Sometimes Church is Hard

I sat in a meeting. The discussion was heated. The conversation heavy.

Hearts were burdened. Chests were puffed. Sorrow, pain, arrogance, curiosity, humility, fear, courage, and forgiveness sat together in a single room.

As I looked around the church, I just kept thinking—

Church is hard.

Church is hard for the person walking through the doors, afraid of judgment.

Church is hard for the pastor’s family, under the microscope of an entire body.

Church is hard for the prodigal soul returning home, broken and battered by the world.

Church is hard for the girl who looks like she has it all together, but doesn’t.

Church is hard for the couple who fought the entire ride to service.

Church is hard for the single mom, surrounded by couples holding hands, and seemingly perfect families.

Church is hard for the widow and widower with no invitation to lunch after service.

Church is hard for the deacon with an estranged child.

Church is hard for the choir member overwhelmed by the weight of the lyrics in that song.

Church is hard for the man insecure in his role as a leader.

Church is hard for the wife who longs to be led by a righteous man.

Church is hard for the nursery volunteer who desperately longs for a baby to love.

Church is hard for the single woman and single man, praying God brings them a mate.

Church is hard for the teenage girl, wearing a scarlet letter, ashamed of her mistakes.

Church is hard for gays, adulterers, liars, cheats, and slanderers.

Church is hard for the sinners.

Church is hard for me.

It’s hard because on the outside it all looks shiny and perfect. Sunday best in behavior and dress.

However, underneath those layers, you find a body of imperfect people, carnal souls, selfish motives.

But, here is the beauty of church—

Church isn’t a building, mentality, or expectation.

Church is a body.

Church is a group of sinners, saved by grace, living in fellowship as saints.

Church is a body of believers bound as brothers and sisters by an eternal love.

Church is a holy ground where sinners stand as equals before the Throne of Grace.

Church is a refuge for broken hearts and a training ground for mighty warriors.

Church is a converging of confrontation and invitation. Where sin is confronted and hearts are invited to seek restoration.

Church is a lesson in faith and trust.

Church is a bearer of burdens and a giver of hope.

Church is a family. A family coming together, setting aside differences, forgetting past mistakes, rejoicing in the smallest of victories.

Church, the body, and the circle of sinners-turned-saints, is where He resides, and if we ask, He is faithful to come.

So even on the hard days at church—

The days when I am at odds with a sister. When I’ve fought with my husband because we’re late once again. When I’ve walked in bearing burdens heavier than my heart can handle, yet masking the pain with a smile on my face. When I’ve worn a scarlet letter, under the microscope. When I’ve longed for a baby to hold, or fought tears as the lyrics were sung. When I’ve walked back in, afraid and broken, after walking away.

I’ll remember, He has never failed to meet me there.

sourced from https://herviewfromhome.com/church-is-hard

Not Good Enough

There is so much in our society that tells us we are not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, etc.  Henri Nouwen, a priest-psychologist from Holland, goes so far as to suggest that this is the single most debilitating aspect of many of our lives.

An interesting article written by Fr Henri Nouwen from the Propel Women site.

Anchoring Ourselves as God’s Beloved: Spiritual Reading with Henri Nouwen

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood – Insights Magazine

A movie review from Insights Magazine on the upcoming Tom Hanks’ film A Beautiful Day

MisterRoger’s Neighbourhood was a part of the lives of people for multiple generations in the United States

Source: A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood – Insights Magazine

Election of Church Councillors and Elders

As previously advised, Sunday 2nd February will see the election for new Church Councillors and Elders, following the services at Lismore UCA and Jarman churches. This is to bring more people onboard to cope with the demands of the church at this time. Please stay after the services and ensure you cast your vote. Sunday 9th February will see the Commissioning of all church leaders (including those new Councillors and Elders) for 2020.

Please keep all our church leaders in your prayers.

Lord, please help our church leaders to be steadfast in Your work. Help them to know that their toil is not in vain. May they not be distracted, discouraged or doubtful and thus neglect the spiritual gift You have given them.  Give them the tenacity to take great pains to maintain the path You have cleared for them and to be committed to the work You have laid before them. Lord protect their sense of confidence in You. Grace them to not misplace any confidence in the flesh (their own accomplishments or the abilities of other people). Direct them to draw near to Your throne of grace with confidence for their every need.

Lord, I pray that You would send a spirit of encouragement to them so that they might walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which they have been called; lead them to walk with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for those around them in love, and that they would be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Lord of peace, equip our leaders in every good thing to do Your will, working in our church that which is pleasing in Your sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Commissioning Sunday

On Sunday 9th February, 2020, Lismore Regional Mission will be holding a Commissioning Service within the normal Sunday morning worship at Lismore Uniting at the 8.30 am service.

This service will see the Church Councillors and Elders and others commissioned in the service of our Lord in Lismore Regional Mission, to provide leadership and service to the seven congregations that make up the mission.

It would be great if as many people could be present at this service to be part of this special celebration.

Prayer for Australia from the National Council of Churches

Prayers for this Land Australia
footsteps

Gracious God.
You brought light out of darkness.
You formed the beauty of creation from the waters of chaos.
You raised us from the very dust of the earth and brought life from death.
We thank you for your grace, your faithfulness, and your strength to restore.
Unite your people to bless all who suffer in darkness, chaos, grief and loss.
Grant us your guidance and strength, to serve faithfully as people of hope.
For your sake, and that of all you love, we pray,
Amen

‘The Disaster Recovery Chaplain’s Prayer’, 
by Rev Stephen Robinson, 
National Disaster Recovery Officer 
of the Uniting Church in Australia

 

Prayer for this Land Australia

Creator God,
We pray for this land, our culture, our customs,
our languages, our people and our nation.
Gather us together to look after this land,
so that the beauty of our mother earth
may be preserved for all future generations.

Jesus our brother, give us your grace,
To be united in one mind, one heart, and in one
action so that we can continue the journey of
reconciliation,
to solve the divisions of our growth
and enable all Australians to work together
in love, peace and joy.

We ask you God the Holy Spirit,
Overshadow us with your presence
Especially this our nation.
We ask you to guide all people whether black,
white or yellow so we can truly learn
and have better understanding in the the knowledge
of language and culture of this land Australia.

Amen

 

 

divider Prayer for a Journey of Healing

We who have come from every land give thanks for Australia;
this earth that feeds us; the shores that bind us;
the skies that envelop us in freedom.

We stand together, united as one people proud of our ability
to work together; grateful for our gifts;
nourished by our diversity and our harmony.

Yet we turn to the original owners of our land, and see, too,
what we have taken. We weep for their loss of freedom,
of country, of children – even of their very lives.
We stand in awe at their survival, and in debt to their land.

We have shadows in our history which if unfaced diminish us.
We have taken without asking; Lives are wounded.
We see the pain, feel the sorrow and seek forgiveness.

Let us look back with courage; see the truth and speak it.
Let us look around with compassion; see the cost and share it;
Let us look forward with hope; see what can be done and
create it.

Give us courage to face the truth; compassion to share the
burden, strength to play our part in the healing – and hope
to walk forward to a place of justice.

With courage, compassion, strength and hope, we will walk
together on the journey of Healing.

 © 2012 Bishop Saibo Mabo Chairperson NATSIEC Prayer Dedicated to Uncle Ted Field,
WA Reconciliation Inter-Faith Working Group

A Peasant's Alphabet

A Daily Meditation by Richard Rohr *
From the Center for Action and Contemplation Image credit: Vendimian of Bythinia (Menologion of Basil II) (detail), Anonymous artist, 981 CE.
 The Peasant’s Alphabet  from Richard Rohr
Abba Poemen (340–450) taught that the right question in all circumstances was “Who am I?” [1] St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) would spend whole nights praying “Who are you, my most dear God, and who am I . . . ?” [2] 

It is through encountering the absolute safety of God that we discover our True Self, and in finding our truest self, we find a God who is always and forever larger than we expected.

The truth of our identity, wrapped up in God, gives us a deep sense of radical okayness and yet humility about our fragility. What a paradox! 

Read these sayings and let them stir deeper questions and reflection. This is the power of these simple stories. 

One day Abba Arsenius consulted an old Egyptian monk about his own thoughts. Someone noticed this and said to him, “Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this peasant about your thoughts?” He replied, “I have indeed been taught Latin and Greek, but I do not know even the alphabet of this peasant.” [3] 

Abba Anthony said, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’” [4] 

Abba Isaiah, when someone asked him what avarice was, replied, “Not to believe that God cares for you, to despair of the promises of God and to love boasting.” [5]

I hope this brief introduction to the Desert Fathers and Mothers has given you at least a taste of why their simple spirituality is so valuable for us today. If you are drawn to read more of their sayings, don’t be surprised if you are quickly offended by some of their seeming lower-stage thinking. Stay with them, in honesty and humility, and I’m sure they will teach you something of your own human nature and God’s benevolence. In their irrelevance to our world, these abbas and ammas end up being amazingly relevant, precisely because their frame of reference is so utterly different than ours.

We all need radically different frames to recognize our own limitations.  The practice of contemplation took root in these mystics under extreme circumstances—in the desert wilderness and at the height of the Roman Empire.
Looking for God, first in cities and then far away from mainstream culture, they ultimately found God’s presence within themselves, once they got still enough to recognize it. For all their idiosyncratic teachings and practices, the desert mystics provide a common thread of love running through their stories.

In the words of our own beloved teacher James Finley:   In the freedom with which you freely choose to give yourself in love to the love that gives itself to you, in that reciprocity of love, your destiny is fulfilled, and God’s will for you is consummated. That all of life when you distill it out to its simplest terms, it has to do in the intimate always utterly personal way that each of us serendipitously stumbles upon this great truth. When everything is said and done, only love is real, only love endures. Outside of love, there is nothing, nothing at all. [6]   Contemplation helps us reconnect with our source, which is love, and compels us to embody love in our actions.    
Gateway to Action & Contemplation:
What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me?
What sensations do I notice in my body?
What is mine to do?


Prayer for Our Community:
O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.


[1] The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection, trans. Benedicta Ward, rev. ed. (Cistercian Publications: 1984, ©1975), 102.   [2] “The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions,” IX.37. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3 (New City Press: 2001), 455.   [3] Sayings, Ward, 10.  [4] Ibid., 6.  [5] Ibid., 70  [6] James Finley, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 1981 CE.    

* https://cac.org/the-peasants-alphabet-2020-01-24/

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