People of the way


Cracks in the road, Edinburgh (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
In the upper room, just hours before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’

John 14:1-7

I wonder

Is that why the early Christians were known as “People of the Way”?
(see Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22)

Saul of Tarsus – a radical young Rabbi – played an active part in persecuting followers of the Way until Jesus appeared to him on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-18) and he had a change of heart and became a follower of the Way too, changing his name to Paul. Through his missionary journeys and letters he touched many lives and communities and the movement spread, even to this day.

Digging deeper

Read Acts 16:16-40 about Paul and Silas’ night in a Philippian jail. Imagine you are one of the other prisoners. What can you tell about “People of the Way” from what you witness that night? What is your response?

Also check out this helpful study outline on “People of the Way”.

Prayer

inspired by Mark 14:12-15

Lord,
to those of us who sometimes find
your ways of doing things
and choice of messengers
puzzling and
perplexing;

may that unnamed water-carrier,
who led those first disciples to
the upper room,
alert us to the many
little-known people
who cross our paths,
and who,
if followed,
lead us through
unexpected
doors
of welcome and hospitality
to extraordinary
revelations
of your grace.

from A Procession of Prayers: Meditations and Prayers from Around the World by John Carden, p. 165

Beyond


Kralingse Plas, Rotterdam (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
“Farther than the possible limit of sight; beyond what one is able to foresee, know, or anticipate.” That’s how the Free Dictionary defines the phrase, ‘beyond the horizon’.

For God, there are no such limitations.

Doxology

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
     How unsearchable his judgments,
     and his paths beyond tracing out!
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord?
     Or who has been his counsellor?’
‘Who has ever given to God,
     that God should repay them?’
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
     To him be the glory for ever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

To Emmaus and back

For the full story, read Luke 24:13-49.

Here is a summary, with some prayer prompts.

Two of Jesus’ disciples are headed for Emmaus, about 2 hours walking distance from Jerusalem. As they walk down this familiar stretch of road their conversation is coloured by a flood of mixed emotions. On the one hand they are reeling from the traumatic events in Jerusalem when their beloved Lord and Master was arrested and killed, and on the other hand there’s the startling testimony of some of their female friends who claim they saw “a vision of angels, who said Jesus was alive” (Luke 24:23).

Pray for vital relationships in your life to share the highs and lows with.

Soon they too would have a startling testimony to share, thanks to a roadside encounter with the risen Lord, who gently but firmly puts them in the picture: “‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

Pray for time and motivation to study the Scriptures, to get God’s perspective and to make it your own.

At this point, the disciples are completely unaware they are in conversation with Jesus, but their hearts are warmed by his words, and they invite him to stay the night, hungry for more. Later, at table, in the breaking of the bread, they realize they have been in the presence of Jesus, risen from the dead. They can’t wait to tell the others, and head straight back to Jerusalem, where there is a further treat in store for them: They get to see the Risen Lord again when he appears to the whole assembly.

Pray that your personal encounters with Jesus will be a blessing to the wider community.

Did you know?

The hymn, Abide with me, alludes to Luke 24:29: “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.”

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

by Henry Francis Lyte

Emmaus Blessing

Already a blessing
in the walking

already a blessing
on the road

already a blessing
drawing near

already a blessing
in the listening

already a blessing
in the burning hearts

already a blessing
in the almost evening

already a blessing
in the staying

already a blessing
at the table

already a blessing
in the bread

already a blessing
in the breaking

already a blessing
finally known

already a blessing
give us eyes

already a blessing
let us see.

—Jan Richardson
from paintedprayerbook.com


See also walk, run, soar, especially the Millican’s Meaningful Journeys video (walk).

Show me the way


Duizel in het Park Festival, Rotterdam, August 2017 (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
The theme I’ve selected for August 2017 is “on a journey”.

The word “journey” does not appear much in the psalms, if ever. “Way” or “ways” is very common, though. Especially in Psalm 119, an extended meditation on living in right relationship with God, walking in his ways: “Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.” (Psalm 119:1)

Invariably the word “way” expresses more than a particular road, path, or track that you use to go from one place to another. Instead, it reflects the outcome of multiple journeys that have somehow become internalized into a “way of life” (Psalm 84:11, Proverbs 28:18, Jeremiah 21:8).

Here selected verses from Psalm 143 – a prayer for help and direction on “the way I should go” to find relief and release in tricky situations. Sometimes relief comes from unexpected quarters, like in the parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37).

1 LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.

7 Answer me quickly, LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.

9 Rescue me from my enemies, LORD,
for I hide myself in you.

10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

(Psalm 143:1, 7-10)

Reflection

“The biblical psalms have the Lord God talking through the embattled confessions of children adopted by God who are in the grip of God’s Spirit. Yet, in the psalms, God is also talking live to anybody today, worldwide, who will listen.” (Calvin Seerveld, Voicing God’s Psalms, p. xvii)

Waters of baptism

As we come to the end of a month-long celebration of water and the many ways it touches our lives as people and as people of faith, finally a post on baptism.

“Whenever I hear the sound of water flowing or see the water poured in the sacrament of baptism, my soul is deeply moved and built up as I remember the promises claimed at my own baptism and those of my children. The signs and sounds of that gesture speak profoundly to me of the renewal we have in Christ Jesus, claimed in baptism and claimed again each time I remember the promises of my baptism.”

— A worshiper (from Reformed Worship)

Themes

In researching the topic of baptism for this blog post, two key themes stood out for me.

Firstly, baptism has been a fruitful topic in ecumenical relations, helping foster dialogue and reconciliation.

Secondly, there is much to be gained by “keeping baptism front and center” (Arlo D. Duba) in our church life.

According to Arlo D. Duba:

Too often we neglect baptism’s missional focus to go into all the world to make disciples, baptizing them (Matt. 28:19). Or we overlook the element of entering into the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-6). Even when we introduce something like the Paschal (Easter) Vigil, we sometimes downplay or miss altogether its integral relationship with baptism.

Luther urged Christians to practice the daily renewal of the baptismal covenant by placing a hand on the head each morning and saying, ‘I am a baptized person, and today I will live out my baptism.’ And Calvin says that our propensity toward evil never ceases, but we take courage because what ‘begins in our baptism’ must be pursued every day until it is perfected when we go to be with the Lord (Institutes, 4, 15, 11).

Baptismal renewal must also be reflected in our services of worship. This means baptism, in all its power, must again become visible in all our worship services — not only when the sacrament of baptism is administered, but every Sunday.

(for full article, see 2. below)

Recommended reading/listening

1. Ecumenical resources on Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows and Liturgy,
Church of Scotland website
2. Take Me to the Water: Ideas for keeping baptism front and center,
by Arlo D. Duba
3. Worship Ideas on the Sacrament of Baptism,
by Howard Vanderwell and Norma de Waal Malefyt
4. Talking with Children about the Sacraments (audio, 01:08:56),
by Sue A. Rozeboom and Carrie Steenwyk (2012 Calvin Symposium on Worship)

Prayer

O Christ, you humbled yourself and received baptism at the hands of your friend and cousin, John, showing us the way of humility; help us to follow you, and never to be encumbered with pride.

O Christ, by your baptism, you took our humanity into the cleansing waters; give us new birth, and lead us into life as sons and daughters of God.

O Christ, by your baptism the material world became charged with your holiness; make us instruments of your transformation in this our world.

O Christ, by your baptism you revealed the Trinity, your Father calling you his beloved Son, and the Spirit descending upon you like a dove; renew our worship, rededicate us in the spirit of our baptism, and mould us into our true nature, in the image of God.

For your love’s sake,
Amen.

after the Chaldean Rite

from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, p. 393

Environmentally water-wise

River Kelvin, Glasgow, where Rev. Norman Hutcheson grew up

Rev. Norman Hutcheson served 2 terms as locum during a recent vacancy in my home congregation in Rotterdam. During his second stint in September 2015, with the Paris Climate talks due to take place in December 2015, he chose as overarching theme for the month “Climate Time”.

The Paris Climate talks proved ground-breaking. “Representatives from 196 nations made a historic pact … to adopt green energy sources, cut down on climate change emissions and limit the rise of global temperatures — while also cooperating to cope with the impact of unavoidable climate change.” (http://www.npr.org)

On a local level, Norman inspired us as a congregation to consider our environmental footprint, and we’ve made good headway in that regard, with 48 solar panels on order (as we speak), and other measures in place to reduce energy costs.

Recently the Paris Climate Agreement was once again in the news when President Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement. How this will all pan out in the long run, we will have to wait and see.

What can we do to play our part for the good of the planet water-wise?

Norman’s reflections:

Haves and have nots

For years I took water for granted – always pure, straight from the tap. I now know that safe water to drink and adequate supplies for sewage and irrigation remain a far off dream for half of the world’s population. Often it’s the result of the rich and powerful taking more than their fair share of the water resources.

Will we play our part to work for equity and justice where water resources are concerned?

Food

Two years ago I represented the Church of Scotland at a meeting on Environmental matters organised by the Church of South India. I was astonished to learn that it takes 600 gallons (2500 L) of water to produce a 6-ounce (150g) hamburger. A hidden cost we should be aware of.

Will we play our part to use the earth’s resources in a responsible way?

Signs of hope

Where I come from we have little experience of water scarcity. I do know about the effects of water pollution, though. Until the mid-19th Century the River Kelvin in Glasgow where I grew up had salmon swimming up the river. Then industrialisation ruined their habitat and the fish disappeared for 150 years. In recent years there have been initiatives to restore the habitat and to bring the salmon back, with success.

Will we play our part to promote good water management where we live, for the benefit of all God’s creatures?


Recommended listening/reading
The inside story of the Paris Climate Agreement (TED talk)
To make a burger, first you need 660 gallons of water …
The Hidden Water We Use

Prayer

Lord of all, we forget sometimes that your love involves responsibility as well as privilege; a duty not just to you but to the whole of your creation, to nurture and protect rather than simply to exploit it.

Forgive us our part in a society that has too often lives for today with no thought of tomorrow. Forgive us our unquestioning acceptance of an economic system that plunders this worlds’ resources with little regard as to the consequences.

Help us to live less wastefully and with more thought for those who will come after us.

Challenge the hearts and minds of people everywhere, that both they and we may understand more fully the wonder and the fragility of this planet you have give us, and so honour our calling to be faithful stewards of it all.

In Christ’s name, Amen.

by Nick Fawcett, from 2000 Prayers for Public Worship (2008), Prayer #916


See also Water world news

Body of water

mary and elizabeth, jesus and johnJesus meets John
for the first time

based on
a Christmas card
I made years ago

In the womb

We start out life in the relatively safe confines of our mother’s womb, cushioned by a body of water, until the waters break and it’s time to show our face and let our voice be heard.

When my mother was 8 months pregnant with me, her appendix burst. My father, a recent immigrant to South Africa without any family nearby to provide support, faced the prospect of losing both his wife and unborn child. The medical team opted to leave me in place. I imagine the nuns at St Joseph’s Maternity Hospital, who knew my mother as a nurse and former colleague and now as a prospective mother and patient, prayed us through the crisis. I was born full term a month later.

Herb Lubalin's logo for a magazine that never saw the light of day,
Mother and child (1966) by Herb Lubalin

Fearfully and wonderfully made

Many times I come back to these words from Psalm 139 – a truth beyond comprehension, revealed to affirm us in the body and in the faith:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16 (NIVUK)

In the body

The phrase “body of water” is also a reference to the role water plays in the human body. For more details, check out this educational video, “What would happen if you didn’t drink water?” by Mia Nacamulli:

Prayer

“Lord, you have given me so much; I ask for one more thing – a grateful heart.”

after George Herbert (1593-1633)


This post is one a number on the theme of water, theme of the month for July 2017.

Water world news

BEARING THE BURDEN: Women carry more than their fair share of the world’s water
 

Below is a sample of news articles on the topic of water published in the last month. Good news, bad news, out of this world news (like the fact that they found water on the moon).

Whatever the news, may the Holy Spirit help us discern if the news story is also a call to prayer. Our planet needs all the help it can get.


MOON
Scientists Have Discovered That There is Water Under the Moon’s Surface: New research from Brown University suggests that huge amounts of water may be found under the surface of the Moon. The presence of water in the Moon’s mantle could provide insight to how water got to Earth and help sustain future deep space missions.

VENUZUELA
Venezuelans Stockpile Food and Water Ahead of Maduro Power Grab: Venezuelans are stockpiling scarce food and water as tensions mount ahead of a widely criticized Sunday vote that President Nicolas Maduro has called to elect an assembly of supporters to rewrite the constitution and strengthen his grip on power.

USA
The Trump administration is ramping up its war on clean water: There is a serious, concerted effort going on to undermine clean water.

FUTURE
Why Some Western Water Agencies Are Writing 100-Year Water Plans: Climate change is causing water managers to think long term about their resources. Several western agencies are planning a century in advance, but that’s not without its headaches.

ROME
‘Drastic’ water rationing looms for Rome as drought blights Italy: Some of the driest weather to affect Italy’s in 60 years and Rome’s notoriously leaky pipes has left the city’s residents fearing water rationing.

INDIA
India’s Water-Energy Nexus: India’s water crisis is impacting its energy supply. What can be done?

PROGRESS
New, reusable filter cleans heavy metals from water: A chemist from Rice University and a high school student have developed a filter that can remove toxic heavy metals from the water.

HEAVY
Women carry more than their fair share of the world’s water: The task of providing water for households falls disproportionately to women and girls.

AUSTRALIA
Murray-Darling Basin Plan: SA Water Minister ‘shocked’ by upstream revelations: SA’s Water Minister has launched a scathing attack of the New South Wales Government’s conduct of Murray-Darling Basin water management and repeated calls for a judicial inquiry.

KENYA
Thirsty city: after months of water rationing Nairobi may run dry: The rains have been poor while demand for water grows along with the city – there are solutions but they will mean radical action

SWEDEN
Sweden’s water shortage: What you need to know: It may not be something commonly associated with a northern European nation, but Sweden is currently fretting over water shortages in several parts of the country, and there are already visible consequences. Here’s everything you need to know about the situation.

BEST PRACTICE
How Conservation Helps Keep Water Costs Down: Water rates may be rising in some places, but new research shows that they don’t rise as much with conservation, says Mary Ann Dickinson of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

ISRAEL/PALESTINE
Israel, Palestinian Authority reach water-sharing deal: Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reached a water-sharing deal to bring relief to parched Palestinian communities, in a breakthrough announced during the latest visit to the region by the US Middle East envoy.

HOT SPOTS
Global hotspots for potential water conflict identified: More than 1,400 new dams or water diversion projects are planned or already under construction and many of them are on rivers flowing through multiple nations, fueling the potential for increased water conflict between some countries.

NATURE
Forget Sharks: 7 Things in the Water Swimmers Should Actually Fear: Shark attacks are rare, but watch out for these nasty parasites


How then shall we live?

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (New Living Translation)


All month I’ve been publishing posts on the theme of water.
Here’s an overview.

Ancient Irish Prayer

celtic tea light

Here is an Ancient Irish Prayer, selected for its multiple references to water, our current theme of the month.

The prayer incorporates Latin phrases from the Gloria, an ancient hymn of praise to the Trinity that has been in use in the Church since the second century: Laudamus Te, benedicimus Te, adoramus Te, glorificamus Te. In English: “We praise You, we bless You, we adore You, we glorify You”.


Glorificamus Te!

I offer Thee
Every flower that ever grew
Every bird that ever flew
Every wind that ever blew
Good God!
Every thunder rolling
Every church bell tolling
Every leaf and sod

Laudamus Te!

I offer Thee
Every wave that ever moved
Every heart that ever loved
Thee, thy Father’s Well-beloved
Dear Lord!
Every river dashing
Every lightning flashing
Like an angel’s sword

Benedicimus Te!

I offer Thee
Every cloud that ever swept
O’er the skies, and broke and wept
In rain, and with the flowerlets slept
My King!
Every communicant praying
Every angel staying
Before Thy throne to sing

Adoramus Te!

I offer Thee
Every flake of virgin snow,
Every spring of earth below
Every human Joy and woe,
My love!
O Lord! And all thy glorious
Self o’er death victorious
Throned in heaven above

Glorificamus Te!

from The Open Gate: Celtic Prayers for Growing Spiritually
by David Adam, p. 44-45

Reflection

Recently a friend remarked that the song “All things bright and beautiful” is like a 2-minute walk through nature. This prayer is also a walk through nature, but without the music to keep us moving it’s up to us how long we take to cover the distance.


See also Theme: Come to the waters (Prayer sheet)

Theme: Come to the waters

 
This prayer sheet is inspired by the July 2017 theme of the month: Water.

The prayers reference different aspects of water we find in the Bible, to help us connect with the giver of this gift that is so vital to our health and well-being, and to pray for those who thirst.

For personal use or to share.

Continue reading “Theme: Come to the waters”