10/25/2013

Cornerstones: Devotion

Luke 18:9-14

Readings:
The ancient words of the Jesus Prayer, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, surfaced in my mind. They have been with me for many years, like a deep, inner fountain. When I wake up in the night they are there – those strong, affirming words. They were with me as I sat in the crumpled car…I was wheeled to the operating room. I asked a question about what kind of anesthesia was being used. I was answered, and then told to breathe deeply. I knew that once I went under the anesthetic I might not come out of it, not in this life. I was not afraid. The Jesus Prayer was still with me, a strong rope to which I held like a sailor fallen from a ship…My only prayer was the Jesus Prayer and that was there for me because it has been a part of my inner rhythm for many years, the prayer that fulfills Paul’s exhortation to pray constantly, at all times and in all places.
  – Madeleine L’Engle, The Rock That is Higher


Practicing the means of grace minimizes the (brainstem’s) impact on teaching and learning. Disciplines of prayer and meditation may not eliminate downshifting (moving into survival mode mentally) but they can reduce its intensity and duration. People who practice the means of grace will downshift less deeply and will recover more quickly. Building the classic spiritual practices of prayer, Scripture reading, and meditation into both our personal lives and our classrooms buffers downshifting’s destructive consequences.
– Thomas R. Hawkins, Loving God With All Your Mind: Equipping the Community of Faith for Theological Thinking

In many ways, acts of devotion – the private spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, fasting, and inward examination that bring us face to face with God – are the most demanding part of the General Rule, since it is during these times that we most directly enter into the presence of God.…we are the ones responsible for developing disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and personal reflection that will ultimately refine us as Christian disciples. It is in those moments of quietness, with nothing to distract and nowhere to hide, that God will deal with us most personally and shape our discipleship most directly. – Gayle Turner Watson, Guide for Covenant Discipleship Groups

Questions: 
· What acts of devotion do you practice?
· How do they support your whole spiritual life?
· How do they change your reaction to stress?
· How do they support you in difficult times?

10/16/2013

Cornerstones: Justice

Luke 18:1-8

Readings:
Once we do look around and discover needs, the General Rule points us toward another important dimension of Christian discipleship: acts of justice, those ways in which we not only minister to people in need but also ask why they are in need. This is the area in which many faithful disciples are rusty, to say the least. Yet to neglect this aspect of our walk with Christ indicates a profound misunderstanding of his teachings. Jesus was steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures, where divine righteousness and justice are no less powerful than divine love.
— Gayle Turner Watson,
Guide for Covenant Discipleship Groups

Complain: 1 : to express grief, pain, or discontent
2 : to make a formal accusation or charge

"The formality and reticence of ecclesiastical prayer is utterly foreign to the Bible. Biblical prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous. It is more like haggling in an outdoor bazaar than the polite monologues of the churches. … We are to hammer away in prayer until a breakthrough comes."
-- Walter Wink,
“Prayer and the Powers," Sojourners


Chauntecleer trembled where he stood. He closed his eyes against the darkness to control the trembling – not because he thought his words were wicked; simply because he did not want to tremble before God…  Chauntecleer drove hot air deep into his lungs. He roared: “And by my will I demand to know now – it is most certainly time now to know: O God, where are you? Why have you hidden your face from us? Why now, of all times, when things are on the rim of disaster, have you turned away? Nine months! I have not seen the stars for nine months! In nine months we have not seen a single passing of the sun, and the moon is only a memory. Faith, right? By faith I should believe that the spheres still turn above these everlasting clouds. Tell me! Tell me! Infinite God, tell me what we have done to be shut from the rest of the universe! But you won’t tell me. You’ve dropped us in a bucket and let us be. It wears a person out, you know. Yeah, well.” Then the Rooster did move. His head sank between his shoulders. His wings drooped. He broke into tears.
— Walter Wangerin, The Book of the Dun Cow


Questions: 
· How do you get God’s attention? What do you do if you don’t get a response? Does your prayer change?
· How comfortable are you complaining to God? 
· Has it ever worked for you to badger God? If it did work, what changed, the situation or yourself?
· Are you willing to badger God, and others, to bring about the change needed for justice in our world?

10/05/2013

Cornerstones: Compassion

Luke 16:19-31


Readings:
Acts of compassion are what John Wesley called works of mercy. They are the simple things we do out of kindness to our neighbor, often without giving them much thought. In his General Rules, Wesley listed these before works of piety. …Basic acts of compassion can and should be performed by Christian disciples at every opportunity, which is why they are listed as the first of Christ’’s teachings in the General Rule.
— Gayle Turner Watson,
Guide for Covenant Discipleship Groups

A man fell into a pit and couldn’’t get himself out. A subjective person came along and said, “I feel bad for you down there.” An objective person came along and said, ‘It’s logical that someone would fall down there.” A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into a pit.” A mathematician calculated how he fell into the pit. A self-pitying person said, ‘You haven’’t seen anything until you’’ve seen my pit.” A charismatic said, “Just confess that you’’re not in a pit.” An optimist said, “Things could be worse.” A pessimist said, “Things will get worse.” Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him from the pit!
— Barbara Johnson


Come out, while you are still able! But be afraid indeed of the awful possibility that lurks for us of “not being able any longer to come forth.” The prodigal son dragged himself out in time (cf. Luke 15:11-32); the rich man at his feast was no longer able (Luke 16:19-30).
— Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes

"It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” —Mother Theresa

As Lazarus was stuck with his lot in life, so the rich man is stuck with his lot in death. His sin? He refused to cross the chasm between him and Lazarus in their first life. His inability to walk outside his gate, to share his abundance, doomed him forever. He kept himself apart, and such is his sentence for eternity. He became what he loved. –
— Joyce Hollyday, www.sojo.net

In a world where distance no longer determines who your neighbor is, paying the price for equality is not just heart, it’’s smart. The destinies of the “haves” are intrinsically linked to the fates of the “have-nothing-at-alls.”
—Bono, in Jeffrey Sachs: The End of Poverty





Questions:
· How do you personally cross the chasm described in this parable? Is this chasm unique to Jesus’ time or does it exist now?
· How important is it for Christians to cross the chasms between us?
· The rich man wanted to send a message to his family. What messenger gets your attention about the chasms in our lives?
· How do you participate in acts of compassion?