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DAY EIGHT: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY – Sunday, January 25, 2015

Reflection from the Churches of Brazil

 

With her heart transformed, the Samaritan woman goes out in mission. She announces to her people that she has found the Messiah. Many believed in Jesus “because of the woman’s witness” (John 4:39). The force of her witness stems from the transformation of her life caused by her encounter with Jesus. Thanks to her attitude of openness, she recognized in that stranger “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

Mission is a key element of Christian faith. Every Christian is called to announce the name of the Lord. Pope Francis told missionaries, “Wherever you may go, it would do you well to think that the Spirit of God always gets there ahead of us.” Mission is not proselytism. Those who truly announce Jesus approach others in loving dialogue, open to mutual learning, and respecting difference. Our mission requires us to learn to drink from the living water without taking hold of the well. The well does not belong to us. Rather, we draw life from the well, the well of living water which is given by Christ.

Our mission must be a work both of word and witness. We seek to live out what we proclaim. The late Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara, once said that many have become atheists because they have become disillusioned by people of faith who do not practice what they preach. The witness of the woman led her community to believe in Jesus because her brothers and sisters saw coherence between her words and her own transformation.

If our word and witness is authentic, the world will hear and believe. “How are they to believe if they have not heard?” (Rom 10:14).

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Theme for the Day: WITNESS

Exodus 3:13-15 Moses at the Burning Bush

Psalm 30 The Lord restores us to life

Romans 10:14-17 “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

John 4:27-30.39-40 Many believed because of the woman’s testimony

Questions:

  1. What is the relationship between unity and mission?
  2. Do you know people in your community whose life story is a witness to unity?

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Ministerial and Theological Integration II class taught by Rick Russell; Rebecca Cobb, faculty; Kristin Houvaguimian, staff; Jessica Palmer, graduate assistant; Lynelle Kearney and Lynn Kittridge, students.

Prayer

God, spring of living water,

Make of us witnesses of unity through both our words and our lives.

Help us to understand that we are not the owners of the well,

and give us the wisdom to welcome the same grace in one another.

Transform our hearts and our lives

so that we might be genuine bearers of the Good News.

And lead us always to the encounter with the other,

as an encounter with you.

We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Guest Reflections Prayer Resources SU STM Daily Prayers Week of Prayer 2015
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DAY SEVEN: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY – Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reflection

by The Rev. Nindyo Sasongko, Graduate Assistant, Worship and Liturgy, School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University

 

“Give me water to drink”

My family used to live in a neighborhood where traditional Javanese (an ethnic group in Indonesia) houses could be found. When I was young, I was wondering about two things: Why did all traditional houses have a well in the front yard? Why did the owner put a ceramic pitcher (kendi—read: kindee) filled with water in front of their house? Later I knew that these were parts of Javanese hospitality, a hospitality which has its roots from Javanese philosophy of life.

kendi1When the dry season comes, and many wellsprings do not produce water, neighbors may stop by their neighbor’s house and ask, “May I draw water from your well?” This question is not a superficial request. Many times such a question becomes a door to a long conversation between neighbors. So is with the ceramic pitcher. A thirsty traveler may stop by at any house and ask the owner, “May I drink from this kendi?”  The hosts are pleased to give water from the kendi and ask if the traveler wants to come in and have conversation in their home.

Water is essential to human beings. Water is central in human life. For Javanese people, water is believed to be essence from which human beings have their being. If land is like flesh to human body, water is like its soul. Take a look on the map and find the island of Java, you will see that this island is surrounded by water. Who can claim ownership over water? None. This outlook creates an understanding that water is to be shared with others. Indeed, water connects people.

“Give me water to drink” breaks the silence between two strangers at that noon. Jesus is a stranger to the Samaritan woman. But this woman too, she is not only a stranger in Jesus’ eyes but also to her society and even to the Fourth evangelist since John does not remember her name. We know what comes next. This passage indeed is one of the longest conversations in the Fourth Gospel. “Give me water to drink” breaks barriers, taboos, and stereotypes not only between individuals but also between societies. At the well, the host’s life is enriched by the stranger.

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Theme for the Day: TESTIMONY

Numbers 20:1-11 The Israelites at Meribah

Psalm 119:10-20 “I will not forget your word”

Romans 15:2-7 “May God… grant you to live in harmony with one another”

John 4:7-15 “Give me to drink”

 

Questions:

  1. How has your understanding and experience of God been enriched by the encounter with other Christians?
  2. What can Christian communities learn from indigenous wisdom and other religious traditions in your region?

 

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Ezekiel: Ecstasy in the Face of Empire class taught by Erica Martin; Sharon Callahan, faculty; Lisa Gustaveson, staff; Jessica Wright, graduate assistant; Elizabeth Hunter and Gayle Johnson, students.

 

Prayer

God of life, who cares for all creation, and calls us to justice and peace,

may our security not come from arms, but from respect.

May our force not be of violence, but of love.

May our wealth not be in money, but in sharing.

May our path not be of ambition, but of justice.

May our victory not be from vengeance, but in forgiveness.

May our unity not be in the quest of power, but in vulnerable witness to do your will.

Open and confident, may we defend the dignity of all creation, sharing, today and forever, the bread of solidarity, justice and peace.

This we ask in the name of Jesus, your holy Son, our brother, who, as victim of our violence, even from the heights of the cross, gave forgiveness to us all.

Amen.

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2015 WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY PUGET SOUND REGIONAL SERVICE

2015-01-22 18.11.12 2015-01-22 19.04.24 2015-01-22 19.24.59 2015-01-22 19.52.04Faculty, staff, students and denominational partners gathered at Plymouth Congregational Church for the 2015 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity regional service, January 22, 2015.  Dr. Michael Kinnamon, our school’s Spehar-Halligan Visiting Professor for Ecumenical Collaboration in Interreligious Dialogue delivered message based on John 4.

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DAY SIX: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY – Friday, January 23, 2015

Reflection

by The Rev. Canon Marilyn Cornwell, Ph.D.

Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Seattle, Washington

 

You have no bucket and the well is deep” (John 4:11)

The green sloping lawn in front of the church on the corner teamed with people from all over the local community that summer Sunday morning as members of five churches in the Magnolia neighborhood gathered for worship. In the midst of the assembled seating rose the large baptismal font, empty and open to the sky. At the beginning of worship water from the churches of the five different denominations was brought from five directions to fill the font as a symbol of our unity in Christ. My Presbyterian colleague, Pastor Deb, used the words from the chapel of St. John Lateran to proclaim, “No barrier can divide where life unites: one faith, one fount, one spirit, makes one people!”

During Holy Communion our voices lifted in joy as we sang, “One bread, one body, one Lord of all; one cup of blessing which we bless. And we though many, throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.” As one of the five pastors serving Holy Communion, a poignant interaction in the Communion line is etched in my memory: one of the elders from my parish tried to touch the water in the font as she walked by to receive bread and wine, but her cane kept getting in the way; a member of one of the other parishes saw her desire to reach the water and helped her do so.

The well is deep. It gushes up so that we might never be thirsty. And, often we need each other – be it loved one or stranger – to reach the Living Water of life. Our commitment to our common life may take other forms, yet our five churches are committed to ongoing dialogue, worship, fellowship and compassionate action in Christ’s name.

In closing that summer Sunday our combined voices rang out in song, “Let us bring the gifts that differ and in splendid varied way, sing a new Church into being, one in faith and love and praise.”

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Theme for the Day: TESTIMONY

Scripture Readings:

Exodus 2:15-22 Moses at the well of Midian

Psalm 91 The song of those who take refuge in the Lord

1 John 4:16-21 Perfect love casts out fear

John 4:11-15 “A spring of water welling up to eternal life”

Questions:

  1. How do you interpret Jesus’ words that through him we may become “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14)?
  2. Where do you see Christian people being springs of living water for you and for others?
  3. Which are the situations in public life to which the churches should speak with a single voice in order to be springs of living water?

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Integration of Transformational Leadership for Justice I class taught by Sharon Callahan; Michael Trice, Assistant Dean; Hannah Crivello, staff; Irene DeMaris, graduate assistant; Kathleen Hosfeld and Sheila Houston, students.

Prayer

Triune God,

following the example of Jesus,

make us witnesses to your love.

Grant us to become instruments of justice, peace and solidarity.

May your Spirit move us towards concrete actions that lead to unity.

May walls be transformed into bridges.

This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

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DAY FIVE: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY – Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reflection

by Steve Childress, M.Div. Student, School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University

 

Knowing the Gift of God

I realized quickly when I moved to Seattle from Memphis, Tennessee, that the world was a much bigger place than I had imagined.  Coming out of a Christian tradition and culture that has Pentecostal roots, not only did the curricula and content of courses at Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry broaden my perspectives and insights, my classmates who come from various Christian backgrounds and other faith traditions have expanded my ideas and thought-life as well.  I occasionally remark to them that before coming to Seattle, I had been living in a “Christian bubble.”

In one class, Pastoral Care Skills, I had concluded that I should just be quiet and learn as much as I could, but the professors recognized the spiritual aspect of my ministerial experiences and encouraged me to make more contributions to the discussions in class.  Not only did I see value in the professors’ lectures as well as my classmates’ insights, they saw value in mine.

This is where my imagination gleans insight when I consider the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John as I reflect on Christian unity.  Christians find themselves in a variety of places in the world.  We are among the privileged as well as the oppressed.  We see the world from the center as well as from the margins.  Our various Christian traditions and cultures give us a diverse multitude of world views, and there is great value to be gained in our dialogue with one another as opposed to being segregated into “Christian bubbles” with like-minded believers.  This is demonstrated for me in the conversation at the well in Samaria outside of the city called Sychar.  Regardless and because of Jesus’ posture as a Jewish Rabbi and prophet, or the sociological insight and perspective of the Samaritan woman who lived on the margins, the two world views benefited each of them through their dialogue with one another.  Surely the Samaritan woman benefited from the conversation that she had with Jesus, so much so that she invited others to come and see him (John 4:29).  Surely Jesus benefited from the conversation with the Samaritan woman, noting to his disciples that he had “meat that they knew not of (John 4:32).”  The everlasting thirst quenching of the Holy Spirit’s living water and the sustenance that comes from the meat of doing God’s will speaks to the sustainability of our identity, the purposes of God and the value of our relationships with one another.  Like precious gold and choice silver, there is value to be gained in our dialogues as well as the community that we have them in.

We pray for spiritual discernment, realizing our value in one another, the value in our dialogues as well as our relationships.

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Theme for the Day: ANNUNCIATION

Scripture Readings:

Genesis 46:1-7 God tells Jacob not to be afraid of going down to Egypt

Psalm 133 How good it is when kindred live together in unity

Acts 2:1-11 The day of Pentecost

John 4:7-15 “You have no bucket and the well is deep”

Questions:

  1. Do you remember situations in which your church has helped another church or has been helped by another church?
  2. Are there reservations from the part of your church to accept help from another church? How can these reservations be overcome?

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Christian Scriptures class taught by Leticia Guardiola-Sáenz; Tito Cruz, Associate Dean; Thuong ChuChe, staff; Corey Passons, graduate assistant; Dorinda Henry and Todd Holdridge, students.

Prayer:

God, spring of the Living water,

help us to understand that the more we join together the pieces of our ropes,

the more deeply our buckets reach into your divine waters!

Awaken us to the truth that the gifts of the other,

are an expression of your unfathomable mystery.

And make us sit at the well together

to drink from your water

which gathers us in unity and peace.

We ask this in the name of your son Jesus Christ,

who asked the Samaritan woman to give him water for his thirst.

Amen.

 

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A BRAZILIAN REFLECTION ON JESUS AND THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

 

Halfway through the 2015 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, it has already been powerful and transformative to engage the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well from John 4 – at morning prayer, through guest reflections posted to this blog, and in preparation for the regional evening service tomorrow night at Plymouth Church United Church of Christ in downtown Seattle at 7:00pm. Our sister and brother Christians from Brazil were invited by the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity to create global prayer and worship resources for 2015 – they chose the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. The following is the reflection the Brazilian folk prepared for today, Day Four, especially on John 4:25-28.

Blessings,

Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor, Director of Worship

School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University

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The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman shows that dialogue with the different, the stranger, the unfamiliar, can be life-giving. If the woman had followed the rules of her culture, she would have left when she saw Jesus approaching the well. That day, for some reason, she did not follow the established rules. Both she and Jesus broke with conventional patterns of behavior. Through this breaking forth they showed us again that it is possible to build new relationships.

As Jesus completes the work of the Father, the Samaritan woman, for her part, leaves her water jar, meaning that she could go further in her life; she was not confined to the role society imposed on her. In John’s Gospel she is the first person to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. “Breaking forth” is a necessity for those who desire to grow stronger and wiser in their faith.

That the Samaritan woman leaves behind her water jar signals that she has found a greater gift, a greater good than the water she came for, and a better place to be within her community. She recognizes the greater gift that this Jewish stranger, Jesus, is offering her.

It is difficult for us to find value, to recognize as good, or even holy, that which is unknown to us and that which belongs to another. However, recognizing the gifts that belong to the other as good and as holy is a necessary step towards the visible unity we seek.

Morning Prayer Meditations Week of Prayer 2015
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DAY FOUR: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY – Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reflection

by Kathryn Sharp, Mission President – Greater Pacific Northwest-USA, Community of Christ (ksharp@cofchrist.org)

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“We worship what we know”

A few years ago my faith community, Community of Christ, celebrated the 50th anniversary of our retreat center on Samish Island, north of Mount Vernon, WA. Samish Island Campground is a center for intergenerational family camps, youth camps, fine arts and congregational retreats, weddings, family events, and more. Owned jointly by our members in Washington state and British Columbia, it has a long history of honoring American and Canadian culture. Because of the spiritual and fellowship experiences we’ve shared together over many years, we often refer to Samish Island Campground as our “sacred ground.”

From the beginning, our community respected the burial grounds of a Samish chief overlooking the bluff within our property, but our contact with Samish tribal members was limited. We’ve rented our grounds to a wide diversity of people, including Zen Buddhist groups, water colorists, elementary public-school students, adults with special needs, and even young children scarred severely by fire.

Planning our weekend commemoration, we knew that all these groups made our campground sacred, not just our own Christian community. We wanted everyone to come celebrate with us, culminating in an interfaith worship service. We wanted to create a sacred and welcoming space for all people and all religions (and no religion) that had loved and blessed our grounds. Unfortunately as the worship service planner and presider, I had no knowledge of Samish culture, little of indigenous spirituality, and even less experience with Buddhism. I didn’t know the representatives from each group or even the next-door neighbors to our campground. How could we bridge these gaps, honor each one, celebrate the spirit of the place, and acknowledge the divine in each other?

I need not have worried. The service opened with a haunting and thrilling welcoming song of the Samish people, sung by a Samish tribeswoman. Telling us about her tribe, she said how welcome she felt to see our chairs arranged in a circle, with the four cardinal points (north, south, east and west) to which Native people pray. (I had arranged them this way without any knowledge of this custom.) We sang adapted hymns so that verses could be sung authentically by all—songs praising the beauty and power of creation and the Creator. The Zen Buddhist representative showed us how to use a Buddhist prayer wheel, which they presented as a gift for permanent installation at Samish.

Like Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, we quickly bonded. Christian tradition identifies such unity as the work of the Holy Spirit. We shared openly and trustingly our faith traditions, values and spiritual ties to this place. We intimately connected as “We worship what we know” (John 4: 22b). Bridging our differences, we shared in the rich gifts each brought to this special nurturing place, going back countless generations. Many said this unifying interfaith service was a powerful spiritual highpoint for them.

Our beloved and blessed Samish Island: mountains, mudflats, sandy beaches, forests, clearings, blue herons, eagles, deer, rabbits, shellfish, tides, . . . and Living Water!

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Theme for the Day: RENUNCIATION

Scripture Readings:

Genesis 11:31-12:4 God promises to make Abram a great nation and a blessing

Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd

Acts 10:9-20 “What God has made clean, you must not call profane”

John 4:25-28 Then the woman left her water jar

Questions:

  1. Meeting Jesus demands that we leave behind our water jars, what are those water jars for us?
  2. What are the main difficulties that prevent us from doing so?

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Social Analysis class taught by Jeanette Rodriguez; Mark Markuly, Dean; Colette Casavant, staff; Ann Mayer, graduate assistant; Danelle Heatwole and Chrysty Hendricks, students.

Prayer

Loving God,

help us to learn from Jesus and the Samaritan

that the encounter with the other opens for us new horizons of grace.

Help us to break through our limits and embrace new challenges.

Help us to go beyond fear in following the call of your Son.

In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

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