Tag Archives: WEAVE

after-WEAVEings: prayer

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John is teaching a class on Wednesday evenings right now, and the topic is prayer: what is it, what’s it for, how do we…etc. Last night the class talked about the Lord’s Prayer and what it teaches us about God and about prayer. A few highlights before we get to the really interesting part….

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name…” — right off the bat, we start by acknowledging God is much bigger and much holier than we are, we are but a moment, a grain of sand, in the vastness of God. And yet God knows and loves us like a perfect parent. So from the very beginning of the prayer, God is other, God is big, yet God is close.

“give us this day our daily bread…” — not “give us this day our daily lobster bisque” or “give us a week’s supply of donuts” but give us this day our daily BREAD…survival food. And not enough for tomorrow, or for next year, or for retirement, but for today. Give us today what we need to live today. This is a very in-the-moment, living in the present, do-n0t-worry-about-tomorrow prayer. It calls to mind the Israelites in the wilderness, being given manna every morning but not being able to keep any for the next day–learning that God provides what we need for today, and tomorrow will bring worries of its own (as Jesus says in Matthew 6).

And now the really good stuff: “lead us not into temptation…” — we talked a little about who is doing the leading and what is temptation? Why would we need to ask God not to lead us into temptation? Isn’t the point that we lead ourselves into temptation just fine, and God doesn’t want us to give in? Eventually we came around to the realization that: a) When Jesus was baptized, it says that the Spirit descended on him and then led him out into the wilderness to be tempted. So yes, God does lead people into temptation–at least Jesus, anyway; and b) the word translated “temptation” in Aramaic is a word that means “diverted from true purpose” or “whipped about like a flag in the wind” or “focus on the flashy rather than the real” or some such idea. So in many ways, that squares with the kinds of temptations Jesus experienced in the wilderness–to perform and to get glory for himself rather than to follow the path that points always to God and God’s purpose.

Thought of this way, lead us not into temptation sounds like a pretty good prayer, really–because we’re not asking God to please give up those tricksy ways where God somehow steers us in front of chocolate cake and someone who dropped 100 dollars or even whether to shop on amazon.com. This is not “God, please don’t use me for your next Job experiment.” This is “God, lead us in your path, away from the desire to put appearance ahead of substance, away from the desire to seek our own gain instead of yours.”

This led to an interesting discussion of what prayer is for–should we be asking God to do all these things, or should we be allowing ourselves to be the answer to prayer? In other words, the difference between a child asking a parent to do something for them vs asking for help using the skills they already have to figure out the next thing. Sort of a “do this please” compared to “can you help me do it.” When do we ask God for direct intervention, and when do we ask God to make us an answer to the prayers of others? And when do we just go and do it, rather than asking God anything at all?

No one came up with an answer to these questions…and, of course, they lead to further questions that relate to the book almost Christian (which we’re discussing on Wednesdays). if the purpose of prayer is not for us to talk to God, but to learn to use the skills we’ve already been given, then why involve God at all? Can’t we do that without ever spending time with God?

I think the answer may be found in the story that precedes the Lord’s Prayer. The disciples come to Jesus, who clearly has an active and deep prayer life, and say, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

What do you think? How do you pray? What parts of the Lord’s Prayer really resonate with you? Which parts are hard? Do you skip any words when you say it? Do you find yourself repeating any of it to yourself? What is prayer for?

WEAVE-ings “Beyond Calvin” — Zwingli

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Zwingli was born January 1, 1484, just weeks after Luther. Unlike Luther, he went to the university and studied humanities (philosophy, languages, etc) and then became a priest in 1506 (Luther became a monk in 1505).

In 1516, Zwingli began to cease holding church teaching at the same level as Scripture–he decided to study only Scripture and, if necessary, the ancient church fathers and the first few creeds (Apostles, Nicene). In 1519 he abandoned the lectionary and began preaching straight through books of the Bible, beginning with Matthew, then Acts, then all the epistles, then the Old Testament. In the process, he preached against such church traditions as fasting (and he held a big sausage dinner during Lent!), clergy celibacy (and he secretly married in 1522), images (such as icons, which he removed from his church building), music in worship (and he threw the organ pipes out the window!), and indulgences (he ordered an indulgence seller out of town before he even had a chance to hawk a single piece of paper).

Zwingli argued that anything NOT explicitly in scripture should be prohibited. This is different from Luther, who believed that anything not prohibited in Scripture should be allowed. I have heard this described using this analogy: Luther went through the drawers and removed things he didn’t like…Zwingli dumped out all the drawers and only put back what was in the Bible.

Zwingli’s five main issues were:

  • Idolatry (we put trust in created things rather than in the Creator)
  • Providence (not chance!)–this is where predestination comes in, and Zwingli believed that God elected who God wills, including people who have never heard the gospel or who lived before Jesus…
  • Scripture is the only authority, not church tradition or other human inventions
  • “True Religion” as opposed to ceremonial piety–in other words, pray to Christ, not to saints or Mary; focus on the Word not on the sensory experiences around you (therefore no art or music in worship)
  • External Kingdom, not privatized morality–everything in the world is God’s, including the political sphere, home, work, economy, culture, social trends, etc. “No dimension of human existence can be excluded from the claims and promises of the gospel.” He was very into morality, but did not believe Christianity could be boiled down to something private.

RE communion, Zwingli said that the Mass was an abomination and a distraction. The Lord’s Supper should be partaken of by all, and should be treated as a memorial and not as a ceremony full of reverence for bread. The bread and wine, according to Zwingli, help us remember Christ and to become a part of the Body of Christ–they are not the physical body of Christ (transubstantiation–the Roman church’s teaching). Zwingli and Luther were unable to reconcile their disagreement in this area (Luther said that the physical presence of Christ was in-with-and-under the bread and wine, that they were clothed in it, and Christ was “really” (physically) present in the bread and wine. Zwingli says that when we participate in the Supper we remember, and re-member, Christ who is physically present at the right hand of God, not in bread.).

Zwingli also worked with (or took over, depending on your point of view) the political figures in Zurich to reform the city according to the word of God. This was a whole-life reformation, not just a theological dispute inside the walls of the church. Unfortunately, this also meant that when it came to people disagreeing with him (as some of his early students, who came to believe that he did not go far enough or fast enough in his reforms, did)…he was not inclined to speak out on their behalf. Former students of his who believed he did not reform the sacraments or ecclesiology enough became Anabaptists–people who believed in adult rather than infant baptism–and this heresy was not tolerated in Zurich…these Anabaptists were often executed by drowning in mock-baptisms as Zwingli and his colleagues looked on silently.

In 1531, Zwingli went out to battle (over his theological ideas!) and was killed. When the Catholic opponent discovered his body, they quartered him, then burned him, then mixed the ashes with dung so there was no chance of keeping them as a relic. Talk about a memorable death!

Do you see anything in Zwingli’s thought (or life) that is particularly thought provoking? anything that seems familiar? Zwingli is one of our major Reformed ancestors–the first of the Swiss reformers who helped form our theological tradition. We obviously don’t agree with all his ideas (umm, death by drowning for your opponents? really?), but some probably resonate. What resonates for you? What questions do you still have?

Join us next Wednesday for another glimpse into the less-well-known characters that helped form our tradition during the Reformation period!

WEAVE-ings: fact/truth/both/neither

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We all know the story of  the Tortoise and the Hare, passed down for 100s of generations because in this fictional story (or “myth”) there is valuable wisdom. Marcus Borg defines this as the difference between “fact” and “truth”and applies this same principle to Scripture. In his opinion the Garden of Eden story contains “truth” not “fact,” and he feels that confusion between the two is the cause of much of the disagreement between Christian groups and the rejection of religion by many.

We had a very lively discussion about this at WEAVE. The truth/fact distinction is okay for the story of Eden but what about the Resurrection? Did Jesus walk on water? What does Son of God mean? Fact or Truth or both?
How do you tell the difference? By guidance from the Holy Spirit? By human intuition? How do you know your conclusion is not the product of flawed human nature? Is Borg teaching us a valuable lesson in disernment and faith or as one critic claims “teaching Borgism not Christianity”?

This brings up some crucial issues for being a faithful follower of Christ in the 21st Century.

Where does authority lie? How do we know what is right? Would it be better if, like in some other denominations there was an official and binding position?

We have spent several weeks talking about how we as Reformed Christians read the Bible–with the rule of love, with Jesus-colored lenses, in historical and literary context, taking into account the whole of Scripture, guided by the Holy Spirit and by the community through the ages, etc. These guidelines are designed to help us as we struggle with the sacred text together, exploring these very questions.

How do you read the Bible? How do you know if you are following God’s will rather than being motivated by self interest?

 

after-WEAVE

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Where to begin with the highlights from WEAVE?

The homemade Colombian food, made by Sarah M, was completely fabulous in spite of her fear that it would turn out badly.

The Fellowship Hall was packed with people who heard about Ann’s presentation and wanted to learn more. (far more visitors that RCLPC people!)

Children trying new foods, with mixed success. 🙂

Ann’s moving presentation including photos and stories of displaced people, a discussion of some of the human rights abuses and other situations that lead to internal displacement (5 million people are displaced–second only to the Sudan), and a review of the things the General Assembly acted on this year RE Colombia. (that document does not include another resolution, from the peacemaking committee, that we urge the US government to stop using 7 military bases in Colombia, to avoid giving money, supplies, presence, and other aid to groups that terrorize people.)

We also talked about things WE can do to help people in Colombia. These are as simple as contacting your legislators and urging them to do the right thing and stop supporting the various armed groups in Colombia and to stop supporting policies (like aerial fumigation) that do little/nothing to stop the drug trade but do plenty to displace people and ruin food crops…and as committed as checking out the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and thinking/praying about perhaps becoming an accompanier, to be a visible presence with and for people who might otherwise be in danger (and to learn a LOT more about the situation while you’re there!).

For more, talk to Ann!

 

after-WEAVE

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Last night’s WEAVE was filled with Sarah’s fantastic marinara sauces (one with meat and one with mushrooms) made from tomatoes picked out of her own garden that day. mmmm, she made dinner awesome.

It was also filled with lively discussion of many kinds–from what kids should put in their mouths (Henry was eating a blue balloon) to “what’s your favorite sound” and “what would you put on your tombstone?” (questions from those Meet The Ricklepickles interviews!).  It seems that Silence was many people’s favorite sound, at least in the midst of WEAVE chaos! And Teri shared her favorite joke-tombstone, “I told you I was sick.”

John’s class finished up their discussion of the 7 guidelines Reformed (like Presbyterians) Christians use when reading Scripture. There was animated (and sometimes heated!) conversation about how we interpret life in light of scripture, particularly when thinking of Old Testament passages that seem to condone war and violence and portray a vengeful and violent God, and also how we think about Scripture and Christian ethics in the “minefield” (John’s word) of life.

Next week we’ll be having a Colombian dinner and Ann will be telling us about her most recent trip to Colombia–six weeks this summer as an accompanier helping people who have been living with threats against them because of their work for human rights and justice.  Join us anytime after 5.45 (dinner buffet starts) for an interesting and tasty South American adventure!