Pray LIFE! (Ezekiel 37:1-14…a Pentecost text)

Last Sunday we gathered around the table — all 15 of us (me included) — and after some gathering conversation we began in prayer before opening with our check in, sharing about some of the victories God has already brought us through and sharing some of the current struggles we are waiting to be victorious through/over.  While not everyone was super eager to share, and I did (as is custom!) shift us to considering scripture at the appropriate time — there were two things I observed.

First, and I did mention this on Sunday — was how encouraging it can be for us to remember what God has already done for us.  Often we can be hard on ourselves, we can focus on the struggles before us in the moment, and we can easily forget how much God has already done for us — remembering can give some perspective and can encourage us.

And second, the willingness to be able to share a struggle, to be the first voice willing to engage vulnerability publically opens the way for others to be able to share too — and in that sharing there was this beautiful time and ability to encourage, to have people willing to pray specifically, and to have those who might be accountability partners in that struggle for victory!  This is some of the beauty of the body of Christ, of being able to live and walk alongside our sisters & brothers on the journey we know as life — and in which none (no not one) of us is done/perfect (just) yet!

But on to scripture, Ezekiel 37:1-14.  This text is known as “The Valley of Dry Bones” and it is an alternative text to be used and preached on for Pentecost Sunday (which was last Sunday!).  We heard these verses read, and sat in silence, seeking to hear God speaking to us all.  There was some talk about context, talk about prophets speaking up, noticing that God is able to do anything.  We considered a seeming duality of body/spirit when with bones and flesh Ezekiel still had to speak life to breath to come into the bodies that had just come together.  And we even discussed how in a sense it seemed the death was brought on by decisions that had been made (opposing God) and continuous faithfulness of God too.

And, we wondered if God reached out and grabbed us & showed us a vision like this — an impossible vision of death (like for real, totally dead!) — and told us to speak life (again and again speak (prophesy) life) would we do it?  Which leads a bit to our homework…we are all to spend the week praying LIFE, praying LIFE over relationships, people, gardens, communities, our church — EVERYTHING.  This is a week to pray LIFE & to see what happens.  If you’ve forgotten — go ahead and start now — let us together pray LIFE and see what God does!

Excited to hear the stories…

Rev. Sabrina Slater 

No Hiding (Psalm 139)

It was Mother’s Day Sunday.  Which meant that we knew folks would be missing (because people mentioned it during homework assignment time the Sunday before!  And because thanks be to God there was a baptism which a few folks were attending at another church) –but thanks be to God — 10 of us gathered round the table seeking to hear God together!  We opened in prayer.  As it was a bit of a non-typical Sunday flow for our Adult Study we reviewed the Scripture from last week (1 John 5:1-5) and reminded ourselves of the homework:  to think of the victories that God has already helped you win in life & also to think about the struggles you are waiting for God (or even asking if God can & will) to make you victorious in/over.  That is the homework we will be checking in with this coming Sunday! 

But then we turned to Scripture (turns out no one was bursting at the seams to give an early homework check in!).  And we considered Psalm 139 in its entirety.  Reading through it twice with four volunteers reading each time.  I had been led to the Psalm based especially on verses 13-15

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.   (English Standard Version) 

Finding it striking to consider such a Psalm on Mother’s Day.  And when mentioned, this opened a conversation centering on verse 14: what does it mean that “I” am fearfully & wonderfully made?  There was commentary on how perhaps it is based on knowing what the world is like….any who bring forth life do so “fearfully.”  But there was a question too about the word, “fearfully” as applied to us.  One had a translation which made the issue go away — ascribing the fearfully & wonderfully more to God and less to us — but that was a lone translation.

However — the initial observance of this Psalm were actually two contrasting feelings — one of comfort knowing there is no where we can go away from God — and one of frustration that there is no where we can go away from God.  I found that contrast to be necessary, important, powerful.  How many of us if we are honest have felt both of these truths?  The frustration that we would like a moment on our own, without God bothering us; the gratitude we have in the midst of overwhelming life chaos or deep darkness that we are not alone, God is there?  To hold both of those feelings, observations, revelations is vast — possibly so vast that we actually can’t hold it on our own (part of why we gather together because together as a body of believers, as the body of Christ, we can hold & know more of who God is — the vastness of who the I AM is).

And as always, the time ran out, the conversation was halted to remind of homework (victories in God already, struggles looking for the victory over) and to pray.

In a few days we’ll gather again — around the table to continue to conversation and to listen to God together.  I’m looking forward to all of it.  See you soon.

In Christ – the RISEN Saviour ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Victory is mine…isn’t it? (1 John 5:1-5)

We gathered.  We prayed.  We started to check-in…the homework had been to write out Romans 8:28, and then to be open to seeing who God might bring into our lives during the week who might need the encouragement.  It turns out it was a slightly mixed bag.  Some forgot…some didn’t do it…some found that the person needing the encouragement of Romans 8:28 ( And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.) was them (their own self).  And then too there was a very important question, can we offer this verse as an encouragement to those who do not love God?  Or what about when we really can’t see the good?  Or maybe our idea of what is “good” might be different from God….or even different from the person?  And so — we named too, that there is wisdom & discernment necessary (as always?) when offering something or some encouragement to anyone — there was a reminder of how Job’s friends (see the book of Job) did best when they remained silent.  And so there is that complication of letting the Holy Spirit lead each of us when to speak & when to be silent & what to share.  HOWEVER, we also do not know people’s hearts, we do not know the whole picture, and we trust scripture when it says that God’s Word will not return void — so when the Holy Spirit moves us to speak and to encourage (even if we do not know what exactly someone else believes) let us with humility and courage offer it.

And then we pivoted as we do to our scripture for the day, 1 John 5:1-5,

1Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

5Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This was another passage that is well loved.  That has come alive to one of us because of it’s promises — promises of victory in and through Jesus Christ.  There was the observation of “our faith” — what is that exactly?  Is it “our faith” that overcomes the world?  Is it our faith IN CHRIST?  Is it Christ who overcomes the world?  And does how (if) we love the children of God prove that we love God?  And does how we love God prove that we love the children of God? — or is it just one o these?

In the discussion these verses were well received.  In the closing moments I observed that none had mentioned the bit about verse 3…”For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”  Was I the only one listening?  Am I the only one who might bristle or at least hesitate in saying that the commandments of God are not burdensome?  (There might have been some smirks here….) Because if following, and if loving God is so NOT-burdensome — why does it seem so challenging, and why do we need to be reminded?….

Yet there is of course the encouragement that comes in verses 4 and 5.  And this is where we derive our homework from.  First — what are some battles/victories that God has ALREADY helped you win in life?  Second — what struggles are you still working on, and how do you imagine God will (or can?) help you win them?  Yes, this might be a bit more vulnerable, and I pray we hold it tenderly — and considering how many will be traveling this coming Sunday due to spending (thanks be to God) time with family — we will check in with this homework not on this Sunday (May 13th) but on next Sunday (May 20th).  So keep on thinking y’all….and I can’t wait to be seated around the table yet again to listen to God through scripture & through each of you!

In Christ,
Rev. Sabrina Slater

A promise. Romans 8:28 (be a blessing…share the encouragement)

This morning (yes when it was snowing….sigh….April 29th…) we gathered around the table.  We opened in prayer — it may or may not have included some commentary on the weather, and a request for some warmer temperatures.  And then we began checking in; sharing times when we have received great hospitality.  Stories of people housing us when we had nowhere to go, people letting us stay rent free, restaurants serving youth who didn’t have the finances typical customers would have, restaurants who gave the meal when a wallet had been forgotten, people who fed us when we didn’t have the resources to really feed ourselves, people who opened doors to different experiences, those who made us feel like we were family.  And it seemed in all the stories was the theme of a reality that — this hospitality could have never been “paid” back — and this hospitality (received) shapes who we are.  The question was asked too about that 2nd part of the homework, the asking for forgiveness for the times when we have not offered hospitality (or not cheerfully, or not without complaining…).  One was honest enough to share when they were not able to open their home, and they felt bad — the follow-up question was however, how did it feel to ask for (& receive) the forgiveness of God?

(In that moment this went unanswered.  However, as we weekly in worship come to God in a time and a prayer of confession — we confess our mistakes, our failures, our sins — to a God who already put on flesh to walk among us, who already went to the cross & died for each of us & all of our sins, who has already been risen from the dead!  In our baptism we each have been grafted into the family of God — we have been baptized into the death & the resurrection of Christ — which is to say — by the blood of Christ, the gift of love, the amazingness of grace — WE HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN.  We are invited to cast our burdens unto Christ.  We are invited to live into the freedom from the sins of our past — including the time(s) when we have not offered hospitality.  And so — we ask forgiveness & we ask that God would continue to work in our own hearts so that we might be able to offer hospitality to others, hospitality that comforts those who mourn, helps heal those who are wounded, and allows the world to see the face of God — AMEN?!)

And we shifted.  We shifted toward scripture time, with a bit of a life introduction from the person who had named the scripture we would focus on.  And then we heard Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (New International Version)

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. (Living Bible Translation)

We talked about “all things,” about “all that happens” about perspective and time.  About how God can use things.  We talked about things working out for those “called” — for those fitting into God’s plans.  We recognized we don’t know God’s plans for other people.  We talked about the lives of others who we see as hopeless, challenging, things that we would not want in our own lives.  It was mentioned that trauma (change) invites us to either turn toward God or away from God.  We named how we can wrestle with this text because it’s hard — and it doesn’t always seem to be true.  And in response to someone’s frustration in not being able to see how this verse could possibly be true given what they see, one proclaimed “I know it because I have lived it.”

Scripture speaks & is alive.  But sometimes (perhaps all times) it takes a bit of life to bring scripture alive for us.  This week for the homework we are to write out this scripture — in a journal, on a card, somewhere.  And after writing — we are to be open to see if (who) God will bring into our lives this week who might benefit from this encouragement.  Maybe it will come in a passing conversation in person or on the phone, maybe the Holy Spirit will lay someone on your heart to send an email, a letter (yes the real kind with a stamp), a text, or a facebook message — I don’t know but God does.  So let us write (because writing can help us remember) and let us be open to share this promise to someone who needs to hear it.  I can’t wait to hear what happens when we come together round the table again.

Until then be blessed & live out that blessing in such a way that blesses the world!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Hospitality…without grumbling?! (1 Peter 4:8-9)

Last Sunday, as is our custom we gathered round the table.  We prayed — naming gratefulness for a lack of snow (AMEN) — and we began to check-in.  The homework had been to both daily meditate on, “The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What can anyone do to me?” (Heb. 13:6) — and to think of scripture (promises) that are formative/important for you.

Nearly all came ready with the scripture references (GREAT JOB) and were ready, dare I say anxious to speak more on the specific scriptures, however, all were invited to wait as these will be some of the scriptures we will use in the (near) future, of course with those who named them taking time to share with us what they have meant to them & perhaps helping facilitate the conversation/shape the homework too!  (SO EXCITING — right?!)

And we were able to spend a bit of time also considering the piece of scripture we had meditated on.  Striking, was the mention and observation that while we can meditate, lean on and trust in this promise, that God is our helper ALWAYS, it is so stinking hard in the middle of circumstances to be totally encouraged with this.  I love this honesty, that the walk is not always easy, and while we might be alone — we can’t always see God at work.  And I love that many named how it was later, when there was a revelation and an understanding that even in the chaos, even through the darkness, and in those longest nights — God was faithful and active and brought us through — and it was this understanding, the observed faithfulness of God through the hard places of our real lives that can encourage us to lean on and trust in the promise that God is our helper and we have no need to be afraid — no matter what is going on around us.

So we turned, as we do to scripture.  To 1 Peter 4:8-9:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  (New International Version) 

Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully.  (The Message)

Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins. Open your homes to each other without complaining.  (Good News Translation) 

8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.  (New Living Translation)

Two little verses, but with so much to say.  Love each other.  Love each other above all.  #LOVE.  And offer hospitality, but not only offer it — offer it without grumbling, without complaining — in fact offer it cheerfully!  (CHEERFULLY!)  We talked a bit about hospitality.  Two people were blessed to see GREAT, COSTLY, HUMBLE hospitality offered cheerfully from their parents: a bed, clothes, shelter in a garage for someone most people tried to ignore & avoid; the willing sharing of food even when someone rudely knocked on the door with expectation to receive.  We also recognized (or maybe it’s just me….) that cheerful hospitality is hard, hospitality when you’re already asleep, when you’ve already given, when you would really rather not….when you really don’t have anything to offer….

Hospitality is hard.  Hospitality is expected.  So we come to the homework.  A two-parter:

1st:  Think of the best hospitality you ever have received (or seen) — what made it so great?

2nd:  Think of the times you have not offered hospitality….or have offered hospitality with complaint, with grumbling, or not cheerfully…Ask forgiveness for these times & ask for God to change your heart.

Beloved looking forward to gather again.  Honored to be in this journey with the likes of each of you.  Peace & shalom as we remember ways we have sinned and ask forgiveness.

In Christ – the risen One who we follow ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Don’t forget….the promises (Luke 11:5-8 & Heb. 13:1-6)

Last Sunday (how is it already Thursday?) we gathered around the table.  A robust group bringing the warmth and sunshine with the personalities in the group & we prayed.  And then the check-in, the conversation about harmony/unity & how we can grow into this harmony/unity.  And we talked for a long time because — as it turns out — we don’t find harmony/unity necessarily the easiest to live into.  We talked about base-line beliefs, a core that is necessary — perhaps the “Apostles Creed” — though one might arguably want to add in there the Presbyterian Brief “Statement of Faith.”  However, as mentioned around the table, the Church is open — Christ came for all — and while it seems rather appropriate & reasonable if someone is joining into the membership of (any) church to be able to profess the faith & the doctrine/tenets of faith deemed necessary in said church, to come to the Church that Christ establishes does not require this — for grace teaches us that God comes first, moves first, always invites.   And we spoke of those elusive ideals of unity in diversity, as well as how there is strength in unity — I mean when we talk about the strength of a cord of 3 strands together do we not speak to the power of unity?  And so we continued, making mention of humility, speaking to needing to have the capacity to look past or to have love be that which binds us — that which is most needed — that which is more important than being right (even when they are wrong!).

We discussed for longer than typical.  But this unity/harmony is hard.  It asks much of us.  We must consider, when to speak, when to be silent, when to gently offer different perspectives — etc.  We held imagery of a bag full of rocks bumping and rubbing against each other as a picture of community (not easy & not always feeling so nice).  We heard Bonhoeffer speak of community being only rooted in Christ but that reality also meaning we need to be in community with each other.  And so the reality is we continue to hold this topic going forth — because it is something that has challenged Christianity since the time of Christ (if not before!)  This question of unity/harmony….

Quickly (and with a brief mistake in which chapter selected!) we turned to Luke 11:5-8 & Hebrews 13:1-6.  There was not time to slowly engage them — they are offered as conversation partners….with a topic of hospitality to be considered…..(and the invitation to think about how we as individuals and as a church in life offer/consider/even receive hospitality).

But the homework…..the homework for this week is to (first) daily say/pray/mediate on Hebrews 13:6:

So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can anyone do to me?

Think on this and see what happens.  Repeat it.  Live into it.  And secondly — think of 1 or 2 promises from Scripture that encourage and shape you.  Please prepare to share what this Scripture is (and where it is!)

Excited to hear how God has been moving since last week!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

 

Living Together…in unity? (Psalm 133)

Last Sunday we gathered.  (Well, y’all gathered — and praise God Gene & Gina were willing to facilitate & hold the space while I was away — and thank y’all for supporting me being away & for of course having a delightful time with God & scripture even if I missed it!)  There was prayer.

And then the check in.  Getting oriented, you went back to the text — to John 13:1-20 — where we see our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, naked and serving us by washing the very dirt off of us…the homework had been to consider what does it mean, foot washing, and are we called to literal foot washing today — or is it more symbolic, and if symbolic then what is our modern-day equivalent?  There were questions posed and observations offered — famous foot washers like Mother Teresa and maybe even Pope Francis in a way — but if some do wash feet how can we individually/as a church?  Locally?  And does Christ still wash us?  It seems that the engaging conversation might have left all thinking, it’s the heart (the humility) of the service, the washing of the feet, and the intimacy of such humility/serving that might unnerve us and be uncomfortable….who wants to be “naked” with their dirty feet (sins/past) in such close proximity…who wants to wash feet that have been places we don’t know of and we are more ready to judge rather than lovingly hold?  This is not easy, and we find it in scripture for a reason, I’d offer perhaps our discomfort with foot washing — how odd & awkward it is — perhaps should be how we consider love, grace, life…think about what love (God) in action does — think about the cross — think about how we live as a forgiven & a resurrection people…ALL of this is odd & awkward, maybe the foot washing reminds us in a way that all the other words & stories have become (too) commonplace to allow for the mystery & the absurdity of this active love to be considered, maybe the humility of the foot washing puts us in a posture to understand who (& whose) we are — and that makes us a little uncomfortable…

In appropriate fashion though, y’all turned to scripture — this time to Psalm 133

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.    (New International Version) 

And in the reading there was the translation of living in “unity” as well as living in “harmony.”  And there was a helpful musical insight differentiating unity and harmony, think of having one part (a soprano, alto, tenor, or bass) or a type of instrument all singing/playing the same notes/music/rhythm — this can be unity.  Compare that with singing in parts, or an full orchestra playing — the music and the notes and the rhythms dance around each other — they push against each other — sometimes it’s tense, sometimes it’s smooth, it changes, moves has dissonance (challenges) and resolutions (and sometimes it doesn’t resolve quite like you want or expect!) but it offers something bigger and vaster than arguably unity can, this is harmony.  However I would like to note (haha — did you catch that?) one thing — the idea of unity and harmony seems/sounds/are different — however, the reality is even in “unity” if you take all the voices in a given choir and have all sing an “A” the voices do not all sound the very same, if you take an orchestra and have them play the same note — it does not all sound the same, if you have the voices and instruments sing and play the same “A” it is different, so even in unity — even in a commitment to a singular note the idea of unity is not really “sameness” in all facets, even in unity there is difference/diversity/differentiation…tone/voice/pitch/sound…..

So homework.  With such a short Psalm and a vibrant conversation — the homework must be easy right?  And it is! 🙂  How do we live together in unity (harmony)?  And a follow-up question as important as the first — how do we grow into this unity (harmony)?

*It might be worth noting the obvious right, we are all different people.  Even while we profess faith in the risen Christ, even while we trust that we are forgiven, that God is in control, that we are blessed who trust in the Lord, that our names are engraved on God’s palms, that the Creator of the world, the Triune God — loves us, sees us, cares for us — we have not gotten along well whether inside or outside the church…there is brokenness all around us.  SO, the homework while direct & straightforward is challenging, “How to we live in unity/harmony?  How do we grow into this unity/harmony?”

Excited to see y’all Sunday in the AM!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater  

Foot Washing? (John 13:1-20)

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Blessed Easter & Resurrection Sunday y’all!  (And yes yes, happy April fool’s too!).  But no joke — today, even with cool air outside and a hint of snow trying to fall — we gathered round the table, opened in prayer and began to check-in.  The homework had been to find our deep (& LOUD) Hosanna & offer it to God.  It wasn’t necessarily easy, though we pondered if sometimes our deep Hosanna comes from doing what we feel designed to do — being open to/led by/a willing vessel of God — and the answer seemed to be YES!  Also — there was the insight of the Hosanna that seeks to adore God for who God is (on God’s terms) as well as the Hosanna that is asking God to save us!  There also was an image offered of someone on the inside trying to praise loudly (while maybe personality, tradition, or other) wants that praise to behave & to be quiet.  Regardless of where our deep hosanna rests, be it in dancing in the street — singing at the top of our lungs — playing an instrument — sitting in stillness — offering deep and repetitive “thanks” out of the overflowing gratitude we have for all who God is and for all that God has done — I do believe God invites us to live in that deep hosanna and to find a certain freedom that exists in living there, in unapologetically praising the God who gives us everything — who gives us life!

And then we turned to scripture.  We focused on John 13:1-20.  The story of the foot washing.  The story of Jesus modeling something.  The story of inviting us to accept those who are sent (by God).  Our first focus was recognizing, we do not understand what Christ is doing.  Our second observation was mentioning Christ as a model of what we are to do.  And the conversation began about the “foot washing.”  What is it?  Why is it there?  And are we called to it today?  OR — is this just a symbol?  The varied insights included naming the idea of the individualism of the foot washing — the engaging with the dirt each (disciple/us) walked through to get to Jesus — and the need for Jesus to wash that off — and the reality check that washing dust off of feet was a job for the lowest of the servants, and recognition that Christ has no ego, no reason why we should be afraid of him — his humility speaks loudly.  There was also the offer of an observation as to the discomfort of the foot washing — today, or perhaps especially today — even for the disciples and that the discomfort might be less about Jesus (& a status thing) and more about us — the idea being that in the nakedness of Christ we must see our own, in Christ washing us we must recognize our need of him — our inability to achieve salvation on our own….which is not easy…

And so we came to the homework time while the conversation still begged to continue.  And yet the conversation will continue through the homework as well as into next week.  Spend time with this text (John 13:1-20).  Listen, what is God saying?  What is Jesus teaching?  And think about what it is to wash feet?  Is there a modern-day equivalent and if so what exactly is that?

Blessings as God reveals during this week & remember…

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  AMEN!

~ Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Shouting HOSANNA! (Matthew 21:1-9)

Last Sunday began the week we know as, Holy Week.  It is marked by some specific holy days, Palm Sunday (last Sunday) when we remember the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on a colt (baby donkey) with people shouting “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  and “Hosanna!”  Then on Thursday there is, “Maundy Thursday” when we remember the last meal that Jesus ate with friends, what we call the last supper — the beginning of communion/eucharist — and when Jesus served the disciples, the very folks who would betray, deny, and desert him, in such a humble way we still are uncomfortable with it — he washed their feet.  And today we have come to Good Friday.  We call it good now, but some 2000 years ago it didn’t feel good at all.  Today is the day we remember that our Lord & Savior — Jesus Christ — the Prince of Peace — an innocent man — was arrested under false pretenses, condemned, and beaten — all because people (& a system — a government) were afraid of him — and he bore the beating, the shame, the dishonor, and climbed up Calvary to be nailed to a cross & pierced in his side.  Because today is the day that his being was created for, to love in such a way that would change the world — and today we know the end — today we know what will come (death & sin DO NOT WIN)…but then, on that original “Good” Friday, no one knew — no one had an inkling…No, on the original “Good” Friday the light of the world went out, the hope of God’s favor, the promise of God’s covenant, life itself died…Today the church (liturgical) color is black, symbolizing the darkness that pervades when the light goes out.

It is Holy Week.

And last Sunday when we made it through some light snow, gathering and praying around the table as we do, we began Holy Week.  We began first with reflections on using the Lord’s prayer as a model for prayer and we shared the Lord’s prayer in our own words.  And while some struggled with using the model to pray, finding it hard to pray for our (my) daily bread — knowing so many go hungry — others struggled to find their own words to pray.  However, the struggle for words seems to be more of a struggle to in confidence share what God has given — because we often don’t think what we have to offer is good enough.  And as we were bold enough to share, the voice — our individual voices — were a blessing and encouragement to others.  We heard the model of the Lord’s prayer personalized to what we could say, what we needed to pray, and I think, the Lord’s prayer became more than something that was memorized years ago — it became something more personal, something that we think about a bit more when we pray it.  And then we shifted and because it’s Holy Week, we considered, Matthew 21:1-9.

We noticed the donkey (momma-donkey) and her colt were taken to Jesus.  We noticed that the reading of the different translations made us wonder if Jesus rode both the donkey & the colt at once (or perhaps more likely that Jesus rode on top of the cloaks that were spread on the colt.)  We thought about Jesus coming into town this way.  And I think too there was even a mention of how this crowd could have been those who just a few days later would go from crying “Hosanna!” (save us) to “Crucify Him!”

There was talk of how we (good reformed Presbyterians) are typically a bit uncomfortable with the loud declarations of praise — we are a bit uncomfortable with crying “Hosanna!” out loud.  And it was named that this week, this Palm Sunday & Easter/Resurrection Sunday are 2 of the biggest Sundays where even WE (Presbyterians) can get LOUD — are encouraged to shout first “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and second, “He is risen indeed!”  And so our homework is rather fitting….to discern what your deep & loud Hosanna! is right now — to consider what your heart praise is right now — and to offer that praise — that LOUD HOSANNA back to GOD.

This is Holy Week.  And the invitation for the homework is to find the deep praise even in the darkness of “Good” Friday.

In Christ & during Holy Week ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater 

Praying…”Our Father” (Luke 11:1-4)

Good morning y’all!  Tomorrow we will gather around the table, like how we gathered around the table last week!  And I don’t about you, but after the first day of spring and a string of snow-less days — maybe the snow-less season has finally arrived…time of course (as it always does) will tell!

But let’s think back to last Sunday when we gathered, prayed, and began checking in about a week during which our homework was to sit at the feet of Jesus each day.  Some voiced a palpable angst over not doing it right and then the sigh of relief when they realized they do sit at the feet of Jesus.  Others named how this was hard for them.  One mentioned how in their Martha-like behaviors they were Mary too!  Someone was brave enough to ask, how exactly does one sit at the feet of Jesus anyway?  This important query — one that really is for each and everyone of us to discern with the help of the Holy Spirit –was answered by many seated at the table, and something I mentioned to some degree there was — this sitting at Jesus’ feet will look different for each of us, it might include gardening, music, sitting, maybe even a nap! — and while it will look the same, I imagine that once we’ve found our way there — we will experience some similar things, like a relaxing into Jesus that we can feel; like an ability to breathe deeply that we didn’t realize we had been missing; like a pause that restores us and enables us to go on knowing somehow it’s going to be ok; sometimes even like we’ve gotten clear on something that had been very foggy!

From the sounds of it, the invitation to sit at Jesus’ feet daily — to engage more of our “Mary” selves, turned out to be a blessing and to bring a certain blessing of peace into each of our lives — to GOD be the glory for this gift!  So having checked-in of course we turned to scripture, specifically to Luke again and continued into the next verses.  While the 2nd reader read Luke 11:1-13, our first and last readers read where we focused, Luke 11:1-4:

Father, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation.   (Luke 11:1-4, English Standard Version)

The conversation included not having noticed before that in Luke the instruction on how to pray comes immediately following the story of Martha & Mary.  Yet what really seemed to stand out was how there is a reward for persistence in asking, how really when we approach God it is in the posture of one who begs — for all that God gifts us with is grace (something we do not deserve & did not earn), and how the gift of the Holy Spirit seems to be the best gift that we can get.  There was a question as to if it made folks nervous that this “Our Father” is different than the one in Matthew 6:9b-13?  There was also the aloud wondering if we really even think about this prayer or give it its proper respect, considering it is one of the (few) times that Jesus rather directly answered a question which leads us to the homework of the week.  A homework assignment which has 2 parts because it’s just so easy!

Part 1:  Use the “Our Father” as a model to pray — all week.  See what happens.  Part 2:  Put the “Our Father” into your own words.

Happy Praying y’all & see you tomorrow — on Palm Sunday!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater