Easter Guide Is Here

In my initial Easter post An Invitation to join me in getting ready for lent and Easter I mentioned that I was inspired by NT Wright’s observation that:

If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering and training up things in your life that ought to be blossoming…” 

So often our Easter celebrations are little more than a day of observing the resurrection of Christ.  Yet the Easter season, that joyous season for celebrating all that is blossoming and flourishing in our lives is meant to last for 50 days culminating in the celebration of the festival of Pentecost.  This is meant to be a season of joy as we celebrate both the resurrection of Christ and the many ways in which the resurrected Christ makes life flourish both in our personal lives and in the world around us.

I love the way that Thomas Merton describes the Easter season in his book Seasons of Celebration.  

“But now the power of Easter has burst upon us with the resurrection of Christ.  Now we find ourselves a strength which is not our own, and which is freely given to us whenever we need it, raising us above the Law, giving us a new law which is hidden in Christ: the law of his merciful love for us.  Now we no longer strive to be good because it is a duty, but because our joy is to please him who has given all his love to us!  Now our life is full of meaning!”

This is a season for living into the love of God and into the life of the new world that God’s love opened for us through the resurrection of Christ and I would like to invite you to join me in this joyous celebration.  

What will God’s resurrection created world look like?  Obviously that is a question none of us can really answer but as I read the gospel stories of Jesus I have a fairly good idea.  Jesus doesn’t just reveal God to us, he also shows us what God’s new world is like.  Through his words and actions we catch glimpses of a transformed world in which all barriers of race and class are removed.  It transforms hate into love, scarcity into abundance, greed into generosity, violence into peace and oppression into justice and equality.   In God’s new world all lines of separation are erased, the hungry are fed, the oppressed set free and we are invited into a new creation of wholeness and healing, of redemption and renewal.  

This year in order to really enter into the celebration of the Easter season I have developed an Easter celebration guide to encourage us to enter into this wonderful season.  Over the seven weeks from Easter to Pentecost we will celebrate the many ways in which God’s new world can blossom in our lives – through the outpouring of love and generosity, through compassion, healing and wholeness, hospitality, justice and creation care  culminating in that great multicultural celebration at the banquet feast of God.

So will you join me for the celebration and truly live into God’s resurrection created world this year?  

Download the guide here

Are You Ready for Easter?

jesus-mafa-palm-sunday

The beginning of the easter celebration is just over a week away and stores are full of Easter eggs and decorations to help us celebrate by diverting our attention from the real meaning of Easter to their commercialized version of it.  And how many of us are sucked in?  What is the focus of your celebrations for the next few weeks – is it on the life, death and resurrection of Christ or is it on the upcoming Easter egg hunt and that new spring outfit that you intend to debut on Easter Sunday morning?

For me the Easter celebration always begins a little early with the celebration of Palm Sunday a celebration in which we excitedly enter into a preview of  Jesus announcing his Messiahship and the advent of God’s kingdom of wholeness and abundance.   What many of us don’t realize is that  then too there were actually two processions into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday morning – one that symbolized the Roman culture of Jesus day and the other Jesus proclaiming his upside down kingdom.

 

In the year 30, Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor assigned to Judea and Jerusalem.  It had become the custom of the governors to live outside Jerusalem, but it was also their custom to come with their soldiers to Jerusalem for Passover.  To provide a very visible and powerful Roman military presence at that volatile time, to prevent any potential uprising, for there are already been uprisings and many crucifixions.   

His procession would have come from the west at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers – an impressive and lavish procession specially designed to impress the people with a visual display of imperial power: cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, weapons, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold.

On the other side of the city, down from the Mount of Olives in the north came Jesus and his humble procession – no pomp, no ceremony, dressed simply like the people, riding on the back of a donkey and followed by his disciples drawn from amongst the peasants and the common people.  But here was the true rejoicing.  They were greeted with cheers and shouts by crowds  all along his path. “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna!”

 

Much of what Jesus’ life and teaching was about was the conflict of the kingdom of God with the empire of Rome.  Theologically and politically.  The Romans believed their emperor was to be worshipped as the son of God, the savior of humankind.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem and his followers acknowledged Him as Lord and Messiah, this was not only a personal theological statement but a political statement as well.  Jesus’ belief in a liberating, inclusive, non-violent, peace-seeking kingdom of God was over and against the oppressive, greedy, elite-loving, peasant-starving kingdom of Rome.  No wonder his was so angry with the Temple hierarchy – the chief priest, the elders and the scribes –  who had become servants of the empire and not of the kingdom of God.

Jesus ride into Jerusalem was obviously headed for a collision with the powerful Roman empire –  collision that would cost his life and change history forever.   

The question for all of us as we approach this Palm Sunday is where is our allegiance The question for us on this morning is where do we find ourselves in these pictures?  Are we part of that ragamuffin discipleship band following Jesus fully aware that we are on a collision course with the values of our secular culture? Are we some of the misguided enthusiasts, cheering our own idea of a  messiah, that looks more like the Roman emperor than the humble Jesus?   Are we enarmoured of an idea that has little to do with what Jesus has come to teach? Do we only want to follow a Jesus when we think he promises health and happiness here and now.  Have we so misunderstood him and his purpose and that we are ready to turn against him when he turns out not to be who we thought he was?   

Perhaps however, we’re not part of Jesus’ procession at all.  Perhaps we’re standing at the other gate, cheering for the symbols of empire.  Dazzled by power, attracted to wealth, wanting to identify with the victors, not the vanquished, hoping to be counted as one of the elites of our time.  

Actually most of us are probably part of both processions – wanting to follow this Jesus whom we find so don’t fully understand but also caught up in the excitement of Easter egg hunts and spring fashion displays 

And the beauty is that Jesus, in his humanity, sees and knows all of us. . . the flawed humanity that surrounds him. . . the flawed humanity of each of us. . . and he sees it and he forgives it, and loves us, and gives his blessing to all of us as he clops along the dusty road toward his confrontation with power, his time of trial, his abandonment, his death.

Last Week of Lent – A Journey Into the Brokenness of God’s Family

 

Ray Dirk, CMU Chapel painting, Winnipeg Manitoba, Used by permission

Ray Dirk, CMU Chapel painting, Winnipeg Manitoba, Used by permission

 

We are now moving into the last full week of Lent.  Next Sunday is Palm Sunday which begins Holy Week, and though Lent does not officially end until the following Thursday for many of us Holy week has its own specific emphasis.  

First here are JR Woodward’s excellent reflections on the fourth week of Lent and the Brokenness of Creation 

And for those that are following the journey here on my blog here are some thoughts from the fifth week of lent which focuses on the brokenness of God’s family

 

“Americans by and large work together, shop together, and play together, but they do not worship together. If we are at our core spiritual, then the fact that we seem unable and unwilling to relate to one another elbow-to-elbow in the pews of the local congregation reveals how fragile the integrity of the church is.”  (Jin Kim A Pentecostal Vision for the Church)

It has been said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in our Christian life. We are segregated by race, age, economic class, denominational affiliation, and theological perspectives. We gravitate towards those who think and worship in the same way we do. Often, instead of living together in unity and love, we are separated by prejudice and intolerance.

Yet the golden rule of Christianity, what James calls “the royal law,” is “love your neighbor as you do yourself.” At a recent conference, Pakistani theologian Charles Amjad Ali reminded us that we are all prejudiced. What changes in dialogue with others is the focus of our prejudice. He then challenged us to consider, “Can we be prejudiced towards justice, equality, and respect, or do we always live primarily with the prejudices of exclusion?”

God is much bigger than our culturally bound viewpoint. All people are created in God’s image and worthy of being treated with respect and understanding. I do not believe that we will fully understand who God is or appreciate the incredible sacrifice of Christ on the Cross until we learn to see these events through the eyes of others who come from very different viewpoints than our own. And in the process together with our sisters and brothers from all over the world, we too will find the healing and wholeness that we so desperately need.  

Are We Twittering Our Lives Away?

Yesterday I reflected on my need to maintain a balanced rhythm of life based on my faith and my sense of what the rhythms of God’s kingdom culture will look like.  This morning I came across this interesting article in the UK Telegraph reflecting on the impact that twitter is having on our lives

As people become their own stalkers, paparazzi and gossip reporters, the greater philosophical question is: does immediately telling the world about the champagne make it taste better? Perhaps it might, but it also leaves rather less time in which to savour the taste  Read the entire article 

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am a twitter fan and have found it a very useful tool for staying in touch with like minded people and for connecting me to news articles in areas of interest that I would otherwise have to wade through pages of google documents in order to find.  Though reading five tweets on the possibility of a tsunami that never eventuates really does not constitute news to me.  Probably best for me is that my spirits have often been lifted by a good quote or reflective prayer that is shared.  However I do wonder if we need to hear the blow by blow description of your delayed plane trip or enter into the intimate details of the delivery of your baby.  in fact that kind of twittering is likely to make me want to disconnect rather than connect.  It always makes me feel that my twitter friend sees themselves as the centre of everyone else’s attention, behaviour I expect of a 3 year old but not of an adult.  

My big concern is that we are becoming more and more voyeuristic gaining our gratification from watching the minutia of other people’s lives rather than engaging in life ourselves.  And as this article points out the more time we spend writing about life, even in bite sized pieces,  the less time we have to enjoy it.  

Regaining my balance this last week has meant examining this part of my life very carefully.  I describe myself as a contemplative activist but I find that I can become so focused on social media that there is no time for either contemplation or activism…. so now I am off to the garden for a time of reflection and then maybe I will feel inspired to write some liturgies.  

How do you manage your time?  What are the areas you struggle to keep in balance?  How has social media impacted the rhythm of your life?   

 

Reflections on a Rhythm of Life

Tom and I are now back from our 2 very relaxing days up at Anacortes.  Most of my focus has been on regaining the balanced rhythm that I feel is such an important part of my life.  My thoughts revolved around this quote from Ian Mobsbey’s book The Becoming of God

A rhythm of life is an innovative way of expressing the Christian faith in the context of contemporary culture.”

In reflecting on this on our last retreat I had written

For me personally, a rhythm of life is a way to establish the practices that I believe will enable me to live into God’s new world of wholeness and abundance.  It encourages me to shape my life in a way that is consistent with my understanding of God and God’s kingdom purposes.

This time I found myself needing to get down to the serious business of thinking about the details of what this looks like in my daily life.  First I realize that I easily get out of balance and desperately need to protect my Sabbath days as a time to reconnect to God and recommit to how I believe God wants me to be living.  Second I realize that I need to constantly filter all that I am asked to do through my understanding of how God wants me to live.  If I am getting too busy something is wrong.  When I commit to more than I should it is not God’s fault it is mine.  For me the key verse is Matthew 11:28 which I particularly love in The Message:

Are you tired? Worn out?  burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.

This is such a liberating verse for me as it helps me to recognize that God does not want me to kill myself with overwork and stress – something that left to myself I easily allow to happen.  

I was reminded of Miroslav Volf’s statement in his book The Spirit of Work that for followers of Christ, the goal of our work is not to to put bread on the table each day but rather to work for the fulfillment of God’s shalomic harmony.  Which I think, essentially means that in order to live into God’s world of shalom and wholeness and abundance, our days are meant to reflect God’s rhythms of prayer, work, and rest.

So what does that mean for me?  I came out of this retreat with a schedule for my days that reflects something of this rhythm: morning devotions followed by my morning exercises, breakfast then morning prayers in the Mustard Seed House.  After that I answer email, write my blog posts and work on my current writing project unless I have some meetings scheduled.  After lunch Tom & I take a break to walk the dog. Then, because of my chronic fatigue syndrome I nap for an hour.  Afternoon tea is followed by another couple of hours of work, dinner, more work and then evening prayers in the Mustard Seed House at 9 p.m.  Now I should hasten to add that “work” covers a multitude of things from writing projects, to meeting with colleagues, networking , reading, photography, working on liturgies and meditation videos, and even working in the garden or providing hospitality for Mustard Seed friends and connections.  I love variety in what I do and cannot focus on a single project for more than a couple of hours at a time.        

Some of you may think that this sounds very controlled and rigid but in actual fact I find it very liberating and freeing.  Establishing firmly in my mind what the pattern of my day should look like gives me the freedom to say no when I am asked to do good things that are not part of God’s plan for me.  It also gives me the freedom to let go of unfinished projects and leave them for another day without feeling guilty.  

I would to hear how others plan the pattern of their days.  I know particularly that for those of us who do not have the discipline of an 8 hour work day that it is easy either to become workaholics or to fritter time away because we lack the discipline to keep at a project.  

What do your think that the rhythm of life in the kingdom of God will look like?  How do you maintain that rhythm?  What keeps you on track and what keeps you from overcommitting and burning out?

Away on Retreat

As many of you know part of the rhythm of our lives is that Tom and I go on retreat every 3 -4 months to listen to God and refocus our lives.  We are heading off this morning to our favourite dog friendly motel in Annacortes for our Lenten retreat.  we always try to plan one of these regular retreats during Lent and another during Advent.  The others are more irregular usually based on our travels and our busyness.  

These times are wonderful.  We always come back refreshed, refocused and reenergized.  This time I am already feeling that nudge to regain my life rhythms which have been severely distorted during the last few frantic weeks as I have worked to finish my Easter Study guide (now with Judy for editing).  Busyness is not something we can avoid in our modern world and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it for a season but when it becomes a way of life that crowds out everything else then I think it is wrong.  And unfortunately many of us think that this is the way that God wants us to be.  Have you seen the bumper sticker “Jesus is coming back… look busy”?

But I don’t think that is true as I have mentioned before.  However as most Christians seem to buy into the busyness mode rather than the slow living movement I don’t think I can repeat this frequently enough.  Research shows that 80% of our effectiveness comes from 20% of our work.  What I find is that these refocusing retreats help me to distinguish what is really worth pursuing and how to say no to the rest.  

Life lived in the presence of God is primarily about listening and looking yet when we are busy there is time for neither.  It is only when I quiet my spirit and listen that I truly enter into the wonder of God’s love and experience the wonder of God’s life welling up within me.  Here is one of my favourite listening prayers.  I may have shared it before but I always think that repetition is good for the soul.  It is attributed to St Columba of Iona

Sometimes in a lowly cell, in the presence of my God 

I stand and listen.

In the silence of my heart I can hear his will

When I listen despairing people flock to me

They expect that I can see the answers

They ask my advice, they say I am wise

I answer that nothing can deceive me, if I stand alone and silently listen

For I am but a servant who is guided by his king, when I listen 

Sometimes in a lowly cell in the presence of my God I stand and listen

 

Earth Hour Is Almost Here

News from the Earth Hour team

MOMENTUM CONTINUES TO BUILD: With just a few days to go, Earth Hour continues to gain support in cities, with government leaders and celebrities, in the media, and on social networking sites.

MORE ICONS ANNOUNCE THEY’LL GO DARK: The Pyramids in Egypt, the Acropolis in Athens, the Broadway Theater District, the Space Needle in Seattle, and the Chrysler Building in New York have come on board over the past few days.

TUNE IN TO LARRY KING LIVE: Actor and Earth Hour USA Ambassador Edward Norton will talk with Larry King about Earth Hour this Wednesday, March 25th at 9 pm ET on CNN. Don’t miss it!

YOKO ONO PLEDGES TO TURN OUT AND TWEETS FOR EARTH HOUR: “Dear Friends, Join EARTH HOUR and turn off your lights at 8.30pm local time for one hour this Sat 28th March. I will be thinking of all of you when I do it here in my apartment. Lots of love, yoko” Read more here.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Earth Hour coverage breaks nationally this week, with articles in People Magazine and The New York Times.

RANDOM EARTH HOUR STAT: The official Earth Hour video is viewed online every 3.3 seconds…

TURNING OUT THE LIGHTS IS JUST THE BEGINNING: Let Congress know you care about the future of our planet and are looking to them to take action in support of climate legislation. Send a letter to your Member of Congress and Senators with a few mouse clicks at the Earth Hour website!

Swag… Limited edition t-shirts, hats and bags are still available for sale in both adult and child sizes. A portion of the proceeds benefits WWF’s global conservation work.

DOING SOMETHING COOL FOR EARTH HOUR? Tell us about it! Drop us an email atEarthHourPR@wwfus.org and let us know how you plan to celebrate the largest climate shout-out in history.

SPREAD THE WORD! Tell your friends, colleagues, and family members to sign up on the Earth Hour website so we can count their Vote for our Earth! Details for taking part in this historic call for global action on climate change can be found at www.EarthHourUS.org.