Daily Prayer :: Water

Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Author: Circle of Hope (page 1 of 304)

May 23, 2019 — How can we get deeper?

Today’s Bible reading

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:  “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come.  Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look! The feast I have prepared for you is ready. My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.”’

But they were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.  The rest seized his slaves, insolently mistreated them, and killed them.  The king was furious! He sent his soldiers, and they put those murderers to death and set their city on fire.  Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy.  So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’  And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. — Matthew 22:1-10 (NET)

More thoughts for meditation

“Invite everyone you find.” It was not included, but the last verse of this parable is “many are called but few are chosen,” echoing the Jewish idea of “remnant,” the response from a small number of faithful within the great number who were called.

The point is that we, as the church, are the servants who are to be radically inclusive when it comes to who we consider “worthy” to join us. We shouldn’t count anybody out. When we have this vision, Ross Hastings argues, we encounter the heart of God in lasting ways.

In the Bible God is revealed as a sending God. From that starting point, Ross Hastings, in Missional God, Missional Church, describes our identity as intertwined with God’s identity because of our mysterious union with God through the Spirit of Jesus.  In the same way in which God is centrifugal and centripetal, that is, moving away from and toward the center, the church is to be both deep and wide.

In his work, Hastings affirms the so-called deep approach to being the church. But he emphasizes the missional nature of the deep church. A missional church is both deeply connected with each other and God and widely sent to include others. Indeed, we are deepened through our self-sacrificial service in love as we seek relationships with the stranger, the prisoner, and the poor. If it is God’s love that has enabled us to make a home with one another, that same love will make us hospitable to those outside it.  Joy springs from being rooted in the community and rooting in others. That is the fullness of Christ; the essence of being “deep” is also being “wide.”

Suggestions for action

If you are asking the question, “How can I get deeper with God by getting closer to others?” consider who you spend the most time with. Now categorize your relationships. Do you spend much of your time with people who are still “connecting” to Jesus and his people? Or are most of your relationships with the “connected?” A suggestion for action to go deeper with God would be to pray: “God, in which relationship would you like me to serve? How should I?”

Hastings will argue, to go deeper with God is to go wider with your community and those still connecting.

May 22, 2019 –The Mission of God and Me

Religious Gifts Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Icon Old Testament Trinity Rublev 8 3/4 Inch

Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Icon Trinity – Rublev

In this famous icon, the Trinity demonstrates humanity’s calling to participate in God’s life. An empty space is set with the bread and the cup, Communion. That etched square underneath has been said to be a place for a mirror so that the observer can see themselves at the table, too.

Today’s Bible reading

13-19 Now I’m returning to you.
I’m saying these things in the world’s hearing
So my people can experience
My joy completed in them.
I gave them your word;
The godless world hated them because of it,
Because they didn’t join the world’s ways,
Just as I didn’t join the world’s ways.
I’m not asking that you take them out of the world
But that you guard them from the Evil One.
They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.
I’m consecrating myself for their sakes
So they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission.

20-23 I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me. — John 17:13-23 (The Message)

More thoughts for meditation

Jesus prays over and over “just as it was with you and I, so be it also for me and them.” God’s transforming life is made known in Jesus. Both for the individual who submits her life to him and for all of creation who is led by his way of self-giving, loving leadership. Jesus’ followers are invited into the next era of God’s plan to continue including everybody who is willing into the reconciled creation.

In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.”

And there are many who are willing to be included. There are many people who recognize the world’s obsession with power-over politics and manipulation-driven relationships and want a different way to relate. Many times all they need is a couple of follow up invitations (because life is busy, right?).

That mission of inclusion began in Genesis 1, when the Creator set out to cultivate a world characterized by beauty, order, and life. It is show in its fullest iteration at the end of John’s Gospel, here, where we see Jesus pray us into a new way to participate. As the story from Genesis to John makes clear, God’s “mission” is as much about pushing back on things in the world which are set against God’s creation as it is about ushering in something brand new. Much of the time, the Lord’s pushing and ushering are the same act.

Suggestions for action

Our response to the Lord’s prayer for us could take multiple expressions. Consider how Jesus identifies the difference between his way of life and the “world’s” way. Those who choose to follow Jesus are effectively choosing to operate under a different set of expectations, ones ultimately rooted in love. Jesus prays for the perseverance of his followers and for their unity in vision, that we would “be mature in…oneness” and we would receive the mission which Jesus himself had received.

There are many others who will want to join in, too. Consider who is in your network — people you see fairly often. Is there a justice-driven event the church is hosting soon? How about a place where the church will be gathering to deepen their relationships? Who can you invite, who may not have known about these opportunities previously, who may be interested in either of those two things?

May 21, 2019 –The Mission of God…

Taken from the cover of God of the Oppressed, James H. Cone

Today’s Bible reading

Now Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to the mountain of God, to Horeb. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from within a bush. He looked – and the bush was ablaze with fire, but it was not being consumed! So Moses thought, “I will turn aside to see this amazing sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him from within the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” God said, “Do not approach any closer! Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” He added, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.  I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a land that is both good and spacious, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the region of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. And now indeed the cry of the Israelites has come to me, and I have also seen how severely the Egyptians oppress them.  So now go, and I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” — Exodus 3:1-10 (NET)

More thoughts for meditation

The story of the Exodus gives reveals much about the God of the Bible’s heart and plans. God “heard the cry” of his people and acted for their deliverance.

Black theologians have often identified the Exodus of Israel with their own story. Preaching in the black church is much more than the sum of the words spoken. It is an experience of being delivered; it is a story being written. As the late James H. Cone writes, “Jesus Christ is not to be identified with the words of scripture alone.” Jesus is a  “transcendent reality disclosed in the people’s struggle for liberation” (God of the Oppressed)

Cone adds, “There is no truth in Jesus Christ independent of the oppressed of the land–their history and culture.” Jesus is an expression of deliverance; he is the completion of the Exodus story.  Truth, or the transcendent reality, Jesus Christ, has two sources: experience and scripture. Cone’s vision of God’s mission, is led by scripture and its interpreters and by those who are and have been oppressed. The Bible is written from the worldview of the oppressed; it is in their social context God repeatedly chooses to become known to the world.

In his book, Missional God, Missional Church, Ross Hastings strongly critiques typical Christian assumptions in the USA. The most egregious is not looking to the oppressed for leadership in knowing God or understanding God’s mission. The specific traits: individualism, ethnocentrism, and materialism are particularly troubling for Hastings as he wrestles with how to move forward without throwing out the inculturated baby with enculturated bathwater.

I have experienced several churches (non-denominational, in particular) and popular church worship bands (see: Contemporary Christian Music) where the liturgies and songs have left me feeling emotionally high and particularly egotistical. I had grown up within the church but when I encountered the diversity of thought and unchecked post-enlightenment lifestyle of the University I rejected wholesale my childhood faith as naive and unable to sustain the richness of adulthood. There was no bridge for me to cross from my church to the “world” and I was left stranded. Even after Christ revealed himself to me personally, the church, in an attempt to reach postmodern culture, puffed me up with personal salvation verbiage and left me wanting for a deep communal theology. Now I see that understanding God’s mission must be  within a Trinitarian framework, that is, one which is from the beginning a relationship. Understanding how my relationships with others inform my calling in the world is crucial — especially my relationship to those marginalized by society.

Suggestions for action

Take a few minutes and consider who are some people who are vulnerable around you? At work, school, your neighbors…maybe you are one of them.

Go through your day and look for God at work among these people. Maybe you aren’t called to do anything just yet but observe. How is God at work in the culture in which you find yourself, especially pertaining to those most vulnerable?

May 20, 2019 — “That all the nations be blessed…”

image 0

“The Call of Abraham” by Roadsidesaints

Today’s Bible reading

Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household
to the land that I will show you.
Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you,
and I will make your name great,
so that you will exemplify divine blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
but the one who treats you lightly I must curse,
and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name.” — Genesis 12:1-3 (New English Translation)

More thoughts for meditation

Some say the only thing we know about God is that he is a sending God. Matthews and Moyer talk about the universalist tendencies of God throughout the Hebrew Bible to send some for the sake of the many. What they are referring to is how the “the biblical narrative [is] trying to demonstrate that Yahweh is God over the whole of humanity and the creation, rather than a deity localized to or interested in Israel alone.” No matter how you cut it, we cannot avoid God’s explicit plan to restore creation to its original blessing, as Danielle Shroyer talks more specifically about. We see examples of this plan when Balaam, the non-Israelite prophet, and Naaman, the Syrian general are touched and used, and many more. But perhaps the most powerful universalistic story is found in Jonah. What we can learn from the Jewish understanding of God, which informs our starting place in Christ, is that God loves everybody and wants everybody to know abundant life in him.

This way of working in the world is kind of scandalous, though, right? Rachel Held Evans writes about this “scandal of particularity” and how we can see God working throughout history in particular places and times. It’s scandalous because this means that God chooses to work there instead of here, or now instead of then or through her instead of through them. How can God choose such things?

When we read the Bible we see God choosing people all over the place and one of the most significant choices was Abraham (Genesis 12). Yahweh choosing Abraham and his family is almost like getting his foot in the door of the whole of creation. The goal was that one day the door would fly wide open; inviting all people to join in God’s abundant and true life.

Ultimately, God’s scandalous particularity is demonstrated in Jesus — the one particular human given for the restoration of the world. Have you seen Son of Man (2006)? (You can watch it free on VUDU). Even though it isn’t a movie meant to communicate a biblical worldview, totally, the producers do a good job in demonstrating God’s tendency to work in the smallest detail (a poor refugee born in a dirty stable) in order to expand to the nth degree. And it is exactly in those details which we see the preference of the Creator of the universe.

Suggestions for action

Is God’s particularity clear to you? Why or why not? Take this question and some of your reflections to a friend this week.

Do you think God has chosen you for something? Why or why not?

« Older posts