Labyrinth Prayer

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Labyrinth Prayer

In September, members of Fusion Community worked together to create a portable labyrinth. On two beautiful fall days, we hosted the labyrinth, once on campus at UNH, and then outside our meeting space during our Community Worship Gathering. The experience of building and participating in the labyrinth was deeply impactful, and drew a diverse group of participants and responses.

Here are a few quotes from the guest book:

“Thank you for the chance to tune in and reflect”

“Thankful for the looking inward and outward, seeing connections”

“I felt God when I planted the seed”

“As I went through the labyrinth, all the noise in my life was pushed aside and I was able to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to me clearly.”

“Thanks for a nice rest on a beautiful day”

“God is it ok to let go of you?”

“May God invade and maintain all our lives”

“I am not forgotten, God knows my name”

“Interesting stuff”

Our labyrinth and stations are based on the design from http://www.labyrinth.org.uk

Church as a Hostel vs. Destination…

We began this sunday conversation with a series of questions, followed by reading and drawing connection between a number of scripture passages.

Where is God?

What are the benefits of understanding god as present in special sacred places/occasions?

What are the weakness of understanding god as present in special sacred places/occasions?

What about in understanding god as present everywhere?

Matt. 25:40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

1Cor. 3:16 ¶ Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

John 3:4-8 – “born of the spirit…”(wind, spirit, breath, same word…)
John 4:21-24 – “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth”
Ex. 25:17-22 – God meets people at the mercy seat
Ex. 26:31-34 – within the holy of holies…

Mark 15:37-38 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

The curtain was definitely torn to signify that through Jesus, people have full access to God, and that’s powerful and good, but it also tells us that, as the prophets imagined, God is now released to fill the whole earth, freed from the space that while created to reveal the sacred presence, came to be a box, that in the religious mind and system kept God locked into one place, one time, one very specific way of being known and encountered.

In his book, the Naked Now, Richard Rohr writes, I remember being trained in the Baltimore catechism as a little catholic boy. One of the first questions (#16) was “Where is God?” The correct answer is “God is everywhere”. And then the whole rest of the book proceeds to teach that such ubiquity is not really true! God was really only with Catholics, in our churches, in fact, really only in the tabernacle, and then only if the priest said a valid mass, and then only available to “good” people who followed the rules. We have always been much better at “binding up” God than “loosening” divine availability, even though Jesus gave us both powers (Matt. 16:19). For some reason, we really do not want God to be everywhere, just here, and we of course end up losing God even for ourselves. 

Luke 17:20-23 ¶ Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” ¶ Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them.

“If you concentrate too much on special times, feasts, services, and seasons, we forget that it is always now and here when God happens.” (Col.2:16-19)

The Kingdom of God is ‘within you’. It’s that close… It is ‘within your grasp’; it is confronting you with a decision, the decision to believe, trust and follow Jesus. It isn’t the sort of thing that’s just going to happen, so that you can sit back and watch. God’s sovereign plan to put the world to rights is waiting for you to sign on. That is the force of what Jesus is saying.

Often people come in to a church service thinking that it is a destination, a place to go to meet with God. Because God is present everywhere and is not contained anywhere exclusively, we see our weekly church gathering as a celebration of our interconnection and relationship with God throughout the week. Sunday night is like a hostel visit, a place to be rejuvenated before embarking on another leg of the journey.

As one will find on any pilgrimage, you meet many companions along the way. Some journey closely with you and you spend a lot of time walking together, sharing meals, and processing life together. Others you see less frequently. Either you or they lag behind or speed ahead for a while, you stop at one hostel, they another, but then one day you find they’re with you again. And what you and they have experienced and learned along along the way become part of your shared story. So it is with fusion…

Grace and Peace

Have you ever noticed that I sign all my emails with Grace and Peace… Ever since I began to understand the depth of those words I have intentionally signed almost all my correspondence with those words. I’ve never set up a pre-made signature that includes them because I need to feel the weight of the words every time I write them. I want to have to think consciously about the fact that I desire to extend grace and peace to every person I write to. Sometimes I’ve written a whole email only to get to the conclusion and when I begin to write Grace and Peace I end up going back and re-writing some of the message. Sometimes I wish I could pre-write every interaction with people so I would be forced to consciously remember grace and peace because I it’s so easy to get caught up in my agenda and perspective that I’m not even thinking of the person I’m talking to let alone of extending every kind of blessing and favor and wholeness and peace to them…

Paul begins his letter to the Colossians with, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s good pleasure, and Timothy my brother; to God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sister in Christ: Grace and Peace to you from God our father.”

The standard greeting would have been chairō which means “Greetings, be well, thrive”… but Paul takes chairo and changes it up just slightly and uses the word charis which has a whole other layer of meaning. Charis carries with it the extension of favor, goodwill and acceptance without an expectation of return.

So Paul begins his letter not just with hail, hello, good day, which was just as normal then as it is now, but with, “Greetings, feel the reality of favor and acceptance from me and from God, be filled with every kind of joy and every good gift with no strings attached…”

And what about Peace? –
Paul uses the greek word arane, which is a way of saying, I wish every kind of good, peace, prosperity, security to you…and that’s pretty powerful. I mean don’t you feel good when someone desires every kind of good for you. This is what we say in birthday cards and wedding receptions or as friends move away to begin life in a new city or a career. We hope the best, that they will succeed and thrive in every way. But that’s not all Paul is saying. A fundamental principle for reading the Bible is to always read the New Testament with your eyes and ears wide open for the nuances, allusions, quotes and nods to the core stories and ideas of the OT.
When Paul speaks of peace he’s wants more than the best for people. He longs for the Jewish vision of shalom.
Shalom means peace, security, and prosperity, but it goes further meaning a whole life and created world completeness or wholeness. Shalom is when everything is right in the world. When things are well with all your relationships, with God, with the created world, and within your own mind and body.
It’s shalom that is hoped for by the prophets.

Read Eze. 34:25-31

Not only does Paul mean all that, but by his choice of the greek word arane he specifically saying that the peace he extends is not a future hope, but a present reality that he invites people into. Only once in the entire NT does arane refer to a future experience…

Read intro to Romans, Cor, Phil, Gal, Eph, Tim, Titus, Phile, Peter, James, 2John, Jude…

Every NT Letter that begins with a greeting, from every different author, opens with…Grace and Peace… Ie, “Greetings, may you experience the favor and all encompassing peace, security, and wholeness that has come as a wonderful gift of God”
Paul begins all his letters by wishing grace and peace to his audience? Everything he does he begins with “grace and peace to you.” What if everything we did began with “grace and peace to you”? What if you woke up in the morning and the first thing on your mind was grace and peace. What if you were stressed out and overwhelmed about the day, the work you had to do, the people you had to deal with and you were about to launch into a personal diatribe in your head about how you’re inadequate and no good and how you messed things up again…but then you stopped and took a deep breath and felt the weight of God’s grace and peace… Because as Paul said in Romans, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Or what if you were about to tear into your roommate for leaving dirty dishes on your desk , or your son for covering the car with mud, but instead you said, grace and peace to you…

Paul is most likely writing this letter from prison, but he knew what was coming…
In Acts 20:22-24 – Paul says he’s compelled by spirit to go to Jerusalem… and that the spirit of God has warned him that its going to bring hardship, but that his whole life is nothing except that he completes his calling to testify (to confirm or affirm) of God’s grace. For Paul, there’s nothing more powerful that he could be doing besides testifying to God’s grace – it’s what gives Paul’s life meaning. When Paul wants to tell people who have never known the God of Israel about the gospel he often begins by drawing attention to the grace and good they’ve experienced…and then giving it a name.

In Acts 14:17 …God has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. In Acts 17:24 ( in Athens) he says this God is the Creator of heaven and earth, he gives all men life and breath, he gave us this land to inhabit. It is by Gods grace that we live and move and have our being. Paul is compelled to point out the grace that’s all around us all the time. What if we became the kind of people who were constantly aware of and drawing attention to the everyday gifts of grace around us. Paul speaks grace and peace, because there’s nothing more powerful to say or live for or find meaning in.

Luke 23:33 – Jesus says, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Who are the “They”?
Have you been wronged? Betrayed? Abandoned? Cheated on? Deserted? Stabbed in the back? We need grace and peace for our enemies. What would it be like to be so rooted and grounded in grace and peace that you could forgive people even as they’ve driven nails into your arms and feet?
Jesus forgives them while he’s still on the cross.
What would it be like to have that kind of grace and peace for your enemies? For the people you hate? For the people who have wronged you?
What would it be like if we could be so marinated and so alive in grace and peace that even to those that have most broken our hearts we could speak grace and peace?
It would change the world.

Maybe there’s someone you’re not ready to speak grace and peace to, to their face, but maybe you could begin by saying their name, and breathing out the words grace and peace. Maybe saying it slowly, day after day would begin to change your posture towards them until one day whether they accepted responsibility for their actions or not, you could release them from the grips of your judgment and will for vengeance and hope blessing and peace for them.
What if you were in the middle of a tense conversation and the person was not understanding you and you were about to say the thing you know you shouldn’t and you don’t really want to say it, but then as it starts to come out, you are interrupted by Grace and Peace.
Every time I experience unexpected Grace and Peace it sticks with me. One time I came home a couple hours late from my office. I didn’t call, I was supposed to have picked up something from the store, that Hannah needed for the dinner that was probably already waiting for that one item and the kids were probably hanging all over hannah, tired, hungry and grumpy, and I walked in defensive, ready to hear how rude and uncaring I had been, but instead I got a hug and an it’s ok, we can do this. Take one of the boys with you and go get the whatever it was… we’re a team, let’s do this… I understand. Phew…Grace and Peace

Is there a situation that comes to mind when you experienced grace and peace, how did it impact you?

May you break yourself open and pour yourself out for a world that desperately needs the good gift may you speak grace and peace to your enemies, may you interrupt when they begin to put down and condemn themselves, may it be the first thing on your tongue, the nearest thing on your mind and the deepest thing in your heart. Grace and peace be with you…

(It is important to note that people who take advantage of a posture of grace and peace by dismissing their behavior and expecting favor when they continue to do harm need help. No one should let them self get repeatedly walked on…)

The Voice

Play, Wisdom, Justice, and Love by Linkin Park

“I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.” – (Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence by Rev. Martin Luther King – 4 April 1967)

Sticker story – 

A few years ago, I came home from my office on a beautiful fall day. I grabbed the mail and opened up a junk mail offer that had a bunch of stickers in it to attract kids so they’ll convince their parents to buy their product… Ethan came running up to give me his familiar hug and greeting. And then of course asked me if he could have a sticker. I gave him 1 and he immediately stuck it to his shirt and with a sparkle in his eye asked for another. Generally, I’d only give him a couple at a time, because I didn’t want to find them stuck to the wall or a chair somewhere…but for some reason I said, here, why don’t you take the whole page.

Ethan went to town and decorated his whole shirt with sparkly stars and smiley faces. A bit later we went outside to play, our neighbors boys came running out as soon as we got outside. Ethan was so proud of his stickers and his cool shirt design and he wanted to share his stickers. He asked the 5 year old who had just started kindergarten if he wanted some stickers. The older boy, who in general tried to look out for Ethan said, “I don’t like stickers anymore, stickers are boring”.

It was one of those rare moments, when you’re right in the middle of something that you know is a profoundly shaping experiencing. It still breaks my heart to think about it. To see the joy and life disappeared from my two year old sons eyes. Ethan stood there completely still and silent for about 30 seconds. Then he just sat on the swing and hung his head. It wasn’t really about the stickers was it? There was a message about Ethan that our neighbor was not even aware that he was communicating…

After a couple of minutes Ethan started ripping the stickers off his shirt. I looked over at him and said, “I think stickers are cool and I think that you are very creative and fun to put them all over your shirt. I’m also really proud of you for wanting to share.” He looked at me with that quizzical face of someone who didn’t know what to think. I tried to tell him then that all throughout his life people would say things, call him things or tell stories that would try to define him, but that he had a choice of who to believe.

There are a lot of voices that want to tell you who you are, where to go, & what to do, but not all of them can, as MLK said, “be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love”.

What voices guide you?

Have you ever had an experience like that, or even something more serious that you’d feel comfortable telling us about?

There’s a passage from the book of John, where Jesus tries to help a crowd wake up and pay attention to who and what they’re listening to. Sadly, in direct contradiction to his point many have used his words to steal, kill, and destroy…

Read John 10:1-10

John 10:1   “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.  2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.  5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”  6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 

John 10:7   So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.  9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 

To this day, in the Middle East, a shepherd will go into a crowded sheepfold and call out his own sheep one by one, naming them. They will recognize his voice and come to him.

The shepherd, after all, spends most hours of most days in their company. He knows their individual characters, markings, likes and dislikes. What’s more, they know him. They know his voice. Someone else can come to the sheepfold and they won’t go near him, even if he calls the right names. They are listening for the one voice that matters, the voice they trust. When they hear it, he won’t need a sheepdog to keep them in order. He won’t walk behind them, driving them on. He will walk ahead, calling them, and they will follow him.

Jesus is making a pretty strong claim here about discerning voices, and saying with authority that the direction and leadership he is brining is the way of peace and wisdom. It’s important for us to understand the tradition he is drawing on. Hear these words personifying wisdom from the book of proverbs which offer readers a way of peace and a way of disaster…

Prov. 1:20-25, 31-32
Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof… You shall eat the fruit of your way and be sated with your own devices.
For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.

Jesus is claiming to be the voice of wisdom. In this case, he is challenging the prevailing culture and leadership in a prophetic way telling people that they need a new story, that the one they’ve been playing and telling and living into is going to destroy them.

Remembering that the text itself says that Jesus is using a figure of speech, who do you think he see as the false ones?

Who are these false ones, these ‘thieves and brigands’, these ‘strangers’? Jesus almost certainly has in mind the various leaders who had emerged during his own lifetime. Some, whom we might call revolutionary leaders or warlords, were eager to lead Israel into confrontation with Rome. Others, particularly the house of Herod, were eager to submit to Rome as long as that meant keeping their own power and wealth to the neglect and indifference toward the lower class.

Jesus is telling and leading people into a different story. Neither of those paths can be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. Both voices lead to violence, oppression, manipulation, slavery, stealing, killing, & destroying. But there is a way of life and peace, and if we listen as the Proverb says and Jesus echo’s, we can be secure and live without dread of disaster, we can have life… Unlike much of Christianity in our day, Jesus is inviting the whole society to listen rather than just isolated individuals. Jesus knew that individual actions mattered, that community transformation happens as individuals listen, but that ‘salvation’ as in actual, practical common security is wrapped up in the collective decisions and actions of whole communities…

Sometimes a particular phrase, criticism, or expectation can play over and over in your head, shaping your life until it beats you into the ground…

Are the voices that guide you leading toward life, leading you to live in a way that’s true and wise and just for everyone and everything, everywhere? Are you open to hearing other voices, ones that call into question your current trajectory? Are you open and listening for the voice of God, the good shepherd, the voice of wisdom?

Genesis 1 Through Ancient Eyes

For our community bible discussion on June 30th. We looked at a clip from John Walton’s Origins Today: Genesis Through Ancient Eyes, starting at 57min.

Origins Today: Genesis Through Ancient Eyes from BioLogos Foundation Inc on Vimeo.

Walton’s focus in the material is to help us understand the Genesis creation account in its context as an ancient near eastern temple text. Our focus in the conversation was on rest, and how when the text says that God rested on the 7th day, it didn’t mean that God just chilled for a day, satisfied in the work that was completed, but rather that it meant God took up residence in the temple (heaven and earth), and set about running the world. John uses the illustration of a new President moving into the White House. The point of course isn’t to just rest and enjoy the unique historical building, but to get to work leading…

The following is a reflection on Psalm 46 that followed our discussion:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah
What fears or confusion are you facing in your life right now?

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
What is uproar in the larger world around you? 

Come, behold the works of the LORD; see what desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
What gives you confidence that God is running the world; that peace and love will win?