Holding Together Ascension, Pentecost, and Powerful Calls

flame-symbolAscension is here and Pentecost is close at hand….

Consider Acts 1:1-11 (The Ascension text) next to Acts 2 (The Pentecost Text) next to Isaiah 6:1-8 (The Call of Isaiah) next to Romans 12:1-2 (The renewal of our mind in Christ). Wow!

Holy Holy Holy… Mystery… Fire… Confusion… Presence…. Purpose … Empowerment…
Grace greater than all our fears and limitations. – Lisa <><

God,
my small mind,
my little sparrow of fear
believes I am not good enough
to bear your love into this world,
to be the one to shine with your flame,
to carry your flowers,
to speak your Word.

Burn up that little mind
in the blaze of your love.
Let your whole heaven of beauty
sweep me away.
Kiss me with your fierce glory
and I melt,
smitten, molten,
my lips still burning,
my guts still aflutter.

Newly made, I know myself anew—
not by my falterings,
but by your flame in me.
I find myself not in my fear
but in your love.
Here am I.
I want to be there
as you kiss the world.
Send me.

~ Steve Garnaas-Holmes

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Be sure to check out Steve Garnaas-Holmes’ most excellent blog, Unfolding Light, for more wonderful poetry and devotions.

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Extending Blessing (Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV)

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

detail from the Hagia Sophia mosaic of Christ

For this reason I kneel before the Father,
From whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

Blessing begins with reverence
A reverence for our Wondrous God
Who bends low to welcome us
Birthing us through water and Spirit
Naming us and claiming us beloved and blessed
Who not only welcomes us but welcomes all
Knitting us together in the Body
Miraculous
Strangers becoming brothers and sisters
A family far beyond class, clan and culture
Far beyond what we could ask or imagine

I pray that out of his glorious riches
He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

From an incalculable treasure of grace upon grace
God pours out strength
Not as the world gives
Not with obvious outward displays
But hidden in the very depths of our frailty
God pours and floods with blood and breath
The very power of life
Driven and danced by Holy Spirit
That we may find our true home in Christ
Our true self in Christ

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
May have power, together with all the saints,
To grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
And to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

This power
This companionship
This indescribable, priceless love of Christ
This is the blessing
Infinitely wide and long and high
Poured forth and driven deep
All the way down to the roots- our vines anchored in God’s grace
Rooted and Established- tilled till all the wild branches embrace
and the sweet fruit overflows the cups of justice and joy

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
According to his power that is at work within us,
To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
Throughout all generations, forever and ever!

Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our lips in blessing
With power to make new
Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our hands in blessing
With power to make whole
Glory be to the Blessed One
Opening our hearts in blessing
That the grace poured in by Christ
Would overflow
Generation to generation to generation
An endless procession
To all, in all and through all

Amen.

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Extending Blessing © 2014 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.

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Church as Communion of Saints, Cloud of Witnesses

cloud-of-witnesses

If you know the name of this work or the artist please let me know so I may give proper credit.

Hebrews 11:32-12:2 NRSV
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

The saint is precisely one who has no “I” to protect or project. His or her “I” is in conscious union with the “I AM” of God, and that is more than enough. Divine union overrides any need for self-hatred or self-promotion. Such people do not need to be perfectly right, and they know they cannot be anyway, so they just try to be in right relationship. In other words, they try above all else to be loving. – Richard Rohr

Saints do not possess an extra layer of muscle. They are not taller, and they do not sport superior IQs. They are not richer, and their parents are not more clever than yours or mine. They have no bat-like perception that enables them to fly in the dark. They are flesh and blood, just like you and me, no stronger, no more intelligent. And that is the point. They simply offer themselves to God, knowing they are not the elite, fully cognizant that they are inadequate to the task, that their abilities are limited and fallible.
– James C. Howell, Servants, Misfits, and Martyrs

Authentic Christianity is an intensely personal matter, for the living Christ invades us at the core of our beings. But it is never a private affair just between us and God. The broader Christian community provides the means of support to stay on the road and the corrective against going down our own paths of self-obsession and sometimes self-destruction. – Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, The Godbearing Life

Loving the Church often seems close to impossible. Still, we must keep reminding ourselves that all people in the Church – whether powerful or powerless, conservative or progressive, tolerant or fanatic – belong to that long line of witnesses moving through this valley of tears, singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, listening to the voice of their Lord, and eating together from the bread that keeps multiplying as it is shared. When we remember that, we may be able to say, “I love the Church, and I am glad to belong to it….Loving the Church is our sacred duty. Without a true love for the Church, we cannot live in it in joy and peace. And without a true love for the Church, we cannot call people to it. – Henri Nouwen

What we celebrate when we celebrate All Saints is not the superhuman faith and power of a select few but is God’s ability to use flawed people to do divine things. We celebrate all on whom God has acted in baptism, sealing them, as Ephesians says, with the mark of the promised Holy Spirit. We celebrate the fact that God creates faith in God’s people, and those people through ordinary acts of love, bring the Kingdom of Heaven closer to Earth. We celebrate that we have, in all who’ve gone before us, what St Paul calls such a great cloud of witnesses and that the faithful departed are as much the body of Christ as we are.
Nadia Bolz Weber, Sermon for All Saints Sunday: Small Acts of Love

Every now and then, something special happened, and my children asked questions about the saints and their work. We talked about racism and slavery in the United States when we remembered Absalom Jones and later Frederick Douglass. We talked about how sometimes people are killed for what they believe and for standing up for the poor and the oppressed when we remembered Polycarp. We talked about standing up for oneself and for others, even when the powerful disagree with you, when we remembered Martin Luther. We talked about poets, and teachers, and priests, and prophets modern and ancient. We talked about the women and men who lived holy lives. We learned about Christianity together, not through repetition of doctrine or theology or Christology but through seeing it in practice by people like us, our brothers and sisters in faith from all over the world. – David Henson, The Patron Saint of Poop: How My Kids Fell in Love with the Saints

You are witnesses of these things by Lena Warren
… Witnesses.
That’s an interesting designation.
a witness sees something, experiences something.

It’s kind of a passive thing, being a witness.
Something happens and you simply observe it. And that makes you a witness

Yet, we don’t tend to leave it like that.
We tend to think of one being a witness as someone who
is compelled to speak about the witnessing
and more than compelled to speak
to testify
to make claims
to have had the experience of simply observing change one’s life.

Witnesses.

The Greek word for witness is the same root word from which we get martyr.

One whose life bears witness
One whose life is changed by witnessing
and whose life is given to witnessing.

You are witnesses…

It’s as much a promise – of transformation that we have simply in seeing God at work

as it is an obligation
a call, a command,
a need placed on our hearts
first of all, to just simply notice what is happening
and then
to tell SOMEBODY what we’ve seen
what has changed us
what has made us new.
witnesses.

You are witnesses…

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Quotes: When Temptation Wins

rooster cock crowRomans 7:15-20 (The Message)
What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.
– C.S. Lewis

Pale sunlight, pale the wall.
Love moves away, the light changes.
I need more grace than I thought. -Rumi

Everybody is tempted. It is a myth that says you’re going to get to a point in your spiritual life where you’re not tempted. In fact, the more mature you become, the more Satan is going to put you on his “most wanted” list. If we were more consistent in confessing our temptations, we wouldn’t have to confess our sins.- Rick Warren

Extended Quote Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr
As Paul taught, “The angels of darkness must disguise themselves as angels of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Any idealized persona does not choose to see evil in itself, so it always disguises it as good. The shadow self invariably presents its own selfishness as something like prudence, common sense, justice, or “I am doing this for your good,” when it is actually manifesting fear, control, manipulation, or even vengeance. (The name Lucifer literally means the “light bearer.” The evil one always makes darkness look like light—and makes light look like darkness.)

Invariably when something upsets you, and you have a strong emotional reaction out of proportion to the moment, your shadow self has just been exposed. So watch for any overreactions or over-denials in yourself. When you notice them, the cock has just crowed (Mark 14:68)!

The reason that a mature or saintly person can be so peaceful, so accepting of self and others, is that there is not much hidden shadow self left. (There is always and forever a little more, however! No exceptions. Shadow work never stops.) The denied and disguised self takes so much energy to face, awaken, and transform that normally you have little energy left to project your fear, anger, or unlived life onto others.

I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul,
to the deep emotional self
and the wounds to the soul
take a long,
long time,
only time can help and patience,
and a certain difficult repentance,
long difficult repentance,
realizations of life’s mistake,
and the freeing oneself
from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.
-D.H. Lawrence, Healing

If leaf trash chokes the stream-bed, reach for rock-bottom as you rake the muck out.
– Marie Ponsot, Springing: New and Select Poems

Extended quote by Steve Garnaas Holmes from Neither good nor bad
“Sin” is not that we’re bad people.
It’s that we don’t know how to love perfectly,
even when we try.
We’re playing hard for the home team
but keep accidentally scoring for the opponents.
In the war between good and evil
we’re on the right side,
but we keep shooting our own with friendly fire.
God understands, and forgives us.
God delivers us from the hopeless battle:
we are neither “good” nor “bad;”
we are beloved.
When we let that grace course through our veins,
let that love move through our bodies,
become the bodies of that spirit,
then it is God who lives in us,
who loves perfectly through us.

When Trouble Comes, What Kind Is It?
Author Unknown
The Scriptures speak of three kinds of “trouble” for the believer:
1) Discipline, judgment, or rebuke from the Lord;
2) tests, trials, persecutions, suffering; and
3) temptations or attacks from Satan.

So when trouble comes, what type is it?
Is this God directly moving to correct me, or is this the promised persecution for following Christ, or have we allowed Satan access into our lives?
Which kinds of trouble can be avoided? Which can’t?
temptation graphic******************
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