Practices

Practices are….

rich and repetitive actions we do,
over time and often together,
which engage our senses and imagination,
reminding us of God’s presence
and aiming us at his kingdom.

Here are some we’ve experimented with over the various cycles with Open Book

(We will continue to add to this list over time so you may wish to periodically revisit!)

Daily Needs Prayer Tool:

XP vessel and spongeAction: in prayer, pour water into a cup until it overflows onto a dry sponge.

Reflection: We are called to overflow all that we receive from God. What do you plead God for in the mornings? Patience? Wisdom? Solutions to problems? The whole world is thirsty for these things. As you fill the cup, pray for your needs but don’t stop at yourself; continue to pour as the cup overflows, pray for those same things for colleagues, family and friends who can all be blessed to be a force for good in the world today!

 

Pottery reflection:

clay pot 2Action: Form a clay vessel with air-dry clay

Reflection: as you mould and pinch and smooth, consider how God has formed you and will continue to form you.

Optional: Paint the inside metallic, representing God’s kingdom. You could even use the pot as your cup in the cup and sponge prayer practice.

 

Seedling Prayer
seedlingAction: Plant a seedling; daily pray the Lord’s Prayer with your seedling. Finish with “Lord, help us to cultivate a love for your kingdom’s coming”

Reflection: Consider how God cultivates/grows the earth and how you might participate with him in this. Place your seedling in a prominent place as a reminder of your mission in the world – to serve his vision for all things.

 

Relinquishing Prayer

xp balloons IIRelinquish imageAction: release helium balloon (or reflect on similar image) as a prayer tool.

Reflection: What would the Lord have me relinquish in my work today? eg. power, resources, time, worries or frustations.

 

 

Children’s Bible stories

beatitudes children's story tutuAction: Daily reflection using children’s bible eg. the Jesus Storybook Bible

Reflection: A good children’s bible is a wonderfully simple paraphrase of the truths that may have become too complex and heavily laden in our minds.

 

Night sky listening

Night Sky listeningAction: Spend 5 minutes nightly, prayerfully admiring the night sky

Reflection: In an attitude of humility and readiness to listen, ask God “what should I be seeing and hearing around me at the moment (ie. in my current workplace/context)?”

 

Plaiting

Plaiting CordActivity: plaiting hair or cotton

Reflection: pray for unity and strength in your family and in your relationship with God. “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecc 4:12)

 

 

Aromas

anointing oilActivity: anoint yourself with oil during your morning time spent with God

Reflection: Just as the Jewish people leave spice on the tips of their tongues at the conclusion of the Sabbath to allow the ‘aroma’ of this special time to linger, anointing oil can help remind you of God’s presence as you continue throughout your day.

 

 

Hessian 

hessianActivity: place a square of hessian in your wallet to remind you of the principle of simplicity in your consuming

Reflection: Consider your purchases carefully as you remember the inspirational life of Saint Francis of Assisi (and many other giants of the faith who have chosen lifestyles of simplicity in order to more faithfully follow Christ). Remember our responsibilty in caring for the cosmos and our fellow human beings.

 

Baking Bread

breadActivity: Bake bread at home

Reflection: consider our food, the earth and the work that goes into cultivating and processing the food that we eat. Contemplate the role that God has given us in ‘arranging’ the natural world. Consider how food is a daily reminder of our dependence and the truth that no matter how capable or well resourced we are, we are not self sufficient.

Sign of the Cross

basic_celtic_cross_knotActivity: Mark yourself with the sign of the cross before crossing the threshold of your home to enter your day.

Reflection: A very old practice used to demonstrate and remind yourself that you belong to Christ; bought at a price. Bonhoffer used the sign of the cross throughout his time in prison. Though there are several variations, one example is to use the thumb to mark a small cross on the forehead, lips, heart and shoulders. You may wish to add a prayer such as: “Lord, I am yours, be glorified in what I think, in what I see, in what I say, in what I desire, in what I do, and in where I go today”.

Gratitude Journal

writing-1240442Activity: record 5 things you are grateful for at bedtime nightly or do verbally with family over dinner. Prompts to get you started: opportunities, nature, food and drink, places, our bodies, dreams and hopes, memories, art, animals, people, happy and challenging experiences.

Reflection: Studies show increased happiness, sleep, decreased depression and anxiety and improved blood pressure are associated with performing this task regularly and scripture instructs us to give thanks (1 Thess 5:18, Ps 92:1-2).

Placing a Stone in Water

stone in waterAction: place a stone in water and position somewhere visible throughout the day.

Reflection: borrowed from monastic traditions, this practice is a symbolic reminder of our commitment to Christ through baptism and daily commitment to live for Him. It also reminds us of Rev 2:17 which makes reference to God giving us a new name, written on a stone.

Jelly making

Jelly heartAction: make red jelly (in heart shape mould for added effect!)

Reflection: Pray Ezekiel 36:26 for yourself, that you will remain open, vulnerability and sensitive to those who are hurting. That you will become more like Christ in sacrificial love for others.

Ez 36:26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh”

Pop art

pop art exampleAction: apply ‘pop art’ effect to a photo of yourself. Display or use as bookmark

Reflection: there is light and shade in all of us. Ask yourself: what are my blocks, jealousies, prejudices, hatreds and ways of comparing myself with others? Consider Jesus own teaching about forgiveness (Matt 18:21-35).

 

Earplug activity

earplugsAction: use earplugs during your designated prayer time.

Reflection: with earplugs in, pray for your needs and those of your known friends and family. Then, remove the earplugs and ask God to help you hear ‘the voices from the margins’ before praying for those with whom you have no immediate contact or natural compassion for. Finish by reading ‘the beattitudes’.

 

Silent Meal

mealAction:  silent thanksgiving while eating the evening meal or breakfast

Reflection: consider the ‘sources of nourishment’ in your life eg. relationships, beauty, nature, music, rest, interests.

 

Hand Spelling

hand spellingAction: with your index finger in the palm of your opposite hand trace the letters to spell out a message of gratitude such as “Life is Gift”

Reflection: Ann Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, used this technique to ‘unlock’ communication for her student. Anne’s service was a gift  of enormous proportions to Helen. Consider how God has nourished and enabled you through others and give thanks.

Hugs

hug

Action: whenever giving a hug as a greeting, remember God’s ‘open arms’ posture to you.

Reflection: Consider the components of a hug and how they parallel having an open heart.

 

Washing & Drying the Dishes

washing-up

Action: sing the hallelujah chorus while washing the dishes (you may want to post the words nearby)

Reflection: give thanks for the everyday ordinariness of serving Christ in the mundane.  “when you did it for the least of these, you did it for me” Matt 25:40

 

Drawing the anchor 

anchor icon

Action: practice drawing the anchor icon daily as an act of meditation during a break or quiet time.

Reflection: consider the early Christians and the persecution they faced from the Roman empire. Consider how our faith is the same, whilst faced with the ‘empire’ of Global Consumerism.

 

Reef Reflection

reefAction: Hold and reflect upon your piece of bleached coral as you confess the ways that you have bought into the cares of the world, removing the power of the cross from your life. Contrast the image of the thriving reef and remind yourself of Jesus’ path to true flourishing – justice and sacrificial faithfulness. Over the course of one week, read Matthew 5, 6 and 7 for a reminder of how Jesus instructed us to live. 

bleached coralReflection: Consider how God’s idea of fruitfulness, thriving, shalom is like a reef. Rising sea temperatures and pollution bleach and kill the coral. How has our culture’s image of ‘the good life’ similarly ‘bleached’ the vibrancy of our faith.

 

Lives well lived

letter to diognetus

Action: Daily reading of portion of ‘letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)

Reflection: “only the non-ideological, embracing, forgiving and shalom-filled life of a dynamic Christian community formed by the story of Jesus will prove the gospel to be true and render the idolatrous alternatives fundamentally implausible” Colossians Remixed p114

Preaching to Creation

dsc_0002-1

Action: Sing with, pray with or preach to a living thing around your home or on your way to work each day eg. a pet, tree, insect, bird.

Reflection:

“God wrote, “I love you” – he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea. He wrote his message everywhere! Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror – to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing. The way a kitten chases her tail. The way red poppies grow wild. The way a dolphin swims.” (The Jesus Storybook Bible p12).

In Psalm 19 we read of the heavens singing and the mountains shouting.

In a friend’s dog, Lil, we see a faithful companion ever-present in painful times.

In Francis of Assisi we see precedence for preaching to creation in his famous sermon to the birds.

The gospel is good news to all of creation. In declaring (singing, praying/lament or preaching) the story of God to creation, we remind ourselves of the story in all of its detail and grandeur!

 

Turning to face the Sun/Son

skyAction: Whenever advertising catches your attention, look to the heavens and remind yourself “Enough”. Keep a sunflower in a prominent place to remind you of your practice.

Reflection: Just as a sunflower always turns to face the sun; we must constantly look to ‘the Son’ to remind ourselves that competing frames of reference, like consumerism, should have no power over us, the people of the cross. The narrative of Christ says “Enough”: “Enough” stuff; you are “Enough” in that you image Christ; and God is more than “Enough”. In Ephesians 5:5b “a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world.” Our contentment is a sign of the kingdom when we direct our addictions/our affections toward God and we are ‘FOUND IN HIM’

 

Inclusive Hospitality

lindsays-resurrection-paintingAction: Ask God for someone in your daily work to whom you should be actively listening; preferably someone without a voice. Listen. Include. Pray. OR next time you have friends for dinner, invite someone who is often excluded.

Reflection: ‘Table Benediction’ by Darryl Johnson, http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/table-benediction

 

Ethical Consumption

ethical-consumption-iiAction: Download an ‘ethical shopping’ app to help you make informed decisions about the impact of your purchases on the environment and people living in relative poverty OR simply avoid products from high risk processing zones (China, Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka)

Reflection: “Who pays the price? the human cost of electronics” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ns-kJ5Podjw

 

Advent Candles

advent Action: lighting of the advent candles and reflections leading into Christmas with 5 minutes of silence and stillness.

Reflection: An ethic of suffering. “Nature trembled and said with astonishment: What new mystery is this? The judge is judged and remains silent; the invisible one is seen and does not hide himself; the incomprehensible one is comprehended and does not resist; the unmeasurable one is measured and does not struggle; the one beyond suffering suffers and does not avenge himself; the immortal one dies and does not refuse death. What new mystery is this?” (Second-century bishop Melito of Sardis).

 

Tracing Silence

silence-symbolAction: Trace the Japanese symbol for Silence. Pray “God, speak to us in the silence”

Reflection: Sometimes God is silent, at times, when we are most desperate for him to speak. Remember the persecuted Christians such as the Japanese in the 16th century. Pray that God would work something good in you through the times of silence in your own life.

 

 

Pumice stone

pumiceAction: During your daily bathing ritual, use a pumice stone to remove callouses from your feet. Ask God to bring to mind the name of someone who you are tempted to despise or protect yourself from. Plan to take steps toward them in love (listen to them, help them, pray for them, attend to them).

Reflection: we protect ourselves from the difficult, the needy, the awkward, the risky.    A pumice stone removes callouses to make the feet sensitive once again. Use the stone to remind yourself daily to be vulnerable and sensitive to the most difficult, even though it may involve risk (word of caution: of course, there are many situations where vulnerability can be abused and we may need to seek counsel when we are unclear about this boundary).

 

Crushed flowers: prayer for the persecuted

drying-cherry-blossoms-in-the-oven-2

Action: Crush a flower in your hand and smell the aroma released. Begin and end your prayer time with “Our pain is not wasted; our hope is in Christ”. Use a guide such as Voice of the Martyr’s global report at https://vom.com.au/countries/

Reflection: “this path is narrow; its difficult to walk here”(p80, Silence, Shusaku Endo). Just as the two men sang “we’re on our way to Paradise” as they endured the pounding of the waves during Japanese water torture, there is no one answer to suffering, trauma and betrayals. We have to be comfortable with ambiguity and see through the pain.

 

The Golden Rule and ‘Reverse Evangelism’

gold leaf IIAction:  Ask someone, who is not a Christian, about their beliefs. Listen attentively with love and respect, not as an opportunity to evangelise. Ask how they perceive Christianity. Listen, empathise, don’t defend. Thank them for their honesty. (‘Reverse Evangelism’ , The Evangelism Project, Peter Rollins, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDd4G22zrOI )

 Reflection (Using the gold leaf  to remind you of God’s glory in all of humanity – valuable yet fragile): It is important to anthropologise ourselves as a starting point for loving and respectful relationships. Take some time this week to consider your own ‘tribal’ boundaries eg. family, nationality, your church family, the ethos of the place you grew up in or the school you attended. How do these “loyalties” play into your perception and judgments about others? Imagine your attitude as a physical ‘posture’ toward the world and the many and varied people who you meet on a daily basis. Picture the position of your head, body and limbs. Be honest. In light of how your neighbour has experienced Christianity, imagine how you might change your posture toward ‘the other’. Sketch it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liturgy – Kingdom Calling

Theme: Vocation

 

Lighting of the Candles 

We light a candle in the name of the Maker,

Who lit the world and breathed the breath of life for us…

We light a candle in the name of the Son,

Who saved the world and stretched out his hand to us…

We light a candle in the name of the Spirit,

Who encompasses the world and blesses our souls with yearning…

 

We light three lights for the trinity of love:

God above us, God beside us, God beneath us:

The beginning, the end, the everlasting one.

 

Silence (1 min) to confess our sins and still our hearts

 

Liturgy

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you

As the day rises to meet the sun.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

 

Father God at work around us:

Thank you for your redemptive work: saving and reconciling

Thank you for your creative work: fashioning and beautifying

 

Father God at work around us:

Thank you for your providential work: supplying and sustaining

Thank you for your justice work: defending and advocating

 

Father God at work around us:

Thank you for your compassionate work: comforting, healing & guiding

Thank you for your revelatory work: enlightening with truth

 

Father God at work around us

Apprentice us in your ways

For your glory and the flourishing of all that you have made.

Amen.

 

Alternative liturgy:

Creator God Like Anna who waited to greet the Christ child

Show us where you are at work in the world.

Like Bezalel, anointed as an artist in the temple

Equip us with skills to glorify you.

Like Samuel who sat up at the sound of your voice

Help us to respond to your call on our lives.

Like Daniel who refused to eat food that was tainted

Give us courage to be faithful to you in our world.

Like Lydia, a worshipper as well as a business woman

Help us to put you first in our lives.

Like Jesus, your son, our teacher and example

Help us to worship you in all that we do.

Amen.

 

Worship

Leader: “We will now take a moment to reflect on God’s work in our world across all of history; as all of creation groans and eagerly awaits the redemption of all things. We will be using a sequence of images from the impressionist movie, Tree of Life (2011). Please feel free to watch, pray or join in with the meditative Taize song.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCxDZaWRAvo The Tree of Life 6 min clip

“Bless the Lord” lyrics:

Bless the Lord, my soul, and bless God’s holy name.

Bless the Lord, my soul, who leads me into life!

 

God at Work Reflections:

Leader: “often we find it easy to imagine God’s creative work or compassionate work but forget other aspects of the work He does. Each week we will consider a different part of God’s labour in the world (loosely inspired by Robert Banks) to help us consider the ways in which we join Him through our everyday productive activities.”

Share any additional insights/reflections gained since previous meeting.

“Take a moment to consider: God is a ________________. In what sense/how is God a ____________?”.

Read and discuss associated verses/themes.

Wk 1: Composer/Performer (Deut 31:19, 1 Sam 16:14-33, Ps 42:8, Zeph 3:17).

Wk 2: Metal worker/Potter (Ps 8:3, Is 29:13-16, Jer 18-19, Ez 22:17-22, Is 45:18, Gen 1:27, 1:31, 2:7, Is 64:8, 45:9b-12, Ez 22:17-22, Ps 139:13-16, 2 Cor 4:7). Activity: make vessels from air-dry clay.

Wk 3: Gardener (verses are numerous – group to brainstorm). Group reflection using images of gardens. Activity: planting seedlings

Wk 4: Builder (Ps24:1-2, Ps 104:5, Ps 127:1, Heb 3:4, Matt 16:8, Acts 4:11, Mark 6:3, Mark 14:58, 1 Cor 3:9-15, Jn 14:1-3). Clip http://http//www.abc.net.au/tv/dreambuild/

Wk 5: Tentmaker (Ex 26:1-6 & 15-25 & 35:10, Lev 23:41-43, Luke 9:57-62, 2 Cor 5:1-5, Heb 8:2-5 & 11:8-10 & 11:13-16 & 11:38-40, Rev 7:15). Prayer for refugees and prayer that we all will ‘pack light’ as we follow Christ.

Wk 6: Economist/Investor (Matt 25:14-30). Watch animation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbPKhYBaWRg) Discuss how members feel and think about $. Will it be in the new creation? What would a kingdom economy look like?

Wk 7: Farmer. Watch Ram trucks ad (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7yZdOl_e_c). Discuss how God both ‘subdues’ and ‘tends’ us. How should we subdue and tend through our work?

Wk 8: Family businessman (Lk 2:41-50, Jn 5:16-18 & 9:1-7 & 17:1-5).  Discuss personal experiences, the idea of ‘apprentices’. How does it differ to other small businesses?

Wk 9: Participants consider their own profession

 

Dialogue

Wk 1: Video (3 mins) – LICC “frontlines”. Group share what our ‘frontlines’ are.

Wk 2: You Tube clip: “Carlos Nielbock: master craftsman metal worker”

Wk 3: “Work is Worship” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m06DYIAeCtU )

Wk 8: Urban Neighbours of Hope (http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/hack/stories/s3528672.htm)

Discussion

  1. Questions: What didn’t make sense?
  2. Challenges: Something you disagree with or want to clarify?
  3. Implications: ‘so what?’ (for your vocational stewardship)?
  4. Applications: something useful right now toward fruitfulness on the frontline
  5. Visual stimuli

Wk 1 God is a composer/performer: Group reflections on “the Banjo player”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ossawa_Tanner

Wk 2: Look at website www.theshalomimaginative.com (About, Gallery).

Wk 3: Wendell Berry’s poem “Manifesto: the Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

Wk 4: Body of Christ Art: “in his image” by William Zadanak.. Addressing insignificance and the ‘body of Christ’

Wk 5: Michael Parekowhai’s “The World Turns”; what does it mean to share power as a Christian?

Wk 6: National Geographic ‘Flowers Blooming’ footage (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjCzPp-MK48). Consider the redemptive process. What would I look like fully redeemed?

Wk 7: A Rocha clip (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff2MOVruo3l). Discuss ‘flourishing’. Reflect: in what ways have you dominated/been inpatient/failed to consult/reinvented the wheel/been insensitive in your workplace?

Wk 8: Stephen Hart http://stephenhart.com.au/fellow-humans/

Wk 9: poetry and prayer, using rhyme, rhythm and repetition

 

Everyday Practice and Closing

Wk 1: Prayer tool: pouring water into a vessel until it over flows onto a sponge. Leader: “We are called to be the ‘Tsaddiquium’. We are called to overflow all that we receive from God. What do you plead God for in the mornings? Patience? Wisdom? Solutions to problems? The whole world is thirsty for these things. Don’t stop at yourself; pray them for those around you who don’t know God but can still be a force for good in the world!”

Wk 2: Paint inside of the clay vessel metallic, representing God’s kingdom and thereby enriching wk 1 practice.

Wk 3: Lord’s prayer with your seedling. Finish with “Lord, help us to cultivate a love for your kingdom’s coming”

Wk 4: Communion. Reminder that we are given community and God’s empowerment through Christ.

Wk 5: Helium balloon as a prayer tool. What would the Lord have me relinquish in my work today? Eg. power, resources, time, worries or frustations.

Wk 6: Daily reflection on beatitudes using children’s version of the beatitudes (from Children of God by Desmund Tutu)

Wk 7: Night sky listening (humility and listening). Ask God, what should I be seeing and hearing in my current workplace?

Wk 8: Read the Apology of Tertullian, AD 197. Activity: share different coloured cottons and plait together as a symbol of our strength together.

Wk 9: set up previous practices as stations. Free time for members to circulate and conclude by writing a prayer for their specific work and praying for each other in pairs.

Sing the doxology:

“Lets join with the many Christians gone before us, across the globe, throughout time and also with the heavenly hosts”

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

Praise Him, all creatures here below.

Praise God above, ye heavenly hosts.

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

 

Benediction (Read by Dave – we encourage you to stretch out your hands to receive):

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;

May he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm;

May he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;

May he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.

 

References

“Common Prayer: A liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” by Shane Claiborne et al pp.

“Iona Abbey Worship Book” by The Iona Community pg.

“God the Worker” by Robert Banks

Transforminglives.org.uk liturgy (http://m.transforminglives.org.uk/files/files/Liturgy-Transforming_Lives_Toolkit.pdf)

Liturgy: Desiring the Kingdom

A number of people have requested a copy of the liturgy we used throughout our first cycle on James Smith’s “Desiring the Kingdom”.  We did tweak it each week so this is just the basic structure. Sources can be found at the end. Nik x

(Theme: Desire/loves and body/habits)

Lighting of the Candles:

We light a candle in the name of the Maker,

Who lit the world and breathed the breath of life for us…

We light a candle in the name of the Son     

Who saved the world and stretched out his hand to us…

We light a candle in the name of the Spirit,

Who encompasses the world and blesses our souls with yearning…

We light three lights for the trinity of love:

God above us, God beside us, God beneath us:

The beginning, the end, the everlasting one.

Meditative Singing (Taize: “Wait on the Lord”):

Wait on the Lord, whose day is near.

Wait for the Lord: keep watch, take heart!

Silence/Confession (3 mins)

Responsive reading:

O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you

As the day rises to meet the sun.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen

Come, let us bow down and bend the knee:

let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Walk with us, Lord: the journey is long

Psalm 84: 1-2, 4-7, 10-12

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

I long, yes I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord.

With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.

Walk with us, Lord: the journey is long.

What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises!

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,

Who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs.

The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.

They will continue to grow stronger,

and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.

Walk with us, Lord: the journey is long.

One day spent in your temple is better than a thousand anywhere else;

I would rather stand at the gate of the house of my God

Than live in the homes of the wicked.

The Lord is our protector and glorious king,

blessing us with kindness and honour,

He does not refuse any good thing to those who do what is right. 

Walk with us, Lord: the journey is long.

Prayer

* group members feel their pulse

Lord of Creation,

Create in us a new rhythm of life

Composed of hours that sustain rather than stress,

Of days that deliver rather than destroy,

Of time that tickles rather than tackles.

Lord of Liberation,

By the rhythm of your truth, set us free

From the bondage and baggage that break us,

From the Pharaohs and fellows who fail us,

From the plans and pursuits that prey upon us.

Lord of Resurrection,

May we be raised into the rhythm of your new life,

Dead to deceitful calendars,

Dead to fleeting friend requests,

Dead to the empty peace of our accomplishments.

 

To our packed-full planners, we bid, “Peace!”

To our over-caffeinated consciences, we say “Cease!”

To our suffocating selves, Lord, grant release.

Drowning in a sea of deadlines and  death chimes,

We rest in you , our lifeline.

By your ever-restful grace,

Allow us to enter your Sabbath rest

As your Sabbath rest enters into us.

 

In the name of our Creator,

Our Liberator,

Our Resurrection and Life,

We pray.

Amen

Dialogue

1. Questions: What didn’t make sense?

2. Challenges: what did you think was wrong?

3. Implications: if this is true, what does it mean for how the church follows Christ today?

4. Art Stimuli:

“Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio (wk 1);

“Objects and Ornothology Series” by Deb Mostert (wk 2)

“Christ Pantocrator” (early Christian Icon); “Prince of Peace” by Akiane Kramarik; and “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” movie trailer (wk 3)

“Forgiven” by Thomas Blackshear; “Sacrifice” by Rayner Hoff (wk 4)

“Baptism” by Nolan Lee; “Feasting Table”; “The Plodder” by Michael Leunig (wk 5)

The “West” Window of Coventry Cathedral glass etchings by John Hutton (wk 6)

5. Applications: what does it look like for you to live out of this vision? How can I change my everyday habits to desire the kingdom of God?

Everyday Practices to engage the senses:

– Just as the Jewish people leave spice on the tips of their tongues on the conclusion of the Sabbath to allow the ‘aroma’ to linger, anointing oil can be used at the conclusion of time spent with God, both alone or corporately (wk 1)

– Drawing on the inspirational life of Saint Francis of Assisi, the group discussed the importance of simplicity of consumption in being a follower of Christ. We cut out squares of hesian for our wallets to remind us of our responsibilty in caring for the cosmos and our fellow human beings. (wk 2)

– The act of baking bread at home, can be helpful in cultivating gratitude for our food and reflecting on our role in joining God in ‘arranging’ the natural world (wk 2)

– Reflecting on Bonhoffer’s use of the sign of the cross throughout his time in prison, we are reminded of a very old practice which can be useful in sustaining us and reminding to whom we belong. Though there are several variations, we used the thumb to mark a small cross on the forehead, between the eyes, lips, heart and shoulders accompanied by.. “Lord, be glorified in what I think, in what I see, in what I say, in what I desire, in what I do, and in where I go” (wk 3)

– Gratitude Journal: Studies show increased happiness, sleep, decreased depression and anxiety and improved blood pressure are associated with performing this task regularly (1 Thess 5:18, Ps 92:1-2). Record 5 things you are thankful for before bed each day for one month. Prompts to get you started: Opportunities, nature, food and drink, places, our bodies, dreams and hopes, memories, art, animals, people, happy and challenging experiences (wk 4)

– The placing of a stone in water to symbolise our commitment to Christ through baptism as we commit each day to live for Him (wk 5)

– Communion (wk 6)

Sing doxology:

    Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

    Praise Him, all creatures here below.

    Praise God above, ye heavenly hosts.

    Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

                                                Amen.

 

Benediction (read by the leader):

    May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you;

    May he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm;

    May he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;

     May he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.

 

References:

“Common Prayer: A liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” by Shane Claiborne et al pp. 271, 554

“Iona Abbey Worship Book” by The Iona Community pg. 111

Let’s forget communion?

Thought you might find this blog post interesting. It’s by Caleb Trimble, called “Let’s Forget About Communion“.

As Caleb writes in his blog:

We don’t gather to make church cool.
We don’t gather to make the unchurched feel welcomed.
We don’t gather for an awesome worship experience.
We don’t gather for a sermon that makes us think.
We don’t gather to spend time with our friends.

We gather for communion. Because in communion, everything begins to make sense. In communion, friends and enemies come together. In communion, Christ’s Kingdom is experienced. In communion, the church finds its hope. In communion, Christ is present and exalted.

It is time to bring into focus this sacrament.

Open TableA great read, passed through to me by Noel Payne–thanks mate. Fits in really well as stimulus for our next Open Book discussion on Thursday June 18 at our place, called “Hospitality & Home-Bake”. Check out the Ana Maria Pineda 12 page chapter on Hospitality here. The big question: “What does hospitality look like in my life, and how can I extend God’s table grace to others?” This week will give a taste of “Open Table” which we hope to start later in the year.

So, bring some food to share, and a story to tell at the heart of your experience of giving and receiving hospitality. And let’s enjoy together God’s eucharist, courtesy of Christ.

Blessings, Nik and Dave

Are Practices Passé

desiringkingdomFrom the get go, we’ve built Christ’s Pieces around a conviction: Christian practices matter.

As we’ve explored in Open Book, working through James Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom, it’s not enough to be informed and have all your beliefs in order. Plenty of people believe right in the cognitive sense, but their lives are functionally unredeemed. Instead, we need to train, to discipline, to form our bodies. Only then will we be transformed. Paul’s teaching in Colossians 3 about “putting off” the old and “putting on” the resurrected life may come to mind.

What, then, are Christian practices?

Toying with dozens of definitions, here’s how we’ve characterised it for Christ’s Pieces.

Christian practices are

… rich and repetitive actions we do,
over time and often together,
which engage our senses and imagination,
reminding us of God’s presence
and aiming us at His Kingdom

heshenThus far we’ve experimented with scented oil, signing the cross to symbolise Christ’s full ownership of our lives. And, last week, we cut out hessian squares, representing the rough garb of St. Francis who traded down to find transformation. My heshen square sits in my wallet, on top of my visa card. Each time I open my wallet to spend, it reminds me to pray. “God, this money is yours. Help me live simply. What would you have me leverage this money for?” (Thus far it’s saved me a tidy sum, going for the standard latte over the coffee drinking bowl with scones on the side!)

But, let’s be honest. Practices are somewhat passé today. They’re inconvenient. They threaten my autonomy, training me by submitting to some higher rhythm. (Put your hand up if you put something aside this lent?) For Protestants, they raise flags of legalism, works righteousness, and that kind of hocus pocus reliance on ritual that went out with the Reformation.

At root, though, I suspect our reluctance to experiment with practices boils down to a chronological snobbery. They seem so old fashioned. Haven’t we moved past the dark ages of disciplining desire? Why not just be “free” and follow my feelings? Why constrain my worship to particular ways of being?

With all of this in mind, I was interested to see Q Ideas post this week’s conversation.

(Q Ideas is an American outfit of evangelicals, led by Gabe Lyons–author of both “UnChristian” and “The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World”. But, before you dismiss it, they’re asking the right questions, and are explicitly oriented to engaging culture rather than fleeing or taking it over for Christ. Their driving desire is to work from today’s most pressing questions to find common ground and ideas that truly serve the common good. So, perhaps worth a look.)

Here’s their conversation starter for Easter 2015:

historic practicesLooks like they’re exploring some similar themes. How timely.

Rather than steal their thunder, it may suffice to note that at each turn, they’re convinced that practices like gratitude, simplicity, Sabbath and rest, even solitude, silence and stillness, are *crucial* in a crazy world like ours. We have all the freedoms in the world, and yet we lack the forms which channel our energy toward liberation and wholeness.

We’re like modern artists more concerned with expressing ourselves than patiently sitting at the feet of a master and learning the artist’s way, imitating one brush stroke after another. Lacking any “rules” or bounds within which to paint a kingdom vision, we splash our immature selves onto the canvas, calling it “witness” and yet confusing an onlooking world.

Could it be that we need:

Less anarchy, more life?Indigenous art, available at link

Less information, more transformation?

Less me, more we?

Less independence, more interdependence.?

And, perhaps, in our low commitment, novelty-addicted and somewhat narcissistic culture, we need

less flexibility, more love.

Perhaps practices are not so passé after all?

What “rituals” and “liturgies” do you lean on in your everyday? How do these bodily practices form habits that aim your heart toward God’s Kingdom?

Post away! I’m keen to hear about your experiments, so we might truly be a community of practice.

A Rest-less Sabbath: musings from my inner voice

What does it mean in Genesis 2:2 that on the seventh day, “God rested”? God … the all powerful, all present, benevolent and active God who doesn’t sleep or slumber but who watched over us … God rested?

restWhy? What’s the point of that?

I’m a Protestant. My identity—whether consciously or flying under the radar—has been historically formed. We were birthed in reaction against what was perceived as Catholic excess: superstition, idolatry, hypocrisy, and—yes—sloth. Surely this monastic, meditative, and mediaeval life of merriment—think Friar Tuck, who enjoyed the blessings of new wine a tad too much—has missed the point.

For all my emphasis on grace, you won’t find me resting on my laurels. (Whatever they are?!) My life embodies the Protestant Work Ethic: onward and upward. I move rapidly from challenge to challenge, victory to victory, a steward of my talents awaiting the “well done good and faithful servant” on the last day. On that day—I reason—I’ll enter the rest of the Lord. Right now, however, there’s no rest for the wicked. (Whoever they may be?!)

Yes, I’ve read the Scriptures. I’m aware that Hebrews speaks of entering the permanent Sabbath of the Lord (4:9). But let’s be rational. (Some would say, come let us ‘rationalise’ together.) Sabbath is no longer one day of the week. It’s a state of mind as I walk with the Lord. So, I like to make the most of my time and ‘rest’ permanently while I work! (It’s more efficient that way.) Granted, the Lord did give Elijah a necessary break after beating the prophets of Ba’al (1 Kings 19). Not my issue, though. Elijah couldn’t manage his time. While he burned out, in the Spirit’s unstoppable power I’ll power on, saving the Lost, building the Kingdom, bringing Heaven to Earth … whatever your preferred metaphor, I’m an active player in my Father’s business.

Still, there are some mysteries. Why Jesus withdrew to pray. Why He offered His easy yoke to those who were burned out on religion. Why He claimed to only do what He saw the Father doing. Why He chided Martha for slaving away while Mary rested at His feet. And, of course, why the Creator God rested.

But, no time to contemplate right now. There’s a battle to fight, a victory to win. I guess I’ll plumb the depths of this Sabbath doctrine after this life is done. In Heaven. Resting forever. Mmm, feeling agitated. …

Corrections from God’s Word …

Obviously what you just read is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a caricature, but I’m not projecting this onto others. It’s me. It’s my inner voice … the murmurings of a soul that refuses to be still. I should have learned this lesson by now—a spinal accident at 21 helps one realise he is not the centre of the world … life (even Christian ministry) continues on by God’s grace, with or without my contribution. Yet still I rush, and speed, and stress, and slave.

If my ‘worldview’ is best gauged not from my words but my actions, then something is definitely out of kilter. Work—even Christian vocational ministry (perhaps especially -)—can become an idol. We worship that to which we sacrifice the most … time, money, energy, relationships. I thought I was doing all this for God. Yet, ichabod. Sometimes I wonder if His Spirit has left the building and I’m stuck slaving away. When a holiday seems like a mixed blessing—think of all those things I won’t be able to achieve while resting—then it’s time to recalibrate.

That’s me. But how does rest sit with you?

Christ’s Pieces is a place to reflect. How, though, if we can’t be still?

Forget abstracted beliefs for a minute.

If your actions could speak, and your un-edited internal monologue was expressed, what would come out?