Weekly Worship Thought – The Immigrant Apostles’ Creed

(this was tweeted by Shane Claiborne yesterday)

THE IMMIGRANT APOSTLES’ CREED
by Rev. Jose Luis Casal

I believe in Almighty God,
who guided the people in exile and in exodus,
the God of Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon,
the God of foreigners and immigrants.

I believe in Jesus Christ, a displaced Galilean,
who was born away from his people and his home,
who fled his country with his parents when his life was in danger.
When he returned to his own country
he suffered under the oppression of Pontius Pilate,
the servant of a foreign power.
Jesus was persecuted, beaten, tortured and unjustly condemned to death.
But on the third day Jesus rose from the dead,
not as a scorned foreigner but to offer us citizenship in God’s kingdom.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the eternal immigrant from God’s kingdom among us,
who speaks all languages, lives in all countries,
and reunites all races.
I believe that the Church is the secure home
for foreigners and for all believers.
I believe that the communion of saints begins
when we embrace all God’s people in all their diversity.

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Weekly Worship Thought – Fasting

So, what is the difference between fasting and dieting? Asking for a friend.

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One of the courses I’m taking right now is working through a book on spiritual disciplines. One of the course requirements was to make a plan for how we are going to incorporate spiritual disciplines into the rhythm of our lives.

Meditation and prayer. Easy.
Worship. No sweat.
Study and submission. Yep, I can do those.

Fasting?

It just so happened that Kate was ready to start another round of Whole 30 during the month of October. I had done it once before and survived. I dropped about 25 pounds the first time. I agreed to follow the diet, although not be as much of a stickler about the details this time. I accidentally ate some corn yesterday, forgetting it was a grain (how come it is not a vegetable?). And I failed to avoid the chili cheese nachos at my son’s football game last Saturday.

Well, ironically the spiritual discipline assignment was due two days after I started the diet. While writing up my plan I realized, “Hey, I’m going to be fasting this whole month. Easy.” Then I began to think about it more. What is the difference between dieting and fasting?

I’m not sure. Like most things, I have a feeling it comes down to the attitude of your heart.

Just so you know, I did go into a Dunkin Donuts today and only ordered an iced black coffee.

Devotion on John 4:7-15

John 4:7-15: 7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 

Jesus had this knack of doing conversational flybys. He would say something to someone at a profound and deeply spiritual level, and they would hear it nowhere near the level he was communicating. Jesus told the woman he had spiritual water that would take away an eternal thirst, and the woman thought Jesus was talking about never needing a well again. Right over her head. It is also possible that she understood what Jesus was implying, but was uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was headed, and decided to avoid the spiritual probing of Jesus’ inquiry.

Water holds an important place in the rituals of the Jewish people. Ritual washing was part of the spiritual preparation for participation in the community. Houses and synagogues included a mikveh, a pool in which one immersed their whole body to be cleansed from impurities and touching the unclean. As priests, the sons of Levi had to be ritually purified using water before they carried out their religious duties. Even when a Gentile converted to Judaism, his final act was to go through the immersion of the mikveh.

What is this living water the woman inquires about? What is this “eternal life” water that Jesus speaks of? It is the Holy Spirit, gifted to us at our baptism, a constant companion throughout our baptismal journey of death, resurrection, and new life in the Jesus way.

Prayer: God, pour out your Holy Spirit on our thirsty land, creating streams of living water in the dry ground of our lives. Wash away our sin and prepare us as inheritors of your glorious kingdom. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Devotion on Romans 8:31-39

Romans 8:31-39: 31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

In sports, it is easy to size up an opponent. In basketball, if you’re fast and tall you have a natural leg up on the other person. In football, if you have agility and a rocket for an arm you will have an advantage at quarterback.

In the spiritual world, however, sizing up an opponent isn’t as cut and dry. We have an advantage on our enemy that defies logic and the natural order of things. That advantage is provided through the sacrificial love and humility displayed through Jesus in his death, resurrection, and ascension.

Even though we may face suffering in the present, our hope is pulling us through this life and into a glorious future of new, resurrected life. And not only pulling us as the children of God, but all of creation also. Who can stand opposed to God and God’s people as a result of the incredible work of Jesus, God’s own Son? The clear answer is, “No one!” What can remove God’s love from his children? The clear answer is, “Nothing!”

And because there is never a separation from God’s love, because we have nothing to fear, our hearts rise within us, full of adoration and praise for the One Great Love. 

 

Prayer: God of all love and compassion, bless us with the courage and strength to face any day, any situation, any trial with the grace that comes from being your child. Give us an everlasting hope, through Jesus, and in his name. Amen.

 

True Spirituality

jesus_icon_i(Reflection from the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost)

Psalm 15:1-2: LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle? Who may abide upon your holy hill? Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right, who speak the truth from their heart;

James 1:27: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

When we think of being religious or being spiritual, we tend to think inwardly. Perhaps we think about the situations that we have to deal with, or the struggles we have to shoulder, or the battles we fight in our mind. It is widely understood that spirituality is an inward discipline – something shared between God and me.

But Scripture teaches us that spirituality is also about what happens outwardly. Spirituality is about doing right and caring for others. Sharing with those in need is good religion, acceptable to God. Our spirituality is embodied in how we treat people that are less fortunate.

A quote from Robert Webber: “No matter how hard we try, there is nothing we can do to restore our union with God. That is the bad news. But the good news is that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. . . . So spirituality is not a self-generated achievement but a gift given to us by God. This gift sets us free to see life in a new way and to live life as God intended, in union with the purposes of the Creator and Redeemer of the world.”[1]

God’s purposes for us are actualized in serving others. In the economy of God’s Kingdom, the last are first and the first are last. The best in God’s community are always on the bottom, serving others in humility. When we help people in need, making ourselves available to be used by God, we become truly spiritual.


[1] Robert E. Webber, The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 18.

Holy Week 2011 – Wednesday

The texts assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary for Wednesday of Holy Week are Isaiah 50:4-9a (Servant’s humiliation and vindication), Psalm 70 (may all who search for you be filled with joy), Hebrews 12:1-3 (let us fix our eyes on Jesus), and John 13:21-32 (Jesus fortells his betrayal).

John 13:21-30 (NLT):

Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!”

The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. When Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him. Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” None of the others at the table knew what Jesus meant. Since Judas was their treasurer, some thought Jesus was telling him to go and pay for the food or to give some money to the poor. So Judas left at once, going out into the night.

How awkward that last supper must have been?!? Can you imagine the bizarre, stupefying events that must have left the disciples feeling like they had the wind knocked out of them? First instead of the traditional Passover they get the orders for a new covenant, a new meal, a new way of doing things like they’ve never been done before. Then the leader takes the towel and basin and washes the smelly, sweaty, animal-feces-stained feet of the no-name, reject followers he had called out of their lame lives. Then he starts talking about betrayal and accuses Peter of denial. If I were a disciple that had walked with Jesus, seen miracles, healings, dead people get out of tombs, this supposed-Passover celebration would have been the icing on the cake! I would have been left dumbfounded. Nothing was what you thought it was going to be.

Even more dumbfounding for us who see the story unfold 2000 years later is the fact that the betrayer was present at the table. Jesus was putting the whole “love your enemies” thing into practical application right there at the table. Jesus didn’t kick Judas out. He didn’t deny him entry to the table fellowship that night. He didn’t take away his “disciple card.” He welcomed him, supped with him, and included him – just like Jesus does with everyone. Just like Jesus does with us every time betrayal enters our hearts. When we turn our backs on God, when we forget he exists, when we scream our discontented situations at him – he welcomes us at the table. Always.

Prayer for Wednesday of Holy week (from the Book of Common Prayer):

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the suffering of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ you Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Be Thankful in Every Situation

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:14-16)

Do you find it difficult to be thankful? I’m sure you are like me, and find it easy to be thankful during certain seasons and for certain reasons. Towards the end of November I find it natural to be thankful for family, friends, health, and the blessings of living in 21st Century America.

But what about being thankful when this passage says to be thankful? Is it a struggle to be thankful when someone brings God’s word into your life as a point of correction? Is it a challenge to be thankful when someone wants to sing “hymns” and you want to sing “spiritual songs?”

Thankfulness is the rule in worship. If we are in process as people, continually arriving and striving toward who God wants us to be, then our worship services are also in process. We are continually reforming. Because we are in process and continually reforming, we should filter everything we say and think with thankfulness. When the communion bread isn’t what you expect, be thankful. When the music is too loud, be thankful. When the sermon is too long, be thankful. When you serve and don’t get recognized, be thankful. Be thankful in every situation.

Jesus, Lover of My Soul, stanza 4

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

A few notes about the author of the text:
-Charles Wesley, hymn was published in 1740
-Charles wrote over 6,000 songs over the course of his life; including “O for a thousand tongues to sing” and “Hark the Herald angels sing.”
-Songs were all personal expressions of his faith.
-Charles and brother John founded the Methodist church in England, and were missionaries to colonial Georgia.

There is a story about how the song was written: Charles was preaching at a revival, apparently sharing some controversial thoughts. Some of the people did not agree with his doctrine. A riot broke out, and a mob chased after him. It is said that the words of this hymn came to him while hiding under a bush.

My paraphrase of last 2 lines: Jesus is the fountain of life, where life finds it’s source. He freely lets us experience true life through being born again in our hearts, causing holiness and purity to happen, leading to eternal life.

Jesus, Lover of My Soul, stanza 3

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

This stanza is a prayer…with 2 main parts:

1. A confession that Jesus is all we want/need.

2. A petition to God to lift those who have fallen, bring joy to the weary, and impart healing and vision. Not just physical healing, but spiritual.

God is just/holy. There is no corruption in God. God is full of truth [He is THE truth] and grace. On the opposite hand, we are false/sinful/unrighteous.

This is one of the most unexplainable concepts. How can God want to have a relationship w/someone completely opposite of Him?