By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:20-31
The subject of “call” has been a recurrent theme in my sermons in recent weeks. We previously looked at two gospel stories about the call of Jesus’ disciples. But this Sunday we look at the topic of “call” from a different perspective as we examine call beyond that original circle of Jesus’ followers and consider what it looks like lived out in the context of a local congregation. We move beyond the experience of learning directly from an incarnate Jesus to the experience of a Christian community discerning and struggling as followers of a Jesus they can no longer see. In other words, this is a sermon about what it means to be a Church.
Now, most people like to be comfortable in their church. We often speak, quite appropriately, of church as “family,” a metaphor emphasized in New Testament scripture. However, whereas in the nuclear family, we all accept that proverbial “crazy uncle,” we are often not so indulgent in our church families. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said decades ago "it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o'clock on Sunday morning…" or 10:00 or 10:30. Concern over this persisting reality led to a 2014 survey conducted by Life Way Research in which church members were asked to agree or disagree with the statement: “My church needs to become more ethnically diverse,” 53 percent of respondents disagreed — and 33 percent strongly so.[i] So, not only is homogeneity a reality for the church. It is, apparently, a preferred reality. And it goes well beyond race and ethnicity. With a few exceptions, the vast majority of members in the vast majority of churches in America share commonalities with regards to social status, education level, income, and even political perspectives. And, psychologically, that makes sense. If I desire church to be a comfortable experience for me, I will seek out those with whom I share much in common. After all, diversity leads to differences and differences can lead to conflict and conflict makes most of us very uncomfortable. But alas, if we take our scripture seriously, church is not a place of comfort and commonality. It is a place of differences; and the natural “butting of heads” that result from such differences is not something to be avoided; it is something to be acknowledged and wrestled with in a healthy, open way.
In the time of the apostle Paul, Corinth, Greece was an amazing city. It was a cosmopolitan city. Sinatra’s tribute to New York, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” may well have applied to first century Corinth. It was populated, primarily, by freed slaves and military veterans, as well as a number of artisans. It would have had very few Roman aristocrats and so it was a city offering the unique opportunity for upward mobility, a concept generally scorned in the ancient world where status was usually considered to be fixed at birth. And, quite understandably, because status could change in ancient Corinth, its residents were particularly fixated on it. People were judged and engaged with in a variety of ways depending upon where they fell in the social pecking order.
According to You Tube, the best known scene from the 1990 film, “Pretty Woman” starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere is the shopping scene. In the film, Gere plays a corporate executive who falls in love with a prostitute, played by Julia Roberts. She has never experienced anything like the world Gere’s character lives in. He gives her his credit card to go shopping. Still dressed in her “working clothes,” shall we say, she first enters the renowned Beverly Hills boutique, Boulmiche. The owners look askance. When Roberts’ character inquires about the price of a dress, they inform her that she can’t afford it and that she’s in the wrong place and they ask her, quite briskly, to leave. Roberts has better success reinventing her wardrobe at other shops and so she returns to Boulmiche the next day dressed in a lovely, modest white dress and black hat. She finds the sales person who’d snubbed her the day before. Pointing out that she is the woman the sales person had refused to help. She inquires, “You work on commission, right?” Then, holding up both arms weighed down with shopping bags she says, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”
As human creatures, we often use prejudicial criteria to determine who does and doesn’t belong. The challenges of diversity within the Corinthian congregation kept the apostle Paul busy. It seems he was continually addressing a variety of concerns that stemmed from their differences; but Paul doesn’t shy away from addressing them. Paul also makes clear that what matters most is what they hold in common: a newfound identity through Jesus. Their identity in Jesus is not based on anything they’ve achieved or accomplished for themselves; rather, it springs from their ability to trust entirely in what God did on their behalf through Jesus. Although some Corinthian church members now occupy the upper class, Paul reminds them that most didn’t start out that way. And, even for those who did, it gives them no advantage over their lower class brothers and sisters. In fact, Paul writes, God shows a preference for the lower-class. Just remember, Paul points out, how their relationship with God began. They are who they are because Jesus willingly went to the cross. He is their hero, their example, their Savior – someone condemned and humiliated through the most brutal form of capital punishment available in the first century world. Today, crosses are revered religious symbols; they’ve even become works of art. In our modern world, they have adorned everyone from the Pope to Madonna. But there was nothing beautiful or reverent about a cross in the ancient world. It was associated with pain, suffering and humiliation. Yet God transformed it into an instrument of salvation. An instrument of torture became a bold demonstration of God’s grace.
There’s nothing sensible about it. Such a scenario is offensive to Jews and deemed foolish by those of Gentile descent. Yet, through that instrument of torture, they were given what is now their primary identifier: Christian. That’s who they are; not rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, artist or war veteran, male or female. Christian; that’s it, pure and simple; recipients of a grace that burst forth from the most hideous of circumstances. Bible scholar Ben Witherington writes: It is grace that undercuts all factors that promote factionalism. “Grace is not only the great unifier but also the great leveler in the Christian community.”[ii] Grace, the great leveler; what we were at the time God called us into this church family doesn’t matter at all; not one iota. Even now, there is only one description, one identifier that counts: Christian.
Friends, right now here in our own country and in many places around the world, people are drawing boundary lines, dividing lines, to determine who is in and who is out; who is of greatest value and who is unworthy. But the voice of the apostle can remind us also that the world’s categories have no place in the church. That is not a political statement; but a theological statement. Friends: Jesus was a Jewish messiah which means that – unless you’re of Jewish ancestry – God through Christ let you into an organization where you didn’t belong. But in Jesus, the dividing lines came tumbling down.
In what we deem Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he writes that we are called to the ministry of reconciliation. Though it at times may make us uncomfortable, the Church is called to be a place that never separates or divides by the wider culture’s categories. We are one in Christ Jesus and our call is to take that message to others; especially those who are vulnerable and those who make us uncomfortable.
And friends, Paul’s words to the Corinthians are important words for us to hear because the Centennial neighborhood is a Corinth, of sorts. Within this neighborhood, we have new and expensive condos being built and purchased by Purdue professors and area business leaders. We have historic homes that have been purchased and carefully rehabbed to reflect their original glory. But we also have many properties in decay. We have lots of rental properties. Some are inhabited by low-income, single-parent families (especially single dads) who struggle just to keep the roof over their children’s heads. We have here in our neighborhood graduate and Ph.D. students, whose long-hours mean that, this time of the year, they rarely see the sun rise and set on this side of the river. We have the homeless who line up outside LUM’s shelter at nightfall for a warm, safe place to sleep and we have a house full of women nearby who have fled domestic abuse. I would guess that the Centennial neighborhood might just be the most diverse neighborhood in the Lafayette area. And those various groups I’ve named seldom intermingle. So we have a remarkable opportunity to become the same kind of socially and economically diverse faith community Paul founded in Corinth. What a remarkable and exciting call.
Two weeks from today, we’re going to get together after worship to eat lunch and participate in an event dubbed “Community Dream Day.” Amanda Atkins will share a little more about it during our announcement time this morning. But in a nutshell, it’s a day we’ve set aside to develop ideas for how we can reach beyond our walls into our neighborhood to share the love of Jesus and cultivate a deeper sense of community. That’s what our Vision Statement is all about: Growing in love and service through relationships with God and community. If we’re gonna name it, we gotta do it. It was a recommendation provided by our church consultant, Rev. Dan Bonner, way back in January, 2015. We’ve had some other work to do together with some staff transitions and challenges with our facilities. But, with the sale of our Education Building, we can retire our debt and free up resources to reach out beyond our walls. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for and I’m excited to be with you all here and now. What a ripe moment of opportunity for ministry.
But, it won’t be easy. If creating true Christian community in the midst of so much diversity were easy; well, we’d have a much shorter New Testament because the Apostle Paul spends a lot of time, uses up a lot of parchment, teaching and guiding the Corinthians along. Forging authentic community in the midst of diversity wasn’t easy back then in Corinth and it won’t be easy for us here today.
But friends, in a world, in a nation, that has become some divided and divisive, we can deliver the good news that, in Christ, there are no divisions. We are who we are not because of what we’ve achieved or accumulated through our own efforts. We are who we are because of what God did for us in Jesus. Such a profound grace makes us all equal in the eyes of God and that is a much needed, reconciling and healing message to bring to our neighborhood and to our world.
[ii] Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians by Ben Witherington III; Eerdmans Publishing; 1995; p. 118.
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Scripture: Matthew 4:17-23
One of the most dangerous and disappointing things we can ever do with scripture – next to ignoring it altogether – is to try to bring an artificial homogeneous uniformity to places of difference, distinction, and even contradiction.
If you were in worship last Sunday, you hopefully recall that I preached on discipleship; the same topic as this morning’s sermon. Last week, I preached from the gospel of John the story of how Peter and his brother Andrew came to be followers of Jesus. In the gospel of John, it is these “soon to be disciples” who make the first overture. They initiate the relationship. But, John’s account of how Simon Peter and Andrew became disciples is strikingly different from the story Matthew’s gospel presents about those same two brothers, Andrew and Peter.
Before I get into the meat of my sermon, let me give you a brief outline of this section of Matthew’s gospel because narrative context is essential to this morning’s message.
Matthew’s gospel begins with his version of the nativity. Then, nothing is said about Jesus’ adolescence. In the next segment of Matthew’s gospel, we encounter John the Baptist, we read of Jesus’ baptism and wilderness temptation, and then Jesus’ public ministry is off and running. Like an effective and consistent campaign slogan, Jesus gives a concise proclamation about his ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Now, we’ll come back to this repenting and kingdom stuff in just a bit. But first, let’s continue this brief overview. Jesus announces his ministry. He calls disciples (students) to follow him. He does ministry that demonstrates exactly what he announced his ministry would be. And then, as his groupies have become quite a throng of people, Jesus makes his way up a mountain to deliver a huge chunk of teaching known to many of us as “the Sermon on the Mount,” a sermon that will play a critical role in better understanding how it is that these disciples of Matthew’s gospel are moved and stirred to respond to Jesus with such immediacy and commitment.
So, with that overview (and some dangling narrative threads – don’t worry we’ll put them all together at the end), let’s return to this morning’s few brief verses about the call of Jesus’ first disciples. Let me share it with you one more time:
As [Jesus] walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As [Jesus] went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.[i]
You know, there are a lot of places in our gospels where Jesus’ disciples really look like a bunch of cowardly knuckleheads. But this is not one of them. Often they get scared and they blurt out something stupid and I can relate to that; been there, done that. But in this morning’s passage, they raise the bar to an uncomfortable height. Going about their day’s work, Jesus passes by, commands them to follow him, and they drop everything and they do. They don’t skip a beat. Wow. That’s impressive. My husband can attest; it’s pretty rare for me to feel compelled to do anything right out of the blue without a good reason. I mean, I like to know what I’m getting into.
Years ago I was an associate pastor at a church in a Chicago suburb. I was in charge of the youth ministry and it was a pretty large youth group. There was a game we played called “Land Mine.” The youth were put in pairs and one of them was blind folded. Meanwhile, in the fellowship hall, pieces of construction paper had been randomly strewn about on the floor. Each piece of paper represented a landmine. The blindfolded youth was on one side of the room. Their “sighted” partner was all the way on the other side. It was their task to verbally direct their blinded partner across the room so that their feet never touched any papers, aka land mines. Now, imagine a large fellowship hall with about a dozen youth on one end shouting out instructions to their blindfolded partner all the way on the other side of the room. “Take a small step right. Now, step left. Wait! Stop!” It was, of course, ridiculously noisy and plenty of bedlam. Every youth was trying to outshout the youth around them and amid that cacophony of voices, the blind one across the room had to pick out the sound of their partner’s voice; focusing on that voice alone and disregarding all the others.
Friends, we live in a noisy, demanding and complex world and some of us may feel like those blinded youth. We have a dozen competing voices shouting out at us: relatives, friends, supervisors, co-workers, teammates. And sometimes, we try to respond to them all. But when we try to do that, it never turns out well. We wear out our bodies, minds and spirits trying to do and be too much; trying to wear too many hats and please too many people.
But there’s really only one voice we need to focus on: the voice of Christ. We need to tune in to Jesus’ voice and follow his call. When all’s said and done, we can’t allow other things – even other people – to take precedence over the voice of Christ in our lives. It’s just too important.
And why is it so important?
Well, here’s where we come back to that repenting and kingdom stuff.
The word for repent, in Greek, means “to change one’s mind.”
Jesus’ ministry begins with his announcement that change is absolutely necessary. Things just can’t go on the same. People with whom Jesus comes into contact will be challenged to change; to change the way they think and to change the way they live. And here’s the reason: the coming of Jesus means the in-breaking, the inauguration (so to speak), of the kingdom of heaven right here in our midst.
Now I worry that people sometimes think “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God” is some mysterious and nebulous theological concept. But it’s really pretty simple. Although we don’t have kings anymore, we all know that kings exercised control over the people in their empire. Kings had authority over their territory. So, quite simply, the kingdom of heaven involves that “territory,” so to speak, over which God exercises complete authority. When Jesus proclaims the in-breaking of the kingdom of heaven, he is communicating that – in his coming – God’s authority is being revealed in new, bold and glorious ways. But, unlike earthly kings, Jesus does not impose his authority over us. Rather, we’re invited to submit our lives to Christ. We’re invited to allow Jesus to reign over the “territory” of our lives. And when we respond to the voice of Jesus, we join him in manifesting God’s kingdom. And that means real change going on inside of us and around us. Friends: the kingdom of heaven isn’t just pie in the sky by and by when you die. It can be right here, right now, in you, in me, wherever, whenever, however we welcome Jesus to exercise authority over our lives.
So, there’s just one more piece here. Remember; I promised we were going to tie up all the loose threads. Now that Jesus has returned to heaven and he no longer has an audible human voice, how will we recognize his voice? How will we recognize his call? How can it be that we can follow someone who is no longer visible in bodily form? And what will the kingdom he’s inaugurated look like?
Well, it is the Sermon on the Mount that answers that question.[ii] It draws the picture of a changed world if and when we allow God to reign over the territory of our lives. In that Sermon, Jesus says things like:
“You have heard it said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil doer… and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well.”
Jesus says, “You have heard it said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Jesus says, ‘You have heard it said… ‘You shall not murder.’ But I say to you if you are angry with a brother or sister you shall be liable to judgment.”
In that Sermon, Jesus reminds us that God is gracious and generous; he causes the sun to rise every morning upon the evil, as well as the good.
In that Sermon, Jesus reminds us that we don’t need to worry or be anxious about how much stuff we have or how much stuff we think we need. The only thing we need to be focused on is the kingdom. And God will take care of the rest.
In that Sermon, Jesus names the attributes and conditions of greatest value in this kingdom; things like righteousness and gentleness, showing mercy and pursuing peace.
In that Sermon, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Friends: You will know that it is Jesus’ voice you are hearing if you feel called to show kindness even to those who are aggressive toward you. You can recognize that it is Jesus’ voice you are hearing if you feel called to live from a place of trust and not fear and envy. You will know that it is Jesus’ voice you are hearing if you feel called to be generous with others even when it seems you don’t have much to share. That is the voice of Jesus. Jesus never calls us to look out for number 1; to intimidate and overpower those who vulnerable. Jesus never calls us to actions that spring from attitudes of prejudice and fear. Friends we must never lose sight of the fact that the destination of the one who calls us to follow is a cross; a laying down of one’s life for the sake of others. That is the example we are called to follow. That is what is means submit our lives to the authority of Jesus. That is what the kingdom of heaven looks like.
When as individuals and as a congregation we can be forgiving, gentle and generous; when we demonstrate trust in extreme and radical ways, that’s when we’ll see it; that’s how we’ll know it’s Jesus’ voice we have heard; that’s when we’ll know that the kingdom of heaven has come near; that the kingdom of heaven has come here.
[i] Matthew 4:18-22. NRSV.
[ii] Content of what follows can be found in Matthew, chapters 5-7.
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Scripture: John 1:35-42
Well, how are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? I’m not even sure how many people make New Year’s resolutions anymore. But, even if you don’t, you’ve got to admit that there is something visceral about this time of the year that makes us a tad bit more introspective. We may pause for just a moment to ask ourselves: “What am I doing with my life? Am I really where I expected myself, hoped myself, to be?” Even for those in retirement, the question is still relevant: with career finished and children raised the question becomes: “what is my purpose in this season of my life?”
This morning’s story from the gospel of John is a reminder to us that the life of a disciple is not a life of aimless drifting. It is a thoughtful, examined life; it is a deliberate, purposeful life.
This morning’s passage of scripture is the very first time that Jesus speaks in the gospel of John. If you had children, no doubt you remember the first word or words they spoke. You waited in anticipation. Would it be “mama,” “dada?” We wait eagerly to hear those first words.
Likewise, John’s gospel has already introduced Jesus. He who has yet to speak out loud has already been introduced to us by our gospel narrator as God’s eternal, life-giving Word now placed in human flesh. John the Baptist gives witness to him as the Son of God and the Lamb of God. And so, with such lofty introductions, we might expect Jesus’ first recorded words to be words of self-affirmation; a bold and lofty statement of his divine identity. But no; Jesus’ very first words are directed outward; they come in the form of a question posed to any who might consider following him… whether they live in the first century or the 21st. Jesus voices this question: “What are you seeking?” And he follows that question with an invitation to, “Come and see.”
Friends, far too often we think of Christianity as a kind of mental agreement with a particular set of beliefs. But, that’s not Christianity; particularly in the gospel of John, that is not what it means to follow Jesus. Christianity is not a belief system so much as it is a relational system. It is about us entering into an active, engaging, life-changing relationship with Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus is about daily movement, a daily following after the one who invites us to come and see what life in his presence is really all about.
There is an old story about a little boy who lived in the country. He heard a circus was coming to a nearby town. He wanted to go; he wanted to experience the circus. And so, he saved his money so he’d have enough for admission to the circus. He walked into town and arrived just as the circus performers and animals were making their way from the railway station to the tent, to the big top. The little boy stood along a street and watched them pass by one by one: clowns, animals, jugglers, acrobats. A clown brought up the rear and as he walked by the little boy ran into the street. He asked the clown, “Who do I pay?” “I’ll take your money,” said the clown. So the little boy dug his money out of his pocket and placed it in the hand of the clown. Then he turned around and walked back home. He thought he’d experienced the circus. He thought he’d gotten what he came for.
And friends, that’s how some people live their lives. They’ve sacrificed their time, their money and their energy; but they’ve missed out on the most important experience of their lives: a relationship with Jesus. Some spend their lives imagining that, if they could just find the right job or the right spouse; if they could make more money or gain more prestige; if only their children would excel and make them proud; if only they had that one more thing; that elusive, evasive thing. And yet, there is no “thing” – no acquisition, no achievement in this world that can ever fill that hole in our soul. The experience they’ve been longing for is a relationship with Jesus: the one in whom we find our purpose and our meaning; the one who is the answer to our deepest longings and our greatest desires.
Now, when Jesus turns to these disciples and asks them “What are you seeking?” it is a two-word Greek phrase: tis zetetes. The word zetetes means “to seek.” But the word “tis,” that tiny, three-letter word, can be translated one of three ways: what, as in what are you seeking; who, as in who are you seeking; and why, as in why are you seeking. And when Jesus invites these disciples to come and see and they follow and stay with him (not only that day but in the days to come), Jesus reveals to them and to us that Jesus is the answer to the who, the what and the why that we seek.
It’s a big question. What are you seeking? We need to live with it a while; to be challenged by it. You are here in church this morning so I can only assume that Jesus means something to you. But, I hope that you have taken time to consider who, what and why you are seeking in your life and how being in relationship with Jesus addresses our deepest human desires and longings.
I’m afraid that far too often, people identify as Christians because they went to church as a child. They heard some bible stories. Someone told them that Jesus was Savior and Lord and that they should keep coming to church. So they do. But why; for who; for what? What does it mean that Jesus is a Savior or a Lord? What does it mean in John’s gospel that he is the light of the world; the bread of heaven; the good shepherd? What does that mean to you? Who is Jesus… to you and what are you seeking in your relationship with him?
Just like those first disciples, we will only find the answer to that question by being with Jesus; by staying with Jesus. Those first disciples stayed with him all that day and we can too. We can decide in this New Year that we will be mindful of Jesus’ presence with us throughout our day. Not in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense, we can discover what it means to stay in the presence of Jesus as we go about our day.
Now, I’m going to say a little more about how we can do that in just a few moments. But first let me say that our purpose in experiencing Jesus’ presence throughout our day is not simply a self-centered pursuit. It is not for the purpose of being navel gazers or to lower our blood pressure or alleviate stress. It is because, in the presence of Jesus, we are named – just as Peter was – by the one who knows us best. Friends by staying in the presence of Jesus, practicing awareness of his presence – throughout our day, we will discover who we truly are and how we ought to live. This is MLK weekend and when we read and study the life of King, it is so clear that he could not have done what he did without that awareness of Jesus’ presence with him, guiding him and inspiring him to ultimately sacrifice his life for the good of others. No doubt, he was driven by that inward desire discerned through ongoing fellowship with Jesus.
Each one of us has deep desires in our hearts that God has placed there and as we come to know Jesus and as we walk in his presence, we come to understand who we are and how we are called to live.
Friends, for some, Christianity is simply a set of beliefs and a list of actions and so they set out to try and achieve those “good actions” every day… going off in a multitude of directions and ending the day exhausted. But if we are tuned in to the presence of Jesus with us through our day, we will, in fact, accomplish far more “good” for the world because we will be living out our true identity and our unique call because Jesus is the one who knows us and names us. He is the origin of those deep desires and longings within us. Elizabeth Liebert writes, “When we know our deepest desires, we know something important not only about ourselves, but also about God, because our deepest desires come from and point to that same God.”[i]
Finally, before I say a little about how we can practice an awareness of Jesus’ presence, let me say a few words about why I believe this message is so important. In America today, for those outside the church looking in, it can be an ugly sight. We are often loud and judgmental and divisive. We can go at one another like roosters dropped into a cock fighting ring. And no one wants to be a part of that. But that is going to be an inevitable result if Christianity is, for us, simply a rigid set of beliefs and a list of behaviors because that “brand” of Christianity will forever cause us to compare and to condemn and to compete.
But it’s a very different picture when Christianity is about relationship and when the things we do are the result of Jesus’ call over our lives and the desires he has placed in our hearts. Friends, if we are purposeful about staying with Jesus throughout our day, practicing an ongoing awareness of his presence, we will act out the identity he has given us and discover that we are bringing healing and reconciliation to the world in ways we might have never imagined before. And, if we are purposeful about staying with Jesus throughout our day, practicing an ongoing awareness of his presence, we’ll discover the joy of finding that for which we seek because Jesus is the who, the what and the why of our life’s deepest seeking.
Now, I’m aware that a sermon doesn’t do much good if we don’t have any idea what to do with it. And you may be sitting there wondering “what does it mean to be more aware of Jesus’ presence and how might that happen?” So, as I close my sermon this morning, let me give you just a couple examples of ways I practice awareness of Jesus’ presence with me… Although first let me say, I’m not 100% successful at it. We live in a world of multi-tasking distractions and that cannot help but impact our relationships – with God and with other people. I was speaking with friends a couple weeks ago and we remarked about the fact that often in conversation we recognize that, as someone else is speaking to us, we are already formulating our response and we can’t do both of those things well simultaneously, right? So, as Christians, we have become acculturated to inattentiveness and it is hard to give our focused attention to anyone, even Jesus.
So here are a couple things I do to help keep me mindful of Jesus’ presence with me throughout the day:
First, I can recognize when I’ve not been doing it because I become more impatient and more easily frustrated and discouraged. So then, I develop a tiny prayer that I say in the morning and repeat throughout the day. Something simple like: “Lord, give me patience and peace.” Sometimes – now this won’t help you guys – I will put on a bracelet; something I don’t normally wear as a visual reminder throughout the day.
Here’s another way I practice awareness of God’s presence that I’ve begun recently. In the morning, I take some time to breathe deeply and close my eyes and I see in my mind someone I love… perhaps someone I’m worried about and I pray very simply: Jesus, show your peace, show your love, show your kindness. Then, I see in my mind someone I’m struggling with; I’m frustrated with them or irritated by them and I pray the same: Jesus, show your peace, show your love, show your kindness. And I end by praying that for myself. Then, as I encounter those people throughout my day, I can recollect that time I took that morning to bring us both into God’s presence with that prayer for peace and love and kindness and I become more mindful that Jesus is there in our midst blessing us both with his peace, his love and his kindness.
Friends, come and see and stay with Jesus; abide in his presence for he is the who, the what and the why that answers our deepest seeking.
[i] The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making by Elizabeth Liebert; Westminster John Knox Press; 2008; p. 23
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