Food for thought


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

 
If you recall, few posts ago I featured Romans 12:1, about offering our BODY as a living sacrifice.

In the following verse – Romans 12:2 – Paul highlights the role of the MIND in keeping us on the straight and narrow so we may “live a beautiful life” (Romans 12:2, The Passion Translation).

Here, to reflect on:

Romans 12:2 three ways

NIV UK
Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test
and approve what God’s will is –
his good, pleasing and perfect will.
 
J.B. Phillips
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould,
but let God re-mould your minds from within,
so that you may prove in practice
that the plan of God for you is good,
meets all his demands
and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
 
The Passion Translation
Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you,
but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit
through a total reformation of how you think.
This will empower you to discern God’s will
as you live a beautiful life,
satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

If you’d like to explore further, follow this link to all English translations of Romans 12:2 on biblegateway.com.

More food for thought

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV UK)

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
Romans 8:5 (NIV UK)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 (NIV UK)

From the blog:
The Gift #3 : Re-minder

Daily prayer

Jesus,
by your Holy Spirit,
keep my mind firmly set
where you want it to be focused today.

by Judy Allen, from Five steps to renewing your mind

Fearfully and wonderfully made


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

 

Here are some radical verses from one of my favourite psalms and a blessing from one of my favourite writers, Jan Richardson of paintedprayerbook.com.

 

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, NIV UK)
 


Known

A Blessing

First
we will need grace.

Then
we will need courage.

Also
we will need
some strength.

We will need
to die a little
to what we have
always thought,
what we have allowed
ourselves to see
of ourselves,
what we have built
our beliefs upon.

We will need this
and more.

Then
we will need
to let it all go
to leave room enough
for the astonishment
that will come
should we be given
a glimpse
of what the Holy One sees
in seeing us,
knows
in knowing us,
intricate
and unhidden

no part of us
foreign
no piece of us
fashioned from other
than love

desired
discerned
beheld entirely
all our days.

 
written by Jan Richardson
from paintedprayerbook.com
 


From the blog:
Body of water

Offer your bodies


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

“I urge you, brothers and sisters,
in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God –
this is your true and proper worship.”

 
Romans 12:1 (NIV UK)
 

A prayer

O Living God,
we who are partly living,
scarcely hoping,
and fitfully caring,
pray to you now
to make us fully alive.
Give us the vitality, awareness and commitment
that we see in Jesus Christ,
through the power of his death and resurrection.
We ask this in his Name.

John V. Taylor

from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #46

We are a body


 

The body of Christ is one of many metaphors used in the New Testament to describe the community of believers. Here is an all-age song I wrote in the mid-90’s incorporating some of these images.

Song


 

We are a body, we are a family,
we are the church of Jesus Christ.
We are a body, we are a family,
we are the church of Jesus Christ.
We are living stones,
we are a temple for God’s Spirit lives in us.
Hallelujah!  God has made us the church!
 


Call to worship: Here we are

inspired by 1 Samuel 3

God whispers to each of us:
you are my beloved,
created in love for love.
My spirit answers,
Here I am, Lord.
Speak to me anew.

God breathes on us the Holy Spirit,
knitting many members into one body,
the body of Christ.
Together we answer,
Here we are Lord.
Come, Holy Spirit.

God has yet more vision for the people.
Who will work for God to extend God’s kingdom
into our hurting world?
Here we are Lord.
Empower us for your work.

God calls the small, and helps them do great things.
God calls the weak, and reveals their hidden gifts.
God calls the rejected, and opens their eyes to their worth.
Here we are Lord, humble and waiting.

Then let us gather, old and young, small and great,
to dream God’s dreams,
receive God’s power,
and do God’s deeds.
Here we are Lord.
Shine the light of your love on us.
Kindle your Spirit within us.
Work your redeeming will in us,
that all the world may be one
through the power of your love. Amen.

 
by David Inglis
Posted on the Henrietta United Church of Christ website

Body talk


“rejoice with those who rejoice”  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
A while back our evening ladies Bible study group spent about 3 months studying the different dimensions of the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)

One of my lasting memories of this series is trying to discern the body posture that is best associated with a specific dimension of this multi-faceted fruit. Joy, for example, requires loose-fitting clothing, so you can move and extend your limbs; patience is a quiet, expectant trust; kindness is close, attentive other-centredness.

We experience and express these qualities in our bodies and in responding to the ‘body talk’ of other bodies around us.

Paul writes in Romans 12:15:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice;
mourn with those who mourn.”

It’s quite easy to recognize the body postures that express these extreme emotional states. Sadly, strong emotions in others can form a barrier. Paul says, be brave and seek connection under all circumstances. And take advantage of occasions like weddings and funerals, natural opportunities for us to connect with others in their joy and sorrow and so strengthen bonds.

Not all ‘body talk’ is that obvious, but God has given us His Spirit, as well as eyes, ears, minds, hearts and bodies as antennae. Be curious. Be open to learn.

 

Pray for discernment to understand ‘body talk’ – both our own and the ‘body talk’ of the people around us – and pray for discernment and courage to respond appropriately, graciously and generously.


A prayer

O God, the source of our common life,
when we are dry and scattered,
when we are divided and alone,
we long for connection, we long for community,
Breath of God, breath on us.

With those we live beside,
who are often strange to us,
whom we may be afraid to approach,
yet who have riches of friendship to share,
we long for connection, we long for community,
Breath of God, breath on us.

With those we have only heard of,
who see with different eyes,
whose struggles we try to imagine,
whose fierce joy we wish we could grasp,
we long for connection, we long for community,
Breath of God, breath on us.

With those we shall never know,
but whose lives are linked with ours,
whose shared ground we stand on,
and whose common air we breathe,
we long for connection, we long for community,
Breath of God, breath on us.

When we are dry and scattered,
when we are divided and alone,
when we are cut off from the source of our life,
open our graves, O God,
that all your people
may be free to breathe, strong to move,
and joyful to stand together
to celebrate your name.

by Janet Morley
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #495

Sabbath rest


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 
To draw this month’s theme of “work” to a close, a post reflecting on work’s counterpoint: the Sabbath.

Built into the rhythm of the universe is “Sabbath rest”, a holy rest that we are invited to participate in on a weekly basis.

The primary source for this blog post is Barbara Brown Taylor’s chapter on Sabbath – “The Practice of Saying No” – from her book, An Altar in the World.

May these reflections awaken in us all a fresh appreciation and hunger for “Sabbath rest” as a way of life.

Two “therefores”

The invitation to “Sabbath rest” has two formulations in the Bible, one linked to creation and the other to the exodus out of Egypt.

“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11)

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15)

The two candles that observant Jews light at the start of their weekly Shabbat meal represent these two “therefores” – rest and freedom.

Lighting the two candles sets the tone for the rest of the day: “made in God’s image you too shall rest” and “made in God’s image you too are free”. (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, p. 131)

A Sabbath vision

After exploring the benefits and challenges of setting aside one whole day a week when “More God is the only thing on my list” (ibid, p. 126), Barbara Brown Taylor writes,

“… I think it is good to have a Sabbath vision, even if it seems impossible to you right now. Here is mine, which you are free to borrow while you are envisioning your own.

At least one day in every seven, pull off the road and park the car in the garage. Close the door to the toolshed and turn off the computer. Stay home not because you are sick but because you are well. Talk someone you love into being well with you. Take a nap, a walk, an hour for lunch. Test the promise that you are worth more than what you can produce – that even if you spent one whole day being good for nothing you would still be precious in God’s sight – and when you get anxious because you are convinced that this is not so, remember that your own conviction is not required. This is a commandment. Your worth has already been established, even when you are not working. The purpose of the commandment is to woo you to the same truth.” (ibid, p. 138-9)
 


 
To close, a prayer – quoted by Barbara Brown Taylor in her book – that captures some of the gift and the tension that is Sabbath, celebrated sunset to sunset on a weekly basis.

A prayer: Welcoming Sabbath

Our noisy day has now descended with the sun beyond our sight.

In the silence of our praying place we close the door upon the hectic joys and fears, the accomplishments and anguish of the week we left behind.

What was but moments ago the substance of our life has become memory; what we did must now be woven into what we are.

On this day we shall not do, but be.

We are to walk the path of our humanity, no longer ride unseeing through a world we do not touch and only vaguely sense.

No longer can we tear the world apart to make our fire.

On this day heat and warmth and light must come from deep within us.

 
from Gates of Prayer: The New Union Prayer Book (Weekends, Sabbaths, and Festivals), ed. Chaim Stern, p. 245
 

Who do you work for?


Cooking/social event with my work colleagues  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
This November I celebrate ten years as a Church of Scotland minister of word and sacrament. It’s a significant part of my life, but so is my work as a software developer.

I’m following in the footsteps of the apostle Paul who supported himself and his team by earning his keep as a tentmaker.

Not only did tentmaking provide an income, it also gave Paul a unique opportunity to interact with people at all levels of society: customers like the well-to-do and the military, his suppliers, other market stallholders as well as the general public. During his lunch break Paul would preach to whoever was willing to listen. Moving from city to city, marketplace to marketplace, the seeds of the gospel were sown and the church grew.
 


For reflection

In one of his letters Paul gives us a clue to his motivation when he writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Col 3:23-24)

How might God use us, with our gifts and connections, to serve him in the workplace? Or, to quote Nick Abraham, how do we “grace” our workplace and “represent the gospel well”?
 


Digging deeper: God’s perspective on work

Website: https://www.theologyofwork.org
Biblical reflections on work: Labor Day is …
Blog post by Nick Abraham: 5 Ways to Grace Your Workplace
 


23rd Psalm for the Workplace

The Lord is my boss, and I shall not want.

He gives me peace, when chaos is all around me.
He gently reminds me to pray
and do all things without murmuring and complaining.
He reminds me that he is my source and not my job.

He restores my sanity every day and guides my decisions,
that I might honour him in all that I do.

Even though I face absurd amounts of emails,
system crashes, unrealistic deadlines, budget cutbacks,
gossiping co-workers, discriminating supervisors,
and an aging body that doesn’t cooperate every morning,
I still will not stop…..for He is with me!
His presence, His peace, and His power will see me through.

He raises me up, even when they fail to promote me.
He claims me as His own,
even when the company threatens to let me go.
His faithfulness and love are better than any bonus check.
His retirement plan beats every 401K* there is!

And, when it’s all said and done,
I’ll be working for Him a whole lot longer…..
and for that, I BLESS HIS NAME!!!

from re-worship.blogspot.com

* 401K: U.S. retirement savings plan


From the blog || Psalm 23 in different guises
Theme: Spurred on by prayer (PRAYER SHEET)
Quiet near a little stream

Light on my path


 

The psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Here are some light-bearing Scripture verses and a prayer. Hopefully there is something in this selection to encourage you and help light your way.


And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.

 

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

 

To God belong wisdom and power;
counsel and understanding are his.
He reveals the deep things of darkness
and brings utter darkness into the light.

 

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

 

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.

 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’

 

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.

 

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

 

Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.

 

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

 


Light for the Path

(based on Psalm 119:105-112, 18, 34)

Your Word, O God, is a lamp for our feet
and a light for our journey.

When everything around us is dark, and we can see no light at all,
may the light from Your Word show us the way to go.

When the future is uncertain, and we can’t see what lies ahead,
may the light from Your Word show us the way to go.

When we feel abandoned or betrayed, and have no one to turn to,
may the light from Your Word show us the way to go.

When we are tempted to do what we know is wrong,
may the light from Your Word show us the way to go.

Open our eyes to see the wonderful truths in Your Word.
Give us understanding,
that we may keep Your law,
and put it into practice in our lives.

Amen.

 
from re-worship.blogspot.com


From the blog: see also on a journey, theme for August 2017.

In the light of His coming


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Here are Paul’s words of encouragement and exhortation to his friend and partner in the gospel, Timothy, taken from the Amplified Bible:

 

I charge [you] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who is to judge the living and the dead, and by (in the light of) His coming and His kingdom:

Herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favourable or unfavourable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching.

2 Timothy 4:1-2 (Amplified Bible, Classic edition)

 

Of course, our calling might be very different from Timothy’s. What words of personal encouragement and exhortation might Paul write to us in the light of who we are and God’s call on our lives?


Commission & Benediction

Go now like those prepared for the Lord to return.
Cease to do evil, learn to do good;
seek justice, rescue the oppressed.
Give freely to those in need
and let your treasure be in the things of heaven

And may God not be ashamed to be called your God;
May Christ Jesus find you attentive and well prepared;
And may the Holy Spirit give you the assurance
     of all that has been promised to you.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ. Amen.

 
by Nathan Nettleton, posted on LaughingBird.net


Note:

Sorry you haven’t heard from me in more than a week. I was away on holiday in Edinburgh. Since my return I’ve been working intensively on the 40-page anniversary booklet for the 375th Anniversary of the Scots International Church Rotterdam, getting it ready for printing in time for the commemoration service on 16 September 2018. I’ve entitled the booklet “Looking Forward Looking Back”.


 

Interpreting the times


Eccl 3:3b: ‘a time to tear down and a time to build’
  

[Jesus] said to the crowd: 'When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, "It’s going to rain," and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, "It’s going to be hot," and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?'
 
(Luke 12:54-56, NIVUK)
 

How do we avoid being overly confident, too complacent or simply overwhelmed by the present time – including uncommon weather patterns? Here is a call to worship that might be helpful in finding our way:


Call to worship

Called to be branches in Christ’s body,
we yearn to be connected to the vine.
Called to be mustard bushes offering shade to God’s creatures,
we search for places to plant the seeds of faith.
Called to be growing with God
in the midst of this world’s painful questions,
we seek God’s nurturing presence.

written by Katherine Hawker for the Union Church UCC of Tekonsha. Posted on Liturgy Outside.
 


This the last post in the present series, SUMMER.

If you have any suggestions for future monthly themes, let me know.

(The theme, WORK, is currently in the pipeline, for sometime after the holidays, including “In the school of prayer with Brother Lawrence”.)