Easter Sunday Prayer for 2010

Today even though we continue to walk the painful journey toward the Cross for many of us the promise of Easter is also in the air.  Earlier in the week one of the daily readings contained the phrase “prisoners of hope” and that is what we are.  In some ways we are caught in the despair of Jesus betrayal and crucifixion, in others we are looking forward to the eternal hope that will break into our world afresh on Easter morning.  We are indeed prisoners of hope held captive by the love of a God who was willing to suffer and die to bring us into freedom.

This morning I also got news that the mother of a good friend of ours died in the night.  In the midst of grief we need the assurance of God’s hope to sustain us.

For that reason my thoughts this morning have focused on that hoped for Easter Sunday and the longed for coming Easter Sunday when God’s eternal world that we glimpse so dimly at the moment will break into our world in all its fullness.  Today’s prayer expresses that hope and longing of Easter.  It is an adaptation of one I wrote for the Advent season last year.

Hold your head high, Christ has risen

Rejoice and shout

Christ has come calling us home

Home to the heart of God

Home to God’s living presence

Home to God’s banquet feast

Hold your head high, Christ has risen

Death has been conquered

Christ has come calling us home

He has renewed and restored us

All that was broken has been made whole

All that was dislocated has been set right

Hold your head high, Christ has risen

Carry forward God’s healing

Christ has come calling us home

To a world where truth and justice triumph

To a place where abundance flourishes

To a community where generosity flourishes

Hold your head high, Christ has risen

Christ has come calling us home

Your redemption is complete

God’s eternal world has begun

Love reigns over all

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Christ has risen indeed.


Walking with Jesus to the Cross – How Do We Follow

We are almost at the end of Lent and we have one final reflection on the season.

This guest post is contributed by Karen Anderson, who writes on the topic of online bible college .  She welcomes your comments at her email id :karen.anderson441@gmail.com

Walking with Jesus To the Cross – How Do we Follow?

Every true Christian goes through this period of angst when Easter is around the corner. The 40 days of Lent that start with Ash Wednesday and culminate in Easter is a time for prayer, repentance, self-denial and almsgiving. It is also the time when we walk with Jesus to the cross, the one he bore and was crucified on for all the sins of mankind. It’s a time for introspection and change, a time to reflect on our sins, ask for forgiveness and vow to become better people. And to follow Christ during this time, here’s what we need to do:

  • Remember the sacrifice that Christ made for us: As true Christians, we need to remember that every year, Jesus goes back to die on the Cross because God promised to redeem us from our sins by sacrificing his only son. When we remember this, it’s easier to stay away from sin and temptation. Christ lived the way he wanted us to live; he exhorted us to forgive our enemies and love our neighbors. His walk to the cross is a constant reminder that no matter what the provocation, we must not rise to the bait and give vent to our emotions. He who keeps the peace will be blessed.
  • Attempt to be worthy of such a sacrifice: We are not worthy of the huge sacrifice that Christ made, but we must at least strive to become so. And to do this, we need to observe Lent the way it was meant to be – by adopting austere measures, helping those in need and those who are less fortunate than us, being nice to our family and friends, not lying and cheating, and following the words and teachings of Christ. When we rise above the norm and attempt to do exactly as Christ taught us, we become a little worthy of his huge sacrifice.
  • Strive to become better persons: Jesus’ sacrifice should serve to remind us that we need to become better persons not just during the period of Lent but also throughout the rest of the year as well. When we use Lent to ruminate about Christ giving up his life for our sins, we tend to become better people; we don’t let pettiness and trivial problems cloud our minds and we learn to live and let live so that there is more peace and goodness in this world.

Each of us has our own way of following Christ on his walk to the cross. The important thing to remember is that we must not repeat the mistakes of the past and become better with each passing year.

Good Friday Prayer for 2010

Jesus our advocate

In the darkness of Gethsemane

You wept for us

Shedding tears of blood

You shared our pain

Jesus our redeemer

On the way to the Cross

You suffered for us

Tortured, spat upon and despised

You carried our burdens

Jesus our Saviour

On the hill of Calvary

You died for us

Crucified and hung upon a tree

You released us into freedom

Son of the living God

Redeemer, Saviour, Advocate

Through the journey of suffering

In the place of darkness

You overcame death forever

And gave us new life

Preparing for Spirituality of Gardening – Garden days at the Mustard Seed House

Friday was garden day at the Mustard Seed House.  It always amazes me how much we are able to accomplish.  Tom & I and the Rosario Kilmers, with the able help of Ryan Marsh and Vicky Hollaway and her daughter Fiona were able to complete the new raised beds that I have begun planting with cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli interspersed with greens, beets and carrots.  I hope that by the time the Spirituality of gardening seminar comes round on April 24th that there will be a rich array of plants to display.

One of the things I love about gardening like this is that it is a wonderful way to build friendships and strengthen community and of course everyone who helps has to be willing to help eat the harvest too.  It is also a great way to involve kids in community events.  Catie Rosario Kilmer has been my best helper this year and it has given her great opportunities to practice her writing skills as she wrote out markers while I planted tomato seeds

Her brother Gabriel is not as able yet but still loves to help his mother Ricci and me fill the seed containers with soil.

Reflection for Monday of Holy Week

Yesterday Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph, at the pinnacle of his public ministry, and we know that on Friday he will be crucified on the Cross but what are the days in between all about?  In church yesterday our rector said that Easter week proclaims – “This is what my kingdom looks like”.  All that happens during this week is one aspect of ushering in the kingdom of God.

Its a statement I struggled with as I read this morning’s scripture- the story of Jesus overturning the tables and throwing the money lenders out of the Temple and the story of the cursed fig tree.  If Jesus wanted to show the kingdom during this week surely he could have done a few more miracles, raised some people from the dead and fed the entire population of Jerusalem with miracle food.  That is probably what his followers were expecting and it would certainly have maintained his place as the most popular man in town.  Instead Jesus seems to have deliberately taken actions that would make him unpopular.

I have always wondered why these two stories are so intimately entwined.  But as I thought about what the kingdom represents it seemed obvious.  The people that followed Jesus were expecting Jesus’ miracles to continue and probably anticipated even more miraculous provision for their physical needs. – Maybe they expected Jesus to make the fig tree flourish and miraculously come into fruit – in a way that would provide for them for the rest of their lives.  But he did the exact opposite and I suspect that hidden in the story of the cursed fig tree is the clear statement “My kingdom is not of this world”

And then he confronted the powers of darkness – starting with the corruption and distortion that had crept into the Temple, the place that was meant to have worship of God at its centre.  And the message is clear – “This is not what my kingdom looks like either.”  And the religious leaders of the day immediately determined to kill him because they had deceived the people into believing this was what God’s kingdom looked like.

Nothing speaks more truly of the upside down nature of God’s kingdom than this last week of Jesus life.  At the centre is the celebration of the Passover feast and the preview of that wonderful banquet feast of abundance that will greet all of us in God’s kingdom.  But around it swirl the conflict of God’s kingdom clashing with a world that does not want to see God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven – even often within the church.  Corruption, greed, injustice avarice, the will to dominate all come into play against the Son of God.

But Jesus stands firm and moves with confidence along the path God has set out before him, proclaiming for all the hear – the old days and old ways that held us in bondage are ending; the new days, the new ways of thinking and living that are the hallmark of God’s kingdom are already here – and they break in upon us every time corruption within the church is confronted and overcome, every time injustice against the poor and oppressed is uncovered and rectified and every time prisoners are brought into freedom.

This week is the greatest challenge any of us can face.  It forces us to recognize that changing from one way of life to another takes vision, commitment and discipline.  Our vision of a world in which all of God’s creation is made whole, reconciled and redeemed is only bought at the price of great sacrifice – sacrifice that calls us to another kind of life, the fulfillment of which does not lie in this life.  Not for Jesus, not for us or for the church.

Just as for Jesus, committing ourselves to this kind of life requires sacrifice.  It means we will be misunderstood, often ridiculed, sometimes spat upon and even killed.  But at the end of all this suffering we will see for ourselves what so transfigured the women at the tomb, and transformed the frighted disciples, there is life in death that is beyond our wildest dreams and imaginings.

Giving Things Up Does Not Imply Loss

Giving things up does not imply loss.  In fact because of what we give up, we stand to gain a great deal

This morning I could not stop thinking about this line from Joan Chittister’s book The Liturgical Year . We often think that giving things up means sacrifice, loss and decreased satisfaction in life but is that really true?

This week has in many ways been a week of loss for me.  First we have committed to the $2 challenge for the week – restricting our budget in order to free up money to give to Haiti.  It has meant the loss of meals eaten out and cutting out some of my favourite but expensive food – like avocados in salads and papaya for breakfast (yes I know they don’t grow in Seattle but they are a couple of my non local indulgences).  Another quote from Joan Chittister is helpful here:

Self-indulgence, the preening of self for the sake of self, blocks out the cries of the rest of the world, making us deaf to anything beyond ourselves.”

Restricting my diet in this way has made me more aware of the cries of the poor and of their daily struggle to survive.  I can choose to live on $2/day they have no other option.

To cap it off, last week I found out that my cholesterol is high, partly genetic but there are other factors that contribute as well.  Most of my friends are stunned because they think that Tom & I eat more healthily than most but I have allowed my weight to creep up in the last couple of years so need to lose 20 lbs in the next few months.  And that means giving up excuses for not getting out to exercise – like” its not fun to walk in the rain.”  It also means giving up the occasional indulgence in fish and chips – unless the fish is grilled or broiled.

Even in the midst of these simple losses I stand to gain a great deal.  Eating more healthily means gaining better health not just now but hopefully in the future too.   We are opting for the Mediterranean diet, recommended by my cardiologist brother. According to the British Medical Journal:

Greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a significant improvement in health status, as seen by a significant reduction in overall mortality (9%), mortality from cardiovascular diseases (9%), incidence of or mortality from cancer (6%), and incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease (13%).    Read the entire article

What am I willing to give up for my faith I wonder in order to gain the “heart healthy” rewards it could hold for the future?  It is a question I continue to grapple with.  We live such comfortable lives and though I know that Tom and I are in the place that God wants us to be at this time, I also know that it is easy to make excuses for self indulgence rationalizing it with thoughts of “God wants to bless me”

Now I am not denying that God wants to bless us, all I question is that blessing comes in the form of self-centredness and self-satisfaction.  Self centredness makes self the centre of the universe.  Again in the words of Joan Chittister:

The notion that all things were made for our comfort and our control robs those around us of their own gifts.  It absorbs the gifts of others; it smothers them under our own; it blinds us to both their needs and their gifts.

The greatest satisfaction of my life has come from enabling others to become more of whom God intends them to be – first through providing healthcare to the poor and the marginalized as I worked on the Mercy Ship and in refugee camps in Thailand and Africa, then through writing, advocacy and mentoring.

So what are the ongoing losses God might be asking all of us to partake of so that others can find their freedom and their giftedness?  I would love to know what you think?  I would also love to know what you have been willing to give up so that others can be set free and what you have gained as a result.

Starting a Faith-based Community Garden

Community garden Lynden WA

I am doing some research in preparation for my Spirituality of Gardening seminars in Seattle and Lynden in a couple of weeks and thought that some of you might be interested in some of the resources I have come across on starting a faith based community garden.  A number of the participants at my seminars are in the midst of helping their churches start community gardens and it is good to know that there are some great resources out there.  Here are some of the best that I have found:

Tips for Starting a Faith Based Community Garden

Faith Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships in the Age of Obama

Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina: Growing Communities Through Gardens

One of the best blogs I have found on faith based gardening is Sparks in the Soil

I will continue to add to this list over the next few weeks if you are interested and would love to hear from those of you that have other resources to add to the list too.

How Has Lent Changed You?

Aboriginal Christian art - Alice Springs

Only one more week to go until the end of Lent.  It ends Maundy Thursday when our focus moves to the passion of Christ and the events of Easter.

But I am wondering how has Lent changed us this year?  Has it been just an exercise in reflection and contemplation or has it really been a time to reevaluate our lives and make some necessary changes so that new aspects of God’s image are revealed in us.  Has it made us more aware of our God who aches with the homeless and the destitute?  Has it opened our eyes to the needs of those at the margins and our need to be more compassionate and more outspoken in seeking after justice?  Has it drawn us closer to the heart of God through our prayers and scripture reading?

What are the changes that you feel God has initiated in your life during this season of Lent?  Obviously there are some changes that we may not be aware of, but there are others that we may be very aware of.  I think that it is good to write these down and give thanks and praise to God for those changes.

One of the things I find is that it is much harder to reflect on what has changed than to ask for change in our lives.  As a consequence we tend to focus on what is wrong rather than what is right.  Both are necessary however, not only so that we are aware of what God is doing in our lives but also and probably more importantly so that we can become aware of God’s words of approval “Well done good and faithful servant.” is something I believe God wants to tell us regularly – the trouble is we rarely take time to listen.

Yesterday’s New Testament reading was from 2 Corinthians.  It included this passage:

Whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  For the Lord is the Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.  And the Lord- who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into God’s glorious image.  (2 Corinthians 3:16 – 18)

It was a great scripture to meditate on as I thought about the changes I am aware of that still need to happen in my life and reflected on what I feel has changed during Lent this year – the changes may seem small, but like a parent that applauds every new step a child makes towards adulthood, God applauds every step we make towards the revelation of “God’s glorious image.”  Maybe Palm Sunday this weekend is a good time to look and listen for God’s approval.  Let God bathe you in his love and fill you with a sense of his approval in your accomplishment.

What is Palm Sunday?

This coming Sunday marks the beginning of Holy week.  It celebrates Jesus procession into Jerusalem and the beginning of his walk towards the Cross.  But what is Palm Sunday really all about?

What many of us miss is that this was a very subversive event, symbolizing the in breaking of God’s kingdom with its upside down values and countercultural ways.  We also miss the fact that Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem may have begun with crowds shouting Hosanna but it ends with Good Friday and the apparent triumph of the powers of the Roman Empire and of Satan.  It does not end with a gold crown but with a crown of thorns.  Jesus triumphal entry ends with his willingness to take into himself all the pain and suffering of our world so that together we can celebrate the beginning of a new procession on Easter Sunday – a procession that leads us into God’s banquet feast and the wonder of God’s eternal world.

I have just been rereading this reflection that I wrote last year  on Palm Sunday and thought that I would share it again as it really does sum up much of my thinking.

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.  Read the entire article

The Secret Mall Gardens of Cleveland

What does it mean to be co-creators with God?  I was thinking about that this morning as I read this great article about how malls in Cleveland are becoming greenhouses.  God has gifted all of humankind with amazing ingenuity and creativity which we can use for good or for evil.  This is a great example of what a little ingenuity can do when we really become convinced that we need to change our ways.  Imagine what could happen at your church and mine if we had the same conviction about the importance of going green.

The shopping mall is not dead. In Cleveland, in fact, it’sgrowing green: cucumbers, lettuce, herbs and even flowers.

In the former Galleria at Erieview mall, a project called Gardens Under Glass is taking root, part of a grand plan to transform malls into greenhouses. It’s just one of many Cleveland-based projects, suggesting that this rust belt city might have a few sustainabilty tricks to teach urban centers everywhere.  Read the entire article