This Sunday we will focus on one of our habits, one of our rituals, which is meant to reorient us, shape our hearts, and transform us. This practice is found at the center of Christian community from the beginnings of the church. Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took the bread of the Passover feast and told them to take it and proclaimed, “This is my body.” He did the same thing with the cup of wine, “This is my blood.” He took two of the elements from the feast which celebrated God liberating his people from slavery and made a new covenant. We are people of this story. A story much like Israel’s but much bigger. The story we are part of goes back to the beginning and includes God’s people. We take the bread because it is the body of Christ. We take the cup because it is the blood of Christ.
We have come to the final instalment of our five-part series of how we express love for God: through Emotions. Some people are wired towards outpouring of emotions. Their natural reaction to everything is going to be deep emotion. If there’s a joyful song, they are most likely dancing, clapping, or raising their hands. In times of lament, they have tears. Emotions pour out of them. This is what I typically think of when thinking about “Loving God through emotions.”
Spend some time this week reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:5-15 in light of what it means to pray this together as a community. Reflect and meditate on each line and what it tells us about being a Family. When you pray as an individual and pray “our Father” and “forgive us of our sins,” how does this plural prayer change the focus of your prayers?
Yesterday at the end of my sermon, I shared a practice that I have tried to do every day for the last nine months or so that I loosely called “Praying the Senses.” A few people asked me for some details around what I do in that practice, so I thought I would offer it publicly for anyone who wants it. I also had a few people ask for some resources around the presence of God and spiritual disciplines, so I’ll also link a few books that I’ve found helpful at the bottom of this post.
There is a time and place for taking requests to God, offering thanksgiving, etc. What I want to focus on in our discussions about prayer is what it means to place yourself in the presence of God and to listen for his voice in your life. Through those experiences, we slow down, dismantle the business, and find rest. I’ll keep repeating this: It is Jesus’ prayer life that shapes his actions and decisions. What does it look like to allow taking time to slow down and rest in the presence of God to shape different parts of your life?
For our first section on prayer, I want to follow the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as it is presented in Luke’s Gospel. In chapter three, Jesus receives the Holy Spirit while praying after his baptism. Chapter four takes him into the wilderness for temptation. Following the wilderness and into chapter six, we see Jesus going off to lonely places to pray. Let’s let Jesus’ time in the wilderness set the stage for why we pray. You’re going to hear a lot of voices in life, how will you know which ones to listen to?
I want to continue on in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. At the end of chapter 2, Paul says that as fellow citizens of the Kingdom, we are all joined together in Christ to become a holy temple in the Lord (2:19-22). Jews and Gentiles, all people, are reconciled together as one people in Christ. This one new humanity does not ignore the differences between the diverse people groups but celebrates those differences in Christ. We all come to the Table through the same Spirit. We all enter the Kingdom through the same Christ. We all are built together by the same master builder. So, what does it mean to be a holy temple in the Lord?
Truth is a fascinating construct. In a discussion about Jesus’ kingdom being of a different substance than this world, Jesus says, “I came…to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate’s response of, “What is truth?” can be taken so many ways. From where he stands: on one side he has a mob outside demanding action, on another he has Rome demanding order, and in front of him is a demanding presence. When you’re Pilate in this situation, you might feel powerless while being pulled between the differing truth claims.