From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness: “The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the suffering of others. We have to be in touch with the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others. To do so, we have to put ourselves “inside the skin” of the other. We must “go inside” their body, feelings, and mental formations and experience their suffering. A shallow observation as an outsider won’t help us see their suffering.”
In his book Transforming Atonement: A Political Theology of the Cross (Fortress, 2009), Ted Jennings offers a particularly astute summary of the politics of the cross. The cross, he says, represents a collision between the way of Jesus and the politics of domination. This collision is unavoidable and God’s will only in the sense that the roots of suffering and abuse need to be “exposed” and brought to an end. He continues:
“One way that this is expressed in the tradition is that God comes in Christ in order to overcome sin. The end of sin is the end of this game of violence, of collaboration in violence, of imitation of violence—a violence exercised in the name of the supposedly “strong God” it imitates. It is because of “our sin,” as Paul suggests, that the Messiah is repudiated, condemned, and executed. But this does not mean because of a long list of personal sins. It has rather to do with our participation in a world that rules by and collaborates in violence, exclusion, and judgment. This is the pervasive reality in which we are caught up. It plays out in our relationships with people we “love,” as well as our relationships with our “enemies.” It plays out in relationship of the elite to those they control. But it also plays out among the excluded—not in the same way, but in ways that still mirror the deadly force of domination and division, even when this or that element of oppression is actively opposed. It is this scene of violence and violation that is entered by the messianic mission, and it is from this same dynamic that this mission suffers and dies.”
Here are our NYAPC Children and Youth announcements and highlights for Sunday Feb 28, 2016. It is the 3rd Week of Lent.
Below you will find dates to save and what is going on in church for children and youth for 2/28: including Worship Play (a bit about the worms and faith foundation), Sunday School, Upper Elementary Choir Rehearsal, Gathering Time (the time before Sunday School).
Blessings, Alice (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Save these Dates!
Sunday, March 6: Middle and High Schoolers + Parents Discussion of Summer Trips for 2016 and a Cuba (!!!) trip for very late 2016 or 2017, during Sunday School time.
Saturday, April 9: Saturday morning Park Play! In hopes that the weather will be warm … for the spring and summer months, we are restarting our time of play in local parks. This time is especially geared for those with children ages 0- 5 years, though older children and families are most welcome. For this gathering Pastor Alice will provide bagels and coffee. We will be at Bluemont Park in Arlington, VA from 10 am – 11:30 am. There is a large children’s playground, fields and a creek. Hope to see you! Please RSVP to Alice (email@example.com).
Sunday, June 19: Youth Sunday! Single service at 10 am.
Sunday, June 19: All Church Picnic at a park in Arlington, VA (reservations requests are in now) to celebrate Youth Sunday, Sunday School Teachers, Fathers, and everything else! (about 11:45 am – 2 pm)
Regularly Scheduled Happenings for Sunday Feb 28:
We will talk about Lent is a time to focus on our strengthening our faith in God. To strengthen our faith we have to have a strong foundation to our faith. To do this, we will talk both about the Bible and about our Worms for Lent Project.
We will start by reading the story from Matthew 7 and Luke 6 “The Two Houses” or often called “The House Built on the Rock.” We will read it from the The Lion Storyteller Bible.
Here is Matthew 7: 24-29: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built hishouse on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded
on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 28 Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
After we read this story, will talk about the Worms for Lent project, and how the worms can teach us about the importance of a strong foundation.
We will start by reviewing what we have already done including watering the onions and asparagus they are growing from the worm compost matter.
We will also check on the worm compost bin. The compost bin is the worms’ house. We will talk about how the worms need a good foundation to live and produce more compost.
Good foundation for a worm includes:
Dry material like leaves
Wet material like vegetable and fruit scraps
They can’t have too much or too little of either or they won’t survive to produce compost. If they have too many leaves, they don’t get enough to eat. If they have too many food scraps, their environment gets too wet, so they can’t slither around to eat.
They also need people to keep an eye on them and feed them! If we forget about them, they they won’t survive either.
With the right foundation, they multiply by dozens each day!
Our faith is like that too. With the right foundation (learning about God through the Bible, in church, and in the world) our faith can also increase. If we don’t have the right foundation (maybe just reading the Bible but not going to church or just talking to friends about God but not reading the Bible ourselves), our faith gets stuck and doesn’t grow.
And then – we share our increasing faith with the world :).
SPECIAL — Upper Elementary and Middle School Choir Rehearsal during the last 20 minutes of Sunday School
Middle School: 12 Sons from Genesis 49:28, Genesis 39:1-6, Joshua 14:1-5 and James 1:1 (The descendents of Abraham and Sarah)
High School: We will discuss chapter 3 of Quest for the Living God.
3rd Week of Lent: Last week, our object to put in our Lenten jars/ boxes were mustard seeds from the Parable of the Mustard Seed. This small seed serves as a reminder that God’s love is constantly growing in each of us. We should also show God’s love and compassion for other people.
We will startgathering time by responding to the question: How is God’s love growing inside of you? How do you spread God’s love to others?
Each family will get a rubber-band this week. The message here is God’s love is always stretching us. How is God stretching you?
To conclude, we’ll do a stretching prayer together.
From Douglas John Hall’s The Cross in our Context: “[W]henever the church has made good its claim to Christ’s discipleship, it has at least know the call to suffer….not because suffering is good or beneficial or ultimately rewarding, but called to suffer because there is suffering – that is, because God’s creatures, including human beings, are already suffering, because ‘the whole creation groans.’
The point is: the suffering of the church is not the goal but the consequence of faith. For faith is that trust in God then frees us sufficiently from self to make us cognizant of and compassionate in relation towards the other – in particular, the other who suffers, who is hungry and thirsty, who is imprisoned; the other who ‘fell among thieves’; the other who knocks at our door at midnight in need. The church is a community of suffering because it is a community whose eyes have been opened to the suffering that exists. The first assumption of the this ecclesiology is not that the church should suffer but that it should be ‘attentive’ – namely, attentive to the suffering there and that is usually bypassed by the world, as in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Bible assumes that human and creaturely suffering is perennial and manifold. If the church does not see this suffering and if, seeing it, it does not take the burden of it upon itself, then its whole life must be called into question.”
I have been particularly struck by this quotation (really the whole chapter) from Elizabeth Johnson:
“Seen in the light of this continuous divine presence, the natural world, instead of being divorced from what is sacred, takes on a sacramental character. Sacramental theology has always taught that simple things – water, oil, bread and wine – can be bearers of divine grace. This is so, it now becomes clear, only because to begin with the whole physical world itself is the matrix of God’s gracious indwelling. ”
Her words have helped me reflect on how simple things can point us toward God. As a Lenten practice (and it is a practice because it is something I have to work at!), I’m seeking God in the small things. I’m starting with things I enjoy.
I am a person who likes to be in motion. When my whole body is occupied, my mind is better able to settle in the Spirit of God all around us. For me, I find this groove most often when I’m running along the creek in our neighborhood, when I’m preparing a meal to share, and when I’m fully engaged in play with a little one. In these times, it is in my surroundings of the forest against the backdrop of urban sirens, the smell of the a new meal against the shout of my 2 year old “eat! eat! eat!”, and the space for simple play of horsie or trains, that I am able to settle into the practice of digging after God. It is in these moments I see that God’s divine grace is being continually revealed in creation. It is my practice to look for these places that bear God’s grace, and in these places find the challenge and the charge to be a bearer of God’s grace too.
The challenge and charge I hear is to continue that practice to seek after God in things I don’t necessarily enjoy (like long lines), and see what I’m to learn (perhaps, things like patience.)
Even more challenging, I hear the charge to seek God in things that made me sad and angry (like poverty, disparities, war, isms), and see where God is beckoning me into God’s presence there too. It is my strong belief that God is with us in all things – at times cheering us on – and at times carrying us through our pain – and at times goading us to hear the call to see God in everything – especially in the places where we would not readily want to look.
Quotation from Elizabeth Johnson in the Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God (Chapter 9, “Creator Spirit in the Evolving World,” Location 3349 of 4430 in Kindle Edition.)
From Theology from the Trenches: “The “revealing” power of the cross is critically important, for if the cross exposes sin, it also discloses the God who is always and already bringing life out of the death-tending ways of our world. Or as Nadia Bolz-Weber has put it, “God keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.” The profound affirmation of cruciform faith is that God refuses to give up on God’s creation and is at every moment bringing life or resurrection out of the crucified places of our world. Here I am drawn to Elizabeth Johnson’s image for the cross. She speaks of the crucified and risen Christ as the “lens” through which we interpret the living God in our midst. Through this lens “we glimpse a merciful love that knows no bounds. Jesus’ ministry . . . made the love of God experientially available to all, the marginalized most of all.” In sum, the cross encompasses both crucifixion and resurrection, for God is at work in the world to bring life out of broken places.”
From Ted Jennings’ Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul. Speaking of Paul’s identification of himself as a “slave of the messiah,” Jennings says: “Like his messiah, he identifies with the abjected masses of the Roman Empire. Yet this downward social mobility, this identification with the lowest, is not situated within a static social stratification but within a force field so far identified with the word messiah. This name points to the uprising of the oppressed, enslaved, and impoverished and to the bringing down of the high and mighty, the powerful and the privileged. This reversal distinguishes a “messiah” from a king or emperor. To say that one is a slave of the messiah is already to rupture language from within. It is to say that which ordinary language will not allow. It is to give voice to a mind-bending paradox of explosive social potential.”
From my Theology from the Trenches: “According to the NT book of Revelation, Christians need to resist and agitate. In his commentary on Revelation, Brian Blount says that the gist of the message of this book is this: Christ is telling the seven churches to which Revelation is addressed to “pick a fight!” To this end, Blount points out that the Greek word hypomone that Revelation uses to describe this posture, often translated as “endurance,” can and should be translated as “non-violent resistance” and entails imitating Christ. Here is Blount’s translation of Revelation 2:2, Christ’s words to the Ephesian church: “I know your works, which are your struggle and your non-violent resistance. Because you cannot bear evil people, you tested the ones who called themselves apostles but are not and you found them to be liars.”In Revelation, the test for truthfulness is the crucified Christ, or what I have previously called cruciformity. The cross of Christ is the interpretive lens through which they (and we) are called view the world in order to unmask its deformities, defacements and oppression. The cross is the lens by which we can discern what we are called to be and do in order to expand our personal and collective hearts so that we might truly live into the covenantal loves of the Great Commandment.”
From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness: “As we’ve seen already, when anger arises, we first need to come back to our conscious breathing and sponsor our anger with mindfulness. We concentrate on our breathing in order to maintain mindfulness. We avoid listening to or looking at the person whom we regard as the cause of our anger. Usually when we’re angry, we don’t return to ourselves and take care of healing our anger. We want to think about the hateful aspects of the person who has made us angry—rudeness, dishonesty, cruelty, maliciousness, and so on. The more we think of them, listen to them, or look at them, the more our anger flares up. Their hatefulness may be real, imaginary, or exaggerated, but whatever it is that’s making us angry, we’re inclined to give our full attention to that. In fact, the root of our problem is the anger inside of us, and we have to come back to it and take care of it first of all. Like a firefighter, we must put water on the blaze immediately and not waste time looking for the person who set the house on fire.
“Breathing in, I know that I am angry.
Breathing out, I know that I must take care of my anger.”
So it’s best not to listen to, look at, or think about the other person, or to say or do anything as long as anger persists. If we put our mind into the work of observing and calming our anger, we’ll avoid creating damage that we would probably regret later. We may like to go outside and practice walking meditation. The fresh air, green trees, and the plants will help us greatly. As we walk, we can recite this verse: Breathing in, I know that anger is still here. Breathing out, I know that anger is me. And I know that mindfulness is me also. Breathing in, I know that anger is an unpleasant feeling. Breathing out, I know that this feeling has been born and will die. Breathing in, I know that I can take care of this feeling. Breathing out, I calm this feeling. Mindfulness embraces the feeling, as a mother holds her crying child in her arms and transmits all her affection and care. If a mother puts all her heart and mind into caring for her baby, the baby will feel the mother’s gentleness and will calm down. In the same way, we can calm the functioning of our mind.” (84)
From Elizabeth Gandolfo’s The Power and Vulnerability of Love: “Like the Servant of Yahweh and the crucified Christ, the crucified people of the world offer … a light by which we might see things more broadly and accurately. In the words of Kevin Burke, ‘the truth of reality becomes more manifest where reality has been crucified.’”