Before we got into the official teaching section of the Gathering, Paul Perry, led us through our scripture passage using Lectio Divina, an ancient way of reading scripture that leaves space for reflections. We listened to 4 voices repeat the passage found in Matthew 6: 1-18 and were asked to think about what words, phrases and ideas jump out at us. As the passage was read I was using a Sufjan Stevens song called “Year of Our Lord” as sonic space to anchor our reflections.
I have been using Lectio Divina at home as a way to prepare for teaching, and two things really jumped out at me as I was thinking about what to say this week:
- the phrase: “do not keep on babbling like pagans” found in Matt 6:7
- the idea of keeping things “Secret” found all through out the above passage.
So in the spirit of not babbling, I decided I shouldn’t talk much today and we should have an opportunity to participate in some of the things Jesus was talking about. There was also a DJ component to each sections with songs used to frame our reflections and actions.
ACTIVITY ONE: Secret Prayer Cards
The first thing we did was to keep some good secrets. Not all secrets are dark and bad, some are fun and more like the joy found in a surprise party or receiving a gift and having no idea who was so thoughtful.
I showed off my “World’s Greatest Dad” T-shirt as an example of a good secret. A couple years ago I got this Star Wars themed Dad shirt. I cam home and my wife Susan gave it to me and said that some one dropped it off for me and she was instructed not to tell me who it was from. I still have no idea who gave me this shirt, and during the gathering Susan said she can’t even remember who it was so the secret is extra safe now. Was it my brother, was it someone from the Commons? I don’t know, but they know me well enough to know that I’m a Star Wars fan, I have a love of funky T-shirts and that I’m a father of two. The secret made this gift extra special and exciting.
In that spirit of secrets, we all filled out secret prayer request cards while listing to Eastmount Park by Christine Bougie (one of the best guitarists I have ever seen, she is from Toronto).
We then put all our secret cards into a giant gift bag and we changed our soundtrack to “And This No More” by Joy Electric (a great party/dance song) to put a little fun in our secret prayers.
We were all asked to take one card from the gift bag home and secretly pray for what was on the card. I may or may not have had a little dance in my step as I walked around with the gift bag full of secret prayers.
ACTIVITY TWO: Lord’s Prayer Stations
After finishing with secrets we moved on to The Lord’s Prayer, and our sonic landscape was provided by Oliver Schroer violin interpretation of this prayer.
Instead of reciting this prayer as a group liturgy we were invited to use one of 4 prayer stations to personally say this prayer and reflect on some of Jesus’ directions about prayer:
- “don’t stand in the house of worship” (v 5)
- Pray in private – “Go to your room, close your door” (v 6)
- Keep it short (v 8)
- don’t use meaningless words (v 8)
Two stations had mats provided for kneeling. Three of the stations were in spaces outside of our Gathering space. Two stations had doors that could be closed. Each Station had a print out of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew from the Good News Translation. I choose this version because of the very simple and clear language.
The Lord’s Prayer
Matthew 6:9-13 as found in the Good News Translation
Our Father in heaven:
May your holy name be honored;
may your Kingdom come;
may your will be done on earth
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need.
Forgive us the wrongs we have done,
as we forgive the wrongs
that others have done to us.
Do not bring us to hard testing,
but keep us safe from the Evil One.
ACTIVITY THREE: MCEC Call to Prayer
The Commons’ wider tribe is Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC).
MCEC is part of the Historic Peace Church tradition and in light of the tragic events that took place in Ottawa this week, David Martin (MCEC Executive Minister) sent out the following statement to all MCEC churches to encourage them to pray.
“The recent tragic events in the communities of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa that have taken the lives of two members of the Canadian Armed Forces have riveted the attention of our nation. These events have triggered a variety of responses that are increasing the level of fear in our society, risk fostering discrimination against our Muslim brothers and sisters, are heightening militaristic rhetoric, and justifying our country’s violent response to terrorism.
At such a time as this, our nation needs the voice of a peace church that witnesses to alternative responses to violence and invites our political leaders to address the root causes of violence and terrorism. From what we know at this time, it appears that the recent tragic events are more likely an indicator of our society’s failure to address the social and psychiatric needs of our citizens than the rise of coordinated terrorist attacks on Canadian soil.
In the face of traumatic events, we as Christians put our faith in the strength and compassion of a loving God and remind ourselves that in all things God is at work to bring about the peace that we have experienced in Jesus Christ.
As MCEC churches, we have committed ourselves as a community of congregations to extending the peace of Jesus Christ. I am inviting you and your congregation to be such a voice for peace among your neighbours, your school mates and in the wider community as we give witness to a peace that is stronger than violence and hatred. Please join the MCEC community as we commit ourselves to pray for the peace of our nation and our world.” – David Martin
We then had 5 volunteers light candles for each of the areas that MCEC is calling the church to pray for:
MCEC – A Prayer for Peace in our Time:
- Lord we Pray for those in the communities of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa whose lives have been impacted by the tragic deaths of members of the Canadian armed forces
a. For the families and friends of those killed
b. For the families of those who committed the atrocities
c. For members of the Canadian military and their families as they deal with the fear of losing a loved one to violence
d. For those in the community and across the country whose lives have been shaken by these events
- Lord we Pray for members of our Ottawa area congregations and those in the Ottawa community affected by the recent tragedies
- Lord we Pray for the Muslim community that they feel supported and do not become the target of misplaced anger and discrimination
- Lord we Pray for our Civic leaders that they may respond in a responsible and measured way that seeks to promote the welfare and peace of all Canadians and peace in our global community and does not instill fear or suspicion of our local or global neighbours
- Lord we Pray for the vulnerable in our society, especially those who struggle with mental illness and are tempted to misdirect their anger and fear
ACTIVITY FOUR: Forgiveness Exercise
Over the last year or so the phrase “Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us” (Matthew 5:12) really jumps out at me when I read the Lord’s Prayer. There is a weight to forgiveness, that is tied right in with he very first Christian Liturgy. Forgiveness, is a foundational value of Jesus, and it is a fundamental principle of Christian Peacemaking.
We had Matthew 5:2 with an image of an Orthodox Cross posted on the power point screen, and handed out slips of paper with the same verse and cross on it to each person in the room.
The Orthodox cross is a unique symbol with more lines involved then the standard cross. There are lots of reasons attributed to the slanted line at the bottom of the Orthodox Cross. I found some helpful explanations on seiyaku.com:
- It can represent the thieves on either side of Jesus at the crucifixion. The thief on the left side repented and the line points up to emphasis that this man went up to heaven to be with Jesus. The other man continued to insult Jesus and did not repent and so his side of the line goes down to emphasis his fate.
- It could be an attempt at creating a hint of Three Dimensions with the board that Jesus was standing on being fixed in the opposite direction of the middle cross beam (see image to the right).
- Some people hold that Jesus spasmed right before his death and broke his foot support, Others say that the weight of Jesus’ body broke the foot support.
I like to think about this weight in more of a metaphorical way. There is a weight to sin and in forgiveness we are holding on to weight that is not ours. Through unforgiveness we allow the wrong that was done to us to weigh us down and to have power over us. I attached the Orthodox Cross to the words found in Matthew 5:12 so that when ever we walk past an orthodox church that we would be reminded of the weight of holding on to other people’s wrongs, and the need for us to forgive.
We then took our slips of paper and went outside and people were invited to burn them in a metal pale. People were asked to pray silently one of two things as they ignited their slip of paper:
- “Lord I forgive ____________________”
- “Lord I’m not able to forgive ___________________, I need you to help me to learn to forgive.”
Both prayers are valid. It is hard to forgive, and some of us have suffered things that should not have been aloud to happen, but if we are following Jesus we need to be willing to take one step further into forgiveness.
Upon reflecting on the burning of these forgiveness prayers, a number of things stood out to me:
- Ash is lighter then paper. As we burnt these slips of paper that represented unforgiveness, they physically became liter.
- Forgiveness produces light, just like our fire.
- Forgiveness and Fire can be scary, I had two jars of water and a fire extinguisher ready in case we had an accident. Just like we need to be safe when using a fire, we need to be safe when creating opportunities to engage in forgiveness.
- When I put the last of the fire out, it stank, It would have been better for me to stick with the fire, allow it to consume every last ember. We must be patient as we allow forgiveness to consume the burden we have been holding on to.
Some where in the middle of our fire a spontaneous “Kumbaya moment” happened and we began singing Oh Lord Hear My Prayer as we watched our fire.