Practices for the Second Week of Lent

An inviting, meditative activity from Joanna Harader:

Practices for the Second Week of Lent.

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5 ways of “Opening our eyes to God’s imagination”

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This week’s texts feature the faith of Abraham and Sarah. What was it about their faith journey of Abraham and Sarah that gave them faith to believe such a preposterous promise as becoming becoming father and mother of God’s people in their nineties? Oh, they certainly took the opportunity to laugh and argue at the idea: Genesis 17: 17 “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live in your sight!” God said, “No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.” A few verses later, we see Abraham, who has stopped laughing and arguing, taking a brave step of faith and circumcising all the men in his household as a sign of this covenant. Abraham also underwent the rite of circumcision. One can wonder; was he trying to make it even more challenging for God to provide them with an heir?
Whatever the case, we see in Abraham the resilient faith of a senior that has been tested by a lot of life.

1) Learning from seniors: This is the first way I learned to open my eyes to God’s imagination from our texts. Abraham and Sarah’s faith  is not a faith without questions or arguments, or without humour, but it is a faith that is willing to act, even if it is costly and painful, on what he believes God requires of them and their household. That is an inspiring example of senior faith.
If we learn to act in ways that trust God through life’s crises, big and small, our faith can also develop that kind of resilience. That’s what inspires me about the faith of seniors. Even though I qualify for senior’s coffee at McDonalds and live with a man who gets a pension cheque, I’m not quite a senior yet, but I am glad to be headed in that direction.
One of the seniors who has really inspired me through her writing is Joan Chittister. Joan is a nun and an activist for peace and creation care. She also writes about aging: In The Gift of Years, a book you can easily borrow from our Common Word book store and Resource Centre, she writes: “Seniors can teach us how to die as well as how to live. They teach us how to make sense of the unity between life and death, how to love life without fearing death – because we know ourselves to have been always on the way, even when we did not know where we were going.”

2) Learning to let go: This opens our eyes to God’s imagination. In our Gospel text, in Mark 8:33, we hear Jesus challenging Peter to let go of his understanding of God’s salvation plan, as he rebukes him, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind, not on divine things, but on human things.” This is just one strong reminder Peter needed on his journey. Some of us are like Peter. We struggle with letting go of how we think things should be done, how we think things should be understood.
But all of us need to learn to release our hold on things and let go, especially when they clash with God’s imagination. Abraham had to let go of thinking his own way of producing an heir with the help of Sarah’s servant, Hagar, would produce God’s promised offspring.
As we age, especially when children and grandchildren make choices that seem wrong to us, we often need to let go as a way of staying in relationship with the ones we love. There are so many ways that we are called to let go as we age. Doing so in faith that God can still work in situations where we relinquish control opens our eyes to see God’s imagination at work.

3) Naming God’s presence: Once our eyes are opened to what is in God’s imagination, we see the world in new ways. New possibilities become less threatening, and hope rises up in place of the despair that was part of losing control. We need to name that hope, and recognize God’s hand in it. That’s what Abraham must have done as he talked to the men in his household about this new covenant. That’s what Peter did as he preached on the first Pentecost. They named God’s presence. But our faith journey is about a lot more than words and that leads us to the third basic ingredient, whatever our age.

4)Responding to God’s presence: We need to put our faith into action.  Abraham did this as he circumcised all the men in his household. Peter did this as he led the early church. We do this as we live out our unique ways of being faithful and being “God with skin on” for the people in our lives. And then, as we are acting, sometimes we will lose sight of God’s imagination, and need to be reminded to let go, and let God, all over again.

5) Learning to waltz: Our spiritual lives are a journey that is full of this rhythm of letting go, naming God’s presence, and responding to that presence. As we get used to it, it can begin to feel a bit like a slow three step waltz. And as we learn to trust God as the one who is leading this process, we relax into the arms of the one who is leading us; the One who’s got the best imagination of all. Thanks be to God.

Posted in Church season, Congregational life, Family life, Hope, intergenerational, Lament, Lent, Senior Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Day my Children Taught Me about Ash Wednesday

Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel:

Wow! this was my Ash Wednesday worship. Dana and her children are well worth listening to.

Originally posted on Practicing Families:

From Dust you came (1)By Dena Hobbs

Last year I attended an Ash Wednesday service with my children. It was the first Ash Wednesday service they had experienced since toddlerhood. I had missed a couple of years going and was determined to experience this ritual that I love so much. Since my kids were by my side that day, they went too.

I planned to attend the service at the new church plant led by my friend at a coffee shop near our house. The service started at 6:00, the same time soccer was scheduled to end. Seriously determined to participate in this liturgical moment, I pulled my son from soccer practice early. He changed from cleats to sneakers as we raced down the road to the service. “What exactly is this service we are going to?” my daughter asked. “Ash Wednesday.” I replied. “It is a day we remember we are just humans and therefore imperfect. They rub ashes on our…

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5 Things I learned about Creating Safe Places for Abuse Survivors at Communion

This was the focus of a day long workshop I attended at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary on Jan 25, 2015. I’ve often thought about the difficulties this amazing ritual has for children and others who are not yet baptized, but I hadn’t yet considered the difficulties communion could present for  survivors of abuse. My deep thanks go out to Hilary Scarsella for making this the focus of her Master’s thesis and to the fine group of church leaders who worked with her on this topic this past year. I learned much. I hope my gleanings are helpful for others.

Communion prayers often focus on acknowledging our sin, emptying ourselves of distractions, obedience, loving self sacrifice, and forgiveness and reconciliation.  These are helpful Christian disciplines, but how we approach these topics can make all the difference between feeding the souls of abuse survivors or adding to their pain.

1) Sin. Survivors often carry burdens of false personal guilt about implied complicity in the abuse they suffered. Communion leaders can broaden the way they talk about sin by moving from an individualized focus to those things that keep God’s people from aligning with God’s presence in our world. This allows for appropriate confession of sin without burdening survivors with false guilt.

2) Emptying. Survivors often feel very empty; like there’s not much personality left after the abuse they’ve endured. The reasons for “emptying” language in prayers of approach to the communion table are to help us set aside distractions, so let’s use that language instead.

3) Obedience. Survivors have generally been challenged to obey their (mostly male) abusers. Hierarchy and patriarchy can easily perpetuate a negative image of God as perpetrator for women and non-leaders. Abuse survivors need opportunities to say NO to God, trusting that God is big enough to accept this.

Calling participants to say yes to God’s dream is a positive way of naming obedience. By sharing leadership with both genders and laity during the words of institution and the serving of the bread and juice and using words that invite rather than stress obedience these negative triggers can be minimized.

4) Loving Self-Sacrifice. This is what Jesus did for us on the cross. The concept is very important for Anabaptist Christians as well as many others. However, survivors need to recognize Jesus as their protector, and can easily see themselves as needing to mirror Jesus’ suffering by complying with abusive demands.

The Hebrew word for “sacrifice” actually means to make a space holy. this is a meaning that is redemptive for all. Jesus sacrificial death can also be redefined as his refusal to let ways of domination win. If we do this, focusing on his sacrifice can be healing rather than damaging.

5) Forgiveness and Reconciliation. Jesus died and was raised from the dead to make reconciliation possible for all creation. Communion is the ritualized meal that can make us all one and help us live into God’s shalom.

However, survivors need to name their pain. They need to continue resisting abuse to heal. Forgiveness is  a long journey. It is possible without contacting the abuser, and is often seen as positive, but reconciliation is often not possible, and can be destructive if the survivor is not ready for it.

When communion liturgies challenge us to forgive others as God has forgiven us, and to live as reconciled people, care needs to be taken with the wording so that it is sensitive to the journeys of healing on which participants may find themselves.

Communion at St. Louis 2

Posted in Abuse survivors, church, Communion, community, Confession, Congregational life, Hope, Pastoral Psychology, Peace and justice, Women's concerns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

6 Angles on Expanding our Communion Tables!

Come Lord Jesus, be our Host

Come Lord Jesus be our Host helps us stop and take a good look at what we really believe about communion. It guides congregations as they navigate the waters of change that surround the Lord’s Table by providing reflections and tools such as summarized research, sample litanies, and discernment processes. Each chapter includes doodle graphics as well as stimulating discussion questions.

Engaging this six-session study guide will help congregations celebrate communion faithfully in ways that respect Christian tradition, honour Jesus as host, and help form and celebrate faith for all ages and stages. Come Lord Jesus be our Host engages statements from Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective alongside of current denominational discernment practices to guide the adaptive changes we are making to our beliefs and practices about children, adolescents, and communion.

Here are the six angles:

1) The Heart of Communion: Mystery and attraction, why it matters, Communion history, changing times and new perspectives, impacts of change on our practice.

2) Many Tables: Picking tables, Passover, covenant renewal, Paul’s communion instructions, meals of recognition, God’s nourishing miracles, heavenly foretastes.

3) What about Communion? Denominational communion statement, considering broader invitations, challenges to and defences of traditional practices.

4) What about Children? Responding to our environment, the church and children, understanding children spiritually.

5) Our Varied Practices: main communion emphases, a spectrum of open or closed, comparing the spectrum with communion’s essential actions, living faithfully with diversity.

6) Moving forward: Jesus’ hospitality and challenge, learning from some spiritual cousins, dilemmas presented by extended adolescence, reasons for expanding communion to celebrate Jesus’ other tables, a church year of expanded communion tables.

Also see and enjoy the separate Colouring Pages.

Posted in Book Reviews, Child Faith, church, Church season, Communion, community, Congregational life, Intergenerational worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Saskatoon woman turns 108, shares secrets to living a long life

Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel:

Read the inspiring story of this Mennonite woman from the Prairies who has just turned 108.

Originally posted on Global News:

Watch more: A lot has changed in 108 years and no one knows that more than a Saskatoon woman celebrating her birthday. Meaghan Craig introduces us to Anna Ens.

SASKATOON – Imagine the changes you would see if you were to live for over a century. Anna Ens of Saskatoon has been witness to just that, 108 years of historical milestones.

Born in 1907, Ens lives independently on the east side of Saskatoon with the assistance of home care. She was born the same year Saskatoon got its first bridge.

On her kitchen table sit birthday cards, well wishes to her as she celebrated her 108th birthday on Feb. 4 with a come and go tea planned for this Saturday.

“I don’t feel my age,” said Ens.

Born outside of Osler nearly 11 decades ago, Ens was raised on a farm and travelled by horse and buggy.

“Things were all…

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What the Church Needs: Calling Bullshit and Imagining the Impossible

Here’s one of the intriguing younger voices speaking up at Pastor’s week. Read and enjoyif you can get beyond the BS word.

What the Church Needs: Calling Bullshit and Imagining the Impossible.

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