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Sunday Reflections

11.20.16 Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted for Righteousness

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slack-for-ios-upload-1-nullHow can we possibly sum up the journey we have been on this fall? In so many ways, it culminates in these final two Beatitudes. As we follow Jesus in the kingdom way, we become the kind of people who love deeply and sacrificially. And when we embody this radical love, we open ourselves to the possibility of persecution.

After singing “Open Up” and reflecting once again on Matthew 5, Clary shared examples of persecution in our world, and he taught that Jesus invites us into a life of radical love. Jesus promises there is a cost associated to loving like him. We explored what we might be holding too tightly because we have bought into the lie that our happiness, our safety, our comfort, and even our lives are more important than others.

Clary brought the kingdom reality, the truth that God’s kingdom is greater than anything we might be clinging to. Jesus promises that when we lose our life we will find it. When we are willing to let go of our pride, our image, and our very own life, we will find Christ. And while persecution is painful, there is peace in the persecution. There is peace in the knowledge that God’s kingdom is being formed in us, and we know we will one day experience the fullness of his kingdom.

After a practice and prayer of surrender, we gathered at the ultimate representation of radical, sacrificial love, the communion table. And we looked forward to our work of living into these final two Beatitudes with our three kingdom practices.

Kingdom Practices
1. Prayer of surrender – This week, let’s continue to ask the Holy Spirit to lead us in sacrificial love. If it is helpful, use your hands. Imagine the cost of loving radically, the thing you struggle to surrender, is resting in your hands. Clench your fists. Pray over the thing you are clinging to, and as a physical representation of your desire to surrender open your hands.
2. Love your enemies – Make time this week to write a list of people who you consider enemies. Commit to pray daily for each of them, and find one tangible act of love to perform for someone on your list.
3. Defend the oppressed – Find one way these next two weeks to stand in solidarity with a marginalized group of people. You might write a letter to elected representatives, use social media to create awareness about an issue of justice, or participate in a peaceful demonstration.

As this is the final recap of our time in the Beatitudes, let me share Curtis’ beautiful benediction based on the Beatitudes.

May you know deeply that you have enough and that you are enough
as you live the way of trust.

May you know comfort in your grief
as you live the way of lament.

May you experience fully your status as a beloved child of God
as you live the way of humility.

May you feel your power
as you join with God to live the way of justice.

May you see everyone you meet through lenses of mercy
as you live the way of compassion.

May you drop your masks and be who God made you to be
as you live the way of right motive.

May you build bridges of reconciliation
as you live the way of peacemaking.

May you be transformed through surrender
as you live the way of sacrifice.

May you look for opportunities to follow Jesus
in the way of radical love.

11.13.16 Blessed are the Peacemakers

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slack-for-ios-upload-nullThe chapel was thick with the presence of the Holy Spirit last night. It is clear that God is up to something in our community as we enter into the work of being peacemakers, people of Shalom, in our broken world.

The focus of our opening liturgy was seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness. I couldn’t help but think back to Meredith’s teaching that biblical righteousness is relational while Sam was leading us in a new chorus, “We seek your kingdom, seek your righteousness.” This chorus was woven into our reading of Matthew 6.

After passing the peace, (Could there be a more appropriate time for this practice?) Aaron acknowledged our current reality. “We have forgotten how listen. We have forgotten how to learn from anyone outside our tribe. We have forgotten how to tangibly love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Rabbi Moffic then helped us to better understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” by teaching us about Shalom. Shalom is the word Jesus used when speaking about peace. Rabbi taught that Shalom is much more than a lack of fighting. It means wholeness, integrity, and right relationship. When we have Shalom in our relationships, we are not only free from conflict but we understand the other’s point of view.

There are about fifteen things I could say about Rabbi’s teaching, but rather than retyping his entire message, will you listen? Listen particularly for his story of one friend telling another, “How can you love me if you don’t know what hurts me?”

Then we heard three stories from our community. Lynne spoke about the difference between being an angry activist and being a peacemaker. Aaron shared a story of leaning into a relationship with our neighbors from the Al-Azhar Islamic Foundation. And Claudia spoke about her family’s commitment to literally live in the midst of poverty. All three stories demonstrated a tension between retreating from a lack of peace and engaging as genuine peacemakers.

As a community committed to putting the words of Jesus into practice, we cannot retreat. When faced with a lack of Shalom, we will not be peacemakers if we withdraw to a protective bubble, so our three kingdom practices this week are ways of leaning into peacemaking.

Kingdom Practices

  1. Prayer journal – This week continue to pray the prayer of St. Francis, and journal your prayers, asking the Holy Spirit to lead you in being an instrument of Shalom. Be consistent in this prayer and pay attention to how your prayers might change as you engage the next two practices.
  2. Diversify your news sources and social media feeds – Too many of us live in an echo chamber. We only read things with which we know we will agree. We watch news outlets that align with our leanings. Our social media feeds are full of people who look and think the same. This week be intentional about diversifying your inputs. This is not an opportunity to hone your arguments or find more things that are wrong with the “other.” Listen. Recognize the dignity and image of God in them, and listen.
  3. Take the “other” out to coffee – Rabbi spoke about the intimate connection of internal and external Shalom. The second practice is primarily focused on internal Shalom with our neighbors, but this one is a tangible step of being a peacemaker in an actual relationship. Spend some time with someone you consider the “other.” Ask questions and listen. Hear their story. Begin to understand their heart.

 

11.6.16 Blessed are the Pure in Heart

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slack-for-ios-uploadLast night Mark Scandrette, the godfather himself, led us in the sixth beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Have you been looking forward to this night to finally understand why the motion for pure in heart is “jazz hands?”

We opened the night praying through Matthew 7 and singing Stu G’s “Oh Blessed.” We examined our hearts and reflected on two challenging questions: (1) To whom have we struggled to show grace this week?, and (2) What might God be saying to us through this person?

With that, Mark offered a vision of the kingdom that invites us to live with full, undivided hearts. He reminded us of the way we lived as children. We stood on chairs buck naked eating cereal without shame. We danced with reckless abandon without considering who might be looking.

But at some point in our lives, we learned to hide. The experiences of life led us to hold back our true selves from the world and to put on masks. But the kingdom reality is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Each of us is a unique and beautiful creation, living in the tender and loving gaze of our creator.

Mark invited us to do the work of living with pure hearts through the following kingdom practices:

Kingdom Practices

  1. Daily Examen – Practice the Examen each day with a focus on living in God’s loving gaze.
    • Begin with reviewing your day in gratitude.
    • Ask on when you were aware of the caring presence and loving gaze of your creator.
    • Reflect on when you found yourself withdrawing, or forgetting that “in God I live and move and have my being.”
    • Finally, sit for 10 minutes with your eyes closed. Focus on your breath with the intention to be in the light of God’s presence. Pay attention to whatever thoughts or images arise in your mind, and observe them under the tender and loving gaze of your creator. If you find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts of guilt or shame, consider whether those come from the authentic voice of God or from the distorted images of God you have rehearsed.
  2. Secrecy – Knowing that why we do things is as important as what we do, Jesus often encouraged his followers to keep their acts of goodness and devotion a secret. Practicing secrecy can help us refine our motives. First, consider the ways you typically look for attention or affirmation for doing what is good. Then make a conscious decision to keep these actions secret this week. You may: leave the people you live or work with guessing about who washed the dishes or emptied the garbage, refrain from posting images on social media that promote your nobility, or keep quiet about your prayers, fasting or volunteer work.
  3. Good boundaries – When we live with divided hearts, we may to say yes because we are afraid to disappoint others, or we may say no because we are afraid to lose control. This is why Jesus said let your yes be yes and your no, no. Think about the situations in your life where you feel divided between what your heart says and how your mouth speaks. If you often say yes, because you’re afraid of disappointing others, find something to say no to this week. If you often say no because you’re afraid of losing control, push yourself to say yes this week.

Mark then led us in the Examen practice. The lights were dimmed, and for ten minutes we rested in God’s loving gaze. We lifted our eyes to God. The lights came up and the light of God’s tenderness filled us as we turned to the table.

Grace and peace,
Jason and The Practice Team

10.23.16 Blessed are the Merciful

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IMG_6735What a gift we received last night from Stu G. We began the evening opening ourselves to God’s kingdom work within us as we reflected on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6. We then jumped right in as Aaron and Stu led us through the fifth Beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” We heard stories of women who have walked in this Beatitude and Stu shared two incredible songs (one featured the amazing singing of our very own Rhianna).

We have all felt the ache that comes from a lack of mercy. Most often it is in the form of judgment. We feel judged by God. We judge ourselves, and we feel the judgment of others in our lives. So we run. We find ways to distract ourselves from feeling the ache and prove our worthiness. But the simple kingdom reality is that God is present and he is extending mercy. As Stu said, “We are not offered certainty, but we are offered presence.”

I am still thinking about Stu’s definition of mercy, “showing compassion or forgiveness toward someone we are in the position to harm.” How have I been wounded by the lack of mercy, and where have I refused to extend mercy? This led us into the practice for the evening. Aaron walked us through a four-part prayer of mercy, the first of our kingdom practices this week (below).

With mercy in our hearts, we came to the table, the ultimate expression of giving and receiving mercy. We closed the evening with Stu leading us one more time in song. Halfway through singing Majesty, I stopped singing. I listened to your voices and was moved to tears as I thought about God’s crazy love. That our God, so great and majestic, would be present with us in that room as we sing together. There is literally no place in the world that I would rather be.

 

Kingdom Practices

  1. Prayers of mercy – As you reflect on mercy this week, who comes to mind as someone who has wounded you? As they come up, practice this prayer.
    • Place your hands open in front of your chest and pour out your heart to God. Imagine you are spilling out the contents of your heart into your hands and offering it to God. Be honest about what bothers you about this person. How you have been hurt by him or her withholding mercy?
    • Keeping your hands in front of you, humbly put yourself in the other’s place. How might he or she be bothered by you? Is there some way you have failed to extend mercy?
    • Now consider with God what needs to change within you to be able to show mercy to this person. What are some specific actions you can take to extend mercy?
    • Finally, explore with God what would need to change within you to be able to receive mercy from this person. He or she may not be ready to extend mercy, but what would you need to do to be ready?
  2. Eyes of mercy – Choose to be intentional about seeing the image of God in others this week. C.S. Lewis said “you have never talked to a mere mortal.” How can you recognize the presence of God in everyone you interact with this week in your car, at the store, in the office, and in your home? What would it look like for you to see people with whom you disagree with eyes of mercy?
  3. Words of mercy – How can you show mercy and compassion in your speech this week? Make a commitment to avoid all critical speech. Choose to hold your tongue when you are tempted to criticize someone, speak ill of someone behind their back, post a negative comment on social media, and engage in negative self-talk. In the place of critical speech, intentionally speak words of encouragement and affirmation. Extra credit if you speak words of affirmation directly to the people you would normally criticize.

 

Grace and peace,
Jason and The Practice Team

10.16.16 Blessed are those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

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I left last night so grateful to be a part of a community that doesn’t just learn about the teaching of Jesus but longs to put his words into practice. After offering our whole selves to God in song and reflecting on Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, Gail and Bill led in a time of praying for our broken world. I found this time of prayer a beautiful lead-in to the time of teaching from Meredith and Curtis.

Meredith helped us identify the places we long for healing in our world. Placing our hands on our stomachs each of us said, “I am hungry and thirsty for a world where…” and we held this space of hunger before God. Meredith explained that righteousness is not a characteristic of salvation or the freedom from guilt; righteousness is a relational word. It speaks of relationships that that function as God created them to function.

Broken relationships are all around us, but we struggle to do anything. We believe the lie that we cannot make a difference, or as Meredith explained, we think, “I can’t do anything. I am just…” But God is moving. He is working to mend what is broken in our world. As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” God’s redemptive work in the world is making things right, and his invitation to each of us is to join in his work.

Curtis then led us through our practice for the evening. We held one space of injustice, one place we hunger for righteousness, before God and we explored the broken relationships that led to the injustice. After identifying relationships, we looked at how these relationships break down in our own lives. Finally, we asked God to show us tangible ways we can join him in bringing righteousness to those close-to-home relationships this week.

This reflection on justice then led us to the table. If the arc of the universe truly bends toward justice, then the table and the sacrificial love it represents is the arc’s center point. Joining Jesus at the table, we now join him in his redemptive work in our four kingdom practices.

Kingdom Practices

  1. Holding injustice before God Every day this week, will you join us in holding injustice before God? You may choose to hold the specific injustice you identified before God each day, or perhaps as you see injustice around you, you will hold it before God as you move about your day. Pray for justice, and listen to God. Is he inviting you to join him in any way?
  2. I am hungry for a world… so I will… How can we join God in bringing righteousness to the relationships around us in tangible ways this week? This is doing the activities Curtis led us to identify last night.
  3. Connect with an organization committed to bringing justice. There are organizations all over Chicagoland making a difference in the areas of our hunger and thirst for righteousness. Spend some time researching these organizations and find a way to join them this week.
  4. Join us at 5:15 in B100. We will continue to meet in groups next week to share our experiences with the practices. These groups are a great way to process what God has been doing in you during the week, encourage others, and be supported as we journey together. We would love to have you join us.

Blessings!
Jason

 

 

10.09.16 Blessed are the Meek

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Last night we were blessed to have Sibyl Towner help us live into the third Beatitude, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Given the events of this week and the current political climate, we came with hearts in need of Jesus’ teaching. The false scripts teach us power and competition are the way, but Jesus shows us the kingdom truth that real strength comes in weakness and humility.

Our opening liturgy immersed us in the challenging words of Jesus from Matthew 7. How might God be using the speck in someone’s eye to show us the plank in our own? What is God saying to us today in the encouragement to ask, seek, and knock, the truth of good trees bearing good fruit, or the parable of the house on the rock? We humbly lifted this questions and desires to our “Good Good Creator”.

Then Sibyl brought the firehose. She spoke about our desire to be loved and led us into a reflection on the ways we seek that love. Do we look to material things? Do we seek approval and affirmation? Do we compare ourselves with others? We believe this ache is something we can remedy by ourselves. Sibyl shared one way she sought to solve this ache in her life and led us to consider how we run on the gerbil wheel of works and achievement. She then invited us into the kingdom reality. Though we compete and compare ourselves to one another in search of value and love, the truth is that we have been the apple of God’s eye all along. Finally, Sibyl invited us into our first practice of the week, intercessory prayer.

Kingdom Practices

  1. Intercessory Prayer Is there a person or a group of people that you tend to look at and think you are better than? Is there a person or group of people who make you feel powerless or small? Is there a person or group of people that you would like to bury in a deep, dark hole? Sit with these questions for a moment. Be still and listen to what surfaces for you. Open your hands to indicate that there is room in your heart to hold them before God, for his grace and mercy to reach them.
  2. Humility before God As a way of bodily reminding yourself of your place before God, kneel as you pray this week. C.S. Lewis would say what our bodies do affects our souls. So this week, let’s acknowledge with our bodies that we are the created as we pray to our creator.
  3. Take steps of humility in relationships. For some of us it can be difficult to humble ourselves to do jobs that we feel are beneath us. These may be chores or jobs around the house or neighborhood that people don’t want to do (e.g. cleaning the toilet or hair in the shower drain, cleaning up litter or dog poop, etc.). For some, asking for help is far more difficult than doing hard jobs. This week, do some of these hard jobs, or if it is harder find a way to ask for help.
  4. Join us at 5:15 in B100. We will continue to meet in groups next week to share our experiences with the practices. These groups are a great way to process what God has been doing in you during the week, encourage others, and be supported as we journey together. We would love to have you join us.

Grace and peace,
Jason and The Practice Team

 

P.S. Finally, you can read the poems Sibyl recited last night below.

Outwitted by Edwin Markham

He drew a circle that shut me out–
Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Covenant by Margaret Halaska O.S.F.

God
knocks at my door
seeking a home for his son.

Rent is cheap, I say.
I don’t want to rent. I want to buy, says God.

I’m not sure I want to sell,
but you might come in and look around.

I think I will, says God.

I might let you have a room or two.
I like it, says God. I’ll take the two. You might decide to give me more some day.
I can wait, says God.

I’d like to give you more,
but it’s a bit difficult. I need some space for me.
I know, says God, but I’ll wait. I like what I see.

Hm, maybe I can let you have another room.
I really don’t need that much.
Thanks, says God, I’ll take it. I like what I see.

I’d like to give you the whole house
but I’m not sure …
Think on it, says God. I wouldn’t put you out.
Your house would be mine and my son would live in it.
You’d have more space than you’d ever had before.

I don’t understand at all.

I know, says God, but I can’t tell you about that.
You’ll have to discover it for yourself.
That can only happen if you let me have the whole house.

A bit risky, I say.
Yes, says God, but try me.

I’m not sure –
I’ll let you know.
I can wait, says God, I like what I see.

09.18.16 Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

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This week began our deep exploration of practicing the Beatitudes with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” The liturgy explored our poverty of spirit using Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 5.

Jesus invites us to be salt and light in the world to bring glory to our Father in heaven. As we read His challenge to be more righteous than even the most religious people in the world, we cannot help but acknowledge the ways we have fallen short. We are angry and hold grudges. We lust after people and things to satisfy our deepest aches. And yet, we know our God is gracious and compassionate; His love for us is as high as the heavens are above the earth.

Download Sunday’s full liturgy

IMG_6336John and Lori invited us to explore how we might own our poverty using the Rich Young Ruler of Matthew 19 as an example. We live in a world that drives us to want, hoard, and live with a scarcity mindset. We are told we don’t have enough and that we are not enough. As a result we have a deep fear of our poverty. Lori invited us to reflect on what we are holding with clenched fists. What are some of our greatest fears? What things, relationships, or character traits might we be clinging too tightly to in our lives?

John then shared the kingdom reality of this Beatitude. All is well because we are cared for by an abundant provider in whom we can trust. Jesus whispers this promise to us in even our darkest moments. It is in our poverty, our willingness to surrender and trust in the goodness of God, that His presence and kingdom is found.

In response to this abundance, Lori led us through the first Kingdom Practice for the week, a beautiful prayer using three hand postures.

Kingdom Practices

  • Praying with clenched, open, and cupped hands: Will you spend a moment each day praying the prayer Lori led us through Sunday night?
    • Which hands clenched, reflect on what you are holding too tightly and pray, “Lord, I long to live open and free before you but I have filled my hands and my heart is afraid, Lead me in the way of trust.”
    • With hands held open, reflect on God’s invitation to share what He has given us and pray, “Lord, I offer you my open hands so that by being poor in spirit, your kingdom might come in and through my life, Lead me in the way of trust.”
    • With hands cupped and held toward heaven, reflect on God’s abundant provision and pray, “Lord, I ask this day that you would provide for my needs, so that rather than fear, I would embrace poverty and be open to your perfect will for my life, Lead me in the way of trust.”
  • Take a step of generosity: Because we are invited to live open handed, will you ask God how He may be leading you to live more generously? What is one step you can take to be more generous with your time, possessions, and/or money?
  • Thanks/Ask: Gratitude is a way we can grow in trust of God’s goodness and abundance, and asking for our simple everyday needs reminds us to live in moment by moment dependence on God. So each day this week write down three things you are grateful for and one simple request from God.

 

 

Friends, my we lean deeply into our own poverty this week…knowing that the full abundance of God’s love and provision meets us in that holy space!

Grace and peace,
Jason and The Practice Team

 

9.11.16 An Invitation to Live the Beatitudes

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A journey back to reality. It’s something most of us could use, what with the competing scripts and distortions and narratives and lies that swirl around us, telling us who we should be and what we should strive for and what we should buy to get there. It’s enough to drive us to the end of sanity trying to keep up with the latest and greatest plan for self-fulfillment.

But then Jesus offers us a vision that’s, if anything, less sane. We’ve grown up with certain narratives that tell us who is ‘blessed’, who is living the good life, who has it all together, and it sure isn’t the poor, the mourners, or the meek.

And yet, that’s the message our liturgy spoke this week. We started by reflecting on the paradox of the beatitudes (are the unhappy really happy?). Then we moved to a time of praying for our enemies (what rational person does that?). Then we used the story of the prodigal son to help us connect to the ways we too need to come to our senses and return home to the reality of God’s grace and mercy.

And then, Mark Scandrette (“The Godfather” as Aaron has dubbed him), came to help us think about the way of Jesus, and how the Beatitudes, as crazy as they might sound on first pass, might actually offer us a path through the false scripts that bombard us, and back to the Kingdom that is truly real. Take a listen to his words here…

The Beatitudes offer us an outline of the curriculum of discipleship. They name our deep aches and longings, and communicate to us the reality that God’s blessing is with us even in the midst of suffering. They name the illusions and distortions in the world around us that lead to systems of oppression and despair. The give us a template for the journey back to God’s reality, the steps of healing and recovery that will free us to be the people God invites us to be. They are not a list of ‘shoulds’, but instead awaken us to reality, and invite us to live in accordance with that reality (instead of living according to what is false).

9BEATS laminate_side1This journey back to reality culminates in a call to radical love, to (paradoxically) give up one’s life in order to find true life. The way in which the NINE BEATS fly directly in the face of the false narratives we’ve been steeping in our whole lives is most clearly seen here: death leads to life. But the way of Jesus is the way of the Cross, crazy as it may seem, and so we came to the table to celebrate Jesus’ radical, self-sacrificial love for us.

So maybe following the NINE BEATS, the way of Jesus, is crazy. Or maybe it’s the only way to see reality clearly. We hope you join us on the journey this Fall to find out. This week, Jason challenged us to do three things:

1) Pray through the NINE BEATS each day with the corresponding motions (Download the NINE BEATS Handout),
2) Reflect on which of the NINE most resonates and which creates the most resistance in us 
3) (for the crazy among us) Memorize the Beatitudes to truly internalize their call.

Grace and peace this week,
Curtis and The Practice Team

08.14.16 A Theology and Practice of The Other

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There is a certain heaviness when one talks about a “theology of the other” as we explored last night at the Practice. For some of us, the “other” feels far away; Syrian refugees and ISIS fighters, global politics, and economic anxiety. For other of us, the “other” is closer to home; the upcoming election, the political party we despise, the race or orientation we don’t understand. For all of us, the “other” is as near as our doorstep; the hurting city of Chicago, the neighbor down the road we’ve never met, the family member who is now estranged.

Such heaviness was on my mind as I walked into the Practice with a little bit of all three; far, near and as close as my kin, with the haunting question hanging on the back of my mind, “How does one possibly learn to practice love for the other?”

To answer that question, I was grateful, as I am every week, that the Practice began with a journey. We prayed the Scriptures and were confronted by their words. We confessed our sins and received the assurance of Jesus (“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”) We sang in worship songs of peace and songs of love. All prepared our hearts for what turned out to be a profoundly beautiful invitation from Pastor Michael Rudzena.

Michael began by acknowledging where we’re all at. The world, increasingly through social media and globalization forces, is struggling with how to respond to the social, political, economic, racial, and sexually oriented “other.” However what was so refreshing about the word Michael shared was his insistence that in the gospels, we have been given the very resource of Jesus Christ through his life and words in order to learn well how to engage the “others” in our own lives. So we turned to Matthew 9, where Jesus, eating with the sinners and the tax collectors, responds to the Pharisee’s disgust with the invitation, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice,’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 9:13) How do we counter disgust with mercy? Well its going to take practice (you can listen to all of Michael’s talk and practice below).

The practice for the evening therefore became a mediation on disgust, however instead of lectio divina (sacred reading) or oratio divina (sacred listening) we embarked on a practice of vizio divina (sacred seeing). The practice invited us to reflect upon a picture of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, asking what we noticed, what we felt in our bodies, what emotions, and what disgust may be present. We then were invited to look at a second picture, this one of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton both at 7 or 8 years old, before finally returning to once more gaze at their adult portraits. The change was haunting. My own experience was that of increasing sadness, as I increasingly moved past the political image for both to see a genuine human being, with glimpses of fear lingering on the corner of their eyes. It will be difficult moving forward to not remember such a practice, each time their names glare at me from morning headlines, or their images flash on social media outlets.

trump hillaryWe concluded necessarily with a journey to the Table, one that was a rich call to see the Table as a practice in and of itself for the sake of the other. As Christ was broken and poured out, so we too, as those who bear his name, are called to be broken up and poured out for the sake of the world and particularly for the “other.” My soul was nourished as I ate the bread, and drank the cup, remembering what Christ had said and done in his own life as the call of my own.

Though heaviness was there as we started, the evening certainly did not end with it. At the conclusion of the service, a large amount of our community lingered on the patio for a robust heaping of hot dogs, burgers, and the most plentiful sea of sides and desserts one could image (we were practically swimming in oreos!)

As we closed, Aaron offered us a few kingdom practices, to help take the theology of the other we received out into our lives:

  1. Prayer: That we might be a community that practices prayer for the sake of the other, praying for our enemies continually, even and especially when the disgust rises within us.
  2. Pursuing: That we would consider this week reaching out to someone who might be an other, whether it going to a neighborhood we wouldn’t often feel comfortable in, reaching out to a person or people who we wouldn’t often engage, or even just taking someone out for a coffee to focus on listening to their story, rather than inserting our own.
  3. Retreat: Registration for our retreat on Sunday August 28th is up and would be an incredible opportunity to continue exploring the journey began this past Sunday evening. We would love to see everyone there!

Though we won’t be gathering this next Sunday evening (August 21st), we will be praying for you as we journey together in extending our hearts in mercy out to the others around, even as Jesus taught.

Grace and peace,
John and the Practice team

08.07.16 – Praying for the World With Images

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Here are the words Kellye shared last night as she guided us to pray for the world using images. (Download the full liturgy here.)

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I am going to lead us now through a practice of praying for our world using pictures. The poet Naomi Shihab Nye says that images allow us to abide with one another even when we are thousands of miles apart. And what a privilege it is to be together here, abide with people from all over the country and world through images, and to present ourselves and our world to God. We’ll do this in groups and in just a moment, I’ll ask you to move your chairs so there are three or four of you in each circle.

We will go through six images and each one depicts people; and each one also depicts, in subtle ways, systems, systems that are unjust and broken, and systems that bring help to those in need.

We are going to use some prayer postures throughout, but I will guide you as we go. Keep your order of practice insert close because we will join our voices together throughout this time. But again, I will lead you. Let’s begin by preparing ourselves to pray. Would you sit in an open posture—hands open, feet flat on the floor, and your body alert, but not tense.

IMG_8275Opening Prayer:
God in heaven, with us, near us, in us, here we are, your children. We are here because we are brokenhearted by so much of what is happening in our world—the violence, divisiveness, racism, hate, terrorism, and pain. We gather together in Jesus’ name to lift up our world to you, our Creator and Sustainer.

As we join together and view the images of our world now, give us Your eyes, Your heart, and Your mind. Help us to notice what happens in us at the sight of the people and incidents we see. Help us to notice our offendedness and release that offendedness to You. Help us to notice our sadness and release that sadness to You. Help us to notice your invitation to us and join you in your restoration.

May we offer prayers to our God who made and loves every human being; and who instructs us to seek justice, exhibit mercy, and love our enemies.

Lord, hear our prayers.

 

[Picture 1 (Orlando)]

This picture shows the faces of the 49 individual sons and daughters, who were killed at the Orlando nightclub Pulse by Omar Mateen on June 12, 2016. 53 others were injured.

Let’s pray for each deeply loved man and woman in this picture, each made in the image of our loving Creator, and for those we don’t see but who are represented as well—the families of these men and women, the moms and dads, brothers and sisters; the friends; those who were terrorized and wounded. Let us pray for Omar Mateen, a man also made in the image of God. And let us pray that God’s kingdom will break through, in the midst of hatred, injustice, and broken systems in our country.

Join me now, with bowed heads to pray individually.

Silent prayer (bowed head)

God, you weep. Allow us to weep.
Open our eyes to see the pain.
Open our hearts to love the hurting.
Guide us now as we pray.

Group prayer

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

 

[Picture 2 (Turkey/France)]

These are pictures of the tragic terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Turkey and in Nice, France. In the picture on the top we see six of the 42 people who were killed on June 28th at the Istanbul airport by gunmen and suicide bombers. On the bottom, we see the aftermath of the attack in Nice, where a truck drove into a crowd killing 84 people, many of them children. One father and his 11 year old son—Sean and Brodie—died before the eyes of the rest of their family. Men, women, and children, beloved to God and to their families and friends, were killed in these attacks. Let us pray for the grieving, heavy-hearted families of the men and women we see in these pictures. Let’s pray for the workers at the airport and bystanders who were terrorized, terrified, and saw life extinguished before their eyes. Let’s pray for the unseen—the enemies—those who carried out the attacks, each one created in God’s image, each one with a story. And for the responders and the helpers. For God’s kingdom to break through.

Join me now in a silent prayer and I invite you to put your hands over your face in a posture of lament.

Silent prayer (hands over face)

God, you weep. Allow us to weep.
Open our eyes to see the pain.
Open our hearts to love the hurting.
Guide us now as we pray.

Group prayer

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

 

[Picture 3 (Timothy’s Gift-Melissa)]

Silent prayer (open hands)

God, you restore. You heal. You redeem.
Thank you for helping us see your kingdom.
Thank you for showing us how to love your children.
Guide us now as we seek to join you.

Group prayer

May your kingdom come.
May your will be done.
May your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

 

[Picture 4 (Clinton/Trump)]

This next picture is of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, our primary two presidential candidates for 2016. Look at the eyes of the two people in this picture. This woman and this man were made in God’s very image, and are so loved by God that He gave His one and only Son to give them eternal life.

Let us pray for the woman and the man in this picture, especially for the one you feel most resistance to in your mind and heart. Let us pray that God’s kingdom will break through in the midst of the divisive, vitriolic atmosphere, and the denigration that characterizes politics in our country. And let us pray that we would be examples of love and kindness so that all will know we are disciples of Jesus Christ.

Let’s bow our heads and take a moment in silence to pray.

Silent prayer (bowed head)

God, you weep. Allow us to weep.
Open our eyes to see the pain.
Open our hearts to love the hurting.
Guide us now as we pray.

Group prayer

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

 

[Picture 5 (Race in America)]

This next picture is of an African-American woman standing before a police brigade in riot gear. Let’s pray for this particular woman—for her heart, her life, her family, her community. And let us pray for the police we see—these actual police in this picture—for their lives, their families, their community. And, let us pray for what we don’t see—our African-American brothers and sisters who are hurting, being victimized, being killed, and treated unjustly because of broken, unjust systems, our biases, our judgments and fears. These lives—our African-American brothers and sisters’ lives—matter to God and they matter to us. Let’s pray for justice, for peace, for love to prevail. Let’s pray that God’s kingdom would break through.

Join me now in a posture of lament, with hands over our faces to express our lament to God.

Silent prayer (hands over face)

God, you weep. Allow us to weep.
Open our eyes to see the pain.
Open our hearts to love the hurting.
Guide us now as we pray.

Group prayer

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

 

[Picture 6 (Officer washing homeless man’s feet)]

In this picture, we see a 75-year old homeless African-American man named Quintis. He is blind and lives in Houston. With him is Sergeant Steve Wick of the Houston Police Department. He saw Quintis limping and it turned out his toenails were causing his feet significant pain. Sgt Wick brought Quintis in to allow him to shower (for the first time in several years) and then Wick knelt down, washed Quintis’ feet and cut his toenails. There are hardly words needed here, but let’s pray for Quintis, that God would bless him and keep him; for his heart and his body. Let’s pray for Sgt Wick, that God would bless him and keep him; for his heart, his family. Let’s pray for what we don’t see—all the kind acts, acts that reveal the kingdom of God here with us—Let’s pray that God would allow us to see more and more of these moments and join in with them every single chance we get.

Join me in a silent prayer of thanksgiving and praise with open hands.

Silent prayer (open hands)

God, you restore. You heal. You redeem.
Thank you for helping us see your kingdom.
Thank you for showing us how to love your children.
Guide us now as we seek to join you.

Group Prayer

May your kingdom come.
May your will be done.
May your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

 

Song refrain:

We refuse to be each other’s enemy.
We can overcome. We can overcome.
Love shall overcome. Love shall overcome.
Love shall overcome. Love shall overcome.

(“Love Shall Overcome” by The Brilliance)

 

P.S. We were not able to share the photos because of copyright laws. So sorry!