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Green pastures, peaceful streams…and feasting with enemies

May 16, 2011

Easter 4A
Text: Psalm 23 and Acts 2:42-47

The invitation of the Spirit this morning is to examine our week and sit with the words from Scripture. Our task is to hold all that was our lives in the last week as we sit with the text.  The Spirit has been with us throughout the week. The Spirit is inviting us into this text.

As we center ourselves in the text, I invite us to be aware of our breathing, which is the ever present gift of life from our Creator.

I invite us to allow our bodies to be at rest in this sanctuary…gathered together as a community in the presence of God…

I invite you to close your eyes. I will lead us in an examen of our week. Then I will read the words from Scripture. We will take our time. This isn’t about a transfer of knowledge. It is about being present with God as he is present with us.

As we move through this time feel free to write down any words or images that come to you. But don’t feel pressure to have some kind of experience. Just relax and trust the Spirit to lead us.

Examen of Week:

What was your week like? Places you went. The people you were with. Tasks… Conversations…

What emotions did you experience this week?

What challenges did you face this week? What opportunities came your way?

What drained you and depleted you? What was life-giving and energizing for you?

1The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need.

Were there places this week where you felt scattered…where you wondered if you had everything you needed?

As you look back on your week—all that it was and all that it wasn’t—can you say: The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need.

2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.

Were there places of rest in your week? Where were the green meadows…the peaceful streams?

Where is the shepherd leading you?

Can you say: He renews my strength?

He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.

What was your path like this last week?

Do you see the shepherd guiding you?

Maybe you just want to stay here a moment and invite the Shepherd to speak to your heart about the path you are on…

4 Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

As you examine the last week, where are the shadow places…the dark valleys?

Insurance claim…vulnerability that went along with the accident…now comes through the process of taking care of a damaged vehicle…I’m told the other company provides limited coverage…my company tells me they will “go after them”… this kind of language doesn’t provide much comfort

Where are you feeling vulnerable…stressed…in a dark valley?

Client: “I’m so depressed today.”
Therapist: “Wonderful, I wonder what God is up to!”

Can you say even in the shadow places: I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil.

What would it be like to sit down at a feast together with your enemies? Who might God invite to the table?

How does it feel to be welcomed as a guest at God’s table? To be anointed…

My cup overflows with blessings.

Did you feel like your cup was full or empty this week? What is Jesus inviting you to do with the cup?

Perhaps you would like to hold up your cup and ask the Lord to fill it.

6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Do you know that God’s goodness and unfailing love were pursuing you this week?

Can you say: …and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

AMEN.

Hear this reading from Acts 2:42-47

I wonder how this text might speak to our life together as Sunnyside Mennonite Church. The first thing I notice in this text is.

They devoted themselves…

On Easter Sunday evening I watched a story on 60 minutes about Mt. Athos, a peninsula in Greece full of monasteries. The way of life there involves a rule of prayer, work and worship. They are in prayer or worship eight hours every day…365 days a year. The bells toll at 3 AM calling the monks to gathered worship. Throughout the day they are constantly praying the Jesus Prayer as they work. They have two meals a day…10 minutes long. They eat in silence and hear the scriptures read.

The community of believers devoted themselves to a way of life that centered around table practices where relationships transcended social and economic categories.  In fact, the practiced economic sharing so that the needs of all in the community were met.   I wonder what devotion might look like for us.

This passage inspires in me tremendous hope for the church. It gives me hope because I see a vibrant community of faith, hope and love that is not dependent on a building or the legitimation of civil authorities. This is a marginal community in Jerusalem. This is not primarily a community made up of the elite and powerful. In fact, many had needs.

What gives me hope is that their practice of eating together was not primarily determined by social categories or economic status. Their gathering together as a community demonstrated something different had taken place that transcended the normal factors that ordered life. Even folks who were not in the habit of eating together began to sit around the same table. Jews and Gentiles. Circumcised and uncircumcised. Slave and free. Women and men.

Who is being drawn to the tables where we are eating?

Prayer: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

May this be a place where we gather at that table where meet Jesus in the breaking of bread, fellowship, and the prayers. May the teaching of the apostles be ringing in our ears as we give and receive the gift of hospitality with friends, strangers and enemies.

AMEN

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Krista permalink
    May 19, 2011 11:38 pm

    10 years ago at Hesston College I took Michelle Hershberger’s class, Christian Living. The examen was one of my favorite tools for individual and corporate indwelling of scripture, whether it be just with one friend or a group of believers. Wish I could have been there for this sermon, but even from Missouri, days later, it was beautiful to read and know I was joining with the congregation.

    Speaking of table practices, have you read “The Forever Feast” by Brand & Yancey? One of my favorites…of course I love all their writings.

    • just an apprentice permalink
      May 20, 2011 7:42 am

      Krista, good to hear from you. I haven’t read the book you mention. Sounds like one I want to take a look at.

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