Ascension Day & Pentecost – Distant neighbours

African Christian art - Zaire Jesus

A couple of days ago I was thinking about the juxtaposition of Ascension day and Pentecost.  One to commemorate the ascent of Jesus the other to remember the descent of the Holy Spirit.    Ascension Day and Pentecost are closely linked.  It was because Jesus ascended into heaven that the Holy Spirit could descend and fill us all.  I thought that you might enjoy the prayer that my reflections inspired

Jesus Christ ascended into heaven

First born of a new creation

Marking the way with his blood

Shining as a light for all to see

An advocate in heaven

Now at the right hand of God

Holy Spirit descended from above

Indwelling presence of God

Opening our hearts to the Good News of Christ

Leading us into all truth

An advocate within

Forever with all who are called by God’s name

The Wonders Worked by Womanhood from Lucy Kellaway

A friend (male) sent me a copy of this article The Wonders Worked by Womanhood which was published on FT.com today & I thought that many of you might enjoy reading it too.

….  It shows that when it comes to the intelligence of a group, the presence of women lifts the results, even if the individuals are not particularly brainy. The study, by Anita Woolley and Thomas Malone and written up in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, shows that the more women there are in a group, the more intelligently it performs.  Read the entire article

Prayers for the Journey

The end of another busy but satisfying week.  Lots of time in the garden and now we are up in Leavenworth in the Cascade mountains with time to renew and refresh before I head to Australia.  Not surprisingly I am drinking in the beauty and renewing my soul with the wonder of God’s presence.

Bavarian style buildings in Leavenworth WA

Here is the summary of prayers that I have posted on facebook in the last couple of weeks

Sitting in Leavenworth surrounded by beautiful snowcapped mountains inspired this prayer today:
Eternal God, creator of the universe,
You are more majestic than the mountains
More secure than any rock, more to be desired than any vista
My trust is in you all the days of my life

______________________________________________________

Lord jesus Christ I trust in your abiding presence

You who are the cornerstone of God’s building

And hold all creation together with your love

You who are the One in whom truth and justice unite

I trust in you and find peace

__________________________________________________________________

God may I remember today that my times are in your hands

My future belongs to you

May I witness to your truth

And participate in your redeeming work

__________________________________________________________________

God almighty we praise you

For your love that never gives up

For your forgiveness that never says no

For your mercy that never lets go

___________________________________________________________________

Today’s prayer is adapted from Colossians 3:12-15

May we remember today to forgive as God has forgiven us

May we clothe ourselves with God’s love

And let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts

So that we can be bound together as one body living in perfect harmony

___________________________________________________________________

God may we realize that in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge

May his words become life for us

May his purposes become our purposes

May we reside in his kingdom of justice and peace

____________________________________________________________________

Today has been a beautiful day here in Seattle which inspired this prayer:

God may I breathe in the sweet perfume of your grace

And rest secure in the beauty of the place where your peace is found

May I bask in the sunshine of your sustaining love

And hold firm to the truth of your salvation

______________________________________________________________________

May we sit quietly before the One who gives life and love to all creation

May we sit in of the One who formed us in our mother’s wombs

May we sit at peace surrounded by the One who fills every fibre of our being

_______________________________________________________________________

May we today embrace the fullness of all God has for us

May we live in communion with God & in fellowship with God’s people

May we share freely, love generously and live at peace with all who fill our world

_______________________________________________________________________

Jesus Christ you are the great shepherd,

The One who calls us by name and leads us with love

The One who carries us when we fall, and comforts us when we hurt

May we follow to place of your choosing,

And drink from your life giving wells

________________________________________________________________________

God may we remain open and attend to what you are saying
May we see your ways and hear your voice
May we touch the hem of your garment
And be healed from from all that distorts our ability to follow you

_______________________________________________________________________

God may we breathe in your presence

And let go of our our fears and anxieties

May we soak in your grace and love

And throw off our busy distractedness

May we sit quietly in the place where you draw close

And know the intimacy of your sustaining touch

_______________________________________________________________________

Listening to Stanley W. Green inspired this prayer today

God you give us the power to transform the world

Power to heal the sick and to set free the oppressed

Power to forgive our enemies and care for our friends

Power to love our neighbours as we do ourselves

God may we unleash the power you place within us

And reach out as your hands and hearts of love

________________________________________________________________________

Prayers and Liturgy for Ascension Day

Giotto Ascension of Christ via Wikimedia commons

Giotto Ascension of Christ via Wikimedia commons

Next week – June 2nd – we celebrate Ascension day.  What on earth is this you may ask?  The fortieth day after Easter Sunday is a day of great significance as we celebration the ascension of Christ into heaven and the new creation that his resurrection brought into being. It is not however a celebration that most of us outside liturgical churches have ever heard of or ever really celebrated, but it is very important and I would highly recommend that you consider incorporating it into your worship cycle.  It seems such an appropriate celebration for those of us who are interested in sustainability and creation care.

A couple of years ago I posted this list of prayers and resources that you may like to consider.  Since then I have come across a number of other beautiful liturgies and prayers that i want to make you aware of.

As usual John van de Laar at sacredise.com has some great resources – prayers, liturgies, even suggestions for hymns and youtube videos.  You can check them out here.

I particularly enjoyed this video The Ascension and Jesus Christ  on The Work of the People (love their work).

Here is another good set  of videos/loops from re:Worship

And as always textweek.com has a very comprehensive list of resources for celebrating Ascension Day

Obviously there are lots of other great resources out there too so if you have found something that is particularly helpful please leave a link in the comments below.

Church as Permaculture

Yesterday a friend forwarded me this reflection by Richard Rohr entitled Church as Permaculture.

There was a movement that began about thirty years ago in Australia called “Permaculture” (from perma[nent agri]culture) which was concerned about making good and natural use of our earth.  I would like to suggest here the idea of church itself as a kind of permaculture.

Permaculture is a design system to create sustainable living habitats.  Permaculturists seek to find regenerative solutions that are local, on-site, and natural.  We have to look right in front of us and say: “How can we regenerate what is right here?  How can we live with what we have and make it beautiful and good?”  I ask, why should that not be true for church too?  Wouldn’t it make sense that all we need for salvation is available for all peoples, all the time, and everywhere?  God and grace cannot be that scarce.  Why should any church “technology” be so centralized at higher levels, or dependent on major and specialized education?  Maybe that was Jesus’ point in starting with fishermen?

This reflection became the focal point for a discussion in our MSA team meeting.    I love the concept of permaculture.  You disturb the soil as little as possible so that the native microorganisms thrive, you add a lot of compost & mulch to keep in the moisture and you plant native crops where possible because they are the ones most likely to thrive.  Great principles for ministry too.  You don’t need to bring in lots of sophisticated stuff (or people) to be effective.  Nor do you need any highly sophisticated training to do a good job.

It is easy for those of us who work in full time Christian ministry to live in an artificial and need I say imported bubble that has little relationship to the real world or to the community in which we live. And as a result we often do a lot of things that really mess up the local soil in ways that are not very good for it.  Being hard pressed financially in the last couple of years has forced all of us to be creative in how we provide for ourselves in ways that I think are very healthy.

Many pastors and ministry workers have had to take part time jobs to provide for themselves and their families and they have had to rely a lot more on local resources too.  And this has often drawn us to get more involved in our local communities… without disturbing the local soil as it were  Maybe these hard economic times are God’s greatest blessing to us.

We have been very aware of that here in MSA.  Cindy Todd started a soap making business which has not only helped provide for her and her family but has also pushed her out into the community as she sells her products through farmers’ markets and other local networks.  Andy works part time at a local church in Hood River Oregon as well as running a small computer business.  He too has developed broad local networks as result.

It has changed the way many of us think about ministry too. International development so often really messes up the local soil.  It brings in foreign substances (overseas personnel & resources) and often does not depend on innovation and utilizing the resources that people already have.   Even when it does that utilization is often based on outside expertise and technology rather than on the ingenuity of local people.

I think hard times foster creativity and innovation.  Everyone has within them the divine spark of creativity that so often shines in the midst of adversity.

I would love to hear how these times have stimulated your creativity and what you have learned about what it means to be a follower of Christ as a result

Pray for Us During this Busy Season

All of us at Mustard Seed Associates are heading into a busy season and we would appreciate your prayers for our travels, speaking and development of the Mustard Seed Village.  I will be in Australia May 31st to June 15th spending time with my mother who will be celebrating her 88th birthday.  I will also have some time to catch up with the rest of my family and some of my many friends Down Under.

Here is a snapshot of what else we are involved in:

Upcoming speaking for Tom and I includes:

Wild Goose Worship Festival June 23 – 29 ;

Christian Schools International Leadership Convention July 18 – 21;

Recession II Ready or Not July 23rd with Bishop Rickel and Diocese of Olympia;

MSA’s 20th Annual Celtic retreat Camano Island

Kent Covenant Church WA August 19 – 21

Sanctuary’s annual Fall Retreat September 30 & Oct 1

Laurelville Mennonite Church Laurelville PA Oct 21 – 23

Tom spends most of his waking hours these days coordinating the launch of the Mustard Seed Village. An increasing part of his time is consumed in growing the circle of friends to help us launch this exciting project. Please contact Tom right away if you would like to be a friend of the MSV launch.  He always has time to get to know another friend and explain how you can be involved in creating the Mustard Seed Village as a center for Christian imagination and innovation…for life and mission in turbulent times.

For Cindy Todd, the summer market season has begun and Snohomish Soap Company continues to grow as she reaches new customers interested in her wonderful product.  A promising opportunity has recently emerged.  A friend involved in Microfinance in Uganda is facilitating the development of an organic essential oil line as well as a soap manufacturing business.  He has asked Cindy to work with him by sharing her soapmaking expertise.

Andy Wade celebrated with volunteers from the Columbia River Gorge Warming Shelter last Saturday in a “Thank You” dinner for their amazing work this winter keeping homeless neighbors safe and warm. Although challenging at times, it was truly a joy for Andy to train volunteers and coordinate their efforts in this important local cause.

Andy’s wife Susan will work with me over the summer to edit a series of Advent meditations.  We believe this will provide an exciting addition to the MSA resources.  Be sure to check back in October for updates on this exciting new publication!

Robert Watton & Levi Dillard continue to help in the garden at the Mustard Seed House and are also planning the beginning garden at the Mustard Seed Village.  This year in Seattle we have sold tomato, squash, basil and other vegetable starts to raise seed money (no pun intended) for this new venture.  We are excited about the possibilities that this new garden and ministry will offer us.

Praying for Joplin Mo. – Another Devastating Tornado Hits

Our prayers go out this morning to the people of Joplin Mo. where another devastating tornado with winds up to 200 mph has killed at least 89 people and left huge devastation in its wake.  Read the entire story here  

Lord have mercy,

Comfort those who mourn

Christ have mercy,

Protect those who are still alive

Lord have mercy

Guide those who search for survivors 

You Haven’t Been Raptured You’ve Been Born Anew

I came across this poem this morning by Chad Holtz.  It first appeared on his blogDancing on Saturday yesterday a Twas the Night Before Rapture   I was particularly caught by the line at the end you haven’t been raptured you’ve been born anew – love that sentiment especially as a I read this morning “Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him (Colloisians 3:10)

Twas the night before rapture, when all through God’s House,
Not an angel was stirring, not even a mouse.
The phylacteries were hung on the doorposts with care
In hopes that the humans soon would be here.

We cherubim were nestled all snug in our clouds
While visions of tourists got us aroused.
They’ll be speechless and wide-eyed and jet-lagged to boot
What a prime time for hazing it will be such a hoot.

When just cubits away there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our nests to see what was the matter.
Outside our window beyond the crystal sea
A lone human girl looking lost did we see.

The rubies and sapphires did twinkle and glow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to our earless ears did we hear
A soul-piercing cry from the human in tears.

With the parade all glitzy and ready to dance
We angels looked on, as though in a trance.
Wringing our wings we fretted and fraught,
Jehovah will be here any moment we thought!

Hosanna! Hosanna!  Came his brigade
Whatever will happen, we were so afraid!
This wasn’t the plan, twas never a thought
Millennia of work and just one human we got?

We crouched as we could behind the gold sham
And peered down below at Jesus the Lamb.
The human was sobbing her face was maroon
And Gabriel dropped his kazoo and balloons.

And then, in a twinkling, we heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of seraphim hooves.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around
Down the chimney did Arch Angel Michael abound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his wings,
And his clothes were all tarnished with glitter and things.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

“What are you doing?!  You fool, can’t you see?”
Gabriel was angry, as mad as could be.
“This is no time to play one of your earth-people tricks
We need a miracle now, not Saint Nick.”

Chagrined and besotted we turned back to see
The scene just outside between Jesus and she.
Cupping our wings we got real, real quiet.
And waited for heaven to break out in riot.

But what did our anxious angel ears hear?
Not an angry Lord, but one calming her fears.
“Come now, my child, tell me your sorrows,
This is heaven, you know, a land full of tomorrows.”

Through gut wrenching sobs she bravely did speak,
“I’m here but they’re there, this is not the heaven I seek!
Please let me go back to my family and friends,
This won’t be a party till everyone wins.”

“My child, don’t worry,” said the Lamb who was slain,
“Did you really believe my death was in vain?
Your heart is now beating for all of my crew,
You haven’t been raptured you’ve been born anew.”

And as quick as she came she was gone in a flash
We hurried to get back to our clouds in a dash.
“Angels,” God said, “You can call off the fuss,
It won’t happen till everyone loves as she does.

Creation Liturgy by John Van De Laar

The following beautiful creation liturgy was written by John Van de Laar .  It is another wonderful resource as we pray for God’s creation today.

Beautiful old English oaks

Call to Worship

O Divine Voice,

You sing and the universe comes into being;

O Divine Breath,

You breathe and all things spring to life;

O Divine Word,

You call and creation is sustained;

O Divine Flesh,

You are born among us, and the Creator is clothed in creation;

O Divine Spirit,

You contain all that has been formed;

O Divine Life,

You are the pulse of all that is;

And so, in faith and expectation, in wonder and celebration

we gather to remember this mystery:

In you all things live and move and have being,

In all things, you live and move and express your Divine artistry;

And so we join with creation in the eternal song of worship and devotion.

Amen.

Praise and Confession

O God who gives birth to all that we see, all that we know, all that we dream,

and all that is unseen, unknown and unimagined,

We celebrate your life that holds and nurtures the universe

we celebrate your love which joins creation as one and unites all things with you; We give thanks for your life which is incarnated in Christ

and which is revealed in every created being; 

We savour your presence which is limitless and welcoming,

and your Spirit which fills every moment of time and every fragment of matter.

But even as we receive again your vision of life,

we recognise that we have been blind to its universal heartbeat;

Even as we remember the connectedness of all things,

we acknowledge that we have divided and separated ourselves, and forgotten our part in your creation;

Even as we are energised by your breath within us, we confess our destructiveness,

and repent of the harm we have done to ourselves and our world.

For the sake of Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, who, in death, disarmed all that is evil, and, in resurrection, stripped death of power,

We ask you to recreate us, to reconnect us, and to restore to us the vision of your life in creation, and the power to live it.

Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer may be said together.

Statement of Faith

Let us proclaim together our conviction of, and commitment to, God’s purpose in creation:

We believe that God gave birth to the universe and all that is in it,

and we proclaim that God’s life is beyond and within it all.

We believe that, in Jesus, God was revealed in human flesh,

and we proclaim that all is recreated through Christ’s saving work.

We believe that God’s Spirit energises the created order,

and we proclaim that all things are one, and everything lives in God.

Amen.

Requests

Let us open ourselves to the grace of God, to the brokenness of our world,

and to the call to be agents of healing and recreation.

Where human greed has stripped the world of beauty and life, and robbed people of dignity and subsistence,

We pray, O God, for a new vision of abundance, and a new commitment to nurture the world that feeds us and share with those who do not have.

Silence

Where human hatred has severed relationships, and broken the connection that unites creation,

We pray, O God, for love to be renewed, 

and compassion to draw us back into union.

Silence

Where human loneliness, weakness, sickness and grief, and the suffering of our planet and its inhabitants hide the signs of your life,

We pray, O God, for healing, comfort and strength and for the courage to keep hoping in the renewed creation to come.

Silence

O God, restore our faith, revive our hope, rekindle our love, And hear our prayer;

For we offer it in Christ’s name.

Amen.

Communion

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,

And the Lord’s glory covers the earth as the waters over the sea.

The trees of the field clap their hands, the birds of the air sing songs of praise

And if we should fail to express our worship, even the rocks and stones would cry out!

And so, we lift up our hearts, and we lift up our voices

And we offer thanksgiving and adoration to the Lord the Creator of all.

Blessed are you, Sovereign of the Universe,

for from seeds sown into the earth

you have given us the gift of bread to feed and nourish us.

And at Jesus’ last meal with his friends, before facing the cross,

Our Lord took bread, blessed it and broke it.

Then he passed it among them saying:

This is my body, broken for you.

Take and eat, and do this to remember me.

The bread is broken in the sight of the people.

Blessed are you, Sovereign of the Universe

for from grapes which grow ripe and sweet on the vine,

you have given us the gift of wine to refresh and heal us.

And at Jesus’ last meal with his friends before facing the cross,

Our Lord took the cup of wine and blessed it.

Then he passed it among them saying:

This is my blood shed for you.

Take and drink, and do this to remember me.

The cup of wine is held up in the sight of the people

And now we come to your table again, Jesus,

Mindful of how you laid your life down,

so that we and creation could be born anew;

Mindful of how you took your life up again,

so that we and creation could be filled with the life abundant;

Mindful that we cannot earn or purchase this privilege,

but that it is your grace which beckons us,

and your grace which ensures that all creation may be one and whole.

May your Spirit work in these fruits of earth,

so that they may become for us a sharing in Christ’s body and blood.

May your Spirit work in we, who are children of earth,

so that we may be transformed into Christ’s body,

carrying his life, his care, and his salvation to all creation.

Amen.  (The Sacrament is shared)

Thanksgiving and Sending Out

In this moment and this meal, we have remembered

That the whole creation is held in the hand of God

and that the whole creation is filled with the life of God;

That the whole creation has been restored by the work of God

and that the whole creation is flooded with the Spirit of God;

That the whole creation will be renewed according to the promise of God

and that the whole creation reflects the glory of God from eternity to eternity.

So now we go from this place back into the world,

to proclaim the saving message of God,

in word and action, in challenge and compassion, to all creation.

And we go in the confidence that comes from knowing that

Christ’s limitless grace, God’s infinite love, and the Holy Spirit’s relentless companionship, always encompass us, and are always within us. 

Amen.

National Day of Prayer for Creation Care

Chipmunk on red hot pokers, Coupeville WA

Today is the National Day of Prayer for Creation Care.  It seems a little ironic that it falls the day before some believe the world as we know it will come to an end but maybe that is why today is an important day to pray.  This day is sponsored by  Evangelical Environmental Network, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association of Evangelicals, Eden Vigil, Care of Creation Inc., Blessed Earth, and many others.  Its worth checking out their resources not just so that we can pray more effectively today but so that we can pray every day for God’s creation.

As I was praying this morning this prayer which I originally wrote for my book Light for the Journey came to my mind.  

We believe in God above us creator of all things sustainer of all life

We believe in Christ beside us companion and friend

Redeemer of all the broken pieces of our universe

We believe in Spirit deep within us advocate and guide who lives with us eternally

We believe in God’s resurrection created world

Where all things are fixed and all creation fits together in vibrant harmony

We believe in God above beside within, God yesterday today and forever

The three in one and one in three

We believe in God

Praying for the restoration of our world when we have the imagery in our minds of a God who indeed wants to fix all the broken places of our universe is a tremendously hope giving feeling.  This imagery is based on Colossians 1:15-20 – wonderful imagery to hold in our minds today.

Colossians 1:15-20 (The Message)

Christ Holds It All Together
 15-18We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

18-20He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.