Josh continues our discussion of the prayers of the season (POTS) asking the question, "What does Jesus say that community looks like?" Using a passage from Matthew where Jesus is talking about unclean spirits in a house and then in front of his mother and brother, refers to the disciples as his mother and his brothers, we get a glimpse of what Jesus wants to do in our lives and how his view of us invites us into a community that, among other things, eats together, shares responsibility, holds each other accountable, and is faithful to each other until death. Matthew 12:43-50; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; John 14:26; Mark 11:17; 1 Corinthians 10:17.
Josh continues our discussion of the prayers of the season (POTS), bridging between "Clear Paths for Formation and Discipleship" and "Community, Belonging and Connectedness." We live in a culture that touts individualism, and it is easy to succumb to that in our daily lives. That pursuit leaves many Americans as some of the loneliest people in the world. Jesus calls us to Christian community which provides a path to a collectivist mindset that prioritizes the group over one's individual interests. 1 Corinthians 10:1-17; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10.
Josh provided a quote from Lucy Shaw: "The pace of life and our preoccupation with unimportant things take so much of our attention. The significant things, like taking time to develop friendship, to read and pray, to listen to God -- these all get sacrificed on the altar of good works and Christian busyness."
Josh continues looking at our prayer of the season related to spiritual formation and asks: "Where does spiritual formation happen?" We see in the life of Jesus and his disciples a rhythm of Jesus getting away in silence and solitude and living in community repeatedly. Jesus invites us on a journey, asking us to share our desires with him and to tell him what we want him to do for us like blind Bartimaeus. But spiritual formation is more than that one-on-one relationship with Jesus. Spiritual formation encompasses at least three things: community, vulnerability and accountability. Psalm 23; Mark 10:49-52; Matthew 4:18-22; 1 Corinthians 10:17.
Josh opens our series of messages related to our most recent Prayers of the Season (POTS). Spiritual formation offers an opportunity to discover how Jesus wants to interact with us. We are invited to keep company with Jesus. We aren't invited to follow a list of steps to arrive at formation. We journey. The point is the journey -- not the destination. By sharing our deepest desires with Jesus, he can reveal how he wants to walk with us through that, what he wants to show us about ourselves, and where he wants to take us. Matthew 4:18-22; Matthew 11:28-30; Philippians 3:4-14.
Josh shared an acrostic from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun to help us step into spiritual formation. What desire grabs your heart when you read these things?
Open myself to God
Relinquish the false self & idols of the heart
Share my life with others
Hear the word of God
Incarnate Christ's love for the world
Pray to God
Kara shares a message from Philippians, illustrating how humility and honor operate in the Kingdom of God. Paul writes to the church in Philippi speaking of the assurance that comes in and through Christ: encouragement, love, participation in the Spirit, affection, joy, unity, etc. And yet, we see often in the Church, a group of people who struggle to honor the differences among each other. Kara reminds us that in the example of Jesus -- who became a servant for all -- we have the proximity we need to find the humility to count others more significant than ourselves and the support we need to deal with the costs of denying ourselves. Philippians 2:1-13.
Josh shares a message from Matthew 20 about Jesus' parable of the generous landowner. We see the landowner find people to help with his vineyard, and he selects people who may look the part and those who may feel unworthy of inclusion for the labor. And he pays them all the same day's wage. Unsurprisingly, some grumble at the apparent "unfairness" of the decision. But why can't we be happy for what someone else got when we've been provided for as well? Luke 24:32; Colossians 3:14-16; John 10:14-16; Matthew 20:1-16; Jonah 4:1-11.
Josh shared a quote from Frederick Buechner: "Don't start looking in the Bible for the answers it gives. Start by listening for the questions it asks."
Josh shares from Matthew 18 and Jesus' teaching about forgiveness. Jesus is trying to explain to the disciples how crucial forgiveness is to the Kingdom. This is how Christian community is built. We have to understand what we have received from Jesus in the way of forgiveness and grace, and if we have that understanding, we will offer the same forgiveness to others. Matthew 18:21-35.
Josh shared three quotes about forgiveness:
1) Anne Lamott (in Traveling Mercies): "Withholding forgiveness is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die."
2) Nora Gallagher: "Forgiveness is a way to unburden oneself from the constant pressure of rewriting the past."
3) Henri Nouwen: "Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly, and so we need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. Forgiveness is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family."
Josh shares from a passage in Matthew 18 part of which is commonly quoted without the context preceding it. We've all heard "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them," but that comes at the end of Jesus' instructions regarding how to handle conflict. Jesus is being realistic with the disciples. You are going to have conflict. You are going to be hurt. This is a way to fight for healing. Matthew 18:15-20; Matthew 9:9; Luke 19:5-10.
Josh looks at a couple of passages from Isaiah 51 and Matthew 16. Both passages reference rocks and teach us important lessons. In one, we are reminded of what God has done for us and that we can trust Him even when circumstances may suggest otherwise. It's not worth going back to revive the things that are dead. In the other, we are reminded of the power of our testimony of who Jesus is, which also brings us to a place of remembering what we've experienced with Jesus and that we can trust Him in the midst of our wilderness. Isaiah 51:1-6; Matthew 16:13-20; Exodus 16:1-4.
Josh also shared a quote from Debi Thomas: "I’m stunned by the answers that Peter must have lived into as time went on — answers he never could have articulated in the early years of discipleship. “Who do you say that I am?” You are the one who found me in a fishing boat and gave me a new vocation. You’re the one who healed my mother-in-law. You’re the one who said, “Yes, walk on water." You’re the one who caught me before I drowned. You’re the one who glowed on a mountaintop while I babbled nonsense. You’re the one who washed my feet while I squirmed in shame. You’re the one who told me — accurately — that I’d be a coward on the very night you needed me to be brave. You’re the one I denied three times to save my skin. You’re the one who looked into my eyes with pain and pity when the cock crowed. You’re the one who fed me breakfast on a beach and spoke love and fresh purpose into my humiliation. You’re the one who gave me the courage to preach to three thousand people on Pentecost. You’re the one who taught me that I must not call unclean what you have pronounced clean. You are the one who stayed by my side through insults, beatings, and imprisonments. You are the one I followed into martyrdom. You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Josh shares a message based around Psalm 67, asking the questions: "What does it mean to be blessed?" We can be susceptible to viewing our circumstances through the lens of curse. But the language of blessing is important. We are blessed in the gathering -- however we can gather in the current environment. The blessing of God is always wrapped up in the community we are a part of. Psalm 67; Numbers 6:24-26.