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Sunday Reflections, May 22, 2016: Confession & Assurance

By | Living the Liturgy, Sunday Messages, The Practice Podcast | 4 Comments

 

Jenna teaching

Last night marked the second week of our Living the Liturgy series a four-week exploration of the sacred rituals we practice each and every Sunday that shape our daily lives. Every Sunday at The Practice, and in churches all around the world and across history, Christians have worshipped God through a series of sacred rituals more commonly referred to as a liturgy – an order of worship that includes key elements such as the communal reading of scripture, a confession and assurance, the passing of the peace, communion, and a benediction.

In this series we want to pull back the curtain and look at why practicing these sacred rituals on Sundays is so formative for our daily lives. Last week, Curtis helped us understand the importance of why we read scripture passages out loud from the Bible each week– how in the hearing and in the sharing of God’s great story, we are shaped into God’s people who have a shared language and history. And last night, John Perrine led us into a deeper exploration of Confession & Assurance.

Our opening liturgy began with some of my favorite words that center my heart and prepare me for worship,

We come as those hungry…
hungry for God’s word.
We come as those thirsty…
thirsty for God’s spirit.
We come as those broken…
seeking the healing that God provides.
We come as those in need…
needing reminders of God’s love.
We come as those longing…
longing for God’s kingdom to come.

Our opening liturgy also included a double reading of Psalm 8, one version which was rewritten by Deirdre JVR, and a beautiful time of prayer for the world, written for our gathering by the brilliant Sam Ogles.

It was then my joy and privilege to welcome everyone to the evening and give everyone another installment of what we’ve decided to call “Brain Science with Jenna” – a brief insight each week into why liturgy works with our brains to shape us into Christ likeness. This week we looked at the Enactment Benefit – most simply summarized by Confucius in 500 BC:

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.

When we participate and learn by doing, or by assigning a gesture or posture to information, it is better encoded into our memory and easier to recall than information simply learned by listening or watching. I love how participatory our liturgies are, placing you in a position of doing that enacts the liturgy to help you learn deeper! (ok nerd moment over).

John then stepped forward to share his message on confession and assurance with the room.

You can listen to John’s message and the practice time from the evening through our Practice Podcast or here below:

Perhaps my favorite part of John’s message was his weaving of confession and assurance into the picture of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Like the pharisees, are you a person that throws stones, disconnected from the weight of your own sin or like the woman caught, are you a person who has become buried under the stones of others, or stones you yourself have thrown?

Are you disconnected from the weight of your own sin in need of a deeper confession? Or are you disconnected from the depth of your forgiveness and in need of a deeper assurance?

As John drew attention to the fact that it was Jesus himself who alone could have thrown the only stone in that narrative – but who instead chose to say, “Neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more” – it struck me that this is exactly what Christ says to each of us every day of every week. Against God and God alone have I sinned, and from God and God alone can we receive the forgiveness and righteousness that is his alone to give.

Our time of practice was a deepening experience of confession and assurance, to let everyone in the room connect both to the weight of their sin and repentance, and then be ushered into the deep beauty of assurance.

During confession, Sharon sang the incredible song “We confess” by Glenn Packiam. Everyone in the room was invited to cover their face and hold in a closed fist a stone they had received as they arrived, as a symbol of their confession of guilt. Each time we sang “have mercy” the room was instructed to squeeze the rock tighter, and each time we left space for confession, the room was instructed to lean into the discomfort of holding the rock outstretched, deepening the weight of repentance for us all.

For our assurance, as Sharon sang the beautiful words of Christ, “As far as the East is from the West…” from Glenn’s song, we invited each person in the room who wanted to participate to come forward to a server, their stone held in an outstretched hand, and their other hand covering their face, a posture of repentance. Then, each server gently took the stone from their outstretched hand, gently guided the hand covering their face down so that both hands were now open and outstretched, and finally they placed a hand on their head and reminded them, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.”

I reminded everyone that our servers had no special ability to forgive sins, rather they were just here as representatives of the church to remind and symbolize to each of us what is already true – we are forgiven. It was a privilege to say this blessing over people as they came forward, and as I took stones from people, moved their hands away from their faces and prayed the blessing, I saw many tears – both of sorrow and then joy. It was profound and beautiful.

We ended our time together as we always do, with communion – the sign and symbol of God’s great love for us. It was a night of deep repentance and assurance of God’s love and forgiveness.

Our Kingdom Practices this week are simple:

  1. Keep your liturgy from Sunday and use the words of confession and assurance, to make space in your week to lean into what you know you need most. Perhaps you are in need of a deeper confession, you’ve become complacent and disconnected from your need of Christ – or perhaps you are in need of a deeper assurance, you’ve wallowed in shame long enough and need to be reminded you are forgiven.
  2. We recommend you listen to Glenn’s song – ‘We confess.’ It is a beautiful song that transports you into a sacred place of confession and assurance no matter where you are.
  3. Next week, we are not meeting in the chapel – but we have provided a Memorial Day Weekend Picnic Liturgy you can use at your weekend picnics and BBQs, find out more and print the liturgy HERE.

Thank you for being on the journey with us friends, we’ll see you back in the Chapel on June 5 with Jonathan Martin and Nichole Nordeman to talk about Eucharist,

Grace and Peace,

Jenna & The Practice Team

 

Advent Sunday Reflections, December 6, 2015: Crowding Out Christ

By | Advent, Sunday Messages, Sunday Reflections, The Practice Podcast | One Comment

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“God disrupts everything.”

So said our prophetic brother Jonathan Martin. And wow, could we use some disruption right now. Fear is, indeed, in the air. Most of us could list a dozen things to be afraid of in our current global climate (including, well, the climate). Most of us could probably do so in less than a minute.

The normal, un-disrupted logic of fear plays out all around us these days. The violence and chaos of the world cause people to look around frantically for ways to get things back under control. The seductively obvious solution is to meet violence with more violence. To fight fear with force. This is the logic that calls for more bombs. This is the logic that caused the president of a prominent evangelical university to call this week for his students to start carrying guns “so we could end those Muslims” before they harm us.

But our liturgy last night kept highlighting the Advent promise of freedom from fear. Our opening gospel readings found the angels telling the shepherds not to be afraid and Zechariah proclaiming that Jesus would rescue us so we could serve God without fear. The songs we sang proclaimed the greatness of our Joy and that we would not be afraid because of God’s presence. Our prayers were made to the Prince of Peace who offers us an alternative to fear. We passed the peace to one another. And, of course, Jonathan Martin asked us to ponder the question of what fear we need to let go of so we might prepare room in our hearts for Christ. Take a listen to the podcast here:

Two thousand years ago God made his ultimate response to the chaos and violence of the world. Many in that day expected a response of power (after all, who is better able to power-up than God?). That was the expectation of John the Baptist, as Jonathan pointed out. But Christmas isn’t the celebration of the victory of a military commander, driving the enemies of God before him; it’s the celebration of the birth of a baby to a poor family in an out-of-the-way town.

Jonathan told us the story of Ananias, who acted out of faith to extend words of friendship to an enemy of God, Saul.   How could that be? Where does one find the strength to do such an irrational thing?

One could, perhaps, look to the story of Christmas, where God himself extended friendship to his enemies. Us.

God, at Christmas, chose not the road of power but the road of love. He disrupted everything, and promises to do the same for us, if we’ll allow it.

And that is what the practice Aaron led us through, of Examen, offers. Fear is all around us. We find ourselves receiving from our culture a “residual fear”, as Jonathan put it. It can slip in and permeate our thinking without us even realizing it. And so we stop to examine our hearts. We open up our thoughts, and our fear, to God’s light. And God, who disrupted a broken, fearful world with words of friendship, disrupts our broken, fearful hearts with whispers of love.

Come, Lord Jesus, disrupt everything.

Blessings,
Curtis Miller and The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, November 15, 2015: How to Practice Sabbath

By | Rhythm, Sunday Messages, Sunday Reflections, The Practice Podcast | No Comments

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And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the Lord, who had set them apart to be holy. –Ezekiel 20:12

Speaking of set apart, that’s exactly what last night felt like to me—a night set apart; a place set apart. From the opening prayer for our world to the closing benediction, we were aware of God’s presence in a unique, palpable way. News of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut rattled us and tempted us to fear. But then as we joined our voices with the soulful, beauty of The Brilliance, we remembered what is true and a peace settled over and among us.

Jason Feffer opened our eyes to new ways of seeing and keeping the Sabbath (the only one of the ten commandments Christians brag about breaking). He began by reminding us of something we already know but regularly ignore—we all have rhythm. God built a rhythm into every element of the created world. If we look, we can see that we are part of these rhythms. And more specifically, the rhythm Jason wanted us to grasp last night was the rhythm of work and rest, the rhythm laid out in the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2. The most compelling part of this teaching for me was the idea that keeping Sabbath is not a weekly practice, but a daily practice. For three days, we look forward to Sabbath. On one day, we welcome the Sabbath. Then for three days, we remember the Sabbath.

Aligning with this rhythm requires intentionality, of course, and Jason gave us some helpful guidelines to consider as we dip our toe into the practice of Sabbath. He reminded us first and foremost that Sabbath is a balance between resting and engaging. Just resting can lead to legalism. Just engaging can lead to meaningless busyness. Here are his suggestions on some ways to balance the two:

Sabbath Rest

  • Rest from productivity (anything that you might put on a to-do list any other day of the week). For me, this is responding to emails.
  • Rest from busyness (anything that tends to create hurry or rushing). For me, this is grocery shopping and errand running.
  • Rest from control (anything that incites a need or desire to control your environment, relationships, or image). For me, this is Facebook and other social media.

Sabbath Joy

  • Engage in joyful activities (activities that bring you delight and laughter). For me, this is going to the bookstore and the movies with my daughter.
  • Engage in joyful connection with God (spiritual disciplines that you wish you had more time for during the week and spiritual pathways that usher you into God’s presence). For me, this is wandering around outside, breathing deeply, and noticing the details of creation.

(You can listen to Jason’s full message on our podcast or here below and access more resources on his website.)

This week our Kingdom Practice is to practice Sabbath. Pick one day in the coming week and set it apart. If it’s helpful, use the handout Jason gave us last night to reflect on the kinds of activities you feel God calling you to refrain from and those he is calling you to engage in so you experience his eternal, loving, centering rhythms of grace.

And for anyone who wants to join Jason in a three week “Practice Group” on Sabbath, click here for all the info.

May God grant you the grace you need to align every breath, moment, day, week and season to His eternal rhythms.

Blessings,

kellye signature

 

 

Kellye & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, June 7, 2015

By | Discernment, Sunday Messages, Sunday Reflections, The Practice Podcast | 3 Comments

It was so good to gather together again last night at The Practice. I agree with Aaron, two weeks apart felt too long! I am always so encouraged to be among you all as we gather to worship and put the words of Jesus into practice with one another – such a holy community experience that I cherish.

Many of you may be aware that the end of this June marks the end of our 18 month experience here at The Practice. But fear not, in our discussions with leadership at Willow Creek and the community we can officially let you know that this is not the end. We have loved the sacred space and practicing community that has formed over our time together and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us as we continue to grow and figure out how best to join in with God’s good work in the world.

So, in light of our desire to keep this experiment going we are dedicating the month of June to listening to God and trying to discern what His will is for the future of our community. We thought long and hard about how to do this and we realized one incredibly important thing:

Decision making is different from discernment.

Last night Kellye Fabian unpacked this poignant distinction by sharing part of her own story to illustrate a crossroads in her life in which she faced the difference between making a decision and discerning the will of God. I loved and felt so comforted listening to Kellye share, because I think we’ve all had those moments where the path before us isn’t clear and in our desire to figure out what to do next, a lot of us make a pros and cons list, think about it logically, worry incessantly and then finally, ask God to bless the decision we’ve logically made. As Kellye shared however, I knew I was resonating with how different discernment is.

Decisions are made, but discernment is given.

Discernment is given by God. It’s a process of discriminating what is of God and what is not of God in our lives, and surrendering to what God gives us. Discernment is often beyond logical pros and cons lists and looks more like listening to the quiet voice of God who may be calling us into the bold, unusual, or unclear path. When Kellye shared that the first job she received after ending her career as a lawyer was a position that didn’t even exist when she was trying to make the decision… I felt so challenged that discerning God’s will involves trust, leaps of faith and remaining committed to what is of God, even when other options may make us more comfortable in the moment.

Our community then moved into practicing a practice that is an important part of the discernment process – and that is, a prayer for indifference to anything but the will of God. Indifference may seem like such a harsh word, but when you think of it, it’s really praying the prayer that Jesus prayed when he said, “Not my will Lord, but Yours be done.” It’s a bold and vulnerable prayer that holds our deepest desires before God and says, “Lord, this is what I want, I trust that you know my heart and my honest desires, but ultimately I want to desire your will above my own.”

This is a radical practice. It felt radical last night as we all wrote down something we need discernment around and offered up our honest, deepest desires to God. I can’t wait to hear the stories from our community about how this prayer changes lives. For those of you who couldn’t be there, or who would love to listen again, check out what was shared in the latest Practice Podcast or by listening here below.

And it is in this spirit that our team wants to discern God’s will for the future of The Practice. We realized that we could make a lot of decisions in our own power, but the more important work would be to discern God’s will, which involves listening to God in our lives and listening to God in your lives to gain a sense of where we’re being invited.

Aaron shared on behalf of our leadership team, “5 things we know, and 5 things we don’t know” to kick off and set the stage for the month of June. You can watch this video to hear what he shared and how we’d like you to respond over the next week, but in short here are the five things we’ve learned from the past 18 months and here are 5 things we desperately want your help discerning from God about the future –

5 Things We Know

  1. We desire to be a holistic community. We can’t separate discipleship from evangelism, from mission, or from community. The invitation to put Jesus’ words into practice ultimately involves all of the journey and we want to reflect that.
  2. Our Core Values still resonate and uphold what we feel is important about The Practice and we will continue to value and grow in all of them.
  3. What we are doing here at The Practice is meeting a genuine unmet need in the church for Spiritual Formation, Sacred Space, and Contemplative Activism.
  4. We are going to keep consistently gathering as a whole in the spirit of liturgical/evangelical worship, and anchored exploration of the historic church and its practices.
  5. We know, that we don’t know who we are! And by that we mean, we are getting a lot of questions asking what are we? Are we a class? Are we a church? Are we a discipleship function? How do we fit into bigger Willow Creek? We love and are excited to keep discerning over the next year with God and with Willow how we be join in with God’s good work.

 5 Things We Don’t Know

  1. What is the best Day/Time of the week to meet? Whilst Sunday nights are a good fit for some people, they really inhibit a lot of other people from being able to come. We don’t have to change when we meet, but we’d love to have a discussion about what other possibilities are out there.
  2. Child and Family Formation. We want to explore how we can best serve and grow families down the road at The Practice.
  3. We need to explore how we can create more tangible opportunities for us to walk this journey of spiritual formation together.
  4. Sunday night is not the main event! Our real lives are the main event. How can we keep growing in how to make our lives the main focus?
  5. Artistic expression, story telling and communication. How can we keep artistically experimenting and exploring ways to express and immerse our community in this journey both during and outside of our Sunday gathering?

I hope you are as excited to keep discerning as we are! Incase you skipped the video, here are the three kingdom practices we wanted to invite you into this week in response to everything we shared last night:

  1. Partner with us by taking our survey. We want to hear your voice about how the last 18 months have impacted your life – please give us 15 minutes of your time to let us hear God’s voice through your experiences. To take the survey please click here.
  2. Pray the prayer for indifference in your life this week.
  3. Please, come back again next Sunday to share your voice and to contribute to the discussion of how The Practice can join God’s work and will in the future.

We cannot wait to gather together next week and hear from the community.

Grace and Peace to you!

Jenna Perrine

Sunday Reflections, April 19, 2015

By | Eucharist And Mission, Reflections, Sunday Messages, Sunday Reflections, The Practice Podcast | 3 Comments

Everyone Is Welcome at the Table

I have not ever thought of the table (the Lord’s Supper or communion) as a scandalous place. A reverent place, yes. A place of great mystery, for sure. As I consider it now, I realize I’ve even thought of communion as a bit tame.  Everyone lines up neatly, and quietly waits to receive. Or, we silently and politely pass bread and wine down rows of well-mannered, good-intentioned church people.

But, last night, Jonathan Martin reminded us that Jesus was constantly getting in trouble for eating and drinking with the “wrong” people – tax collectors and sinners. Just look at Luke 5:27-32. There was nothing neat or tame about his table. He invited everyone, anyone.  All were welcome. At the Last Supper, the one that inaugurated our practice of communion, Judas, who would betray Jesus, sat at the table. Peter, who would deny Jesus, sat at the table. The remaining 10 apostles, who would each abandon Jesus, sat at his table. Everyone is welcome at Jesus’ table.

You can listen to Jonathan’s full message here or by subscribing to our podcast.

 

More than anything, Jonathan’s message got me thinking about what a scandal it is that I am invited to Jesus’ table. Really. Sometimes it is all I can do to even hold my hands out to receive the bread not only because of things in my past that still haunt me, but also because of things I thought or did just hours before stepping into the Chapel. I am utterly unworthy. It is shocking, scandalous that I am invited and welcome. I come to the table humbly and hungry, though, and when I do, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace and the mystery of Christ’s presence. It makes me long for God to expand my heart and give me courage to open my table to the “wrong” people, people who don’t receive invites, are seen as unclean, or are deemed unworthy.

Would you join me this week in identifying the person or group of people you have consciously or subconsciously deemed unwelcome at your table?  And once you’ve identified that person or group of people, would you invite them into a conversation or to have a meal?

May you hear the invitation of our Lord Jesus that you are invited to and welcome at his table.  And may you practice the scandal of Jesus’ table, inviting and welcoming the wrong people to your table.

Grace and peace,

Kellye Fabian

The Cross

Message: “The Gift of Repentance”

By | Lent, Sunday Messages, The Practice Podcast | No Comments

Kellye Fabian shared this important and helpful message on the Lenten theme of Repentance during our exploration of Lent. This message is a wonderful invitation for us to embrace the postures of repentance modeled by David from Psalm 51.

If you missed this message or would like to listen to it again – we are excited to share that it is now available online!

To download the audio of her message click here, or you can listen online here below!

 

God be with you as you work out the good gift of repentance with your father who loves you.

Blessings,

Jenna and The Practice Tribe