by Carol Dixon
‘Jesus is Lord’ was one of the earliest creeds of the church. Yet this simple affirmation was a very radical & dangerous statement at the time. To the Jews it was blasphemy which cost Stephen, the first Christian martyr his life- God alone was Lord. In the Roman world it was treason, as Lord was a term reserved for the Emperor, who was not only obeyed and revered but was seen as a living God on earth. And for those living in servitude, lord with a small ‘l’ was the person to whom they owed their livelihood at best, and at worst was the master of life and death.
Some people nowadays seem to have trouble calling Jesus and God ‘Lord’ – they don’t like the idea of anyone ‘lording’ over them. I don’t have much of a problem with it myself as I think of it differently.
Having been brought up in Alnwick in the UK, the seat of the Dukes & Earls of Northumberland for six centuries, it was relatively easy to see that lordship worked as a two way contract – a kind of covenant between landowner and those who served him. In medieval times this included helping to protect the area from marauding Scots or English armies rampaging through the county and, although the men of the town had to be ready at short notice to go to battle, they were confident that their lord was in the thick of it fighting alongside them (in some cases he died with them). In the 19th & early 20th century, many of my ancestors were in the Duke’s service and although he expected them to work hard, he made sure that they were provided for. Even though they didn’t actually see him face to face very often, he knew their names and what they did for him. Not all lords took their responsibilities as seriously.
When Jesus came to live among humanity he took it a step further – living as one of us, dying instead of us – to show how far our Lord God was prepared to go for his people. When we realise how great the love of God is for each one of us, how much our Lord cares for every human being and how much God wants us to love and care for one another (& how far we often fall short of this!) then we begin in a small way to understand the need to pray ‘ Lord have mercy’ for ourselves and for our world, secure in the knowledge that, unlike some landlords, our Lord will hear us and listen to our cries for help. But there is a caveat – unlike the Unforgiving Servant in Jesus’ story in Matthew 18, we must be willing to listen to our neighbours’ cries and look after their welfare, not because God won’t listen to our pleas otherwise but because it is how God expects us to live in the service of his Kingdom, following in the footsteps of Jesus, our Saviour & Lord.
Two of the hymns I enjoy singing are ‘Jesus is Lord’ (above) which helps me to revel in the glories of God’s creation and Fred Kaan’s ‘Help us accept each other’ (below) as this challenges me to see God’s glory in the face of people in need and each in their own way encourage me to respond to the Lordship of Christ in the world.
For the month of July, the Gift of Wonder Online Retreat will be on sale for $29.99! In the last week, we have had people say that it has helped them to reimagine prayer, rethink spirituality and even rethink what joy is about. We have also had people use it for healing and as a resource for fun summer practices. Because of this, we have decided to make this available at a discount price for July!
Next Zoom call is Wednesday, July 29th. We will send you the details to join the call after you have signed up and paid for the course. Great way to connect with one another as well as chat with Christine about the material discussed in the retreat.
We have added these new resources to our store for kiddos to enjoy during these Summer/Winter months.
Colourful Me: Open Ended Art Exercises to Bring Out Your Creativity is a lovely free download put together by Kim Balke, an Expressive Arts Therapist, who delights in inviting kids to share their creativity and self-expression through colouring exercises. She provides resources for parents, caretakers, and classroom support as well.
A booklet-style prayer book specifically for kids to enjoy talking to God in new and creative ways. The practices found in Prayers of a Different Sort: A Children’s Prayer Book involve praying with our eyes, fingers, imaginations and feet.
by Christine Sine
Like many of us, I have been thinking a lot over the last couple of weeks about the things that I will miss out on this summer because of the restrictions that COVID 19 has placed on our lives. One usual delight for me is the opportunity to go to Mayne Island in the Canadian Gulf Islands with good friends for a few days of relaxation and fun. The house we rent is right on the beach and we spend many hours walking the beach, collecting shells, rocks, sea glass and other interesting objects.
Beach combing is one of my favorite summer activities I love walking along, preferably barefoot, with my head down breathing in the salt air and listening to the waves lapping on the shore. The world seems to fade away and I walk in a quiet oasis with the rhythm of God’s heartbeat and the fragrant salty tang of God’s breath soothing my spirit.
A Beach Combing Meditation Garden
Since that won’t be possible this year, I decided to create a new summer meditation garden around the theme of beach combing. I have pulled out some of my favorite collected treasures and spent longer than I should have reminiscing as I arranged them in my bowl.
Margaret Silf’s book Landscapes of Prayer has been my companion in this process.
She explains that:
When I walk the seashore, I meet in that one sacred space, both the immanent and the transcendent God. The ocean stretches out as far as my eye can see, and way beyond, just as the sense of the divine lies far beyond any human understanding. And yet that same ocean laps at my feet and deposits all kinds of very ordinary objects on the shore for me to discover as I do my beach combing – objects that may have stories to tell me about who I am and who God is for me, and how our realities embrace in this ordinary-extraordinary space where the water meets the land. (Landscapes of Prayer: Finding God in Your World and Your Life – Margaret Silf (24,25)
This quote is followed by the story of Jesus making breakfast on the beach for his friends and in her narrative, Margaret likens this to a beach BBQ where the aroma wafts across the shore to the disciples inviting them to breakfast and a new beginning. For months afterwards I could not smell BBQ without imagining that scene and seeing Jesus beckoning me to join him for a fish breakfast.
She suggests that beach combing is a wonderful way to pray and adapts the Prayer of Examen to fit into this context but last year, I created my own discernment process from her questions. This year, as I process the trauma of COVID, and the anguish of Black Lives Matter, I find myself adapting that process yet again for the current situation. So I hope you will enjoy the reflective process below that has come out of this.
Beach Combing Meditation
Pick up a seashell, piece of driftwood, or other favorite found treasure. Settle into a comfortable space, close your eyes and imagine yourself walking across the beach towards Jesus as he beckons you to enjoy the BBQ he has prepared for you and for his other disciples. Sit and savour that experience of holy companionship for a couple of minutes.
What treasures have you discovered in the ordinary landscape of the last few months that caught your attention with delight and joy, bringing you new life as they connected you to God, to yourself and to others? My awe and wonder walks with my husband each morning is one of my greatest treasures of these weeks of isolation. These are the treasures that have transformed what could have been a very painful and traumatic time into extraordinary time, shaping both my faith and life in unexpected and precious ways.
Who or what has nourished and enriched your life helping you to find new depths of faith and healing the hurts and broken places that have come to the surface during this time? My husband Tom’s supportiveness and encouragement is the most sustaining and wonderful gift that has built my confidence as I continue to stretch myself beyond my comfort zones. I am rich in other nourishing influences too. My garden, both its beauty and its productivity nourish my spirit and my soul relaxing and growing not just me but all who enter it. The small intentional community in which we live provides companionship, laughter and fun as we all share our isolated lives together.
What waves lap at the boundaries of your life, either gently, bringing rest and calm from stress, or crashing like storm waves with tumult and destruction to your well ordered plans? Lots of crashing storm waves at the moment, but also gentle, soothing ones.
This stressful season has made me realize how important my contemplative practices and my breathing prayers are. These are the gentle waves that calm my soul and nourish my spirit helping me to relax in the midst of my anxiety.
The waves that crash like storm waves are the stories of those much more deeply impacted than I am by this virus and by the racial inequality it has highlighted – hospital workers, migrant farmers, the entire African American community here in the U.S. and other vulnerable members of our communities. I realize as I think about this that it is these storm waves, not the gentle ones that both uncover and deposit new treasures – maybe new understanding, deeper compassion and generosity’ stronger cries for justice welling up from within.
As you look back over your beach today, have you left a trail of footprints that need to be washed away by the loving presence of God – things you wish you had handled differently that have left you with regrets, guilt, anxiety? I always feel that I should be doing more than I am – speaking out more strongly for justice or being more generous and compassionate. This can paralyze me and immobile me. I sit this morning watching as the cleansing flow of the rising tide washes away these regrets and feelings of guilt and I feel refreshed and made new again.
As you bring your prayer to a close, gather up your treasures. How will you display them for future remembrances or where will you store them? As I look at my collection I wonder what new creative practices they could stir within me. Last year I collected several different colored rocks on my beach combing journey. I shaped them first into a question mark and then into a circle reminding myself that questions help bring wholeness and completeness. This year I used shells from my last trip to Australia. Those symbols, combined with the use of my new beach comber’s garden will continue to lead me on a journey towards wholeness.
Now as I look to the future I wonder what does God want me to learn from my beach combing experience that will help shape the months to come? As I think about this, the image of Jesus on the beach comes to me again and I imagine that he is once more beckoning me to come and join him and all his disciples in a feast, a feast that is spread out for all the peoples of the world. This is a feast that I long to sit at and partake of, but know that to fully appreciate it I must continue to work for justice and freedom for those who are currently excluded from the feast.
Discernment comes in many shapes and forms I realize. In the meditative process of beach combing, I learn the need to relax and allow the waves to shape who I am becoming, and what our world is becoming. Not easy but essential at this time.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been posting 2 services for people to use on Sunday or over the week. The contemplative Taize style service is from my home church St Andrews Episcopal in Seattle and the Lament is from a group based in Chicago called The Many This service was live streamed on Wednesday evening but it is just as relevant today.
Contemplative service with music in the style of Taize from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Seattle.
Carrie Grace Littauer, prayer leader, and 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.
“In God Alone” by J. Berthier — copyright 1991, all rights reserved by GIA/Les Presses de Taizé
“Kyrie” text by Kester Limner, music by Kester Limner and Andy Myers, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY)
“The Law of God is Love – Simple Arrangement” is by Kester Limner, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY) www.saintandrewsseattle.org
Learn more about The Many: Website – https://www.themanyarehere.com Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/themanyarehere Facebook/Instagram/Twitter – @themanyarehere Church Resources website – https://www.pluralguild.com Get music by The Many: Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2ZpUGMG iTunes/Apple Music: https://apple.co/3cR0AKC Website: https://pluralguild.com/music or https://themanyarehere.com/music
by Christine Sine
I wrote this post a couple of years ago but still holds true for me as I reflect on the meaning of freedom, interdependence and independence in the US. The Black Lives Matter movement has made me very aware that freedom on paper does not mean freedom from prejudice, distrust and abuse.
So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. Galatians 5:1, 13-15 NLT
What does it mean to be free? Today is Independence Day in the U.S. when Americans celebrate their “freedom”. To be honest, it is a celebration I struggle with because I don’t believe God calls us to be independent but rather interdependent. I also realize that our cultural perspectives shape our views of freedom.
To Americans, the concept of freedom focuses on the freedom of individual choice, which can be as trivial as the right to choose whether I want my eggs sunny side up or over easy, or as serious as the right to bear arms. What I struggle with is that there seems to be little recognition of the often dire consequences our individual choices can have for the society or for the world in which we live.
To Australians, freedom revolves around the freedom of society and the recognition that our decisions all have consequences, not just for us as individuals, but for all of our society and our world. Consequently, most Australians are willing to give up the right to bear arms for the good of a safe society in which we don’t have to worry about mass gun violence and killings. In the Australian political system, voting is compulsory because of the belief that with the freedom of citizenship comes the responsibility of participation in the process that provides our freedom.
Unfortunately, neither country does very well when it comes to granting freedom to all. We like to be exclusive – no freedom to immigrants, to those of other sexual orientation, those with disabilities, those of other races or religions. And of course we were all slow to grant freedom to our indigenous brothers and sisters and as the Black Lives Matter movement shows there are many who still don’t feel free in spite of the abolition of slavery. Whether we think of freedom as individual or societal, we all like to limit who we give freedom to.
All of this leads me to my most important question about freedom, “What does freedom look like in the kingdom of God?”. Obviously there is an element of individual freedom – all of us need to take on the individual responsibility to kneel at the foot of the Cross, repent and reach out for the salvation of Christ. However, our entry into the family of God faces us with serious consequences for how we act in society.
Our freedom as Christians means that we no longer focus on our own needs but rather “consider the needs of others as more important than our own” (Philippians 2). It means that we live by the law of love – what James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8). In the quote above, Paul sums this up very well, “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself.”
What is Your Response?
What comes to mind when you think about freedom? Take out your journal and piece of paper and divide it into 2 columns. On one side write the words that come to mind when you think of freedom. In the other column, write down the negative consequences of your personal freedoms for others, for the earth and even for your life. Listen to the video below and reflect on the true meaning of freedom.
Sit quietly for a few minutes reflecting on your lists and the video you have listened to. Allow God to speak to you. Are there changes you need to make to your original lists based on your reflections? Are there places in which God calls you to repent of your “independence”? Are there ways in which God may ask you to give up your personal freedoms for the common good?
By Lilly Lewin
Tomorrow is the 4th of July in the United States… the day we celebrate the declaration of Independence from Britain.
The day we celebrate becoming a country… 13 colonies so diverse it almost didn’t happen.
The day we tend to eat hot dogs and potato salad and watch fireworks with family and friends.
For several years, I’ve had mixed emotions about the 4th of July. And this year, I definitely don’t feel much like celebrating.
I believe our country needs much help.
The COVID-19 cases are growing.
The hatred and bigotry is more pronounced.
Sadly, conflict abounds over simple things that should bring us all together.
If i am honest, I am grieving for our country.
And praying for eyes to see and ears to hear and for hearts to be open to love as Jesus loves.
My heart is to see people filled with compassion not greed!
My hope is that justice can truly roll down like mighty waters… and we can all become makers of peace!
When I see flags this weekend, I am using them as reminders to pray for America and all its broken parts!
When I hear firecrackers going off, I’m praying against all the injustice that is exploding around us and praying for healing for things we don’t even see that cause so much pain… poverty, illness, suffering, abuse. etc.
How can you pray for our country this week? And if you live outside of America, please pray for your own community and country, but please pray for us too.
Our country and the world is going through much trauma right now.
What things are your grieving? What are you mourning ?
What things do you wish would change?
What things are you carrying that you need to give to JESUS to carry for you?
What things are you grateful for today?
Take time to Pray for leaders in our country.
Pray also for your own city and state officials. They are trying to figure all of this out.
TALK TO JESUS about all of these things.
“TO WHOM DO I PLEDGE MY ALLEGIANCE?” (below) is an article by my friend Jon Huckins. He is the co-director of the Global Immersion Project, an organization that works at peacemaking both in the states and abroad, and asks the question:
What would the world look like if the Church took seriously our call to be peacemakers?
“TO WHOM DO I PLEDGE MY ALLEGIANCE?
It goes without saying that we are living through precarious and historic times.
2020 began with a global pandemic that has now taken so much sacred life and disrupted the health and livelihood of so many others. Even as we’ve experienced unifying moments of solidarity, there is a growing chorus of partisan talking points that are being used to politicize what should be a shared struggle.
Everyday Peacemakers are stepping into these hard conversations with generosity and understanding.
Then, we had another tragic series of black people being murdered at the hands of law enforcement. The cries of 400 years of grief, exploitation and trauma have entered the streets and public square in ways reminiscent of the Civil Rights era. Simultaneously, some white leaders and pastors are digging in their heals to maintain systems of White Supremacy while others are following the Spirit on the courageous and long-overdue journey toward healing and collective restoration.
Everyday Peacemakers are stepping onto the streets and into pulpits to disrupt the pseudo “peace” for the sake of God’s liberating and restorative peace.
And now, we are on the eve of “Independence Day” while so many of our sisters, brothers, neighbors and fellow United States citizens are on the streets praying, pleading and lamenting the fact that many of us are still not free. Their cries echo the lamentations of the People of God in our Hebrew Scriptures pleading for God’s deliverance from the systems of occupation and oppression. These cries parallel the urgent lament of Frederick Douglass when speaking to white folks about “Independence Day” in 1852:
What does it look like for Everyday Peacemakers to celebrate the 4th of July when, as followers of Jesus, our primary allegiance is to the kingdom of God? This question forces us to ask a second important discipleship question: “To which kingdom do I pledge my allegiance?”
As the cries of those on the underside of power grow louder (or we just begin to hear the cries that have been there all along), Everyday Peacemakers are to be on the front lines of systemic restoration engaging the political institutions of the nation-state. Peace isn’t only about relational restoration, it’s also about societal restoration. The good news of the kingdom of God announced BOTH personal and social restoration. Moments like these expose deeply embedded systemic brokenness and the need for its dismantling to resurrect something new.
The answer to the above question is clear: our allegiance is pledged only to the kingdom of God and the Jesus who embodies it. But, that is not an excuse for apathetic withdrawal from engaging the systems and structures as Everyday Peacemakers. Although citizens of the kingdom, we must also leverage our influence as United States citizens on behalf of those on the underside of power and, as part of a democracy, we (thankfully!) have that option.
In doing so, this Fourth of July, we must embrace a Conflicted Allegiance. A conflicted allegiance liberates us to unapologetically give our lives to the values of the kingdom of God, while continually discerning our constructive engagement, support and participation in the United States. A conflicted allegiance reminds us that the Church is meant to be the soul, not the surrogate of the State.
It means we stand with and care for the people fleeing violence on our border AND we leverage our influence in the United States to help fix the broken systems that’s keeping them from finding refuge.
It means we look our neighbors on the streets in the eye to honor their humanity AND we stand in city council meetings advocating for systems to support their healing.
It means we stand in solidarity with our Black and Indigenous friends AND we vote for policy that upends institutionalized racism.
This stuff isn’t easy, but it’s the necessary way to find and follow Jesus in the midst of living in a culture so partisan, political and polarized.
On July 4th, we will celebrate and live a Conflicted Allegiance.
Will you join us?” Check out more about The Global Immersion Project today!
Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers.” This weekend, Take some time to consider what being a PEACEMAKER means to you… how can you truly live into being a peacemaker in your neighborhood, in your city and in your country? What will it take for peacemaking to be a reality, not just a bible verse for you and me?
And check out Mending the Divides by Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart for more on peacemaking!
©lillylewin and freerangeworship.com
by June Friesen
THE BURNING BUSH – 5:45 A.M. 5/15/20
I said, “Do you see it?”
“It is as if the center of the tree is afire!
I looked some more…….I pondered……
How beautiful this is…….
The needles are green as if they are not affected at all….
For one thing, I know I will never be the same.
I will never see that tree as before –
But…could I ever know how I would never be the same –
How could I have ever known that three hours later I would realize a powerful reality –
A reality – that in all truth –
I had just had a meeting with God –
Literally my own spiritual ‘burning bush/tree experience!’
And how the rush of emotions, the myriad of feelings,
The wonderment of what had been orchestrated not by me but by God.
But first let me stop and look at Moses and his burning bush experience:
For Moses – God needed his attention –
God knew there was someone who needed to be freed from their present captivity,
God knew someone needed to be alerted in a profound way,
And certainly God needed someone who would not be distracted or deterred;
Yet, Moses was not so sure of all of what was happening –
And then he heard a voice from somewhere –
But he was in the desert – alone – no one was there –
And then as the voice spoke that he was on holy ground –
Moses realized he was in the presence of God –
And he listened – and God spoke.
I do not know the time span of Moses experience –
I do not know how it was that God accomplished all the details with Moses –
I do not need to know all the details to know
That it was a life changing experience for Moses –
And it began a whole path for Moses in his walk with God as well as his life work on earth.
Profoundly affected by the experience of that tree I saw –
And how unusual it was, and why was it that I saw it –
And how I absolutely had to stop…………..
I looked……..but I wonder – did I really see?
Oh, I saw….but what? Why? How Come?
One thing like Moses – I was on a high ‘spiritual alert!’
As I was typing ‘it was like a burning bush’ in a text in my phone –
My phone buzzed with a text –
“Good News. I am being moved.”
The tears fell, I choked up….God that was you this morning –
You wanted me to know You had not forgotten your little broken lamb –
He was going to be moved to a place where he could get the care that he needed.
I trembled – I shook – my voice quivered as I tried to share –
“God, how I thank you that you have ways to begin to prepare us to see your presence and power at work, not only in our lives personally but also the lives of those close to us. God, I thank you that there are often times we can refer back to your Scriptures and see that you indeed are the same yesterday, today and forever even though things may not be orchestrated in exactly the same way. And now O God may I be faithful to You even more so that your power will be able to not only work in me but through me- may your power also be in work in the life/lives of those immediately a part of this experience. Amen and amen.
And yes, this happened in the midst of the pandemic – and even if this time many feel imprisoned so to speak, some inside their homes, some inside care facilities, some one the outside not being able to go in, some who have actually contracted the disease (may have recovered or now family members experience a loss if recovery did not happen)….. The people tried to imprison Jesus as well first of all by their own rules and laws and finally in a tomb. But God Almighty had the final word with that final earthly imprisonment of His Son Jesus – and that was new and resurrected life. Today I am encouraged because of this resurrection of Jesus. And while I still endure imprisonment in several ways because of earthly circumstances and most of all this virus, I am going to choose living my life to the fullest that I can at this present moment. I encourage you to do the same – and by the way don’t miss those ‘God-surprising moments’ along your pathway.
June Friesen 2020