Monthly Archives: November 2013

Worship

English: Communion setting at an Evangelical L...

People silently entered the candlelit sanctuary. In the total quiet of the moment, the intense prayers of those gathered were almost palpable. Each brought to worship years of living with accumulated pain and joy. The lonely came, as well as the exhausted because they are never alone. Some came bearing deep hurts, and some came bearing crushing guilt because of hurts they had imposed. Some came because their pain was nearly unbearable, and some came because they were afraid they could no longer feel anything. Some came because they were afraid to die, and some came because they were afraid to live.The ancient music washed over us all calming doubts and troubles in our souls. The liturgy began and those souls were lifted up to the lord. Fear and cares receded, and peace and hope took hold. We gave God our thanks and praise and He gave back to us the mystery of His presence. We revisited the crucifixion together as we celebrated Holy Communion. No matter our pasts, our educations, and our finances – we were all the same before God. We were sinners in need of His mercy – and we received it. We left that sacred time forgiven, reconciled, and whole. We worshipped and left with grace for the journey-full of glory.Advent presents us with unique opportunities for worship. As we come to God honestly confessional, void of pretense, seeking God for who he is, not for what we want from him, we realize that we are living in the very beginning days of eternal life.Reflection – Confess to God everything that stands in the way of your worship.Monica Boudreaux

 

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Contemplative Silence As Bodily Practice.

Some thoughts on silence.

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Thomas Merton on Advent

English: An acolyte lighting Advent candles on...

The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance. Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possibly exist. We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen.

It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our marketing culture so easily harmonize with our tendencey to regard Christmas, consciously or otherwise, as a return to our own innocence and our own infancy. Advent should remind us that the “King Who is to Come” is more than a charming infant smiling (or if you prefer a dolorous spirituality, weeping) in the straw. There is certainly nothing wrong with the traditional family jours of Christmas, nor need we be ashamed to find ourselves still able to anticipate them without too much ambivalence. After all, that in itself is no mean feat.

But the Church in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior and a King of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man, of the world and of our own being. In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies. Our Advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies inexistent…

In our time, what is lacking is not so much the courage to ask this question as the courage to expect an answer…We may at times be able to show the world Christ in moments when all can clearly discern in history, some confirmation of the Christian message. But the fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that His plan has been neither frustrated nor changed: indeed, all will be done according to His will. Our Advent is a celebration of this hope.

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The Tradition of the Advent Wreath

Advent wreath with one rose candle and three p...

Tradition, one of the four pillars of the Wesleyan quadrilateral along with scripture, reason and personal experience is perhaps never more important and meaningful than during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Tradition keeps us centered and balanced. It connects us to the past, to the Saints that have walked the journey before us and to the universal Church. Tradition celebrates John Wesley’s catholic spirit and gives meaning to the cherished elements of our worship services.

Treasured tradition of the Church and of the United Methodists is the Advent Wreath. It is rich with symbolism, keeps us focused on the centrality of Christ’s birth and is a ceremonial way to measure the time set aside for this special season filled with the spirit of expectation, anticipation, and longing. It helps us prepare our hearts and spirits to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to anticipate his second coming.

The wreath itself is circular to represent the eternal nature of God, which has no beginning or end. It is made of evergreens which represent the eternal life offered through Christ to the world. Four candles placed in the circle of the wreath are lit each Sunday in Advent. As the new candle is lit and the previously lit candles glow also, the accumulation of light shows us the growing expectation and joy in anticipation of the Christ Child’s birth and the lighting of the center Christ candle on Christmas Eve.

Three candles are traditionally purple, the color of royalty and recognition of Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. One candle is pink, a mixture of purple and the purity of white as a symbol of joy. The Christ candle in the center of the wreath is the largest and is white, standing for the sinlessness of the Savior, the Light of the World.

VOn the first Sunday of Advent the purple candle representing the patriarchs is lit to focus our attention on the spirit of expectation of Christ’s coming. Another purple candle, often called the prophet’s candle is lit on the second Sunday in Advent to center our hearts on the hope in which the Jews waited for the Messiah and the hope of the Church as we wait for His second advent. On the third Sunday in Advent, the pink candle is lit and joins the first two candles as the church experiences the joy of the Messiah’s birth as proclaimed by the shepherds. On the last Sunday the Mary candle, the fourth candle, is lit to concentrate our devotion toward the purity of Christ’s birth and life, and the purity of the Church.

The center candle, the Christ candle, is lit with all the others on Christmas Eve to signify that the light of the world is come to be with us.

All the traditions of the Church and especially the tradition of the Advent wreath give us a way to wait, to remember, to hope, and to rejoice in the birth of the Savior.

Reflection – Focus on the meaning of Advent Christmas traditions and worship.

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Advent-A Coming

advent 2007

Advent comes from the Latin meaning “a coming” or “arrival”. The season begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30 and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent begins our new church year as Christ comes to us again with the peace and joy needed to take us through another year.

During the season of Advent, the church celebrates two comings of Christ. First, we remember his incarnation, the coming of the Messiah, the world’s Savior. Second, we look forward to the second and final coming as reigning Lord and Judge. We thank him for His first Advent, prepare for his Second Advent, and celebrate His Presence through the Holy Spirit. It is a unique time when the past, the present, and the future realities of God are combined.

Advent gives voice to the joy and hope that the Christ Child brought to the earth and the expectation of the total restoration of God’s Kingdom when He comes again. The church looks forward to the completion of our salvation and the end of the world’s suffering when Christ comes again. The season forces spirituality into an increasingly secular Christmas and enriches our relationship to God, to each other, and those who have come before us.

The earliest recorded observances of Advent are from the fourth century. Monks set aside approximately six weeks before Christ’s Mass as a time of penitence and devotion and fasting. Advent became a time when new Christians prepared for baptism. For more than a thousand years, the church has set aside a four week period to recover Christmas as a holy time of expectation and preparation.

Today in the midst of so much despair Advent offers HOPE – the hope of the church, the hope of the restoration of creation to completeness upon Christ’s return, the hope of the salvation Christ brings. In the midst of so much war and death, Advent offers PEACE – the peace beyond our understanding, the peace that is more than the absence of conflict, the peace of Christ. In the midst of so much prejudice and hate, Advent offers LOVE – the perfect love of God, a way to love one another, the yearning to love His church. In the midst of so much sadness and loneliness, Advent offers JOY – the joy of salvation, the joy of new life, the joy of heaven.

Reflection – Reflect on ways that the hope, peace, joy, and love of the Advent season have been yours and how you can share with others.

Monica Boudreaux

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The Mystic’s Prayer

GIVE ME OH GOD
DEEP THOUGHTS
HIGH DREAMS
FEW WORDS
MUCH SILENCE
THE NARROW PATH
THE WIDE OUTLOOK
THE END IN PEACE.

AMEN.

– Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

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Unanswered Questions

UnansweredQuestions“Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.”

—–Joseph Campbell

Clint Hill was the secret service agent who was charged with the protection of President Kennedy on the day of his assassination and the first to reach his car after he had been shot. For many years he lived with a sense of guilt because he was powerless to prevent that tragic event. The “what ifs” of November 22, 1963, were a source of great pain to him. All of us are nagged by life’s unanswered questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did I fail at that project? What could I have done to make a difference in a bad situation? These, and many others, keep us awake at night.

Joseph Campbell advises us to not bother our family and friends with volumes of questions, but to go forward with our lives with a sense of confident adventure. If we spend our lives trying to figure out everything we miss life. Jesus says, “Sufficient are the troubles of the day.” Imagine a life that is lived in the moment. Such a life is a life of faith and confidence in God. With it comes a belief in a God who loves us, cares for us and wishes the very best for our future.

Let us challenge ourselves to live life to the fullest with great expectation, and put aside the hesitation that keeps us from being all that God intends for us.

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Prayer for Holy Rest

O Lord support us all the day long
Until the evening comes,
The shadows lengthen and the busy world is hushed,
The fever of life is over and our work is done.

Then Lord in your Mercy,
Give us a safe lodging,
A Holy rest and peace at the last.

—-John Henry Newman

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Eucharistic Spirituality: The Body of Christ

The sacrament of Holy Communion is many times not given the importance it deserves in Protestant churches . This article highlight some of the essential fact about communion and emphasizes its true and expansive meaning.

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Source of Approval

The tradition of women going to live a life of prayer and work is as old as that of male monastics. Today I share a saying of the most famous of the Ammas.

 Amma Sarah said, ‘If I prayed God that all men should approve of my conduct, I should find myself a penitent at the door of each one, but I shall rather pray that my heart may be pure towards all.’

——Amma Sarah of the Desert

Is it really important that our conduct be approved by men? Obviously, Amma Sarah says that such is an unreachable dream. The concept of being penitent to each person as a way of proving your spiritual value is rejected. Difficulty abounds when we seek individual approval because every person we approach has a different standard. The wise mother tells us to pray for purity of heart and all else will follow.

This advice would go a long way for us as we seek to follow the path of God. Surely we know there are many demands that are put upon us. Each of these demands portends to be the way of God. Now, as it was then, it is impossible to satisfy the opinions of all. The enlightening advice is to pray for purity of heart and all our goals will be satisfied. Prayer for purity of heart is the deepest and most personal of desires because it calls for internal change rather that external behavior.

  • Prayer (christianfaithwalk.co.uk)

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