Beloved One

Fourth Week of Lent

Opening
Lord, as I sit here with you, quiet my heart and mind. In the stillness, stir in me a deeper sense of your love that invites me to come as I am with all that I bring. As we reflect together, may your unconditional welcome open my heart to you and may I rest there.

Reflection
As we journey through Lent, we do so slowly, purposefully. May our senses be awakened as we mindfully walk towards the cross and then the empty tomb attuned to the Lord’s voice.What do we hear on the way when we encounter brokenness within ourselves and others in the gospel story? We pause to notice and to contemplate, to do as Walter Burghardt SJ writes, “to take a long, loving look at the real.” We take our time in order to genuinely see.  We do this mindful of God’s unconditional love for us. We look with honesty, not to beat ourselves up, but to seek forgiveness and wholeness. We listen for God’s invitation to us said with love. 

Invitation
As you read the scripture below, you are invited to read it slowly and prayerfully. As you read notice who in this parable you are you drawn towards. How do they touch your own story? What is your need or longing as you read?

The Return of the Prodigal Son
Rembrandt c. 1661–1669

Luke 15:11-32

“Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.  Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.  He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Prayer of Response
Loving Parent,
I am aware
You see me
and know me
as I am
with all that I struggle with
and all the ways I get it wrong
And yet
You see me
not as damaged goods
But as one you deeply love
You give me freedom
Even when it hurts me
Yet you don’t stop
loving
waiting
longing
for me
to enter your loving embrace
once again
to rest in your presence
as your beloved
son and daughter
to see myself
to live as
your beloved one
created in your image
knowing
I carry you within.
Thank you loving parent
Thank you.
Amen

Copyright © 2019, Journey Center of Chicago,  All rights reserved.

Make Me New

Third Week of Lent

Opening

Lord, as I sit here with you, help me to rest in your presence. As I reflect with you, guide my heart and my thoughts towards your voice and your desire for me.  


Reflection

As we journey through Lent, we do so slowly, purposefully. May our senses be awakened as we mindfully walk towards the cross and then the empty tomb attuned to the Lord’s voice.

What do we hear on the way when we encounter brokenness within ourselves and others in the gospel story? 

We pause to notice and to contemplate, to do as Walter Burghardt SJ writes, “to take a long, loving look at the real.” 

We take our time in order to genuinely see.  

We do this mindful of God’s unconditional love for us. 

We look with honesty, not to beat ourselves up, but to seek forgiveness and wholeness. 

We listen for God’s invitation to us said with love. 

Invitation

Read the scripture through slowly a couple of times. Notice what draws you and pause there. Talk to the Lord about what stirs you within.

Luke 13:1-9

“At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it.  If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Prayer of Response

Holy One, 

These words are hard to take in

I struggle within

I cannot begin to understand

Or measure up

I confess before you

My wrong thoughts, words, actions

The ways I let you down

am unloving and unkind

To you, neighbor, and myself even

Please forgive me 

Set my feet on the right path.

Cleanse my heart and mind.

Help me to receive then your forgiveness

Knowing you love me as I am

And desire what is best for me

Thank you for your grace

So readily available

And yet I don’t always believe.

Lord, help my unbelief

Help me to live in the light of your love

Believing I really am made new.

Make me mindful 

of your walking beside me

Help me to lean into you

for it brings peace within.

Amen.

Copyright © 2019, Journey Center of Chicago,  All rights reserved.

Jesus’ Lament

The Second Week of Lent

Opening
Lord, please quiet my inward clutter so that I may be present to you. Move me through your Word that I may be changed through it.

Reflection
As we journey through Lent,
we do so slowly, purposefully.
May our senses be awakened
as we mindfully walk towards the cross and then the empty tomb
attuned to the Lord’s voice.
What do we hear on the way when we encounter brokenness within ourselves and others in the gospel story?
We pause to notice and to contemplate,
to do as Walter Burghardt SJ writes, “to take a long, loving look at the real.”
We take our time in order to genuinely see.
We do this mindful of God’s unconditional love for us.
We look with honesty, not to beat ourselves up, but to seek forgiveness and wholeness.
We listen for God’s invitation to us said with love.

Invitation
You are invited to enter the scripture through your imagination. We use our imagination not to take away from the Word, but in order to take it in more fully. Ask the Spirit to direct your thoughts as you read. Read the scripture through slowly a couple of times. Take it in through your senses. Enter as an observer focusing on Jesus’ words, actions, and affect. Notice what draws you and pause there. Talk to the Lord about what stirs you within.

Luke 13:31-35
“At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Prayer of Response
Oh Lord, how often I am focused
on my life and my own laments
That I don’t notice your own
I hear your dear cry of love for your own
And the pain of not being seen or heard
The breaking of your heart
Echoes through me
I hear the ache of your longing
To gather your own
To enfold them in your love
Even whilst you are so painfully aware
Of your upcoming death
Thank you for this glimpse
Into your own heart,
Into your own pain
I offer my heart to you
Where longing meets longing
Ache meets ache
Lament gives way to my own
Gives way to relief
Thank you for your tears
Mine merge with yours
Let me rest beneath the shadow of your wings
Where I am held in your loving embrace

Closing Prayer
For those who also know what it means to be tossed out,
Not seen or heard, wanted or loved
Even by the church
Encourage them through your knowing what it is.
May each one feel your compassionate welcome,
The tender gaze in your eyes,
Your listening ear
Your shared tears
May all feel the embrace of your love
Which knows no end.
Amen.

Copyright © 2019, Journey Center of Chicago,  All rights reserved.

A Long Loving Look at the Real

The First Week of Lent

Opening
Lord, in the quietness of these moments, deepen my awareness of your presence with me.
Encourage me through your love and grace to be transparent with you. As we reflect together, may your unconditional welcome open my heart to you and may I rest there.

Reflection
As we journey through Lent,
we do so slowly, purposefully.
May our senses be awakened
as we mindfully walk towards the cross and then the empty tomb
attuned to the Lord’s voice.
What do we hear on the way when we encounter brokenness within ourselves and others in the gospel story?
We pause to notice and to contemplate, to do as Walter Burghardt SJ writes, “to take a long, loving look at the real.”
We take our time in order to genuinely see.
We do this mindful of God’s unconditional love for us.
We look with honesty, not to beat ourselves up, but to seek forgiveness and wholeness.
We listen for God’s invitation to us said with love.

Read the scripture through slowly a couple of times. Notice what draws you and pause there. Talk to the Lord about what stirs you within.

Invitation: Psalm Luke 4:1-13
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Juan de FlandesThe Temptation of Christ
circa 1500

Prayer of Examen
One of the gifts we get from St. Ignatius is the Prayer of Examen.
It is often prayed at the end of the day, though some pray it in the morning.
There are many variations of it. Its purpose is to look back on one’s day
through the eyes of grace by envisioning the Lord’s presence beside us
and inviting the Spirit to guide and speak to us in the prayer.
You are invited to pray this prayer of gratitude and grace now.

The Prayer of Examen

  1. Be aware of God’s presence and thank God for it.
  2. Envision Jesus standing next to you as you pray. Invite Him to guide you as you review your day. Ask Him to help you see the day through the eyes of grace.
  3. Review all that has been good throughout the day, from the smallest gift to the most significant of gifts. You may want to recall one blessing in particular. Savor it. Offer God thanks.
  4. Ask Jesus to show you where in the day you missed Him.
  5. Was there a place in the day where you were not present to Him, yourself, or others? Ask for forgiveness. Receive God’s grace.
  6. Commit the next day to God, asking for God’s guidance and grace in it.

Closing Prayer
Lord, I come before you
Comforted that you know what it means to be tempted.
How much it means
to know that you understand.
Lord, help me to hunger for what feeds the soul,
to desire and seek after what is most important,
And to trust you in everything.
Help me to view myself and others
with your eyes of grace and unconditional love.
Help me to walk in the freedom of your forgiveness
And in the light of your presence. Amen.

Ash Wednesday

Image by TC_Perch on Pixabay

Opening
Lord, as I sit here with you, quiet my heart and mind. In the stillness, stir in me a deeper sense of your love that invites me to come as I am with all that I bring. As we reflect together, may your unconditional welcome open my heart to  you and may I rest there.

Reflection
As we journey through Lent,
we do so slowly, purposefully.
May our senses be awakened
as we mindfully walk towards the cross and then the empty tomb,
attuned to the Lord’s voice.
What do we hear on the way when we encounter brokenness within ourselves and others in the gospel story?
We pause to notice and to contemplate,
to do as Walter Burghardt SJ writes, “to take a long, loving look at the real.”
We take our time in order to genuinely see.
We do this mindful of God’s unconditional love for us.
We look with honesty, not to beat ourselves up, but to seek forgiveness and wholeness.
We listen for God’s invitation to us said with love.

Lectio Divina, which means Divine Reading, is a spiritual practice done with scripture. It isn’t so much that we read scripture as that scripture reads us. We approach scripture prayerfully and ask God to speak to us through it.
Read the scripture through slowly four times. The first time just read it through.
The second time notice if there is a word or phrase that shimmers or that you are drawn to.
The third time notice if there is an invitation from God to you. Let your heart respond.
The fourth time, as you read it, simply rest in the Word.

Scripture: Psalm 51:1-3, 10-12
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.”

Prayer for Ash Wednesday
Lord, I come as I am
As I do, I present myself
before you
Offering
My grief and pain
My inward wanderings and outward failures
My despair and seemingly powerlessness to change
My hopes dashed and my poor reflection
I offer you the cracked vessel that I am
Knowing you welcome it all in your potter’s hands
You remold and make me
Seeing what I cannot see
The value in me
As one created in your image
And deeply loved by you.
You remind me that it is through the cracks
That the light gets in
It is through the cracks
That your light shines.*
So help me to listen to and embrace my shadow
For it has much to teach me.
I offer myself to you with the ashes and cracks
Knowing transformation lies within your hands.

Closing Prayer
Lord, help us on our lenten journey to walk slowly and purposefully. Help us to hear and notice you. Enable us to see through your eyes your grace that heals, restores, and renews. May your presence be palpable as we mindfully walk the way to the cross with you. Amen.

*Musician Leonard Cohen wrote these lyrics in his song “Anthem”:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

New Year Blessing

New Year Blessing
As we enter a New Year,
May you find
Peace in the midst of discord
Comfort in the midst of loss
Hope in the midst of despair
Healing- body, mind, and spirit
Deeper awareness of how greatly you are loved
Acceptance of the gift that you are
Safe places to be yourself
Refuge when you are weary
Renewed purpose in living
Greater cognizance of God’s presence with you in every moment of your day
Rekindled desire to be a reflection of God’s love and creative energy in the world, that loves, accepts, heals, restores, and makes new.
Amen.

God’s Reign

Saturday, December 29- PSALM 96

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it” (vv 11-12)

This psalm uplifts the spirits. It calls us to sing a new song, to bless and praise God, for all that God is, all that God does, for how God reigns.

This week we celebrate Christ’s birth, our Emmanuel, God with us, who shows us exactly what God is like. He shows us the heart of God and what the reign of God looks like.

Jesus extends mercy and forgiveness. He issues peace deeper than all of life’s troubles. Jesus heals, restores, and makes whole. He loves us unconditionally, beyond our imaginings. He comforts the brokenhearted and lifts up the oppressed. He brings the marginalized into the center. No one is unseen. Each person is of immeasurable worth. Grace abounds.

Looking at who our God is, how can we not sing? How can we not praise our God? This is the reign we are a part of, the reign we are to participate in and reflect.

May we be reflections of you and your reign, Lord Jesus. Amen.

(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

Enfleshed

Friday, December 28- JOHN 1:15-18

God’s desire to be connected to us was so expansive that God does this amazing thing. God showed us the full expression of who he is, the fullest expression of his love and grace, by sending Jesus from God’s heart to our heart, from God’s side to our side.

Look how much we are loved. We are given grace upon grace, gift upon gift, love upon love. God holds nothing back from us. God gives all that God has to give. God, wanting us to really know Godself chose to have Jesus come, someone with skin on. Someone who could be touched, seen, and heard. Wow.

Jesus knows. Jesus knows the messiness of our lives, our struggles, our ups and downs. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, because he knows.

If you ever wonder if you matter, if you ever wonder if you are seen at all, if you ever wonder if you are alone, know that you are of inestimable worth, and Jesus walks beside you.

Thank you, Lord. May your love permeate our lives. Amen.


(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

 

Love Song

Thursday, December 27- JOHN 1:1-14

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (v.1).

John 1, beautifully poetic, draws us into the tender lyrics of God’s love song to us. Since the beginning of time, God has envisioned, desired, and loved us. Jesus the Word and God conceived humankind in God’s own image, thereby imprinting Jesus’s fingerprints on each of us. Think on it. We bear God’s DNA.

Jesus embodies his love for us by being enfleshed as one of us to live and walk among us. Jesus does so because we are God’s own. So he sings over us like a parent sings over their beloved child. His melody brings light into our darkness, peace into our chaos, breathing life into our lives. His is an ongoing, everflowing melody that touches all of humanity and all of our lives. Never have we been so loved.

May his love song bring abiding peace into our lives this day. May its rhythm ring out in our lives.

Thank you, gracious God, for singing your love song over us. Help us to always hear and join in the refrain, Amen.


(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)

Attentiveness

Wednesday, December 26 – LUKE 2:15-20

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (v. 14).

The shepherds believed the angel’s words to them. They believed that God had done this awesome thing. They listened. They paid attention. They responded. It changed their lives and they bore witness to what God had told them.

What a good word for us. Jesus is present in our lives and in the rhythm of our days. He speaks to us and is active in our lives. We are invited to listen, to pay attention, to respond, and to bear witness. It will change our lives and the lives of those around us.

There is a spiritual practice called practicing the presence of God. It is about attuning to God in everyday moments. It is conversing with God in an ongoing conversation, paying attention to what God is doing in the moment, and seeking to respond to and with God in the world around us. This is possible because Jesus is our Emmanuel, God with us. Thanks be to God.

Thank you, Lord Jesus. Help us to be attentive to you. Amen.


(The devotions for Christmas week were originally written by Rev. Eva Sullivan-Knoff for the Covenant Home Altar. They are used with permission here)