Christ and the Comfort Zone

anointing jesus feet

Most of us love routine in our lives.

  • We would rather interact with people we know, deal with things we know about, know our schedule ahead of time, and go to places we know.
  • We are comforted by the same old same old, the familiar and known. 
  • We find safety and security in the routines of our lives, the content or complacent. 
  • We live in our favorite place in the world, our comfort zones.

God is with us everywhere, even in that known zone that is oh so comfortable. We know from Hebrew Scripture and the Good News of the New Testament, that God shows up and surprises us when the unexpected happens, when things are not going according to our plans, and even though we know this,it disrupts our expectations of God, it shakes and shocks us out of our comfort zones.

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In our reading from Isaiah, the Prophet reminds the people of the promise living in exile surrounded by Babylonian culture and religion, of their own history, when God was present, acting for them during the Exodus from Egypt.  But the God of the Exodus, is a God of promise in the present and future, and is not just present in Scripture as a historical God of the past. It is this God, our God that the prophet speaks of today. Proclaiming God’s presence and promises of great action to come. Isaiah speaks not of miracles in water, but of miracles in the desert places, today, tomorrow, and all the tomorrows to come.

God, speaking through Isaiah, says to expect the unexpected. God through Isaiah says watch for something new to spring up. Watch for what we might think impossible, improbable, or even outrageous. God promised to do a new thing those many, many years ago, and God is not done doing new things. God is not done surprising, even we the people gathered as the church in this time and place.

Watching, praying and discerning what God is up to, is what our congregation leaders have been up to since our annual meeting in February. It will take time to listen and faithfully figure out how to walk together and do what matters in this time and place. We met on Monday, and Janina, our president, led us in studying God’s Word as we do as part of every council meeting. The prayer she chose to share following our Bible Study, is a prayer of courage that comes from our Evangelical Lutheran Worship book:

Lord God, you have called your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is my favorite prayer. It hangs above my desk at home and downstairs in the pastor’s study next to the door, so I can see it and pray it when I leave the safety of that space when I am needed to leave my comfort zone, to encounter God in the new and unknown.

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Lenten Devotions… We’ve Got It All Wrong

 

It’s the season of Lent, and we’ve got it all wrong.  It isn’t about repentance.  It isn’t about doing something to atone for our wrongdoings.  It isn’t about us at all.  No, it’s about the one who atoned for us, the one who died for us while we were yet sinners, the one who rushes out to welcome us home with open arms and rejoices every time he finds us wandering down the road.  ~Lee Koontz

For me Lent is as Koontz points out, not about me.  It’s not about what I gave up, or what spiritual discipline I’ve added.  Lent, like all our our lives of faith is not about what we do, rather it’s about God.  God who is gracious acting and active in our world and lives each day.  I pray this Lent for pauses along the way to experience the thin places where I get “God-bumps” (goose bumps of faith a CPE colleague taught me about several years ago) and feel, see or experience God.   I give thanks for the One who is and was and will be as I journey to the cross… grateful when the waters are parted, because I need thee every hour.

Wishing you Lenten blessings + God-bumps along the way!

Reflecting on Leadership in Multicultural Faith Communities

A Peaceable Kingdom: Isaiah 11:6-9 (The Message)…

The wolf will romp with the lamb,
   the leopard sleep with the kid.
Calf and lion will eat from the same trough,
   and a little child will tend them.
Cow and bear will graze the same pasture,
   their calves and cubs grow up together,
   and the lion eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens,
   the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent.
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
   on my holy mountain.
The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
   a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.

Prayer of Archbishop Oscar Romero…

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Amen.

So Come As You Are…

All Are Welcome by Agape

Prayer by Eric H. F. Law from his book…

The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Church:

O God, You made us in you own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son; Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred that infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Living in Unity Appreciating Diversity

bread for your journey

Shared at the Bread For Your Journey gathering on July, 30, 2009 of By The Way an emerging community listening + exploring faith together in Nashua, NH.

http://www.bythewaynashua.blogspot.com/

Opening Prayer

O God you created us, you saved us, and you sustain us in our daily journey. Help us this evening to stop, to rest, and to be in your presence.  As we pause and breathe deeply in you, we give you thanks for this day and time together.  For what else do we give God thanks….?   We also come burdened and tired from the busyness and distractions of our daily lives, we ask for rest and renewal this evening.  For what else do we want to ask God for…?  Open our hearts and ears to you O God; to the unity you call us to, to the peace you call us to, to see and use the gifts you have given each of us.  Grant us humility, gentleness, and patience to bear with one another and all we encounter along the way in love.  Amen.

Ephesians 4:1-16 (The Message)

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ephesians%204:1-16&version=65

1-3In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

 4-6You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

 7-13But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is,
            He climbed the high mountain, 
            He captured the enemy and seized the booty,
            He handed it all out in gifts to the people.

Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

 14-16No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

Prayer Offering

O God our teacher and guide along the way,     you gather us as one body and one Spirit… one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism… as one God, Mother and Father of all; unite us in our diversity.  Bind us together as we serve you, our neighbors and each other.  Thank you for the gifts and instruction you give in your Word.  Make our uniqueness and variety our strength.  Amen.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

http://everydayliturgy.com/blogs/thomas/wont-you-be-my-neighbor

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Devotions for Congregation Leadership

Congregation Leadership Meeting Devotions

Gathering:

Creator God, you give us work to do and call us to use our talents for each other and the world.  Guide us as individual servants and together as one body in the Spirit.  Make us one with him as he is one with you so that we may carry your love, through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

+ A Responsive Litany +

Our bodies have many different parts.  God created us that way.

Even the parts that seem the least important are valuable.  God created us that way.

If one part hurts, we hurt all over; and if one part does well, the whole body benefits.  God created us that way.

Our group is like a body.  Each part is important.

God calls us to work together.  And to care about each other.

The world is like a body.  Each part is important.

God calls us to work together.  And to care about each other.

Dear God, Help us to work together, to see how important we are to one another and to value our ministry together in this place.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Word:

+ Responsive Psalm 19:1-12 +

God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.  Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening.

Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

God makes a huge dome for the sun—a superdome!  The morning sun’s a new husband leaping from his honeymoon bed, the day-breaking sun an athlete racing to the tape.

That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies from sunrise to sunset, melting ice, scorching deserts, warming hearts to faith.  The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together.

The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road.  The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy.

The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes.  God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee.

The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree.  God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds.

You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries.  There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure.

Otherwise how will we find our way?  Or know when we play the fool?

+ A reading from 1 Corinthians 12:24b-31 +

But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?  Do all work miracles?  Do all possess gifts of healing?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?  But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Prayers:

Almighty God, grant that your holy word which has been shared this evening may enter into our hearts through your grace, that it may produce in us the fruit of the Spirit for service in this place and to the praise and honor of your name, through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Sending:

+ Based on Psalm 19 +

We come into this meeting space with God.  Whose teaching is perfect; whose directions are sure.

We come into this meeting place with God.  Whose standards are right; whose commandment is clear; whose judgments are true.

Come—to share life and wisdom together, to have our hearts stirred and eyes opened wide.
Come—to share the work and leadership that God calls us to in this time and place.

Let the words of our mouths and the whispering of our hearts be according to your will, O God.

Along the Emmaus Road

 

This is a summary of the April 23rd  gathering of  By the Way
an emerging faith community in Nashua, NH…
As you enter the dimly lit room you notice there is a big round table in the center of the room. People are gathered at the table engaging in quiet conversation. There is a beautiful cloth covering the table, a round loaf of rustic crusty bread, and a single candle. Someone notes that it is much like sitting around a comfortable kitchen table.

The candle is lit, the evening’s roadmap reviewed and prayer is offered. The group gets out of their seats and gathers in a corner of the room. Scripts are distributed and the group reads the Emmaus Road story adapted from The Message while walking around the room. The candle flickers on the table in the center of the room much as the setting sun did in the story.

The group sits around the table again where the smell of the freshly baked bread fills the air and prayer is offered: Stay with us for it is evening and the day is almost over. Thank you for revealing yourself through the Word and the breaking of the bread. Make known your walking with us each day and feed us to sustain our journey. Amen.

“On the Road” a short poetic reflection of Luke 24 by George Slanger from Theology Today, January 2003 is read by one of the travelers at the table. Following the reading a prayer is offered: During the long and lonely walks in our lives that seem filled with sorrow and doubt, you are there. During times of hurt which seem difficult and confusing to bear, you are there. Open us to the strangers among us who may be hungry, who may need to be invited, who may be the face of Jesus. Open us to you, the One who can make the deepest loneliness and the longest journey full of purpose and hope. Amen.

Another traveler reads “Emmaus” by Rowan Williams from Connexions. Responses to the cadence and imagery in the poem are shared and prayer is offered: Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The travelers gathered around the table share a time of reflection and refreshment. The breaking open of the crusty loaf makes the sound of low rumbling thunder and it is passed around the table for all to eat. Cool water is poured for each person, the sound of clanking ice cubes and pouring water reminiscent of pebbles dropped into a pond. An Emmaus image (above) by Chinese Christian artist He Qi is reflected on. A reflection is shared and questions discussed (and taken away) as food for thought for our ongoing journeys…

  • Who do you share your journey with? Who are you not inviting to join you along the way?
  • What distracts you in your daily routine and in your longer journeys? What “feeds” you along the way… in your work, in your relationships, in your faith?
  • Where do you find spiritual connections or encounters along the way? Where do (or could) you find refreshment or sustenance along the way?
  • How do (or could) you break out of the rut of not seeing God in the midst of your life? How do (or could) you connect with others to share moments of hospitality?
A final prayer is offered to send those gathered on their way and into the crisp spring evening: O God, Help us to “find” Christ, follow his path and share ourselves along the way. Mark us with your hospitality and join us to others to share the journey wherever the road may lead. Inspire us to live with a radical receptivity and authentic honesty in our lives, communities and world. Amen.

 

P.S. The closing line in a great French Canadian hymn from the Les Petite Soeurs de Jesus and L’Arche Community ran through my head as I wrote and reflected on the experience…

I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey;
But courage will come with the sound of your steps by my side.
And with all of the family you saved by your love,
we’ll sing to your dawn at the end of our journey.

Wishing you fellow travelers peace along the way+

 

He has risen! He is not here.

He has risen! He is not here.  Mark 16:6

 

A Christian should be where Christ is.  If Christ is not here, a Christian should not be here.  That is why no one can find Christ or a Christian in any particular set of rules.  He is not here.  He has left behind the grave clothes, namely worldly justice, wisdom, piety, law, and the like.  You are not to seek him in these things which are to be found on earth… A Christian clings to the One who died and rose again and is no longer here.

 

Source + Martin Luther’s Easter Book

 

A Prayer ~

 

O God, week after week you arise,

gathering your people,

proclaiming your word of life,

feeding us with food that is eternal,

sharing your Spirit,

and renewing the face of the earth.

O God, transform us by this resurrection,

            that we may embrace all that you have made

            and live toward the justice that you intend

            through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Judas, Peter

bread-and-wine5because we are all
betrayers, taking
silver and eating
body and blood and asking
(guilty) is it I and hearing
him say yes
it would be simple for us all
to rush out
and hang ourselves

but if we find grace
to cry and wait
after the voice of morning
has crowed in our ears
clearly enough
to break our hearts
he will be there
to ask us each again
do you love me

~ Luci Shaw