Deuteronomy 18:15-18 15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.
Advent is a time of preparation, longing, and anticipation. While shopping, feasting, and celebrating have become part of the season they are not what Advent is about. In fact Advent traditional was a time of fasting just as Lent is. It is time to stop and reflect on what God has done and is about to do. It is a time to get ready for the child that brings us the good news. At my home Church Queen Anne Christian Church in Seattle we are taking this time to slow down and to be mindful of the graciousness of the creator. As faith community we want to buy less stuff and give more love, to slow our pace and live into the hope given by the gift of the Christ Child. So during this season of Advent I am going to share the Advent meditations we are following at Queen Anne Christian Church. May you find hope, peace, joy, and love as you prepare for the birth of love.
Meditations for a Mindful Advent Queen Anne Christian Church
Slow down . . . seek hope
Buy less . . . create peace
Eat less . . . embrace joy
Worry less . . . give love
Prepare your heart for new birth.
An Advent Prayer
God who causes stars to burn and energy to flow,
may Your presence be made known to us in new ways.
When we wonder where You are, shine Your light in new ways.
When we wonder why bad things happen, help us to find all of Your goodness.
When we feel hopeless, help us to become Your hope in the world.
You have created us out of stardust, and breathed into us life.
In You, all things are possible, and all things are created new.
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, as we await the birth of the light of Christ
may we come to know You in new ways on this journey of faith. Amen.
Hope – The First Week of Advent
Light one candle
Pray the “Advent Prayer” above.
At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then inevitable.
— Christopher Reeve
Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated.
You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
— David Lloyd George Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, what dream of hope calls to you?
Evening: As you look back on your day, where did you find hope? Prayer
Offer a prayer for those in need of hope; include yourself.
My thoughts over the last couple of months have been over whelmed by the violence, the bullying, the tragedy, and the anger that has played across my TV screen, computer, radio and newspaper in the last couple of months. I have seen the quote by some famous person that reads “those who keep silent in the face of evil are giving their approval,” or the pictures’ displaying one perspective versus another and which one has the greatest validity. I am left speechless and in pain. Yes I have heard that even one small act of mercy changes someone and I have used those very words myself many times. Do what you can and ‘wait,’ wait for minds to change, or for hearts to open, . . . wait for what.
The scripture for Sunday came from Isaiah and begins with “Comfort, O Comfort my people” (40:1), but, I’m sorry I don’t feel that comfort. I offer prayers, I read, and I listen. I volunteer at the King County Juvenile Detention Center, here at church, and lead the occasional spiritual retreat and labyrinth walk, yet, except for Juvenile Detention CTR, I feel as if I am “preaching to the choir,” so to speak. Where in all of these days of suffering, and confusion does the offering come that provides more than my comfort and brings a justly faithful, hopeful, loving comfort to those who do not share my skin color, or language, or culture, or gender, or abilities, or whatever makes them different from the so called “main stream” of the population.
This meditation was intended to be an inspirational moment. But I am not feeling very inspirational, just too much has happened in the last couple of months. So I ask your forgiveness for talking through some of my thoughts. I live in a world that appears to be falling apart as I sit my comfortable, warm home. I keep asking what will stop the building blocks our lives from tumbling into the abyss.
I am afraid we are headed into a storm of our own making that will destroy us. We won’t need to be invaded, no; we are doing a grand job of destruction all by ourselves. Voices of change and compassion, justice, mercy, and peace are drowned out by hateful speech by bullies in high places. The actions and words of those high placed bullies give permission to those who fear the unknown to be violent and destructive at the ground roots level. Hateful speech and actions becomes a cancer eating away at our will to fight against justice and mercy.
So I sit in my little home office, offering prayers, and volunteering when the opportunity arises. I do my small acts that I pray are being added to other small acts, but I don’t know if any of it will be enough. Our denominations GLBQ organization used the slogan “All Means ALL” at our last national General Assembly. They wanted to get the message across that everyone matters, despite gender identification, skin color, religion, or culture everyone is important. There are very few slogans I actually believe in, but I believe in that one. If I can do nothing other than let each and every person know how much they matter in my life, in the life of my Faith Community, and in the life of the greater community we are all part of then I have done the best I can. That will have to be enough.
3 A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3
The other Sunday I and a friend of mine were in charge of the coffee hour after worship. It was going to be a cold November day and I wanted to do something different and special for people I care about. Cherry and I talked it over and decided, since there was an Elders meeting after worship, a light meal of homemade soup, salad and bread would be a perfect offering. Cherry decided on making a chicken soup and bringing the rolls. I decided on a vegetarian split pea soup and also brought the salad.
I have read and heard the words of the prophet Isaiah all of my life and have loved many of the songs and chants written around this verse. But as I was preparing the soup for Sunday the words struck me a little deeper. The picture above is the ingredients for my soup. Simple wholesome ingredients; dried split peas, herbs, and garlic and onions, from my own garden, and fresh carrots and celery from the farmers market go into making this really simple soup. (Recipe Below) As I scrubbed the carrots and celery I thought about who would eat my soup and in the process of browning chopped onions and garlic in olive oil the act of making the soup became an act of prayer.
The people who would share in my offering were the people of my faith community and any visitors we might have. People I love and care about, but, more than that, it was an extended sharing from the communion table. The breaking of bread, the ladling of hot soup all became part of the feast Christ sets before us every Sunday.
As a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) we prepare and offer communion every Sunday. We carefully set out bread and cup and share it with each other and as I prepared this simple meal that would be served after worship we were continuing a 2000 year old tradition of breaking bread and pouring cup then going in to share a common meal. That is what the first followers of Jesus did. They shared more than just a piece of bread and thimble full of wine. They shared a whole meal together, rich or poor, aristocrat or tent maker, all ate from the same serving bowl.
I have helped prepare and serve hot meals for the homeless, and I routinely make up food bags to give to the homeless I see on the streets and while I may not sit down with each person I offer food too it is still communion. It is a sharing of food, and drink, and recognizing that what I give doesn’t come from me, but from God, Christ, and Holy Spirit. I am only the servant who is trying to fulfill Christ’s commandment; “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. (Matthew 25:35)
In the process of preparing to serve others I am preparing to serve Jesus, to follow, as faithfully as possible, the path Jesus leads me on. I know I will stumble, but Jesus will be there to pick me up; I will wander off the path, but the Holy Spirit will be there to lead me back; and I will grow weary, but God will be there to cradle me in her arms until I am rested.
The spiritual practice I am inviting you to share in this Advent season is to find the sacred in all that you are preparing for your own celebrations. In what ways are you preparing for the Lord in your everyday life? With whom will you celebrate the feast of God? As you await the birth of the Christ child let your preparations become an act of prayer, for those you love and those you may not know.
May the peace of Christ be with you, always
Ruth’s Pea Soup about 8 servings
1 lb. dry green or yellow peas
3 quarts of cold water (or 1 qt vegetable stock and 2 quarts cold water)
1 large carrot, sliced in to small pieces
1 small celery stick chopped
1/8 cup olive oil
1 small onion or 4 large green onions
4 large cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped fine
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (I like fresh rosemary, summer savory, and thyme)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Pepper to taste
In the bottom of a large pot sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the turmeric, stir then add the carrots and celery. Add the peas and cold water into a large saucepan; add the herbs and salt to the saucepan; add the pepper to taste. Cook over low to medium heat until the peas are very soft. Remove from the heat and run through a ricer or press through a colander to remove the hulls. Return the soup to the saucepan and heat to eating temperature. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.
Notes: Use only 1 teaspoon of dried mint or herbs when substituting for fresh. I will use whatever fresh herbs I have on hand but I prefer 1 tablespoon each of fresh thyme and summer savory. If you want a more salty taste you can add a teaspoon of spike or one of the other herbal salt substitutes when cooking. I also like to sprinkle fresh chopped chives (either onion or garlic) over the sour cream or yogurt when serving.
Source: A Ruth Thompson original recipe that I first made sometime in early 1980’s.
Galatians 3:26-29 The Message (MSG)25-27 But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise. 28-29 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.
I am traveling this week. I am attending a wedding in Long Beach WA this weekend but my first stop was in Yakima where I attended the Turner Lectures., an interfaith lecture series held every year in the first week of October by the North West Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (NWRCC). The NWRCC invites prominent authors and theologians and hosts for three days of a teaching, discussion, good conversation, and meaningful worship. This year Michael Kinnamon and Carol Howard Merrit are our guest lectures and their talks and discussions of the Past and Future Church:From the Ends of the Earth to Our Doorstep are inspiring. I am part of the team that planned the worship services and one of the elements of our morning worships has been guided meditation on the morning’s scripture. Guided meditation is a wonderful spiritual tool that uses our imagination to enter into story, or scripture, in a very personal way. In our imagination we are feel the warmth of the sun, stirring of the wind, all of the natural elements. We can smell food, or feel the presence of crowds or feel emptiness. Using our imagination we “see” the story from a new perspective, not as a distant reader, but as a participant.
Monday I read Galatians 3:26-29 and led the morning’s guided meditation. I invite you to take a few minutes, get comfortable and listen to the scripture and meditation. The full text of the meditation is below
I invite you to get comfortable, with feet on the floor
Take a deep breath and another one.
You have been walking a long time you are tired and covered in road dust
Ahead of you a small village appears at the edge of lake. You have arrived
You have been searching anticipating the end of your journey and now it is in sight
Villagers wave to you and you wave in return the people walk out to greet you the young and the old, people of every color in the human rainbow, people wearing clothes of every cultures all come out to welcome you In front the growing group, God, waits for you with open arms
Someone relieves you of your back pack as God enfolds you in an embrace a flask of water is pressed into your hand Jesus, offers you a place to rest, breaks bread with you and offers you wine. you didn’t know how hungry you were.
They take you to the lake where you bathe in it’s cool, refreshing waters when you step out of the water new clothes await you, new shoes, soft as down for your tired feet.
The villagers celebrate your coming with a great dinner food from every culture, every ethnic group all created for a joyful feast
God dances with joy
You are home a child of the village
You have new clothes
you have eaten food that has fed you deeper than any food possibly could
the villagers hand you your pack, cleaned and freshly filled
God, Jesus, and the villagers shoulder their own packs
together you walk on
Together you complete the journey
13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
I spent last week at Gwinwood Christian Retreat Center, [(Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)] as one of the Chi Rho (Jr. High) counselors. The whole week was a wonderful experience and not just for the kids. Spending time with children and young people is a prayerful time. In the voices and faces of the young G-d is evident in all that they do, even the mischief. Jesus loved children and young people, he tells his disciples they are important to the breaking out of Kingdom of God; time spent with young people is time spent with G-d.
When you are with kids’ prayer comes in many shapes and sizes, in still and playful moments, in laughter and in tears, and in soccer and in worship. The joy of seeing a young person open their eyes to a new experience of G-d, in priceless. Hearing their voices around the campfire singing “Peace Like a River” will make you’re your heart swell.
Being a Camp Counselor is an experience you should not miss and if you are offered that opportunity please consider the prayer that is our Young People.
Several years ago I led a labyrinth walk on September 11, in memory of the World Trade Center Disaster. It was held in the churches outdoor labyrinth and the day was perfect for walking. I placed two baskets at the entrance of the labyrinth, one held fallen leaves to represent those who had died that day and the second held small river stones to represent the courage of all of the emergency people who responded to the attack. Each walker was to carry leaf and stone into the center. They were asked to leave the leaf either in the center or place it along the path of the labyrinth. The stone was theirs to keep in remembrance of the walk. The walk was open to the public and was well attended.
One young woman came near the end of the walk and I remember her because she was unsure as to whether she would walk or not. Finally she picked up a leaf and stone and entered the labyrinth. As soon as she entered tears started to roll down cheeks, she walk very slowly stopping at each of the stone benches to sit for few minutes. When she reached the center she sat down on the bench and bent over appearing to be either in pain or great distress. I thought about going to see if she needed help but changed my mind and waited. She must have sat there for 15 to 20 minutes before she stood up, carefully placed her leaf on bench and walked out of the labyrinth.
When she exited she came over to me to apologize for taking so long and I told her that it was quite alright. She said she had read of the walk in the newspaper and that she really wanted to be here today. You see, her sister worked in the World Trade Center and died that day. At the time she was also living and working in New York and when she heard that plane had crashed to the towers she had run out and saw the towers collapse. They never found any remains of her sister.
She told me she hadn’t realized how much grieving she still had to do and that the walk had been more painful than she thought it would be, but she was glad she walked. I told her the labyrinth was always open to the public and she was free to walk it at anytime. I also gave her the names of a couple of Pastoral Counselors she could call if she needed to talk to someone. She left clutching her small stone.
Fortunately all labyrinth walks are as dramatic as this young woman’s. Most, if not all, are walks that draw us into a quiet place and provide space for conversation with God. Yes revelations can occur but they are very rare. It is a blessing just to have a quiet walk that brings some peace and serenity to your life. That’s plenty I think.
If you’ve never walked a labyrinth here is some historical information. Labyrinths are an ancient meditation tool that predates Christianity. Up until the end of the middle ages they were use in place of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. People walked the labyrinths sometimes on hand and knees to simulate the difficulties of a long journey. Around the middle of the 1400’s labyrinths fell out of favor and it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that they were “rediscovered” as a meditation tool. They are now very popular and used by those striving for deeper spirituality and also in the health professions where the health benefits of walking the labyrinth have proven to be quite diverse.
The spiritual practice I am recommending this week to walk a labyrinth. You may locate labyrinth in area that you may walk, or you may “walk” a labyrinth with your finger using a printed labyrinth figure or finger labyrinth made of wood, stone, or metal.
The labyrinth has only one path. It diﬀers from a maze in that there are no tricks to it. From early on within the Christian tradition to now, countless people have walked labyrinths as devoted acts of pilgrimage, prayer and spiritual formation. There is no right way or wrong way to walk the labyrinth. As you follow the winding pathway to the center and back out again, surrender to the journey with an open heart and an open mind.
Four Fold path of the labyrinth
REMEMBERING you are invited to gather your thoughts as you prepare to begin your walk; remember you are blessed. All that we have, all that we are is a blessing from God. If you are waiting in a line of others for your turn to enter the labyrinth, this is a time for literally counting your blessings.
RELEASING begins when you enter the labyrinth and ends upon arriving at the labyrinth’s center. This is an opportunity for “letting-go” of whatever distracts you. This is a time for quieting, opening, emptying, and shedding. For some, this happens through a mindful slowing and deepening of their breathing, or the silent repeated reciting of a simple prayer.
RECEIVING is a gift at the center of the labyrinth. Having emptied oneself, there is now spaciousness within to receive creative Spirit. Receiving guidance, interior silence, new insight, deeper wisdom, a sense of peace are only a few experiences that can occur on a labyrinth walk. It is diﬀerent for everyone. You may sit or stand in the center as long as you like. Receive what is there for you to receive and accept such as a divine gift.
RESOLVE, begins when you leave the center and return on the same path back out of the labyrinth. There are many aspects of this: you can resolve to take a next step in your life, or come to a resolution about something bothering you. Rejuvenation often occurs, or a feeling of rebirth begins. Or, on your way out, you reclaim those responsibilities you set down on the way in, but for which you have new strength to carry them. Often, feelings of strengthening and integration occur. Symbolically, you take back out into the world what you’ve received.
Some wisdom for these Four R’s of the labyrinth
This way of using a labyrinth is only a map; it is not the territory. You can allow blessing anywhere on the labyrinth. You can release anywhere on the labyrinth, you can receive anywhere; you can come to resolution anywhere on the labyrinth. The Fours R’s is one way of understanding what can happen while you are walking the labyrinth. Do not hold these too tightly; during your walk you will understand the ﬂow.
This Labyrinth ministry resource is Provided Courtesy of Disciples Home Missions (DHM), Office of Search and Call, of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Indianapolis, IN, Rev. Warren Lynn, This document is created with permission from, and based on a source by, Veriditas, Inc., San Francisco, CA; The Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress