A FRIDAY MEDITATION – A blessing year

Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something that needs our love.”—Rainer Maria Rilke

There are so many images and thoughts coming to mind today.  I don’t know how or if they will fit together. We will begin a new year in two days.  I hope and pray that it will be a much less chaotic year than this passing one.  I think if I were asked what I wish for this next year, I would be likely to answer, as many contestants in beauty pageants do when asked, “World Peace.”  An aside – my granddaughter tried to get her daughter, then two, to answer this way when asked what she wanted for Christmas.  I don’t know that she ever convinced her to say it. But seriously, isn’t that what we all want?

Perhaps, though, we could answer that we want a year of blessing.  We, in our congregation, have been studying about the power of blessings. We have had teachings and sermons about this. Our Sunday book study read and discussed Russ Parker’s Book, Rediscovering the ministry of Blessing. So did Trinity’s chapter of The Brotherhood of St. Andrew.  I recommend it, highly.

Early in our presidential campaigns, I suggested that we bless both of our candidates whether we liked them or not. I believe that those blessings meant something.  I believe that blessings have power. I believe that is what we need to do.  I believe it makes a difference.

Another aside – In a few days, we will have a new president.  Some of us are delighted and some of us are not. That doesn’t matter. We are told in the Bible to pray for our president – 1 Timothy 2:1-4, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” See, World Peace!

Back to blessings, should we not also be giving blessings to our president? Some of us are delighted by this prospect.  Some of us are not. It doesn’t matter.  We just do it.  I have been since the election. My blessings for our president are especially for wisdom, for a discerning heart, and whatever else enters my mind at the time.  Will it make a difference?  I believe so.  I know it will in me. Giving blessing changes a person. (btw – the person we bless doesn’t have to be present.)

Giving blessing could bring light out of the deepening darkness of our world. It may be a tiny light, but it is light nevertheless. Of course, maybe it’s a flood lamp.  Years ago, we took a trip and went into a cave.  Once there, the guide turned out the lights. Talk about darkness.  After a few minutes, he lit a match.  One tiny match.  So much light, you wouldn’t believe. If we lit several matches, can’t you just imagine…

Barbara Brown Tayler tells a story about blessing in her book, Altars in the World. Briefly, she told of a friend of hers who had a nightmare so frightening that he didn’t sleep well for years.  He didn’t have it every night, but he feared that he would. In the dream, “a malevolent being showed up at the door of her friend’s house wanting something.”  Every time he tried to find something to kill it or try to kill it, every time he killed it, the monster got larger.

“On night, in the dream, it occurred to him that what the demon wanted from him was his blessing.”  That was the only thing that would end its agony and make it leave. So, in fear and trembling, he opened the door and began blessing the creature.  Once was not enough.  He had to say it repeatedly in as many ways that he could think to bless. Barbara writes, “It was as if the demon could not get enough…It was as if no one had ever blessed it before.”  Her friend finally said for the hundredth time. ‘I bless you in the name of the Christ, now go in peace.’ Making a sound like a kitten, the demon turned around and never came back.”

We all need blessing.  Every one of us. We all have our own inner monsters.  How healing would it be if we were to bless each other?   Perhaps, the demons inside of us would go away, too.

We can use Fr. Nigel’s blessing for a starter.

May you be filled with the very love of the Lord. May your heart be at peace.  May your Soul be content.  May your body and mind be without pain. May worry be a thing of the past.  May you have abundant life in and through our Lord.  May his healing Grace rest on your shoulders.  Amen. ~ Fr. Nigel W. D. Mumford+

Grace and Peace to you. Have a blessed and blessing New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Watch Therefore

“Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  Watch, lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” ~ Mark 12:35-37 

Happy New Year!  Where did the year go?  I have no idea.  But no, it’s not January 1; it is still November. The Church begins its new year on the First Sunday of Advent which is this coming Sunday. The scripture lessons this year are more about the Second Coming of Jesus than they are about his birth.  It’s much easier to write about birth stories, since I know something about that, than it is to write about the Second Coming of Jesus of which I have had little direct experience.

Birth stories are more about waiting and the second coming is more about watching. Waiting for birth is about preparation for new life.  Birth pangs will tell us when it’s time.  Watching has a different feel.  As I sit here, I’m trying to get in touch with that difference. Watching is about paying attention to what is going on around us as well as inside of us.  In giving birth, we know for what, even if not exactly for whom, we prepare.  Paying attention – watching – is about noticing the signs of Jesus’ coming again.  We’ve never done this before. For what do we watch? How do we prepare?  How will we notice? How is it different? Maybe the work of Advent this year is reflecting on those questions. Today, I have been looking through some books of Advent meditations.  I am trying to decide which I will use this season.  I read this from Preparing for Jesus, by Walter Wangerin Jr.

“For nearly one thousand five hundred years Christians have spent the days of Advent not in passive inaction, but in activities strenuous and profitable; they have prepared themselves by scrubbing and cleaning their lives, by examining and repairing their souls—even as people generally prepare themselves body and home to receive a visitor of ineffable importance.

“Who is coming? Who awaits him? And when will he get here? And how shall the people prepare?” 

“The Son of man, He is coming.  Jesus.  That One, Him.”

“And we are the people who await him.  You and I. Since it was for us he died, we are the ones who wait in love.  And since he ascended to heaven with promises to return, we wait in faith—for the next and final Advent, Jesus will take us as friends, as brothers and sisters into his house forevermore.

“And when will he get here?  Like any New Year’s Day: at the end and the beginning.  But that Advent to come—the final arrival of Jesus in glory—will itself cause the end of this present age and the beginning of our eternal joy.  When will that be?  Ah, my friend, I do not know.  No one knows its day or hour.  Therefore, Jesus commands us to “Watch.  Stay awake. Get ready. Prepare, prepare—and watch?”

“Finally then, how shall we prepare? In these days, while yet there are days and time, by what activity should we make ourselves ready? Why, by meditating on his first coming—for though the future may be hidden from us the past is not, and the one can teach us the other.

“The story of the birth of Jesus is open before us.  We have a spiritual and holy account of the time when God himself directed preparations for that first coming of his Son into the world.  What God ordains is always good.  Therefore, those preparations may be the perfect pattern for our own this year again, this year too.

“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy…. 

“Oh Lord, Stir up, we beg you, your power—and come.  Come even now into this season of our meditations, that by your protection we may be rescued from our sins, and saved by your mighty deliverance in order to look forward to your final arrival with the joy that cannot be uttered…  Amen.” 

Bless you in your waiting and in your watching.

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Good News

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today. ~
Martin Rinkart 1636

“What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were grateful for yesterday,” a Facebook Meme asks. Even though I have been contemplating this question, and even though this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving, and the fact that “Practice Gratitude” is one element in the Trinity Way of Life prompting Charlie Brown, I imagine, to ask, “What if today we were just grateful for everything?” that is not what has been on my mind most of this week, though there are so very many things for which I am grateful. (Diagram that sentence, St. Paul. Your turn.) 

I have been meditating on the Gospel lesson from last Sunday found in Luke 21:5-19 (NRSV). Jesus and other worshipers are standing around after the service admiring the temple and Jesus tells them that it will eventually be torn down and that all types of cataclysmic events will take place. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. ***This will give you an opportunity to testify. *** So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” 

There is more to that passage than I have used, but I began to think about why bad things happen to us.  There are all sorts of reasons, but I’ve not often considered that they give us an opportunity to testify.  If we pay attention to our stories, we will, most often, have some “Good News” to share. God has given much to me as I have worked out, in fear and trembling, some seriously awful events in my life.  I have, after a period of time and reflection, found new spiritual growth, new wisdom, and new understanding through these events and they have given me good news about God’s workings to share. 

I’ve never been thrown into prison, but I spent many years working with the Kairos prison ministry.  Talk about bad things happening to people – I’ve heard it all.  Most of the stories, I believed because I am reasonably good about discerning a con job.  I, by a turn of events, was the first non-ordained Spiritual Advisor for Kairos Colorado, so there were many opportunities to share Jesus’ story and the ways the “bad” things in my life had changed me with God’s help and healing.  As Spiritual Advisor, I only had about 15 minutes with each person to listen to their story, share Jesus’ story and pray for them. My personal goal was to give each person who came to me a bit of Jesus to hold on to, a bit of His love to ponder, and some hope for their story.  In. 15. Minutes. God worked some amazing miracles in that time constraint. 

An aside (I’m not making light of these programs, just wanting to share a story) – One weekend my husband, Dave, was working with Kairos and I was taking an Al-anon family seminar at Harmony Ranch in Estes Park. Someone asked one of our daughters what her parents were doing that weekend.  With a perfectly straight face, I am sure, she told them that her dad was in prison and her mother was in rehab. See what I had to live with.  No wonder I’m the way I am.  

You might want to refresh your memory by re-reading that scripture from Luke.  Questions to be used for your meditation might be: What did Jesus do with the “bad” events and hard times that have happened in my life?  What is the “Good News” story that I could tell about Jesus in my life? How has he healed me?  How has he loved me? How have I been transformed by God’s working through this event? Maybe you have some questions of your own. God does not waste any part of our lives.  He doesn’t ignore the bad and only use the good or the times we think we are good.   

Remember – Jesus loves you and there is nothing at all that you can do about that. 

This is something for which we can be grateful. 

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Meditating,

A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Blessings not Cursings

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. ~ Prayer for Social Justice, The Book of Common Prayer

Ugh. I wasn’t going to write about this – the political stuff running rampant – the hateful, fearful rhetoric surrounding the political campaigns which will most likely continue for some time.  I wasn’t going to do it. But what is a follower of Jesus to do about this? How do we respond? How do I respond?

“Bless instead of curse.”

The phrase wanders around in my head as I sit with the question.  We know that we are to pray for our leaders no matter who gets elected.  Even when it’s hard.  Even when we don’t want to. I think it was Frederick Buechner who said, “Go where your best prayers take you.”  If we do that where will we go?  What will we do?  What will I do? Does it not depend upon what our best prayers say?

“Bless instead of curse.”

Does that mean that I am not get caught up in hateful speech no matter what we believe or about whom we believe it? I think so, even though I may not agree with what they do or say. Recently, I have been praying for God to bless our presidential candidates. I pray that God will touch each of them with his holy spirit and guide them in the days to come.  I pray for God’s will to be done in their lives. The Book of Common Prayer gives this prayer, “O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders [and potential leaders] of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.” The people are to respond, “Lord keep this nation under your care.”  Or we can say, “Amen.” We can start here.

“Bless instead of curse.”

Today while praying I heard God say, “Now you bless them?” Oh! That puts a different slant on things, doesn’t it? What is an apprentice of Jesus to do, here? Does it just mean that I/we say, “Bless so and so?” Donald and Hillary in this case and it is this case. How do I do this? Jesus not only said bless and not curse, but do good to them, also.  What does that mean?  It doesn’t mean, “Bless your little heart, you pour little misinformed one.”  But I believe it means that I am to bless them with all good. Oh boy, do I have my work cut out for me. Maybe you, do too.

Will blessing make a difference in the outcome? I hope so. I pray so. I believe that’s why God said so. But I know it’ll make a difference in me.

“I bless you with knowing the joy of the Lord that is your strength.

I bless you with knowing joy in his faithfulness in profound and life-giving ways.

I bless you with remembering times when he showed you his faithfulness.

I bless you with enlarging your spirit to know profoundly and deeply that your Father is pleased with you.

I bless you with receiving the truth of your identity, legitimacy and birthright.

I bless you with knowing who you are in your Father’s eyes and in drinking deeply of the joy that he has in who you are.” ~ Sylvia Gunter, Blessing Your Spirit

Grace and Peace, Donna