“Do you have any rhythm?” This is a paralyzing question to most anyone who fears the dance. We may sputter back, “I’ve got two left feet,” and trust that ends the awkward thought of getting out there on the dance floor. The quip many offer to encourage soul-freedom is “Dance like no one is watching!” Like dancing for some, spiritual practices, or finding a sacred rhythm, of the spirit may welcome similar anxiety. What if, however, we could arrange our lives in such a way that spiritual transformation is more likely? The season of Lent, forty days of deepening our faith focus, is an ideal time to examine such a rhythm more closely. Inspired by Ruth Haley Barton’s “Sacred Rhythms,” join us for worship during Lent to find the groove of faith that just may put us in closer step with Jesus.
March 6, 2019 : Sacred Rhythms: Longing for More
Theme Verse: “Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51a)
Richard Rohr says, “A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go someplace else.” The sacred season of Lent always affords us such an opportunity. What is your deepest spiritual desire? Do you long for more? The movement from desire to discipline is important. This forty-day journey to Easter invites us to be honest with God, and ourselves, about our sin and our hope, about our short comings and our holy longings. On Ash Wednesday, it begins with a cry for mercy and a commitment to follow Jesus on the way.
March 10, 2019 : Sacred Rhythms: Creating Space for God
Mark 6:7-13; 30-32
Theme Verse: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)
When is the last time you were quiet enough to hear your own heart beat? To feel it? Sense its rhythm as if your very soul was trying to show itself to you in a marvelous and tangible way? Parker Palmer suggests “the soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy. But it is also shy…. if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surroundings, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance.” To find a sacred way forward, we must first create a foundation, or baseline, for God to build upon. Our starting point? Solitude.
March 17, 2019 : Sacred Rhythms: Encountering God in Scripture
1 Samuel 3:1-10
Theme Verse: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)
Do you read Scripture primarily for information or transformation? Do you imagine it as a text book or a love letter? There is room for both realities, of course, but in creating a sacred rhythm between God and follower of God, it is good to consider what it means to savor the Scriptures. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The Word of Scripture should never stop sounding in your ears and working in you all day long, just like the words of someone you love.” What is your relationship with our holy text? What could God open to you if you opened the Bible in a whole new way?
March 24, 2019 : Sacred Rhythms: Deepening Our Intimacy with God
Theme Verse: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought…” (Romans 8:26)
Many of us have learned a “go-to” prayer over time – often a bedtime prayer as a child or The Lord’s Prayer as we prayed it each week in worship. But ask anyone without notice to say a prayer aloud or share about their prayer life and most get wide-eyed and tight lipped pretty quick. It seems, however, that as our spirit’s mature, we recognize that the gift of prayer shifts as well – often from a sense of communication to God to an experience of communion with God. How might we move from “What do I pray?” to “How is my life a prayer?”
March 31, 2019 : Sacred Rhythms: Flesh-and-Blood Spirituality
Theme Verse: “Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’” (1 Kings 19:5b)
Civilizations have long valued and cared for the mystery that is the human body. The Christian practice of honoring the body is, as Stephanie Paulsell notes, “born of the confidence that our bodies are made in the image of God’s own goodness.” The complexities of physical health meet every single one of us; sometimes in similar ways, at other times in altogether opposite ways. However, as Paulsell also points out, “It is through our bodies that we participate in God’s activity in the world.” At the prompting of an angel, Elijah’s physical health became necessary to sustain his spiritual calling. It seems paying attention to our bodies can steady a sacred rhythm that will help God transform the world through our physical vessels.
April 7, 2019 : Sacred Rhythms: Bringing my Whole Self Before God
Psalm 139:1-18; 23-24
Theme Verse: “See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:24)
Some of us have been so shaped by shame-based family or church systems that we resist entering into deeper levels of self-awareness for fear of being debilitated even further. We counter that resistance with, “But God loves us unconditionally,” and indeed God does. However, we are still inclined to dodge ourselves to avoid the possible pain of shame or rejection. The famed Psalm 139 includes the paradox that we invite God to search and know us even as we acknowledge in the same breath that God already does. As Ruth Barton notes, “This may point to the fact that the real issue in self-examination is not that I am inviting God to know me (since God already does) but that I am inviting God to help me know me.” Becoming more aware of who we’ve been and who we are may be the very best indicator of who we can become yet.
April 14, 2019 : Sacred Rhythms: Recognizing and Responding to the Presence of God
Theme Verse: “They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’” (Luke 19:34)
“Discernment is truly a gift from God, but not one dropped from the skies fully formed. It is a gift cultivated by a prayerful life and the search for self-knowledge.” (Ernest Larkin). There was a lot of discernment going on that first “Palm Sunday.” Everyone close to the Jesus movement knew a big moment was in front of them. Were they ready? Were they committed? If they watched the ‘game film’ of the Palm Parade on Tuesday, would they have wondered if they should have gone about the whole thing differently? The discernment of Jesus was clear. The question for us? Will we cheer or will we curse? How will we recognize and respond to the presence of God?
April 18, 2019 : Sacred Rhythms: The Disruption of Service
Theme Verse: “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15)
Any musician will tell you that honoring the ‘rests’ are just as important as playing the ‘notes.’ Even so, we are culturally all about the notes and much less interested in the rests. The disciples, ready to party for the Passover and equally ready to act on Jesus’ next move to kingship were taken aback when Jesus essentially says, “Let’s start with the rest.” Amidst betrayal and greed and ignorance, Jesus chooses to serve and suggests we do the same.
April 19, 2019 : Sacred Rhythms: At the Cross
Theme Verse: “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:44-46)
A service of darkness including scripture readings and sacred songs surrounding the crucifixion will be shared in a moving and meaningful way by our pastors, congregation and acapella ensemble, Avenue.
April 21, 2019 : Sacred Rhythms: Feel the Rhythm (An Easter Jam)
Theme Verse: “Peter got up, ran to the tomb; stopping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.” (Luke 24:12)
Rhythm is simply defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga” comes to mind. Rhythm denotes a repeatable pattern and, consistently experienced enough, forms a sustainable base upon which any great song can be built. The Christian song is one of resurrection upon which every other layer of music in our life is built. How is your life adding to this great resurrection song? Thomas Merton writes, “Ask me not where I live or what I like to eat… Ask me what I am living for and what I think is keeping me from living fully for that.” Let every hindrance fall away. Be amazed. Clear your lungs. Breathe deeply. And SING! Christ is risen!