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EXPERIENTIAL CALENDAR – PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

EXPERIENTIAL CALENDAR – PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

Every Friday during our Experiential fast we are encouraged to journal about our experience. What has this fast been like? How have you experienced God during this fast? Has anything surprised you? Each week we will share reflections from people in our community across all 3 locations. This week is from a friend at the Somerville location.

I’ve thought a few times about going vegetarian. Vegan would be a bridge too far, but I think I could survive without meat.

I should clarify: I think about going vegetarian like I wonder how I’d live if I somehow lost the ability to see color or use my hands. Dinner without some ex-animal feels incomplete. I look forward to my weekly cheeseburger. The most magical place on Earth is not Disney, but a Brazillian steakhouse called Texas de Brazil. “I love meat,” is what I’m saying. But I can give it up for five days. For Jesus.

Honestly, my struggle has been with #follow more than the #unfollow part of our fast (#hashtag!). I didn’t find the time to try a prayer practice for a couple weeks. My work schedule makes weekday fellowship difficult, but I pretty much immediately shrugged that off as not an option. Didn’t even try it, nor did I look for people to bless. By my actions, God’s importance for the past couple weeks has been somewhere between giving up sweets and making a real effort to change my habits. I don’t say that to see all the sights on a guilt trip, it’s just what happened.

It’s appropriate for me, I think, that this week’s scripture reading is John 12. We see people praise Jesus when he symbolically announces himself as Messiah, but it’s secretly kind of a sad parade. They’re about to cry out for his death. They would have argued that they were checking all the boxes from scripture and deserved to be free of Roman rule. Jesus, whose priority was not rising up against imperial power, was trying to get them to follow God with more than physical display. It’s not about avoiding bacon or winning the religious service attendance award, it’s about growing closer to God and letting that lead us to loving people.

I want to get my priorities straight, and fasting is a reminder that God is the real essential in life. I’ve followed the #follow plan this week and I’m determined to finish strong. If you’re in a similar situation, or if you haven’t tried fasting, I’d encourage you to join me in the last week of our church fast. Not just in denying ourselves excess, but seeking what we truly need.

By the way, I’m counting this as the “share your struggles” experience for this week. #efficientlyfollowing – Patrick H

The Reunion Team

EXPERIENTIAL CALENDAR – PRAYER PRACTICES

EXPERIENTIAL CALENDAR – PRAYER PRACTICES

Each Tuesday we are inviting you to explore a new prayer practice as part of the experiential calendar. As part of that invitation, we also want to provide resources to help you as you explore those practices. This week, we’re looking at a Breath Prayer. 

Breath Prayer is a simple practice meant to focus us on who God is and what we most desire. Consider this helpful explanation and tips from the Center for Contemplative Activism:

Breath prayer is an ancient Christian prayer practice dating back to at least the sixth century. Historically, it is associated with the Eastern Church, particularly Greek and Russian Orthodox churches.

Known as the “Jesus Prayer” or “Prayer of the Heart,” early practitioners would repeat to the rhythm of their breath the phrase, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” In time, the prayer was shortened to, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy” or simply, “Jesus, mercy.”

Breath prayer is a good example of “praying without ceasing” as St. Paul admonished us to do, and has the potential to become as natural as breathing. It is intended to be a very short prayer of praise or petition, just six to eight syllables. The words of the prayer can be easily adjusted to your heart’s desire.

Praise is expressed by calling on one of the Divine names such as God, Jesus, Lord, Father/Mother, Christ, or Spirit. Or you may prefer another name of adoration. Your request or intention is comprised by the words following.

The breath prayer is usually said silently within. But some people sing it; others chant it. It’s your prayer; use it your way.

You may also use the breath prayer for a focused time during a daily spiritual practice. Simply repeat the prayer over and over keeping your attention on the prayer. If your attention wanders, gently return to the prayer.

Begin with 5 minutes and gradually increase the time to 15 or 20 minutes as you become disciplined with the prayer. You may want to use a timer to free yourself from watching the clock. Some find it useful to write in a journal of their experience with the prayer.

Instruction

  1. Close your eyes and recall the line “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Be still, calm, peaceful, open to the presence of God.
  2. With your eyes closed, imagine that God is calling you by name. Imagine that God is actually asking, “(Your name) what do you want? Like the blind man on the road to Jericho, Jesus kindly looks you in the eyes and asks, “What do you want from me?”
  3. Give God a simple and direct answer that comes honestly from your heart. Write down the answer. If you have more than one answer, write them down. Your answer may be one word such as peace or love or help. It may be several words or a phrase such as “feel your presence” or “lead me into life.” Whatever your answers, they are the foundation of your breath prayer.
  4. Select the name that you are most comfortable using to speak with God. Combine it with your written answer to the question God asked you. This is your prayer.
  5. Breathe in the first phrase/word (generally your invocation of God’s name) and breathe out the second phrase/word (request or need).

You may need to compose several prayers before you find one which truly arises from your deepest desire. So look carefully at your prayer. Does it reflect the heart of your desire?

There’s no limit really to developing your breath prayer. It may be the same from day to day or it may change.

Sometimes you may want to reverse the practice a bit by sitting in silence and letting the Spirit pray through you. Ask for God to reveal your name, and God’s desire for you. This can be a profound experience. You may wind up hearing something like, “Beloved, you are enough,” or “Mighty One, rest.” Wait on God and see how you may be renewed.

Sample Breath Prayers

  • Jesus, let me feel your love.

  • O Lord Show me your way.

  • Holy one, heal me.

  • Jesus Alleluia, have mercy.

  • Holy Wisdom, Guide me.

  • Father/Mother (Abba/Amma), let me feel your presence.

The Reunion Team

Fill in your text here….

The Reunion Team

EXPERIENTIAL CALENDAR – PRAYER PRACTICES

EXPERIENTIAL CALENDAR – PRAYER PRACTICES

Each Tuesday we are inviting you to explore a new prayer practice as part of the experiential calendar. As part of that invitation, we also want to provide resources to help you as you explore those practices. This week, we’re looking at a creative form of prayer called “Imaginative reading” or “Imaginative prayer”.

Through Imaginative Prayer we place ourselves fully within a story from the Gospels. We become onlooker-participants and give full rein to our imagination. Jesus is speaking to a blind man at the side of the road. We feel the hot Mediterranean sun beating down. We smell the dust kicked up by the passersby. We feel the itchy clothing we’re wearing, the sweat rolling down our brow, a rumble of hunger. We see the desperation in the blind man’s face and hear the wail of hope in his words. We note the irritation of the disciples. Above all we watch Jesus—the way he walks, his gestures, the look in his eyes, the expression on his face. We hear him speak the words that are recorded in the Gospel. We go on to imagine other words he might have spoken and other deeds he might have done.

To put this in to practice consider these instructions from Professor of Spiritual Formation at Lipscomb University, Kris Miller:

Choose a passage to start with. After reading the passage through once, read it through again, very slowly. Allow yourself to be caught by a word, phrase, an image, or a truth. If it is a narrative, begin to imagine the scene. If it is not a narrative, imagine the reality described. Once you have read it through the second time slowly, put the passage down and use your imagination to enter the narrative or truth presented. You may want to us the word, phrase, image, or idea that caused you to enter the passage. If it is a Psalm or an epistle, imagine the truth and be in it. If it is a narrative, be in the event. Whatever the genre, take several minutes to let your imagination unfold and develop as you enter the story or the truth. You can trust that the Holy Spirit will be at work in your contemplation of the very Word that the Spirit inspired. Remain in the passage for several minutes. Then, journal a summary of your contemplation after you have experienced it.

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Unfollow Power

Discussion Guide: Unfollow Power

During the season of Lent, we’ll be exploring the passages of Scripture where Jesus invites people to follow him. As we’ll see, this invitation often means people need to learn to unfollow something else. These invitations extend to us today, challenging us to investigate what really matters in our life. Today, we talk about what it means to follow Jesus and unfollow our desire for power.

Icebreaker

If you had one superpower, what would it be and why?

Scripture Reading

Matthew 9:9-12; Philippians 2:5-11

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do so many people generally like to be in powerful positions? What do you think drives their thirst for power?

Read Matthew 9:9-12

  1. Why is it significant that Jesus asked a tax collector to follow him? What job/status might be a modern day equivalent of “1st century tax collector” be? 
    CONVERSATION TIP: This weeks message said: “Tax collectors were hated because the Romans had conquered the Jewish people and they recruited locals to collect taxes from their countrymen….If you signed up for that gig, you were essentially selling out your own people. You were taking a position of power over your own countrymen by overburdening them with taxes. Tax Collectors were viewed as traitors. They were treated like outcasts.”
  2. What would motivate someone to take a job like tax collector in Matthew’s time? Do you think those motivations are still drivers today?
  3. How do you see those motivations at work in your own life?
  4. When Jesus invites Matthew to “follow him,” what sort of power or control is he asking Matthew to give up?
  5. When Jesus invites you to “follow him,” what sort of power or control is he inviting you to give up?

Read Philippians 2:5-11

  1. This passage is often known as the Philippians hymn. How does this hymn depicts Jesus’ relationship to power?
  2. This hymn ties God’s exaltation of Jesus is directly tied to Jesus’ humility and meekness. How are humility and meekness signs of power in God’s Kingdom?
  3. How does this view of power confront typical conceptions of power in our world today?
  4. This passage is an admonition to exemplify the humble power of Christ in our day-to-day relationships with one another. Can you think of examples when you or other people have exemplified this sort of power?
  5. What is holding you back from unfollowing typical conceptions of power and following the power of Jesus?

Diving Deeper: Christian Humility

  1. Read the following quote from Ravi Zacharias:
    “Our insecurities also drive our attempts to prove ourselves, to show that we are strong and have made ourselves useful to God and those around us. Yet all of this is not humility because it is about us, not God. We make the mistake of fixating on our own earthen vessels, either trying to make them appear more pleasing than they are or obsessing about their flaws. The cure for our insecurity is not to become more secure in ourselves, but more confident in God. Confidence in God is the core of Christian humility.”
  2. Can you be aware of your shortcomings while not being insecure? How so?
  3. How is Christian humility different than typical conceptions of humility?
  4.  Does being a humble follower of Christ mean you are just being passive and opening yourself up to abuse? Why/why not?

Helpful Resources

The Reunion Team

EXPERIENTIAL CALENDAR – PRAYER PRACTICES

EXPERIENTIAL CALENDAR – PRAYER PRACTICES

Each Tuesday we are inviting you to explore a new prayer practice as part of the experiential calendar. As part of that invitation, we also want to provide resources to help you as you explore those practices. This week, we’re looking at a silent form of prayer called Contemplation. Contemplation has sometimes been viewed as a Christian form of meditation.

Joyce Huggett explains some of the basic steps to help lead to contemplation.

• Enter into a space that can become a quiet prayer place for you.

• Once you enter the space, take time to relax in God’s presence. One of the best ways of doing this is to recognize some of the reasons we are tense: worry, pressure of things to be done, the quarrel we just had with our spouse or colleague. It will be impossible to contemplate until these pressures have been handed over to God.

• Having transferred our burdens to God, this next phase involves becoming aware of the presence of God. Jesus has promised he will never leave us or forsake us. We take time to tun into his presence.

• In the quietness, aware of his presence, we open our hearts to receive his love. This prayer is usually wordless and fed by a deep desire for him.

• This leads us to a place where instead of seeking God, we are found by Him. We discover that, long before we came to a place of prayer, he was seeking us.

• We bask in the warmth of his love. We feel his gaze on us. He gills us afresh with his Spirit. We receive a new perspective on life, HIs perspective.

• As we draw closer to his heart, we sense his concern for the world, and from our contemplation flows intercession as we catch his compassion for a hurting world.

 

For more information on contemplation (and other spiritual practices), check out this resource by Richard Foster.

The Reunion Team

EXPERIENTIAL FAST: REFLECTIONS

EXPERIENTIAL FAST: REFLECTIONS

Every Friday during our Experiential fast we are encouraged to journal about our experience. What has this fast been like? How have you experienced God during this fast? Has anything surprised you? Each week we will share reflections from people in our community across all 3 locations. This week is from a friend at the South End.

I bought a new coffee machine a few weeks back. The kind you can make espresso and lattes. After buying it I thought about returning it, it was too much, but life happened and I missed my window to return it, so I got completely into it. I tried different coffee pod flavors and different types of milk until I found the sweet spot. The sound of the machine in the morning, the putting together and taking apart of the milk compartment became routine, quickly and easily. This Sunday I committed to our lent fast, no coffee and no alcohol. Easy, right? Maybe not, my husband called me out for grabbing a coke zero, completely ignoring its caffeine content and drinking it proudly thinking “hey, it’s not coffee” but it might as well have been. I would walk into the kitchen instinctively and wander back and forth as if waiting for a reason to justify drinking coffee that morning. “I am very tired”, “I worked a long overnight shift, this is different to what other people who are fasting are going through”, “God would want me to be productive at my work”, “I am not drinking any alcohol so is that half ok” I debated on a daily basis whether decaf counted or not. I would enter the espresso machine website to look at new coffee pod flavors thinking of what my future cups of coffee would taste like. I saw the weekend not as the days I get to be in community and share with friends and family but the days I get to make myself a latte. And then as I had these thoughts I would pause and stop to reflect on what this meant. I asked myself, how many times have I tried to substitute the real thing for a fake. I asked myself, how many times have I tried to justify my own actions. I asked myself, how many times have I put my eyes and expectation on the wrong thing for my future. I asked myself, how many times have I put my own desires and wishes ahead of others’. I asked myself, how many times have I looked for distractions to avoid facing the truth. That I am weak, I am tired, I am easily persuaded and distracted, I am selfish and self-centered. Thankfully, I am reminded that You are my strength, You are my rest, You are my motivation and expectation, and You are the center of my life. The headaches are now gone, and the fast is almost over, but I wonder, am I really worthy at this point of drinking coffee. I don’t know, seems like as long as I am hanging on to my own certainty that today is ok because tomorrow I will be able to drink my own cup of coffee I still have it wrong. Anybody looking for an espresso machine? – E

The Reunion Team

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