Services

These brief 20-minute services were developed as part of CPT's Peacemaker training.

Blest by Living Waters: CPT Ritual of Arrival

Used for opening worship at CPT trainings since 1993


Music for Gathering:
As you gather, take a paper and pencil from the center table.

Call to Worship:
Reader 1: We come together from far and near, united by our commitment to practice peace on earth.
Reader 2: Most of us have never met.
Reader 3: Some of us have spent decades in the work of peacemaking.
Reader 4: Many of us have left behind families, friends and communities of support who will continue to pray for us and be involved in our work
Reader 5: Some of us have family members who have little understanding of our call to peaceful witness.
Reader 6: We may be accompanied by fears and anxieties about what lies ahead.
Reader 7: We also come with our own excitement and calling to this important task.
Reader 8: We are here as Christian Peacemakers to listen and to learn, to worship and to work, to pray and to practice peace together.
Reader 9: This evening we come together to be cleansed and washed by the living water, the Spirit of God, who graciously fills, fulfills and empowers.

Song:
"O Healing River"

Confession:
In leaving the familiar, there is often much anxiety. Unfinished tasks, unresolved conflicts, uncertainties that nag and cloud the spirit. Let us each take a silent moment, and with pen and paper, gather and name those things that distract us and prevent us from being fully present.

Song:
"Dona Nobis Pacem"

During the singing each person is invited to come to the candle and burn your paper as a symbol of releasing these burdens to the cleansing fire.

Scripture Reading:
Paraphrase from Hebrews 11 & 12
Reader 1: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Reader 2: By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command.
Reader 3: By faith, Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, built an ark to save the human family.
Reader 4: By faith, Sarah and Abraham obeyed the call to go to an unknown place.
Reader 5: By faith, God's people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land.
Reader 6: By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she understood spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient
Reader 7: By faith Ruth pledged to stay with Naomi and return to the land of her people.
Reader 8: And what more shall we say? There is not time to tell about Gideon, Miriam, Jonathan and Mary...
Reader 9: Those who through faith announced justice and gained what was promised...
Reader 10: Those who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of flames, and escaped the edge of the sword...
Reader 11: Those whose weakness was turned to strength.
Reader 12: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Reader 13: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the perfecter of our faith.

Song:
"Guide My Feet"

Sharing:
Each person is invited to pour the water from your own place into the bowl in the center. Open time for sharing ways in which the Spirit of Living Water has called us to this place.

Blessing of the Spirit of Living Water:
As the bowl is passed around the circle, dip your fingers in the water and touch the forehead of the person to your left with a short word of blessing.

Song (sung during water blessing):
"Peace is Flowing Like a River"

Closing Song:
"Spring Up O Well"

Benediction:
May the blessing of the God of Sarah and of Abraham
The blessing of Mary and her Son Jesus
The blessing of the Holy Spirit be with us all. AMEN

Before the Courts As Witnesses to Life

Gathering:
    L: Come all you who dare to break the unjust laws of the land!  You are welcome here.
    P:    Let us gather together and we will figure out ways to feed and give drink to those whom some say shouldn't be fed.
    L:    We will teach ourselves ways to provide a home for those whom some say deserve no home.
    P:    We will conspire to heal those whom some say do not deserve to be healed.
    L:    We will dare to try and free those whom some say should be forgotten in their jail cells.
    P:    We will recognize as human those whom some say are less than human.
    L:    We will affirm the love and love-worthiness of those whom some say are un-lovable.
    P:    We will steal ourselves to face with courage and faith those whom some say should only be feared.
    L:    Come all you who obey God's divine law!  You are welcome here.
    P:    Let us gather together and pray.

Song:
    "Be Not Afraid"

Scripture:
    Luke 21:12-15 - 12   But . . . they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.  13  This will give you an opportunity to testify.  14 So make up your minds not to worry beforehand about how you will defend yourselves.  15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
    Luke 12:11-12 - 11 When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves, or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.
    Additional Texts: Matt. 10:16-20; Mark 13:9-13; Acts 4:1-22, 5:17-42, 6:8-15, 16:16-40, 21:27ff)

Reflection:

    Why did Jesus single out religious and secular institutions as places to bear witness?  Why preach where power is exercised and public policy is decided?  Jesus knew that Christian witness happens when normal patterns of behavior, religious dogmas, and complacent civil authorities are challenged.  Questions are generated.  There is only one specific situation for which the spirit is promised in the synoptic gospels.  "It is when one is brought before the courts" (Stendhall).  In John 16:2, 7-11 the Spirit is called the parakletos, meaning comforter, advocate or attorney.  In the courts God defends the oppressed, the suppressed, and repressed.

Sharing:
    Fears and Hopes

Prayer
    (See Praying with the Anabaptists,  Kropf and Hall, pp. 74-75 or 100-101 or 173-5.)

Song:
    "Guide My Feet"

Resources:

    "Jesus Before Pilate" by Frank Panopoulos
    "Examining Jesus' Response to Surveillance" by Bill Kellermann
    "The Arc Bends Towards God's Justice" Defense statement by F. Davis
    "Peace Be With You" by Cornelia Lehn

By What Authority? Part 1

The Bible and Civil Disobedience / Divine Obedience – Part 1 of 3

(from Ched Myers, Sojourners, May 1983)

[Note: Part 1 focuses primarily on the Old Testament]


Call to Worship:
L: Come! And trust that which brought you here.
P: Come! Riding on the grace of the wind.
L: Come! Floating on the river that feeds your soul.
P: Come! Walking on the path that unfolds before you.
L: Come! Be present in this sacred moment.
All: You are welcome in this holy place.


Song:
"Never Turnin' Back"


Reader:
Resistance to human sovereigns is as old as civilization itself. The belief that God alone is sovereign accepts acts of resistance to ruling political authority as part of the fabric of the salvation history of Yahweh. Let us listen as the readers take us through a biblical survey of familiar stories that point to the politics of resistance and non-cooperation.


Readers: (allow a brief pause between each example)
In looking at instances of open, nonviolent acts of resistance to structures of authority in the Bible we find two fundamental forms. The first, defensive disobedience, involves those actions aimed at protecting persons from aggression or injustice often through non-cooperation with a law or policy; modern examples include draft or tax resistance.
Defensive disobedience in the Bible:
1. Exodus 1:8 - 2:10 – Hebrew midwives defy an order by Pharaoh to participate in genocide; then the mother of Moses takes her baby "underground" to save his life.
2. Matthew 2 – The baby Jesus is also threatened by state-sponsored extermination of all infants, is saved by the civil disobedience of the Wise Men and goes underground to escape Herod.
3. The Book of Esther – This story, containing three notable instances of non-cooperation involving Vashti, Mordecai and Esther, may have been a kind of handbook for the persecuted Jewish community in its deliberations on concrete strategies of resistance.
4. The Book of Daniel – A veritable charter of civil disobedience by a religious minority including Daniel's solitary witness (ch. 6) and the group resistance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (ch. 3).


Silence (about the time of three slow, deep breaths)


Readers: (allow a brief pause between each example)
The second form of nonviolence, offensive disobedience, involves those actions intending to expose moral, legal, or political contradictions in existing policy through confrontation and engagement such as nonviolent direct action at nuclear weapons facilities today.
Offensive Disobedience in the Bible:
1. Exodus 20 – The Exodus event is the most massive action in defiance of a ruler; many Christians living under occupation, military dictatorship, or state-sponsored repression draw inspiration and hope from the Exodus narrative for their own liberation struggles.
2. Ezekiel 33 – At the center of the prophetic tradition is the conviction that the Word of God must be spoken, especially when it portends bad tidings that will never be gladly received by the authorities. Ezekiel is the prophet in the Watchtower calling the authorities to moral and legal accountability much like Martin Luther King Jr.'s resistance to segregation laws demonstrated the absolute incompatibility of apartheid with the U.S. constitution.
3. I Kings 22 – The court prophet Michaiah defies imperial expectations for a favorable prediction on the eve of a military adventure and is thrown in jail.
4. II Kings 1 – The prophet Elijah refuses to tell a king what he wants to hear despite attempts at military intimidation.
5. The Book of Jeremiah – Jeremiah is perhaps the greatest practitioner of symbolic actions to denounce evil: burying the linen girdle (ch. 13), smashing the earthenware jar (ch. 19), wearing a yoke to protest military alliances for national security (ch. 27). His actions often get him tortured and thrown in jail (ch. 20, ch. 32).
6. Joshua 2, Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25 – Rahab the harlot is given a firm place in biblical history by her politically partisan resistance.


Reflections:
Whom do you know personally who is following the path of Divine Obedience? What are other examples of defensive and offensive nonviolent action?


Prayers:
Offer prayers and thanksgiving for Divine Obeyers;
Communal Response: "Grant (him / her / them / us) Courage"


Song:
"God of Grace"


Other Resources:
Allow the Water, Len Desroches
To Wake the Nation, Tom Cordaro
By What Authority, Ched Myers

By What Authority? Part 2

The Bible and Civil Disobedience / Divine Obedience – Part 2 of 3

(Excerpted from Ched Myers, Sojourners May 1983)

[Note: Part 2 focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus]


Call to Worship
L: "The kin-dom of God is among you." (Luke 17:21)
P: Let us gather together and search it out.
L: "Your kin-dom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)
P: Let us seek to do the will of God and, in doing so, welcome God's kin-dom.

Song:
"Lamb of God"

Reader 1:
The singular model for civil disobedience for the Christian is the ministry of Jesus, much of which can be understood as calculated confrontation with the socio-political powers of his day in two phases: 1) his ministry in Galilee and 2) his final days in Jerusalem.

Reader 2:
Mark's gospel presents us with a Jesus who systematically assaults the social order of first-century Jewish Palestine.
• Jesus takes on the rigid social caste system of clean and unclean by calling a tax collector into his discipleship community, touching a leper, and sharing table fellowship with a variety of outcasts (Mark 1 and 2);
• He attacks the symbolic center of synagogue Judaism, the Sabbath, by healing a man's hand in violation of Sabbath laws (Mark 3);
• He challenges the authority of kinship regulations (Mark 3:31-35) and the claim of the wealthy and educated to their social and religious status (Mark 10:17-23;12:28-34).
In each case, the act is public and carefully planned to address the various aspects of the social world in which Jesus lived. Jewish religious law was the law of the land at that time. There was no "secular realm," only a foreign colonizer (Rome). Thus, Jesus' sequence of action is a dramatic and protracted "civil disobedience campaign" challenging the foundation of Jewish social order.

Reader 3:
Jesus' campaign is finally directed at the center of power, Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-56) where he carries out another sequence of highly symbolic and politically crafted actions beginning with his entrance on a donkey and lament over Jerusalem's imminent demise (Luke 19:28-44). Then comes Jesus' most dramatic and provocative action – the "cleansing"of the temple (Luke 19:45-48).
The temple was the political and economic heart of Jewish social formation. To take action to shut down its commerce completely and denigrate its operation was a bold interpretation of the prophetic tradition of civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience is most potent when it provokes a crisis of authority. Those in power are outraged at Jesus' audacity to undermine their legitimacy and assert the new authority of the reign of God. They arrest him, bring him to trial, collaborate with the occupying Roman authorities to convict him and impose a form of capital punishment reserved for political dissidents – the cross.
Even that doesn't end Jesus' challenge. After his execution by the authorities God raises Jesus. "Resurrection was illegal. When the state puts you to death, you are supposed to stay dead." (Tom Cordaro, To Wake the Nation).

Silence (about the time of three slow, deep breaths)


Reflections:
How does Myers' view of Jesus intersect with your understandings of Jesus? Who are the authorities today needing to be challenged by those called to nonviolent direct action?

Prayers:
(Closing in unison) God, grant all of us the strength to reject despair so that our imaginations are available to the great ministry of nonviolent action.

Song:
"For the Healing of the Nations"

 

By What Authority? Part 3

The Bible and Civil Disobedience / Divine Obedience – Part 3 of 3

(Excerpted from Ched Myers, Sojourners May 1983)

[Note: Part 3 focuses on the early Christian church – The Post-Easter Community Takes up Where Jesus Left off]

The format for this worship/teaching is a drama, with (1) a questor (21st century peacemaker seeker), (2) a Voice representing Jesus and (3) three persons garbed in 1st century robes representing the apostles Peter, John and Paul. Gamaliel comes in at the end briefly either in person or as a voice.

Call to Worship (Prayer from Acts 4:25-26 NEB)
Sovereign Lord,
Maker of heaven and earth and sea and of everything in them, who by the Holy Spiritdid say:
"Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples lay their plots in vain?
The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers made common cause against the Lord and against his Messiah."

Song:
"Lamb of God"

Dramatic Reading:
Questor: Jesus, it seems from the way Ched Myers interprets you, that you deliberately chose a prophetic style of confrontation with authorities. Why? [enter Jesus as a voice behind a wall, door or partition]

Jesus: Simply put, it was in order to underscore that with my coming and as prophesied, the New Authority was the reign of God.

Questor: OK, but your allegiance to that choice led you to the cross! Do you really expect us, your church to also embrace such a lifestyle and the cross?

Jesus: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me..." (Mark 8:34)

Questor: You mean that when we publicly challenge the contemporary order of sin and death that we too can expect to be delivered up to councils, beaten in synagogues, stand before governors and kings? And all because of you, as a testimony to them ? (Mark 13:9) And we are not to worry when we are on trial cause the Holy Spirit will give us the words?! (Mark 13:11) Awesome!

Jesus: Just take a look at the early apostolic church. This is precisely what you'll find. Start with Acts where its recorded that it all flows from bearing witness to Jesus (2:3) (voice trails off).

Questor: Guess we have a New Order here! [Enter Peter and John] Oh, whom do we have here?

Peter: Ah, I'm Peter, the outspoken one. (Looks around) Wonderful to touch down here with you 21st century followers of THE WAY.

John: And I am John. Grateful I am that you all are also IN THE WAY as we were so often after that powerful Pentecost experience. Here's a very brief look at what we said and did when the first century Jerusalem authorities nailed us (so to speak) and arrested us for preaching about Jesus. The details are all there in the third and fourth chapters of Acts.

Peter & John: We simply said: "Whether it it is right in God's sight to listen to you rather than God, you must judge." (Acts 4:19)

John: We were released but not for long. Soon you'll find that the two of us plus others were arrested and put into the public prison (Acts 5:18) after signs and wonders were done among the people.

Peter: Miraculously during the night an angel opened the prison doors. First thing you know, we were teaching in the temple. So the police brought us again before the full senate of the Israelite nation for interrogation. Our reply was:

Peter & John: "We must obey God rather than any human authority. God exalted Jesus as Leader and Savior. We are witnesses...." (Acts 5:29). That time we weren't killed, only flogged and let go – [laughing] rejoicing! Must go now. [Peter & John exit singing "Marching in the Light of God"]

Song:
"How Can I keep from Singing?"

Dramatic Reading:
Questor: Wow. There is a lot to think about... [enter Paul, from a distance, singing] Who is that?

Paul: I'm the persecutor Saul turned Resurrection/Witness/ Paul. Now before you 21st century followers rush away from reflecting on Peter and John, I do want to briefly (I know you are always strapped for time in these trainings!) encourage you to dig even more deeply into the post-Easter community. Check out the Acts 16 story where Silas and I were seized and dragged before the authorities in Philippi. As you know they called us "disturbers," had us beaten and jailed. Remember our midnight prayers and songs? And that wonderful jailer and his family? What a night that was for moving ahead God's reign! But it was just one of many encounters we first century folks had with the authorities. So go ahead, read on in Acts 19 and 20 and 25...You'll recall also that many of my letters were written from jail cells, including Philippians and Ephesians. "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them, as you are doing nonviolently in Canada and the U.S. and in Colombia and other places!" (Eph. 5:11). Must go now before I start preaching on the non-cooperation of Romans 13 [exit Paul, his voice trailing off as he leaves.]

Questor: Well, my fellow CPTers, we have run out of time, so we can't talk about John banned to the Island of Patmos, or how Ched Myers speaks of resisting the slave trade and oppressive economies and military policies, but you are encouraged to study his document.

Reflections:
What are your impressions, your thoughts of these Biblical characters? Do they inspire, discourage, enliven? What contemporary (or even historical persons) come to mind as you take several moments to silently reflect on this drama from the past. When the five nuns were jailed for their September 2000 Plowshares Action in Colorado, were they being faithful to the Acts episodes? Have you been compelled to act with love and compassion in your heart for justice, for the earth, for peace? How do we discern when, where, why and how we are to be the Divinely Obedient (D0) folks in our time?

Prayer:

Remind us, O Lord, of the debt we owe to our spiritual ancestors who willingly gave their lives and left their homes to follow you. Remind us that they, too, struggled with sin, relationships, and power, as they sought to live faithfully. Let us neither forget them nor attribute to them powers unavailable to us, but instead learn from their struggles and their witness to live faithfully in our homes and in our communities. Amen.

Song:
"It Doesn't Matter"

Benediction:
May the wisdom of God in its rich variety be made known to the rulers and authorities in boldness and confidence through the faithful followers of Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:10-12)

 

Daniel Faces A Repressive Law

Song:
"They That Wait upon the Lord"

Scripture:
• Daniel 2:1-5 – The King's Unreasonable Demand – unjust laws are all too prevalent in present-day occupations (examples: collective punishment in the West Bank, IMF structural adjustment policies).
• Daniel 2:10-13 – A Volatile Enraged Monarch Issues a Death Order – Note the pleas of the Bees in Chiapas or the Aboriginal efforts in Canada and the USA.
• Daniel 2:14-18 – Intervention by God's Quartet of Captives – Noteworthy elements in their nonviolent direct action strategy include requesting more time; working as an Anabaptist team; inviting prayer; connecting with the source of Life and Mystery.

Song:
"Singing for our Lives"

Litany: (based on Daniel 2:19-23)
L: Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night
P: And Daniel blessed the God of Heaven
L: Blessed be the name of God from age to age
P: For wisdom and power are God's
L: God changes times and seasons; sets up kings and deposes them.
P: God gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
L: God reveals deep and hidden things;
P: God knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with the Creator.
ALL: We thank and praise you, O God of our ancestors, for you have given us wisdom and power and have revealed what we asked.

Reader:
With the vision of the dream and its meaning secure in his hip pocket, Daniel goes back to Arioch, the Prime Minister in charge of executions, who wisely brings Daniel into the royal presence (Daniel 2:25-30). In the end, lives are saved, God is glorified and the four Hebrew foreigners are given promotions. (Daniel 2:46-49)

Reflections
What aspects of the story are instructive? Note that Divine Obedience led the Daniel affinity group into further witness - as into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3) and the Lion's Den (Daniel 6). The Babylon in which the Hebrew captives witnessed is today's Iraq with devastating sanctions. Or consider Carl Meyer's July 10, 1999 statement: "For these reasons of conscience, and because I place my allegiance to God higher than my allegiance to the United States, I openly state my refusal to register with the Selective Service and my willingness to accept the legal consequences of this choice."

Prayer

Song:
"This Little Light of Mine"

 

Daniel and Friends

Call to Worship: (sung)
Gathered here in the presence of this hour,
Gathered here in one strong body
Gathered here in the mercy and the pow'r,
Spirit draw near.

Song:
"This Little Light of Mine"

Reading (by person in "regal" setting):
Who are these four Hebrews who have been taken captive from Jerusalem (500 miles east) to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar (605 BC?) and find themselves in the foreigner's palace?

A. The Training and Testing of the Remnant

(Daniel 1:3-7) Daniel whose name means "God is my judge" realizes that he is asked to indulge in something consecrated by a heathen religious rite. To eat would be comparable to idol worship. He assertively speaks to the palace master, but gets nowhere. (Daniel 1:8-10) So he goes another route and makes a specific proposal, which flies. This guy is serious about his diet! (Daniel 1:11-17) So begins "the triumph of God's power and grace in Babylon." Which means they could discern the false and true in their instructions (literature) and whatever constituted local diplomacy or statecraft, i.e. politics (wisdom). So now the three years of training are over and all the young men are scrutinized by royalty. (Daniel 1:18-19 ) The powers that be are impressed. Promotions to the white house! Heady stuff for lowly Jews to be cabinet insiders! (Daniel 1:20) Daniel's 60 years under a series of kings continue.

B. King Nebuchadnezzar's Dream and Daniel's Interpretation

Now moving further into Nebuchadnezzar's reign, we note the king is baffled by nightmares. To tell the dream and its interpretation is too tough even for the court magicians and sorcerers. (Daniel 2:10-11) A volatile enraged monarch issues a death order. Arbitrary? An unjust law -- common to even present occupations. (Daniel 2:12-13) Daniel, spokesperson for the four, judiciously intervenes. (Intervention tactics didn't begin in the 20th century) asking for time, first with Arioch, and then goes right to the top. (Daniel 2:14-16) Another nonviolent direct action strategy now surfaces. Daniel:
a) works in Anabaptist fashion as a team
b) invites prayer, connecting with the source of life and mystery
c) is motivated by life over death and not only for himself (Daniel 2:17-18)
It's after this that a miracle occurs – the impossible happens! (Daniel 2:19) A hymn of thanksgiving follows. God rightfully is credited. (Daniel 2:20-23 litany format) With the vision of the dream and its meaning secure in his hip pocket, Daniel goes back to Arioch. (Daniel 2:24) Well, this Arioch knows which side is up when it comes to saving lives, and he moves to action. (Daniel 2:25-30) Fait accompli! In the end lives are saved. (Daniel 2:46-49) God is glorified and Daniel is promoted once again.

C. The Golden Image and the Fiery Furnace
But now the idolatrous saga continues. The king has learned nothing from his earlier dream. Pride and power prevail. He erects a 90-foot high image (of himself?) to be dedicated, i.e. worshiped. Compulsory state religion. No religious freedom evident for natives or foreigners... So the scene is set. The dignit Arioches are assembled. Let the worship begin. The command is clear; the penalty severe. (Daniel 3:3b-6) Everyone acquiesced, no questions asked. It's the law! (Daniel 3:7) But wait. There are some resisters present. Non-compliance must be punished. Racism and jealousy prevail. (Daniel 3:8-12) Another kingly rage episode follows. Daniel's friends are brought in and tried. Recant or be burned. (Daniel 3:14-15) What a response! Non-defensive, clear, trusting of God. (Daniel 3:16-18) Prefigures the Gospel promises in the courts (Mark 13:9-12). The sentence is immediate. Execution! (Daniel 3:19-23) Again a miraculous deliverance occurs – even as an unidentified Other One joins the faithful. (Daniel 3:24-30)

D. King Nebuchadnezzar's Insanity
King Nebuchadnezzar has a second troubling dream of a great tree. Only Daniel is able to explain it. His call to repentance being ignored, the king is punished and loses his mind for a time. Years later, he repents and praises. (Daniel 4:34-35)

E. King Bel's Festival and Punishment

In Daniel 5, King Belshazzar (son of Nebuchadnezzar?) has a great festival for 1000 of his cronies. A drunken orgy ensues, using sacred vessels from the Jews' temple. A mysterious message appears on the palace wall. (Daniel 5:4-9) A woman intervenes. Daniel is summoned. In Babylon, the queen Mother held the palace's highest rank. (Daniel 5:10-12) Daniel is welcomed. (Daniel 5:13-16) Daniel announces God's judgment and interprets the writing. (Daniel 5:20-31)

F. Daniel and the Den of Lions
The account of resistance is not over. Divine obedience by a faithful minority continues. Group witness (Daniel 2 and 3) is followed now by Daniel's solitary witness, not unlike that of Franz Jagerstatter, who resisted the Nazi regime in the 20th century. Darius the king elevates Daniel to one of three presidents. Jealousy among the powerful rears its ugly head. Destroy the favorite foreigner! (Daniel 6:3-5) Because the king is regarded as God's sole representative on earth, the opposition decides to attack the religious aspect. (Daniel 6:6-9) A new law is signed by an unsuspecting ruler. What follows is a story of courage and faithfulness in the face of opposition. (Daniel 6:10-13) The opposition succeeds in getting their man. (Daniel 6:14-18) Amazing intervention, this time by God, results in an unharmed Daniel, while his accusers are punished. (Daniel 6:19-24) And thus we have the account of yet another king in the Babylonian empire fearing God. Another life-giving, death-defying decree is passed. (Daniel 6:25-27– litany)

Reflections

Prayers

Song:
"It Doesn't Matter"

 

Jeremiah: Prophetic Call and Commission

(Note: As preparation, invite worshipers to read Jeremiah 1 in advance.)


Call to Worship: (All read together slowly)
"Jeremiah, before I, Yahweh, formed you in the womb I knew you; And before you were born I consecrated you; I Yahweh appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:4-5)


Song:
"Here I am, Lord"


Dialogue – Scripture Reading and Commentary: (based on Jeremiah 1:1-10)

Jeremiah: Here I was, son of Hilkiah, from a priestly not prophetic family, living in Anathoth. Anathoth is today's Arab village of Anata, three miles north of Jerusalem. And then this call came. This word of Yahweh came to me! Can you possibly imagine how I felt?! My response was certainly understandable: "Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." I mean, I was born around 645 BC and this call came in 625 BC, so you can see I was barely 20 at the time. But Yahweh vigorously overruled my excuse of being too young to speak publicly.

Group: (slowly) "Do not say, Jeremiah, 'I am only a boy;' for you shall go to all to whom I, Yahweh, send you. (pause) And you shall speak whatever I command you. (pause) Do not be afraid of them, (pause) FOR I AM WITH YOU TO DELIVER YOU." (Jeremiah 1:7-8)

Jeremiah: So you see, Yahweh detected the real reason for my strong inner resistance to the prophetic call. It was fear. Because I had grown up in an atmosphere of political and religious turmoil, my sensitive nature reacted to the prospect of public prophetic involvement. Many questions swirled in my mind. How could I not be afraid of the powers?! Imagine speaking to a series of kings like Josiah, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah! Public witness was just not my thing. Not be afraid when I would be warning of disaster and destruction? Not be afraid of my nation's princes and priests and people? Not be afraid of confronting other nations, including Babylon? And all this extending over a period of forty years! Of course, I didn't know that at the time of the call. It took some time for me to realize in my gut that my authority came from Yahweh. It was after all a Divine Commission. And furthermore, the whole thing was not my idea. I had not asked for this. So in some sense, it was incumbent upon Yahweh to assure me that God's presence and message would be there, including my itinerary. Then, as if to solidify the call, Yahweh continued with a highly unusual installation service – God's hand reached out and touched my mouth and God said to me...

Group: "Now I, Yahweh, have put MY words in your mouth. (pause) See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, (pause) to pluck up and to pull down, (pause) to destroy and to overthrow, (pause) to build and to plant." (Jeremiah 1:9-10)

Jeremiah: So that was it! My message from Yahweh was to be initially destrutive, then constructive - sort of like a verbal wrecking ball, smashing into erroneous traditions (chapter 7). Or put another way I was to be endowed with spiritual power to carry out seemingly contradictory assignments. To focus on oppositie poles like judgment and hope; grief and rebirth; doom and redemption. How symbolic the message was to be. My name YIRMEYAH in Hebrew means both "Yahweh Exalts" and "Yahweh Throws Down." Well, I've surely given you modern 21st century aspiring prophetic peacemakers enough for today.




Silent Reflection:
1. What impresses you about Jeremiah's call?
2. Think of others to whom God's call came. (Moses, Miriam, Deborah, Isaiah, Mary, Paul, Lydia, Luther, Anabaptists, King...)
3. How does God call for prophetic voices in our time?
4. Consider your own call.

Sharing

Prayers of a Believing Heart: (select a portion of Psalm 139 to be read in unison as a group prayer)

1. God's all-knowing (1-4) – "O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely."

2. God's presence (7-10) – "Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from you presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me fast."

3. God's creation of humans (13-14) – "For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well."

4. Petition for guidance (23-24) – "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."


Song:
"Here I am, Lord"

Jesus and Civil Disobedience/Divine Obedience

Based on "The Sacrament of Civil Disobedience," John Dear S.J., 1994, Ch. 3, pp 44-68


Call to worship:
"Lamb of God"

Scripture/Reflection:
John Dear lists ten major episodes as actions of nonviolent disobedience by Jesus, followed by the nonviolent act of resurrection (note that this is only one of many ways of looking at the incarnation.) Jesus' first public declaration in Mark 1:15 – "The Kingdom of God is at hand..." – was subversive, as were his readings from Isaiah (Luke 4:17-19) in the synagogue. To enact a "jubilee year" would have meant the complete upheaval of the class structure. As a truth-teller he was in trouble from the start.

1. Jesus' first action was a public exorcism of a man with an unclean spirit in the Capernaum synagogue (Mark 1:23-26). He disrupts the cultic atmosphere. He exorcized the culture's possession of people. The man was amazingly cleansed from the unclean spirit of imperial violence which had been internalized.

2. The healing of the leper (Mark 1:40-42) was civilly disobedient because it went beyond the designated boundaries of society. Lepers were "outsiders." Buy touching him, Jesus became a marginalized outsider too. He broke social and religious laws of behavior. (Gandhi also associated with India's "untouchable" cast.)

3. A third set of illegal actions includes Jesus' mingling with the outsiders: sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, the dying, the hungry, widows, women, fishermen, and children. He declared (Mark 3:34) his total union with the poor and oppressed. By eating with the marginalized (Mark 2:15) Jesus publicly embraced all who were excluded by societal laws.

4. Working and healing on the Sabbath constitute a fourth series of civil resistance actions: (Mark 2:23) plucking grain by the disciples (their first public action was illegal!) Mark 3:1-6 healing of the withered hand; Luke 13:10-17, healing of the woman, Luke 14:1-6 healing of man. For Jesus, mercy and human needs preceded regulation and rule.

5. This addresses the economy of militarism , the business of war which allowed the imperialistic forces of Rome ("legion") to control people (Matt. 8:28-34). The man possessed by the unclean spirit represents the poor who were under the oppressive and violent Roman military occupation. Jesus also called for the economic conversion from profits and oppression to justice and disarmament. Then, as now, Jesus' message was scandalous and radical.

6. Jesus challenged the religious leaders by breaking the legalized religious dietary codes used to manipulate and oppress (Mark 7:1-23). Not washing hands before eating could result in condemnation and ostracization. Essentially, Jesus called for a return to the basics of justice and mercy (Luke 11:37-43). He used very strong language ("Woe to you!")

7. Jesus was constantly fraternizing with the enemy: loving one's enemy was dangerous, subversive activity and yet it is the hallmark of Jesus's teaching and life. In his time the enemies were Samaritans, Gerasenes, and Greeks. (John 4:4-43 – the Samaritan woman; Mark 4:35-41– enemy territory). When crucified by enemies, he prayed, "Forgive them!"

8. The street theater of the donkey ride into Jerusalem is considered a satire on the military parades of the empire (Luke 19:29-40). He is demonstrating how a real liberator acts: in humility, nonviolence, and simplicity. The procession is public and political, like Gandhi's salt march to the sea or King's march from Selma to Montgomery.

9. The climax is Jesus' nonviolent direct action at the temple, the public center of the Jewish-Roman system, which kept the people subdued and oppressed. By wrecking the tables, Jesus symbolically throws over the imperial and religious domination (Mark 11: 15-18). He quotes Isaiah and Jeremiah who regularly condemned the Temple-state system and called for justice and peace.

10. Following the Temple action, Jesus continues to stress obedience to God. High on the list is not to pay taxes to Caesar – a revolutionary declaration (Mark 12:13-17 etc.) Dorothy Day commented, "Once we give to God what is God's there is nothing left for Caesar." If the people followed Jesus in voluntary poverty and radical obedience to God, Caesar would be out of power. Recognizing the political nature of Jesus' Divine Obedience, the authorities arrested and killed him (Luke 23:2).

11. God raised Jesus from the dead and the resurrection was the ultimate act of nonviolent civil disobedience! According to God, suffering love and truth-telling (not the empire's law) always lead to resurrection and life. Thomas' "my Lord and my God" was an act of faith and an expression of love for Jesus. Beyond that it was an act of political "blasphemy" because the emperor had been declared God. "The resurrection inspired the disciples to practice nonviolent civil disobedience as a way of life towards the ruling authorities of the day" (p. 67).

Prayers

Song:
"God of Grace"

 

Jesus and the Poor

Call to Worship: (From Mary's Song in Luke 1)
One: "My soul proclaims your greatness, O God,
All: And my spirit rejoices in you, my savior...
One: You have shown strength with your arm,
All: You have scattered the proud in their conceit...
One: You have filled the hungry with good things,
All: While you have sent the rich away empty."

Song:
"You are Salt for the Earth" #226, Hymnal

Scripture:
Matthew 26:6-13

Reader 1:
Even though 3 of the Gospel writers record the extravaganza anointing incident (Mark 14:1-9 and John 12:1-8), we have consciously and unconsciously concluded: Since there were poor in Jesus' time, there are poor today and there will be poor when Jesus returns. Therefore there is not much we can or should do for them. We conclude that to have 550 million hungry people in our world is a normal state of affairs. And so we can go on living like we always lived.

All: YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE POOR WITH YOU!

Reader 2:

Once again, people who receive some form of welfare are being targeted as the enemy in spite of the figures that just don't add up. (e.g. in the United States, food and housing subsidies account for less than 4 percent of total federal spending. By contrast, over $1 trillion in government subsidies goes to corporations and wealthy Americans.)

All: (LOUDER) YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE POOR WITH YOU!

Reader 3:

But poverty is not just isolated figures – it is lives of people, usually women and children. (Pause now and "see" the face of a poor person for several moments.)

All: (EMPHATICALLY) YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE POOR WITH YOU!!!

Reader 4:
Obviously there is some confusion here. So I ask you, Jesus – Did you or did you not call for systemic change by the rich and powerful (the Domination System) so that the poor may live?! You are suggesting that hearing the context of this most oft-quoted and misunderstood text might help? Ok, let's hear it.

Scripture:
Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Reader 5:

So, our superficial conclusion that what we do for the poor will not do much good anyway is not the conclusion that the disciples would have drawn from Jesus' statement. They certainly knew Deuteronomy 15 with its vision of "Sabbath economics." And they knew about your Luke 4 mandate about the poor for your mission on this earth. For them this statement was not a resignation to the inevitable. Rather, it was a declaration that because there are poor and hungry people, they should be fed. And certainly Jesus' commendation of extravagance this one time did not negate our ongoing responsibility for the poor and needy.

Reflections

Prayer: (in unison)

All-nourishing God, your children cry for help against the violence of our world –
Where children starve for bread and feed on weapons;
Starve for vision and feed on drugs;
Starve for love and feed on videos;
Starve for peace and die murdered in our streets.

Abiding God, loving renewer of the human spirit, unfold our violent fists into peaceful hands.
Stretch our sense of family to include our neighbors.
Stretch our sense of neighbor to include our enemies,
Until our response to you finally respects and embraces
All creation as precious sacraments of your presence.

Hear the prayer of all your starving children. Amen
(From Prayer for a New Society)

Song:
"Freedom is Coming"

-------------------------------

A Letter to Jesus About the Poor

Dear Jesus,

Taking issue with you is probably irreverent, but why didn't you quote Deuteronomy 15:11 in its entirety when you said, "You'll always have the poor with you?"
Three of the Gospel writers record the extravaganza anointing incident (Matt. 26:1-13, Mark 14:1-9, and John 12:1-8) so it must have been important. Besides, you were about to be killed, so this episode takes on even more significance -- loyalty vs betrayal and denial, you might say.
Furthermore, it even sounds like your inaugural mandate back in Luke 4:18: "anointed to bring good news to the poor." I'm confused. Did you or did you not call for systemic change by the rich and powerful so that the poor could live? Or did you mean that only giving token relief was necessary -- not trying to change the unjust structures like the military-industrial complex and the World Bank.
OK, if your statement on the poor was descriptive rather than prescriptive, maybe we should not proof text this one, but look at the whole of your teachings and life. I know you'd not condone having millions of hungry people in our world. And we do have Matt 25 too. I am beginning to see the story of this woman's spontaneous act of love was to show her dedication to you. And furthermore, your disciples knew the whole Old Testament passage, that because there are needy people they should be cared for...
Ah ha...I get it now. Thanks for listening. I'll try to listen and obey: "Since there will never cease to be some need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.'"

 

Job: Accepting the Unacceptable

Call to Worship:
Psalm 46

Song:
"For the Healing of the Nations"

Silence

Scripture:
Hebrews 11

Biblical Reflection:
Accepting the Unacceptable – The Book of Job
Job 1:1 Job was blameless and upright.
Job 1:11-12 God makes a bet with Satan at Job's expense.
Job 1:13-19 Job's children are killed, and his property is taken or destroyed,
including his servants, who are killed!
Job 1:20-22 Job passes the test and does not blame God.
Job 2:5-6 God makes another bet with Satan at Job's expense.
Job 2:9-11 Job's wife tells him to curse God, but he refuses.
Job 3:3-4 Job curses the day he was born.
Job 4:7-8,17 Eliphaz says that Job has sinned.
Job 6:14-15 Job asks, "What have I done to deserve this?"
Job 8:3-6 Bildad calls on Job to repent.
Job 9:21-22 Job insists he is blameless.
Job 21:7, Job 24:1-12 Job complains of injustice on the earth.
Job 38:1-7 God answers Job.
Job 42:7-8 God humiliates Job's friends.

Job's friends claim that if Job suffers, there must be a reason. Job insists that he is an innocent victim and his suffering, and the world, is unjust. By reprimanding Job's friends and restoring Job's fortune, God confirms Job's point of view, but reminds him who is in charge.

Reflections

Prayers

Song:
"We Shall Not Give Up the Fight"

 

Jochabed and Miriam

A Mother - Daughter Team Collaborates With Royalty For Life


Gathering:
L: Grace to you and peace from God
P: who was, who is and who is to come
L: and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness
P: to whom be glory and power forever and ever!

Song:
"Wade in the Water"

Scripture:
• Exodus 1:22 - "Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, 'Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.'"
• Exodus 6:20 - "Amram married Jochabed, his father's sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses..."
• Hebrews 11:23 - "By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king's edict."

Monologue:
"Now Let Us Tell of Jochabed" by Muriel Thiessen Stackley (see below)

Silent or Shared Reflections

Prayers:
Response (sung): "Our God Hears the Cry of the Poor. Blessed be our God"

Proclamation:
"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be that of water or tears, say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.' From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says ‘Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.' Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
- Julia Ward Howe
Original Mother's Day Proclamation
Boston; September, 1870

Song:
"Spring Up Oh Well"

Credit: Joyce Hollyday, Clothed with the Sun, p. 140.

----------------------------------------------

Now Let Us Tell of Jochabed
by Muriel Thiessen Stackley

Suggestions: Reader reads scriptures while a woman dressed in a Palestinian fellaheen peasant dress recites the monologue.

Reader: Exodus 2:1-2 - 1 "Now Amram from the house of Levi went and married Jochabed, a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months.

Woman: By faith, dear woman, you hid your baby, and rallied your husband, son, and daughter in the monumental task of shushing an illegal infant, pretending he wasn't there. For ninety long days you broke a vicious law, tenaciously protecting a tiny human life.

Reader:
Exodus 2:3 - 3 "When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river."

Woman:
By faith you made a basket waterproof with bitumen and pitch. You did know about boat-building. I learned from G. Ernest Wright that reeds coated with bitumen are a good way to make a boat.) Did you do your boat building at night, praying that the baby wouldn't cry to be nursed while your hands were sticky with pitch? What did you use to clean your hands? What did Amram say about the project? Did he help?
When the little boat was dry, you made it soft inside, petting the place where your three-month-old would lie. What did you think when you laid the baby inside? The basket-boat could just as easily have been a coffin. Was the baby rolling over yet? Were you afraid he would rock the boat and fall into the water? Did you fasten the lid shut? I know there was a lid -- later the record states that the basket "was opened."
By faith, dear woman, you placed the basket-boat on the water -- just put it to float -- and walked away. Where did you get such a hair-brained idea? Surely you shared your plan with Amram. What did he say?
You just walked away from the baby you had so vigilantly guarded for ninety days -- day and night -- so that no Pharaoh's patrol would suspect a thing. How did you manage to walk away? Trusting God -- and who else was there? Hoping against hope that by some unknown circumstance -- Almighty protection -- your baby might live. Giving up everything, having done everything that you knew to do (precious stupid though it appeared), you walked away. You gave up control. You went where you couldn't see the baby. Couldn't even hear the baby. Did you carefully time the placing of the basket on the water so he wouldn't have any unburped burps, so he wouldn't immediately have a bowel movement and cry uncontrollably and toss the little floating boat?

Reader:
Exodus 2:4-10 - 4 "His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. 5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. 'This must be one of the Hebrews' children,' she said. 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, 'Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?' 8 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Yes.' So the girl went and called the child's mother. 9 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.' So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, 'because,' she said, 'I drew him out of the water.'"

Woman: Did you give Miriam any instructions? Did she have any reason to expect the princess? What a daughter you raised, who was not a bit intimidated by the royal entourage! She asked just the right question and got just the right answer.
And you! Jochabed, Jochabed! You got your baby back! A gift from the princess. Now he could live. Now he could cry. He could laugh. He was now legal. He was now royal! He was alive!
How did you manage to be subservient and poker-faced when that innocent princess-instrument-of-God gave you back your very own baby? What kept Miriam from jumping for joy? Did she comprehend the moment? Surely she did after her dazzling demonstration of restrained wisdom.
Jochabed, you are my teacher. You teach me to take seriously the guidance which the world considers strange if not absurd. (Who would have recommended putting a baby in a floating basket for his safety?) You teach me to walk away from situations I cannot control, and rather walk with God into situations where I don't have the foggiest notion of the outcome. (What mother in her right mind would leave her baby floating on a river and go home?)
You teach me that God is able to save that which I treasure most only when I give it up, when I allow myself to be terrifyingly vulnerable. (Who would have predicted that the baby was safer on a river than in his bed at home? Yet, home in bed, he would have inevitably been given a death sentence rather than becoming legal, let alone regal!)
Jochabed, you teach me to walk by faith and thus, mystically, participate in God's participation in the world. I will tell of you as long as I am able! God used you to preserve a nation, to redeem the people of God, and to teach me a thing or two.

 

Paul and Silas in Prison

Invocation:
L: Come to be our hope, O Jesus, come to set your people free.
P: From oppression, come, release us, let us turn to life in Thee.
L: Come release from every prison those who suffer in our land.
P: In your love we find the reason still to live and understand.
L: Come to build your new creation through the road to servanthood;
P: Give new life to every nation, changing evil into good.
L: Come and open our tomorrow for a realm, now, so near.
P: Take away all human sorrow, give us hope against our fear.
- by Jaci C. Maraschin, Brazil

Song:
"Wade In The Water"

Scripture:
Acts 16:16-40
Once when we were going to prayer, we met a household worker who was possessed by a spirit of divination, and who made a great deal of money for her employers through its fortune-telling. She began to follow Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These are faithful followers of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation!" She did this for many days.
Finally one day Paul lost his temper, and turned around, and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to leave this woman!" It left her that moment.
When her employers saw that their profitable operation was now hopelessly dead, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities in the public square. They brought the mto the chief magistrates and said, "These people are Jews and are disturbing the peace by advocating practices which are unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice."
The crowd joined in the attack on them, and the magistrates stripped them and ordered them to be flogged. they were whipped many time and thrown into prison, and the jailer was told to keep a close watch on them. So, following these instructions, the warden threw them into the innermost cell of the prison and chained their feet to a stake.
About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the other prisoners listened. Suddenly a severe earthquake shook the place, rocking the prison to its foundation. Immediately all the doors flew open, and everyone's chains were pulled loose. When the jailer woke up and found the doors wide open, he drew a sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We're all still here."
The jailer called for a light, then rushed in and fell trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and, after a brief interval, led them out and asked them, "What must I do to be saved?"
They answered, "Believe in Jesus the Savior, and you will be saved -- you and everyone in your household."
They proceeded to preach the word of God to the jailer and his whole household. At that late hour of the night he took them in and bathed their wounds; then he and the whole household were baptized. He led them up into his house, spread a table before them, and the whole family joyfully celebrated their newfound faith in God.
In the morning the magistrates sent officers with the order, "Release them both."
The jailer reported to Paul, "The magistrates have ordered your release. Go in peace."
"What's this?" replied Paul. "They beat us publicly and throw us, Roman citizens, into prison without a trial. And now they want to release us quietly? No! They'll have to come and escort us out themselves!"
The officers brought this news to the magistrates, who were horrified to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. So the magistrates came to assuage them, led them out of prison and begged them to leave the city.
From prison Paul and Silas returned to Lydia's house, where they met with the sisters and brothers to give them encouragement. Then they left.
(From The Inclusive New Testament, Priests for Equality, Brentwood, MD)

Reflections

Prayers

Song:
"It Doesn't Matter"

 

Prayer and Temperament

Based on Myers/Briggs Personality Styles

Call to Worship
L: Come! And trust that which brought you here.
P: Come! Riding in on the grace of the wind
L: Come! Floating in on the river that feeds your soul.
P: Come! Walking on the path that unfolds in front of you.
L: Come! And be in this moment, this place; welcoming in the love of living.

Song:
"Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying"

Introduction to Prayer and Temperament
Four pairs of preferences:
E - I extroversion - introversion
S - N sensing - intuition
T - F thinking - feeling
J - P judging - perceiving

The first and last pairs are called attitudes because they represent the orientation of the individual in regard to the world.
E – extrovert: stimulated by the outer world of people and things
I – introvert: derives energy from the inner world of ideas, concepts, feelings, and spirit

J – judging: primarily concerned with how things should be.
P – perceiving: primarily concerned with how things are.

The middle pairs of preferences are called functions. They have to do with the method one uses to relate to the world or to oneself.
S – sensing: concentrates on what is available to the senses (visible, audible, etc.)
N – intuitive: concentrates on the inner sense of things

T – thinking: uses the intellect to arrive at a conclusion through reasoning
F – feeling: makes decisions based on how one feels about things

Small Group Reflections
Benedictine Prayer – Lectio Divina
Lectio divina is suitable for all temperaments; it uses all four functions. Bible reading is the base.
1. Lectio (reading) – uses senses in reading or perceiving God's works.
2. Meditatio (meditation) – uses thinking to reflect upon one's reading
3. Oratio (prayer) – uses feeling to personalize insights for communion
4. Contemplation (contemplation) – uses intuition to coalesce reading, meditation, and prayer into new insights

The four steps respond to characteristics of all four temperaments:
1. Reading – SJ: study and search to discover wisdom and direction
2. Reflection – NT: gets answers and practical fruit
3. Prayer – NF + SP: intimacy with God, feelings of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving
4. Contemplation – NF: adapting to one's own situation

Ignatian Prayer and Spirituality – The SJ Temperament
This way of praying was used by Israel 1000 years before Christ. In remembering a salvation event, the people relive, participate in, and symbolically make past events real. All four functions apply, and the structures resemble Lectio Divina. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, developed this method in the 4th century AD. Casting oneself back into the events of the past, one imagines the scene through all five senses, making the story real and present and becoming part of it. It's important to draw some practical fruit. The Christian Liturgical Year, commemorating events in Jesus' life, especially the Holy Week Liturgy, indicates the popularity of Ignatian Prayer.... SJ's represent 40% of the population and 50% of church attendance. They have a strong sense of duty, and a good imagination. They tend to be pessimistic.

Augustinian Prayer and Spirituality -- The NF Temperament
Named in honor of St. Augustine -- who developed rules of spirituality for the monks and convents in North Africa. The key word is projection, using creative imagination to transpose scripture to today's situation. Especially used by NF's who are usually creative, optimistic, verbal, persuasive, outspoken, writers and speakers; good listeners, counselors, conflict resolvers and peacemakers. Handling negative criticism is difficult for NFs, but they blossom under affirmation. 12% of population. Visionaries. Prayer is a discourse between God and the self.

Fransiscan Prayer and Spirituality -- The SP Temperament
St. Francis (an ESFP?) introduced this type of spirituality in the 13th century. It is characterized by an attitude of openness and willingness to go where the Spirit calls. (38% of population). SP's are impulsive free spirits, often witty and charming. They love action and work best in a crisis. They are good at unsnarling messes, making them good negotiators and diplomats. They tend to be flexible and open-minded, living in the present. They are best at short-range projects, because they need to see results. Centering life in God. Creation is a Bible – every sense is impressionable; Gospels are appealing as another example of the incarnation of God in creation. Appreciate the grand gesture, like St. Francis stripping off his clothes... Although very sacrificial, SP's don't respond well to the symbolic. They usually dislike formal prayer, preferring spirit-filled, impulsive prayer or seeing work, celebration, or enjoying nature, etc. as prayer.

Thomistic Prayer and Spirituality -- The NT Temperament
Recommended by St. Thomas Aquinas and using syllogistic methods of thinking and orderly progression of thought from cause to effect, i.e. rational thinking to arrive at an appropriate conclusion. Based on the rationalism of the West's last four centuries. NT's (12% of the population) have a great thirst for truth and for the freedom that flows from knowing truth. They desire to comprehend, explain, predict and control. The tend to be leaders, and also tend to pursue perfection and see stupidity and incompetence as the worst possible faults. They can be overcritical and are often work-a-holics. They are poor losers -- very competitive. They tend to be impersonal in relationships. NT spirituality is scientific-oriented. May use seven auxiliary questions: "what, why, how, who, where, when, with what helps" to explore the topic at hand (like "faith"). "Metanoia" or conversion is an important result.

Prayer

Song:
"Thuma Mina"


Source: Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Michael and Norrisey

 

Puah and Shiphrah: Defying Authority

(The first recorded Biblical nonviolent direct action)


Call to Worship:
    L:         Lift up your hearts
    P:        We lift them up to the Lord
    L:         The Lord be with you
    P:        And also with you
    
Song:
    "God Give Us Power"

Scripture:
    Exodus 1:7-14; Acts 7:17-19 - A People Oppressed

Reader:
    The Egyptians, once slaves of the Israelites were now the enslavers of two million people and growing.  Even severe oppression by the authorities could not stop the multiplication. Unfortunately, oppression continues since the l3th century BC:  Palestinians, those in Chiapas, Africa, the poor in North America, etc.

Scripture:
    Exodus 1:15-16 - A King's Command

Reader:
    Pharaoh, fearful of their strength, devised an abhorrent scheme to resolve the birth dilemma: he ordered destruction of all newborn Hebrew males.  (Female children seemingly posed no threat.)  The slaughter of the innocents continued after the birth of Jesus; it continues with the 40,000 children who died within the last 24 hours.

Scripture:
    Exodus 1:17 - Divine Obedience for Life

Reader:
    The authorities hadn't counted on the faith of ordinary, God-fearing women.  Brute power did not deter Puah and Shiphrah from allegiance to a higher power.  In their discernment they surely weighed the cost, realizing that by their disobedience they might be risking their own lives.  Or perhaps, as they listened to the inner voice, their consciences led them to obey a higher law – at any price.  At any rate, these midwives and their followers tenderly caught all children as they entered the world and let them live.

Dramatization:

    Puah:            This time Pharaoh has come down with a biggie!
    Shiphrah:    I know.  He wants to Kill!  Imagine that.  Remember all those babies we helped bring into the world?  Must be hundreds.
    Puah:            Right.  Our work is to save life.  All human life is sacred, especially when they are helpless.
    Shiphrah:    What if we don't obey that evil law.  Do you think Pharaoh will kill us for that?
    Puah:            Yeah, probably we're taking a huge risk.  But my conscience says NO to this unjust law and YES to life.
    Shiphrah:    Mine too.  No matter what the consequences, I will not kill those newborn baby boys either.

Scripture:

    Exodus 1:18-22 - Responses


Reader:
        When summoned before the authorities, their daring shrewdness paid off.  Their non-violent direct action (NVDA), their civil disobedience (CD), their divine obedience (DO) may have been indirectly applauded by Jesus centuries later when in the four Gospels, he counsels dependence on the Advocate, when witnessing to truth in the presence of principalities and powers [Matt 10:16-20, etc.]  Amazingly, Pharaoh didn't take vengeance upon the defiant midwives.  Rather, God preserved them, blessing them with families.
        CPT Story:  When Christian Peacemakers in Hebron, West Bank were ordered by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) at a military check point to leave, they stayed.  Instead, CPTer Wendy Lehman called the police to report yet another injustice toward Palestinian women.  Hannah and Lena were barred by barbed wire for nearly two cold hours from returning to their home.  Dianne immediately sat down by the obstruction and took pictures.  Hedy stood and embraced the five year old daughter, Wisam, who was traumatized by what she saw.  Eventually the women were freed.

Reflections

Prayer:
    Naming of oppressors and oppressed; Communal response – "Lord, have mercy."

Song:

    "God Give Us Power"


Credit: Joyce Holliday, Clothed with the Sun, pp. 93-94.

 

The Sermon on the Mount: The “Be-Attitudes”

Opening Song:
"Lamb of God"

Gathering:
L: Come, One called Love,
P: That we may find You around us, within us among us.
L: Come, One called Peace,
P: That we may find You around us, within us among us.
L: Come, One called Hope,
P: That we may find You around us, within us among us.
L: Come, One called Love, Peace, Hope,
P: That we might share love, peace and hope with the world. AMEN

Song:
"Amazing Grace"

Scripture:
Matthew 5:1-12 (see also Luke 6:20-26) from the Inclusive New Testament:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountainside, and after he sat down and the disciples had gathered around, Jesus began to teach them:

  • Blessed are those who are poor in spirit: the kin-dom of heaven is theirs.
  • Blessed are those who are mourning: they will be consoled.
  • Blessed are those who are gentle: they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice: they will have their fill.
  • Blessed are those who show mercy: they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are those whose hearts are clean: they will see God.
  • Blessed are those who work for peace: they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of their struggle for justice: the kin-dom of heaven is theirs.
  • Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and utter every kind of slander against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; they persecuted the prophets before you in the very same way.


Reflections: (see back for additional resources)

Song:
"Thuma Mina"

Reflections: (see below for additional resources)

Prayers

Song:
"Seek Ye First"
Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and God's righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you; Allelu, Alleluia
Ask and it shall be given unto you; Seek and ye shall find;
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you; Allelu, Alleluia
We shall not live by bread alone, but by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God; Allelu, Alleluia

----------------------------------------------------


On the Beatitudes

The following reflection on the Beatitudes comes from Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian, in "We Belong to the Land" (pp 143 - 144).

Knowing Aramaic, the language of Jesus, has greatly enriched my understanding of Jesus' teachings. Because the Bible as we know it is a translation of a translation, we sometimes get a wrong impression. For
example, we are used to hearing the Beatitudes expressed passively:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
"Blessed" is the translation of the word MAKARIOI, used in the Greek New Testament. However, when I look further back to Jesus' Aramaic, I find that the original word was ASHRAY, from the verb YASHAR. ASHRAY does not have this passive quality to it at all. Instead, it means "to set yourself on the right way for the right goal; to turn around, repent; to become straight or righteous."
How could I go to a persecuted young man in a Palestinian refugee camp, for instance, and say, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted," or "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven?" That man would revile me, say neither I nor my God understood his plight, and he would be right.
When I understand Jesus' words in the Aramaic, I translate like this:
Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you who are hungry and thirsty for justice,
for you shall be satisfied.
Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you peacemakers,
for you shall be called children of God.
To me this reflects Jesus' words and teachings much more accurately. I can hear him saying, "Get your hands dirty to build a human society for human beings; otherwise, others will torture and murder the poor, the voiceless, and the powerless." Christianity is not passive but active, energetic, alive, going beyond despair.
One day two bats fell into a pot of milk. The pessimistic bat said, "What can I do? Will I struggle and sink, and die so very tired? I will not die tired." He sank and drowned immediately. The optimistic bat said, "I will strive to the end, and at least they will say I tried everything." She struggled and struggled, trying to fly, until she fainted. Later she awakened and found herself resting safely on a big roll of butter. This is not giving in to despair, but going beyond despair.
"Get up, go ahead, do something, move," Jesus said to his disciples.

CPT - 12/98


The Lesson

Then Simon Peter said, "Will this count?"
and Andrew said, "Will we have a test on it?"
and James said, "When do we have to know it for?"
and Phillip said, "How many words?"
and Bartholomew said, "Will I have to stand in front of the others?"
and John said, "The other disciples didn't have to learn this!"
and Matthew said, "How many marks do we get for this?"
and Judas said, "What is it worth?"
and the other disciples likewise.
Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus' lesson plan and inquired of Jesus his terminal objectives in the cognitive domain.

And Jesus wept.

Vashti and Esther

Profiles of Nobility's Courage


Gathering:
L: Gathered here in the presence of this hour
P: Gathered here in one strong body
L: Gathered here in the mercy and the power
P: Spirit draw near
(from the New Century Hymnal)

Song:
"How Can I Keep From Singing"

Reader:
Never underestimate the power of royalty (in this case women) to effect positive change nonviolently! The two queens in the book of Esther are exemplary.

Scripture:
Esther 1:10-12 (Vashti’s refusal to obey the summons)

Reader:

For Vashti's case, nine words say it all: "Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command." Her husband King Ahasuerus ruled powerfully over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. After days of an eating and drinking orgy, he wanted to parade Vashti before a hall of raucous, drunken men. She refused and ended up being removed. Joyce Holliday considers Vashti the real heroine of the book of Esther. "She was a woman who had her dignity and knew her convictions, rather than her place. And she was courageous enough not to compromise" (p. 77). Who knows how many young women in Susa were inspired by her example. Who and where are the Vashtis of modern history?

Scripture:
Esther 2:17-18; 21-22 (conspiracy plot foiled by the new queen)

Reader:
The story of Esther is more familiar, but no less impressive. Having replaced Vashti as the king's choice for queen, her first public victory was averting her husband's assassination.

Scripture:
Esther 3:13-15 (prime minister of Persia plots genocide against the Jews)

Reader:
When orders to destroy her people were issued (due to Haman's hurt pride, intolerance and racism), Queen Esther knew she alone could bargain for the lives of her people.

Scripture:
Esther 4:1-3, 9-17

Reader:
She knew of her people's agony. A young woman's innocence was transformed into courage. Many lives were at stake. What to do? Esther knew that if she entered the king's court unfavorably she could be put to death. But Mordecai's words must have been ringing in her ears. She bravely declared, "I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish." Her spirituality is clear. Her dependence upon her people and God is clear. She called for a 3-day fast of no food or drink among all her people in Susa. Evidently clarity came on the third fasting day, and Esther moved ahead to approach the king's audience chamber. Her intuition and courage led her through a series of scenarios so that her people were saved.
Read this meditatively in silence
"I honor every woman who has strength enough to step out of the beaten path when she feels that her walk lies in another, strength enough to stand up and be laughed at, if necessary -- but in a few years it will not be thought strange that women should be preachers and sculptors, and every one who comes after us will have to bear fewer and fewer blows."
Harriet Hasner, 1883

Reflections

Prayer:
Lift up the names of those whose courage may save lives in our time. Community Response: “Grant Him/Her/Them/Us Courage.”

Song:
"Never Turnin' Back"


Credit: Joyce Hollyday, Clothed with the Sun, pp. 76-79

Shake the Dust off Your Feet

Call to Worship (sung):
Gathered here in the presence of this hour
Gathered here in one strong body
Gathered here in the mercy and the power
Spirit draw near
(from the New Century Hymnal)

Song:
"Balm in Gilead"

Leader:

As we go about this work of peacemaking, we encounter people who jolt our spirits and disorient us. Active peacemaking requires a comfortable corridor of spiritual centeredness. To maintain that centeredness we need rituals to nurture our center and drive away the evil that assaults us – distorting our words, attacking our reputation, insulting and belittling us. We need rituals that call us back to our own spirit.

Scripture/Reflection:

Matthew 10:5, 7-16
5 Jesus sent them out with the following instructions:
7 "As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near'.
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts;
10 Take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his or her keep.
11 Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay in that house until you leave.
12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting.
13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.
14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.
15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.


Reflections
What are some of the things in this work that tend to pull you off center? What helps you return to your center?


Song:
"Be Not Afraid"


Ritual:
In Laos and Northeastern Thailand, people observe an ancient tradition of having someone tie a string around their wrist to ward off evil spirits and tug themselves back to their own center. The string can be plain and simple, or colorful and woven. It is used especially when traveling to a new or different place. As we sing "Nada Te Turbe," you are invited to tie this woven "pulsera" from Chiapas around the wrist of another person in the circle. May this string serve as a reminder to bring us back to that center within where the Spirit of God dwells and our deepest values and vision are nurtured.

Song:
"Guide My Feet"

Prayer

Benediction (by Daniel Berrigan):

All: Send us forth
Reader 1: as you sent Mary Magdalene, to announce the good news, the only news, the news forever new; your resurrection.
All: Send us forth
Reader 2: as you sent the twelve, to confront murderous power, to walk peaceably amid the fires of violence.
All: Send us forth
Reader 3: as you sent the first Christians, to act as fools for your Christ's sake.
All: Send us forth
Reader 4: that reviled, we may bless; that persecuted, we may endure; that slandered, we may reconcile.
All: Send us forth
Reader 5: to places likely and unlikely; to the seats of power and strife, that we may deny their dominion with a fearless word; to the dwellings of the powerless, that we may bring hope, and win hope.
All: Send us forth
Reader 6: to those who love, to those who fear, to those who are indifferent; that we may sow love where there is no love, and so bring forth love.
All: Send us forth
Reader 7: as your word goes forth, and returns heavy with a harvest of peace.
All: Send us forth
Reader 8: bid us return, knowing that near or afar, our names are written in your heart.
All: Amen.

Closing Songs:
"Farewell Blessing"
"We are Marching in the Light of God"