Time to Get Ready for All Saints Day

Many hands make light work

Many hands have gone before

All Saints Day is November 1st but many churches will celebrate on Sunday November 3rd. Remembering those who impact our lives, those who have gone before and those who are still with us is an important part of our faith.

The Episcopal Church website explains:

We step aside from the flow of the propers and celebrate all the saints. We stop. We notice, We are surrounded by a flock of witnesses in our midst – many who have gone before us, some we are just now releasing, and still more with a full life ahead of them.

I love the Anglican tradition of renewing our baptismal vows on this day. Reminding ourselves of the journey we have taken personally is a good place to start in remembering the saints of God. In this tradition, all baptized Christians, living and dead known and unknown are considered saints of God. This means everyone including ourselves.

So as you get ready for All Saints Day think about your own faith journey. Remember the faithfulness of God in your past. Notice the movement of God in the present. Think about your hopes and dreams for the future. Get ready to celebrate all that you are as a saint of God.

But don’t stop there. This is a special day for celebrating. Here are some suggestions:

St Aidan’s Episcopal church on Camano Island where we worshipped yesterday is planning a special “remembering” table that will be set up in the nave. The congregation is invited to bring photos or small memorabilia of dear ones who have gone before us and place them on the table. During the worship on All Saint’s Day there will be a special blessing of the photos and memories.

Hold an All Saints’ Day party – a great alternative to Halloween. Get everyone to dress as their favourite saint, or to bring a picture of this saint. During the festivities get everyone to share a story about their saint and the impact he or she has had on their lives. Or you might like to get participants to guess who each person represents.

Plan a family heritage party. Invite people to do some work beforehand researching their family history and particularly the Christian saints who were a part of it.  Ask them to bring photos and stories to share.  Finish with a time of prayer for all those that have gone before us.

Several years ago when my youngest brother went to Greece where my father comes from he found out that it is possible that our family name Aroney comes from the name Aaron and that our family probably originated in Jerusalem many centuries ago.  It is probable that one of the reason they began the journey out of Jerusalem first to Constantinople then to Rhodes and finally to the tiny island of Kithera at the bottom of the Peloponnese mountains is because they became Christians.  There are a number of Greek orthodox priests in my father’s family history and my Aunt Mary was a very devout Greek Orthodox Christian.   I know less about my mother’s family history but would love to find out where her family too has had profound encounters with God.

Plan an All Saints Day pilgrimage. Again this might require some before time research.  Explore the Christian heritage of your community.  Where did the first Christians come from?  How did they interact with the native peoples?  Where was the first church established?  Who were some of the early Christians who impacted your community.  Plan a pilgrimage walk to the site of the first Christian community and if possible have a time of prayer and possibly even a eucharistic celebration to remember those who have gone before.

What are your ideas for celebrating All Saints Day this year? It is a great alternative to Halloween and we would love to hear what you are doing.

Here are some other posts I have written on All Saints Day that you might enjoy.

Coming Home for All Saints Day

Freeing the Saints from Their Hallmark Holidays

Surrounded by Prophetic Voices – Clouds of Witnesses that Call Us Out of Numbness

A Prayer for All Saints Eve



Celebrating Our Interdependence

July 4th Celebration

July 4th is Independence Day here in the U.S. I know its coming because I keep receiving emails that tell me I need to buy this, go there, eat and drink something else.

This is a celebration I struggle with and not just because it once again focuses on  consumption. I particularly struggle with the ways in which this celebration is linked to Christian faith with songs of praise to the nation of America being sung in church. Independence means we don’t need anyone else. Independence means we can do it alone, be self sufficient, live in isolation from the rest of the world. Hidden in the midst is an assumption that this type of living means freedom too. I talked about this last year in my post The Call to True Freedom. The values of independence are so counter to the values of the kingdom of God. 

None of this is true and I think it is time we both recognized and celebrated the fact. My freedom often comes at the cost of oppression for others. My disconnect from responsibility to God’s world wide community and to the earth on which we live can mean suffering, pollution and destruction.

Last year I linked to this great article by Chris Smith Celebrating Interdependence Day with 40 suggestions on how to celebrate interdependence.  This year I have come across a number of other suggestions on how to celebrate our interdependence.

Justin Mayfield sent me an invite to the Front Yard BBQ movement encouraging us to celebrate in our front yards not our back yards and even invite a few neighbours in. It reminded me of the first Easter I spent in Greece over 30 years ago. The open invitation to come and enjoy the feast still stirs my soul with wonderful memories of Godly hospitality. 

Whitney Standefer sent me a link to the 3rd Annual Inter-Dependence Day celebration  in Chimacum WA with food, fun and even a talent night. 

There is even an Interdependence Day movement that we can join – not celebrating on July 4th but a world wide celebration in September – this year in Dublin Ireland. 

This year we are celebrating with an international day – Celebrate the Americas. We will share fun, food and celebrations from all over the Americas… and with my nephew and his wife here from Australia even a little contribution (pavlova) from Down Under.

So how are you planning to celebrate our interdependence this week? Perhaps we can put together a resource list for next year and incorporate your suggestions. 

Celebrating 90 Years

Cutting the birthday cake

Cutting the birthday cake

Yesterday was my mother’s 90th birthday, a special day of remembering, celebrating and enjoying my family. Tom and I are privileged to be able to be in Sydney for this wonderful occasion. Celebrations like this are so important. They not only connect us to the past and the rich heritage that our families provide for us, they also connect us to the future and the hopes that we have for the time that is to come.

Mum with her "kids"

Mum with her “kids”

Mum with her grandkids

Mum with her grandkids

Mum with her great grandkids

Mum with her great grandkids

Celebrating Advent With Kids – New for 2012

St Nicholas with kids

St Nicholas with kids

Advent is almost here. And our theme for daily reflections this year is Let Us Wait As Children Wait. In preparation for that I thought that it would be good to update my Advent resource list for Celebrating Advent With Kids which is one of the all time favourite posts on this blog.

A couple of days ago I added this post:  10 Ways to Help Kids Give Back At Christmas but realize that there are a lot of other ways to help prepare children for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

1. Make an Advent wreath with your kids. This is a fun activity that prepares your child for this important season in the Christian calendar.

2. Start a new Advent tradition that revolves around the lighting of the Advent candles. Use your Advent wreath as a centerpiece . Every night at dinner, let one of your children light the candle and say an advent prayer or sing a song. I love these Advent candle light readings from World Vision Canada. As you become more comfortable with this tradition you may also like to tell stories from past Advent celebrations or about the story of Christ and what he means to you and your family.

3. Make or buy an Advent calendar. I  love the suggestion from the post Celebrating Advent with Children to make an Advent calendar with matchboxes and placing slips of paper in each one with different activities to do each day. For example, one day you might read a particular book or Bible passage, make Christmas cookies for a lonely neighbor, or sing Christmas carols together. The combination of inward reflection and outward caring is wonderful. There are some other great suggestions in this post Celebrating Advent with Children too so check it out.

Countdown Christmas Traditions also has a fun kid friendly Advent calendar.  As you click on each day of Advent you read about traditions in different countries of the world.

CAFOD: Just One world has some great Advent liturgies available as well as a downloadable Advent calendar for kids.

4. Set up a nativity set. There are several ways that this can focus your child on the real meaning of Christmas. Set it up with the manger empty and the wise men at the other end of the room or house. Throughout the Advent and Christmas season the wise men move closer to the manager and of course on Christmas morning the Christ child appears in the manger.

5. The nativity set is a great way to focus your children on gifts for Jesus too. You might like to consider some of the suggestions in my post from a couple of days ago  10 Ways to Help Kids Give Back At Christmas. Or you might like to consider this idea. On the first Sunday of Advent, each child in the family receives an empty manger. An oatmeal box covered with bright paper will do as well. At bedtime, the children draw straws for each kind deed performed in honor of Baby Jesus as his birthday surprise. The straw are placed in the child’s manger or box daily. It is amazing how much love a child can put into Advent when s/he is preparing for his redeemer’s coming in grace. On Christmas, each child finds an infant in his manger, placed on a small table or a chair beside his or her bed. Usually it is a tiny doll, beautifully dressed. This custom fills the child with a longing in Advent, and provides an image of the redeemer as the first happy glance in the morning and the last impression at night during the entire Christmas season.

6. Explore Christmas traditions from around the world with your kids and discuss the possibility of adapting some of these as part of your own celebration during the Advent and Christmas season.  Christmas Around the World has a wonderful description of traditions from a variety of countries that you might like to discuss.  The Worldwide Gourmet has a wonderful array of recipes associated with the Advent and Christmas season in many different parts of the world.  Just reading through some of these had my mouth watering.

7. Memories for the New Year – Reflect on the previous year and capture children’s memories that can become part of your family and church story. Capture these on camera, draw pictures, write songs or have older children journal. I love this idea from the United Methodist Communications. You might also like to check out some of the resources they suggest. (I have not had time to do this yet.)

More resources for celebrating as a family here.

8. Separate Gift Giving From Christmas Day. When I was on the mercy ship Anastasis, we always celebrated St Nicholas day. I think that this is a wonderful tradition that can separate the celebration of Christ’s birth from the giving of gifts. Our friends Ricci and Eliacin celebrate another tradition where the giving of gifts is associated with the coming of the wise men on the Eve of Epiphany.

There are obviously many other ways to celebrate Advent with kids – we are only limited by our imaginations and by the imaginations of our children who are likely to come up with far better ideas than we ever could. So if you have creative ways of celebrating during this season I would love to hear from you.

9. Check out other resources from Advent conspiracy.

Desiring Love – Tips for Deepening our Relationships of Love

Empress Hoptel Victoria B.C.

Empress Hoptel Victoria B.C.

Tom and I are just back from Victoria B.C. where we have celebrated our 20th anniversary. It has been so good to look back over these years and reminisce on the joys and struggles of a growing loving relationship. We are more in love now than we were 20 years ago and I thank God for the wonder of this relationship.

Part of what I am very aware of as I sit here this morning is that for any loving relationship to grow in depth and meaning it must be lived into with intentionality and desire, something that is very necessary too in the development of our love for God. It seems appropriate therefore that I am also currently reading Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation  by James K. A. Smith.

This is a book about Christian education, but it is also a book about love Smith contends that Christian education is a formative process that should redirect our desire towards God and God’s kingdom purposes. Worship and spiritual practices should be designed to train our love towards this desire. Desiring the Kingdom is a great book for anyone involved in Christian worship. Its academic language sometimes put me off – why I wonder do we need to make things sound more complicated than they are? However I soon got beyond this and found the ideas thought provoking and important.

As Smith says: we are fundamentally desiring creatures. We are what we love, and our love is shaped, primed and aimed by liturgical practices that take hold of our gut and aim our heart to certain ends (p40). He goes on to say:

we are attracted to a vision of the good life that has been painted for us in stories and myths, images and icons. It is not primarily our minds that are captivated but rather our imaginations, that are captured, and when our imagination is hooked, we’re hooked.(p54)

It is our habits that constitute the fulcrum of our desire: they are the hinge that turns our hearts, our love, such that it is to predisposed to be aimed in certain directions. (p56) Habits are inscribed in our hearts through bodily practices and rituals that train the heart, as it were, to desire certain ends.

One of the challenges we all face is that our image of the good life of love – be it for our spouse or for our God – is often shaped by bad habits and misleading stories. Lust and sex shape our images of love for others, self centredness and individualism shape our images of God’s love.

So what kinds of practices do we need to move us forward into the love of God or into a deepening loving relationship with our spouse?

  • Practicing for God’s kingdom of love begin with rhythms and cadences of hope. The future we hope for – a future in which justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream- hangs over our present and gives us a vision of what to work for in the here and now as we continue to pray “Your kingdom come” (p158)…. The practices of Christian worship over the liturgical year form in us something of an “old soul” that is perpetually pointed to a future, longing for a coming kingdom and seeking to be such a stretched people in the present who are a foretaste of the coming kingdom. (p159). Any loving relationship must be pointed towards a hoped for vision of what that love can look like.
  • Practicing for the kingdom is an invitation to be human – the call to be remade in God’s image, to become a community like that envisioned in Revelation 5:9 “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” That is what true worship is meant to be about. In the act of worship, and I want to add, in all our spiritual practices we come to renew our covenant of love with God and with our fellow worshippers so that we can be renewed, restored and empowered to live into our hope for the future.
  • Practicing for the kingdom of means accepting the welcome and the blessing of a God who has graciously bound us to himself with a covenant of love. Learning to love means welcoming and accepting the love that has already been given to us. This may sound obvious but is not always easy, partly because of those false images of love that have been fed to us. Sometimes we have trouble recognizing love for what it is.
  • Practicing for the kingdom means practicing the order and freedoms of the kingdom. We are only truly free to love and to flourish in that love when our desires are rightly ordered, bounded and directed to the end that constitutes our good. (p 176).  Freedom is not permission to do what we want, it is an invitation to follow the laws that guide into the good life of God. Part of learning to love is learning to be liberated from our own selfish desires.
  • Practicing for the kingdom means recognizing our brokenness, confessing where we have gone wrong and accepting forgiveness. The good news of the gospel is that our forgiveness comes as a gift, the overflowing of Christ’s work on the cross. Our brokenness and violence are met by the grace and love of God just as our brokenness in a loving human relationship is met by the grace and the love of our beloved.
  • Practicing for the Kingdom means learning the language of the kingdom. Smith calls prayer the language of the kingdom but he is not talking about prayer that is a shopping list of our own desires he is talking about intercessory prayer, in which we articulate the vision of justice that is at the heart of God’s kingdom vision. So we pray for healing, protection from abuse, exploitation, and violence.
  • Practicing the Kingdom means Renarrating the World. When we read the scriptures we are re-enacting the story of God and reminding ourselves of what the future is meant to look like. Stories, images, words, they all form memories that stir our imaginations and give us hope and confidence for the future. Looking back over our wedding photos, and our shared memories from the last 20 years was for Tom and I a special part of this year’s anniversary celebration that helped reaffirm our love and commitment to each other.
  • Practicing the Kingdom means sharing supper with the king. The taking of the Eucharist together is central to our faith. It is in fact the solidifying element that cements our entire worship experience.  Special meals shared together in special moments are always important elements of any loving relationship. Now I don’t want to belittle the importance of communion here by comparing it to shared meals with those we love, but there is a part of any shared meal that gives a glimpse into the banquet feast of God which the practice of communion foretells. Love without shared hospitality lacks something important whether it be human love or God’s love.


Surrounded by Prophetic Voices – Clouds of Witnesses that Call Us Out of Numbness

surrounded by ordinary saints

surrounded by ordinary saints - Emmanuel Garibay

Today is All Saints Day, and like many who celebrate this festival I have been meditating on the words of Hebrews 12:1,2 this morning which I quote here from the Living New Testament.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

At the same time I have been mulling over the invitation to participate in this month’s synchroblog which reads:

Richard Rohr says “the role of the prophets is to call us out of numbness.” Since the beginning of time, prophetic voices both in and outside of scripture have been calling us to consider change of some sort. Sometimes it is spiritual change, other times it may be economic, political, or systemic change. Regardless of the emphasis, prophets challenge us to consider a better future. Right now there’s a strong sense of change brewing in the church, the world; people are rising up and calling individuals, communities, nations, and everything in between out of numbness and toward justice, mercy, equality, and love. Read more

The voices that have called me out of numbness this year are many and varied. There is much change in the wind and I know that I need to listen closely to hear what God is saying. In many ways it has been a hard year, starting with the death of a good friend in the Christchurch earthquake speeding through an extremely busy summer with our annual Celtic retreat on Camano Island, preparing to launch the Pacific NW Sustainability Semester away program next September, relaunching our MSA ezine in January and  putting together Waiting for the Light our latest Advent/Christmas resource from MSA. But it has also been a very good year, beginning with the celebration of my 60th birthday and new ministries emerging in the writing of prayers and the expansion of the MSA garden team.

All of these events have brought me into contact with a rich array of people across the world, many of whom have spoken into my life in prophetic ways. For me this year the prophetic voices have not been well known inspirational speakers or cutting edge theologians. They have been the ordinary people who surround and support Tom and me and the MSA team and ministry. People who comment on this blog and constantly challenge me to walk with integrity and live the talk. People who encourage me to keep writing, praying and speaking out when I feel discouraged.  People who support us when we come up with ideas like the Mustard Seed Village that sometimes sound more like si-fi imagining than reality.

All of us are prophetic voices for someone. Any time we encourage, support or cheer for someone to make decisions for a more just, more generous, more loving life we are being prophetic. We are helping bring their dreams for the future into being and that is I think what being prophetic is all about.

Jubilee in Christ – Sound the Ram’s Horn

Yesterday I wrote about Jubilee in the Old Testament and its proclamation of the rest and release that God intends for all of us to enter into.  Today we will look at the concept in the New Testament and delight in the fulfillment of Jubilee in Christ

Jubilee in Christ

The core theme of the gospel is this same proclamation of Jubilee.  Throughout his life, Jesus, demonstrated both release and rest to those he discipled, healed and redeemed.  He released individuals from all that enslaved them – captivity, poverty, oppression, disease, religious legalism – showing all who followed him that the Jubilee release foreshadowed in the OT was being fulfilled.

The Magnificat is a great song of Jubilee proclaiming from the very outset, that Jesus would bring freedom and justice for the vulnerable.  Then in Luke 4:18-19  at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus uses the words of Is 61:1-2 saying that he has come to ‘…proclaim release to the captives and…to set at liberty those who are oppressed…’  and ending the reading with the words  ‘…to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord’  What Jesus is announcing, is that God’s promised new world of release and rest for all including creation, foreshadowed in the legislation of Jubilee, has arrived.

In Matt 11:28-30  Jesus also proclaimed a rest from the toil of human labour that often set an unbearable yoke on all humankind.  The yoke Christ offers his followers is freedom from legalistic religion and release from the worry of daily provision.  Jesus also brought rest from the misconception that salvation came as the result of our own efforts.  He proclaimed that salvation was received as a gift into a person’s life rather than being earned. The ‘kingdom’ is not a reward for good works and right living.  It is offered freely to all through the gift of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus cut through the bondage of the sabbath restrictions and proclaimed true rest for the day. The inference for the Pharisees was plain – their legalistic way of pleasing God was worthless.   God was not bothered about regulations to safeguard the commandments. God was anxious to remove them so that men and women could find rest from their strivings to know YAHWEH.

It’s as we participate in the sacrifice of Christ offered on our behalf as the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), that we’ll see the promise of the age of Jubilee spring into existence in our lives and through us into the lives of others, effecting both release and rest.

The Wild Goose Has Flown

Tom & I and Cindy Todd have just returned from the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina.  The weather was hot, humid and dusty but any discomfort was quickly outstripped by the joy of the festival.  In some ways it was like a great homecoming of friends and family that we have not seen for a long time.  Mark and Robyn Pierson from New Zealand, Doug Pagitt, Mark Scandrette, Tony & Peggy Campolo, Brian McLaren, Geoff and Sherry Maddock to name just a few.  But it was also a great opportunity to make new friends some like Mike and Julie Clawsen that I have wanted to meet forever.  Others who just happened by the Mustard Seed booth and soon became staunch friends.

It was also a great opportunity to  listen to new viewpoints, grapple with new perspectives and learn new approaches to worship, social justice and theology.  I can’t remember the last time my head was so abuzz after a conference and I know that there will be a lot more reflections to come over the next few days.

More photos here

Worshipping in the real World – Reclaiming the Jubilee

Hackeny Street party

The season of the church calendar after Pentecost is known as ordinary time not because it is dull and boring, but because it does not have a distinct theme such as the birth, death or resurrection of Christ.  However the creative use of feasting and fasting throughout this season of the year provides wonderful opportunities for us to connect the everyday events of our lives and of our culture, to our faith in extraordinary ways.

One of the regular celebrations that the Mustard Seed Associates team hosts during this season is our annual Celtic prayer on Camano Island at the site where we are just beginning to see the establishment of the Mustard Seed Village. .  This year it will be held the weekend of August 12 – 14, our retreat.   It is our 20th celebration, an annual event that has helped us discern God’s vision for this site and move forward slowly into its fulfillment.   God’s faithfulness over these years has amazed us and this year we are planning a special celebration to dedicate the establishment of this new community which is just beginning to emerge.

Our theme for this year is Jubilee and New Beginnings and working on the programme for this retreat will be one of my major responsibilities over the next month.  Jubilee has always been a special celebration for me  and today I wanted to share one of my favourite Jubilee stories which always comes to mind as I think of Jubilee.   It harkens back to another Jubilee celebration in 2002 when Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the 50th year of her reign.

This Jubilee was celebrated throughout the British Commonwealth with jubilee parties, many of them street parties.  Chris and Ali Lawrence and the members of the Round Chapel Neighbourhood Project situated in a poor and often violent community in London however decided to host an alternative Jubilee event – an event that harkened back to a far older understanding of Jubilee as expressed in Leviticus 25.  They called it “reclaim the Jubilee”.

Outside the Round Chapel, Lower Clapton street was transformed from the media’s image of “murder mile” into a majestic setting filled with flowers, music, storytelling and food.  Children, parents and elderly people gathered to play games, dance and eat from a wonderful multicultural banquet feast – a luxurious spread of meat and vegetables provided on a shoestring budget.  Reggae, soul and Cajun music reverberated through the street and storytellers held the audience spellbound.  At one point a moment’s silence was held to remember those who had died on this stretch of road in acts of violence linked to drug dealing.  At the same time, people recommitted themselves to working together for a more peaceful and just neighborhood.  The 400 dinner guests departed reluctantly at 10pm to the sounds of “Burn” (cow punk 1970’s revival) their heads filled with memories of laughter and multiple flavors, their eyes overdosed on images of color and their minds spinning with reflections on the true meaning of a strong community.

Ali Lawrence died of cancer a few years later but the seeds that were planted through the work she and Chris planted in this and the many other celebrations they hosted in Hackney provide a wonderful and enduring glimpse into God’s jubilee which we will celebrate in its fulness together with Ali and all those who have gone before us in that wonderful kingdom Jubilee feast in God’s kingdom.

The Making of Memories – A Glimpse of God’s Kingdom Coming

Sunday is Penecost when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the formation of the church.  It is always for me a special of day of remembering friends and family who provide a glimpse of what God’s wonderful kingdom family will look like.

This year I feel I have had a special preview of that kingdom banquet.  As many of you know I am currently in Australia to celebrate my mother’s 88th birthday.  The big day was yesterday.  We started with a visit to her favourite cafe where the owners delightedly presented her with a special birthday ice cream.

Celebrating at the Little Gem

Shortly after my brother arrived from the Gold Coast and then my uncle and aunt dropped in as an unexpected surprise.   We celebrated with a wonderful luncheon feast, reminisced, shared stories, laughed and enjoyed ourselves.  Today we will celebrate with the rest of the family.

Happy birthday Mum

Hospitality, celebration, the coming together of friends and family are to me, all a foretaste of the kingdom of God. This has been a very special glimpse into the kingdom banquet feast with which we will all be welcomed into God’s resurrection created world.

Family Celebration