Meditation for Monday April 20, 2020

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
  in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.   Isaiah 30:15

Morning prayer on a particular morning a few weeks ago was walking along the forest trail—two of us social distancing. It had rained and snowed during the night and early morning, but now the sun slanted through the branches and leaves, making a halo of light. I stop, still. I can hear the river burbling along, and birds are busy already, singing and chirping. It is peaceful. I feel myself relax. My attention flicks to the distant throb of traffic……’Return’.
My eyes come back to the view in front of me—-raindrops and melting snow from the trees are misting and sheeting down in the beams of sunshine. Something catches my eye—a drop of sapphire blue winks at me. I stare…such beauty! It holds me. ‘Return’.
A minute or two later, another drop glints—orangey-gold. I focus, holding my breath. I didn’t expect two colours! I wonder what others are possible in this gentle light show. And then I see it! A sparkle of ruby red. What a beautiful gift. I stand mesmerized. My heart settles within me. It is as if God is reminding me—in quietness and trust, in returning and rest is your strength and salvation. If I hadn’t stood still there, I wouldn’t have seen this.
This morning something on the radio about these not-normal ways of being with one another, in social distancing and isolation, in the realization that Easter would not be celebrated with my family, and the comment that this will likely be necessary till June sank into me like a stone. Until that moment, I’d felt strong, able to cope, but today I felt the heavy weight of apprehension. ‘Return’.
I recognize, as I stand looking at these jewels in the light of the forest, that I want to choose to return, to rest and trust in God. The rest of creation carries on in the fullness of springtime life—the white drooping sprays of Osoberry flowers, the dark-eyed juncos trilling their mating song, the glowing yellow lanterns of skunk cabbages all signal that life is still vibrant! I notice the effect of where I put my attention—-on the uncertainty, the fear– like the traffic sounds, they distract me from stillness, trust, rest.    The invitation is to ‘Return’, in Hebrew, and in Greek, to a ‘change of mind’. The outcome is the same. As I return with heart and attention to God, my mind is changed. I see the treasure in the midst of the difficulty and unknown.

I was reminded in this Easter season that Jesus made the choice to endure the suffering of the cross. His strength rested in quietness and deep trust, in oneness with God. We are invited into the sustaining peace we find only with God.

IN REPENTANCE AND REST IS MY SALVATION
AND THE QUIET OF TRUST WILL BE MY STRENGTH (rpt)
THE FRUIT OF SILENCE IS PRAYER
THE FRUIT OF PRAYER IS FAITH
THE FRUIT OF FAITH IS LOVE,
THE FRUIT OF LOVE IS PEACE

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.   Matthew 6:25-26

Ruth Des Cotes,
Imago Dei Christian Communities

For Group Discussion:

  1. What ways do you notice yourself being drawn into fear, anxiety, restlessness, doubt or any number of responses to these uncertain times?
  2. What helps you turn your gaze to God? How do you help yourself choose that focus?
  3. Where might you be aware of gifts in the midst of difficulty?

For Prayer: O God of strength, thank you that you welcome me into quietness with you. I turn back from the things which cause me fear and distress, desiring to know your care and peace over me, under me, around me and within me.

Imago Dei Lent Week 6

6th Monday Lent 2020

Living Lent
Imago Dei

Greeting: Grace to you and peace from God and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present age, according to the will of our gracious God, to whom be glory forever and ever. 

All: Amen

Leader:

This is what the Sovereign Lord ,
the Holy One of Israel, says:

Only in returning to me and resting in me
will you be saved.

In quietness and confidence is your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

Prayer for entering silence

Leader: Spirit of stillness

All: be with us as we enter the silence
where you wait for us.

Leader: Spirit of holiness

All: be in us as we enter the silence
which is your gift to us.

Leader: Spirit of quiet, help us to listen.

Silence

Leader: The Lord be with you

All: And also with you. 

Leader: You are here, Lord.
You are here in the quiet evening of this Lent journey.
In the lengthening shadows
In the wakening stars
In the people gathered here.
You are here, Lord. 

All: We are here, Lord.
To remember your presence
To bring you our day
To give you ourselves
To share in your stillness
To make room in our hearts and lives
For your grace.
We are here, Lord. 

(Light the candle)

Leader: The light shines in the darkness

All: and the darkness can never put it out.

Readings

Isaiah 50:4-9a

4 The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

5 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.

6 I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.

7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.

8 He who vindicates me is near.
Who then will bring charges against me?
Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
Let him confront me!

9 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
Who will condemn me?
They will all wear out like a garment;
the moths will eat them up.

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”.

19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.

20 This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.

21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;

23 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 Lord, save us!
Lord, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.

27 The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God

Philippians 2:5-11

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God.

Matthew 21:1-11

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Reader: The Gospel of Christ
     People: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Reflections on Readings

Prayer of response

Leader: In the quietness of this place let us remember before God all that has been part of this day.
   Where did you see God?
   Where might you have missed God?

Silent Prayer

Leader: We thank you, Lord, for all the natural wonders of this earth – the Light of the moon, sun and stars and for the gift of life this day. 

All: With grateful hearts we give you thanks, Lord. 

Leader: We pray for family, friends and for
all those in need.
     (silence)
Send the light of your love to all those
we carry in our hearts. 

Communion

The Word of God

Leader: Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Those who come to me shall not hunger, and those who believe in me shall never thirst. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Leader: Let us pray.

People: Lord, God, we praise you for providing us with nourishment for body and soul in our journey of faith. Accept now the praises of our hearts.

Leader: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord.

Leader: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.

People: It is fitting for us at all times to give thanks to you, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.

Leader: We bless you for creating us in your image, for remaking us after the image of your Son. With humble and penitent hearts and minds, we acknowledge your greatness and the splendour of your presence. We join, therefore, with all your saints and angels in bringing you praise:

People: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Leader: We bring our thanks to you, for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord: the Bread of Life, who came to nourish his children; the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world; the Servant of the Most High; who remained obedient even to death by execution. For this love for us, for the good news of the gospel, for the privilege of walking in the way of our Lord, we bring our praise.

Amen.

SILENCE

Leader: The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup, after supper, saying,  “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Invitation

Leader: Come to me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

People: Eternal God, we accept our Saviour’s invitation. We come to his table in search of rest and peace. Send your Holy Spirit to us, that these gifts may be for us the bread of life and that we may be for the world the body of Christ.

People: Carrying a vision of creation
 healed and restored, we welcome all in the name of Christ. Invited to the table where none shall go hungry, we gather as Christ’s guests and friends.

People: We come with gladness. Thanks be to God!

Leader: The gifts of God for the people of God.

The Communion

Leader: Take, eat, remember and believe that the body of the Lord Jesus Christ was given for the complete remission of all our sins.

Take, drink, remember and believe that the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was shed for the complete forgiveness of all our sins.

The Benediction

All: 

Righteous God,
Compassionate and generous one
Who forgives our sins and has mercy on us,
Fill our hidden places with your healing light,
Breathe on us afresh this night and grant us rest.
May your compassion bloom in us.
May your righteousness bear fruit.
May your generosity encourage us to share.
May your love grow strong and deep within us.
Breathe on us afresh this night and grant us rest.

Amen.

Imago Dei Lent Week 5

Living Lent
Imago Dei

Lent•Week 5•2020

Greeting: Grace to you and peace from God and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present age, according to the will of our gracious God, to whom be glory forever and ever. 

All: Amen

Leader:

This is what the Sovereign Lord ,
the Holy One of Israel, says:

Only in returning to me and resting in me
will you be saved.

In quietness and confidence is your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

Prayer for entering silence

Leader: Spirit of stillness

All: be with us as we enter the silence
where you wait for us.

Leader: Spirit of holiness

All: be in us as we enter the silence
which is your gift to us.

Leader: Spirit of quiet, help us to listen.

Silence

Leader: The Lord be with you

All: And also with you. 

Leader: You are here, Lord.
You are here in the quiet evening of this Lent journey.
In the lengthening shadows
In the wakening stars
In the people gathered here.
You are here, Lord. 

All: We are here, Lord.
To remember your presence
To bring you our day
To give you ourselves
To share in your stillness
To make room in our hearts and lives
For your grace.
We are here, Lord. 

(Light the candle)

Leader: The light shines in the darkness

All: and the darkness can never put it out.

Readings

Ezekiel 37:1-14

1 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God

Psalm 130

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;

2  Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?

4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.

6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.

8 He himself will redeem Israel

from all their sins.

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God

Romans 8:6-11

6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God.

John 11:1-45

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Reader: The Gospel of Christ
     People: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Reflections on Readings

Prayer of response

Leader: In the quietness of this place let us remember before God all that has been part of this day.
   Where did you see God?
   Where might you have missed God?

Silent Prayer

Leader: We thank you, Lord, for all the natural wonders of this earth – the Light of the moon, sun and stars and for the gift of life this day. 

All: With grateful hearts we give you thanks, Lord. 

Leader: We pray for family, friends and for
all those in need.
     (silence)
Send the light of your love to all those
we carry in our hearts. 

Communion

The Word of God

Leader: Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Those who come to me shall not hunger, and those who believe in me shall never thirst. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Leader: Let us pray.

People: Lord, God, we praise you for providing us with nourishment for body and soul in our journey of faith. Accept now the praises of our hearts.

Leader: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord.

Leader: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.

People: It is fitting for us at all times to give thanks to you, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.

Leader: We bless you for creating us in your image, for remaking us after the image of your Son. With humble and penitent hearts and minds, we acknowledge your greatness and the splendour of your presence. We join, therefore, with all your saints and angels in bringing you praise:

People: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Leader: We bring our thanks to you, for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord: the Bread of Life, who came to nourish his children; the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world; the Servant of the Most High; who remained obedient even to death by execution. For this love for us, for the good news of the gospel, for the privilege of walking in the way of our Lord, we bring our praise.

Amen.

SILENCE

Leader: The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup, after supper, saying,  “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Invitation

Leader: Come to me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

People: Eternal God, we accept our Saviour’s invitation. We come to his table in search of rest and peace. Send your Holy Spirit to us, that these gifts may be for us the bread of life and that we may be for the world the body of Christ.

People: Carrying a vision of creation
 healed and restored, we welcome all in the name of Christ. Invited to the table where none shall go hungry, we gather as Christ’s guests and friends.

People: We come with gladness. Thanks be to God!

Leader: The gifts of God for the people of God.

The Communion

Leader: Take, eat, remember and believe that the body of the Lord Jesus Christ was given for the complete remission of all our sins.

Take, drink, remember and believe that the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was shed for the complete forgiveness of all our sins.

The Benediction

All: 

Righteous God,
Compassionate and generous one
Who forgives our sins and has mercy on us,
Fill our hidden places with your healing light,
Breathe on us afresh this night and grant us rest.
May your compassion bloom in us.
May your righteousness bear fruit.
May your generosity encourage us to share.
May your love grow strong and deep within us.
Breathe on us afresh this night and grant us rest.

Amen.

Imago Dei Lent Week 4

Living Lent
Imago Dei

Lent • Week 4 • 2020

Greeting: Grace to you and peace from God and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present age, according to the will of our gracious God, to whom be glory forever and ever. 

All: Amen

Leader:

This is what the Sovereign Lord ,
the Holy One of Israel, says:

Only in returning to me and resting in me
will you be saved.

In quietness and confidence is your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

Prayer for entering silence

Leader: Spirit of stillness

All: be with us as we enter the silence
where you wait for us.

Leader: Spirit of holiness

All: be in us as we enter the silence
which is your gift to us.

Leader: Spirit of quiet, help us to listen.

Silence

Song Bless the Lord
Bless the Lord my soul,
and bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord my soul,
who leads me into life.

Leader: The Lord be with you

All: And also with you. 

Leader: You are here, Lord.
You are here in the quiet evening of this Lent journey.
In the lengthening shadows
In the wakening stars
In the people gathered here.
You are here, Lord. 

All: We are here, Lord.
To remember your presence
To bring you our day
To give you ourselves
To share in your stillness
To make room in our hearts and lives
For your grace.
We are here, Lord. 

(Light the candle)

Leader: The light shines in the darkness

All: and the darkness can never put it out.Readings

1 Samuel 16:1-13

1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

3     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God

Ephesians 5:8-14

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God.

John 9:1-41

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said.

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”

41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

Reader: The Gospel of Christ
     People: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Reflections on Readings

Prayer of response

Leader: In the quietness of this place let us remember before God all that has been part of this day.
   Where did you see God?
   Where might you have missed God?

Silent Prayer

Leader: We thank you, Lord, for all the natural wonders of this earth – the Light of the moon, sun and stars and for the gift of life this day. 

All: With grateful hearts we give you thanks, Lord. 

Leader: We pray for family, friends and for
all those in need.
     (silence)
Send the light of your love to all those
we carry in our hearts. 

Communion

The Word of God

Leader: Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Those who come to me shall not hunger, and those who believe in me shall never thirst. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Leader: Let us pray.

People: Lord, God, we praise you for providing us with nourishment for body and soul in our journey of faith. Accept now the praises of our hearts.

Leader: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord.

Leader: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.

People: It is fitting for us at all times to give thanks to you, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.

Leader: We bless you for creating us in your image, for remaking us after the image of your Son. With humble and penitent hearts and minds, we acknowledge your greatness and the splendour of your presence. We join, therefore, with all your saints and angels in bringing you praise:

People: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Leader: We bring our thanks to you, for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord: the Bread of Life, who came to nourish his children; the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world; the Servant of the Most High; who remained obedient even to death by execution. For this love for us, for the good news of the gospel, for the privilege of walking in the way of our Lord, we bring our praise.

Amen.

SILENCE

Leader: The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup, after supper, saying,  “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Invitation

Leader: Come to me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

People: Eternal God, we accept our Saviour’s invitation. We come to his table in search of rest and peace. Send your Holy Spirit to us, that these gifts may be for us the bread of life and that we may be for the world the body of Christ.

People: Carrying a vision of creation
 healed and restored, we welcome all in the name of Christ. Invited to the table where none shall go hungry, we gather as Christ’s guests and friends.

People: We come with gladness. Thanks be to God!

Leader: The gifts of God for the people of God.

The Communion

Leader: Take, eat, remember and believe that the body of the Lord Jesus Christ was given for the complete remission of all our sins.

Take, drink, remember and believe that the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was shed for the complete forgiveness of all our sins. 

Song:    Eat the bread
Eat this bread, drink this cup,
come to him and never be hungry.
Eat this bread, drink this cup,
trust in him and you will not thirst.

Jesus Christ, bread of life,
those who come to you will not hunger.
Jesus Christ, Risen Lord,
those who trust in you will not thirst.

The Benediction

All: 

Righteous God,
Compassionate and generous one
Who forgives our sins and has mercy on us,
Fill our hidden places with your healing light,
Breathe on us afresh this night and grant us rest.
May your compassion bloom in us.
May your righteousness bear fruit.
May your generosity encourage us to share.
May your love grow strong and deep within us.
Breathe on us afresh this night and grant us rest.

Amen.

Imago Dei Lent Week 3

Living Lent
Imago Dei

Lent • Week 3 • 2020

Greeting: Grace to you and peace from God and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present age, according to the will of our gracious God, to whom be glory forever and ever. 

All: Amen

Leader:

This is what the Sovereign Lord ,
the Holy One of Israel, says:

Only in returning to me and resting in me
will you be saved.

In quietness and confidence is your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

Prayer for entering silence

Leader: Spirit of stillness

All: be with us as we enter the silence
where you wait for us.

Leader: Spirit of holiness

All: be in us as we enter the silence
which is your gift to us.

Leader: Spirit of quiet, help us to listen.

Silence 

Song In God Alone
In God alone my soul can find rest and peace,
In God my peace and joy.
Only in God my soul can find its rest,
find its rest and peace.

Leader: The Lord be with you

All: And also with you. 

Leader: You are here, Lord.
You are here in the quiet evening of this Lent journey.
In the lengthening shadows
In the wakening stars
In the people gathered here.
You are here, Lord. 

All: We are here, Lord.
To remember your presence
To bring you our day
To give you ourselves
To share in your stillness
To make room in our hearts and lives
For your grace.
We are here, Lord. 

(Light the candle)

Leader: The light shines in the darkness

All: and the darkness can never put it out.Readings

Exodus 17:1-7 (NIV)

1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God

Psalm 121

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;

7 for he is our God|    and we are the people of his pasture,

the flock under his care.|
Today, if only you would hear his voice,

8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,

9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.

10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’

11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God

Romans 5:1-11

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Reader: The Word of the Lord
     People: Thanks be to God.

John 4:5-42

5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Reader: The Gospel of Christ
     People: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Reflections on Readings

Prayer of response

Leader: In the quietness of this place let us remember before God all that has been part of this day.
   Where did you see God?
   Where might you have missed God?

Silent Prayer

Leader: We thank you, Lord, for all the natural wonders of this earth – the Light of the moon, sun and stars and for the gift of life this day. 

All: With grateful hearts we give you thanks, Lord. 

Leader: We pray for family, friends and for
all those in need.
     (silence)
Send the light of your love to all those
we carry in our hearts. 

Communion

The Word of God

Leader: Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Those who come to me shall not hunger, and those who believe in me shall never thirst. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Leader: Let us pray.

People: Lord, God, we praise you for providing us with nourishment for body and soul in our journey of faith. Accept now the praises of our hearts.

Leader: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord.

Leader: Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.

People: It is fitting for us at all times to give thanks to you, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.

Leader: We bless you for creating us in your image, for remaking us after the image of your Son. With humble and penitent hearts and minds, we acknowledge your greatness and the splendour of your presence. We join, therefore, with all your saints and angels in bringing you praise:

People: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Leader: We bring our thanks to you, for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord: the Bread of Life, who came to nourish his children; the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world; the Servant of the Most High; who remained obedient even to death by execution. For this love for us, for the good news of the gospel, for the privilege of walking in the way of our Lord, we bring our praise.

Amen.

SILENCE

Leader: The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup, after supper, saying,  “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Invitation

Leader: Come to me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

People: Eternal God, we accept our Saviour’s invitation. We come to his table in search of rest and peace. Send your Holy Spirit to us, that these gifts may be for us the bread of life and that we may be for the world the body of Christ.

People: Carrying a vision of creation
 healed and restored, we welcome all in the name of Christ. Invited to the table where none shall go hungry, we gather as Christ’s guests and friends.

People: We come with gladness. Thanks be to God!

Leader: The gifts of God for the people of God.

The Communion

Leader: Take, eat, remember and believe that the body of the Lord Jesus Christ was given for the complete remission of all our sins.

Take, drink, remember and believe that the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ was shed for the complete forgiveness of all our sins. 

Song: Wait for the Lord
Wait for the Lord whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord, keep watch, take heart.

The Benediction

All: 

Righteous God,
Compassionate and generous one
Who forgives our sins and has mercy on us,
Fill our hidden places with your healing light,
Breathe on us afresh this night and grant us rest.
May your compassion bloom in us.
May your righteousness bear fruit.
May your generosity encourage us to share.
May your love grow strong and deep within us.
Breathe on us afresh this night and grant us rest.

Amen.

Meditation for Monday February 3, 2020

 “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, pray for everyone you know.” 1 Timothy 2: 1a (The Message)

What place does prayer have in your life? What’s your response to Paul’s instruction to young Timothy to pray? The directness and simplicity of Paul’s words are wonderfully encouraging. It’s not a how to pray, but a however you pray – keep at it. Paul’s words point to the primal, God given capacity that we have to pray. They’re also suggestive that each of us have a thread and a history of practicing prayer that has grown and evolved over time. Depending on one’s family background this may include bed time prayers as small children. As a delay tactic to “lights out,” I think my brothers and I were somehow taking Paul literally, “pray for everyone you know!”  

Prayer may happen in fits and starts, continually jostling with the demands of life. However challenged or imperfect it is, it’s precious to God. Paul’s words remind us that anytime can be prayer time, and we pray as we can: a single word, a cry for help, thanksgiving, opening our heart to God wordlessly in grief or joy. There’s an immediacy and an accessibility to God through prayer. This is because God has placed within us a capacity and an impulse to relate to him, and he exists in the closest possible proximity to us and the lives we live (Acts 17:28).

Paul’s words also speak to the importance of intercessory prayer. We’re to pray for one another. The reach of our intercession is to include our government and our world (1 Tim 2:2). For those of us who by God’s grace have been drawn to the practice of contemplative prayer in which we seek an interior silence and a receptive posture before God, we may ask, how do we integrate intercessory prayer into this practice? Professor and spiritual director Martin Laird describes the practice of some of his directees in this regard:

“For some, they set aside part of their prayer time explicitly for remembering people who have asked to be remembered in prayer and then they later move to silent prayer. For others it is enough for them to call to mind a need or a request and take it with them into the silence of the heart, without gunning the engines of ‘now I’d-like-to-pray-for-so-and so.’ There is an intercessory dimension intrinsic to interior silence; for interior silence and compassionate solidarity are of a piece, like spokes leading to the hub of a wheel” (‘A Sunlit Absence,’ page 157).

This co-existence of interior silence and intercession is illustrated in an image from the Old Testament. In Exodus 28:29 Moses brother Aaron is described as entering the holy place in elaborate high priestly garb, bearing “the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment on his heart, for a memorial before the Lord continually”. As Aaron symbolically and wordlessly bore the names of the children of Israel on his heart before God, so we may continually bear loved ones in our hearts before him. In contemplative prayer we relinquish our agenda and defer to God and his movements within us. In intercessory prayer, we may similarly defer to God, knowing that the true needs and circumstances of those for whom we intercede are beyond us. In contemplative prayer we seek the calming grace of the awareness of God’s presence. We can appropriate this same grace as we intercede for loved ones, growing in an assurance that God’s watchful and caring presence is with them as well.

Imago Dei Christian Communities
Paul Woodyard

For reflection and prayer:

1. Reflect on your practice of intercessory prayer. How have you felt encouraged? What further grace do you seek from God in this practice?

2. Can you identify with either of the practices of Martin Laird’s directees, setting aside time for intercessory prayer or interceding in the flow of contemplative prayer?

3. What kinds of inner promptings or external circumstances do you experience that lead you to pray more often and continuously?

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18.

Father, we ask for your grace to live joyfully, prayerfully and thankfully. May we fulfill your command to love one another through practical service and prayer, Amen.

Meditation for Monday January 20, 2020

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?  As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like.  They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.  But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”  Luke 6

There are many people who are attracted to contemplative prayer– people who identify closely with the goals and teachings of those who have journeyed deeply in the pursuit of God.  The sales of books on finding God through contemplative prayer are increasing dramatically as whole sections are dedicated to this topic in most bookstores these days.  But what strikes me, as I meet with people for spiritual direction, is how few of these people who feel such resonance with the objectives of prayer actually spend time in the discipline of prayer.  There is a big difference between hearing Jesus’ call and responding to that call.

Granted, Jesus’ statement here is meant to apply to all his moral, ethical, social, and spiritual teachings but the principle at work is also true as it applies to our prayer.
I play flute.  I’ve read many great books over the years about how to play the flute.  Books will tell you everything you need to know about how to place your mouth properly over the mouthpiece, how to hold your fingers in order to maximize speed and agility, how to breathe properly so that as little air is wasted as possible and even how to phrase a line of music so that it will sound most pleasing.  As good as these books may be, there is nothing but the practice of playing the flute that will ever teach a person how to be at one with the instrument.  You have to get to know your own relationship and learn how to work with it before you can make music.

There were perhaps many in Jesus’ day who loved to hear the Master preach.  They loved being called to walk closer to God.  What a beautiful invitation it must have been to hear Jesus’ descriptions of the kingdom of heaven.  It fills the heart with a warm sense of welcome.  We are comforted by the knowledge that we are truly loved by a God who desires intimacy with our lives.  But, as beautiful as that invitation is, we will never live in it until we respond to the call.  It doesn’t matter how often we hear it, at some point we have to do it in order to enjoy it. Perhaps this is the same challenge Jesus put to the rich man in Matthew 19.

 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

This man desired to ‘enter life’ but stopped short of actually taking the step of commitment to fully following Jesus.

You have to go through the stage of falling asleep or daydreaming while you’re praying.
You have to go through the stage of the idea of prayer seeming like watching paint dry.
You have to go through the stage of wondering what it is you’re supposed to be expecting or experiencing.
You have to go through the stage of feeling like you’re a loser at this and that you really don’t know how to pray.

Taking time in prayer establishes the foundation of relationship with God, and leads us into an awareness of God’s presence in every minute of our day, but it is not gained easily, as the saying goes. God invites us, encouraging us to come further. The reality of the effort required is worth the prize!
Welcome to the journey of truth.

Rob and Ruth Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities

For Group Discussion:

  1. How is your ‘practice’ of prayer going these days? Where do you find freedom or discouragements?
  2. How do you relate to your struggles in prayer? What is your typical response?
  3. Take a few minutes to be reminded of times when you have experienced an intimacy with God which encouraged you on in your journey.

For Prayer: God, I desire to know you more—help me in my weakness of time and commitment. Open my heart to your invitation to enter into your love.

Meditation for Monday January 6, 2020

“I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8.

The Psalmist declares that God is with him. God is with us. How is he with us? We want to know he is with us in the most tangible ways possible. In the midst of the delights and distractions of Advent we revisit the narrative and images of the nativity – Immanuel, God with us, a baby born. In the light of his identity, that’s about as tangible as it gets.  It’s such a blessing to experience the seasonal rhythm of savoring this. And yet two millennia later we walk by faith. Jesus told his disciples that it was to their  advantage that he leave them physically so that he could send the Holy Spirit to them (John 16:7). Jesus’ parting words to his disciple were: “And be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 30:20).

As contemplatives, we affirm that in spite of God’s revelation of himself – in creation, Scripture, the incarnation – we ultimately come to him as before a mystery. By his grace he has unveiled some of these mysteries: “The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints…; the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27). In prayer we approach the mystery of God receptively and hopefully. What, by sheer grace, might he reveal to us that we didn’t apprehend before?

God being with us is a category of mystery that continually invites such an approach. Just as we realize that God himself is a mystery, so we may also be assured that he is with us continually and lovingly in ways that we can’t imagine. The practice of prayer breathes newness and vitality into stale habits of thought that we may have about a reality too wonderful for words – God with us. To open ourselves to God is most basically to open ourselves to his presence.

And in spite of our use of the word mystery, it doesn’t have to be complicated. The refrain of St. Patrick’s famous prayer employs the most humble language:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.

The simplicity and truth of these words convey an almost sacramental power. They depict what the Celtic Christians called “calm” or the “encircling.” They would imagine or even make a circle around themselves with their finger or a stick, signifying God’s protective presence. (The Psalmist at least starts the circle, the Lord before him and beside him, at his right hand!) The critical thing always in apprehending the presence of God is to know that like his love, it’s unconditional. We can’t lose God or escape his presence. The psalmists’ “I will not be shaken” anticipates some turbulence, and so always may we. In Psalm 139 the psalmist realizes that there are no spatial conditions in which God is not present (vs 9, 10). We also sin, fail and find creative ways to bring trouble on ourselves. Like Peter and many others we feel unworthy and disqualified from being in God’s presence. He not only remains with us, but continues to work in ways far beyond us toward the restoration of which St. Patrick speaks.

On his departing Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit in his place. At the start of a new year we say: “Come Holy Spirit.” He has been given to us in order that we may “understand what God has freely given us” (2 Corinthians 2:12). As at Advent, so too in each new day, the most precious thing he gives to us is his presence. We desire to know it in ever greater ways.

Imago Dei Christian Communities
Paul Woodyard

For Reflection and Prayer:
1. What are the circumstances and settings in which you seem to experience God’s presence most readily?

2. In what situations do you find it difficult to know God’s presence?

3. Can you recall a time when you’ve experienced an awakening or shift within that brought a fresh sense of the presence of God?

The following is a simple prayer exercise from “The Cry of the Deer,” a Commentary on the Hymn of St. Patrick by David Adam. As you are led you may substitute words- Your Presence is in _______; my car; my bedroom as I go to sleep; … You may also substitute whatever grace you seek from God for the word “Peace”; Your Presence is love, joy, strength.

Your Presence is in my life
Your Presence is all around me
Your Presence is Peace.

Your Presence is in my house
Your Presence is all around me
Your Presence is Peace.

Your Presence is in my work
Your Presence is all around me
Your Presence is Peace.

Meditation for Monday December 16, 2019

He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.
 Job 12:22

In the prologue of his gospel John announces, with regards to Christmas, that  “the true light that gives light to every person” has come into the world (Jn. 1:9).  It is a light that brings us hope and the promise that darkness will soon be dispelled from our lives.  We are to watch, pray and wait as we witness the effects of this light in us, and in our history.  And we are to serve its increase in the world.

But as time unfolds, we come to realize that this Divine Light has properties that are quite different from those we would normally assume.  We learn that its increase is more incremental, and not as immediate as we might expect light to be.

When a light switch is turned on in a dark room the light bulb immediately dispels the darkness, illuminating even the corners.  But the light of Christ is different.  Like yeast in the dough, it works itself slowly through all creation.  As the book of Proverbs notes, it is like “the first gleam of dawn, that shines ever brighter till the full light of day” (Prov. 4:18). If we are awake and paying attention in the early morning, we might notice how the world around us gently, almost imperceptibly, changes from dark shapes to gradually-brightening colours. Trees that looked black take on hues of green and brown. The gleam of Christ will eventually fill and ‘colour’ all things.  But before it does, the darkness must first be exposed.  Its “deep shadows” must be fully brought to light.  And this, it would seem, is what takes time.

If you have ever worked with long exposure photography you know something of the beautiful effects one can get from the slow accumulation of light.  In “old school” photography, where negative film is used, the amount of light that comes into a camera is determined by the length of time the shutter stays open.  For night photography, where your subject might be a star or a dimly lit building, you have to keep the shutter open so the light will gather onto the negative.  The longer the shutter remains open, the more light comes into the camera.  If it were left open, the light would eventually fill the whole negative and completely expose the dark parts of the film.  So it is with the light of Christ in our lives.  As we remain open, His light reaches our darkest shadows.

There is another aspect of this analogy that also applies to our spiritual life.  In order for a camera to capture a true image in a dark setting a tripod is necessary to keep it still.  If there is movement in the camera, the image produced by the light will be blurred.  For us too, the stillness we bring to our prayer allows Christ’s light to form its image more precisely in us.  It ensures that our sense of God is not blurred by lesser lights.

The general rule for photography then is that the darker it is outside, the longer the shutter needs to remain open, and the more still the camera needs to be in relationship to the light that is accumulating.  It would seem that something very similar is taking place in us as well.

The darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
1John 2:8

Rob and Ruth Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities

For Group Discussion:

  1. Spend some time in stillness inviting God to show you places of darkness or light.
  1. How have you experienced the gentle gleam of Christ in your life?
  1. How does this light bring hope and promise?

For Prayer: Illumine my heart, Jesus, and dispel the darkness I sometimes ignore or even choose. Give me patience for your slow unfolding work in me.