On Being Human 5: Otherness

When we live in such a way that we are attentive to the present moment and growing in our awareness of the wonder of life, it helps us see the extraordinary in the ordinary of life. We become able to see each individual as unique. We hopefully see others as having a deep significance, worthy of love, dignity, kindness, and mercy. Until we see others as more than an extension of ourselves (as unique individuals) we have no hope of seeing the presence of the Transcendent Other. It may be that we best begin to see God’s presence when we encounter him in providing hospitality to strangers.

Extending Hospitality:

  1. Ask God to give you new eyes to see your community with ability to see the hurting and needy in your midst.
  2. Once God begins to reveal those who are in need of care and hospitality, consider the following ways to enter their world and listen to their story:
    • join their routine and enter their day for a period of time
    • buy two cups of coffee and share a coffee break with them
    • spend your lunch with them (share a bag lunch together)

3.  When you feel there is a mutual respect and trust

    • invite them to a meal in your home
    • involve them in a family tradition/picnic

 

A Prayer for Others

Open my eyes that they may see the deepest needs of people;

Move my hands that they may feed the hungry;

Touch my heart that it may bring warmth to the despairing;

Teach me the generosity that welcomes strangers;

Let me share my possessions to clothe the naked;

Give me the care that strengthens the sick;

Make me share in the quest to set the prisoner free.

In sharing our anxieties and our love, our poverty and our prosperity,

we partake of your divine presence. Amen.

With All God’s People: The New Ecumenical Prayer Cycle (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1989), p. 344.


Lent: Follow

We are mere days away from the end of our yearly Lenten journey. For too many of us, the wandering in the wilderness, the abstaining, the humility and perseverance of this season will be forgotten amidst the Easter feast and return to normal life. Before we become victims of our cultural excesses, may we hear a helpful warning to war against this tendency.

“There can be no doubt that monastic life should always have a Lenten character about it.”

-St. Benedict, The Rule, Chapter 49

Since Benedict was writing for everyone, I am of the opinion that we could read this simple quote today in the following manner: There can be no doubt that the life of a follower of Jesus should always have a Lenten character about it.

Said another way by N. T. Wright in reference to the ultimate goal of our Christian life:

The idea of a goal, an ultimate aim, calling us to a hard road of self-denial—the idea, in other words that Jesus of Nazareth meant what he said when he spoke of people taking up their cross to follow!—has been quietly removed from the record, not only of secular Western life but also, extraordinarily, of a fair amount of Christian discourse.

-N. T. Wright, After You Believe, p. 53

It is time for us to return to the hard road of self-denial as the default position in the life of following after Jesus. Not merely as a part of our Lenten observance (although, it needs to be intensified during this time) but as a part of our everyday living.

May we keep a blessed Lent (and keep a Lenten character to our everyday living).


Lenten Prayers 4

There are two more prayers for us to pray during this time before we remember the final week of Jesus’s life. These prayers for Lent seem to capture well many of the themes we have looked at during Lent this year.

Lenten Blessing*

Father, help us be formed in the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly came to our world, lived a perfect life, and died that we might live a new life. May we be filled with his never-ending love, nurtured by the truth of his living word, and guided through his perfect example. Amen.

Dawn to Dark, p. 242

Daily Prayer*

O God, whose blessed Son steadfastly set his face to go to the city where he was to suffer and die; let there be in us this same devotion which was in him. Forgive us, we beseech thee, our many evasions of duty. We have held back from fear of men. We have ranked security and comfort higher than justice and truth; and our hearts condemn us. But thou, O Lord, who art greater than our hearts, have mercy upon us. Purge us from the fear that is born of self-concern. Beget in us the fear that we may be found wanting in loyalty to thee and thy purpose of good for mankind. Fill us with the compassion of him who for our sake endured the cross; that we may be delivered from selfishness and cowardice; and that, dedicating our lives to thy service, we may be used of thee to help one another and to heal the hurt of the world; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Dawn to Dark, p. 243-244

*The first prayer is an opening prayer. It is suitable for you to pray first thing in the morning, as a prayer of blessing over a meal, or as a call to worship in a public setting. The second prayer is intended to be prayed throughout the day as a way to join your heart with your sisters and brothers who make up the body of Christ.


Lent – Mercy

One of the words that quickly comes to my mind when I consider the season of Lent is that wonderful word mercy. There are a number of word pictures accompanying that word that also flood my mind. The most often and most meaningful image I land on when I think of mercy comes from a wonderful story from the pen of Walter Wangerin. The story is entitled Ragman, and I heartily recommend the book of the same title to you. Wangerin read that story many years ago at a Youth Specialties conference, and it connected the dots between God’s mercy and my great need in a way that still resonates.

Lent is a time when we come to see our need for the great mercy of our God. During this season, we are challenged to become aware of our dustiness and our propensity to wander from God’s best. The other side of that story is: God is with us and offering mercy and a way to return to God’s will and way.

During this time of Lent, may we have open eyes to not only see our great need but also our great way-maker. Walter Wangerin opens his book Ragman with the following invocation:

Unto you, Lord, Unto you, Lord God of the Worlds, I turn. And even when I do not know I am turning, I turn to you.

 Your print is everywhere, and everywhere divine.

Where can I look and I do not see you?

Into myself? But I encompass you, who compass me from every corner, for I am sin and you are forgiveness and I cannot live except it be by you. My life itself is yours. No, when I look at me I see the thing that you have done.

Then where can I look and I do not see you?  [Ragman and Other Cries of Faith, Walter Wangerin, p. IX.]

Thank God for mercy that is more than enough! May we live a blessed Lent.


Lent: Waiting

Forty is a number that emerges a number of times in our Scriptures. Forty days and nights Noah is in the ark; forty years Moses spends in Midian as a shepherd; forty years Israel wanders in the wilderness; and Jesus spends forty days in the wilderness following his baptism in the Jordan. In each case we are confronted with this number, 40.

In each instance the subject is in a period of waiting. Noah, Moses, Israel, and Jesus all face this time of preparation by waiting, reflecting, repenting, and being renewed for what is to come. It is a necessary transitional time—between here and there—that is to ready those waiting for a new thing, a new beginning, a new chapter.

Lent reflects all of that. It is a period of forty days (not counting Sundays) beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, or Easter. It is during this time that we attempt to rid our lives of distractions and our surplus to enter a time in the wilderness and all that entails: facing ourselves, God, temptation, simplicity, and demanding faith. It is a time we await the celebration to come but soberly ensure we are following Jesus and taking up our own cross as he instructs.

Will we enter into this time to wander in the wilderness to listen to our lives? To simplify our days, that we might be less distracted and more attentive to God’s presence and promptings in our everyday? Will we take time to be pruned and purified, growing more and more into the likeness of the One we claim to follow? Will you wait and keep a blessed Lent?


Lent: The Litany

 

 

Lent is an Anglo-Saxon word that, when best defined, means spring. Each spring (or late winter) comes another season of the Christian year, the time of Lent. Lent is the most solemn of the Christian seasons. It is a time for serious reflection, repentance, and renewal. We need seasons like Lent to call us to slow our pace of life and take time out for reflection, meditation, quiet, and repentance.

I don’t often plan well. This Lenten season, I have decided to observe an old practice of praying the Litany at least once a week. The late Robert Webber suggested Saturdays in his book The Prymer, and that is what I plan to do.

The Litany is a l-o-n-g prayer. It is really a prayer service. I use a version (without the invoking of the saints) from An English Prayer Book. In this version of the Litany it is a seven-fold prayer that progresses thus:

  1. Inviting God to hear us
  2. Personal repentance
  3. Personal petitions
  4. Intercessions on behalf of others
  5. The Lord’s Prayer
  6. Corporate repentance
  7. Benediction

It is a wonderful prayer. It helps us repent; change our way of thinking; see with new eyes; find our proper position and place in God’s kingdom again.

This Lenten practice, setting aside and taking time to reflect and repent, is something I realize I don’t naturally move toward. I am more likely to keep going and put mistakes, misplaced words, and sins under foot. Lent calls us to stop and reflect on who we are becoming and how we are living. This is good. Maybe you would take up praying the Litany each Saturday of Lent.

A copy of the Anglican Litany:  http://www.churchyear.net/anglitany.html

The version I am praying is found in this book: An English Prayer Book

A blend of the 12 stations of the cross and the prayer path for teens.


On the Eve of Lent

Tomorrow begins the liturgical season of lent. This is a forty-day season of preparation and repentance that precedes the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. Before we feast, though, we are called to fast, and before we celebrate newness of life and the power of God, we are called to let go, surrender, and remember the humility of our Lord. This season of Lent I invite you to enter into this journey of letting go, surrendering, and remembering the humility of Christ and how he modeled walking steadily toward Jerusalem to fulfill the will of his God.

This season, will you intentionally alter your living and rhythms to go with less, surrender more, and discipline yourself to be more aware of bending to the will of your God?

It may take the form of a fast, flexing your schedule to allow for times of silence, observing the hours, committing to serving regularly at a mission or soup kitchen; the options are varied. One observance I am going to add to my practice of Lent is daily praying the following:

I beseech you, Jesus, loving Saviour, to show yourself to all who seek you, so that we may know you and love you.

May we love you alone

and desire you alone

and keep you always in our thoughts.

May love for you possess our hearts.

May affection for you fill our senses

so that we may love all else in you.

 

Jesus, king of glory

You know how to give greatly

and you have promised great things.

Nothing is greater than yourself; we ask nothing of you but yourself.

 

You are our life

our light

our food

and our drink

our God

and our all.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, our all in all, Amen.

(From:  A Celtic Primer compiled by Brendan O’Malley)

May we keep a holy Lent.