July 30, 2017

Our Father: As we Forgive

Last time we considered how much we need to be forgiven, and how generous God is with forgiveness. This time, we look at the next phrase, which is perhaps even harder to accomplish. We ask to be forgiven “as we forgive those who trespass/sin against us”.

 Jesus is rather stern about the connection between being forgiven and forgiving others. In Matthew 18:21-22 “Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’” It’s not that Jesus is saying we should keep tally of how many times we have forgiven someone, but rather that there should be no end to our forgiveness, just as there is no end to God’s forgiving us.

Jesus then goes on to tell a parable to illustrate the point. “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’ (Matthew 18:23-35)

It is not easy to forgive someone who has harmed you or even who keeps hurting you, and that is why we pray for help in doing just that. Not to excuse the behavior, but in fact for our own soul’s health and wholeness.

Enter the Presence: The daily post from the Society of St. John the Evangelist recently had a message about this line in the prayer. Brother David Vryhof says, “When we pray, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” we are recognizing that a deep connection exists between our willingness and capacity to forgive and God’s forgiveness of us. God is not saying that our ability to be forgiven depends on our own efforts to forgive others. Rather, we are asking that the forgiveness we receive from God may lead us to forgive those who have wronged us.”

Think about someone that you have a hard time forgiving. Maybe it is for something that happened a long time ago. Perhaps it’s an ongoing situation. It could be that the other person is not even aware that they have angered or wronged you in some way. Offer this incident to God.

Stand In Awe: Read the parable again and imagine you are standing before the King of Kings and that all your sins great and small have been erased, like the slave in the parable. (They have you know.) This image of The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant by Pieter Coecke Van Aelst (1502-50) may help you enter the scene.
How does it feel to have a clean slate? Will you do things differently from now on? What difference does this new chance make to your life going forward?

Involve your Heart: Then leave the presence of the King. You meet someone who has sinned against you. What will you do?

Is it hard to remember that you are supposed to forgive when someone treats you poorly?

Praying for someone is the best way to change your opinion of them. Choose 5 people who you find difficult to deal with. (or less if you can’t think of 5-lucky you!) Choose one of the options from Thy Kingdom Come for praying for friends to remind you to pray, then be committed to praying for them this week. 

This week focus on Forgive those who trespass against us.

Next week we’ll ask for guidance and direction.

July 23, 2017

Our Father: Forgive Us...

Did you do any of the suggested exercises last week? Do you look at your daily bread or communion bread any differently? As we have acknowledged in the Lord’s Prayer that God is sovereign, and that God provides for our daily needs. We now look at how God heals our brokenness. “Forgive us our trespasses/debts” we pray.

This is a difficult phrase. We don’t like to admit that we are wrong. It’s much easier to try and shift the blame. ‘It was her,’ ‘He did it,’ we insist as toddlers. Or ‘I don’t know how it happened…’ We’ve all seen the videos of animals who know they have done something wrong slinking away with tail between their legs. We don’t like to feel that shame. We don’t like to ask to be forgiven for failing. It reminds us that we aren’t perfect, and mostly we don’t like that reminder.

On Sunday we may pray a corporate prayer of confession, which keeps our individual sins and failings at a nice safe distance. We’ve all made mistakes, and I’m sure that my neighbors’ must be bigger than mine, so maybe God won’t notice my little sins when God is focusing on everyone else’s. It is easy to fall into the trap of the Pharisee and tax collector in the temple. “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11)

Enter the Presence: There is a current Christian song called Forgiven by David Crowder that starkly changes the dynamic of trying to shift the blame. The words remind us, “I'm the one who held the nail/It was cold between my fingertips/I've hidden in the garden/I've denied You with my very lips… I've done things I wish I hadn't done/I've seen things I wish I hadn't seen.” Crowder’s song reminds us that we are all participants in the crucifixion. We each deny Christ, and are always doing the wrong things.

However, the song doesn’t end with the deserved condemnation. He sings “You look at me, arms open/Forgiven! Forgiven!/Child there is freedom from all of it… You love me even when I don't deserve it”

The words of the Lord’s Prayer are said in faith, knowing that in fact, we are already forgiven. Crowder rejoices “I could've been six feet under/I could've been lost forever/Yeah I should be in that fire/But now there's fire inside of me/Here I am a dead man walking/No grave gonna hold God's people/All the weight of all our evil/Lifted away forever free…You love me even when I don't deserve it/Forgiven! I'm Forgiven!/Jesus Your blood makes me innocent/So I will say goodbye to every sin/I am forgiven!”

I invite you to take time to watch the video and really listen to the words. Or read them through at the end of this post**.

Stand In Awe: As the song says, “Jesus Your blood makes me innocent”. In the Letter to the Hebrews, Paul reminds us, “Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.” Paul takes it a step further and says, “let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:19-25)

Because we are forgiven, we should encourage each other to ‘love and good deeds’. We need to help each other see that we are each forgiven. The song by Crowder reminds me of the picture by Ron DiCianni of Jesus holding a man who has a hammer in his hand. There is also another, less famous one by DiCianni that shows a man with a hammer kneeling at the foot of the cross. 

Involve your Heart: Look at one of the DiCianni pictures. Have you ever felt the weight of sin as deeply as depicted in the art? Or have you felt Christ holding you and offering forgiveness?

If you have a large nail, hold it between your fingers, as in the song. Think about how your sins, though seemingly small, do drive a nail into your relationship with God.

Ask the Holy Spirit to show where you erred, or acted, or didn’t act. Write it all down and then shred it or burn it, thanking God for forgiveness.*

*From Thy Kingdom Come

This week focus on the phrase Forgive Us our Trespasses.

Next week we will consider how we can and must forgive others.

**I'm the one who held the nail
It was cold between my fingertips
I've hidden in the garden
I've denied You with my very lips

God, I fall down to my knees
with a hammer in my hand
You look at me, arms open

Forgiven! Forgiven!
Child there is freedom from all of it
Say goodbye to every sin
You are forgiven!

I've done things I wish I hadn't done
I've seen things I wish I hadn't seen
Just the thought of Your amazing grace
And I cry ”Jesus, forgive me!”

God, I fall down to my knees
with a hammer in my hand
You look at me, arms open

Forgiven! Forgiven!
Child there is freedom from all of it
Say goodbye to every sin
You are forgiven!

I could've been six feet under
I could've been lost forever
Yeah I should be in that fire
But now there's fire inside of me
Here I am a dead man walking
No grave gonna hold God's people
All the weight of all our evil
Lifted away forever free
Who could believe, who could believe?

Forgiven! Forgiven!
You love me even when I don't deserve it
Forgiven! I'm Forgiven!
Jesus Your blood makes me innocent
So I will say goodbye to every sin
I am forgiven!

Forgiven! Forgiven!
Child there is freedom from all of it
Say goodbye to every sin
You are forgiven!

July 16, 2017

Our Father: DailyBread

Have you tried some of the exercises related to each phrase of the Lord’s prayer so far? We are about half way through the prayer. If you would like to share some insights, feel free to comment. In our adventure, we’ve met our Father, who is God in heaven and yet who wants to be in relationship with us to bring about the Kingdom and reign of the Holy will of God. We are an integral part of that process.

This week we turn from looking at God's greatness and glory, to asking God that our physical and spiritual needs be met. “Give us this day, our daily bread” is the first real petition in the Lord’s Prayer. Bread is a basic food in all cultures. The harvesting and grinding of grains was one of the earliest evidences of civilization. In asking for our ‘daily bread’, we acknowledge that we need sustenance.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his followers, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33 and Luke 12:22-31)

We are assured that God does ‘know our needs before we ask’ (Matthew 6:8). In fact, the most important thing is to ‘strive for the kingdom of God’. Isn’t that exactly what the entire Lord’s Prayer is about-aligning our wills with God’s will? I heard a sermon recently which reminded me of this important aspect of faith. Mother Carolyn stated that as Paul says in Romans 6:6-9, ‘our old self was crucified with Christ…so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.’ Because of this, we need to work at fitting our lives into God’s plan. As she pointed out, that includes welcoming and giving ‘a cup of water to these little ones…’ (Matthew 10:42)

Enter the Presence: We are also asking for the ‘Bread of Life’ when we pray. The ‘true bread which came down from heaven’ (John 6:58) in the form of Jesus, is what we seek to make us fully alive and members of the body of Christ. It is not surprising that we compare Jesus to bread because we need daily bread for living, and we need spiritual food as well.

The Bread of Life is found in the bread of the Eucharist and in the bread we eat for nourishment. Have you ever paused to think what it takes to make bread? When I was a little girl, I had a Children’s Book of Prayers (not sure if that’s the real name) that had in it a poem about a child thanking God for his toast. He thanks the farmer who grew the wheat, the miller who ground it, the baker who baked it, the trucker who brought it to the store, and the store keeper. He even thanks the sun that made the grain grow.

How often do you think about where your physical daily bread comes from?

Do you pause on Sunday to think of the spiritual nourishment we receive from the Eucharistic bread?
Stand In Awe: Hold a piece of bread in your hand. Consider, like the little child, the road it traveled from the seed in the ground to your meal. Communion bread has a similar journey whether it is a loaf baked for the service, or wafers. Whether it’s a simple biscuit or tortilla, or a loaf of yeast bread, the process is similar. The wheat is planted, grown, harvested, ground, packaged, purchased, mixed and baked. The grain of wheat is nothing like the final product.

Communion bread has an additional step before feeding you. In the consecration, the priest asks the Holy Spirit to come and transform the physical bread into spiritual food. The wheat seed is nothing like the bread or wafer. Neither are we the same after eating the bread of life. 

The next time you receive communion, remember you are receiving spiritual food to strengthen you for your daily journey.   

Involve your Heart: This week you may want to make some bread from scratch.

Draw a loaf of bread and on it list the many people you need to thank for having bread to eat.

There are many in the world who lack the basic daily bread. Do a fast for a day. Perhaps you will feel moved to make a donation to some organization that feeds the homeless or refugees or those in famine struck areas.

This week focus on daily bread.

Next week we will turn to the difficult task of being forgiven. 

July 9, 2017

Our Father: Thy Will be Done

In our continuing adventure of looking at the Lord’s Prayer phrase by phrase we come to a transition point. We entered the prayer with acknowledging that God is our Father, yet God is also holy and beyond all creation.

Now we ask that the holy will of our Father come to earth, just like in heaven. We say, 'thy will be done on earth as in heaven.' As noted on June 18, heaven (if we think of it as outer space) is incomprehensibly vast and beyond our human knowing. It is even more unknowable when we think of it as the dwelling of God. So how can God’s will be done ‘on earth as in heaven’? When we say, ‘thy will be done on earth, as in heaven,’ aren’t we offering to be part of bringing God’s way to the people of earth? That is not an easy task, nor something we should take lightly.

Enter the Presence: The idea of being a conduit of God’s will on earth is found in the Episcopal Baptismal covenant which asks us to ‘respect the dignity of every human being’, and to ‘work for justice and peace’. You can read the entire prayer.

Christian artist Hillary Scott sings a song titled, Thy Will be Done. She notes that it can be hard to determine what God’s will is in our lives, sometimes. “I thought I heard you,” she sings. But it didn’t work out and now “all I get are these 4 words-thy will be done.”

Can you relate to Scott as you try to work to bring God’s will to earth?

Stand In Awe: Teresa of Avila reminds us “Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.” That is an awe-full idea that we fallible humans are responsible for being Christ to the world. However, it is in everything that we do and say that we are just that. Our daily actions matter to God's will becoming real on earth. 

What do you feel when you think about being Christ’s hands and feet in the world?

Involve your Heart: There are as many ways to help God’s ‘will be done on earth as in heaven’ as there are people on earth. Most of us are already doing something every day to live into that hope, in our interactions with one another. This week take time to do something intentional that you don’t normally do.

Consider a prayer walk around your neighborhood, your work place. As you walk, focus on what you see in the homes or offices you walk past and pray “Thy will be done” over each one. Continue your walk each day this week. *

Write your name in the center of a page. Surround it with people, situations, places, worries that you want God to intervene in. Ask God to help you pray for each of these things. *

On June 29 the Forward Day by Day meditation suggested greeting yourself (and others) with ‘Good morning, Child of God’. It might be a little uncomfortable to do that, esp. on days when you are feeling out of sorts or grumpy. However, that is how God sees us, isn’t it?

How would saying, ‘Good morning, Child of God’ to yourself and everyone change your attitude?

This week focus on letting God’s ‘will be done on earth as in heaven’.

Next week we turn to the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer.
*From Thy Kingdom Come https://www.thykingdomcome.global/

July 2, 2017

Our Father: Thy Kingdom Come

Last week we looked at the “Hallowed be thy Name” phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. Our adventure this summer is delving deeply into each phrase in this very familiar prayer. Today, we move on to “Thy Kingdom come”.

I think it can be difficult to understand the concept of Kingdom in 21st Century America. We are very far removed from the hope of 1st Century Judea where the long-desired King would be like David or Solomon-the Messiah who would deliver the people from the oppression of Rome. Our images of kingdoms are most likely colored by fairy tales with princesses, castles, and dragons. King and Kingdom may conjure up the idea of an absolute ruler, or even a despot. 

How is the Kingdom of God different than these interpretations? I think it has to do with the difference in defining Kingdom in everyday vs. faith language.

As we study the Lord’s Prayer, we are speaking the language of faith, which is often at odds with the everyday language, even when the words are the same. On the June 21 Episcopal CafĂ©, Speaking to the Soul post, the author, Leslie Scoopmire, notes that at Pentecost “these disciples, many of them simple country folk, have just learned to speak other people’s language. I think that’s an important point for us too in the Church today: we are called to speak to people in their own languages first, rather than expect them to immediately understand the language of Christianity.”

Leslie goes on to say, “the disciples’ first new language came as a challenge even earlier, for them as well as us. As soon as those early disciples answered Jesus’s call to follow him, they had to learn the language of Jesus—a strange language, then and now, awash in a grammar of grace rather than a grammar of vengeance. We are still learning Jesus’s language of reconciliation today. It is the language of salvation, but not salvation for selfish ends. Rather, this language calls all disciples, them as well as us, to find the vocabulary for helping to repair the world and our relationships within it, with each other and ultimately, with God. This idea of responsibility of faithful people to repair the world is what our Jewish brothers and sisters call tikkun olam—the repair of the world...[And] that’s exactly what we are called to do as the Church.” 

Enter the Presence: The Kingdom we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer is one that will, according to Leslie Scoopmire, ‘repair the world and our relationships within it, with each other and ultimately, with God’.

Take some time to think about your definition of the word ‘Kingdom’. What alternative word might you use to better express the Kingdom of God to someone who might not necessarily be speaking the ‘language’ of faith or grace?

Stand In Awe: Paul reminds the Corinthians, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (I Corinthians 2:1-5)

It is ultimately the Spirit of God that opens the ears of the hearers to our proclamation. Like the disciples, speaking in the languages of the people in Jerusalem at Pentecost, we are able to speak to our friends and neighbors of the Kingdom in ways that they will understand when we put God first.

One way to start the transformation of ourselves and of the world is prayer. In the days leading up to Pentecost, the Archbishop of Canterbury invited people around the world to intentional prayer for Thy Kingdom Come. The website says, “Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement that invites Christians around the world to pray for more people to come to know Jesus. What started in 2016 as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Church of England has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer.” 
Involve your Heart: Leslie Scoopmire says, “We are called to speak to the soul of each precious person we encounter, and hear the echoed whisper of that goodness and love vibrating from them—especially when it’s hard for us to do so, when we allow our differences, our fears, or our suspicions to divide us rather than strengthen us. Words do matter when we are speaking to the soul, and the word is God and the Word is with God and with all of us.”

Use the ‘Pray for 5 Friends’ resource from “Thy Kingdom Come” to pray for 5 people who you may find different or difficult.   
Ask God to be King over the whole world by taking a map and physically placing a sticky note with local and world-wide prayer concerns on the map, or simply pray around the world with intention for places in the news.*

Continue your ZenTangle or Praying in Color activity that you may have started.

This week focus on Thy Kingdom Come.

Next week we will consider “They will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”