WEEK OF PRAYER REFLECTION January 25, 2016

wheat

DAY EIGHT: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY

Reflection by Mark Lloyd Taylor, Ph.D. (Faculty, Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry)

“…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies…” (John 12:24)

A transformative moment of self awareness came for me when I realized my greatest gifts as a person and my most impactful limitations do not lie separated from each other, on opposite ends of some spectrum, but in closest proximity, like two sides of the same coin. My ability to keep calm and look out for the needs of others in times of crisis, for example, born out of the experience of caring for younger siblings when I was eight and our little baby brother was so gravely ill and in the hospital, that ability comes at a high price, for I sometimes find it difficult to feel my own feelings deeply as I squelch what’s inside to deal with the chaos outside.

Something similar can be said, I believe, of the gifts and limitations of our various ecclesial communities – they lie in close proximity. I am an Episcopalian. Public, corporate worship represents the center of gravity for my ecclesial community. Important gifts flow from this center: the Episcopal way of being Christian is highly communal, fiercely embodied, elemental, dramatic, beautiful, tolerant of ambiguity, and adverse to doctrinal rigidity. But limitations lie close at hand as well: we Episcopalians can devolve into liturgical fundamentalists, or worse, we can fail to connect our worship to the transformative work of justice and peace in the world to which we are called by our baptism. I wonder how you would describe the gifts and limitations of your Roman Catholic or Presbyterian or American Baptist or ______________ ecclesial community and whether you experience them as two sides of the same coin?

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,” Jesus says in John’s gospel, “it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

My almost twenty years of association with Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry have taught me that ecumenism, Christian unity, requires all of us – Episcopalian and Roman Catholic and Presbyterian and American Baptist and ________________ – to undergo a kind of death. Like Jesus’ grain of wheat, we must die to our “singleness,” the illusion that my way of being Christian is the only way, or the best way; the illusion that I can be a healthy Episcopal Christian without the distinctly different ways of worship and witness represented by my Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and American Baptist sisters and brothers. But also like Jesus’ grain of wheat, which does not cease to exist, does not cease being wheat, when it falls into the earth and dies, so Christian unity does not ask us to negate the particular gifts of our ecclesial communities; to the contrary, they contain the germ of new life. For like Jesus’ grain of wheat, much fruit is borne when our greatest gifts are liberated from the prisons of our singleness, our most impactful limitations. Then they truly become gifts offered to all, instead private possessions to be hidden and hoarded.

Faculty Reflections Week of Prayer 2016

January 25, 2016 Daily Prayer Resources

Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity

Prayer resources offered by the churches of Latvia.

Theme for the Day:
HEARTS BURNING FOR UNITY

Scripture Readings:

Isaiah 52:7-9 – How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news.
Psalm 30 – You have turned my mourning into dancing.
Colossians 1:27-29 – How great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you.
Luke 24:13-36 – Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

Questions:

  1. What are the disappointments that isolate us from others?
  2. What are the gifts (initiatives, methods, and programs) that we can receive from other Christian communities?

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Clinical 6 class taught by Ethan Schwab; Lisa Gustaveson, staff; Danelle Whitmore and Patricia Whitney, students.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, you have made our hearts burn within us, and have sent us back upon the road towards our brothers and sisters, with the Gospel message on our lips. Help us to see that hope and obedience to your commands always lead to the greater unity of your people. Amen.

Prayer Resources Week of Prayer 2016

January 24, 2016 Daily Prayer Resources

Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity

Prayer resources offered by the churches of Latvia.

Theme for the Day:
HOSPITALITY FOR PRAYER

Scripture Readings:

Isaiah 62:6-7 – Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent.
Psalm 100 – Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness.
1 Peter 4:7b-10 – Be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.
John 4:4-14 – The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

Questions:

  1. How can we promote mutual hospitality among parishes and congregations in our locality?
  2. Is there a place in our neighborhood where Christians from different traditions can gather in prayer, and if not can we help to create such a place?

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Biblical Theologies class taught by Leticia Guardiola-Sáenz; Nydia Blood and Jan Bolerjack, students

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, you asked your apostles to stay awake with you and to pray with you. May we offer the world protected times and spaces in which to find refreshment and peace, so that praying together with other Christians we may come to know you more deeply. Amen.

Prayer Resources Week of Prayer 2016

WEEK OF PRAYER REFLECTION January 24, 2016

HPIM1336.JPG

DAY SEVEN: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY

Reflection by Mark Lloyd Taylor, Ph.D. (Faculty, Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry)

For today’s reflection on Christian unity, I invite you to read, maybe sing, and meditate on Delores Duffner, OSB’s strong words in her hymn, “Sing a New Church into Being.”

Sing a New Church into Being

song

“Sing a New Church into Being.” Text: Delores Duffner, OSB. © 1991, St. Joseph: The Sisters of St. Benedict. Music: Tune: Nettleton. Published by OCP Publications. In Sing a New Church. Portland: OCP Publications, ©1994. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission, OCP License # U-15592.

Faculty Reflections Week of Prayer 2016

WEEK OF PRAYER REFLECTION January 23, 2016

Private+Water+Well

DAY SIX: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY

Reflection by Rev. Nindyo Sasongko (Elias Pohan Visiting Scholar, Jakarta Theological Seminary, Jakarta, Indonesia)

“Give me water to drink”
-Jesus, to the Samaritan woman (John 4)

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.

When the dry season came, and many wellsprings did not have water, neighbors might stop by their neighbor’s house and asked, “May I draw water from your well?” This question is not just 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 might stop at any house and asked the owner, “May I drink from this kendi?” and then they started conversation.

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.

Guest Reflections Week of Prayer 2016

January 23, 2016 Daily Prayer Resources

Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity

Prayer resources offered by the churches of Latvia.

Theme for the Day:
LISTEN TO THIS DREAM

Scripture Readings:

Genesis 37:5-8 – Listen to this dream that I dreamed.
Psalm 126 – We were like those who dream.
Romans 12: 9-13 – Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
John 21:25 – The world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Questions:

  1. What does it mean to place our own dreams for Christian unity at the feet of Christ?
  2. In what ways does the Christ’s vision of unity call the churches to renewal and change today?

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Educational Ministry of the Church class taught by Mark Hearn; Marilyn Black and Larry Blackstock, students.

Prayer:

God of all, grant us humility to hear your voice, to receive your call, and to share your dream for the unity of the Church. Help us to be awake to the pain of disunity. Where division has left us with hearts of stone, may the fire of your Holy Spirit inflame our hearts and inspire us with the vision of being one in Christ, as he is one with you, so that the world may believe that you have sent him. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Prayer Resources Week of Prayer 2016

January 22, 2016 Daily Prayer Resources

Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity

Prayer resources offered by the churches of Latvia.

Theme for the Day:
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE APOSTLES

Scripture Readings:

Isaiah 56:6-8 – For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Psalm 24 – Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
Acts 2:37-42 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
John 13:34-35 – I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

Questions:

  1. What is our experience of encountering one another as brothers and sisters in Christ through Christian fellowship, shared meals and common prayer?
  2. What are our expectations of bishops and other church leaders on the path towards the visible unity of the Church? How can we support and encourage them?

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Earth Spirituality and Justice 2 class taught by Tito Cruz; Thuong ChuChe, staff; Cheryl Bey and Kerry Billingham, students.

Prayer:

God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of glory, may you give to all Christians, and especially to those entrusted with leadership in your Church, the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that with the eyes of our hearts we may see the hope to which you have called us: one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Source of all, who is above and through all and in all. Amen.

Prayer Resources Week of Prayer 2016

WEEK OF PRAYER REFLECTION January 22, 2016

well

DAY FIVE: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY

Reflection by Rev. Alissabeth Newton (Vicar, St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, Kent, Washington)

“Give me water to drink”
-Jesus, to the Samaritan woman (John 4)

“Nothing bad ever happens to you,” my close friend said one day to me. He was complaining, letting me know that the cost of never “needing” him was a real one, in our relationship. You see, as a priest, mother of two small children, know-it-all wife, and amateur theologian I like to be the person who helps others out, the one with the answers and the solutions. I like to wow them with my strengths, as opposed to exposing my many (many!) vulnerabilities to the world. To admit that I am not having a fantastic time feels too exposed.

But this isn’t how relationships work, is it? Real connections with other people, or between groups of people, needs to include honesty about what I need from you, and what you need, from me. This can be hard, especially for those of us who are raised up in cultures where vulnerability is equated to weakness, where it is taboo to admit to an outsider that they have something you need.

Jesus is not afraid of taboo when he sits, tired and thirsty, by Jacob’s well and asks the Samaritan woman for a drink. As a Jewish man he should never have spoken to the Samaritan woman, and he certainly should not have asked her to draw water for him. But he was tired, thirsty, and his needs opened the door for a transformative relationship between them. And so an exchange that begins with an inappropriate request for water ends with a woman forever changed and Jesus identified as “truly the Savoir of the world.”

I wonder, as we pray for unity among Christian people this week, what it would be like to begin with asking each other for the help we need. There are lots of reasons not to. There are lots of reasons to stick each of us to our own traditions, to close ranks along denominational, political, or national lines and to admit no weakness. But that is not the example given us from Jesus Christ. Bad things happen to all of us, and yet we can meet together at the well of our common faith, admit that we are tired and thirsty, and share Living Water with each other and the world.

Guest Reflections Week of Prayer 2016

January 21, 2016 Daily Prayer Resources

Week of Prayer for
Christian Unity

Prayer resources offered by the churches of Latvia.

Theme for the Day:
A PRIESTLY PEOPLE CALLED TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL

Scripture Readings:

Genesis 17:1-8 – Your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
Psalm 145:8-12 – God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Romans 10:14-15 – And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?
Matthew 13:3-9 – Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Questions:

  1. What personal ambitions, competitive spirits, false assumptions about other Christians, and resentments obscure our proclamation of the Gospel?
  2. Who hears a life-giving word from us?

School Cycle of Prayer:

We pray today for the Family Therapy Theory class taught by Rebecca Cobb; Colette Casavant, staff; Laura Begun and Beimnet Bekele, students.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, you said that everyone will know that we are your disciples if there is love among us. Strengthened by your grace, may we work tirelessly for the visible unity of your Church, so that the Good News that we are called to proclaim will be seen in all our words and deeds. Amen.

Prayer Resources Week of Prayer 2016

WEEK OF PRAYER REFLECTION January 21, 2016

wooden_bridge_over_soc48da_river

DAY FOUR: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR
CHRISTIAN UNITY

Reflection by Rev. James Patten (retired Presbyterian pastor and member of the Board and Executive Committee of the Church Council of Greater Seattle)

A year or so ago, representatives from the Latter Day Saints, Christian, Unitarian, Muslim, and Jewish religions visited Rep. Dave Reichert. A few weeks later a similar group visited Rep. Susan DelBene. We urged them to promote a different U.S. strategy in the Middle East. We talked about how we, from very diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, had learned to cross those boundaries and become friends. We wanted to urge the U.S. to allocate at least part of their aid to Israel to foster conversations between Palestinian and Israeli youth. We offered to help by organizing an experience for those youth here in the Puget Sound area. We need to change the attitudes of the next generation to end the hatred and violence killing so many innocent lives.

We could advocate for this policy, with integrity, because we had modeled how crossing boundaries, hearing each other in respectful ways, and working together in Habitat for Humanity projects like Together We Build can make a huge difference in creating understanding and respect.

Our world is in desperate need of people of good faith to cross boundaries in order to promote the common good. This is true in the Middle East, but also true in this country when it comes to the racial divide we are painfully experiencing. It is tearing communities apart and creating fear and distrust. Those of us living the advantages of white privilege, especially, need to step across boundaries to see the world through the eyes of those who feel disenfranchised.

As Christians, we have Jesus as our model. It was not safe for him in Judea so he headed to Galilee. The Gospel of John said when he left he “had to go through Samaria.” (John 4:4) He did not literally have to go through Samaria to get to Galilee. He chose to go through Samaria. He crossed a big boundary separating Jews and Samaritans in doing so. He also crossed a sexual boundary by speaking to a woman in public. That action could have been misinterpreted. It initially was by his disciples who were incredulous that he was speaking to this woman in public. In taking that risk Jesus was able to offer “living water” to this Samaritan woman. He saw her as a child of God in need of respect.

When we pray for unity we acknowledge we have our work cut out for us in bridging boundaries between denominations in the Christian tradition. That, alone, is hard enough. The next step of working across racial boundaries to bring about a more just society is absolutely crucial. The next step of crossing boundaries between Christianity and other enduring religious traditions is just as crucial. I pray we may see Jesus as our role model in this critical work for our day.

Guest Reflections Week of Prayer 2016