. For the most part we have avoided it like the plague, or have reduced to mere spirituality that we light now and then like incense only to snuff it out should we think to deeply about it.
The Kingdom was where the last would be first, the hungry would be fed, the oppressed would have a voice, the widow and orphan taken care of, debts forgiven, swords and weapons turned into farming tools, loving your enemies, the prodigal sons and daughters would come home, it wouldn’t matter where you worshipped…church, temple, mosque, synagogue or mountain, country and politics didn’t matter…it was how big is your humanity. It really was about how much you love God and your neighbor…this where what it meant to be human hung in balance.
Jesus, the God-man saw everything, and lived life differently…he was the reality of what happens when divinity and humanity merge. It’s is not a cosmic collision of destruction of judgement and violence. It is an embrace of divine love when heaven comes to earth…when a new earth, a new creation comes into being. Jesus saw that it could be here now, that it was in fact among us, in our midst…if we had the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
As quickly as he came, his message was to dangerous, to wild, and crazy…we killed the messenger.
This Advent I am focusing on ” Emmanuel ” this God that is with us…this Jesus that was one of us. But more this world that consumed his imagination, his words and his life. But more than that, he caught glimpses of its beauty and reality among us.
I believe more than ever that Kingdom is here. And if we dared imagined, and built it as Jesus saw it we could see the fullness of all humanity and new world…a new creation. Dare we just imagine this christmas…imagine and live profoundly differently.
Jesus is Coming: What Do We Expect?
Christmas is coming bringing with it the hope and long of the birth of Christ, but what are we really expecting? This is a question that revolves in my mind as I prepare to celebrate Advent and Christmas this year. This is probably the most widely celebrated festival in the world, attracting the attention of Christian and non Christian alike. The expectations of Christmas can be overwhelming and it is often hard to separate our own selfish wishes from the desires for intimacy that God has placed deep within our hearts. The frenetic pace of our celebrations often stands in stark contrast to the message Christ proclaims in the gospels.
The consumer culture has huge expectations at this season, Stores everywhere are festooned with lights, blaring with Christmas music and overstuffed with merchandise. They expect that over the next few weeks we will spend more money than we have in the preceding eleven and hope that our consumer exuberance will boost their flagging fortunes.
Our churches too have great expectations for Advent and Christmas. They hope that our remembrance of the birth of a baby in a stable in an obscure Palestinian village two thousand year ago will rekindle our enthusiasm for participation in their failing programs and lack lustre events.
So what am I expecting this Advent? This is my favourite season of the church year but it is also the most challenging. I am torn between the hype of the secular culture telling me to party and enjoy myself and my yearning for a deeper walk with Christ. This I know is a time to remind myself of who Christ is and why following him is the most important priority in my life. It forces me to take stock of the year that has passed and evaluate all that has distracted me from a wholehearted commitment to God and God’s purposes.
Above all I am expecting to be changed by a fresh encounter with Christ during this Advent season. That is both an exciting and a scary thought. Knowing that the Christ child is coming is one thing, looking and listening for the signs that show me he is coming is easy. It is the encounter with who he is and what he wants to do in my life that is hard. Opening myself to be changed is never easy. Herod knew that the Messiah was coming but he did not want to meet him in fact he wanted to kill him. The Pharisees too knew that the messiah was coming but even when the saw the signs in the heavens and heard the rumours of his birth they made no effort to go and meet him.
It was the foreigners from afar who stepped out of their comfort zones and made that gruelling journey to Bethlehem to see the child who would become the saviour of our world. And they too were changed in ways that we can only imagine returning “by another route” that led them far away from the Herods’ and rulers of this world.
So much in my life still needs to be changed by the challenge of a God of love for whom justice, mercy and compassion are more important than right doctrine and theological correctness. I want to learn to follow that God with every fibre of my being and with every aspect of my life. More than that I want to learn to trust this God in new ways know that he will never leave nor forsake me. Trusting that no matter what the future holds, my life is always in his hands.
This post is my contribution to the synchroblog – jesus Is Coming What Do We Expect? Tomorrow I will post links to others that have contributed and will then start posting additional contributions throughout Advent. I hope that you will continue to walk through this season with us.