You Need Consecration [Beyond Sunday]

 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes

1 Corinthians 11:26

God uses often uses ordinary things for holy purposes.  Baptism uses ordinary water; communion uses ordinary bread and juice; sabbath is ordinary time that has been set aside.  By our participation in these things, we–who are oridinary people– are made holy.

Throughout these 40 days of Lent, be invited to explore the importance of sabbath time for rest, rhythm, healing, wisdom, and consecration.  Sermons from our series can be heard here.

This week, try one of these practices and embrace some sabbath for yourself:

Confession

Before Sabbath time, choose a quiet place. Come to rest. Allow the heart and mind to speak of things that need to be spoken aloud, if only to the candle on the altar. Say aloud those things for which you feel a need for forgiveness, ways in which you were not clear, honest, or kind. If you feel comfortable, you can share this with another—a priest, minister, or rabbi, a therapist, a friend, a stranger. Notice how much of your grasping during the week is to make these things go away. Notice how they dissolve so much more easily when they are simply spoken aloud.

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (pp. 198-199). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A Place at the Table

When we gather for a Sabbath meal, we partake of the spiritual companionship of all who have loved us, all we love, all who have gone before and will come after. Everyone we have touched, those who have taught or held or nourished us all come to the table. It is good to be mindful of our ancestors, our loved ones, our extended family who could not join us in body for this blessed meal. So when you eat, set a place, complete with plate, glass, and silverware, an empty place to hold the awareness of all who join you there in spirit.  For any sacred meal, it is good to leave a place of invitation, mindful of all those with whom we are, now and forever, consecrated family.

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (p. 203). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

You Need Wisdom[Beyond Sunday]

Be still and know that I am God!

Psalm 46:10

Sabbath asks us to let go, not only of work, but of the illution that our work can save us.  It reminds us that only God is God, and we are not.  That can be both uncomfortable, and reassuring depending on whether or not we are willing to embrace wisdom.

Throughout these 40 days of Lent, be invited to explore the importance of sabbath time for rest, rhythm, healing, wisdom, and consecration.  Sermons from our series can be heard here.

This week, try one of these practices and embrace some sabbath for yourself:

Thinning

What can you let go of? One thing, beginning with the smallest thing. A book unread—can it be given to the library? An old postcard on the refrigerator, no longer current? An old appliance, never used? Old clothing, never worn, to the poor? What of projects that feel like responsibilities but bring joy to no one? Pick one thing this week, another the next, and discard something that has become unnecessary. Feel any release as you let it go.

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (p. 185). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Cleansing

Sabbath is traditionally preceded by ritual bathing, a cleansing of the old, a preparation to receive the new. This allows a visceral sense of beginner’s body as well as beginner’s mind. Hands are washed before the meal, bodies are bathed before making love. Ritual cleansing, more than the soap and water, opens us to receive anew. Set aside some time for bathing, long and easy, with fragrances, candles, music. Pay attention to your body, wash yourself gently and with care for every inch of skin.

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (p. 191). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

You Need Healing [Beyond Sunday]

Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.”  He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again.  The angel of the Lordcame a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”  He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

1 Kings 19:5-8

When we come to that moment at the end of our strength, how often do we stop and allow God to heal?  Rest and restoration cannot happen in the midst of unrelenting activity.  And we need rest and restoration or even our victories will start to feel like burdens and our journey will become too much.

Throughout these 40 days of Lent, be invited to explore the importance of sabbath time for rest, rhythm, healing, wisdom, and consecration.  Sermons from our series can be heard here.

This week, try one of these practices and embrace some sabbath for yourself:

Create and Altar

Create a space for an altar, nothing elaborate. It can be a small table, even a box with a colorful cloth. Sit quietly, perhaps in meditation, for a few moments, and imagine what belongs there. Allow images to arise, people, sacred objects, things that hold meaning or great love. Then place these things, one at a time, on the altar, noting how you feel to see them so honored. You may want to light a candle, say a prayer. Let this be a place you come to, a Sabbath in your home, whenever you need to remember something precious you have forgotten.

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (p. 107). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Sleep on It

Think once again of a particular problem that concerns you. Just as in the last exercise, imagine there are forces at work that are already healing what needs to be healed; it only requires your surrender. Let it be. In the evening, turn it over to the care of God, the angels, and all the Buddhas, all the spirits of the earth and sky. When you awaken in the morning, look at the problem again, and see what has grown there, quietly, invisibly in the night.

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (p. 170). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

You Need Rhythm [Beyond Sunday]

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…

That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

Ecclesiastes 3:1,15

No amount of hustle will add days to your life or value to your soul.  No amount of planning or work can insulate you from the ups and downs of life.  For some of us, to admit that God is in control is a difficult thing because it means acknowledging that we are not. Yet surrendering the illusion of workism frees us to a healthier rhythm of life.

In observing the Sabbath, we are relieved of the burden of false responsibility for our lives.  Throughout these 40 days of Lent, be invited to explore the importance of sabbath time for rest, rhythm, healing, wisdom, and consecration.  Sermons from our series can be heard here.

This week, try one of these practices and embrace some sabbath for yourself:

Cadence of Breath

One beautiful form of meditation is to simply follow the breath. Sit comfortably, and close your eyes. Let yourself become aware of the physical sensation of the breath, feeling the shape, texture, and duration of the inhale and the exhale. Do not change your breathing, do not strain or push in any way. Simply watch the breath breathe itself. Feel the rhythm of the breath, feel its timing, the end of the exhale, the readiness to inhale. When the mind wanders—as it will—do not worry. Simply return your awareness to the breath. Silently note each inhale or exhale, mentally noting in, out or rising, falling. Do this for five minutes at first. What do you notice about the rhythm of rest in your breathing? What do you notice about the rhythm of breath in your body?

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (pp. 74-75). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Prayer

Prayer is like a portable Sabbath, when we close our eyes for just a moment and let the mind rest in the heart. Traditional Sabbaths are filled with prayers. But we can begin slowly, with a simple prayer, like a pebble dropped into the middle of our day, rippling out over the surface of our life. Like the Muslims who stop to pray five times a day, like the Angelus, we can be stopped by a bell, a sunset, a meal, and we can pray. Something close to the heart, and simple. Perhaps a line from the Twenty-third Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, a short blessing: May all beings be happy, may all beings be at peace. Thank you, God, for this most amazing day. The Lord is my shepherd. Thy will be done.

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (pp. 86-87). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

You Need to Rest [Beyond Sunday]

As Wayne Muller writes: “For want of rest, our lives are in danger.”  Too many of us have bought the idea that our success, even our worth, lies in what we do and what we produce.   Even people of faith attempt to baptise overwork by saying it is for God.  But God never asked for endless labor.  We cannot be made holy by the work of our hands, or hearts, or minds.

Rest, sabbath rest, is both and command and a blessing from God.  Throughout these 40 days of Lent, be invited to explore the importance of sabbath time for rest, rhythm, healing, wisdom, and consecration.  Sermons from our series can be heard here.

This week, try one of these practices and embrace some sabbath for yourself:

Light a Candle

Three generations back

my family had only

to light a candle

and the world parted.

Today, Friday afternoon,

I disconnect clocks and phones.

When night fills my house

with passages,

I begin saving my life.

—MARCIA FALK

 

Find a candle that holds some beauty or meaning for you. When you have set aside some time—before a meal, or during prayer, meditation, or simply quiet reading—set the candle before you, say a simple prayer or blessing for yourself or someone you love, and light the candle. Take a few mindful breaths. For just this moment, let the hurry of the world fall away.

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (p. 21-22). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

Observe Silence

Sabbath time is enriched by some period of intentional silence. Choose a period of time or an activity—such as a walk or hike, alone or with someone you love—when you will refrain from speech. Notice what arises in silence, the impulse to speak, the need to judge or respond to what you see, hear, feel. Notice any discomfort that arises when you are not free to speak.

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (pp. 55-56). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hunger Games: Friends and Frienemies

A devotion for Jr. High Students

In the book and movie The Hunger Games, all the tributes know that only one can be crowned victor.  Yet many of them form relationships.  Just like in real life, Some of these are true friendships and some are not.

Do you remember your first friend?  Are you still friends today?  When we’re young most of us make friends with the people around us because they’re available.  These relationships come and go, a few may stay with us, but as we get older the bar for friendship gets higher and higher.  We make more conscious decisions about who is our friend and what kind of friend we want to be.

During the 74th Hunger Games, Marvel, Glimmer, Cato, and Clove form an alliance.  They have lot in common: they’re older, well trained and confident;  they all come from (relatively) wealthy districts and they’ve received a specialized education.  They treat the games like fun and bond over hunting and torturing the other tributes, but each knows in their heart only 1 of them can survive.  When something goes wrong– like a trackerjacket nest, or their food being destroyed– or when they have no other targets they are quick to turn on one another.   They even pretend to be friends with Peeta, just so he’ll help them find Katniss, and then   Have you ever known anyone like that?  Someone who always puts themselves first?  Or mocks others to make themselves look good?  [allow for answers]

The Career’s friendship is very different than the relationship Katniss develops with Rue.  How would you describe their alliance?  [allow for answers]

They help one another, they try to protect each other.  When Rue dies, Katniss genuinely grieves for her and tries to honor her memory.  It’s that same kind of friendship that makes Katniss volunteer for the games in the first place.

Jesus said “No greater love has anyone than this:  that they would lay down their life for their friends.”  (John 15:13).  That’s the kind of love He showed for us on the cross, and the kind of love he calls us to show to one another.  It isn’t always easy, in fact a lot of times we fail.  But the alternative is living like we’re in a battle; remaining constantly on our guard, never really trusting even the people we’re closest to because we know they’ll hurt us the same way we would hurt them.

Discussion Questions:

  • Can you think of any other relationships from the book/movie?  How did they become friends?
  • Can you name any friends in the Bible?  What is their relationship like?
  • Based on this what are good qualities to look for in a friend?
  • How can you be a good friend?
  • What about Katniss and Peeta?  How would you describe their relationship?  How does it measure up to Jesus’s standard?

Wisdom and Perfection in Tron Legacy

“I did everything you asked.  I created the perfect system.” –Clu

“I know…It’s not your fault.”–Flynn

If you haven’t seen Tron Legacy, I recommend it (and apologize for all following spoilers).  Yes, the movie has numerous faults, and no, its not as thoughtful as the original.  It is trying, nonetheless, to say some interesting things.  While watching it with the CSM youth last week, what struck me was this:  There is a very real difference between perfection and wisdom–between being good, and seeking the good life.

The premise runs thus:  After the fall of the MCP (see Tron), Kevin Flynn, enticed by the possibilities of User power on the Grid, sets out to create a perfect utopian system.  To this end he creates CLU (Codified Likeness Utility), in his own image, to carry out his will when he is not around.  All goes well; until a “miracle” happens–something Flynn neither planned nor created.  Flynn chases this new idea, CLU feels rejected, rebels, traps Flynn in the grid, and seeks to build the perfect system as originally  instructed.  Flynn, meanwhile, spends a lot of very humbling time hiding, pondering his mistakes.

Flynn made perfection (as he saw it) his central goal and source of meaning; he tried to play God.  In the process he convinced Clu that if he  worked hard enough and long enough, if he brought order to the whole system, if he lived up to expectations…then he would be perfect and, because of that, pleasing to his creator.  If Clu can just get every detail right, he will be loved.

I know I have been Clu.  I suspect most of us have at one point or another.  But after watching Tron, I think the bigger danger is being Flynn.  It is wrong to put too much pressure on our children–to ask for perfection in everything, even if we don’t really mean it.  It is risky even to teach them that “perfection” is the goal.  I know that sounds momentarily un-Methodist, but “perfection” for Wesley was not doing everything well.  It wasn’t even being a model Christian.  Perfection is to seek God in all things, to live for the Word of the Lord.  Yes, he felt that life would have some markers, but readily acknowledge that would would all fall short, probably often.  In the real world failure isn’t just an option, it’s frequently the outcome.  We learn more that way.

Flynn learns a great deal in his failures:  respect for CLU, love for Sam, the difference between might and power, the dangers of single-mindedness, the value of patience, the importance of sacrifice.  These he passes on to Quorra with great humility.  At the end of the movie, his greatest gift to Sam  is not the Grid or even Quorra, it is wisdom.

Flynn is opened to the wonders and possibilities of a world that is far to big and too strange for him to craft or control.  Sadly, the CLU he formed in his former image cannot get there.  The ideas of perfection and dominance are too far in grained; the pain of Flynn’s perceived rejection permanently mars their relationship. He cannot grow, he cannot marvel, he cannot forgive.  CLU does everything Flynn asked and in the end, it’s not enough because Flynn taught him the wrong question.

Some of what Flynn learns can only be won through age and experience.  But his mistakes with CLU aren’t necessary ones.  We can offer our children more than the unfulfilling pursuit of empty perfection.  We can teach them to do more than just “be good”.  We should set them searching for God; we should teach them to awe and wonder.  And we must walk beside them on their path, even if it’s not the path we would choose for them.  We can teach them to seek wisdom.

Then Job answered the LORD: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. –Job 42:1-3

Reading Revelation with the Surrealists: Part 5- All Things New

The Allegory of Silk (Salvador Dali)

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.  Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.  -Revelation 21:5-7

God is the God of new beginnings. After all the violence, all the turmoil there is new life. Here is the core of Revelation, John’s ultimate message: “Whatever you have to endure, however you are persecuted, terrorized, whatever disasters you encounter, the world is God’s and God will make it new.” In the end there will be no more pain, no tears, no fear; only joy and the worship of God.

All who resisted the beast are welcomed into the presence of God. Over and over God has called us to live lives characterized by baptism and worship. This is why, in this vision of eternity all our existence is worship. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.

Reading Revelation with the Surrealists: Part 4-There will be blood

 And he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the whore is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. 16And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the whore; they will make her desolate and naked; they will devour her flesh and burn her up with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by agreeing to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”  – Revelation 17:15-18

Guernica (Pablo Picasso)

Beginning with the wine press in Chapter 16 going through to the binding of satan in 19, we are met with images of horrific violence. Perhaps more than any others, these passages are difficult for me to honor as scripture. Yet it is important that we wade through them; that we neither turn away, nor give into the temptation to merely skim them. Even though they are bitter we must drink deeply here, or risk missing one of the greatest lessons of Revelation.

When John first sees the woman, the whore Babylon, he is “amazed”. Earlier the same amazement led others to worship effigies of the beast. There is something attractive about this woman. She bears all the markings of wealth and trade, education and culture. She is all that is best in Roman civilization–all the art and accomplishment the security of empire makes possible–and there is something attractive about her.

But she rides upon the beast– upon power and force and corruption and deceit–on all the things that keep an empire going. That beast will inevitably turn on her; it will destroy her. John shows us that, all that is good and attractive in an empire will eventually be stripped and devoured by the violence that sustains it–that is empire at its heart.

Picaso knew this. He painted it. There is a great story about Guernica. When Picasso was living in Nazi occupied Paris, a German officer was inspecting his studio, as they did from time to time. On the table were post cards of what was by then his most famous painting–post cards of Guernica. The officer picked on up and thrust in Picaso’s face. “Did you do this?” he asked. “No,” said Picaso, “you did. Have one. As a souvenir.”

Guernica is Picaso’s remembrance for a Basque town massacred, at the request of Spanish Fascists, by a German air raid. It is not easy to look at, no it is utterly disturbing. But even though it is bitter, we should look on it and take it in deeply. It is Picaso’s echo of John’s warning: This is what violence does. It may sustain an empire for awhile, but all violence eventually destroys.

That is not to say that our only valid option is quitism. I’m sure even Picasso was quite thankful for the tanks that eventually liberated Paris. And One of the most violent figures in Chapter 19 is indeed Christ, but though an army gathers behind Him, only Christ is said to slay. Vengeance is mine saith the Lord. In this life, it is inevitable that there be world powers, we are one now, as Babylon and Rome, and Spain, and Turkey and England were before us. And it is perhaps inevitable that such powers are violent. But we must be careful. Where the empire becomes an object of worship, where violence is as much an end as a mean, where power and corruption run amuck…there is Guernica.