Meeting Meditation, Holy Week, COVID-19

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During this time of social distancing you may wish to use this scripture meditation for an e-conference small group or alone as a personal devotion. Give yourself the time to process the changes you are facing and the care you require. 

“You will be scattered, each one to their own home…”. One of the painful themes of the Holy Week story is how the followers were thrown apart for their safety. And now we too find our homes have become our haven. Well, at least for those of us who have a home or have a safe home. But it is when we are communal that we make our story, that the story makes sense. And although the crock pot is stewing, the sun is streaming in, no one is coughing, and online conferences await, they belie the same tragic truth: frightening disruption is in process and we are apart. Holy Saturday is an agonizing standstill of alone-ness. Defiantly, Jesus declares: “Yet I am not alone!” You are not alone. We are never alone. We are in this no-space of Holy Saturday waiting. Who waits with you?

Beginning of the meeting

Read the reflection above. This is Holy Week. Because of the world response to COVID-19 it will be a very different and strange experience from previous years. As we enter into the heart of our Christian story, let us acknowledge the emotional highs and lows of this time: turmoil and peace, separation and connection, selfishness and selflessness, anxiety and love. Bring your grief and confusion to God in prayer. Open yourself up to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage. 

John 16: 29-33

His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

 Discussion Questions

If you are in an e-conference, reflect on each question for a few moments in silence, then invite discussion. Help the group identify common themes and issues. If you are alone, you may wish to record your reflections in a journal. You may wish to share your thoughts, questions and insights in the “reply” space below. 

  1. There are many examples of Jesus feeling deeply and passionately, and anticipating the feelings of his followers. We follow his example, so take a moment to become more aware of your feelings. Write down and then share the emotions you are feeling right now. Are they changing? Are they different from the previous week?
  2. There is grief this week for Christians. Can you name that grief for yourself?
  3. What does Jesus mean when he says he is not alone? 

Concluding Prayer

Invite people into a time of silence (about 3-5 minutes). Let them know the duration of the silence. Begin by asking them to be attentive to their breathing. Begin to slow their breathing and, with each breath, relax the muscles of their body, especially around their shoulders and face. Ask them to imagine God’s presence in the space. With each breath ask them to image God’s healing love coming into their whole body. With each exhale, ask them to imagine letting go of the anxiety, fear and confusion. Ensure the people that tears and weeping are God’s gifts of healing love. End the time of silence with the prayer below.

Concluding Prayer 

Show the Work of the People video: Praise Song for the Pandemic – written and read by Christine Valters Paintner, from Abbey of the Arts and music by Giants & Pilgrims.

https://www.theworkofthepeople.com

We are here together and we can do this because Christ dwells within us. 

 

Meeting Meditation, Passion Sunday and COVID-19

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During this time of social distancing you may wish to use this scripture meditation for an e-conference small group or alone as a personal devotion. Give yourself the time to process the changes you are facing and the care you require.

The COVID-19 tracker has become a prayer list. Behind each number is a person, a story, a community, a leader who did or did not care. There is always death, but these deaths seem out of time somehow. For most of us we are waiting…complacent, anxious, irritated. We imagine the Palm Sunday crowd and whisper into their shouts, “Hosanna!” “Save us!” So much turmoil and confusion in the crowd as they watched yet another untimely death…as they watched love sacrificed for others…as they watched love present to sufferers…as they watched love strong in its vulnerability…as they watched love raised up.

Beginning of the meeting

Read the reflection above. This coming Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday. Because of the world response to COVID-19 it well be a very different and strange experience from previous years. As we enter into our Christian story let us acknowledge the emotional highs and lows of this time: turmoil and peace, separation and connection, selfishness and selflessness, anxiety and love. Bring your grief and confusion to God in prayer. Open yourself up to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage.

Matthew 21:1-11 New Revised Standard Version

21 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ 11 The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

 Discussion Questions

If you are in an e-conference, reflect on each question for a few moments in silence, then invite discussion. Help the group identify common themes and issues. If you are alone, you may wish to record your reflections in a journal. You may wish to share your thoughts, questions and insights in the “reply” space below. 

  1. List the many emotions you are feeling right now.
  2. “How is it with your soul?” Take a moment and check in with yourself spiritually and describe the state of your soul.
  3. As you reflect on the Palm and Passion story, recall the many feelings that surface in it. How are the crowd’s feelings like your own? How is Jesus’ experience like your own?

Concluding Prayer

Invite people into a time of silence (about 3-5 minutes). Let them know the duration of the silence. Begin by asking them to be attentive to their breathing. Ask them to slow their breathing and, with each breath, relax the muscles of their body, especially around their shoulders and face. Ask them to imagine God’s presence in the space. With each breath ask them to image God’s healing love coming into their body, restoring them. With each exhale, ask them to imagine letting out anxiety, fear and confusion. Ensure the people that tears and weeping are God’s gifts of healing love. End the time of silence with the prayer below.

God of the one and God of the whole,
be with those who are working from home today,
those whose work keeps them from home and those who will not be able to work this day.
Be with those who won’t go beyond the front porch,
and those who stay on the front line.
Be with those who must choose between
doing a job they know they can do
and being the parent only they can be.
May we each in our private worry
hear your universal call
to come, lay down heavy burdens,
and find a welcome rest.
And then with our burdens lightened,
may we help to hold the whole.
Amen.  Adapted from the Prayers for Community in a Time of Pandemic, Corrymeela

We are here together and we can do this because Christ dwells within us.

Meeting Meditation, Lent 5 and COVID-19

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During this time of social distancing you may wish to use this scripture meditation for an e-conference small group or alone as a personal devotion. Give yourself the time to process the changes you are facing and for the care you require.

Stop! Take a deep breath! We are all in uncharted, foreign waters. We are processing huge amounts of information and complex feelings. This is an unprecedented, frightening time and we are all having to manage fear, confusion and distress. It’s not just OK, it is necessary that we stop and pull away from our screens, the constant news feed, the silly anxious arguments, the unhealthy eating and drinking….  We are in a space of waiting like Mary and Martha. We have set ourselves apart and have done all that we can do for now. And so we wait. In this holy, prayerful, mindful space we begin to ask, “What really matters?” “Who has God made me to be for this moment?” “How do I love?”

Beginning of the meeting

Read the reflection above. The issues of the day can overwhelm us and make us feel helpless. Bring our sadness, confusion and anger to God in prayer. Quiet yourself. Open yourself up to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage.

John 11:1-45 New Revised Standard Version

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ 11 After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ 12 The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ 23 Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ 24 Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ 25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ 27 She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ 37 But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ 40 Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ 45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

 Discussion Questions

If you are in an e-conference, reflect on each question for a few moments in silence, then invite discussion. Help the group identify common themes and issues. If you are alone, you may wish to record your reflections in a journal or share them in the “reply” space below. 

  1. As we wait, we are aware of numerous paradoxes: separate but together, safe but vulnerable… What paradoxes are you aware of?
  2. What are you learning about yourself? About others?
  3. It is essential we find activities that help us wait. Here are a few ideas: a family dance, go for a solitary walk or hike, draw or paint, bake or cook, hug your family members more, have a sing-song, play an instrument, write poems…. List one or two that you are committed to doing.

Concluding Prayer

  • Invite people to find a pen and paper.
  • Petitions: Ask people to write down the concerns on their hearts. These concerns might include care for health professionals, those that are sick, those without a home, those whose livelihood have been affected by the economy, those in authority…. (3 minutes)
  • Doodle: Ask people to doodle around each name or situation as they reflect on the particular issues they have associated with the petition. (3 minutes)
  • Pray: Ask people to stop doodling, put down their pen and compose themselves in a spirit of prayer. Then ask them to place their hand on each petition for a few moments and silently pray for each one. (3 minutes) End with the prayer time with Amen.

We are here together and we can do this because Christ dwells within us.

Meeting Meditation, Lent 4 and COVID-19

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During this time of social distancing, you may wish to use this scripture meditation for an e-conference small group or alone, as a personal devotion. If you would like to join a 30-minute e-conference to reflect on this meditation please join me this Wednesday, March 18, 2pm at https://zoom.us/j/696631478 (Meeting ID: 696 631 478)

Terrifying and yet weirdly beautiful. It is hard not to marvel in wonder at the electron microscope images of COVID-19. That is, until the realization of its destruction kicks in. This genetic mass, straddling the space between life and non-life­, has brought the most powerful economies, technologies and political powers to their knees. Let’s face it, even the threat of global annihilation through climate change hasn’t been able to quell our thirst for flight and new consumables the way this capsule of genetic instructions has. Consider the irony: Life destroyed by non-life that just might heal life. These musings are all well and good until we feel a strange shortness of breath, or hear that a close friend has tested positive or read the daily death count. In this new day with so much anxiety, confusion and grief mixed with family re-connection and Sabbath-like rest, we ponder with the religious authorities in our scripture passage: “Where is God in all of this?” Perhaps if we reflect on our experience, like that of the blind man, we too may be able to say, “I once was blind but now I see.”

Beginning of the meeting

Read the reflection above. The health and environmental issues of the day can overwhelm us and make us feel helpless. Bring your sadness, confusion and anxiety to God in prayer. Quiet yourself. Open yourself up to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage. (Settle in. It’s long.)

John 9:1-41 NRSV

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ 10 But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ 11 He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ 12 They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’ 16 Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ 20 His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’ 25 He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ 26 They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ 27 He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’ 28 Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ 30 The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ 34 They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ 36 He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ 37 Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ 38 He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. 39 Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ 41 Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains. 

 Discussion Questions

If you are in an e-conference, reflect on each question for a few moments in silence, then invite discussion. Help the group identify common themes and issues. If you are alone, you may wish to record your reflections in a journal. Share your thoughts, questions and insights in the comment space below. 

  1. Can you trace throughout the reading the blind man’s understanding of who Jesus is?
  2. The passage begins with that very difficult question: “Who sinned, that this is happening?” In other words, “Whose fault is it?” and “How do they deserve this?” Do you find yourself asking these kinds of questions about the current situation? What are the spiritual limitations to these types of questions?
  3. Where is God in the midst of this for you?
  4. The blind man was socially isolated because of his illness. Jesus restored him to community. Social distancing to slow the spread of the virus does not have to mean social isolation. What is God calling you to do?

Concluding Prayer

Take some time for silence (two minutes). Quiet yourself, calm your body and attend to your breathing. Place yourself in the presence of God and be open to God’s love and peace. End by reading this prayer slowly, leaving space for intentional petitions.

Loving God, whose peace passes all our understanding;
as we face this present pandemic, and experience fear and anxiety, may we hear your voice, bringing calm to the storms of our time.

Strengthen those who work to limit the spread of infection, and those who seek to care for the sick, and keep us mindful of those most vulnerable.

May we shape our living to protect one another, and may our changing habits, practices and sacrifices, be for the greater love of our community and all your people. Amen.

Prayer from the Diocese of Niagara

 

Meeting Meditation, Lent 3

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“Where do you get that living water?” Can you feel the yearning behind that question? Water is fundamental for life. The astronomer’s planetary search for life is based on the mantra, “follow the water.” Of course the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well is of both physical and spiritual water and thirst. Both seem deep and unquenchable. Today we satiate our unaddressed spiritual thirst with convenience and consumption. The consequences are starting to reveal themselves and may even threaten life itself. Currently, our oceans and lakes are filling with plastic and serving back nanoplastic particles to ingest. One researcher estimates we are consuming a credit card of plastic a week. Where will we get that living water?

Beginning of the meeting

Read the reflection above. The environmental issues of the day can overwhelm us and make us feel helpless. Bring our sadness, confusion and anger to God in prayer. Quiet yourself. Open yourself up to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage. Listen for and trace the physical and spiritual thirst and hunger through the reading.

John 4:5-42 New Revised Standard Version,

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ 11 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ 13 Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 15 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ 17 The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ 19 The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ 21 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ 25 The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ 26 Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’ 27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ 28 Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’…  39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’

 Discussion Questions

Ask the people to reflect on a question for a few moments in silence, then turn to another person and discuss. After a few minutes, go to the next question and repeat the process. After all the questions have been reflected on, silently in a small group, bring everyone together in a large group for an open discussion to identify common themes. (These questions may require some deep reflection and so you may choose to only use a few of them, as time permits.)

  1. Yale professor Gus Speth, speaking to religious leaders said: “I used to think the top environmental problems facing the world were global warming, environmental degradation and eco-system collapse, and that we scientists could fix those problems with enough science, but I was wrong. The real problem is not those three items, but greed, selfishness and apathy. And for that we need a spiritual and cultural transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that. We need your help.” How are our environmental problems, actually spiritual problems?
  2. We need water for life but we also need Jesus’ “living water” for our spiritual lives. What is this “living water”? Hint: recall the promises of baptism and the covenant. A number of countries have added this promise: “Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?”
  3. Jews of the first century did not speak with Samaritan women. When we designate people as “other” because of gender, colour, race or creed, we are attempting to use a physical value to address a spiritual yearning. Can you identify that spiritual yearning in yourself? Hint: where do we get our sense of value and worth?
  4. Reducing single-use plastic is a very big and complex problem but it can begin with simple, small steps. Shopping bags, beeswax coverings, bulk products, reusable cups and microplastic filters on our washing machines can get us started. The Diocese of Niagara encouraged all their churches to go single-use-plastic-free. What would that mean for your church?

Concluding Prayer

Invite people into a moment of silence. Ask them to quiet themselves, calm their bodies and attend to their breathing. Ask them to place themselves in the presence of God and be open to God’s love and peace.

“What does God want you to do in response to what you have heard?”

Silence.

Amen.

 

End of the meeting

Read the passage once again and ask how God’s Good News has been known in your time together.

Meeting Meditation, Lent 2

Spiritual continuum

For most of us, spiritual growth moves along a continuum of four distinct stages. (see RenewalWorks of Forward Movement). In our reading, it would seem that Nicodemus is at Stage 1, with his struggle to apply his literal understanding to metaphorical concepts. But, as you read further in John’s Gospel, Nicodemus seems to grow in faith. He defends Jesus against the angry authorities. Later, he claims Jesus’ body from the cross for anointing and burial. Arrogant scrutiny under the cover of night that moved to humble service in the light of day. We know that a person can attend worship every Sunday or be really busy in church work and not be spiritual growing. The Nicodemus we encounter in this reading can attest to that. Spiritual growth requires something more—a loving, relational encounter. Remember, this is what is at the core of the Trinity.

Beginning of the meeting

Read the reflection above. Quiet yourself. Become more aware of God’s presence. Open yourself to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage. What images and impressions come to mind as you read or hear the text?

John 3:1-17 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised

3 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ 10 Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 ‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 Discussion Questions

Reflect on these questions for a few moments in silence, then turn to another person and discuss.

  1. The difference between knowing about God and being in a relationship with God has been compared to the difference between reading a menu and eating the meal. What are your thoughts and feelings about this statement?
  2. What helps you be in a relationship with Jesus and spiritually grow?
  3. It seems that Nicodemus became more confident and perhaps more loving and humble as he spiritually grew. What changes do you see in yourself or others as they spiritually grow? Does this frighten, excite, comfort or concern you?

After a few minutes bring the small group discussion to a close and invite people to talk about their insights and reflections in the larger group.  

Concluding Prayer

Invite the people to quiet themselves, take a posture of prayer and conclude by play a recording of  “God So Loved the World” by John Stainer.

End of the meeting

Read the passage once again and ask how God’s Good News has been known in your time together.

Meeting Meditation, Lent 1

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“From whom no secrets are hid…” Stop! Don’t rush past this so quickly. Hidden secrets, shameful actions, regret-filled memories, stupid hurtful comments, selfish motives, cherished resentments are burdens we all carry. Pause for a minute and let the words sink into our awareness. Before God, all our secrets are known, revealed, laid bare. Do you get a glimpse of the awfulness and yet the freedom of this? The running can cease, the weight can be lifted, the mask can fall. What a relief! Let Lent begin.

Beginning of the meeting

Read the reflection above. Quiet yourself. Become more aware of God’s presence. Open yourself to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage.

First reading: Listen for what the Spirit of God is saying to you.

Second Reading: Circle the words that suggest hiddenness such as covered and silence. What does it mean that God becomes the hiding place? What sins do you need to face? How does it feel to know that God’s steadfast love surrounds you and overwhelms our sins? Do you feel it? Write down your reflection and if you are in a small group share your thoughts.

Psalm 32 New Revised Standard Version

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’,
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful
offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
shall not reach them.
You are a hiding-place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the torments of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Third Reading: Listen to the words and let them guide you in a direction that will bring you out of hiding from God. Let the words inform your Lenten spiritual practice. Again, write down your reflections and if you are in a small group and then in the large group share common themes and insights. 

Psalm 32 The Message

Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—
you get a fresh start,
your slate’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky—
God holds nothing against you
and you’re holding nothing back from him.

When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.

The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.

Then I let it all out;
I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.”

Suddenly the pressure was gone—
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.

These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
we’ll be on high ground, untouched.

God’s my island hideaway,
keeps danger far from the shore,
throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.

Let me give you some good advice;
I’m looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:

“Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track.”

10 God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.

11 Celebrate God.
Sing together—everyone!
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!

Concluding Prayer

Quiet yourself. Conclude by offering this prayer with pauses of about 10 seconds each.

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, pause…

all desires known, pause…

and from whom no secrets are hidden: pause…

cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, pause…

that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; pause…

through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

End of the meeting

Read the passage once again and ask how God’s Good News has been known in your time together.