Lenten Field Guide (Week 6)

Lenten Field Guide // Week 6: Holy Week

Blessings, dear ones, as we near the Sunday that is known both as Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday and as we enter a Holy Week that we’ve not experienced before.

Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes, Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, once said “do not spend your lives being poster children of the status quo.” My prayer is that this intentionally long, thought-out, difficult Lenten journey has brought forth important insight and inspiration for you. We are only in April of 2020. There is much left of this year to be intentional about.

In a time where creative living is especially important, how is God leading you to be prophetic, inspired, and love-filled? How is God healing wounds that need to become scars? How are we resisting living only for ourselves? How is God transforming greed and selfishness in our lives into leading lives that create space for others to live? How are we becoming more accountable to our theologies? How are we becoming more accountable to the planet that we live on and are tasked with caring for? How are we leading lives of integrity during wilderness times?

Thanks be to God for the chance to examine these questions in this Lenten season.

Scripture to consider: Read the two chapters of the Passion Narrative according to Matthew 26:6- 27:66.

Acts of Justice and Resistance: What acts of justice and resistance have you gotten interested in checking out this Lent? How is the Holy Spirit leading you to make a more just world?

Acts of Mercy: What acts of mercy have you gotten interested in checking out this Lent? How is the Holy Spirit leading you to be merciful? Offer these up to God.

Lenten Wilderness Guide (Week 4)

Lenten Field Guide // Week 4: Battling for the Bible

     In the story of Jesus fasting in the desert for forty days, as Jesus is fasting and praying, the devil tempts him– not using some unfamiliar text, but actually using scripture. A frequent, ever-present conflict in the Church is biblical interpretation. Some people feel that they read the bible literally though some passages read literally would be pretty tough. Some folks do not read literally and yet believe the scripture is still inspired by God but has mistakes. Some folks do not give any authority to scripture. How do you read scripture? How do you understand the Bible’s authority? Do you believe that God is still speaking or that God has spoken all God will speak as it was recorded in scripture?

Though the conflict in the United Methodist Church is commonly associated by the general public with LGBTQIA persons, it is important to note that it is actually a conflict over biblical interpretation. That is a very important distinction, especially for persons who identify as LGBTQIA* persons. New Testament scholar AJ Levine once said: “the Bible should be a rock upon which our faith is built rather than a rock that is thrown at others.” The stances we take, whatever they are, have implications in our everyday lives and how those lives interact with other lives. It is important to see and understand how those play out in daily living as we seek to be accountable to our theologies and biblical interpretations.

Scripture to consider: Matthew 4:1-11

Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. 2 After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.”4 Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” 5 After that the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, 6 “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.”7 Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.”8 Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.”10 Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” 11 The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him.

Mark 12:13, 38-40

They sent some of the Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap him in his words… As he was teaching, he said, “Watch out for the legal experts. They like to walk around in long robes. They want to be greeted with honor in the markets. 39 They long for places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. 40 They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.”

Acts of Devotion and Spirituality: Read the above scripture, Matthew 4:1-11, and practice Lectio Divina with it. Lectio Divina is an ancient practice of reading a scripture a few times over and mediating on it in prayer. There are many ways to do this; here is one!

-Go to a quiet place and ready yourself to listen to the Word of God

-Read the scripture passage out loud, once through

-Pause and recall if a word or phrase stood out to you. If so, pause and sit with it in meditation and see what it is, what it feels like, what it shows you. Wonder about it.

-Then go back and read the passage to find a fuller meaning.

-Pause again and see what came to you.

-Meditate longer. End in prayer: talking to God about what came forth.

Lenten Wilderness Guide (Week 3)

Lenten Field Guide // Week 3: Hang in there! 

     The world that we find ourselves navigating is no doubt a fast-paced, next-day-delivery, instant-oatmeal kind of world. Therefore, when life brings us into an elongated season –especially one that involves suffering or even growth– we are often caught off guard by the length of the season. We know though that some lessons just cannot be learned overnight, as tough as that may be. Just like a golf swing cannot be perfected in one day, our spirituality cannot be quickly downloadable like a PDF file. The good stuff takes time to know intimately.

We see in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus takes a long season of forty days to engage with tough spiritual questions, all while he is starving for food. These temptations that the devil brought forth centered around Jesus’ identity and mission. Had he not known who he was or what he was here to do, perhaps the devil’s tantalizing temptations would have been harder for Jesus to resist.

As people of long-seasoned faith, we need spiritual disciplines in our lives that we practice every day–on the days when we feel like it and on the days that we do not. Just like it takes training to prepare for a college entrance exam or a 5k, our faith takes training. In order for the best of our Christian tradition to come forth from us in the hardest moments, we must practice it every day, so that it becomes our rhythm, our mother tongue. Spiritual practices like prayer, fasting, self denial, sacred time, service, justice and resistance work are just a few practices that help us live our faith values every day and prepare us for the long seasons that life will bring.

Scripture to consider: Matthew 4:1-11

Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. 2 After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.”4 Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” 5 After that the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, 6 “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.”7 Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.”8 Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.”10 Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” 11 The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him.

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. 3 But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope. 5 This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Offering yourself and your gifts – What simple serving projects could your family do together this week? Some ideas might include:. taking a bag of groceries to the food bank, gathering old clothes to take to a shelter, writing letters or drawing cards to send to people who need them, etc.

Acts of Worship: Slow down this week and find space to wait. When you get home from work or the day’s activities, if you usually turn on the TV or get on your phone, consider leaving it off one night. Create space to sit, wait, and listen to your spirit and to God’s spirit. Perhaps there has been something nagging at you that you need to stop and listen to. Perhaps there is someone you need to talk to or reconcile with but being busy has kept you from having to face that. Perhaps you need to make a life decision but have felt stuck and need the space to talk to God about it. Whatever the case may be, sit and wait for God to make the way forward for you.

Acts of Devotion and Spirituality: As we journey through this Lenten season, there are several weeks left. Consider reading a few chapters a day to read the entirety of the Gospel of Matthew. There is often so much blessing in reading a gospel in its entirety because it situates the text in it 1st century antiquity and gives a powerful narrative to popular texts that we focus on often.

Lenten Wilderness Guide (Week 1)

Lenten Field Guide // Week 1: On Doing Hard Things

     This Lenten season, the faith community I serve will be walking through an in-depth look at the story of Jesus going into the desert, fasting, and experiencing temptation by the devil. Each week, this scripture found in Matthew will be present in the Lenten sermons and the Field Guides will be focused on this text where the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into a wilderness space. It is no surprise that Jesus is in the physical wilderness; he quiets himself and matches the landscape so that he may focus on prayer and resisting temptation. Consider that perhaps Jesus needed this trial to prepare his heart, body, and mind for the horror of what he was soon to endure down the Via Dolorosa to the cross at Golgotha.

It is hard to find anything redemptive about suffering. Some suffering may not have anything redemptive about it. Chris Stapleton’s recent song, Broken Halos, says it well:

“Seen my share of broken halos,

Folded wings that used to fly…

Don’t go looking for the reasons

Don’t go asking Jesus why

We’re not meant to know the answers

They belong to the by and by”

Some answers just belong to the by and by. And that’s okay. And, at the same time, sometimes the trials that come into our lives develop within us a deeper well, which hopefully will contain empathy for others because we ourselves know what pain feels like. This well will also hopefully develop in us the strength to live into our powerful baptismal vows, to actively resist evil, injustice, and oppression in the world.

In times of trial and temptation, it is very difficult to step back and see the new work that God is doing or maybe what we are being prepared for, but resting in the knowledge that the work is going on, even when you cannot see it, is comforting. Maybe these are birth pains of a greater good, deeper justice, and path to becoming your best self. Vulnerability and shame researcher, Dr. Brene Brown says: “I think our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be broken-hearted. It means engaging with the world from a place of vulnerability and worthiness.”

Scripture to consider: Matthew 4:1-11 

“Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. 2 After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.”4 Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” 5 After that the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, 6 “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.”7 Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.”8 Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.”10 Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” 11 The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him.

Journeying through Lent with Children: 

If you didn’t get a chance to attend an Ash Wednesday service, take some time to talk with your child(ren) about what Ash Wednesday means.

When we receive ashes, it is a mark that we know that we belong to God and that there is nothing that we can do or can’t do in life that will keep us from belonging to God and being loved by God. Some days, we know in our minds that we are loved by God, but on this day, you get to see with your eyes that you are loved by God.

Acts of Devotion and Spirituality: Consider joining a small group this Lent in your faith community or if you are in a book group, consider choosing a book that focuses on Lent.

 

Lenten Wilderness Guide (Intro)

Dear fellow journeyer,

The winter has been warm this year; perhaps you welcome this or perhaps this is disorienting. In any case, as the earth sleeps, we will soon enter the season of Lent.

Lent looks pretty different for the diversity of folks who observe it. Some folks are more comfortable adding something to their routines/ lives to focus on God, while other folks remove routine items/ practices so that they may better focus on God. Either way, the idea is to prepare yourself spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically for the high Holy day of Easter, the day of celebration of the resurrection of the Christ. This is the day, which I believe theologically, that the Creator God gave a finality to Death (read: evil, sin, and greed) insofar as saying “Death does not win.”Lent Field Guides

Practically, Lent can be a structured time that one brings a level of discipline to one’s life which, oddly enough, can create liberation. I use liberation here to suggest a time where one takes a step away from the rat race that one’s life can snowball into in pursuit of the completion of the never-ending to-do list or even the pursuit of self-affirmation through external sources (especially other people). Instead, this Lenten season, what if we focus our pursuits on stillness, self-care, intentional service, and self-affirmation through internal/spiritual means?

As I did last fall and also Advent, I am writing weekly devotionals for the Lenten season. I hope that whether you live alone or with families, these field guides will support you in faith formation in your home. I invite you to take an active role in Lent because I hope this will intentionally create space in your life to focus on God.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which is on February 26th, 2020. I look forward to journeying together through it, all the way into the solemness of Holy Week.

It seems like all is dead in winter, but it is actually just a time of sabbatical for much of creation.

Let us not be fooled into thinking Death has won.

Kate

Advent Field Guide (Final Week [4])

Advent Week Four     December 22-24, 2019

LOVE

Love is everything. It is meant to be received vulnerably and it is meant to be given freely. When we love, we live into who we were created to be; that is, we are rightly relating to one another.

As we are members of creation, it becomes necessary to our selfhood that we reflect on what it means to be in right relation with all of creation. When we are disconnected from the rest of creation (human and non-human), we are disconnected from our Creator, because it is only through relationships that we can be fully ourselves.

Thus, these two days before Christmas, work to de-center yourself by focusing on how connected you are to all of creation, especially non-human creation. Think about the connections that you have with the land on which you live; as you sit down to eat a meal, reflect on how long it took to grow that food and how many miles it took to bring it to you; think about the species that dwelled on the land before it was taken up by buildings; think about land practices that consider all of creation and not just humans; think about the season of winter and how it provides rest to the land.Our Emptying Church

In his book God Still Matters, Jesuit theologian Herbert McCabe writes, “Love is rather rare and comes with maturity when we can get away from the need to be dominant or to find another who is not dominant…  the essential gift you give to the one you love is the gift of space to exist, the gift of liberation.”

Think about love as creating space for others to exist. It is not fluffy or weak, but rather, it is a strong, faithful, solid showing up for one another. This also means that you create space for you to exist… loving yourself, valuing your gifts, and believing in your worth.

Use this time of Advent to consider how you create space for you to be your fullest self. Consider how you create space for others to be their fullest selves. This kind of love draws us into a new narrative about ourselves and about the world.

Scripture: 

Luke 1:26-38, 46-55 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible for God.” Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
 God has looked with favor on the low status of God’s servant.
 Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
 because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is God’s name. God shows mercy to everyone,
 from one generation to the next,
  who honors God. God has shown strength with God’s arm.
 God has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
 God has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
 and lifted up the lowly.
 God has filled the hungry with good things
 and sent the rich away empty-handed.
 God has come to the aid of God’s servant Israel,
 remembering God’s mercy,
 just as God promised to our ancestors,
 to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

John 13:33-35 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Readings: 

“Love has bridged the high-rises of despair we were about to fall between. Love has been a penlight in the blackest, bleakest nights. Love has been a wild animal, a poultice, a dinghy, a coat. Love is why we have hope.” -Anne Lamott; Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world. Let us not tire of preaching love. Though we see that waves of violence succeed in drowning the fire of Christian love, love must win out; it is the only thing that can.   -Archbishop Oscar Romero

Prayer: Center this thought in prayer this week:

O God the Light of the World, prepare our hearts, for Emmanuel is coming. 

Teach us love in our waiting. Amen.

Questions to consider: If love is creating space for others to be their fullest selves (human and non-human), what does this look like for you? If you are married or in a committed partnership, what does this look like for you and your spouse? If you parent, what does this look like for in relationship to your children? If you are single, what does this look like with your most trusted, beloved people? What does this look like for the stranger who is your neighbor but whom you have never met and may never know?

Spiritual Practices: This week, consider incorporating two spiritual practices into your week. First is the practice of lectio divina, which is a form of contemplative reading of scripture. Lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures. You can use Luke 1:26-56 in this practice, or choose your favorite Bible passage. Read the text aloud slowly. Read it aloud again. Hold it in silence. Consider a phrase that jumps out at you and ask why? Carry the phrase with you all day. Read it aloud one more time, but this time, read it as a prayer.

The second spiritual practice to incorporate this last week of Advent is service. If love is creating space in the world for others to be their fullest selves, then consider what you can do to facilitate this. Can someone be their best self if they are starving, if they do not have clean water, or a warm place to sleep? Can someone be their fullest self if they are living in a prison of shame? Can someone be their fullest self if they are your enemy? Maybe service this week looks like reconciliation with one who has wronged you… maybe this forgiveness is the liberation you both need. Maybe service is a physical act of caring for another’s humanity. Maybe service is coming your faith community and lending a helping hand. Create space in the world by your love this week.

Advent Field Guide (Week 3)

Advent Week Three     December 15-21, 2019        JOY: The Weary World Rejoices

Advent is a time to examine our faith and then put feet to it.

Mark Twain said: “Comparison is the death of joy.” Our participation in the world of social media gives us an open invitation into comparison. It allows us to compare our lives/jobs/spouses/kids/finances/etc. to others. We can see how many vacations our friends are going on or perhaps the latest gadget someone we know has bought. We see someone we know seemingly rock at parenting and it feels like we can’t get our stuff together. It’s easy to see what folks post (and folks rarely post the hard things) and compare our lives. The danger here is that more often than not, our conclusion is that we are not enough… we must be doing something wrong. Not working hard enough, not worthy of love, not intelligent enough in business decisions, not beautiful enough, not far enough along in life…. and the list goes on. Maybe you could fill in the blank here. “If only I….” Pretty soon, we get comparison fatigue, and we aren’t able to see the goodness and beauty of the lives we have in front of us because we are stuck in a rut of comparing ourselves to others. Our joy is robbed from us.

Joy is a precious gift and is something we must protect. One of the best ways to protect joy is to practice gratitude. What or who are you deeply grateful for? What would your life look like without this person/ thing? What are you grateful for about your spiritual journey? Consider these things and by doing so, you may nurture joy.IMG_5751

Another way to nurture joy is to serve others. Serving others takes you out of your world and into the needs of someone else’s. When you care about if someone has had enough water or if the water they have had is lead-free, then you cannot at the same time, hate that person. If you care about someone having enough clothing to keep warm, then you find that you care less about needing more clothing yourself. When we live as if our well-being is tied to our neighbor’s well-bring, it is a spirit changer.

Scripture:

Luke 2:10  “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…’”

Matthew 25:34-39: 34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

Readings:

“Be joyful as though you have considered all the facts.”-Wendall Berry from “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”

“Joy is always a surprise and often a decision. Joy is portable. Joy is a habit, and these days it can be a radical act. Buffy Sainte-Marie said, ‘keep your nose to the joy trail’”-Anne Lamott in Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

“Being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live.”-Pete Seeger

“Love casts out fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love [people]…I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least…”

“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know [God] in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone anymore.” -Selected quotes from Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist

Prayer: Center this thought in prayer this week:

O God the Light of the World, prepare our hearts, for Emmanuel is coming.

Teach us joy in our waiting. Amen.

Questions to consider: How is joy distinct from happiness? What does deep joy feel like in your body; what does deep joy feel like in your spirit; what does deep joy feel like in your mind/emotions? Do you have harsh expectations of yourself that preclude you from joy?

Spiritual Practices: This week, try keeping a gratitude journal/list. It can be written in your journal, as an email draft, or even on the back of a grocery receipt. Begin with considering the most obvious things or people that you are grateful for. And then keep going, what are the smaller things that you are grateful for? These are easier to take for granted. What would your life look like without these things or these people? What would your life look like without being in a personal relationship with your Creator? Cultivate gratitude and you will uncover deep joy.