Wind Chimes: 19 August 2013

Brothers, I ask you to bear with this message of encouragement … .

Hebrews 13:22
New American Bible Revised Edition

We have been reading in the Letter to the Hebrews the past few Sundays (in August 2013). The author calls his work a “message of encouragement” (other translations use “my word of exhortation”). Whether a message of encouragement or a word of exhortation the author clearly wants to support and affirm and challenge his hearers to keep their focus on Jesus (see Hebrews 12:1-2) and move forward into an uncertain and uncontrollable future as did our ancestors in the faith: with trust in God who over time has proven to be trustworthy.

Of course, this encouragement, or exhortation, is also a word worth hearing in our day. Highlighting the seriousness of this ancient encouragement and our modern situation is this word from the former Archbishop of Canterbury:

‘Persecuted’ British Christians need to ‘grow up’, says former Archbishop Rowan Williams. Christians complaining of persecution in Britain need to “grow up”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has said, as he argues feeling “mildly uncomfortable” is not comparable to real suffering elsewhere.

Read the entire post in The Telegraph (Aug. 15, 2013)

Further illuminating his words are reports and stories of the burning of churches in Egypt, Christians living in caves and fear on the border between Sudan and South Sudan, the difficult lives of Palestinian Christians in the Gaza Strip, the very uncertain future of Christians in Syria, and the tenuous circumstances of Christians in China. These are life and death situations and the response of faith may indeed be difficult and the discouragement that anything can change for the better must be overwhelming at times. To these Christians the words of the author of Hebrews must come like a balm to heal and make strong and give hope.

So, to be verbally abused in England or in the United States for being Christian; even to be ridiculed for trust in God (when evil and painful situations abound) or to receive the vehement incredulity and head-shaking dismissal from those who conclude that there is no God is minor by comparison (just ask Rowan Williams, or me). Yet, such is our situation and the author of Hebrews speaks to our situation, too (seen in its proper global perspective, of course).

What are your struggles and how is the ancient word in the Letters to the Hebrews a word of encouragement? How might we “be with” our brothers and sisters in Christ whose persecution, whose situation, is far more pressing, and even life-threatening? Leave a comment and continue the conversation.

DivLine360x12“Stay with it, stay with it” is the song of the chimes today.
What do you hear?

What do you hear? What do you see? How does the ‘Seer’ speak to you?

In the Sunday Morning Forum (5/5/13) we looked at the Book of Revelation (in a general way) and the appointed reading, Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 (in a specific way).

In general: What we are hearing (reading, if we must) is a book [Revelation] that is (a) prophetic in content, (b) apocalyptic in form, and (c) pastoral in intent.

Prophetic: the function of the prophet is to interpret history as reflecting the action of God. What we see is what is happening on the human scale; what is really going on is the work of God.

Apocalyptic in form: the word apocalypse is the Greek equivalent of revelatio in Latin. It means to unveil or disclose. What is really going on in history is not evident until the prophet draws back the curtain to show what he has seen.

Pastoral in intent: John writes to strengthen and encourage his fellow Christians in a time of peril. Horrors he knows: he has witnessed (or heard about) the execution of Christians in Rome under Nero in 64, the fall of Jerusalem at the end of the Jewish War in 70, the civil war after the death of Nero in 69, a vast destruction resulting from the eruption of Vesuvius in 80.

Revelation by Holt H. Graham on Bible Briefs from VTS

Another Resource for your Bible study

If the pastoral intent long ago was “to strengthen and encourage … fellow Christians in a time of peril” let us assume the intent is the same today. What ‘perils’ do you hear about? What perils do you see? What does the ‘Seer‘ speak to you as you process what you hear and see? The conversation on Sunday was lively. There is much around us to cause fear, dismay, despair. More importantly, as we looked more closely at the text of Revelation (a text we’ve been reading for a while now) we did indeed find encouragement.

Share your thoughts in the Comment section. We want to continue the conversation.

Wind Chimes: 17 Jan 2013

A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Unity. United. Different. United. One but different. Common, yet not the same. The chimes are moved by the wind and remind me that to be united in Love means to celebrate all that makes me, makes us, unique. Followers of the Way are unique creations of God who is Love. Each of us will respond differently to Love. Yet, each of us ‘loves’ the best we know how. Like the chimes, each of us sounds a different note, yet all of us together can make beautiful music. What do you hear?

Upcoming: A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan 18-25)

Quote . . .The traditional period in the northern hemisphere for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 18-25 January. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the days between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul, and therefore have a symbolic significance. In the southern hemisphere where January is a vacation time churches often find other days to celebrate the week of prayer, for example around Pentecost (suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926), which is also a symbolic date for the unity of the church.

2013 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Brochure, p. 2

The theme for 2013: What does God require of us? The theme was developed in India and is based upon the text of Micah 6:6-8:

6 ‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? —NRSV

Over the next 8 days (beginning tomorrow, Jan. 18, 2013) I’ll invite you to join me and join others worldwide as we pray that the Spirit bring us even closer together as we walk humbly with God.

Image: School of Theology & Ministry, Seattle University

Wind Chimes: 15 Jan 2013

A young Golden Eagle in flight

As the chimes move in accord with the wind and make their sounds, I hear both trust and playfulness. Let the sounds create an image of an eagle soaring; imagine that eagle is you and the wind supporting you is the Spirit. What do you hear?

Trust the wind (Spirit) and soar

In our Daily Office, (Morning Prayer for 1/15/13), we read from Isaiah:

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 NRSV

Consider now this meditation from Lowell Grisham, Rector of St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, AR

What a compelling image. When the pressure is on; when we are weary and worn out; when there is more than we can handle; when we don’t know what to do… Isaiah says “Wait.” Breathe deeply. Be conscious and mindful. Wait for God.

I can see in my minds eye the next movement, an eagle beginning to mount the skies. With slow and deliberate movement, a perching eagle will spread her wings, feeling for the power of the wind. And then, gently, like sliding into water, the great bird will trust itself to the sky, throwing its arms out in a wide embrace. It catches the power of the wind and goes soaring, adjusting with modest effort as it picks up the drafts. In a similar way we can run and not be weary; walk and not be faint.

That’s the image I want to take with me today when that inevitable moment of weariness comes.

Please read the rest of his meditation, “Encouragement,” here.

You may visit the website of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fayetteville, here.

Image: Wikimedia Commons