Pentecost: A New Community

—If you know the title and artist of this work please let me know so I may give proper credit.

—If you know the title and artist of this work please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Acts 2:41-47 NRSV
So those who welcomed [Peter’s message on Pentecost] were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Pentecost wasn’t over when it was over. The people did not scatter after church at noonday. It was not back to the same old thing. They became a new people, a new family, a committed band of new disciples.
– Theodore F. Schneider, The Overlooked Miracle

What was important, even essential to the early church born at Pentecost?

  • Baptism
  • The apostles’ teaching (God’s Holy Word, the Bible)
  • Fellowship (living with one another in intentional community, as one wise person said, “There are no solitary Christians.”)
  • Breaking of bread (Holy Communion, Eucharist)
  • Prayer
  • Wonders and signs (acts of risk taking mission and service in Jesus’ Name, accomplishing far more than human effort could explain)
  • All things in common (extravagant generosity in sharing and meeting needs)
  • Time together in the temple (worship)
  • Broke bread at home (more fellowship)

The fruit of following Jesus in this manner was glad and generous hearts, God’s praise, the goodwill of the community and the surrounding community, and the growth of God’s church through people coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. We need look no further for a model to follow in our present age. – Lisa Degrenia <><

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ― Brennan Manning

You can survive on your own
You can grow strong on your own
You can prevail on your own
but you cannot become human on your own.
– Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey

Community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own (see Philippians 2:4).
Henri Nouwen

Philippians 2:1-4 NRSV
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Extended quote from Prodigal Brothers by Steve Garnaas-Holmes (Luke 15:11-32)
The failure of our love—distancing ourselves from God and one another— is at the heart of our sin. In our self-centeredness we break our family bond with God and with others, as if we’re not related. It is not just of our disobedience that we repent, but of our distance, our refusing to get close to God and to others, including those whom we judge.

The good news is that in the end we are unable to break that bond. Despite our attempt to disown God and each other, God stays related to us and keeps us related to each other. The father puts a ring on the younger brother’s finger—a symbol of family. And he corrects the older brother and calls the younger one “this brother of yours.” Despite their failures he invites them both in to the party.

The righteousness that we need is not obedience. It’s a loving relationship—and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God. In repentance we pray toward both God and neighbor, “I am not on my own. I am yours.”

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Click here for more quotes and scriptures on the theme of community in Christ.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Pentecost: Wind and Flame

Pentecost by Jacqui (aka Purple-whirlpool)

Acts 2:1-4 (NRSV)
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ― Brennan Manning 

The Jewish day of Pentecost celebrated the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. The story in the book of Exodus of the giving of the law is marked by characteristic Baal imagery: God appears on top of a mountain, with thunder, lightning, cloud, and earthquake. Exodus 19:19 says that when Moses talked to God, “God would answer him in thunder.” So in Acts 2 God arrives in “a sound like the rush of a violent wind,” and fire appears, not on the top of a holy mountain, but on the top of each believer’s head.
Gail Ramshaw, Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary

Psalm 104:4 (NCV)
You make the winds your messengers, and flames of fire are your servants.

Make us like the wind– ever-moving and ever moving others. And with joy we will dance with the leaves. In submission we will linger in the shade, cooling the skin of those scorched by the sun’s heat. In awe we will pause and be still enough to hover over creation, admiring your world and waiting for your command. And when you move us, we will fly with more strength, reminding people that you are present even in times when you may seem invisible. Breathe into our souls, Lord, and make us like the wind, like your Holy Spirit – in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
–Ciona D. Rouse, Africana Worship Book, Year A

I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. I claim the Methodist and the Baptist as mine and I claim everybody that loves Jesus Christ as mine; but I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. Men and women of all generations and everywhere that love the savior until ‘adoration’ has become the new word and they do not have to be entertained or amused. This Christ was everything. He was their all in all  . . . I am looking for men and women who are lost in worship, those who love God until he is the sweetheart of the soul. ~ A. W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity

When we are spiritually malnourished, we are more likely to fuel our faith with gasoline than with God. The growth of spiritual renewal movements like Walk to Emmaus and Cursillo testifies to our desire to catch fire, but whether or not we have adequate fuel to keep the fire going under our faith remains an open question. We mean to tend our souls, to stay alert to God’s presence, and to be open to God’s direction for our lives. But in practice, instead of seeking the brush that provides soul tinder, we find ourselves trying to light sequoias with a match.– Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry

As the author tells the story, the Spirit came upon the community with the sound of a “rushing wind” and with “tongues of fire” resting on each of them. In the Hebrew Bible, “wind” and “fire” are both associated with the presence of God. In Hebrew, the same word means both “wind” and “spirit,” as in the creation story where the divine wind (or spirit) moves over the primordial waters (Genesis 1:2). So also fire is an image for the divine presence, famously in the story of Moses and the bush that burned without being consumed (Exodus 3:1-6). As it was at the beginning of creation and in the history of Israel, the Spirit of God was again at work creating the new community of the church.
– Marcus Borg, Pentecost and Babble/Babel

I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame,
I will set a feast for them, My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide, till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them. Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go, Lord. If You lead me.
I will hold, your people in my heart.
verse 3 and chorus of Here I am, Lord by Dan Schutte

In mystical progression, Pentecost is the analogue for the union of the soul with God. I think it is impossible to approach Pentecost without a sense of dread. The conferring of the Holy Spirit is the same motion as the commissioning as Apostles. We are “sent” with the Good News to the “ends of the earth” as bearers of Good News. But Good News is real change, and change is dangerous, and often not received well, as tradition illustrates.- Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure Blog

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
– from Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot

Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire,
Make my life a witness of Thy saving pow’r.
Millions grope in darkness, waiting for Thy Word,
Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire.
– Gene Barlett

Jesus is no longer with his disciples. He is risen. But his absence is not an emptiness. On the contrary, his departure has created the space in which his followers can receive the fullness of the Spirit. – Henri Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord

Living God, Holy Inferno
Living God
Holy Inferno
Who revealed yourself as
Burning Bush
Pillar of Flame
Dancing Tongues of Fire
Illumine your children, that we may discern your will
Refine your children, till our lives burn with love for doing your will
Purify your children, so we may endure to the day of your coming.
We ask this in the name of the one who is perfect light, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen

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Click here for more excellent work by today’s featured graphic artist, Jacqui of the United Kingdom. (aka purple-whirlpool)

Living God, Holy Inferno © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

7 Letters of Revelation: Remain True to My Name

Jesus Christ is Lord by Thomas Hawk

Jesus Christ is Lord by Thomas Hawk

Revelation 2:12-17 NIV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”

Jesus Christ is Lord – the first and oldest affirmation made by persons claiming to be Christ followers. His very name brings together the fullness of who He is and what He has done for the world.

  • Jesus: Jesus of Nazaraeth, who lived in a specific time and place, fully human, who understands our brokenness and frailty firsthand, the Word of God made flesh, God incarnate
  • Christ: the Anointed One, the long promised Messiah, who died on a cross and rose again for the salvation of the world
  • Lord: fully divine, eternal and all powerful, King of kings, due all honor and glory and reverence

Jesus is fully human and fully divine, Lord and Savior of the world, the Leader and Forgiver of all who claim his name. – Lisa Degrenia <><

The guarding of the truth of the gospel is a major concern of Jesus Christ. He is not only anxious that we should love him, and that we should suffer bravely for him, but also that we should believe in him and hold fast the truth about him…. If Jesus is the divine Lord, we must submit to him as our Lord. If he is the divine Savior, we must trust in him as our Savior. This personal appropriation of Jesus Christ is essential. – John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

1 Timothy 2:3-6a NRSV
This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all.

Philippians 2:5-11 NRSV
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Unless Jesus is Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. – S. M. Zwemer

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Ephesians 4:14-15 NRSV
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

Hebrews 4:12 NRSV
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Prayer for Christ’s Sharp Sword
Risen Christ, Word Make Flesh,
Wield your sharp sword of saving truth
Wield it for our good
Prick our conscience
Wound our deceiving pride
Cut away our camouflage
Pierce our defenses
Lay bear our homegrown truth
Our sin
Our brokenness
Our need of you
With your Living Word, sever all that is destructive within us
Slay all falsehood- in doctrine, in worship, in living
Open us to the Truth that is you,
So we may be healed in body, mind, and spirit,
So we may be whole and holy,
So we may faithfully, gracefully, share what we have received
So our war torn world might also know your truth, love and peace.
Amen.

Click here for a powerful and personal reflection on this theme as found in John 14:23-29 by Steve Harper.

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This is the third of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

Click here for the terrific Flickr photostream of today’s featured artist, Thomas Hawk

Prayer for Christ’s Sharp Sword © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

7 Letters of Revelation: Suffering for Christ

Persecuted Prayer by Luke Flowers

Revelation 2:8-11 NRSV
The Risen Christ says, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.”

If the first mark of a true and living church is love, the second is suffering. The one is naturally consequent on the other. A willingness to suffer proves the genuineness of love. We are willing to suffer for those we love. Evidently Christians in Smyrna had not lost their pristine love for Christ, as had the Christians in Ephesus, for they were prepared to suffer for him.
– John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

Religion is largely populated by people afraid of hell; spirituality begins to make sense to those who have been through hell—that is, who have drunk deeply of life’s difficulties. Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

Wesley Covenant Prayer
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Matthew 5:10-12 NRSV
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

John 15:18-20a NRSV
During the Last Supper, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. – Dietrich Bonheoffer

Where are the marks of the cross in your life?
Are there any points of identification with your Lord?
Alas, too many Christians wear medals but carry no scars.
– Vance Havner

When we try to live in solidarity with the pain of the world—and do not spend our lives running from necessary suffering—we will surely encounter various forms of “crucifixion.” Many say pain is merely physical discomfort, but suffering comes from our resistance to, denial of, and our sense of injustice or wrongness about that pain. This is the core meaning of suffering on one level or another, and we all learn it the hard way. As others have said, pain is the rent we pay for being human, but suffering is to some degree optional. The cross was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with all the pain of the world. Deep reflection on this mystery can change your whole life. – Richard Rohr, Holding the Darkness

1 Peter 2:20-23 NRSV
If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

Prayer for Suffering
Risen Christ, Humble Jesus, so many of your children suffer as you suffered- beaten, imprisoned, enslaved, separated from friends and family, cut down at the prime of life. They sacrifice far beyond what we can imagine, all for the love of you. Bless and protect them, Mighty One. Encourage them and provide for them. Fill them with your strength and power. Remind them that they are not forgotten by us and not forgotten by you.

Through their witness and your Word, move us to follow you as fully and as deeply. Awaken us from false understandings and false security. Rouse us from apathy and compromise. Forgive us for choosing comfort over commitment. Free us from fear, imagined and real. Free us and renew a right spirit within us- a courageous spirit, a sacrificial spirit born from true love of you. Free us and use us for your glory. Amen.

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This is the second of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

Click here, for more terrific work by today’s featured artist, Luke Flowers.

Click here for another reflection on suffering entitled God will wipe away every tear by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

Prayer for Suffering © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page

Prayer for Violent Times

Photo by John Tlumacki/Globe Staff following the Boston Marathon explosions

Psalm 46:1 NRSV
God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble.

God our Refuge, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They run to lonesome places, screaming an alarm
Calm our hearts so we can find you above the fear

God our Strength, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They race to revenge, pounding with anger
Calm our hearts so we can hear you above the hammering

God our Help, calm our hearts when evil abounds
They rush to human strength, grasping for control
Calm our hearts so we can hold to your way, your truth, and your life

Calm our hearts, so they may beat in unison with yours
So healing may flow over bodies and spirits broken by the chaos
So hope may fill families and communities devastated by violence
So compassion and peace and unity may rise up among all people

God our Strength, our Refuge, our Help
We entrust our lives to you. Amen.

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Click here for an incredibly beautiful and powerful reflection on the Boston Marathon Bombings entitled Marathon Kindness by Steve Garnaas Holmes

Prayer for Violent Times © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Worship Resources for Earth Day, April 22

Praise in Bloom by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Every year, thousands of people gather on April 22 to celebrate Earth Day. May these resources draw you closer to the One who is Maker of Heaven and Earth and inspire you to better care for the wondrous world we share. – Lisa <><

Prayer for Earth Day
A short, simple prayer

Morning Prayer by Steve Garnaas Holmes
A joyful prayer incorporating images of sunrise and nature. Reminds me of All Creatures of Our God and King by Francis of Assisi.

The Story That Defines Us
A rich theological reflection by Richard Rohr on the Biblical creation story compared to another creation story of the ancient world.

Protecting the Earth 
A collection of scriptures and quotes with a link to a nine day creation themed prayer cycle

Creation Praise
A short reflection on the Christian understanding of creation care followed by a prayer combining scripture and song

Creation Praise 2
Another prayer combining scripture and song

Prayer Litany for Thanksgiving
Originally designed for Thanksgiving celebrations, this combination of prayer, reflection, and song also works well for Earth Day.

God Who Brings the Cleansing Rain
an original hymn text which may be sung or spoken

Bless Christ, Through Whom All Things are Made
an original hymn text which may be sung or spoken

Psalms of Nature: A Reflection on Psalm 148

Psalms to God’s Glory: A Reflection on Psalm 19

You are welcome to use any of these works in a private or public worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish any of these works in any form.

7 Letters of Revelation: Make God Your First Love

Revelation 2:1-7 NRSV
The Risen Christ says, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.”

What a splendid church the Christian community in Ephesus seemed to be! It appeared to be a model church in every way. Its members were busy in their service, patient in their sufferings, and orthodox in their belief. What more could be asked of them? Only one thing was lacking… Love, then, is the first mark of a true and living church. Indeed, it is not a living church at all unless it is a loving church. The Christian life is essentially a love-relationship to Jesus Christ. “Jesus captured me,” wrote Wilson Carlile, founder and “chief” of the Church Army. “For me to know Jesus is a love affair.” – John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church: an Exposition of Revelation 1-3

The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian. ― Brennan Manning

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NRSV
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you.
And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there,
and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made.
You were with me, and I was not with you.
The lovely things kept me far from you,
though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all.
You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness.
You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness.
You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you.
I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.
– St. Augustine, Confessions

Deuteronomy 30:6 NRSV
Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.

God of Life, your risen Son has gathered us into the church, nourished us with his body and blood, and poured out upon us your Holy Spirit. Grant that we may receive the blessing of your grace, so that we may love you with all our hearts, and gladly feed your sheep on the name of Christ. Amen. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes

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This is the first of seven posts based on themes from Revelation chapters 2-3. In these scriptures, Jesus reveals the timeless message of what His church should look like.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page