Monthly Archives: April 2014

Where do you find God in Holy Week?

In Holy Week we remember Jesus’ death.  Between the parade of palms and the hope of Easter, it is a dark and challenging week.  We live this week in the shadow of the cross.  We know hope is on the horizon, yet the reality is this Holy Week is filled with darkness.

Marguerite “Maggie” Barankitse knows the darkness of death.  Maggie witnessed a mass killing during the civil war in her native Burundi.  Out of this experience of death, she created Maison Shalom, House of Peace, to save 25 children orphaned from that dark night.   Maggie has won the Opus Prize for recognition of her humanitarian work. In this video, she shares the gospel message that life always gets the last word, never death, and she stretches us to think beyond loving the victims to loving the criminal too.

Maggie’s work reminds us of the hope in Christ that comes on Easter morning, that comes after the dark realities of Holy Week.  Life always gets the last word, never death.

Question for Discussion:
Where do you find God in Holy Week?

-Brittany Porch

Week 6: Where is God When we are angry?

A few months ago I preached a sermon on anger.  An unusual number of folks came up to me and said that the sermon connected with them.  Evidently, anger is something that we all deal with.  We all have master’s degrees in anger, if not Ph.D.’s!   Where is God when we are angry?

I think there are times when God is in solidarity with us when we are angry.  When anger swells in us over injustice to others, God very well may be right with us in our anger.  The tricky thing is how do we know when we are aligned with God in our anger?  It can be a dangerous assumption to think that God and I are always on the same page.  I’m reminded of a quote by Anne Lamott: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

The truth is that when I am angry – really angry – there doesn’t seem to be much room for God.  Often God is to be found on the other side of anger – when I am picking up the pieces and try to figure out what comes next.

I try to ask, “God, why I am so angry?”  I don’t usually hear a clear answer but articulating the question seems to help me regain some balance and start working my way towards the light.

I have provided a link to a wonderful essay by novelist Mary Gordon on anger.

The Deadly Sins/Anger; The Fascination Begins in the Mouth

Questions for Discussion:
How does anger shape your life?
In what ways do you experience God in your anger?

-Amy Miracle

Week 5: Where is God when our prayers are not answered?

“It was a shiny red bike you saw in the store- ‘God, give me this bike and I won’t ask for more!’ Under the covers you prayed through the night, but when morning came there was no bike in sight.” (Does God Hear My Prayer? by August Gold)

We have all prayed for our own “red bike” at some time or another, and to be perfectly honest, why not?  Prayers on our hearts are important and allow us to be vulnerable and bold when relating to God.  However, it is incredibly frustrating to discover that prayer doesn’t work like the genie in the lamp… you have three prayers to be answered any way you desire.  Not likely.  Prayer is the deeply spiritual language of a relationship with God.  The Psalms are filled with prayers of lament and anger while also including prayers of praise and yearning for God.  The Gospels show Jesus praying for others, sneaking off to pray, and pleading in prayer with God in his deepest times of trial.

Barbara Brown Taylor, the Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College in northeast Georgia, an Episcopal priest, and the author of twelve books, including the New York Times bestseller An Altar in the World, explores God’s silence.  God’s silence reveals tension between sovereignty and obfuscation (it’ll be defined in the video).

Watch and listen as Barbara Brown Taylor wrestles with the mystery and unknown in a prayer life with God.

Despite our earnest and honest prayers, God may not show up in a way that is pleasing to us.  It may feel like God is silent. Or you may get that new “red bike” you prayed so hard and longed for and want to tell everyone about God working in your prayer life.  All of these experiences are part of the mystery of a life with God.

Closing Prayer:
Fr. Richard Rohr’s prayer comes from Psalm 46:10 of Hebrew Scriptures: “Be still and know that I am God.” Use this prayer to try and draw yourself into a contemplative frame of mind.  Follow the instructions below and use the video to guide your prayer OR simply follow the instructions of contemplative prayer.

Instructions:
1) Find a quiet place, gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Prepare to pray the Psalm in 5 consecutively diminishing sentences.
2) Either aloud or quietly to yourself, say the words, “Be still and know that I am God.”
3) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still and know that I am.”
4) After a couple deep breaths, pray “Be still and know.”
5) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still.”
6) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be.”
7) When ready, pray, “Amen.”

Question for Discussion:
Where is God when our prayers are not answered?

-Brittany Porch