was successfully added to your cart.

Category

Notes and quotes

Sabbath as preparation for eternity

By | Books, Notes and quotes, Rhythm | No Comments

As we continue to explore the invitation of Sabbath-keeping as a community, take some time to really sit with these words from the great Abraham Joshua Heschel.  If you’re like me, you may need to read it multiple times…slowly and prayerfully.  So powerful…

“Shabbat comes with its own holiness; we enter not simply a day, but an atmosphere. My father cites the Zohar: the Sabbath is the name of God. We are within the Sabbath rather than the Sabbath being within us. For my father, the question is how to perceive that holiness: not how much to observe, but how to observe. Strict adherence to the laws regulating Sabbath observance doesn’t suffice; the goal is creating the Sabbath as a foretaste of paradise. The Sabbath is a metaphor for paradise and a testimony to God’s presence; in our prayers, we anticipate a messianic era that will be a Sabbath, and each Shabbat prepares us for that experience: “Unless one learns how to relish the taste of Sabbath … one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come.” It was on the seventh day that God gave the world a soul, and “[the world’s] survival depends upon the holiness of the seventh day.” The task, he writes, becomes how to convert time into eternity, how to fill our time with spirit: “Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else.”

(Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath)

Prayers of the People (9.21.15)

By | Notes and quotes, Reflections | One Comment

Last night, we prayed a heartbreaking and yet beautiful liturgy for the world. John and Jenny Potter wrote and lead this powerful Prayers of the People for Syrian refugees, the systemic racism in our country, and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, carried by the music of The Brilliance “Prayers of the People“.  May these words move, disturb, and encourage you today…

Prayers of the People1

Prayers of the People2

You can download the full text HERE.

And here is the whole Order of Practice for the night.

Grace and peace.

The Whole Story

By | Eucharist And Mission, Notes and quotes | One Comment

order (1)

Now that we’re Podcasting the Sunday evening messages, our team has become increasingly aware of the limits of the spoken word. Teaching plays a huge role in forming our theology and inviting us into practice, but it’s not the center of our gathering. The Lord’s Table is at the center.

Unfortunately–for technical and copyright-related reasons–we can’t include the whole 90 minute gathering on the Podcast. So if you missed Sunday night, you’re only hearing a part of the journey. Like reading the middle two chapters of a ten chapter book.

So as a small way to invite you into the full story, here are the “Order of Practice” liturgies from the last two Sundays…

04.12.15 Order of Practice
04.12.15 Communion Liturgy
04.19.15 Order of Practice
04.19.15 Communion Liturgy

Grace and peace to you all,
Aaron

Introducing Scot McKnight

By | Books, Eucharist And Mission, Notes and quotes, Resources, Videos | No Comments
As most of you have seen and heard through the foray of social media, prolific New Testament scholar and theologian Scot McKnight will be joining us at the Practice this Sunday to share the first step of our journey into Eucharist and Mission-a theology of the Eucharist.
Scot first came into my life while I was attempting my undergrad in biblical studies and “required” to read his book The Blue Parakeet for a course on studying the bible. In the book, Scot encourages Christians to embrace the full bible, not just what’s comfortable or easy to read but to be challenged and convicted by the complexity, the ambiguity, the beauty and the mystery of God’s Word. Being a sophomore at the time with a multitude of questions, I remember with every page I read having this feeling of utter relief- here finally was a respected scholar of the bible acknowledging the difficult questions that can arise and yet still pushing further up and further in to the depths. wonders and joys of our Christian faith. Since my first encounter with Scot’s work, he has been a trusted guide on a host of other issues- from his examination of what the Gospel truly is in his book The King Jesus Gospel, to his powerfully clear explanation of Jesus’ call to discipleship in The Jesus Creed, to his most recent books about the church and the kingdom entitled Kingdom Conspiracy and A Fellowship of Differents.
If you too have longed for someone who understands some of those great looming questions, and yet hoped that there might still be a way forward for faith, hope, and love then I would love to encourage to check out some of Scot’s work (we’ve tagged a few resources below to help get you accquainted). Even more, if you’ve ever wanted to dive deeper into the Eucharist, to take a Sunday to swim in the stream of this magnificent and vitally important practice of both our community and the entire Christian faith, then please come this Sunday night to hear and practice the Lord’s Table with Scot McKnight as our guide.
We can’t wait to see you there!

Grace and Peace,

John and the Practice team

Message: “Lent and The Examen”

By | Notes and quotes, Sermons, Uncategorized | No Comments
Fr Michael

Fr Michael

On Sunday (03.08.15) night, Fr Michael Sparough SJ gave one of the most insightful, winsome, and compelling messages I’ve heard in a long time.  The way he talked about Lent both stretched and deepened how I engage this holy season.  And, of course, his invitation into The Examen was brilliant.

May his words invite us deep into active practice.  And may the practice invite us deep into the heart of God, for the sake of the world.

Here is the message (and Examen meditation)…

Download his message here.

Grace and peace,
Aaron

Message: “And Forgive Us Our Trespasses”

By | Notes and quotes | 3 Comments

What a gift to have the soulful Deirdre JVR be with us last Sunday to take us deeper into what it means to be forgiven by God. A wonderful phrase that stood out to me from her sharing was: “Forgiveness is the Oxygen to thriving relationships.” What a beautiful reminder that we need that oxygen in our relationship to God and with others.

For any of you who would love to hear Deirdre’s words again, or for those of you who couldn’t make it and would like to listen from home, here is the download link to her message:

Download the Message – “And Forgive Us Our Trespasses” (Deirdre JVR) 

Also please be sure to check out this beautiful piece of written prose unpacking the story of “The Other Son” for those of you who know what it means to be the older brother in this story, and spend some time with our resources this week to keep diving deeper.

May you continue to move beyond simply ASKING for forgiveness, into how to RECEIVE forgiveness.

Peace to you,

Jenna and The Practice Team

 

The Other Son

By | Forgiveness, Notes and quotes, Reflections, The Lord's Prayer | 5 Comments

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The other brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 

“My son,” the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

 – Luke 15: 25-31 (NIV)

How incredible is it, that Christ included these words about the other son in the parable of the Prodigal son? I have to marvel sometimes at the amazing foresight Jesus had to understand every heart in the room because I have to be honest with you – for most of my life, I approached my need for forgiveness much more like the older son in this story.

I remember sitting in Sunday School, almost smiling with self importance as the Sunday school teacher let us color in pictures of the lost son feeding the pigs. I would say in the quiet of my heart, as I chose the ugliest crayon color for the pig slop, this serves you right – you were awful and you got what you deserved. (I was admittedly a very self righteous 5 year old)

I wonder how of many of us can relate to that? The Prodigal Son is an incredible image of mercy, grace and repentance. A father running. A lost son found. A dead relationship mercifully brought back to life.

But I grew up in a Christian family. I went to church. I behaved in school. I served at home. In many ways there was an ambitious nature to my faith that strove to be rewarded for my obedience, my works of righteousness and my morality.

There are times when I’ve sat in this passage… and I’m pretty sure that I too would have been in the field. If I’m honest, there have been times when I’ve loved being in that field a little too much.

I’ve heard music and dancing in the distance, thrown down my work in frustration and marched back indignantly to pull the plug. I’ve pulled friends and family aside, hissed from the sidelines to ask, “What on earth is going on?”

I can almost imagine the older son’s face as the servant responds to him, “Your brother has come home.”

Sinking Feeling. 

“And your Father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”

Shortness of breath. 

Anger…. Refusing to go in. Creating a scene. Resenting the Celebration. Writing retorts in my head.

And yet this magnificent, merciful  father, leaves the party, goes outside and pleads, he actually pleads with him, to come and join the community in receiving their lost brother.

But he is stung and he has his retort ready made – “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

And now the real truth comes out. Pain. Pride. Hurt. 

Perhaps for you, the most heartbreaking scene in this parable, is that of the lost son, sitting among the pigs, weeping bitterly into their slop as he regrets his path of destruction and hopes for a servants wage in his former life.

For me, the most heartbreaking scene is this speech. I can imagine the heart break in the older son’s face as he spits out some of his deepest hurts, fears and wounds.

That the years of obedience spent slaving haven’t mattered.
That the absence of any reward was intentional.
That the younger brother was always loved more, preferred, blessed more.
That there are no consequences, good or bad for behavior.

That no matter what I do – it doesn’t matter.

How many of you can picture yourself in these shoes? Perhaps you can’t name a time of great wandering in a far off land. Perhaps, like me, there was a time that you truly thought yourself upright, obedient, good hearted and dare I say it worthy of more of the Father’s love. Perhaps your heart doesn’t break fro the son who ran away, but rather for the son who stayed.

Some of us have never strayed that far. Some of us have stayed in the field all our lives. Obedient. Slaving. Following Orders. We’ve watched our brothers and sisters leave. We’ve watched them fall apart in catastrophic and destructive ways. We may have even watched them get what we think they deserve – suffering, hard times, reality.

For some of us, it is a painful experience to watch these brothers and sisters be mercifully forgiven, re embraced into society and met with exorbitant celebration and seeming reward. For some of us, the very sight of a father running to a brother in need of forgiveness, feels like that same father is running away from us. Forgiveness can brew bitterness.

The beautiful part about Jesus including the older son, is that in just the same way the Father ran to embrace his lost son. He leaves the party to plead with the older son.

The Father also loves the older son.

After the older son’s pained retort – I can now imagine that same running, pleading father, holding his face, and with tenderness and love sharing,

“My son. You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

Oh how I need to sit in this moment. For some of us we need to sit in this moment. To have the Father attend to our deep pain, our bitterness, OUR SIN, and respond with the same heart we see at times more loudly on display for others. The Father calls us his. He breathes intimacy and draws us close. He assures us that nothing, nothing is withheld from us. There is no favoritism. No ignorance of our service. The Father has seen, known and loved me all along. The fattened calf. The robes. The dancing. The party. It is all available to me just the same.

But.

The Father still shares an opportunity for growth with this field captive son. His works righteousness, his hardened heart, his bitterness are all still addressed with a beautiful invitation to see the world through the Father’s eyes.

“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Earlier the older son hurtfully shared – “but when this son of yours comes home…” In many ways wiping his hands of his own brother. This son of yours. Not this brother of mine.

But the father reminds him. “This brother of yours.”

We need to find solidarity and companionship in this family of God’s. We are not intended to be children vying for attention, but rather fully present and loving sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, who break when others break and who rejoice when others rejoice.

It is first, an invitation to stop being alone. To recognize that you too are a son, a brother, a family member, a tribe member – who breaks and who is built up by the collective community.

“This brother of yours was dead and is alive again. He was lost and now is found.”

The Father does not hold back the magnitude of the invitation. The scope is limitless. When our brothers and sisters leave, we grieve as if death has occurred, when they repent, we rejoice as if there is resurrection.

Once upon a time I may not have named my sins as readily as the Prodigal Son. My identity was wrapped up in the sins I hadn’t committed instead of the forgiveness I will always so desperately need. Now, with the eyes of the Father I can see, not only does my works righteousness, hard heartedness and jealousy also need a forgiving, pleading father –

But every brother who was lost and who now is found, is an opportunity for me to find a piece of myself again.

We are all prodigals in need of forgiveness, we are all brothers, we are all in this family.
May we never grow too old to join the celebration of the Father.

Grace and Peace to you,

Jenna and The Practice Team

Message: “Our Father in Heaven”

By | Notes and quotes, Reflections | 2 Comments

It was such joy to get to share a few thoughts and reflections about “Our Father in Heaven” on Sunday night.  If you want to dig more deeply into these ideas, or missed the gathering and want to catch up, here are a few of the scripture references, quotes, core ideas, and the recording….

Download the message – “Our Father in Heaven” (Aaron Niequist)

Practices for LIFE in the Now and Not Yet.  As a community, we are wrestling with two big questions:  (1) What is the LIFE to the full that Jesus Christ invites every one of us into? and (2) What are the practices that help us align to it?  Or in other words:  What is Jesus’ invitation and how do we say “yes”?

Notes and quotes:

“The ‘address’ part of prayer is of vital significance. We dare not slight or overlook it. It is one of the things that distinguishes prayer from ‘worrying out lout…”  (Dallas Willard)

Our Father in Heaven.

(1) OUR.  Eugene Peterson writes “With the ‘our’, Jesus puts himself in our company. With the ‘our’, we place ourselves in the company of Jesus and of all who pray.”
-The Creator is not just my God or my tribe’s God.  Not just the God of all those who agree with me. But God is the Creator and Lover of every single person on planet earth – past, present, and future.  John 3:16. Psalm 24:1.  And when we pray, we are joining with this motley, global, diverse, historic family of daughters and sons of the Most High.

(2) FATHER.  The eternal Creator of the universe wants a relationship in some personal way with us.  Romans 8:15-16 (Voice). 1 John 3 (NIV).
-Two important objections:  First, God is Spirit, and not “male” as we understand gender.  The scripture is full of references to the maternal/feminine characteristics of God.  Second, our human fathers have all misrepresented our Heavenly Father in ways. Get curious about how much our human parents color our view of God.  (Download Scott Gibson’s message: “The Practice of Getting Curious“)

(3) HEAVEN.  The scriptures are very clear about God’s location.  Psalm 139. Acts 17. Matt 28.  This theme continues throughout the scriptures and history of the church.  Where is God? He is here. Always. Everywhere.
-Many scholars believe that a much better translation of “Our Father, who art in Heaven” is actually “Our Father, in the Heavens.” Or in other words, “Our Father, who fills every molecule from the farthest solar system to the inside of my lungs.” Our Father, who already floods this place and fills the atmosphere. Or in John Ortberg’s beautiful phrase, “Our Father, who is closer than the air we breathe.”

“My starting point is that we’re already there. We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness. Little do we realize that God is maintaining us in existence with every breath we take. As we take another it means that God is choosing us now and now and now. (Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr)

Finally, for those of you who are a little more visual, here’s the flow on my whiteboard…

The flow

The flow

May we all have eyes to see.

Grace and peace,
Aaron

 

Notes and quotes about Forgiveness

By | Notes and quotes | 6 Comments
Shauna's benediction

Shauna’s benediction

On Sunday (March 30th), we walked through the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18:21-35) and Christ’s invitation to the freedom of forgiveness. In case you missed it or want to dig in a little deeper, here is the outline, with notes and quotes…

We are punished by our sin way more than we are punished for our sin.

Dallas Willard: Jesus’ teachings are not random commands that we must obey “or else”, but they are “simple observations for how life actually works.” (from Spirit of the Disciplines)

God doesn’t say “Do not gossip, or I will punish you.”
God says “Don’t gossip, because it will wreck your relationships!”
God doesn’t say “Don’t be greedy or I will smite you.”
God says “Don’t be greedy or it will whither your heart and suck the joy out of your life.”

What if God is NOT a traffic cop waiting in the bushes to bust you if you drive 1 MPH over the speed limit?
Instead, what if God is more like a loving parent calling out to His 16 yr old son “Please don’t drive too fast on these icy roads. It’s too dangerous. Please come home safe!”

Which brings us back to the parable of the Unmerciful Servant:
Maybe God is NOT saying “If you don’t forgive others I will get angry and have you tortured”, but instead “The Kingdom of God is about grace, forgiveness, and second chances. Don’t let unforgiveness cut you off from this flow of Grace, or you will live a tortured life.”

“We don’t come to God by insisting on some ideal worldly order or so-called perfection, but in fact we come “to knowledge of salvation by the experience of forgiveness” (Luke 1:77)—forgiveness of reality itself, of others, of ourselves—for being so ordinary, imperfect, and often disappointing. Many also have to forgive God for not being what they wanted or expected. One reason why I am so attracted to Jesus and then to St Francis is that they found God in disorder, in imperfection, in the ordinary, and in the real world—not in any idealized concepts. They were more into losing than winning. But the ego does not like that, so we rearranged much of Christianity to fit our egoic pattern of achievement and climbing.

Isn’t it strange that Christians worship a God figure, Jesus, who appears to be clearly losing by every criterion imaginable? And then we spend so much time trying to “win,” succeed, and perform. We even call Jesus’ “losing” the very redemption of the world—yet we run from it. I think Christians have yet to learn the pattern of redemption. It is evil undone much more than evil ever perfectly avoided. It is disorder reconfigured in our hearts and minds—much more than demanding any perfect order to our universe.

Much of the Christian religion has largely become “holding on” instead of letting go. But God, it seems to me, does the holding on (to us!), and we must learn the letting go (of everything else).”  (Father Richard Rohr)

Our prayer and practice for the night:  “God, who do I need to forgive from my heart?  What is the next right step I can take toward forgiveness?”

Four possible steps…

(1) For some of us, we need to begin by simply allowing ourselves to feel the pain of being wronged. Instead of running or avoiding and pretending, our first step toward forgiveness is to FEEL and ADMIT the pain in God’s presence. Maybe that’s as far as we can go right now.

(2) For some of us, this pain is quite clear and always present, but it’s been pushing us to fight and engage in some really unhelpful ways. And so we need to decide to stop fighting. Lay down our arms. Maybe it’s a decision to stop saying such terrible things about that person. Or maybe to stop saying hurtful things to that person. Maybe tonight all we can do is say “God, I’m done trying to get them back. I lay down my right to revenge. God, I will not fight them any longer.”

(3) For some of us, God is pulling us deeper. Not only will we stopping fighting them, but we’re ready to practice Jesus teaching and “pray for your enemy. Bless the one who curses you.” And so we want to begin actively praying for the person we need to forgive. Not that they would suffer or even change, but simply that God would bless them. And their family. And their lives. This is a very, very hard thing to do, but incredibly powerful.

(4) And finally, for some of us, the next step is to make them breakfast (Matt 21). To find a concrete, no strings-attached way to bless and serve them. This will look very different in every situation, but God will lead us to do the right thing if we ask Him.

——-
——-
A couple more quotes and thoughts:

• You have already seen our “Kingdom Practice” for the week (HERE at this blog), and our big encouragement is DON’T TRY TO DO THIS ALONE!  First, remember that God has invited you into this process and promises to be faithful to complete the work God has begun.  Second, it is absolutely critical to find a friend or tribe to walk with.  Brothers and sisters who love us are one of God’s primary ways to heal and guide us.  Please don’t try to do this journey alone.

• Forgiveness is a life-long journey.  All God is inviting you to do is take the next right step.

• The song that accompanied our silent prayer time was “O Magnum Mysterium” by the Nordic Chamber Choir.

• One more helpful quote from Father Richard Rohr…

“Forgiveness is always the refusing of power. When someone has hurt you, you are in charge for a while. When you refuse to forgive, you are holding onto a power you have over another person. Somehow it feels good, to put them down as an inferior person or to place yourself above them as a righteously aggrieved person. Forgiveness is impossible if power or control is your way of life. Maybe that is why Jesus almost uses forgiveness as the litmus test of whether you are a true disciple.”