Nativity

Danny A. Belrose ©

Angels’ wings, camels and kings, shepherds and sheep,
stable in starlight piercing night’s ink, soft hallelujahs stirring inside
a babe, a manger, a carpenter’s bride hope leaning forward,
joy fills the earth, peace wrapped in starlight
. . . Easter is birthed.

Spiritual Practice: How are you invited to pay attention to the significance of this Christmas Eve? What promise of hope does it bring into your life, the world?

BREAD OF LIFE

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Incorporate times of silence into your daily routine. Before beginning work, eating a meal, or beginning any daily task, observe a minute of silence.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

We began this Lenten journey with this material reminder of our humanness. Smudge of ash marked us with humility. With repentant hearts we started this walk to make up some distance in the great divide between who we are and who we are called, in love, to become.

I don’t think it is an accident that everything we have to teach us about life in God comes from the earth. Earth is our language. We can include the cosmos too- starry nights of wonder and phases of moon. It is what we can see, what we can touch, what we can taste that helps us make just enough sense of the One we cannot see, cannot touch, cannot taste.

Jesus is known for using the physical stuff of earth to help us to see- mud and spit, for example, in the blind man’s eyes.

This night he uses water in basin for washing road-weary feet. So it is in the kingdom of God.

He breaks bread as symbol of broken body. Disciples consume glimpsing what oneness might mean. Texture of bread saturating on tongue- lingering in the mystery of the moment.

Wine, symbol of blood, poured out. Life-giving substance pulsing in the veins of those who received it- of us right now. The bitter sweetness enters their bodies and they can taste what he is saying as he is saying it. A love lesson engrained in their hearts, alive within them.

I don’t know exactly what this means, only that it has meaning. I wonder if this is how the disciples felt too. Sometimes to simply recognize the presence of meaning is reverence enough.

Throughout the years we have interpreted this sacred meal as inclusion, invitation, hospitality. It has meant remembrance and reconciliation and recommitment. We have labored over its truth in theological debate.

In a faith that is so often mystery, the physical elements contain a holy immediacy. I hold it in my hands. I taste. I eat. What I long for is before me, in physical form and it becomes a part of me in some nourishing way. It is a reminder that what I long for is actually more accessible than I ever thought. This earth-cosmos-language is speaking continuously about God. “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:40)

The table reminds me of the kingdom of God call to add another leaf, set up some more chairs, and invite the whole world to the feast. This is for hungry hearts, yes, but also hungry bodies that Jesus calls us to love and serve. Sometimes the good news is literally bread.

Every table can become the altar for a sacred meal, for reconciliation, for invitation.
This sacred meal is waiting for you in the world. The body of the One you follow- the blood of the One you love. Take. Eat. Live.

“Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again the words: This is my Body. And over every death-force which waits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again your commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my Blood.” –Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Becoming Free

Lenten Practice: Fasting
Daily Act: Find a possession that you value or enjoy and choose to give it away to someone else. What does it feel like to let go? How is God present in your generous giving?
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“OPEN ME TO RECEIVE MORE OF YOU.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

I love books. Our home office has stacks of books highlighted and underlined, with messages of meaning and question etched in the margins. If you ask to borrow one of my books, I will feel my heart rate quicken. Several times I have had good friends come to visit who decided to borrow books as they were packing up to leave. I let them go begrudgingly. In fact, I am ashamed to say that I was so focused on losing one of my books that I missed the last several moments with ones I love. I was blinded to the person in front of me because they were taking what was “mine.”

It is ok to love books. The concern comes when I refuse to let them go, when I place them in priority above people or use them to try to be something other than my most authentic self. Why this feeling of resistance? Why this holding on? Are my books part of an identity that I want to portray? Do stacks of books make me feel wise or educated? Do I feel like what I have gained from reading will be lost if I don’t have the pages to hold in my hands? Does the sight of all these books make up for the deeper sense of inadequacy that always threatens to emerge right beneath the surface?

Lent is about honestly confronting everything that keeps us at a distance from the connecting and reconciling impulse of the Holy Spirit. Everything means my attitudes, behaviors, and possessions. It is not exactly the thing that matters the most. It is about locating the feeling of attachment to the thing. It is about realizing, sometimes slowly, that I am not as free as I thought I was. It is about then locating that feeling in relation to all the other things, attitudes, behaviors, relationships I am attached to that keep me from being free in God’s Spirit.

This isn’t an exercise in meaningless, or even mean, testing. It reaches to the roots of a consumer culture that assigns value based on what we have and do not have. It triggers our impulses toward accumulation, sometimes at the expense of others, sometimes at the expense of ourselves. The health of our souls, and the earth, at this moment in history may very well be linked to our willingness or reluctance to let go of the things that have claimed us. This is a justice issue. This is a spiritual issue. This is a human issue.

If God’s desire for our lives is oneness and equality in Christ, then what is getting in the way of that ultimate vision? What are you willing to give to make it real?

Below is a prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Some call it a radical prayer! May these words bless and challenge you as you continue to EMPTY during this season of Lent!

“Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.” –St. Ignatius of Loyola

REMINDER: March 1, 2015 is the registration deadline for our upcoming Lenten Retreat with Presiding Evangelist, David Brock. The theme is INTO THE WILDERNESS (March 13-15). If you are seeking a deeper exploration of the season of Lent in your life and yearn to grow closer with God, we would love to share this experience with you! Email khmclaughlin@cofchrist.org if you have any questions.

Lenten Spiritual Retreat with Presiding Evangelist David Brock.  March 13-15, 2015 Click here to register!
Lenten Spiritual Retreat with Presiding Evangelist David Brock.
March 13-15, 2015
Click here to register!