Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

April 5, 2020 — Holy Week, Palm Sunday

This year as we move through this dark and wonderful week, we are going to remember the events of Jesus’ last week and try to place ourselves there with Him. We’ll use the Sonnets of Malcolm Guite (Sounding the Seasons from Canterbury Press) to encourage our reflection.

A Palm Sunday Painting — Kai Althoff

Today’s Bible Reading: 

The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hail to the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.

Look, your King is coming,
    riding on a donkey’s colt.

His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him. Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” — John 12:12-19

More thoughts for meditation

Palm Sunday

Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,
The seething holy city of my heart,
The Saviour comes, But will I welcome him?
Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;
They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,
And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find
The challenge, the reversal he is bringing
Changes their tune, I know what lies behind
Their surface flourish that so quickly fades;
Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,
The harness of the heart, its barricades,
And at the core, the dreadful emptiness
Of a perverted temple, Jesus come
Break my resistance and make me your home.

Suggestions for action

This week as we are quarantined across our church, we’d like to embody our meditation by having each of us do some physical activities to respond to the scripture and sonnets.  Our hope is to help each of us recollect how Jesus is with us throughout our day. We will gather online each evening, but before that time here are some suggestions:

Find a flat surface in your home that you can free from other objects. It could be an end table, coffee table, window sill, etc.  It’s best if this is in a central place that you will pass by throughout your daily activity. Placing a candle on it as a reminder that the Light of the World is with you is a good first step. Each day this guide will suggest that you find an object to place on this small sacred spot you’re creating that represents the movement of the day.  

Today we’re focused on breaking our resistance and inviting Jesus again (or for the first time!) to make a home in us.  So find something that symbolized that for you. A key opens doors. A can opener breaks a seal. Etc. Let your imagination be free. Place the item on your sacred space and pray this prayer with all of us:

Dear One – You come to our busy inner worlds again, ready to give us something unexpected.
We often resist in our ignorance of the Gift, afraid of the unknown and uncertain of our safety.
Break through to me this day, I pray as I try to listen and remember You are King over all.

Breath Prayer:  (Inhale): Break my resistance.  (Exhale): Make me Your home.

Set your phone to ring today at 3 hour intervals.  Traditional hours of prayers in monasteries would be 9am, 12pm, 3pm and lastly Vespers which we will set at 9pm this week.  Today, Palm Sunday, we will gather for our online worship at 5pm also. Monday – Thursday, we hope you will join us online for Vespers at 9pm.  When your phone rings at the hours today (or you just remember!) stop for a few moments at your sacred space and repeat the Breath Prayer for the day.  You could take several minutes in this pause or if it’s a busy time for you, just stop for a moment or so to draw your mind and heart consciously into God’s presence with you.

In times of stress like we are all experience during the pandemic, we need to attend to our minds, spirits and our bodies with care.  Sleep is particularly important for our bodies to combat the impacts of stress so be gentle with yourself and don’t neglect your need for sleep; however, we also need to turn our attention very consciously toward the positive. These interludes in your day are designed to offer help in this practice of attunement with God.  Find a rhythm that works for you and adjust the hours as needed.

You might want to show us your prayer object on social media. That could help us be together in this rhythm. If you do use #sacredspot2020

Today is Pandita Ramabai Day! Visit this South Indian who was one of the first Pentecostals at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

April 4 – You are important

Today’s Bible reading

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:9

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

More thoughts for meditation

Sharing money is where we answer two of the most important questions in life: “Where do I belong?” and “Am I important?” Sharing what we have expresses our unity within the body and in our common purpose. What we have matters because we each matter. We need each other. Without each other we wither. Without a common purpose in Christ, we unravel our meaning.

Antonin Scalia | OyezThe death of Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia, a few years back had people talking about his legacy. Most of the comments started with “love him or hate him, he made an impact.”

An op-ed in the New York Times said: Justice Scalia’s most important legacy will be his “originalism” and “textualism” theory. The article also said his tendency to call opponents “idiotic” or worse would also be memorable. He often made a point that recycled a 19th century slogan about Native Americans:  “The only good Constitution is a dead Constitution” — that may also be the kind of thing history recalls.

When we wonder about whether we matter or if anyone will remember us, as a church, our leaders sometimes say things like “We’re not building the pyramids here” (not in the likeness of Despicable Me for sure!). That means we know we are being shaped by God all the time; what we do is temporal and subject to development, like we as individuals are subject. We definitely have a “living Constitution!” But that wonderful flexibility can be taken too far, since we are made to influence one another and what we do also has eternal value (or possibly long-lasting ill-affect).

About the same time Justice Scalia died, our Capacity Core Team did some good thinking about money. They used it to create four workshops they keep improving and repeating as part of our Gifts for Growing. They came up with four words we all have to ponder when we are making decisions about what to do with our money and what our money might do for others: Character, Community, Resistance, and Investment. What do mature Christians do with their money? What legacy will we leave?

Antonin Scalia spent his whole life trying to get the cap back on the societal bottle that blew its top in the 1970’s.  Many Christians have been doing the same thing, in vain, right alongside him — no doubt some with great motives. We, as Circle of Hope, have been trying to do something else. Like our song says, we like that “new wine.” It is not new like it is an innovation. It is new because the world is, like Scalia said, a bit “idiotic” and life with God seems new to us. Each generation needs its own taste of the new life Jesus is bringing to an ever-dying world. How we handle our money is a great test of the faith we bring to living in that world. How we share is one of the most tangible ways we get to demonstrate that something new in the world is not only possible, it is being built.

Suggestions for action

As opponents try to undo the deceptions and corruption of the Trump regime, they often say, “Follow the money.” That’s exactly what Kevin and Francis (as seen earlier in the week) refused to do. They were more likely to follow the goose and the pig, to rely on the Spirit and the work of love rather than stay on the treadmill of acquisition and self-defense – the rule of law, some call it. In Kevin’s day, the Roman Empire was caput. 600 years later in Francis’ day, feudal economics was coming to an end. In our day the American empire, as we’ve known it, and the Enlightenment experiment in general, may be coming to an end. Maybe the Covid-19 virus is killing it as we speak! We’ll see. Regardless, what is a Jesus follower to do? Spend a few minutes with that question and write down your best thoughts. We don’t need to solve history, we need to make it, step by step as we follow the light we have.

God has ways that do not depend on capitalist theory or the power people amass in places where it reigns.  Jesus demonstrated that in full. His followers have always found ways to declare their own independence again and again. The formation and constant reinvention of Circle of Hope is a miracle story of people finding more than they bargained for as they shared. We’ve asked and received. Maybe we are afraid sometimes to rely on miracle and act out of love. But many times we aren’t afraid, too. Want to make things right with Jesus? He is about to lead us on the way of Jesus during Holy Week — what a great week to follow the Lord instead of following the money!

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day! The nation honors him as a great American. On his death day we honor him as a notable spiritual ancestor.  Go to Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

April 3, 2019 — Investment is not a dirty word.

Old San Juan Sunset Sail on 19th-Century Style Schooner 2020

Calm seas do not make good sailors.

Today’s Bible readings

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. – Proverbs 21:5

The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down. – Proverbs 21:20

Better is a little with righteousness than vast revenues without justice – Proverbs 16:8

Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? – Luke 16:10-11

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6;20

Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
 Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. — Ecclesiastes 11:1-2

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth. (KJV)

More thoughts for meditation

Jesus talks in economic metaphors all the time. “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Store up some resources, beef up your savings account, make an investment. The Lord uses the terms, which make common sense, to point an uncommon direction. He points right through the here and now into the age to come. Does he mean we’ll be welcomed into eternity if we have enough in our spiritual accounts? No. But he does mean people who give their energy and imagination to eternity are fit to live there. What’s more, they avoid getting ripped off by hucksters getting them to invest in junk.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wealth. God’s the one who generously gives people success with resources and money (Ecclesiastes 5:19). But when we become more concerned about the gifts rather than the giver, possessions become toxic and pointless (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Obsession with wealth ruins our relationship with God and with other people. At the same time, Qoheleth gives some pretty astute investment advice, above – diversify, you fool!

God cares more about the condition of our hearts than the condition of our investment portfolio (or lack of one). That’s why He shows us what’s best for us and our possessions: What’s valuable both now and in eternity is what God cares about most: love, forgiveness, treating people right,and loyalty (Matthew 23:23Micah 6:8). We’re meant to use possessions and love people, not love possessions and use people. Our eternal perspective affects our earthly priorities.

After telling a parable in which a boss is impressed by the shrewd dishonesty in the man he is about to fire, Jesus says, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.  If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” Jesus admires strategic use of the present financial system. He certainly looks like a shrewd, dishonest steward, doesn’t he, to the people who eventually kill him!? He’s all about his own purposes and not in line with their goals at all. We’re called to be that serious about what we are doing, too.

Suggestions for action

Investment is a deep word in the mouths of Jesus followers. It implies we have something to invest: a character that makes godly choices, a community that is worth our hearts, s conviction that frees us from slavery to the world’s ways, and an imagination for what the Spirit might grow with the little we have. What small thing, financial or not, are you given to be faithful in today? Start somewhere.

Investing money is about creating wealth for most people — that is the goal of capitalism, right? But investment should be about one’s spiritual legacy: What we are given to give to the world? What is our best shot at moving transformation along? Investment is about building something that is bigger than just our own wealth. Circle of Hope is our most immediate “something” that we build together. But that tool we’ve built is for building something bigger than itself, too. We can see what it builds when we explore what our investment in MCC does, or when we can dare to spend our savings to plant another congregation, or in how we invest in the lives of our leaders and staff and maintain our properties and businesses. The people and properties are a sign of commitment to the future. We are people who plant fruit trees as the planet warms and the wars rage. Meditate on what vision moves you. Are you a serious investor in God’s purposes?

April 2, 2020 — Using money is part of our resistance

money = speech

Today’s Bible readings

“Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you” — James 5:3-5.

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. — Romans 13:7-8.

…..“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
…..Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
…..“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.  — see Luke 7:40-49. 

More thoughts for meditation

The ruling elite have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and wounded any spirit of resistance to domination they might normally have. Why aren’t we having more dialogue in the spirit of James who wrote to the ruling elites of his time (above)?

Somehow, the rulers have convinced the latest generation that whatever little portion of the “corroded gold” they have will be taken away if they don’t conform. Their only hope is to hoard whatever little wages they are paid in hope of having a retirement of limited self-indulgence!

The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives depose Mubarak in Egypt, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War back in the day all had one thing, at least, in common: the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt. The debt industry is just one of the institutions subduing the young.

We learn a lot about using money in our profit-dominated society. Basic money management rules never change: Spending less than you earn will always be beneficial. Investing your money will always be better than doing nothing with it. And planning for the future will always be better than blowing your paycheck as soon as you get it.

But in the U.S. those management ideas are usually applied to becoming wealthy not pursuing God. Some of us resist the pursuit of wealth by refusing to seriously deal with our finances (much less the details of our common fund!). Some of us resist resisting and try to Christianize the pursuit of wealth, or at least avoid talking about our preoccupation with it. Alternatively, we want to have a godly resistance, not just resistance of some sort for the sake of it. We need to address the use of money (which is a subject often laden with taboo or fully enslaved to some godless philosophy) with love and in the presence of God.

Among the Circle of Hope we say, “We are birthing a new generation of the church to resist and restore with those moved by the Holy Spirit.” That means at least four things in relation to the debt, especially,  that is breaking the spirits of twentysomethings, especially:

  • We prophesy. Even if you think the truth will get you in trouble, you “go James” at the proper time.
  • We do not conform. Even if love is illegal, we practice it. We expect the nation to live up to its good laws and go beyond its modest sense of justice.
  • We create the alternative. In our community we are all about forgiveness and sharing.
  • We demonstrate the alternative. We get people out of debt and we share. Our debt annihilation team is an extremely practical example of this. Our compassion fund distributions are usually gifts and always no-interest loans. Our cell members take care of each other. We have thrift stores full of low-cost items. We hold baby-goods exchanges. We support relief and development and advocacy through MCC. And we sure don’t follow every lie the domination system dishes out – instead, we live simply in the freedom of the Spirit. We find a new way through the wilderness of the present age.

Suggestions for action

If you read the Romans 13 passage (above) in an individualistic way, then whatever debt a person incurs is their lot. The debt industry would love to have us all feel that “morality” straight from the Invisible Hand. It is ironic that the government and the corporations that own it (corporations that are increasingly seen as individuals!), are not held to the same standard of responsibility as individuals. In fact they have special rights like limited  liability and, the big one, they can live forever.  But Romans 13 is not from capitalism. The main debt we have is to love. We pay off our debtors, if we can’t avoid debt, in order to stay free to love. How free do you feel?

When Jesus tells Simon a parable about the woman washing his feet with her tears (the reading from Luke, above), he at least suggests an outlook that presupposes no one is endlessly responsible for their debt. In the Lord’s story, the money lender forgives debts when someone can’t pay. That’s one thing. But the big thing, as in Romans, is that love is owed. Love is the goal. Forgiveness is the prize. In contrast, the faithlessness of our society is enslaving people. We’re taught that we will ruin someone if we disturb their supposed self-reliance. Being taken care of by society (or anyone) is considered somewhat wicked by many people. But the corporations are very well cared for! Even if there was a vestige of Christian morality as part of the economic conversation, we would be better off. Does this angry paragraph make you feel you’ve wandered into taboo territory? Does it steam you up and make you want to do something? Each of us is given a part of the resistance to operate. Now that everything is so changed in the age of Covid-19, maybe the Jesus revolution can get out of jail when the rest of us are out of stay-at-home. What would that be like?

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