thinking theology

Archive for February, 2015

Our Stories as Holy Text for lent

I was thinking about the stories we tell each other as a way to explain what we feel, believe, hope. My grandmother died on Ash Wednesday and the family’s historical comment is that she couldn’t face another gloomy season. I think it’s unfortunate that we think of Lent as gloomy. In the early church, the season before Lent was a time of excitement as catechumens prepared themselves for baptism at Easter. And baptism was a life changing experience. I wonder how many of us are creating a story about our preparation for Easter. I wonder how many of us look forward with excitement to experiencing the resurrection in our own lives again. I wonder how many of us feel a catch of awe at the idea that the Holy Spirit will invade our lives with creativity and passion. Maybe we should think of our lives as sacred stories to be working on and inviting others to create their own stories also. What might the Pentecost history be this 2015?

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Ash Wednesday: The Garden

Although the precise origins of Ash Wednesday are unknown, the symbol of ashes has a long human history. Ashes have been an outward, visible sign of grief and/or penitence. Ashes are sown in the ground to hallow and to fertilize. One of the signs of hope has been the phoenix rising from the ashes of its worn out, broken self. To mark the beginning of Lent as a sign of transformation, let us begin by reclaiming ourselves from destructive choices, by walking the path of transformation, and by preparing ourselves for a renewed sense of the life of God within and around us.

Gardens are ancient symbols both of God’s creation and of the place where the eternal and the mortal interact. For this liturgy, a garden — perhaps planted with spring flowers — needs to be prepared to be placed in the centre of the gathering. It might be interesting to plant a food garden too that could regularly be harvested throughout Lent. If it is to continue to Easter, it will require some “minders” to maintain and expand it.

Music: perhaps Enya, “Memory of Trees” or Daniel Langlois, “The Maker”

Collect: God of Eden and of each new garden, we come before you and each other to acknowledge our brokenness and our need for change. Free us and open us to life in abundance, so that we may walk with courage and hope. We ask this in the name of the Vine, and the Gardener, and the Hope of the Dawn. Amen

Reading 1. Luke 13:10-17

People may be invited to sprinkle some ash into the garden, to symbolize how letting go of the old blesses new life. Alternatively, the leaders could do this.

The following reflections could be in the form of an address, small group discussion, or silence. If silence, please allow for a time after for people to debrief if they wish.

Reflection: What bends us so that we cannot see clearly, limiting our perspective, and isolating us? What change are we seeking? What will it require of us?

Reading 2: Romans 9:21-26

Again, either by participants or by leaders, some water may be sprinkled on the garden to nourish the soil, as the soul is nourished by the faith.

Reflection: What encourages us to stand? What supports us? What would it be like for people to see each other as Jesus saw us, children of one family?

Music : possibly Libana, “Be Like a Bird”

Prayers
Leader: Searching for justice yet
Bent by unbending ways,
We call to you, our Source of liberation.
Support us, encourage us so
That we may stand,
Raise ourselves to a life of courage.
May we find your affirmation
in the nurture of creation springing
Into bloom, to gladden and to strengthen.

R: Holy One, in your love, inspire and empower us.

L: Holy Presence in suffering, be our consolation and our challenge. Pour your grace into our hearts so that we, the broken, may rise to strengthen others, and bring peace to our world.

R: Holy One, in your love, inspire and empower us.

L: Spirit of inspiration, blow across deserts, mountains, oceans, plains, and valleys. Teach us to walk new paths daily, greeting transformation as the gateway, opening into life.

R: Holy One, in your love, inspire and empower us.

L: Source of all life, open your power to love and to change, to share and to trust, to us in our relationships. May we live life in abundance and boldness, liberating others as you are liberating us. Holy Friend and Companion, meet us in every garden, protect us in every crossroad.

R: Holy One, in your love, inspire and empower us.

The service may end with the Lord’s Prayer, with a collect, or music.

Ash Wednesday: The Work of Reconciliation

Leader: May the Spirit of Peace come amongst you.
Response: And also with you.

Collect: Creator God, you love the creatures you have made, you bring healing and forgiveness to your people. Create in us new and hopeful hearts. As we acknowledge the brokenness of our world, may we be empowered to initiate repentance and renewal, beginning with ourselves and our communities. We ask this in the name of the Beloved.

Psalm (using the theme of 103)

Bless the Holy One, O my soul.
Let all that is in me open to the touch
of Love, that makes us whole

Bless the Holy One, O my soul.
And remember that in holiness and goodness,
all has been made.

From the cradle that rocks us,
to the earth that receives us,
we are clothed in mercy and loving kindness.

The Holy One yearns to satisfy us with good things
and to revive the faint of heart and body,
through the agency of our compassion.

The Holy One sees the oppressed and the needy,
and judges those who turn their face from their cry,
calling to all to walk in the way of justice and peace.

Again and again, the Holy One calls to us,
offering hope and possibility
for the rebirth of compassion and reconciliation.

Our lives are like a summer day.
The season turns and it is lost in frost and memory.
And yet, in each life, the seed of transformation is planted.

Made of the dust of stars, we have been endowed
with imagination and possibility.
The horizon is only a step in eternity.

Bless the Holy One, O my soul.
With all the creatures and the earth,
We offer our lives for new vision and transformation.

Invitation
In Lent, we mark the journey to resurrection with the sign of ashes, a sign of penitence and change. Like the phoenix, it is from death of the old life and its limited perspectives, that we are born into the gift of Pentecost.

Anointing with ashes
Merciful God, from the roots of the earth and the dust of stars, you have created us. May these ashes be for us a sign of transformation, of forgiveness, and blessing.

(People may either come forward to be anointed with ashes, or they may stand in a circle, anointing each other)

The words for marking with ashes:
Remember that you are a part of this holy earth. Remember that in God we are one, in blessing and in brokenness.

or

Remember that you are part of the darkness of this holy earth, and called to rise in the
Light.

Readings
Isaiah 61: 1-4
Philippians 4:4-9
Mark 9: 33-37

Reflection: What is the spirit calling for the church to undertake? What must we let die? What do we hope will be reborn?

Closing prayer. Lord’s Prayer.

The mark of ashes must sink beneath our skin, invisible to others, but a fiery brand on our hearts. We go on to other work in the name of the God of Peace, the Source of Love, and the power of Community. Amen.

Occasional Prayers for Lent

God of the wilderness, God of the journey, grant us the will to hear your Holy Wisdom. Walk amongst us in this community. May your Presence stir us to vision and action, that we may extend your Christ wherever there is need for hope and healing.

Loving and faithful God, receive our prayers and the deep sighs of the Spirit within us. Heal us, free us, empower us that we may be your people of promise, now in this time of our lives.

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Prayers of Contrition
Leader: Let us open our hearts to the healing power of the Christ among us.

People: My sisters and brothers, I confess to you that I have not always treasured the gift of life that I have been given. I have forgotten that these hands are meant to contain love and mercy for myself and others. I have forgotten that these feet walk a holy path, encircling and hallowing your earth. I have forgotten that these ears are designed to hear forgiveness and healing; these lips are called to speak of hope and reconciliation.

Leader: Let us open our church to the healing spirit of repentance.

People: We confess to the world and to each other, that we have failed to follow the ways of Jesus and have been distracted by culture and custom. We have not always welcomed the strangers into our midst, we have not always loved the outcast or forgiven the offender. We have allowed ourselves to forget that we are your ministers of grace and your witnesses to new life. We commit ourselves to the Way again, crossing barriers of institution and history to reach out to others in compassion. Amen
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Merciful and just God, our iniquities have risen higher than we can stand and our guilt has filled the community. To a long pattern of sin in history, we too have succumbed. Yet, O Holy One, you always open a space for us that leads to the gateway of life. You have not forsaken us, but offer us your love and mercy. Show us how to mend what we have broken, restore what we have taken, repay what is not ours. And then you will show us the path of life where there is sorrow no more.

Mother of all, judge of your people, we come before you in sorrow and shame for our actions as your people. In the cause of justice, we have been silent, but we have acted to protect ourselves and secure our own ground. In the work of compassion, we have grown cold but we have demanded fulfillment of our own needs. On this day, may we begin again to serve you with integrity and to be the healing body of your Beloved in the world. Forgive us and help us to forgive ourselves. Heal us and help us to heal each other. Teach us so that we might learn from each other. Holy One, reconcile us to you that we may believe in the possibility of peace.

Storm Maker, Tide Bearer, you sweep open the dusty corners of the soul, shaking away the skeletons of our yesterdays. Blow through us with the Spirit of transformation, granting to your daughters speech with wisdom, and to your sons, wisdom with speech. May your compassionate love be revealed whenever two or three are gathered in your name.

Author of new creation, thanks be to you for the windows of possibility, for sunlight on rain-spattered stones, for the green of spring at the edge of winter, for a child’s twinkle in an old person’s eye, for all the signs of resurrection in this life. For all that lifts my heart and turns me back to you.
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A Great Thanksgiving

God our Creator, we offer our thanks as we greet each other around this table. We remember that you blessed human life with the Divine Presence in many traditions and with many names. But always it is in the ordinary signs of life that your Sacred Presence is revealed. In stinging sandstorms and in Arctic blizzards, your people have sought you, only to lose sight of you again. You call us in famine and in feast to recognize your abiding love that wills abundant life for all. And this time of pausing, teach us to choose the pathway of your Beloved and grant us what we need to follow him.

At the time of Passover, your Beloved Jesus became the Christ in the world. We remember the gift of that life when we learned the power of naming and challenging the power of healing and solidarity. Jesus showed us how to see our community as one family, the lifeblood.

One night in Bethany, Jesus sat down with his family and friends. A woman prophet anointed him with oil to recognize the unique gift of his life.
All: We remember this woman, the first witness to resurrection within this life.

Before his trial, while everyone was eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it. Then, looking at his people, he said for them to receive the sign of the bread. Looking at them all, he said, “This, my body.”

All: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body.

Then Jesus took a cup of wine, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them and all of them drank from the one cup, like one family, one blood. And he said to them, “This my blood of the new understanding, which is offered for many.”

All: You are the vine; we are the branches. May your joy abide in us so that we may be one family, offered for love of the world and chosen to bear the fruit of justice and peace-making.

And Jesus prayed to God, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes, I bless myself, so that they too may be truly blessed. I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their words, that they all may be one.”(John 17:18-20)

All: May we all be one in purpose and many in inspiration. May we all be one in compassion, although diverse in understanding.