“TRAVELLING MERCIES” Meditation From Morning Prayer: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

“TRAVELLING MERCIES”

Meditation for Morning Prayer

January 28, 2014

 The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2014 ended three days ago on January 25, as it always does, the day set aside in the church calendar to commemorate the Conversion of St. Paul.  Since the 25th fell on a Saturday this year, we are transferring our on-campus celebration to today, Tuesday, January 28, in our Morning Prayer.

 The following prayer for this occasion sounds the theme for today’s songs, scripture reading, and my meditation.

 O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world; Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 Scripture readings: Acts of the Apostles 26:9-21 and Galatians 1:11-24 

            Whatever we make of the Conversion of St. Paul, it involves travel.  “I was travelling to Damascus,” Paul tells King Agrippa (Acts 26:12).  But there’s travel and then there’s travel.  Two trips, two journeys, may feel completely different depending on what existential energy or mood we bring to our travel.

            Six years ago, I was on a 3+ hour red-eye flight from Seattle to Minneapolis-St. Paul, as soon as I received the news that my daughter had given birth to a son, my first grandson, but that as she was going into labor, they discovered a brain aneurysm behind her right eye.  I did not sleep a wink on the plane; I was playing out in my mind all the possible scenarios I might discover when I arrived.  Would she still be alive?  Would she be incapacitated ?  How would her husband, who at that point did not yet have his green card, be able to support the little family.  Would he be able to stay in this country?  Would he choose to stay in this country?  And what of the day-old grandson, what lay in store for him?  During that trip, I was consumed with fear about the future.  [My grandson is now a sunny, beautiful six-year old; my daughter’s aneurysm has been repaired surgically and she’s finishing a masters degree; my son-in-law is pastoring a pair of Hispanic Episcopal mission congregations.]

            How different from the trip I make with my wife every year or so from the city of Sonoma, in California, to a favorite vacation spot at The Sea Ranch on the coast!  This second journey is one of ever increasing anticipation and joy.  We know all the landmarks and count them off.  Crossing under U.S. Highway 101 and passing from city to country.  Oh joy!  We’re in Guerneville, the last major town.  There’s the final stand of redwoods.  There goes the last vineyard.  The Russian River broadens and its banks flatten to nothing.  And then we make the sharp right turn just before Jenner and see the Pacific Ocean for the first time: the first waves, the first sea lion on the first sandbar.  The air gets cooler, the smell changes and becomes fragrant with the luxury of a week on the coast.  And, finally, the outliers of the cedar fencing that marks The Sea Ranch.  Joy and peace growing exponentially with each mile.

            And there was that ten minute walk across campus two weeks ago.  A trip meant to provide a tiny slice of time out of time – no agenda, no destination, other than to be out of the office and away from the preceding six hours of work and stalling, just for a moment, the next four hours at my desk.

            Paul was travelling to Damascus.  We know from this morning’s scripture that he was “furiously enraged” at the first Christian believers; that he was utterly “convinced” of the rightness of her cause – persecution; and utterly unconcerned about the people against whom he was committing deadly violence (Acts 26:9-12).  Then the light from the sky; the fall to the ground and the voice of Jesus: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (26:13-14)

            I am intrigued by Paul’s subsequent travels, his next several trips: according to Galatians first to Arabia, then toward Damascus again, only later back to Jerusalem from whence he came, then on to Judea, Syria, and Cilicia.  What existential energy or mood did he bring to those travels and how where they different, how was he different, from that interrupted journey to Damascus?  Again, scripture tells us that Saul, now Paul, was “proclaiming [what] he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:23).  On the initial trip to Damascus, Paul could see nothing beyond his own righteous cause, blinded as he was by fury.  On subsequent travels, he had become attentive, deeply attentive to another person outside of himself, Jesus, who kept appearing to Paul under multiple guises: now the cause is “to serve and testify to the things in which you [Paul] have seen me [Jesus] and to those in which I will appear to you” (Acts 26:16).

            We are all travelling this morning; travelling our life journeys; travelling through this world.

            I wonder what your travel feels like, from the inside, with what existential energy or mood, in light of the story of Paul’s conversion?

            I wonder if you are being invited to nurture something or someone you once tried to destroy or diminish?

            And I wonder if there is an invitation to you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen Jesus and to those in which Jesus has yet to appear to you?

~ Mark Lloyd Taylor, Ph.D.

Faculty Reflections Morning Prayer Meditations

DAILY PRAYERS: Saturday, January 25, 2014 — Day 8 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

 

Theme of the Day: Together…we proclaim the gospel

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 61:1-4; Psalm 145:1-7; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Luke 4:14-21

Reflection:

Together we proclaim anew the good news prophesied in Isaiah, fulfilled in our

Lord Jesus, preached by the Apostle Paul, and received by the Church. Facing

honestly the differences we have and the labels of denomination we embrace, we

must never lose sight of the common mandate we have in proclaiming the gospel

of Jesus Christ.

Paul is sent “to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the

cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power” (1 Cor 1:17). The path to unity

is to be found in the power of the cross.

The Gospel we proclaim is made tangible and relevant to us as we bear witness to

the work of Jesus Christ in our own lives and the life of the Christian community.

Questions:

In what ways is the “gospel” you have received bound up with its cultural and

historic transmission?

Has that been an obstacle to unity?

How would our fuller unity in Christ make us better witnesses to the gospel we

have received?

Prayer:

Gracious God, you sent your son Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit to redeem

your people. Unite us in our diversity, that we might affirm and proclaim together

the good news of the life, death and resurrection of Christ for a world in need of his

gospel. Amen.

Week of Prayer 2014

DAILY PRAYERS: Friday, January 24, 2014 — Day 7 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

 

Theme of the Day: Together…we belong to Christ

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 19:19-25; Psalm 139:1-12; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Mark 9:38-41

Reflection:

Isaiah envisioned a day when Egyptians and Assyrians would worship together

with Israel as God’s people. Christian unity belongs to the design of God for the

unity of all humanity, and indeed of the cosmos itself. We pray for the day when

we will worship together in one faith and one Eucharistic fellowship.

We are blessed by the gifts of various church traditions. Recognising those gifts in

each other impels us towards visible unity.

Our baptism unites us as one body in Christ. While we value our particular

churches, Paul reminds us that all who call on the name of the Lord are with us in

Christ for we all belong to the one body. There is no other to whom we can say, “I

have no need of you” (1 Cor 12:21).

Questions:

What are the signs of “belonging to Christ”?

In what ways can the phrase “I belong to Christ” be used to divide Christians

rather than unite them?

Prayer:

We give you thanks, O God, that you bless each and every member of the body of

Christ with the gifts of your Spirit. Help us to be supportive of one another, to be

respectful of our differences, and to work for the unity of all throughout the world

who call upon Jesus as Lord. Amen.

Week of Prayer 2014

DAILY PRAYERS: Thursday, January 23, 2014 — Day 6 of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

 

Theme of the Day: Together…we seek to be in agreement

Scripture Readings: Judges 4:1-9; Psalm 34:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:10-15; Luke 22:24-30

Reflection:

The disunity described in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 reflects a distortion of the gospel,

undermining the integrity of the message of Christ. To acknowledge conflict and

division, as Chloe’s people did, is the first step to establishing unity.

Women like Deborah and Chloe raise a prophetic voice among God’s people in

times of conflict and division, confronting us with the need to be reconciled. Such

prophetic voices may enable people to gather in renewed unity for action.

As we strive to be united in the same mind and the same purpose, we are called to

seek the Lord and his peace as the psalmist wrote.

Questions:

Can you remember an occasion when the prophetic naming of a painful church

disagreement was the beginning of a renewed struggle towards greater unity?

What issues still cause divisions among us as an ecumenical body? What paths

do you see towards greater unity?

Prayer:

Loving God, you give us prophetic witnesses in times of conflict and division.

When we seek you, Lord, send us your Holy Spirit to make us artisans of

reconciliation, united in the same mind and the same purpose. Through Jesus

Christ our Lord, we pray. Amen.

Week of Prayer 2014