The River of God has burst its banks
and is One with the wide-open sea.
Flowing from the sanctuary of Heaven,
into the salty sea.
All will become fresh as the morning
that rises on Galilee.
The River of God has burst its banks
and is One with the wide-open sea.
We need the peace of greening leaves
that grow for the healing of Nations,
We need the green and healing leaves
to release some divine revelations.
We need to dream with the dreams of a child
and dream without fear of delay.
We need to dream like we’re newly born
and learn once again how to play.
Not ankle or knee-deep or waist-deep,
the River runs wider and broader,
We enter with no hesitation
and give over to the flow of the water.
Not holding back from the invitation,
not rooted to the sand on the shore,
We let go of our stale disappointment
and take hands with the Lord of it all.
We remove all the things we depend on
to keep all our old stuff together.
Our stuff is now flotsam and jetsam
and it’s You we hold onto forever.
I wrote this poem on the 23 May 2020, but I want to first take you back in time a few months to 21 January 2020. We were at church and during the time of corporate worship, I had a vision of people from the valley of Ezekiel 37 dry bones, who were now resurrected back to life. People who knew what it was to feel like things in them had died were now experiencing fullness of resurrection even in areas they thought would never again see the light of day. I felt that these people would know what it is to really experience resurrection in their lives and circumstances.
Fast forward ten chapters to Ezekiel 47, and I saw this vast people at the shore of the waters. It was time for them to go so deep that they were not able to depend on their own ability anymore. It was no longer about ankle deep, knee deep or waist deep. It was about entering the fullness of surrender. And as everyone’s feet lifted off the ground, I saw all of these people carried on the currents.
On the opposite side were the trees with leaves for healing of the nations. And I saw the leaves being picked and placed in the waters which became a huge arterial river system and spread out over the whole world, a living river.
The people were drifting into the river systems and being carried by the Spirit to the places they were meant to go, both spiritually through intercession and physically as a move to other places. I saw them building with living stones and the stones were gold and alive. I couldn’t recognise what they were building, but I realised that they were building the Kingdom and it will be unconventional and unrecognisable, and yet it’s Kingdom nonetheless. It was not constrained within the four walls of a building, but living and active in the hearts of people and communities. This included people who were burned out by religion and also people who would never step through the door of a church. This Kingdom is being built for all people and it will be accessible.
The leaves are bringing the healing of resurrection to people and situations. The stories and testimonies of the ways in which God has resurrected them will bring healing and transformation.
I felt led to Ephesians, the power that raised Christ from the dead, alive and at work in each one of us. And I saw the empty cross filled with anointing oil being poured out onto the rivers spread out to all the nations to heal the cracks and dry emptiness of the world with resurrection healing. And the power of the empty cross, where Jesus is resurrected and alive, healing and forgiving the nations, renewing the face of the earth.
We are seeing a global shift the scale of which we’ve not lived through before. And yet, the God of resurrection is alive and well and has the bigger picture in mind that we are not be able to see just yet. But we are called into resurrection and a fresh baptism of the fires of Pentecost. We are breathed on with God’s breath which brings creation life back into us. Let us enter resurrection with everything that feels dead in us and see ourselves re-birthed this Pentecost. May we experience the baptism of fire and Spirit and awaken to a new sense of purpose in this awakening world.
“In my vision, the man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple. There I saw a stream flowing east from beneath the door of the Temple and passing to the right of the altar on its south side.
The man brought me outside the wall through the north gateway and led me around to the eastern entrance. There I could see the water flowing out through the south side of the east gateway.
Measuring as he went, he took me along the stream for 1,750 feet and then led me across. The water was up to my ankles. He measured off another 1,750 feet and led me across again. This time the water was up to my knees. After another 1,750 feet, it was up to my waist.
Then he measured another 1,750 feet, and the river was too deep to walk across. It was deep enough to swim in, but too deep to walk through. He asked me, “Have you been watching, son of man?”
Then he led me back along the riverbank. When I returned, I was surprised by the sight of many trees growing on both sides of the river. Then he said to me, “This river flows east through the desert into the valley of the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will make the salty waters of the Dead Sea fresh and pure.
There will be swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will become fresh. Life will flourish wherever this water flows. Fishermen will stand along the shores of the Dead Sea.
All the way from En-gedi to En-eglaim, the shores will be covered with nets drying in the sun. Fish of every kind will fill the Dead Sea, just as they fill the Mediterranean. But the marshes and swamps will not be purified; they will still be salty. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.”
Ezekiel 47:1-12 NLT
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT
“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 2:6 NLT
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 22:1-2 ESV
by Christine Sine
It’s time to get back to church… or is it? I know that many church leaders are struggling with when and how to begin gatherings again. Some want to do it in one fell swoop, others want to be cautious and go slow. And congregants are reacting in the same ways.
As I thought about that this week in the midst of launching The Spirituality of Gardening online course it occurred to me: Maybe rather than getting people back into church, we need to get them out into the garden instead. Here is why I think that.
The garden provides the ultimate worship experience.
It stirs all the senses and touches us in that deep part of our souls where beauty, fragrance, abundance, and delight all reside. And, of course, it can provide this wonderful worship experience in an environment where we can socially distance safely (outside has less risk of spreading the virus than inside does) and yet enjoy good fellowship. I know this is true because we still do community garden days at the Mustard Seed House with good safe distancing but much pleasure in each other.
The garden provide the most wonderful discipleship opportunities.
I am constantly learning from the garden as has probably been obvious to you over the last few weeks as I shared about The Gift of Strawberries and What We Can Learn From Tomatoes About Reopening Our Churches. Jesus frequently used garden metaphors in his preaching. The parable of the sower is a good example. And we don’t fully understand so much of what is said in the Bible when we lack garden connections. Like that seemingly throw away line in John 20:15 where it says of Mary “and she thought he was the gardener“. Even the compost bin has much to teach us about the ways of God.
A place where diversity is paramount
Monoculture gardens demand more fertilizer, more pesticide and more work. Diversity is a necessity if we want a healthy organic garden. I think our churches could learn a lot from that. What if we saw diversity of age, ethnicity and social strata as a necessity for a healthy church? Can you imagine how it would change our churches and our attitudes towards people? And yet God works though diversity and I think the church needs to as well.
A place where all are equal.
I love to get out in the garden with a group of people of all ages, social backgrounds and ethnic groups. This is the place where we easily fall into a camaraderie of true equality. Those at the margins are often the ones with the most knowledge. Kids love to tell their elderly friends what they have learned and all of us are in our oldest clothes so you have no idea who is poor and who is wealthy. The racism that continues to boil over here in the U.S. horrifies me and the fact that Sunday mornings have in the past been described as the most segregated time in the week is an appalling thought. We need the solidarity of community as described in Galatians 3:28, what Dorothy Butler Bass described in a recent article as “Paul’s rallying cry to overcome divisions of race, class, and gender.”
A place where we meet the true master gardener.
We so easily forget that God was the first gardener, the true master gardener who created us to be co-gardeners in Eden. Can you imagine the delight of walking in the cool of the evening with God like Adam and Eve did? Imagine the Eternal one delighting in the beautiful plants in the garden, suggesting how to prune and fertilize for best productivity, enjoying the luxuriant growth we were called to tend and look after. Here we experience the delight of reconnecting to our true vocation – something that I think that church is meant to help us do.
A place where we find sustenance for body and soul.
When I come in from the garden, or even from one of my awe and wonder walks around the neighbourhood, I feel that I glow with delight (and Tom thinks the same thing.) In The Spirituality of Gardening course, I talk about some of the benefits of gardening and the substances that help produce those ecstatic moments for us – it is fascinating. We are created to interact with gardens. Now that doesn’t mean that we all need to grow vegetables, or even plant flowers, but it does mean that we all need to get out into nature and interact with God’s wonderful creation.
So as you get ready to go back to church, consider this – how could you make space for outdoor gatherings amidst God’s creation? How would that enhance your worship and your experience of God and of each other? There are actually whole church movements that revolve around outdoor meetings – groups like Forest Church and Wild Church that I think could teach us a lot about alternative ways to gather that could keep us safe and healthy and draw us together in new and inspiring ways. What do you think?
These are significant times, and time for reflection on what we are doing with our lives or where we are going… measured somehow in sourdough starters and workout counters. I have felt resistance to that and a lack of capacity to do or be more than I am. This poem speaks to that resistance, to do and be no more than I am, but while we are still – God moves yet and Pentecost happens anyway.
I don’t want You to send the fire,
we’re burned out
The people can’t be gathered and they shouldn’t be sent,
we’re staying home
in every single country, around the world, the same message in it’s own tongue
and we all understand, and we all share the same spirit
Restez chez vouz, noho rāhui, andrà tuto bene
Love one another and stay home
I know that many of you appreciate these Taize style services. I want to apologize to those of you who are not familiar with Taize, however, for not explaining what this term refers to. These contemplative liturgies are based on the worship of those written by the ecumenical monastic fraternity in Taizé, France. The St. Andrew’s includes singing of Taizé chant-like songs, silence, and communion. This kind of meditative liturgy helps us to breathe deeply and relax. To learn more about the Taizé service and the Taizé community, please visit their rich and informative website.
A contemplative prayer service with music in the style of Taize from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church., Seattle, for Pentecost Sunday. Carrie Grace Littauer, prayer leader, with music by Kester Limner and Andy Myers. Permission to web stream or podcast music in this service is granted under One License number A-710-756. “Kyrie for the Pandemic,” is an original composition by Kester Limner and Andy Myers and is shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY).
by Rowan Wyatt
When I was young my love of the study of history was encouraged by the man who raised me, my grandfather Robert, himself an amateur historian and archaeologist. But my sphere of interest was steeped in Anglo-Saxon Britain, Ancient Egypt, and the Bible lands.
As I grew older, I developed a taste for the Medieval period and at a converging point a band I was into then (still am), Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, released two songs which I instantly fell in love with and both were about the same person. The two tracks were named ‘Maid of Orleans’ and ‘Joan of Arc’. Knowing nothing about the history of her I decided in my youthful exuberant naivety to embark on a research project, unaware of the how the findings would shape me by inspiring such feelings of sympathy, anger, compassion, and rage.
In this short article I want to look at two key points in the tragedy of Jeanne d’Arc, these being Visions and Trial. There is not enough space to go into enough detail, so I urge you dear reader to further study.
At that time in 15th Century France there were prophecies abounding about the nation being saved by “A virgin from the borders of Lorraine who would work miracles”. There are other prophecies pertaining to women but this I feel is the key one that may have inspired Jeanne as a young girl. The visions Jeanne had consisted of her being visited by St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret where they instructed her to “Drive the English out of France and present the Dauphin at Reims for consecration”.
A struggle I have always had with ‘visions’ are that they can neither be proved or disproved, one can only accept the word of another that a vision is genuine or not. Certainly, at the time, Jeanne’s vision was accepted eventually by the French nation, after careful investigation into her background and testing her to check for heresy or ‘sorcery’, much like one would carry out a background check today.
In our time many, Christians, and Historians alike, dismiss Jeanne’s visions as delusion, deliberate lie or even Schizophrenia, though that last one is surely from those seeking to discredit her story as nastily as they can.
Again, it is impossible to know the validity of her visions and I have always struggled with any vision that has a call to war aspect to it, but then these abound in the Old Testament and we readily accept them. I for one feel, after much contemplation over the years, her visions to be real, the situations and development just would not have occurred had she just been a lying teenaged girl or suffering from a mental illness. Somewhere along the line she would have been found out and of course God does use the most unlikely of souls to do his will. In 15th Century Europe a teenage girl was by no means the most likely of souls to lead an army into battle, and there is no doubt the court of the Dauphin believed her.
I said in my opening that the story of Jeanne inspires anger and compassion in me, well it this part of her story that engenders those feelings.
On 23rd May 1430 Jeanne was eventually captured after an ambush at the battle of Compiègne. She was imprisoned at Beaurevoir castle but made several daring escape attempts, all of which failed until eventually following the guidance and negotiations of Bishop Pierre Cauchon (more of him later) she was sold to the British for the sum of 10,000 livres. She was transferred to Rouen where several attempts were made to free her and leading the French to threaten bloody reprisals if she was not released.
But sadly, all was in-vain and a show trial was convened, a Kangaroo court if you will.
The trial was to be led by none other than Bishop Cauchon playing his own political power game after already pleasing the British with his negotiation of Jeanne in the first place. He was not eligible to lead the trial; he was never officially appointed. The trial was nothing more than the premeditated murder of a young girl orchestrated by a bishop, putting power and glory before faith and the word of God. She was illegally refused French representation after multiple requests and so was left at the mercy of a court that was clearly partisan against her and with one outcome in mind.
Unable to convict her of Heresy she was however found guilty of the crime of cross-dressing. Many witnesses were able to attest having seen her in male attire and armour. Indeed, during her trial, she wore men’s clothing, the only thing available to her after having her dress stolen by guards whilst in custody. And so, having achieved their ends the young woman was executed in one of the more vicious methods employed at the time, burned at the stake. Afterwards the executioner expressed his feared damnation for his part in “burning a holy woman”.
Later in 1452 her trial was declared null and void and Jeanne declared a Martyr, Bishop Cauchon was ironically declared a heretic.
In 1909 Jeanne was finally beatified and canonised in 1920.
As a youth I was inspired by this tale of another youngster the same age as me leading armies, later I was inspired by her faith and courage and left saddened and horrified by her treatment and death. My ideas of Christian faith rocked by the machinations of a corrupt hierarchy in the church that was instrumental in Jèanne’s murder.
It became clear to me that whilst genuine faith and courage can be inspiring, faith can also be used and twisted into a weapon. Ploughshares have been shaped into swords far too often in the history of Christianity. Such things led me to be wary of believers, and if we can take one lesson away from Jeanne d’Arc’s sad tale, it is that the church’s own inhumanity (even to its own) is the witness that testifies most powerfully against the loving Gospel it is supposed to be spreading.
Photo by Rowan Wyatt, used with permission.
~Catherine Lawton (poem excerpted from Remembering Softly: A Life in Poems)
I don’t know about you, but in this season of Covid-19, I’ve found myself too often “staring at the sky” wondering where Jesus is, rather than living out the kingdom. Wondering why we cannot love one another? Often feeling defeated by the continued division of red verses blue, and brokenhearted by
the violence of racism by both police and this wicked virus.
I’m in need of the Comforter this Pentecost!
I’m in need of the One who is sent to come along side us and help us!
I’m in need of the Holy Spirit to remind me that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us and he promised to be with us in the hard stuff!
I’m in need of the Holy Spirit to be my teacher, reminding me of the things Jesus said about loving my enemies and praying for those who persecute.
I sure need the wind of the Holy Spirit to blow over me and through me and refresh me with the peace of Jesus in the midst of these stressful and uncertain times.
I’m in need of the gift of peace, realizing that I cannot fix others, I can only change myself and seek to be a peacemaker and a bringer of God’s light and love wherever i go.
On Sunday, we get to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit! We remember the day that those faithful men and women, and probably children too, received the promised Gift of the Spirit! It’s the day we celebrate the birthday of the Church with the arrival of 3000 joining in the community of the Followers of Jesus! This band of 150 who’d waited and prayed together over the past ten days were set on fire with a passion for Jesus and the world has never been the same! It was just the start of taking the light and love of Jesus to all the world!
What do you notice that you haven’t noticed before?
What is God speaking to you about TODAY as you read this passage? Take time to read it again, use different translations to hear it in fresh ways.
What questions do you have? What questions come up as you read the passage. Talk to Jesus about them.
What aspect of the Holy Spirit are you interested in learning more about during this new season? The Power Gift Giving Holy Spirit? The Comforter who comes along side us? The Teacher, who reminds us of all Jesus did and said? Talk to God about this and ask the Holy Spirit to show you!
Who are people in your life who need to hear about Jesus in their own language? Think about your various groups of friends and the coworkers you have, or the clubs and organizations you belong to…pray for ways to share the love of Jesus with these people. Text someone, call someone, or send a card or a real note to encourage them since you probably haven’t seen them in real life for a long while.
Spend some time in the Book of Acts during the coming weeks. What do you notice? What surprises you? What is the Holy Spirit inviting you to do more of, or do less of in response?
CELEBRATE AT HOME!
Watch for signs of the Holy Spirit in your Life! Where do you feel God’s presence closely? Put out some matches or a lighter as a symbol of the Holy Spirit or Light a Candle each day as you work to remind you that the Holy Spirit is here!
Wrap yourself in a Blanket! As a Symbol of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter! Allow the Holy Spirit to comfort you in love and peace in the middle of this crazy time of Covid.
Get Outside and Stand in the Wind! Allow the Holy Spirit to blow over your body. Feel God’s Presence in the wind!
Be Honest with God …like the Disciples, you may still have doubts about what’s next, or doubts, fears or baggage around the Holy Spirit. Spend some time talking to Jesus about where you are. Take time to journal about what you know or what you don’t know about the Holy Spirit and write about your fears or frustrations. Give these to Jesus and allow Him to carry these for you.
Celebrate the Birthday of the Church! Throw a party. Make a cake or cupcakes! Make hats, cards and sing happy birthday! You might even throw a zoom party or a social distancing picnic if it’s allowed. You can share cupcakes with your neighbors!
What gift would you like to give the Church at large this year? What gift would you like to give your own church community? Write it down. Share it with a friend in your community and pray about this together.
Take time to pray for the Church in the World and your own Church Community! Get out a map and use it to pray with this week. Pray for churches to stand up to racism and division and bring love and compassion to hurting neighbors.
Wear the color RED on Sunday! It’s the liturgical color for the Feast of Pentecost.
Watch for RED things along your way. Have a scavenger hunt and look for all the RED things in your house or neighborhood! Allow the RED things you see to be reminders that the Holy Spirit is everywhere!
That’s a lot of things to try! The beautiful thing about Pentecost is that it isn’t just one day. In the church calendar, we get a season of Pentecost! We get time to live out and live into the experience and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. We get time to watch for and expect and experience more of the gifts the Holy Spirit brings!
May this Season of Pentecost bring you renewed Hope and great Peace in the middle of it all.
©lillylewin and freerangeworship.com