Waiting When There is No Hope An Advent Reflection by Christine Sine

The Visitation by James B Janknegt www.BCArtFarm.org

The Visitation by James B Janknegt http://www.BCArtFarm.org

Each year my good friend Mark Pierson sends me a copy of his Advent reflections written for the spiritual nurture of World Vision NZ staff. This year he chose the art of James Janknegt whose powerful contemporary images of the Christmas story formed a wonderful focus for my own visio divina meditations each week. This is a prayer tool I discovered while researching my book Return to Our Senses. I find it to be particularly helpful at this season.

Most of my meditations around my Advent theme, Let Us Wait As Children Wait, have revolved around joy, promise, hope, expectation. However, as I contemplated The Visitation I was struck by this fresh image of children waiting that I had not really considered before, the two unborn infants waiting in the loving embrace of the womb, waiting in darkness, waiting in uncertainty, waiting to change the world.

Their waiting must have been filled with a great deal of background anxiety, however. One would be born to an unmarried mother who could easily have been rejected and outcast by her family. The other would be born to a woman past her childbearing age, a wait in seclusion, perhaps because of her embarrassment at this unexpected blessing. Both of them waiting to be born into a turbulent and violent world that would eventually kill them both.

In Janknegt’s painting, the potential of Jesus and John waiting in the womb is obvious – one will become a king, the other a messenger. How many children born today wait for a future in which they will never fulfill their full potential I wondered? For how many is their time in the womb a waiting for an uncertain and vulnerable future?  Perhaps their mothers are drug addicts or refugees born into a world that wants to keep them out of sight. Maybe their families live on the edge of starvation and they are waiting to be born only to die before their first birthday. Some wait for a life of abuse and abandonment, others for a life of suffering and pain.

The waiting of the unborn should be a joy filled season of hope and expectation, that is what we most like to focus on at this season. How I wonder, can I make that hope and promise made possible through the child whose birth we await, become a reality for some of those vulnerable ones at the margins for whom waiting holds so little hope.

 

Prayers for the Journey

Celtic prayer

From Mary DeJong http://waymarkers.wordpress.com/

The end of another busy week  and it is time to post prayers from my facebook page Light for the Journey. The richness of contributions from the expanding team of contributors is amazing.  As I mentioned last week, I have enlisted the help of Jamie Arpin Ricci author of The Cost of Community and founder of Litte Flowers community in Winnipeg Manitoba; Phileena Heuertz co-founder of Word Made Flesh and author ofPilgrimage of a SoulMicha Jazz a contemplative activist in Chichester UK and a member of the Axiom Monastic Community; Bonnie Harr who posts prayers and reflections at In His FootstepsJohn Birch who posts Celtic Prayers and Resources atFaith and WorshipMary Plate DeJong who leads pilgrimages to Iona Scotland and is Forest Steward for one of Seattle’s urban forests and Mark Scandrette author ofPracticing the Way of Jesus and founding director of ReIMAGINE in San Francisco.

There are too many prayers for a single post, so I will post some today and some tomorrow. If you would like to access these prayers and reflections each day (and see  all the beautiful images that accompany them) please “like” the Light for the Journey Facebook page.

God my creator,

Draw me closer.

Christ my redeemer,

Draw me closer.

Spirit my advocate,

Draw me closer.

Let the eyes of my heart rest on you.

———————

God may I give myself only

to that which satisfies my heart,

May I give myself only

to that which strengthens my soul,

May I give myself only

to that which draws me closer to you.

———————

God you are love,

All you are expresses love,

All you do flows from love.

Lord wipe the scales from our eyes,

That we might see what love is doing.

———————–

Eternal God, Creator of all that is,

all that was, all that will ever be.

You who made the sun and moon,

Who brought night and day into being,

Transform our darkness into light,

Renew us, restore us, redeem us,

Let your presence shine through us,

That all might see.

———————-

This is your world I step upon

the air I breathe

the food I eat

This is your world I step upon

the sounds I hear

the people I meet

This is your world I step upon

your footsteps

where I place my feet

(www.faithandworship.com)

————————

Lord Jesus Christ let your words flow into my soul,

Let them nourish me,

Let them grow within me,

Let their truths rise up within me,

Let them give me life.

————————

Let this moment settle in my heart,

Let all that it holds rest secure in the love of God,

Let the wonder of the holy One

radiate from the centre of my being,

Until the reality of Christ’s inner presence

Spills out into the world around me.

—————————-

Bonnie Harr - Aspen Praise

Bonnie Harr – Aspen Praise

Resources for Pentecost 2012

He Qi pentecost

Pentecost by Chinese artist He Qi

Sunday May 27th is Pentecost. This is the day when we celebrate:.

  1. The coming of the Holy Spirit and the infilling of Jesus’ disciples with the power to go out and change the world
  2. The great multi cultural gathering that we catch a glimpse of as we watch the spirit fall and suddenly everyone is able to understand each other – not all speaking the same language but able to understand each other in their own languages.  Acts 2:11.
  3. Pentecost is traditionally the time that many churches pray for the peace of our world in which at times there seems to be so little cross cultural understanding.

Each year I like to add to my resource list from the previous years so that this becomes a rich array of helpful suggests for everyone. So what kinds of resources do we need?  First I think we need to provide our congregations with resources that help them to see Jesus from other cultural perspectives.  In a visual society like ours art is one very powerful way to do this.  Liturgy is another powerful tool because as we read the words aloud they resonate deep within our souls and take root.

Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity still has the best collection of art from different cultural contexts – not just European, Asian, African, South American, Middle Eastern, Australian and Celtic but also other more unusual perspectives – goth, alien, feminist and tattoo.  We may not agree with all these perspectives – after all how many of us can relate to Jesus as a Cyclon – but it important for us to see the different ways that people perceive if we want to “understand them in their own language”.

The Text This Week has one of the best online collections of links to Christian art I have come across – all indexed according to Biblical/liturgical subjects.  They also provide an interesting list of movie clips that correspond to biblically related themes as well as a rich array of other resources on Pentecost

Another great collection of pentecost art is available at Biblical Art on the WWW

In terms of Pentecost liturgies there are endless possibilities out there so please don’t expect this to be a comprehensive list.  My own liturgies from past years are

A Prayer for Pentecost

A Liturgy for Pentecost

Others that I have enjoyed browsing this year are:

The Worship Well with great resources mainly from Australia & New Zealand

Sacredise.com always provides wonderful liturgical resources for the seasons including these excellent Pentecost resources

re:Worship has a very rich array of resources available – make sure you take time to follow the links provided to songs, liturgies and videos.

If you are looking for alternative approaches to worship  for this season I would heartily recommend Jonny Baker’s worship tricks

Steve Taylor a – sustain:if:able kiwi is another very creative worship leader.  I love his Ascension Day suggestion – the footprints of Jesus

 

Ascension Day Getting Us Ready for Pentecost

Ascension Jesus mafa image

Ascension Jesus mafa image

Today is Ascension Day, but like many of us I am already thinking about Pentecost in 10 days time. Then we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, though for many churches it has become a day of prayer for peace. The following prayer came to me this morning as I thought about these two celebrations and the amazing impact on our world of Christ’s ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit and our heart burning desire to see God’s peace come in our world.

Peace O Lord to all whose lives entwine with ours,
Peace to all who walk this earth with us.
Peace to friend and to stranger, to neighbours near and far,
Peace to all who struggle,
Peace to the lost, the broken and the hurting.
Peace from the Christ who has redeemed and saved us,
Peace from the One who sits at the right hand of God,
An advocate for all God’s children,
May we follow him into the new creation and join him in making all things whole.

Last year I spent time reflecting on these two events as well and thought I would repost that reflection here too – I love this art piece that I found thanks to Matt Stone to go with it.

African art - Zaire Jesus

African art – zaire Jesus

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

Is Believing in A Better World Idealism?

Jesus Calling the Disciples by He Qi

Jesus Calling the Disciples by Chinese artist He Qi.

Yesterday I posted this prayer on facebook:

‎”Jesus may we see in you the ways of life,
May we love justice, show mercy, practice generosity,
And love our neighbours as we do ourselves.”

Someone called these lofty but admirable goals.  One a similar post several months ago someone else called it admirable idealism and another commented – impossible.  How sad when the commands of God are viewed in this way.

Love of neighbour, generosity, mercy and justice are at the heart of the gospel and the backbone of the commands that Jesus invites us to live by.  They are the fabric that is meant to shape our lives at least that is what we tell people or pretend to believe, but underneath do we really think that they are unattainable idealism?

How we live is driven by who we are and what we believe.  Asking people to love their neighbours and forgive their enemies is pointless unless we first enable them to confront their inner disbelief in the attainability of these goals.  Sure we will never love our neighbours as well as we should and forgiving enemies can be very, very hard but if don’t believe it is possible we will never move an inch towards this seemingly unattainable goal.

One of my great role models in this struggle is the apostile John whom we first meet in Mark 3:17 as one of the Sons of Thunder.  By the end of the New Testament he known as the Apostle of love.  What an incredible transformation of heart, spirit and life that must have taken.  And I don’t think that it is surprising that we also hear him called “the disciple that Jesus loved” (John 21: 20).  The closer we walk with Jesus, the more intimately we enter into the love of his presence, the more possibility we have of being transformed and the more possibility we have of loving justice, showing mercy, practicing generosity and loving our neighbours as we do ourselves.

So what do you think?  Is the hope we have in Jesus message attainable idealism or is it a powerful vision of hope and promise for a world transformed and a people reborn?

Using Icons – a Powerful Tool or Graven Images

The oldest icon of Christ Pantocrator, Saint Catherine's Monastery Mount Sinai

The oldest icon of Christ Pantocrator, encaustic on panel, c. 6th century (Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai

Icons are an integral part of orthodox worship and serve a variety of functions:

(1) They enhance the beauty of a church. (2) They instruct us in matters pertaining to the Christian faith. (3) They remind us of this faith. (4) They lift us up to the prototypes which they symbolize, to a higher level of thought and feeling. (5) They arouse us to imitate the virtues of the holy personages depicted on them. (6) They help to transform us, to sanctify us. (7) They serve as a means of worship and veneration. I shall discuss briefly each one of these functions  Read more on the function of icons at the Orthodox information centre

In recent years icons have been rediscovered by growing numbers of followers of Jesus from other traditions too.  For many, icons contribute to the beauty of worship and are like windows that connect us to the realities of the Kingdom of God, bringing these into our prayer on earth.  I love the idea that entering into church is meant to give us a glimpse into the kingdom of God and the icons are reminders of that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before.  They can be a refreshing focus for both personal and group meditation.

Icon used in worship Community of the Transfiguration Geelong Australia

Icon used in worship Community of the Transfiguration affiliated with the Baptist church in Geelong Australia

Unfortunately there is probably more dispute circulating about the use of icons than of any of the other tools I have mentioned.  When Tom and I were in Lebanon some years ago we were invited to lunch by an orthodox priest.  What we did not realize until we arrived was that we were supposed to settle a long standing dispute between he and a friend as to whether or not the use of icons of Christ was acceptable.

The friend thought they were satanic, graven images that were expressly denounced in the Old Testament.  Our orthodox friend explained that early Christians felt that the Old Testament proscriptions against making images was overturned by their belief in the incarnation. They believed that because God took on flesh in the human form of Jesus it was permissible to create depictions of the human form of the Son of God.   Although icons are images, they are not simply illustrations or decorations. They are symbols of the incarnation, a presence which offers to the eyes the spiritual message that the Word addresses to the ears.

Why we worry so much about iconic images of Christ and not at all about images of Christ in other forms of art I am not sure, but then of course I am no expert.  So I at least want to present this as one of the options that you might like to explore.  For those that want to learn more obviously a google search will provide lots of resources.  However one book you may like to start with is Windows to Heaven: Icons for Protestants and Catholics by Lela Gilbert and Elizabeth Zelensky

 

And to round off your education, I some of you may appreciate this video using icons in association with the litany of the saints song by Matt Maher

 

 

Visio Divina – Praying with Art

The Last Supper - John August Swanson

The Last Supper - John August Swanson http://www.johnaugustswanson.com

Praying with Art or Visio Divina as it is increasingly called is a form of prayer that is becoming increasingly popular and in a world that is as visually oriented as ours, an intentional way of praying with images is needed now more than ever.  After reading yesterday’s post, my friend Tom Cashman commented:

In my Spiritual Formation classes over the last 2-3 years, in addition to more traditional Lection Divina I’ve also been using forms of Visio Divina.  This isn’t new, beginning with Benedict in the 6th century is floweried with the Orthodox iconographers.

Tom’s words sent me on a google search for more information on a form of prayer that I honestly know little about, even though I have often used religious art as a focus for meditation.

I found this article by Tom Mooney particularly helpful and love the images from John August Swanson, an artist that I have not encountered before but whose images drew me into a wonderful rich and refreshing encounter with the gospel stories.  Mooney explains:

Visio Divina (Latin for “divine seeing”) is a method for praying with images or other media. While the Orthodox tradition has long practiced praying with images through icons, the western church, and Protestantism in particular, is less comfortable with this type of prayer. But as a cursory glance through scripture will show, images have been an important part of God’s way of communicating. Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones, and Peter’s dream on the rooftop in Acts 10, are just two instances of how images and prayer are vitally connected.  Read the entire article

I also discovered this excellent resource for Bible study: Seeing the Word: Picture the Beauty of God’s Word, developed by Saint John’s School of Theology Seminary and Liturgical Press.  Seeing the Word offers guided reflections  on particular Scripture texts, using images from the acclaimed The Saint John’s Bible,

This video is a useful tool that helps to explain the process of Visio Divina

This Bible that reminds me of the Book of Kells and other illuminated gospels which are another wonderful tool for Visio Divina.

Book of Kells images

Illumination from the Book of Kells

One book I have read recently that delves into Vision Divina in a very helpful way is Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer by Juliet Benner.  She very instructively combines the knowledge of a trained artist with that of a spiritual director to show people how to meditate on art that depicts passages of scripture.

Another great tool for this form of prayer is the use of Christian images from different cultures.  I first wrote about this some years ago in a blog post entitled Imaging Jesus and even produced a youtube video to go with it.  One of my earliest so it is a little funky now but I still thought that you might enjoy it.

This is obviously a small beginning in exploring this form of prayer.  I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.