Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Go




Today’s #AdventWord is #Go

Every Christian—all of the baptised—is called by Christ to be a eucharistic* minister. To go out into the world; to live our lives as embodied, flesh-and-blood, prayers of thanks and praise to God; carrying the real presence of Christ, encountered in bread and wine and in our sisters and brothers gathered round the Lord’s table with us; freely sharing with others what we have received. The culmination of the celebration of Holy Communion is the dismissal:

“Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.”
“In the name of Christ. Amen.”

We are all commissioned to go; and all take up that commission. And yet.

What is stopping you?


*Eucharist, from the Greek ‘to give thanks’ [and praise to God]. Technically, the celebration of Holy Communion involves the liturgy of the Word followed by the liturgy of the Eucharist, culminating in the dismissal [from which the Roman Catholics get the term mass to describe the entire rite].

Monday, December 10, 2018

Cry




Today’s #AdventWord is #Cry

Over time, the salt deposits in our tears calcify our hearts. The rock-splitting cry of the heart-of-stone is, “Come, Lord Jesus! How long, O Lord?”

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Wild




Today’s #AdventWord is #Wild

In Isaiah’s world, the King’s Highway ran through the Judean wilderness, connecting Egypt and Babylon, the Great Pyramids and the Hanging Walls, the past exodus out of slavery and the hope of a future return from exile. The prophet borrowed the well-worn image to call the people to get ready for God on the move. Four centuries later, John the Baptiser took up Isaiah’s words, with the added irony that he lived in a world paved-over by Roman armies bringing the Pax Romana. God has always been encountered on the wilderness road; but for centuries now we have been at work to level the land, to tarmac over the wild places, to obliterate them with our superhighways of politico-economic salvation. If we are to prepare the way for the Lord in our day, we might need to begin with digging-up our old familiar routes before we can rebuild.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Alert




Today’s #AdventWord is #Alert

Our outhouse is spun with gossamer web. Not a fly enters the space, but the spider knows it. To be alert to what God is doing in our neighbourhood calls not for frantic activity, but for a well-maintained wide-reaching network of informants—say, the Church; though not exclusively so by any means—and attentive, trustful, rest.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Sprout




Today’s #AdventWord is #Sprout

I never imagined that I would be a runner. Some things sprout inevitably, in defiance of all odds. A flower pushing up through the concrete jungle. But more things will sprout given a nurturing and focussed community cheering us on. Unlikely and life-giving things might yet surprise us.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Light




Today’s #AdventWord is #Light

Each winter, the trees rehearse their death. Light floods in through the gaps. Light always floods in through the gaps, the cracks, what some mistakenly call negative space. Numinous in its super-abundance. This is mystery. The light of Jesus, the one called Emmanuel—God-with-us—floods in through the gaps between the living and the dead, between dying and bursting to life, illuminating all.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Night




Today’s #AdventWord is #Night

We live half our lives in the dark, which should tell us that night is as much gift as is day. As night falls, the earth draws in a deep breath, gathers itself together. And God watches over the creatures that sleep and over the creatures that come out under the cover of darkness, from timid mice to mighty constellations in the heavens.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Focus




Today’s #AdventWord is #Focus

The first frost of the winter transforms the fallen leaves; dew, in sharply concentrated form; drawing the eye to what we had thought of as discarded waste, now changed. Leaves that had laid down their lives so that the tree might live, revealed in glory. So, may the focus of our adoration point others to Christ’s glory.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Watch




Today’s #AdventWord is #Watch

Stop. Watch.

Stop, watch, until the swirling anonymous crowd of Christmas shoppers comes into focus; watching for signs of divine grace. There, did you see? A glimpse of God walking among us, in a burst of laughter, in that tender assisting touch, in the gathering-up of weary bones to keep going…

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Journey




Today’s #AdventWord is #Journey

I left the house at quarter to eight, to take a service of Holy Communion. It was still dark, and foggy, the mist luminous around the street lights, leading me on where I could not see.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Prepare to die


We think of death as failure. Of our body failing us, and us failing those closest to us. We are wrong.

Dying is the culmination of our life’s work. It is the singular event we have all been moving inexorably towards from the moment of conception. “Pray for us,” Catholics implore Mary, “now and at the hour of our death”—because ‘now’ and ‘the hour of our death’ are the only moments given us, the only moments that matter. And each ‘now’ is preparation for ‘the hour of our death’.

The answer to the question, “What am I for?” is to prepare for a good death. To discover that I am unnecessary—the world was doing just fine before I came along and will manage perfectly well without me when I am gone. And to believe that I am loved—and that, held by love, my life, however short or long, makes all the difference in the world.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Advent discipleship group: week 5


CHRISTMAS             Overflowing gladness and praise

[This fifth conversation is intended to take place at some point over Christmas.]

We light all four Advent candles, and the Christmas candle

Opening prayer
Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, King of peace:
to you be praise and glory for ever.
The new light of your incarnate Word
gives gladness in our sorrow,
and a presence in our isolation.
Fill our lives with your light,
until they overflow with gladness and praise.
Blessed be God for ever.


Conversation starter

Optional props: a selection of Christmas cards and letters received in recent weeks.

What was your favourite Christmas card this year, and why?


Bible passage

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:1-11


Explore

What are you thankful for, this Christmas?

Where have you known gladness in sorrow and presence in isolation?

How might we hold one another in our hearts, and so share in God’s grace?


Closing prayer

Lord Jesus, Light of light,
you have come among us.
Help us who live by your light
to shine as lights in your world.
Glory to God in the highest.
Amen.

Advent discipleship group: week 4


ADVENT 4    Renewed in Christ’s image

We light all four Advent candles

Opening prayer
Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, merciful and gentle:
to you be praise and glory for ever.
Your light has shone in our darkened world
through the child-bearing of blessed Mary;
grant that we who have seen your glory
may daily be renewed in your image
and prepared like her for the coming of your Son,
who is the Lord and Saviour of all.
Blessed be God for ever.


Conversation starter

Optional props: a doll, or selection of dress-able play figures with moveable body-parts.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up, and why? (And what came of those dreams?)


Bible passage

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Romans 12:1-8


Explore

What might it mean to present our bodies as a living sacrifice?

Do you know what gifts God has given you to enjoy using?

What might be your function within the Church?


Closing prayer

Lord Jesus, light of the world,
blessed is Gabriel, who brought good news;
blessed is Mary, your mother and ours.
Bless your Church preparing for Christmas;
and bless us your children, who long for your coming.
Amen.

Advent discipleship group: week 3


ADVENT 3    To witness to him

We light the first, second, and third Advent candles

Opening prayer
Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, just and true:
to you be praise and glory for ever.
Your prophet John the Baptist was witness to the truth
as a burning and shining light.
May we your servants rejoice in his light,
and so be led to witness to him
who is the Lord of our coming kingdom,
Jesus our Saviour and King of the ages.
Blessed be God for ever.


Conversation starter

Optional props: running shoes.

Have you ever been enlisted to a group, other than the Church? And have you ever enlisted others?


Bible passage

You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

2 Timothy 2:1-13


Explore

Who told you about Jesus, that caused you to respond?

How does it feel to have been entrusted to bear witness to Jesus?

How would you summarise the gospel?


Closing prayer

Lord Jesus, light of the world,
John told the people to prepare,
for you were very near.
As Christmas grows closer day by day,
help us to be ready to welcome you now.
Amen.

Advent discipleship group: week 2


ADVENT 2    Found ready and watching

We light the first and second Advent candles

Opening prayer
Blessed are you, sovereign Lord, just and true:
to you be praise and glory for ever.
Of old you spoke by the mouth of your prophets,
but in our days you speak through your Son,
whom you have appointed the heir of all things.
Grant us, your people, to walk in his light,
that we may be found ready and watching
when he comes again in glory and judgement;
for you are our light and our salvation.
Blessed be God for ever.


Conversation starter

Optional props: one or more oil lamps.

How do you prepare your home for Christmas?


Bible passage

‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’

Matthew 25:1-13


Explore

In all the excitement and pressures of this time of year, how do we ensure that we don’t ‘miss the moment’ at the centre of it all?

Oil is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit. It is used to anoint baptism and confirmation candidates, the sick and dying, (mixed with ash) the community on Ash Wednesday, those being set apart for a particular task, and in other acts of blessing. How do such moments sustain us?

Where have you heard a shout, or even a whisper, that Jesus is on the way?


Closing prayer

Lord Jesus, light of the world,
the prophets said you would bring peace
and save your people in trouble.
Give peace in our hearts at Christmas
and show all the world God’s love.
Amen.