Seeing God’s Capacity

The Christmas truce was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front around Christmas of 1914, during the First World War. Through the week leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches; on occasion, the tension was reduced to the point that individuals would walk across to talk to their opposite numbers bearing gifts. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from both sides independently ventured into “No man’s land”, where they mingled, exchanging food and souvenirs. As well as joint burial ceremonies, several meetings ended in carol-singing. Troops from both sides had also been so friendly as to play games of soccer with one another.That was an extraordinary moment in history where a greater vision of humanity trumped the conflict of the moment. Unfortunately, the war continued on for several more years. But there was a moment of transcendence in that conflict that is beautiful and inspiring.

Conflict of all scopes and dimensions rages in and around all of us. The passage from Isaiah we read today was written in the context of exile and enslavement. The people of Israel, after generations of disobedience, lost the land that God had given them and the prophet who wrote this passage is asking God to act on their behalf. The writer is recalling the times when God did big, visible things and God’s presence was obvious to the people, and hoping that if it happened again, the people would all turn back to God.

There are many of us who grew up in church hearing stories of God acting in the world but as we have grown into adulthood our view of God has not grown with us and we retain a Sunday School view of God and God’s activity. Whether or not you believe that all those stories actually happened, do you believe that God is capable of those miracles?

We know from the reading of stories in the Bible that God displayed a lot of power and “bigness” and still the people of Israel broke their covenant with God and lost their land. When Jesus came, he did all kinds of miracles and yet most of his followers ran away at the time of his trial and execution. Big displays of power don’t necessarily persuade us to believe in God’s ability to handle the world’s situations.

1. Peace must be found within.
Last night I was at Lowe’s buying the stuff for our prayer station and when I came back to my car this flyer was on it. Miss Savana claims to give instant relief to all types of issues, and can identify those issues before you even say a word. You know there are people who are going to call this number, otherwise they wouldn’t put it on cars. I promise you that Miss Savana cannot bring long-term peace. The only way to lasting peace that passes understanding is to allow your God-view to grow and your self-view to diminish.

When you are a ball of stress, and things look too big to work, what are some things you do to center yourself?

Practical ways of centering

  1. Centering Prayer

Centering prayer is a popular method of contemplative prayer or Christian meditation, placing a strong emphasis on interior silence. Though most authors trace its roots to the contemplative prayer of the Desert Fathers of early Christian monasticism, to the Lectio Divina tradition of Benedictine monasticism, and to works like The Cloud of Unknowing and the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, its origins as part of the “Centering Prayer” movement in modern Catholicism and Christianity can be traced to several books published by three Trappist monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts in the 1970s: Fr. William Meninger, Fr. M. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating.

Basil Pennington, one of the best known proponents of the centering prayer technique, has delineated the guidelines for centering prayer:

  • Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax, and quiet yourself. Be in love and faith to God.
  • Choose a sacred word that best supports your sincere intention to be in the Lord’s presence and open to His divine action within you (i.e. “Jesus”, “Lord,” “God,” “Savior,” “Abba,” “Divine,” “Shalom,” “Spirit,” “Love,” etc.).
  • Let that word be gently present as your symbol of your sincere intention to be in the Lord’s presence and open to His divine action within you. (Thomas Keating advises that the word remain unspoken.)
  • Whenever you become aware of anything (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, associations, etc.), simply return to your sacred word, your anchor.
  1. The Jesus Prayer  – an Eastern Orthodox tradition. Repeat “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  2. Breathing
  3. Yoga/Body Prayer
2. Peace isn’t something you have, it’s something you do
Peace is a choice that requires action. The soldiers in Europe made choices to lay down their weapons, walk across No Man’s Land and offer food and gifts to the people who were supposed to be their enemies. Just like love, hope and joy, it’s not a noun, it’s a verb.
“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”  John F. Kennedy3. Peace is infinitely more difficult that conflict

This weekend I saw the film “The Descendants.” The story follows a fractured family immediately after the mother has had a boating accident and lies comatose in a hospital. The father, Matt King, learns while his wife is in a coma, that she has been unfaithful to him. He spends the film trying to forge a relationship with his two daughters and learning his place in his family, both immediate and as a descendant of Hawaiian royalty. There is a scene toward the end of the film when they are saying goodbye to the mother and her father is there and telling Matt how great his daughter was and how Matt didn’t deserve her. Matt holds his tongue knowing that he could share the truth but that it would permanently damage the future relationship between his daughters and their grandfather, and so he holds his tongue. That is a difficult act of peacemaking. Small. Not earth shattering, but peaceful just the same.

Materials: Paper, Permanent Markers, Big Bucket, Sand, 8 x 8 x 4 Glass Blocks

Imagining God’s capacity to provide promise, find 5 words describing what limits your God-view – bury them deep in the sand, out of sight. Find 5 words to describe what enlarges your God-view – place them within the stronghold, to form part of God’s promise offered.

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