Lent: Day Twenty

Philippians 2: 1-11

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.

Through our Lenten reflections this week I want to risk straying into the mystery of godliness, by lightly dipping our toes into a paradox that has kept poets, painters and preachers up at night, awake for centuries: 

Why did God become human?

Through filters that soften and distort selfies, the curation of our identities by becoming a well performing online avatar, the ambient hum of distraction and the inkling to always be optimising ourselves, we are so often running away from what it means to be human. While we are escaping from the skin and bone reality of life, we find Jesus moving in the opposite direction – the fullness of God becoming a man.

In Philippians 2, we read of the fully God Jesus, choosing to make Himself nothing, being found in the appearance of a man and offering Himself obediently to death on a cross. Jesus emptied Himself out by adding to Himself the nature of man. Through the incarnation, the Sustainer of all willingly became dependent upon His Father, His Spirit, His mother, His family, His friends. In becoming like us, Jesus willingly entered into the ways of the same world that He upholds by the very word of His power.

By the way, this was not a phase for Jesus, for He will forever be the God-man. Jesus’ humble embodiment of humanity will last for eternity.

Why, though?

As Jesus tethered His divine and human natures together for all time, He could now take on the form of a sacrificial servant able to live obedient onto death, fulfilling the will of the Father. The Father’s desire, fired up by His love for us, could only be actioned by the execution of the God-man. 

It was the only way. 
His incarnation paved the way onto Redemption Road. 

The truth is God cannot die and man cannot overcome death. Yet to take a lead from John Calvin, as Jesus coupled the weakness of our humanity with the death-wrestling power of the divine, He paved the way for our victory. Or as John Stott put it, “The divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ and the righteousness of Christ uniquely qualified Him to be man’s redeemer. If He had not been man, He could not have redeemed men. If He had not been a righteous man, He could not have redeemed unrighteous men. And if he had not been God’s Son, He could not have redeemed men for God or made them sons of God.” 

I know what you’re thinking.
It’s Monday Stu. Why leave us with a head-scratcher?

Well, at the start of this week, I want you to see once again the lengths that Jesus was willing to go for us to receive His gift of love and life everlasting. In the incarnation we see the great condescension, as Jesus emptied Himself of all that He was owed so that we may become the sons and daughters of God. Doxology is the fitting response to the wonder of the incarnation.

Also, Jesus shows us the shape that our lives are to take. In a culture obsessed with rising through the ranks, our Redeemer takes the opposite path of downward mobility, marked by service and sacrifice. The God-shaped life is not found in building your status, achieving your life goals or getting to live like so and so. The way to be human, newly human, is found in travelling in the direction that Jesus is going, moving towards those He tends to keep company with. In His Kingdom, there is no one or no thing that is beneath you. 

As you step into a new week, may you think of yourself the way that Christ thought of Himself:

Humble and willing to serve.

 

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

St. Francis of Assisi

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
The Man Christ Jesus – Bruce A. Ware
The God Who Became Human – Graham A. Cole
Trick Mirror – Jia Tolentino

Lent: Day Seventeen

As we get used to the shape of this season, we wanted to highlight again that we won’t be releasing a daily office over the weekend. Instead, we want to invite you into the intentional practice of Sabbath this Saturday or Sunday – a day for rest, worship and delight.

We have created a practice guide to help you and your family as you weave Sabbath into the rhythm of your week. You can find the practice guide and video here.

 

Matthew 28: 20 and Deuteronomy 31: 6

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

 

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.

One of my favourite things I have ever randomly come across is a sprawling list written by an anonymous person online.

“Do you ever just think about Jesus living here on earth?

I think sometimes we tend to think He just bounced from one miracle to another and everyday was a Bible story, but His ministry lasted for three years and the Gospels don’t actually cover that much, so imagine all those ordinary days??”

The author goes on to list things like Jesus having favourite foods, getting sore blistered feet, snoring when he slept, sharing inside jokes with the disciples. Each thing is punctuated by an exclamation of wonder: “Imagine laughing with the person who gives you breath to laugh in the first place.”

It is a beautiful expression of something I think we must all forget, more often than we would care to admit. You go about your every day, taking an extra few minutes in bed, forgetting to eat lunch, getting the shopping. The mundane actions that happen simply because they do. They may take on very different forms depending on your culture, your income, your health, but they exist all the same. Do you ever stop to remember that the God of the universe used to do these same things in His every day on earth? That He understands the mundane. Not just understands, but has made these small actions essential.

The thought of Jesus cooking… The image of Him wrapping an arm around one of His friends and belly-laughing at something they said… The idea that He lay down every night to go to sleep and woke up every morning… I can’t think of this without tears springing into my eyes.

We are living in a strange world where businesses, jobs, even people are now classified as essential and non-essential. Our day to day lives have been peeled back to “the bare minimum.” There has been extraordinary loss. Of routines, of treats, of hobbies, of company. Of jobs, of income, of security, of health. Of so much of what makes normal life normal. And there is grief in this – on top of everything else, because life never just stops no matter what else might be going on. It has been hard to not lose hope. We have all had our strong days. If we’re honest, we’ve also had our wobble days. We might even have had half-and-half days.

On the days I have felt at a loss and on the days I have felt bursting with joy, I imagine Jesus with me. I know you probably read this thinking, “Yes, I totally get that Alex, feeling His presence with you, absolutely I’ve been there.” And yes, that is what I mean in some capacity. But what I actually mean is that I imagine Jesus standing next to me. In Tesco, searching for flour. In Wallace Park, walking my puppy. In my living room, laughing at the television. He has the kindest eyes in the whole world, and the most encouraging smile.

There is something ridiculously calming, overwhelmingly peaceful about imagining our Jesus walking through life with us. When He came to earth, He came to save us. To show us how to follow His Word and His teachings. The Great Commission is the greatest thing any of us can take on and apply to our lives. It is the point, the reason, the purpose. But if that was all, Jesus could have just appeared as a vision in the clouds and commanded His people to follow them. If all He wanted was to end suffering and stop the persecution of His people, He could have made Himself the son of an earthly king, with the right connections to reach the masses while living as comfortable a life as ever existed.

Instead, He came as a poor carpenter. Sawdust in His hair, splinters in His fingers.

“It’s not the miracles that are unthinkable.” It’s that our God would choose to embrace suffering over comfort, hunger over plenty, toil over leisure. That the God of the universe would even be concerned with the normal of the world and use it to demonstrate a true life of faith. That after He was subjected to cruelty and pain, to a horrible death at the hands of His enemies, He returned to leave His Spirit with us.

“I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Even when you’re looking for flour at Tesco.

 

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

Morning Prayer 

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

Amen.

Northumbria Community

 

Evening Prayer 

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.

Amen.

Compline Prayer – Common Book of Prayer

 

 

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
Anonymous Author

 

 

Lent: Day Sixteen

Luke 1: 26-38

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

 

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.

I was going to start off by asking if you have ever had something life-altering, world-shattering, mind-boggling happen to you…and then I remembered why I am writing this from my home instead of a café.

When we were first told what would be happening, it seemed easy enough. Three weeks could be done. Those three weeks morphed into three months with a bit of annoyance and worry, but when coupled with some of the most beautiful weather we have seen in years, it gave us a ray of sunshine to hold onto. Then came a “return” so full of stops and starts we became more afraid of what the next press conference would hold. We’ve moved through a year of lockdowns and restrictions, of social bubbles and Zoom parties, of suddenly having a favourite type of hand sanitiser. How utterly bizarre. How entirely exhausting.

One great comfort in serving our God is that He knows every second of what’s to come. Not only that, but He doesn’t ask us to have it all figured out. He longs for us to trust Him. He yearns for us to relax into the present moment. We were not made to worry about the future, yet that seems to be our constant focal point. “What will you do when this is all over?” is a question I hear and see daily. Splashed over social media, sprinkled into overheard street conversations. Don’t get me wrong – it’s exciting to share in this hope. I can’t wait to throw dinner parties, to meet friends for a drink, to give someone I love a big hug. But when we spend our time focused on wishing our present could just hurry up and be the past already, we miss out on what God is doing now. He is always working. He is always ready to do a work in us. We just have to be willing.

“I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

One of the things I love most about Mary is her heart. It is courageous, trusting, and selfless, even in the face of a radical life change. The very idea of it would leave her world turned upside down. Then, for an unwed woman to become pregnant defiled the law of her people, her culture, and her reputation. At best, she could be deemed an outcast. At worst, she could be legally stoned to death. Mary’s future, which would have looked solid and reliable, would instead become intimidating and unknown.

But Mary looks at an angel of her Lord and listens. She doesn’t ask “Why me?” but instead asks “How?” She doesn’t argue or say she would like to think about it. She accepts her task with grace and humility. Her trust in God, in His promises to her people, in His sovereignty outweighed any fear of the unknown. She didn’t need to know all of the details. She simply trusted.

Beth Moore sums up Mary’s response in a jarring comparison to the call on our own lives: “Do we have the guts to stand before God and say ‘I’m in’ — with all the complications? Let’s quit confusing submission and humility with such passivity that we’re ignoring courage… This is a gutsy girl, and nothing about her is in contradiction to her submission and humility.”

I don’t pretend to know what your situation is. I don’t know the difficulties you have faced this last year, or the ones you are facing right now. I don’t know the depth of “unknown” your future might be.

But what I do know is that our God does.

He knows every second of your timeline. He knows every challenge inside and out, past and present and future. He knows the unknowable. He is your Creator, your Father, your Everything. He can give you so much more in this present moment than any foresight can bring, if you just allow Him in. Trust in Him.

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.’
Amen.

Methodist Covenant Prayer

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
Living Proof (Live) by Beth Moore

Lent: Day Fifteen

Daniel 3: 8-30

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

 

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.

When I was growing up, I used to spend the last few weeks of summer at a Bible camp. My best friends and I would pack up a car and make our way a few hours south to one of the most beautiful places in the world. A quiet lake with a few cabins surrounding a lodge. Tucked into the corner of nowhere. We learned to switch off. No signal for hours, no Wifi to distract. We would turn up with our Bibles in hand, eager to spend time with friends in the sunshine as we learned about God and His plans for us.

By our third year there, we had figured out which cabin had the best bunks, and carried an unspoken agreement with some of our other friends as to where everyone stayed. We were always Cabin 5. The same group of girls, growing up over a handful of summer weeks. Every night we would talk for hours and hours until someone announced they were sleepy and our nighttime prayers began. Each of us would pray out loud for each other in turns, for the camp, for our friends, for our families, until we fell asleep.

The only heating came from a stove in the middle of the cabin. One night, as we talked on and on, someone kept throwing bits of birch bark and chunks of wood into the top of the stove to keep us warm while we put the world to rights. Suddenly, a loud bang brought us all to silence. We looked at the source, only to see the black cast iron stove was suddenly turning orange. Flames danced out of every possible opening. The fire roared inside of its container. No longer was it lovely and warm inside the cabin. It was uncomfortably hot.

With the infinite wisdom of teenagers, we decided to try and sleep instead of disturbing one of our camp counsellors. Nighttime prayers were dedicated to the stove not blowing up and killing us all, before burning down the camp we loved so dearly. Isaiah 43:2 was brought up: “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Nervous laughter drowned out the sound of the fire raging. I fell asleep muttering “Not my will, but Yours.” When we woke up the next morning, it was absolutely freezing, and we were giddy with relief.

Oftentimes, when we use fire imagery in the context of our faith, we imagine something holy. Something to burn out every other thing that takes precedence over God’s place in our lives. We describe the Spirit as an “all-consuming flame”. We pray for heavenly fire to fall down on us. We sing about placing our lives as an offering on altars before our Lord. This image empowers our souls in righteousness and strength.

In a literal sense, however, fire takes on a different meaning. One of caution, of control. A force of nature that must be bowed to and respected. After all, what happens when something is thrown into fire? It burns into ash. It is past saving. Gone forever. All it takes is a few seconds.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it… But even if He doesn’t, we will not serve your gods.”

As we come round to the anniversary of this most bizarre, most heartbreaking, most exhausting year, I am sure we can each think of at least one moment where the world around us has felt like that blazing furnace. Where we were bound, consumed, overwhelmed, surrounded by an inferno. Maybe that is what life feels like to you right now. Even with the promise of an end to this pandemic, the flames are too high, the fire too hot.

The greatest struggle of faith comes with learning to trust God. Trusting His will for your life over your own desire. It would have been easy for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow down as everyone else around them did. To cower and bend to the will of a foreign god and king. They perhaps held onto that same verse in Isaiah while they walked together, bound and facing their fate. But despite everything, they were convinced in their trust.

“Even if He doesn’t” still shows trust. How many times have we prayed for this year to be over? For a cure to be found? We so often desire the faith of these Biblical heroes, the same faith Jesus carried as he walked to the cross, but when we have a chance to grow in our trust we struggle. If this is you today, tomorrow, remember the trust and the hope that can still be found within the flames.

There may be a Nebuchadnezzar in your life. Demanding loyalty at all costs. Disregarding who God has made you to be. But a journey through the fire for you might be exactly what this other needs to witness from a distance. For when Nebuchadnezzar looked into the roaring flames, flames so hot they had killed his strongest men as they carried out his orders to throw the tied-up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace, he expected to see his wish carried out.

Instead, he saw the faithfulness of the Almighty God to His beloved ones. He saw that trust in action. He saw another in the fire. Walking next to the three men who were now unbound and unharmed. The image of three men walking out of a raging inferno untouched will never not be miraculous and awe-inspiring. It is no wonder the king these men would not bow to instead bows to their God, proclaiming that “no other god can save in this way.”

No other god can save in this way.

A God who rescues not by extinguishing the flames before they overwhelmed, but by meeting those who trusted Him within the fire.

Jesus, standing in the fire with those three men who trusted Him to rescue them. The same Jesus who came to earth, who died for our sins, who left His Spirit to stand with us in our own struggles.

The same Jesus stands with you right now.

I was listening to worship music when I went to read the verse in Daniel. While I turned to the page, this song came on. It felt too perfect to not include. I pray it reminds you of His presence as you go through your day.

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.’
Amen.

Methodist Covenant Prayer

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
Another in the Fire by Hillsong United

Lent: Day Fourteen

Isaiah 53

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

 

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” – Henri Nouwen

Over the past week, we have looked back over a hard year. Like an Examen, we have not just reflected upon the culture shaping moments we have all faced, but allowed some breathing room to articulate the inner events that have shaped our souls. Self-examination may appear self-indulgent, but if done well, it doesn’t have to be.

It’s easy for us to examine others, judging the motives and actions of who’s who on the screen world and in the real world. In our comparison and our judgement, we pull away from others towards ourselves, feeling rather smug. However, through the practice of self-examination, the opposite takes place. As we learn to name our experiences, we, as Henri Nouwen says, “remove the obstacles that prevent the Spirit from entering. He is able to create space for Him whose heart is greater, whose eyes see more, and whose hands can heal.” In honest reflection, we make room for Christ to tend to our wounds and His Spirit to transform us. This leads us away from ourselves in love towards others. When the Spirit of the others-centred Christ takes up residence in our lives, we become those whose lives are centred on others.

As Jesus demonstrated and taught on the tangible presence of the Kingdom, healing every disease and sickness, crowds consistently swarmed around Him. In Matthew 9, we read of Christ’s response: “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Compassion is made up of two words: ‘together’ and ‘suffer’ – it speaks of co-suffering.

According to Ann Voskamp, “When Christ’s people feel compassion like Christ did, they feel the pain in the deepest places, they reach down and reach out and their lives become cruciform, shaped into the cross of Christ. Compassion is the radical cross-shaping of a life. Everything broken open: Brokenhearted openness. Brokenhearted vulnerability. Brokenhearted intimacy. Cruciform.”

As I have said before, suffering can either harden us or humble us. If our hurt softens our hearts and we allow humility to run its course, it will lead us to wrap a towel around our waist and fill a basin of water to wash the feet of those in pain. Just like Christ, our wounds may never go away, but they can be a gift that invites us beyond self-absorption and towards co-suffering.

Compassionate people, formed by their backstory, have a depth of perception that allows them to recognise what’s really going on with people. Unsatisfied with the answers of “I’m grand, thanks,” they wrap an arm around those in pain, like an elder brother or sister and they stick around, unafraid of bursts of emotion or hairpin turns. Never exhibitionists, the compassionate have a keen eye for pointing out mustard seeds in the dirt that speak of seasons to come, the likes of which they are living through now.

We so often believe that the broken and fragmented parts of our stories rule us out from serving others. Instead, our woundedness can be a gift that keeps us on humility’s highway in the direction of others. We can embody the way of Christ, who in sympathising with our weakness, moved towards us. By His wounds we are healed.

It would be easy for us to forget the past twelve months, obsess over ourselves, and miss the invitation to live the Christ life in the Christ way. May we instead live a compassionate and cruciform life: open, vulnerable, intimate. May we discover that life’s true joy is found in following in the footsteps of our Wounded Healer.

Stuart Bothwell

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.’
Amen.

Methodist Covenant Prayer

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
The Wounded Healer by Henri J.M. Nouwen
The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

Lent: Day Thirteen

Ephesians 4: 1-16

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

 

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.

I always rush wedding talks. It’s down to the awareness that I’m holding people back from a Champagne reception. Yet, despite my quickened cadence, I try to make one thing clear: the best kind of love burns slowly – a love that endures.

I look at the happy couple, and nick the wise words of David Brooks as he describes couples who have reached a harmony of contentment and catharsis through their marriage.

Brooks says,

“Catharsis comes after the long ups and downs. It comes when you look back and realise that it’s more accurate to say that you’ve really had five or six different marriages, that you were married to five or six different people who happened to inhabit, over the years, the same body. In catharsis, needy love has morphed into giving love. Each partner has leapt into the absurd for the other, made sacrifices that made no earthly sense. We applaud people for having a fiftieth wedding anniversary because we know it is an achievement, even though to them it just feels like a delight. They are not done living, but they can pause on a winter’s evening, lean their heads together and stare into the fire.”

An enduring love requires us to change and grow in our natures, as our characters are formed by the one we love. 

While Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever, the truth is that the outworking of our devotion will mean that we will pass through different stages in our relationship with Him. There will be a point when we will look back and see that while Christ has remained consistent, we have changed in Him, like five or six different people, all maturing within our same body. Discipleship is a journey marked by various stages and there are many ways to describe such steps of maturity. For Ronald Rolheiser, there are three distinct phases of our lives with Christ: 

Firstly, Essential Discipleship fuelled by the passionate pursuit of adventure with Christ as we long to find our home in Him. 

Secondly, Mature Discipleship, sustained with the priority of giving our lives away in persistent prayer, generosity and blessing for, “the mark of a deeply mature man or woman, the mark of a very mature disciple of Jesus, and the mark of someone truly giving his or her life away is this: he or she is a person who blesses others and blesses the world, just as God does and just as Jesus did.” 

Rolheiser concludes with the third phase of Radical Discipleship, with its desire to live now in such a way today that our deaths, just like Christ’s can be a blessing to our family, our friends and our communities.

While our culture idolises the pointless pursuit of staying young, through the writings of the New Testament, we see our purpose lies in growing up and maturing into Christ, becoming more like Him in every which way through a love that burns long and slow. The invitation of formation requires us to change.

While it’s never comfortable, it is often moments of crisis, suffering and testing that create the conditions for us to make the transition from one stage of maturity to another. Jesus’ ministry began in the wilderness. As we learn to journey through liminal desert spaces and not just avoid them, we can walk through the permeable membranes of one stage and into the next. If life is good, you’re happy to stay put. Yet in the stillness of the desert air, you hear the call of a new land.

It is those who are kept awake by dark nights of the soul who crave the dawning of a new day.

In changing, we see that our story stacks, layered like chapters in a novel. We don’t need to disregard our past, taking on a brand new entity in our maturity. No, we can include and incorporate where we have been into where we are headed. For the crisis presents an opportunity not to go back to the way things were but to further embody the nature of Christ as our love for Him burns.

And as we take our first steps through the terrain of new territory, we learn that there is simplicity to be found on the other side of complexity.

A simplicity found in trust.

 

Stuart Bothwell

 

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.’
Amen.

Methodist Covenant Prayer

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
The Second Mountain by David Brooks
Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser
Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

 

 

 

321 Questions for Huddles

 

Following today’s message, we encourage you to use these questions as a guide within your Huddle discussions.

1. What kind of disciple do you want to be when we come out of lockdown?
2. How can we ascend Mount Horeb right now and be still, listening to the voice of God so that we can live obediently for Him?
3. Practically, how can you live generously this week?

We pray the Holy Spirit bless the friendships and connections made between you.

Lent: Day Ten

As we get used to the shape of this season, we wanted to highlight that we won’t be releasing a daily office over the weekend. Instead, we want to invite you into the intentional practice of Sabbath this Saturday or Sunday – a day for rest, worship and delight.

We have created a practice guide to help you and your family as you weave Sabbath into the rhythm of your week. You can find the practice guide and video here.

Isaiah 43: 1-21

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

 

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.

On the morning of Resurrection Sunday, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus with her heart shattered. Peering in, seeing that there was no body to be found, Mary uttered through her tears that “they have taken my Lord away.” She turned and approached a gardener, only to hear Him say “Mary”. Recognising the Rabbi, she embraced Him, only to hear some surprising words: “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” (John 20: 17)

Why did Jesus say such a thing?

According to Ronald Rolheiser, if we had Mary’s account of the dawning of the new day, she may have said something like this:

 

“I never suspected 

Resurrection

to be so painful

to leave me weeping

With joy

to have met you, alive and smiling, outside an empty tomb

With regret

not because I’ve lost you

but because I’ve lost you in how I had you-

in understandable, touchable, kissable, clingable flesh

not as fully Lord, but as graspably human.

I want to cling, despite your protest

cling to your, and my, clingable humanity

cling to what we had, our past.

But I know that, if I cling

you cannot ascend and

I will be left clinging to your former self

unable to receive your present spirit.”

 

If you had asked Mary to express her wildest dream in the depths of her pain, she wouldn’t have mentioned resurrection but would have died for the resuscitation of Jesus to have taken place. A restoration of the way things were with the familiar good old days.

As we look back over the past twelve months, many of us know what Mary is talking about. We want to cling to the way things were, get back to the past, with all the ways we used to connect with Jesus, how He acted towards us and how we acted towards Him. We just want to recover the recognisable. 

Although after a cruciform year, a Good Friday kind of year, Jesus doesn’t want to resuscitate us. He wants us to live open to the present reality of resurrection.

Resurrection doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Resurrection always follows a death.

The seedbed of resurrection is found in carrying our crosses, dying to self, seeing kernels falling to the ground, and allowing all the parts of our lives that run in the opposite direction of Christ’s new thing to be crucified. Recently, we’ve all had to die to self, often. Our sense of control, our preferences and plans, they’ve all been left shattered. It’s been a year of a thousand tiny deaths as we’ve faced the reality of life outside of the way we like it. 

Yet may you hear good news after a hard year.

Good Fridays always lead to Resurrection Sundays. 

As we loosen our grip of the former things, we invite the Gardener to tend to the shoots of new life growing in us now. We don’t have to be stuck in the past, clinging to the graspable and reducing faith to the application of self-help strategies to tweak the parts of our lives that we want to improve. No, we can live open to the Spirit’s utterly comprehensive work of transformation-by-resurrection in the givenness of the present moment.

Thanks to the resurrection, the new is available now.

New creation, what does it look like for you?

 

“Forget the former things; 

do not dwell on the past.

See I am doing a new thing! 

Now it springs up;

Do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

And streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43: 18-19

 

Stuart Bothwell

 

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

Morning Prayer 

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

Amen.

Northumbria Community

 

Evening Prayer 

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.

Amen.

Compline Prayer – Common Book of Prayer

 

 

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
The Way of St. Benedict by Rowan Williams
This Hallelujah Banquet byEugene Peterson

 

 

Lent: Day Nine

James 1

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

 

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.

“There comes a point in any long distance race when you hit the wall. The enthusiasm from behind the start line disappears as you reach the twenty mile mark, weary. You are really beginning to suffer at this point, but hitting the wall is mainly a mental struggle. Any time I’ve slowed down on the road, checking my watch to see minutes per mile creep painfully higher, my initial response is regret.

“I should have trained harder. I should have been more prepared.”

My regret is coupled with a retracing of steps back to the bursts of energy in the early miles when I was running strong, fuelled by the adrenaline of race day.

“That was only two hours ago,” I think to myself, “how have things ended up like this?”

After a couple of minutes of comparing your glory moments to your present state of just plain sore, you begin to draw on something deep within yourself.

Endurance.

Rather than looking back, you begin to look ahead. Looking at your watch, you reset your expectations, knowing full well that the next few miles will be slower. Your pre-race goals are set aside and you make peace with your pace, muttering your essential purpose under strained breath:

“I must keep going.”

Each runner will experience this moment at a different point along the road. This year, however, we have all hit the wall at precisely the same time. The past twelve months have felt like a sharp collective cramp, slowing us right down, leaving us all a little wobbly. We have all faced trials this year.

As roadmaps are drafted for the way ahead, some of us may be finding ourselves riddled with regret right now, particularly as we look back to how our commitment to Christ has played out since last March. Looking back to the good old days marked with miracle stories and an ease to keeping in step with the Spirit, some of us may be thinking to ourselves:

“I should have made more time. I should have put in more effort.”

We may be rooted and grounded in Christ’s love, yet oftentimes we allow impatience and striving to be the driving forces of our faith. We’re happy for grace to redeem us from sinning but don’t allow it to sustain us in our living. This is a contradiction of the Jesus way.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15: 5

Our fruitfulness is a direct result of our abiding in Christ, not our strained efforts for Him. Through a delight in our identity and the working out of a rhythm based on rest first and output second, our roots will grow down beyond the topsoil of our performance and into the depths of the Christ-life, sustaining us over the long haul. For we are to be the kind of people who live with a patient endurance, a robust stability, a steady purpose, energised by the love of Christ.

As we read in James, and as we know from being human, trials reset our expectations away from what is expected in ordinary time and towards small, defining acts of devotion. In testing times, endurance, not performance, is what counts. As we persevere, our output levels may drop but vitally, we keep running, especially when we don’t feel like it.

You have hit the wall this year, but you’ve kept going. Through the one-sentence prayers, the meals you cooked and were willing to receive, the worship music you put on in the background as you homeschooled your children, the interruptions during services on your screens, reading lenten scriptures and choosing to carve out a few hurried minutes in Christ’s presence each day – in thousands of small, simple ways you have said yes to Jesus this year. It may not have been the performance that you wanted as your devotion to Jesus may have been more faithful than fruitful in the face of this trial.

That’s okay.

Your faith has been tested, perhaps more than at any other time. You’ve faced an unprecedented trial, a winter season without an abundance of fruit.

And yet, you’re still standing, for Christ is propping you up.

We still have a race to run, one that will last longer than this pandemic. The seasons will change; times of sprouting, budding and harvesting will come. As we navigate our way through the fog that comes from hitting the wall, let us remember that regret riddled religiosity will not sustain us. Only the unforced rhythms of grace can keep us going right to the end.

Discipleship is a lifelong journey, requiring unwavering obedience in the same direction. As we endure the final months of this trial, may we let perseverance finish its work, that we will be mature and complete in Christ, not lacking anything for the long road ahead of us.

Stuart Bothwell

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

Morning Prayer 

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

Amen.

Northumbria Community

 

Evening Prayer 

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.

Amen.

Compline Prayer – Common Book of Prayer

 

 

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
The Way of St. Benedict by Rowan Williams
This Hallelujah Banquet byEugene Peterson

 

 

Lent: Day Eight

Psalm 13

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

 

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.“

“How do you follow Jesus when life has broken your heart?”

This was the question I pitched to a trusted friend, who sat across from me at a Stranmillis coffee shop. I wasn’t quite expecting his answer:

“Pray the Psalms.”

When you read wider than just the hits, the Psalms can’t help but surprise you. As you read prayers crafted by real people, experiencing raw emotions and singing them out before God, you hear the Psalmists speaking from the heart of the human experience.

Nothing is held back. The prayer book of Israel, memorised and sung by Jesus Himself, contains the exuberant praise you expect. Yet the Psalmists also express deep sorrow, protest, and lament. There are even questions directed towards God, which read like cursing without actually cursing.

I opened the Bible’s great book of praises and found the invitation to keep singing, even when I might feel like hell. For praying the Psalms has taught me that I no longer have to deny my true feelings – I could direct them towards the Father, open and unafraid. Or, as Tom Wright puts it:

“The Psalms express all the emotions we are ever likely to feel (including some we hope we may not), and lay them, raw and open in the presence of God.”

There are movements in the Psalms that also reflect the twists and turns of real life. Walter Bruggemann names these movements as orientation, disorientation, and re-orientation. The thirteenth Psalm, which you read today, gives us a helpful summary of how we can continue to follow Jesus through these movements, even when life has broken our hearts.

ORIENTATION

Notice how David addresses God in Psalm 13: 3.

“Lord, my God.”

We are to see God and ourselves clearly by fixing ourselves to our identity, the lived experience of our relationship with a loving Lord, who despite His transcendence, is also immanent. Whatever life throws at you, you can orientate yourself towards the North Star by reminding yourself that God is good, always good, infinitely good.

The Lord is your God. He is for you and you find yourself in Him.

DISORIENTATION

We live in a world that shakes and cracks.

In the middle of storms that leave us in a spin, we feel the urge to hide what’s truly going from God, suppressing our emotions and pretending that everything’s okay. Such a response to disorientation points not to a mature, robust relationship with the Father, but a way of living formed by Instagram. If our instinct is to manufacture orientation in a time of disorientation, we may be living into the subtle lie that Jesus is only concerned with breakthrough, when He wants in on the process also.

In David’s protests of “How long, Lord?” and Jesus’ crucifixion recitation of the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, we see the invitation to leave behind our preoccupation with always appearing happy at the expense of being human.

God doesn’t only welcome our laments. He leads the singing of our protest songs. Let that sink in for a moment.

When it comes to our griefs, our disappointments from a virus riddled year, when hope keeps getting deferred, when we are disorientated, the Psalms show us how to respond:

In the presence of a loving, listening Lord, we are to lay our hurting hearts before Him. Every aspect of the human experience is a valid entry point into prayer.

Disorientation can either harden us or humble us. Yet if we learn to live honestly, directing our hurts and confusion towards God, our relationship isn’t severed but strengthened. Lament may not fix our difficulties, but it can form us in the way of trust, as we open up to our faithful Friend along the road of life.

RE-ORIENTATION

On the cross, as He gave up His final breath, Jesus’s cries of “Why?”, were followed up with the song of Psalm 31, “Into your hands, I commit my spirit.”

There is a new way of living that can break into our disorientation and lead us beyond it. Where lament can turn to praise once again. We experience re-orientation when we choose to place our trust in God, who is gracious enough to listen to our laments and wipe away our tears.

The height of discipleship is found in living boldly with Christ, marked by honest communication with what is truly going on. For when we learn to pray and live the movements of the Psalms, the anthem of our lives will surely be,

“But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for He has been good to me.”

Stuart Bothwell

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

Morning Prayer 

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

Amen.

Northumbria Community

 

Evening Prayer 

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.

Amen.

Compline Prayer – Common Book of Prayer

 

 

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
Simply Christian by N.T. Wright
Wrestling With God by Ronald Rolheiser
Surprised by Paradox by Jen Pollock Michel
Open and Unafraid by W. David O. Taylor

 

 

Lent: Day Seven

John 16:16-33
1 Thessalonians 4:13

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

 

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.

We have all lost this year.

Each of us has endured a degree of suffering over the past twelve months. Goodbyes said to loved ones over screens, jobs lost, plans left shattered. The whole world has experienced a collective trauma, which has trickled all the way into our locked down lives.

As we look back on a season that has shaped us like no other, grief is the adequate response.

We avoid grief because it is unpredictable, like ocean waves. As John O’Donohue says, “There are days when you wake up happy, until the moment breaks and you are thrown back onto the black tide of loss.”

We tell ourselves that it is easier to avoid grief than to be ambushed by it. Asked how we are, we lie with a “Grand, thanks,” for someone else is always worse off than we are. Either that or, like shoving a beachball underwater, we attempt to smother our pain, forcing it down by numbing ourselves out, only for our pain to resurface unexpectedly, oftentimes out of control.

As Jesus followers, we can deceive ourselves into thinking that our grieving conflicts with our confession of God’s goodness. We hurriedly dust off our pain so we can get back to demonstrating our piety, pretending that everything’s okay. But coming to terms with our suffering need not pull us away from God. It should draw us closer to His embrace. Hallelujah choruses can be played in a minor chord.

We are to take our lead from the Man of Sorrows, who in pain, wept.

Throughout the accounts of His life, we find that Jesus is disarmingly honest, oftentimes expressing what is truly going on with Him. He invites us into this same way of truth-telling, both with Him in prayer and in real talk with a small band of sojourners. In this light, we begin to understand how to articulate not just a description of painful moments, but also their effects on us.

We must learn to name what’s inside of us – not just what we think God and others would like to see inside of us. Truth telling can set us free.

As Ronald Rolheiser puts it, “Just to be able to name something, no matter how absurd or unfair, no matter how powerless we are to change it, is to be somehow free of it, above it, in someway transcendent. To name something correctly is to partly free ourselves of its dominance.”

We also need to give ourselves more time. Hurrying does not help with the journey that grief is taking us on. As we make peace with our pain, we must walk slowly, pausing often, and all the while choosing to be excessively gracious with ourselves.

And for the sojourners, we must be patient, making time for hurt to be expressed. With all our longings for better days, we must not rush the hurting ahead to a resolution that isn’t quite ready to be received. In the liminal space of grief, we can be assured that Jesus is close to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

Through truth and in time, wounds of loss will heal.

As the nights stretch out and restrictions get pulled back, it’s tempting to forget the past twelve months and just move on. Yet we have all lost this year. Truth wants us to step onto His way and receive His life. In the words of C.S. Lewis,

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Instead of moving on, may you attend to your wounds, and attune your ears to His loud, loving voice.

Stuart Bothwell

 

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

Morning Prayer 

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

Amen.

Northumbria Community

 

Evening Prayer 

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.

Amen.

Compline Prayer – Common Book of Prayer

 

 

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
Celtic Daily Prayer by Northumbria Community
Wrestling With God by Ronald Rolheiser
To Bless The Space Between Us by John O’Donohue
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

 

 

Lent: Day Six

Isaiah 58

Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.

 

If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.

At the turning of the seasons, it’s time for the work of reflection.

This time last year, coronavirus was a novel news item happening ‘out there’. Since then, we have lived through a season that has shaped us like no other. This week through our lenten devotionals, we will look back over the past year, creating space to process the recent inner movements of our souls. Yet before I share some of my reflections, I want to invite you to name some of yours.

To help us process well, we can turn to ancient practice known as the Examen, which invites us to see ourselves clearly from God’s perspective. Through self-examination, we can pray with the Psalmist, that the Father would search us, know us and lead us in the way everlasting.

Rich Villodas defines the Examen as “a way of life that considers the realities of our inner worlds for the sake of our own flourishing and the call to love well.” He goes onto explain the goals of self-examination:

“First, we open ourselves up to the grace and presence of God. Second, we live in the world with greater freedom as we untangle ourselves from the web of inner dysfunction and confusion. Third, we become a presence in this world, more capable of working towards peace with our neighbours and love for those who may be considered enemies.”

The Examen is a simple way of prayerful reflection that can be woven into the fabric of our lives through a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rhythm of practice. Take some time today or this week, to walk slowly through each of the movements, which can be done either by yourself (in silence, by journaling or walking), or with your spouse or family in conversation. Parents, by adapting these questions slightly, you can also invite your children to join in. 

Allow me to walk you through the Examen.

PREPARATION

To begin, take a breath and settle into the present moment. Voice a prayer of invitation, like ‘Come, Holy Spirit’, asking Him to help you see the past year clearly and notice the traces of Christ’s presence and leading.

DESOLATION

Take some time in silence or in prayerful conversation to recollect and review the past year. Some of the following questions may help guide you:

How have you found the past year difficult? Is there an emotion (anger, joy, grief, frustration), that needs expression? In which ways have you struggled spirituality, emotionally, physically, relationally? In which ways has your faith been tested? What have you lost this year?

In prayer, offer these experiences and emotions to God, as you open yourself up to receive His healing.

CONSOLATION

Despite hardship, there has been much to celebrate this year. Take time to recollect and review the stories, events and moments that have brought hope, joy and thanksgiving. Some of the following questions may help guide you:

What are you thankful for from this year? When and where did you notice the presence of Jesus this year? In what ways has your faith been strengthened this year? Who has brought you comfort? When did you laugh the hardest? What small things have you begun to pay greater attention to?

In prayer, offer these experiences and emotions to God, as you offer Him your thanksgiving and praise.

LOOKING AHEAD

As you look to the future, what are you looking forward to? What have you learned in the past year to take with you into the next season? What habits would you like to develop? Where do you want to see God at work? Which parts of your story remain unresolved?

Close your time of self-examination by opening up your hands and praying a prayer of commitment to God, recognising that He has been with you every step of the way and will continue to lead on.

Stuart Bothwell

 

Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.

Morning Prayer 

Christ, as a light

illumine and guide me.

Christ, as a shield

overshadow me.

Christ under me;

Christ over me;

Christ beside me

on my left and my right.

This day be within and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;

in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.

This day be within and without me,

lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Christ as a light;

Christ as a shield;

Christ beside me

on my left and my right.

Amen.

Northumbria Community

 

Evening Prayer 

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.

Amen.

Compline Prayer – Common Book of Prayer

 

 

If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.

Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.

 

Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.

“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”

Ann Voskamp

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.

Acknowledgements
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton
The Deeply Formed Life by Rich Villodas
Annual Examen Framework by Resurrection Anglican Church