Palimpsest: How to Pray

Luke 11:1-13


The Lord’s Prayer has been infinitely significant in the lives of Christians like us over the centuries, and I could hardly bear to see us give it up. In the period of the early church the Lord’s Prayer was considered to be so precious that nobody was even allowed to learn it until the very end of the three-year training period before being baptized. For Cyprian’s North African community of the third century, it was the prayer that prepared them, both individually and collectively, for martyrdom. Even after the period of martyrdom was over, the Lord’s Prayer continued to serve to train Christians for love in their distinctive manner of life...As for why, I pray the whole of the prayer, first, as a basic and deliberate part of my own ongoing formation as a Christian in the ways of love. I need it; it is one of the major places I can bring for healing both my short-term convictions, feelings, confusions, prejudices, and actions, and my whole long-term autobiographical self, including personal and cultural memories of my childhood and adult experiences and expectations that have formed me and fight in me still against the patterns of love. At the same time, in the context of this daily self-examination I also need this prayer as a guide and corrective to my intercessory prayer.
--Roberta Bondi A Place to Pray:
Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

 Avvon d’bishmaiya,/Nith qaddash shimukh
Tihteh mal chootukh/Nihweh çiwyanukh,
eichana d'bishmaiya/ap b'arah
Haw lan lakhma/d'soonqanan yoomana.
O'shwooq lan khobein:/eichana d'ap kh'nan
shwiqan l'khayaween./Oo'la tellan l'nissyoona.
illa paççan min beesha.
Midtil dedilukh/hai malchoota
oo khaila oo tushbookhta?
l'alam almein. Aameen.

O, Birther of the Cosmos, focus your light within us
Create your reign of unity now
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light, So in all forms, Grant us what we need each day in bread and insight:
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of other's guilt.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
The power and the life to do,
The song that beautifies all,
From age to age it renews.
I affirm this with my whole being.
--The Lord’s Prayer, Translation directly from Aramaic
by Neil Douglas-Klotz

More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.
Wherefore, let thy voice rise like a fountain for me night and day.
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King

· How and when do you pray the Lord’s Prayer? When did you learn it?
· What is the most meaningful part of the prayer to you? The most challenging?
· Is the prayer so familiar that it has lost its meaning, or does its familiarity give it more meaning?
· What was Jesus trying to teach us about prayer?


Balance: Luke 10:38-42

“Contemplative” and “cloister” are not synonyms. Cloister is at best only one of many vehicles to contemplation, needed by some, irrelevant to others who see the face of another Jesus in the poor, the rejected, the starving, the beaten, and love it dearly. To call only one of these “the contemplative life” is to overlook entirely the contemplative dimension of all life—the life of the mother who feels the presence of God while bathing her baby; the life of the man who feels God’s breaking heart in his own when he sees young soldiers walk by, the lives of old people who have spent all their lives doing good so that the reign of God could finally come, the lives of young people who offer themselves up for the love of another on altars of their own. Contemplation has to do with seeing life as it is, not with escaping to find another. Contemplatives are ordinary people who are extraordinarily conscious of the impelling life of God both within them and around them.
—Joan Chittister, In Search of Belief

Dedication to God is developed by commitment to one’s spiritual practices for God’s sake. Service to others is the outgoing movement of the heart prompted by compassion. It neutralizes the deep-rooted tendency to become preoccupied with our own spiritual journey and how we are doing. The habit of service to others is developed by trying to please God in what we do and by exercising compassion for others, beginning with those with whom we live...Habits of dedication to God and service to others form the two sides of a channel through which the energies of the unconscious can be released without submerging the psyche in the floodwaters of chaotic emotions. On the contrary, when these energies flow in orderly fashion between the banks of dedication and service, they will raise us to higher levels of spiritual perception, understanding, and selfless love.
—Father Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart

In a Christian believer love sits upon the throne which is erected in the inmost soul; namely, love of God and man, which fills the whole heart, and reigns without a rival. In a circle near the throne are all holy tempers — longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, fidelity, temperance; and if any other were comprised in "the mind which was in Christ Jesus." In an exterior circle are all the works of mercy, whether to the souls or bodies of men. By these we exercise all holy tempers; by these we continually improve them, so that all these are real means of grace, although this is not commonly adverted to. Next to these are those that are usually termed works of piety — reading and hearing the word, public, family, private prayer, receiving the Lord's Supper, fasting or abstinence. Lastly, that his followers may the more effectually provoke one another to love, holy tempers, and good works, our blessed Lord has united them together in one body, the Church, dispersed all over the earth; a little emblem of which, of the Church universal, we have in every particular Christian congregation.
—John Wesley, Sermon 92: On Zeal, § II.5

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence. 
― Ansel Adams

· Are you more comfortable the work of Martha or the stillness of Mary, or are both a part of your life? How do you nurture them?
· How does Centenary support both parts of your faith life, what Wesley calls works of mercy and works of piety?


Family Reunion

I miss most of the family reunions, the gatherings on my Dad's side of the family. I am clergy and work most Sundays and they are often on Sundays, or Saturdays too far away, or while I am on a youth trip or something. This year, however, it was on a good day and close enough. So we went.

It had been five years since I'd last seen my aunts and uncles and cousins. I don't remember what we talked about then. But this time I really wanted to see my cousins. I wanted to hear about their lives and see their children. I wanted to look for the family traits in those I am biologically related to, the things showing up as we age - like the white hair, the shape of our faces. I was glad to remember the stories of Grandpa Ivan and his bushy eyebrows, and the way he took us to the park when it was our turn to stay for a week.

I was especially delighted to be invited into a kayak with my older cousin for a little spin around the lake. It was an excuse to talk, but what a perfect setting - a warm day on the water as we moved about with only the strength of our arms, paddling one side and then the other, water dripping all over me as I switched sides


Maybe this is middle age. I'm not so invested in differentiating myself from everyone else, and am drawn to the ways we are connected. Are these balanced motions, like the movement in a kayak, pushing the water on one side and then the other?

All I know is the generations are turning. My dad, the youngest, is the one who looks like Grandpa now. And he is the one pushing my little boy on the merry-go-round, as his father did for me so many years ago. And I stand in the middle, dipping my paddle into one side of the generations and then into the next.


Palimpsest: What We Carry

What We Carry

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

"If God is this winter wheat
I wave and beckon
into the fields threshers
arriving to harvest our God
whose body will be broken
to become bread of life
for the bellies of her world
even as some of us
eat her bitter chaff
to fuel our souls."
-- Warren L. Molton, “If God Is This Winter Wheat”

The importance of packing light cannot be overemphasized, but, for your own good, I'll try. You'll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags, "Every year I pack heavier." The measure of a good traveler is how light she travels. You can't travel heavy, happy, and cheap. Pick two. Limit yourself to 20 pounds in a carry-on size bag. Too much luggage marks you as a typical tourist. It slams the back door shut. Serendipity suffers. Changing locations becomes a major operation. Con artists figure you're helpless. Porters are a problem only to those who need them. With one bag hanging on your back, you're mobile and in control. Take this advice seriously.— Rick Steves, www.ricksteves.com

Since Luke was a traveling companion of Paul, this training manual probably reflects actual church practice. Greet no one: Traveling salespeople can gab and put off knocking on doors all day. Carry no money or clothes: They are to be so utterly dependent that someone will have to take them in, and this will identify a genuinely compassionate person who can become the nucleus of converts there. Don't upgrade accommodations: Stay in one place so that the core leader gets maximum training. They are lambs in the midst of wolves: Precursors of the domination-free order of God (10:9,11), who bring a new kind of peace so palpable it can be bestowed or recalled from the host's house like dust. It is not the absence of violence but the presence of a powerful alternative. – www.sojo.net

The role of hospitality in the mission cannot be overstated. The hospitality of the seventy is shown in their mission of peace, in which they eschew all forms of exploitation, self-centeredness, and personal gain. Their single purpose is to prepare others to encounter Jesus. This is done peacefully, through grateful presence and conversation. The apostles must be relational and respectful in order to be invited into others’ homes, where they might share the gospel of the kingdom of God. Theirs is a vulnerable position, for they cannot force receptivity or hospitality on the part of others. The apostles must be willing to go without food, shelter, or welcome for the sake of the gospel. - Elaine Heath, Feasting on the Word

· How much luggage do you take when you travel? How hard is it to pare down what you take to fit into airline guidelines or car space?
· How do the items you travel with keep you from connecting with the people around you?
· Despite all we travel and live with, how can we move towards trusting God more and our things less in our faith life?

Palimpsest: Focus Forward

Focus Forward

Luke 9:51-62

To photograph in this spirit is a matter of opening ourselves to receiving. Like meditation or contemplation, photography-as-receiving requires us to cultivate an attitude of receptivity, an openness to what might be given to us. Such photography is more like meditation or a spiritual discipline than a hunt.
– Howard Zehr, Contemplative Photography

Prof. (Craig) Evans began his lecture (Miami University, 3-29-08) by explaining that in Jesus' time, bodies were washed, wrapped, and scented for their initial entombment on the day of death. The formal period of mourning lasted for seven days, a practice with ancient roots (Gen 50:10; 1 Sam 31:13). Then a year later, after the decay of the body was complete, the bones of the deceased were gathered and placed in an ossuary. The practice of ossilegium or "secondary burial" also has ancient roots and seems to have been practiced in a number of Middle Eastern cultures. One biblical example is the reburial of the bones of Saul and Jonathan by King David (2 Sam 21:12-14). Ossilegium became especially popular in Israel during the late Second Temple period, probably as a consequence of Herod the Great's ambitious building program, which provided an abundance of both limestone and people who were skilled in working with it. Evans pointed out that knowledge of the burial customs of Jesus' time can enhance our understanding of certain New Testament passages. One example is Matt 8:21-22, where a disciple of Jesus suggests temporarily leaving his Teacher to attend to his father's burial. Jesus tells the disciple, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.'' Traditionally the phrase ``the dead'' in this passage is interpreted as a reference to the “spiritually dead.''  But this saying becomes much clearer if secondary burial is in view. In that case, “the dead'' are other corpses in the family tomb. Jesus is telling the disciple that he cannot wait for the remainder of a year to pass, even though the secondary burial of one's parents was a very important responsibility in that culture, being viewed as a primary way to carry out the commandment to honor one's parents. The kingdom of God was at hand, and following the Messiah was the most urgent priority.
– Doug Ward, “Ancient Jewish Burial Practices”

And love is not the easy thing/The only baggage that you can bring
Not the easy thing/The only baggage you can bring/Is all that you can't leave behind
And if the darkness is to keep us apart/And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack/And for a second you turn back
Oh no - be strong
– U2, “Walk On”

How fitting that the Steering Committee titled this process Focus Forward - 2012 and Beyond! Centenary is a unique gathering of God’s people. Have you heard, and felt the challenge from God’s Spirit through this process we have traveled together? With the apostle Paul I urge you “do not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it.”
– Paul Murphy, “Focus Forward 2012 and Beyond: Report to Centenary UMC”

· What helps you look forward in your faith life, or your life in the church?
· How do you focus on what is in front of you, or on what you need to see?