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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Solutions from the Desert

Abba Paul the Barber and his brother Timothy frequently argued with each other. One day, Abba Paul asked, "how long shall we continue to argue like this?'

Abba Timothy had an idea. "From now on, you take my side of the arguement, and I will take your side." They did this for the rest of their lives.

By Way of the Desert, compiled and modernized by Bernard Bangley

Friday, February 19, 2010

Confession for Lent

Thanks to Chaplain Mike writing at for sharing this. I attended Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church on Ash Wednesday. They used this form of confession from The Book of Common Prayer (or one nearly identical). It served my soul well and I will be using it regularly during my way through Lent this year. Thought I would share it here in case there are other pilgrims seeking a means of repentance this season.

Litany of Penitence

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ.
We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness:
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways,
and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration,
and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts,
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship,
and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering,
and our 
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments,
for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors,
and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation,
and our lack of
 concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Way of the Cross

Last year on Good Friday was the first time I meditated on "The Stations of the Cross." It was at St Michael's Anglican Church in Charlotte. My mom, Bene' (my son) and I went and it was a good experience. They also had outdoor "Stations" set up so I went on my own on a couple other occasions last year. When I prayed those outdoor stations I used a less traditional form I found in Celtic Daily Prayer. I really found it to be a sobering and encouraging spiritual experience.

I have always wanted to weave spiritual formation opportunities in with the missional activities we promote through Common Heart. Last month we began planning and working on a prayer garden and prayer trail at The Commonplace. The first theme for the wooded trail is a "Scriptural Way of the Cross".

Several people have volunteered create artwork to focus our attention on 14 separate events startin with Gethsemane and ending with Jesus' burial. I have begun to work on the meditations for the trail. These meditations will be put together in a booklet and can be done as a private meditation or in a group. We would love to have others involved in these creative aspects of the project. There are also opportunities to help reclaim the space for the prayer garden and prepare the trail. If you would like to help in any way contact me.

As we get closer to Palm Sunday and Passion Week on March 28th, watch for a post with times to join in and walk the trail with us.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

That's Radical!

I am overcome with how radically different the gospel is from what we call normal life. I often feel deprived because I have been raised in a "Christianity" that easily said, "Well that is not what Jesus meant." Or, "That is just not realistic." One of the things I hope for in my own life is not to be so dismissive of what Jesus taught simply because it is a hard saying.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Jesus, Matthew 5:38-42.

Now that's a radical teaching. "Don't resist! If someone takes something from you, give them gifts. Give to every beggar and lend freely." That's radically insane, you might say. And I must admit I have no answers, only questions. But I dare not dismissively diminish the challenge of faith Jesus brings here.

That is one reason I love the Desert Fathers and Mothers. I want to share one of their stories that demonstrate following Jesus in these radical words.
"Once robbers came into the monastery and said to one of the elders: We have come to take away everything that is in your cell. And he said: My sons, take all you want. So they took everything they could find in the cell and started off. But they left behind a little bag that was hidden in the cell. The elder picked it up and followed after them, crying out: My sons, take this, you forgot it in the cell! Amazed at the patience of the elder, they brought everything back into his cell and did penance, saying: This one really is a man of God!" The Wisdom of the Desert, Thomas Merton, pg 59.
I love this story. The humility and kindness of the elder as he submits without resistance to the robbers, and then follows through holding back nothing surely shows a life of attentively loving Jesus way. This is radically different than the way I have been taught to spiritualize, explain away, and modify the radical teaching of love. This story also demonstrates the principle expressed by Paul in Romans 2:3-4 "So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" The lack of judgement and the radical kindness of the elder led the robbers to repentance.

I would also like to share the words of a radical prophet of the last century. Motivated by the words of the sermon on the mount, Martin Luther King, espoused a means of social change that was rooted in love. It demonstrated a key understanding of the realities that evil can not be defeated by means of hatred, fear, or retribution, but through the power of love. This is point four of five points explaining non-violent resistance. (You can read all five and more more here.)
"A fourth point that must be brought out concerning the method of nonviolence is that this method not only avoids external physical violence, but also internal violence of the spirit. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. We have learned through the grim realities of life and history that hate and violence solve nothing. Violence begets violence; hate begets hate; and toughness begets toughness. It is all a descending spiral, and the end is destruction — for everybody." Martin Luther King, Jr .
I have not been raised in a form of Christianity that takes seriously the challenges of actually living this kind of radical love that Jesus taught, the desert fathers pursued and that Martin used to challenge the economic and political power of a nation, but I want to learn to walk in Christ's way of love. Love of God. Love of neighbor. Love even, and maybe most importantly, of our enemies and those who treat us wrongly.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Abba Zeno said,

"If you want God to hear your prayer quickly, before you pray for anything else, even your own soul, when you stretch out your hands toward God pray with all your heart for your enemies. When you do this God will respect all that you ask."

By Way of the Desert, compiled and modernized by Bernard Bangley