Lectio Divina Paci – October 20, 2014

Monday, October 20th

for Sunday, October 26th, 20th Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Psalm 90.1-6, 13-17 “dwelling place”

REFLECT: When I first began to read and pray through this passage, “dwelling place” caught my attention. At first I thought of a dwelling as a home. But as I sat with it, I began to think of “dwell” as meditating or thinking on something. I was surprised when an image of a dog chasing its tail came to mind. So I asked God, “what is it that I am dwelling on or obsessing over, that I will never see the end of, that I will never solve? From what endless cycle am I longing to break free?”

As I continued to read and pray, the word “morning” also rose to my attention, appearing several times. As a morning person myself, I identified with the blade of grass in verses 5 and 6 — I am renewed in the morning and wither in the evening. When I was younger, this cycle worried me. I would start to feel anxious and depressed at night, which only kept me awake longer. Now when I begin to feel this way, I simply know that I need to go to sleep and that I will feel better in the morning.

Staying with that image of the blade of grass, I thought of the way in which dew settling on grass during the night will bead up and glide down the blade, down to its very roots, so that it can “flourish” and be “renewed.”

And that was both the question and the answer: how can I flourish when I feel like I am withering? How can I be renewed in this world that is always consuming, always demanding, always ringing and dinging and filled with the blue light of technology that we don’t know how we ever lived without?

What do I find myself dwelling on? Honestly — it’s the idea of a vacation. But of course, I always come back to my life and my self, just as I left them. For me, the challenge is to funnel those beads of dew, to cultivate those moments of refreshment every day. Only then can I escape the whirlwind and have the life that I want, and not just temporarily while on vacation.

RESPOND: God, sometimes I feel like I just want to escape, to run away and leave all of the stress and frustration of my daily life behind me. When I’m feeling this way, obsessing over the idea of escape, help me to remember that blade of grass. Help me to pay attention to those beads of dew that you have already sprinkled throughout my day, to notice them and collect them so that I can draw on their sustaining power when I am withering.

What do you find yourself thinking about constantly? On what are you dwelling? Ask God to show you the deeper need behind the obsession, and how to truly satisfy it rather than endlessly chasing your own tail.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Leviticus 19.1-2, 15-18

1 Thessalonians 2.1-8

Matthew 22.34-46

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide by Audrey Hindes for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Lectio Divina Paci – October 13, 2014

Monday, October 13th

for Sunday, October 19th, 19th Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Psalm 99 “quake”

REFLECT: Maybe it’s just because I’m a homesick Californian, but the word “quake” stood out to me on my first reading of this psalm. Actually, “stood out” seems a bit strong; it was more of an inner, momentary ripple.

As I began to chew on “quake,” my mind went to the geological. I thought of the shifting of big plates under the earth’s crust. I thought of the engineering of buildings and bridges to sway with an earthquake, making them safer, more structurally sound, able to ride it out.

As I continued to read, a new image of a surfer came up, now cresting a wave, now riding through the barrel of it. In touch with the present moment, able to sense when the wave will break and come to an end.

I wondered about both of these images and put them into conversation with one another: both nimble, flexible, able to sense and adjust to the movement and change beneath them.

RESPOND: God, it seems that life is always changing. Just when I start to get a hold on my present situation and circumstances, something changes. It can be maddening. Give me the grace to be open to the new places where you are leading me, and the courage to go there willingly.

How in tune are you with your own inner stirrings and deep shiftings? What low rumblings have you been neglecting or ignoring? Ask God to look with you as you explore those places within yourself.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Isaiah 45.1-7

1Thessalonians 1.1-10

Matthew 22.15-22

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide by Audrey Hindes for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Lectio Divina Paci – October 6, 2014

Monday, October 6th

for Sunday, October 12th, 18th Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Psalm 106.1-6, 19-23 “stood in the breach”

REFLECT: Not too long ago, it was trendy to talk about “standing in the gap.” You heard about it everywhere. It was a call to action — you be the one. Stop waiting for someone else to do it. The problem with these kinds of proverbial admonitions is that they don’t apply to all people at all times. One must exercise a degree of discernment, be in touch with one’s own heart and mind. Another such phrase is to “step out of your comfort zone.” Again, a good challenge for some, but not for others. Let me explain:

In one person, these can be empowering and encouraging maxims. Such a person might be on the cusp of a spiritual growth spurt, ready to exercise some agency and leadership, waiting for an invitation to participate. But in another person, the exhortation to do more can be harmful, destructive, even. This is the person already stretched too far, the person who has faithfully been holding programs, institutions and relationships together. To tell this person to get out of their comfort zone misses the point.

As I continued reading and mulling over the word “breach”, Donna Kate Rushin’s “The Bridge Poem” came to mind. If you’ve never read this poem, you can find it with a simple internet search. It is a poignant example of the unjust, unrealistic expectations of asking someone else to “stand in the breach” or to be the bridge. And it is a beautiful example of someone saying “enough” and setting some much needed boundaries.

Sometimes we’re holding things together that are sick or dysfunctional. In such cases it is better to get out of the gap and let that sickness come to light. It may be that the time for that thing — that institution, that movement, that event — has passed. It may be time for others to stand in the breach, but they can’t get in there if you’re standing in the way.

RESPOND: Lord, help us to be humble and get out of the way, to be discerning about how we rely on others, and to be courageous when it’s time for us to step up.

Think about the people in your life at work, at home, at church, at school. Is there a person who stands out to you as being overstretched? Is there something you can do, no matter how small, that can alleviate their burden? Are you the one who could use some help? What small thing can you relinquish to someone who may be waiting for an opportunity? Standing “in the breach” does not have to be something that changes the course of history, but it can provide real relief and space to breathe.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Isaiah 25.1-9

Philippians 4.1-9

Matthew 22.1-14

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide by Audrey Hindes for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Lectio Divina Paci – September 29, 2014

Monday, September 29

for Sunday, October 5th, 17th Sunday after Pentecost

READ: Psalm 19 “the heavens are telling the glory of God”

REFLECT: A few weeks ago I witnessed a glorious sunset, something we don’t get to see much living “inside the perimeter” of Atlanta. We were coming back down from the north Georgia mountains after a day of fly fishing on the Toccoa River. It was a great day, but it was also stressful, annoying, frustrating and disappointing — not something easily captured in a Facebook post.

After our office’s busiest time of the year, I had been looking forward to getting out of town. I needed to get away. The first few lines of this psalm resonate deeply with me. I feel more connected with God when I’m out in nature than I do almost anywhere else.

A lot of other people also had in mind to spend the day on the Toccoa, most of them floating by on rented, brightly colored inner tubes. Some folks drifted by quietly; others went by screaming and splashing. The more people I saw, the more angry I became. At one point, I sat down on the bank in frustration and said to God, “alright, what are you trying to teach me now?” But there was no response. It was more of a demand than a question and I wasn’t in the mood to listen anyway.

Reading through this psalm again, the word “insolent” caught my attention. That’s exactly how I would characterize those tubers! But the rest of the phrase challenged my self-righteous gloating: “do not let them have dominion over me.” I had allowed them to ruin my day, one by one. I refused to let them go and just float by. Instead I collected them all up and held them angrily in my heart.

RESPOND: God, help me to realize when I’m doing this — when I’m holding on to things rather than letting them float on by. Forgive me for my arrogance and sense of entitlement when I am offended that things don’t go my way.

What kinds of things are you holding on to, that you are collecting and counting in your heart? Does holding on to them really allow you to be in control, or do those things end up controlling you? Think about a recent time when this happened. How did you experience it physically? Did your heart race, your mind cloud, or your breath become shallow? Instead of denying these sensations, try letting them serve as a warning flag that you need to let go.

LECTIONARY TEXTS FOR THE UPCOMING SUNDAY (and for you to try on your own):

Isaiah 5.1-7

Philippians 3.4b-14

Matthew 21.33-46

 

Lectio Divina Paci is a weekly devotional guide by Audrey Hindes for peacemakers in the lectio divina form. Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scripture reading, prayer, meditation, and reflection that treats scripture as the Living Word. Lectio Divina Paci is an opportunity for peacemakers to become more in tune with the voice of the Prince of Peace.

Editor’s Note – Voice of one nation to another

Keith 1Friends;

This month our writers reflect upon what it means to be a citizen of an earthly nation as well as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Our allegiance is to the latter of course though we are called to speak to the powers that be as advocates for justice and peace, especially when the decisions of the nation run contrary to Kingdom values. May we always be ready to give voice to the hope found in Jesus the Christ.

Blessings and Shalom

Keith

The Conspiracy of the Nations

by Berry Friesen

Berry f

“Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain” (Psalm 2:1)?

The psalmist answers his own question.  “The kings of the earth . . . and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder and cast their cords from us’” (Psalm 2:2-3).

These words come to mind as we reflect on the recent escalation of the war in Syria and Iraq through air attacks by western forces.  This escalation has long been plotted by the nations.  In September 2013, the US plan to bomb Syria was put on hold because of public opposition.  “Why should we provide an air force for al-Qaeda?” people said.  President Obama had no answer, but now he does:  the Islamic State.

The psalmist speaks of conspiracies that enable kings to overcome resistance to their plots.  He speaks of secret counsels to find ways to tear apart the arguments against war and overcome the restraints of international law and moral legitimacy.

Apparently, the kings of our time have succeeded in Syria.  Now, just one year after the people’s success in stopping the US bombing of Syria, we see little opposition and the bombing has begun. Everywhere we look, we hear reports on the atrocities committed by the Islamic State and read accounts of how the nations must do something to destroy it.  Even voices that usually speak for peace seem flummoxed.

What can those who are committed to peace say in the face of something as horrible as the Islamic State?

There is much we can say.  But to say it, we must first confront a very specific fear that keeps us silent: we will be called “conspiracy nuts.”  That is a mighty sword in the hands of kings.  We fear it more than nearly anything for it will cause our friends and neighbors to avoid us and shut their ears to our voices.

There is ample evidence that the kings of the earth created the Islamic State. The funding for its fighters, their freedom of movement across international borders into Syria, their sophisticated weaponry and their training in how to use it, their access to military intelligence about Syrian and Iraqi forces, their efficient command structure, their access to Western media to distribute propaganda and agitprop–all of this has been provided by members of the US–led alliance.

No, we will not hear confirmation of this on National Public Radio (NPR) or read of it in the New York Times; those media outlets have become integral parts of the public relations structure of the ruling powers.  But when we sift through news article over the past few years and consider how the Islamic State came into existence in such a miraculous and “unexpected” way while under the 24/7 surveillance by satellites and drones, we can only conclude that the Islamic State is the result of a conspiracy of the US and its allies.

As I write, my radio is broadcasting a report from NPR in which Syrian President Assad is blamed for the emergence of the Islamic State.  It’s an Assad conspiracy, NPR wants us to think, and a legitimate use of the term since it is pointed at someone it wants us to hate.

The Apostle Paul can help us get past this regime of deception and our fear of being labelled “conspiracy nuts.”  In his very first letter, Paul reminded the believers in the assemblies of Galatia that “the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age” (Gal.1:3-4). In a subsequent letter to the believers in Colossae, he again linked the salvation we have received in Jesus Christ with our rescue from “the power of darkness.” (Colossians 1:13).  And when writing to the believers in Rome, he attributed our bondage to sin to “the exchange of the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1”25).

Paul’s candid assessment of empire’s ways matches the psalmist’s view.  But we are slow to be convinced; we still prefer to think the empire’s leaders are well-intentioned and that when a bombing campaign is derailed (as it was just a year ago), the powerful accept the rebuke and change direction.

What is the point of challenging the popular story of how the Islamic State so suddenly emerged out of the desert to threaten the world?  It is the moral power of the story that justifies the expansion of the war. If the story remains unchallenged, then the violent plan will proceed.  If the deceptiveness of the story enters popular conversation, then implementation of the plan will stop.

So we have a choice:  join the psalmist and talk openly about the conspiracy of kings, or preserve our reputations and watch the violence escalate.  What would Jesus do?

Peace on the Hill: Rejoice in Hope

Patricia PS

By Patricia Kisare

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

How does one find hope in this increasingly unjust world? How do you stay motivated in your work? These are probably the most frequently asked questions that I hear when talking with church members.

Sometimes the injustice we see in our communities (and beyond) pushes us to want to do something. But other times, situations can seem so dire and paralyzing that they leave us with feelings of hopelessness.

In my advocacy work I have felt both.

As is the case in any peacebuilding work, changing systems that perpetuate injustice requires persistence and resilience. But I am also inspired and energized as I see the tremendous work being done by many of Mennonite Central Committee’s partners around the world.

This past summer I had the opportunity to visit Beza Community Development Association, one of MCC’s partners in Ethiopia. In 2007, Beza began an outreach program to people living around Entoto Mountain, located just outside of Addis Ababa. The majority of people living in this area are HIV positive. They move to Mount Entoto because they believe a spring there has holy water that can heal them.

The lack of adequate shelter, jobs and social services provide a big challenge for this isolated community. In response to these needs, Beza established various programs to help improve the lives of the people living in the Entoto Mountain community.

With support from MCC, Beza provides vocational training, counseling and tutoring services to many of these families. Most of this work is done by young volunteers from universities in Addis Ababa, who are motivated by their faith and desire to serve their communities. Furthermore, participants receive health care services, including free antiretroviral medications provided through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Beza is only one of many local organizations doing remarkable work to improve the lives of those in desperate need. From Guatemala to eastern Congo, similar works abound thousandfold. The efforts of these local staff and volunteers build hope in the communities they serve and help to inspire the work of building a just world.

Peace on the Hill is a monthly column in PeaceSigns written by staff of the MCC Washington Office highlighting congressional developments and detailing ways the church can continue to be engaged in the work of peace and advocacy.