Tuesday, 31 March 2009

difficult places - where do we find peace?

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Give out an action:
Place something beautiful somewhere you consider challenging - it could be a physical space, a relational space, or a symbolic space. Thank God that he is already at work in that place and that as you seek reconciliation there, you will also be reconciled.

Give out a thought:
Judah finds itself in exile in Babylon, this is bad news. Babylon is considered the antithesis of Jerusalem. It is corrupt at its core. 'How can we sing the songs of Zion in this strange land?' the Jews complain. Yet, one poet/prophet comes along. One of their own who not only suggests that they can, but that their sense of well-being, justice and morality will only be re-ignited as they seek the same for their captors.

'But seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its shalom you will find your shalom.'... (Jeremiah 29)

And the speaker for the vision dares to say, "Your shalom will be found in Babylon's shalom." The well-being of the chosen ones is tied to the well-being of that hated metropolis, which the chosen people fear and resent. It is profound and disturbing to discover that this remarkable religious vision will have to be actualized in the civil community. (Walter Brueggemann)

Monday, 30 March 2009

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Give out a thought and an action:

The following is an adaptation of the Holy City in Revelation written for Glasgow by Rev. Doug Gay. Read it through, meditate upon it and then you may wish to re-write it for your neighbourhood or city.


I saw a vision – It was last Thursday at eleven o’clock in the morning.

I was standing on the Necropolis, looking down over the city

            and the cold blue autumn sky broke open over my head

            and the Spirit of God breathed on my eyes, and my eyes were opened:

 

I saw Glasgow, the holy city, coming down out of heaven

            shining like a rare jewel, sparkling like clear water in the eye of the sun

            and all the sickness was gone from the city

            and there were no more suburbs and schemes

            no difference between Bearsden and Drumchapel.

 

I saw the Clyde running with the water of life

            as bright as crystal

            as clear as glass

            the children of Glasgow swimming in it.

 

And the Spirit showed me the tree of life

            growing on Glasgow Green.

 

I looked out and there were no more homeless people

            there were no women working the streets

            there were no more junkies up the closes

            HIV and AIDS were things of the past

            there were no more racist attacks

            no more attacks on gay people

            no more rapists

            no more stabbings

            no more Protestants and Catholics

            no more IRA graffiti, no more Orange marches

            because there was no more hate

            and I saw women walking safe at nights

            and the men were full of passion and gentleness

            and none of the children were ever abused

            because the people’s sex was full of justice and joy.

 

I saw an old woman throw back her head

            and laugh like a young girl

and when the sky closed back her laughter rang in my head

            for days and days

            and would not go away.

 

This is what I saw, looking over the Gallowgate,

Looking up from the city of death

and I knew then that there would be a day of resurrection

and I believe that there will be a day of resurrection.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

koinonia - five -

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Give out an action:
Visit http://www.thehungersite.com and consider making a donation.

Give out a thought:
Writing about A.D. 125, the Christian philosopher Aristides painted the following picture of economic sharing in the church.
They walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another. They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that hath, distributeth liberally to him that hath not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him, as it were their own brother: for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the spirit and in God; but when one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them see him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply then needy with their necessary food.’

Friday, 27 March 2009

koinonia - four -

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‘This understanding of koinonia [koinonia as “oneness” being together] invites us to see the church as a kind of business association, with each member acting as a partner in the enterprise. This partnership is a voluntary association but carries with it certain responsibilities. All the partners renounce sole right to their possessions. In return, each partner can rely on practical assistance from the other partners. One of the primary goals of the association is to abolish extremes of wealth and poverty among the partners and to work towards increasing equality. The division in churches which practise koinonia will be between the givers and receivers, not between rich and poor, with a constant flow of resources making it likely that givers will sometimes also become receivers and receivers in turn become givers.’ (Stuart Murray)

Give out an action:
Over the next few days, walk a journey that you normally drive or take a bus for. Give away the money you would normally spend on that journey and write down your thoughts, feelings and observations during the whole experience.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

koinonia - three -

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Give out a thought:
It is important for us to understand the interwoven connection between the fellowships economic liberality and divine power. In one breath we hear of “wonders and signs” being done by the Apostles, and in the next breath we discover that “all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:43-44). We read of the marvelous prayer meeting where the building shook and the people “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” and in the very next verse we discover that “the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things we he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:31-32). As if that were not enough, the very next sentence once again takes up the theme of power “and with great power the Apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). And the next verse echoes their generous sharing. And on it goes, back and forth, interwoven like a tapestry, braided together like a rope. (Richard Foster)    

Give out an action:
Listen to God and ask him if there is a friend or a colleague whom he wants you to encourage today. Pray for that person and then send them a card, phone them up or email them to let them know you have prayed for them. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

koinonia - two -

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Give out a thought:
It is to be expected that whenever God’s Spirit is poured out on people, their traditions and institutions will be disrupted and disturbed. God’s intervention is always subversive, because YHWH is not a domesticated deity, baptizing our traditions and institutions, but the One who seeks to liberate us from our enslaved condition, to heal us of our wounds and addictions, and to animate us in the practice of justice and compassion. Thus when the Spirit descends in Acts, it empowers the church to move across established (and enforced!) social and economic boundaries of gender (as Peter endorses women prophets, Acts 2:17f), race (as the disciples engage in multi-lingual outreach, 2:9,39) and class (as “uneducated, common Galileans” preach to “devote leaders,” 2:7).  (Ched Myers)

Give out an idea:
Find a Big Issue seller and give them a present.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

koinonia - one -

Give out a thought:

The common purse of the Twelve only magnified after Pentecost, resulting in sweeping economic sharing in the early church. As the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples and increased their numbers, the new order of the kingdom effectively dismantled the walls between the privileged and the underprivileged, the powerful and the powerless, and the haves and the have-nots in the community. Luke reported several times in the book of Acts how the Spirit-led followers of Jesus “had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:44-45). And again, “all the believers were in one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32). Though hard to imagine today with our highly individualistic  mind-set, this economic arrangement among them seemed only natural in the early church in light of the gospel. The experience of fellowshipping with the risen Jesus (1 Cor 15:5-8) and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-47) registered such an impact upon the first generation of believers that economic sharing – the spirit of Jubilee justice – defined their relationships.

(Sider, Gordon, Perkins, Tizon)

Give out an action:
Do something today for your next door neighbour. Wash their car, water their garden, give them a gift, encourage them with your words or a gesture.

Give out an image:

Monday, 23 March 2009

bread meditation

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At the beginning of the week you may use this meditation to help focus on Jesus. (thanks to Phil Hoyle for his work on this)

  • What do we build our lives on?
  • Are we satisfied?
  • Do we hunger?
  • Do we long for something?
  • Can anything on this earth truly satisfy our deepest longings?
  • Can anything on this earth truly satisfy this hunger we experience?
  • Do we hunger for God?
  • When we approach God, what do we expect to receive? 
  • Are we asking God for anything?
  • What are we asking for?
  • Do we trust God to give us things that are good for us?

Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And, on the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; take and eat this in remembrance of me."

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the bread of life. You alone can satisfy the hunger in our hearts. Lord Jesus, you nourish and sustain us with your presence and life. You are the bread of life - the bread that sustains us now and that produces everlasting life in us. May we always hunger for you and be satisfied in you alone. Lord, you satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts and you feed us. Fill us with gratitude and give us generous hearts that we may freely share with others what you have given to us. Amen.

  • Do you trust God to give you things that are good for you?
  • Are you asking God for anything?
  • What are you asking for?

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Give out an image:

(taken from http://asbojesus.wordpress.com)

Give out a thought: ‘A radical view of economic justice, in which the poor hold a prominent place, launches Jesus’ sermon: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”. Undoubtedly such a value informed the new community of disciples in its view of possessions and wealth as well as the economic relationships among them. For example, they shared a “common purse”, meaning, among other things, that “the resources of the entire community of obedient disciples would be available to anyone in need.” In short, Jesus and the community of the Twelve took up the responsibility originally given to Israel to model kingdom justice.” Jesus and his followers vividly demonstrated that the old covenant’s pattern of economic relationships among God’s people [was] not only to be continued but also deepened.’ (Sider, Perkins, Gordon, Tizon)

Give out an action: Collect pictures, photographs, videos and drawings of people giving out to others. If you can, send them to giveupgiveout@blogspot.com 


Friday, 20 March 2009

Jesus and economic justice

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Give out a thought:

Ched Myers, writing on the story of the rich, young ruler.

‘Christians have been so anxious that Jesus might be saying something exclusive or critical about the rich that they have missed the fact that this triplet is not a statement about them at all. It is a statement about the nature of the Kingdom. These reiterations – all in the indicative mood – insist that the Kingdom of God is simply that social condition in which there are no rich and poor. By definition then, the rich cannot enter – not, that is, with their wealth intact…

Jesus is not inviting this man to change his attitude toward his wealth, nor to treat his servants better, nor to reform his personal life. He is asserting the precondition for discipleship: economic justice.’

Give out an action:
Give a present to someone who you know is experiencing a challenging situation. Give it anonymously.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

What does it mean to be blessed?

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Give out a thought and an action:
Meditate upon the following verse and questions. Then spend time, writing your response to the questions.

Consider yourself blessed when you’re poor, hungry, sorrowful and persecuted. Consider yourself in danger when you’re rich, well fed, full of levity and popular…. (Luke 6:20-26)

Are we who are rich, which by global standards is the majority of us, careful to heed this warning and to not get life from our riches?

Have I adjusted my lifestyle so I can generously share my wealth with the poor, feeding the hungry, comforting the sorrowful?

If I wasn’t a follower of Jesus how would my life look any different than it does now in terms of how I steward my resources?

What actual difference is following Jesus making in my life? (Greg Boyd)

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Who is our neighbour?

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Consider the Good Samaritan. What does he give?

1. Attention he stops at the roadside (put himself at risk)

2. Restoration/ healing bandaged his wounds (got his hands dirty),

3. Hospitality - took him to the inn (inconvenienced himself – even stayed overnight)

4. New economy, then paid the price (set up a new economy for the person in need). 

There are many neighbourhoods who are like the poor man in need of attention, restoration, hospitality and a new economy. Do we have faith for all that? We need to give them our attention by being there; then we must restore and be hospitable (allowing our lives to be changed by our encounters with this place). Yet, we shouldn’t stop short of the employing creativity and faith to believe that a new economy can happen.

Give out an action:
Share a meal with someone you hardly know or don’t know at all.  It might be someone in your neighbourhood, near where you work or someone who lives on the street.

Give out an image:

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Christ-like simplicity

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Give out a thought:
‘Jesus Christ and all the writers of the New Testament call us to break free of mammon lust and live in joyous trust. Their radical criticism of wealth is combined with a spirit of unconditional generosity. They point to us a way of living in which everything we have we receive as a gift, and everything we have is cared for by God, and everything we have is available to others when it is right and good. This reality frames the heart of Christian simplicity. It is the means of liberation and power to do what is right and to overcome the forces of fear and avarice.’ (Richard Foster)

Give out an action:
Do something anonymously. You could arrive at work early and ensure that everyone has a cup of tea on their desk for the start of the day. Go and clean up the street or a park in the middle of the night so that no-one sees you.

Monday, 16 March 2009

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Give out a thought and an action

At the start of this week spend time meditating on the following prayer:

 

Father, help us to live the Sabbath

To remind ourselves that you are God

You own the earth and everything in it

You provide for all that you have made

We will trust in you

 

Jesus, help us to live the Jubilee

To remind ourselves that you are righteous and just

We recognise that our possessions belong to the poor

That we are advantaged because someone else is disadvantaged

Help us return our gift to you

 

Spirit of God, you give life

This week breath again into our lives

That the spirit of Sabbath and of Jubilee may again be alive

In our lives, in our community, in this world.

Amen


Saturday, 14 March 2009

Jubilee -three-

Give out a thought:
Writing in 1977 Ron Snider wrote:
'How then do we apply the actual laws we have discussed? Should we attempt to revive the specific mechanisms proposed in Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15?
Actually, it might not be a bad idea to try the Jubilee itself at least once. It has been somewhat more than fifty years since the people of God divided their capital equally among themselves. We could select 1980 as the Jubilee year... In 1980 all Christians worldwide would pool all their stocks, bonds, and income producing property and business and redistribute them equally. The world would be startled. There would undoubtedly be a certain amount of confusion and disruption. But then good things are seldom easy. Certainly the evangelistic impact of such an act would be fantastic. In a world tragically divided between the haves and the have-nots, such a visible demonstration of our oneness in Christ might indeed convince millions that Jesus was from the Father.'

Give out an action:
With some other friends, plan a 50 day jubilee. It may be that you take 50 days of prayer, or using as many fair trade products or random acts of kindness or something else. Plan it, and then start it. Journal, or blog, what your experiences.

Give out an image:
A community engaging in the Jubilee.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Jubilee -two-

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Give out a thought: 
'The fullest expression of Sabbath logic is the Levitical "Jubilee": a comprehensive remission to take place every "Sabbath's Sabbath" or 49th/50th year (Lev 25). The Jubilee (named after the Jovel, a ram's horn that sounded to herald the remission) aimed to dismantle social-economic inequality by:
  • releasing each community member from debt (Lev 25:35-42);
  • returning encumbered or forfeited land to its original owners (25:13,25-48);
  • freeing slaves (25:47-55).
The rationale for this unilateral restructuring of the community's assets was to remind Israel that the land belongs to God (25:23) and that they are exodus people who must never return to a system of slavery (25:42).' (Ched Myers)

Give out an action:
Spend time reflecting on a time in your life where you have felt freedom. You may wish to write this down, describing your any emotional, physical or spiritual change that the situation created.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Jubilee -one-

Give out an image and a thought:
You may have seen this before. Even if you have, it is still inspiring. Today the thought is given over to Leviticus, via an Irish rock band.



Give out an action:
Jobseekers allowance is currently set at £60.50 if you are over 25 years of age. That's less than £10 a day. See if you can live at that level for the next week. If you can, give your surplus money away

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

will they be with us?

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Give out a thought:
In the deep and dark corner of Deuteronomy we find the first biblical utterance of a famous phrase, 'There will always be poor in the land.' (Deut 15:11) Contrary to how we often misinterpret Jesus by saying that we should accept there will always be poverty, the original context outlines how Israel is to deal with the poor. They are to be 'open-handed' and not 'tight-fisted', 'generous' not 'grudging', and 'releasing' not possessive. These attitudes are to be fostered most acutely within the seventh year, or sabbath year. In that year the debts incurred over the past six years are to be cancelled and slaves are to be released. The fields are not to be harvested in order for the poor to be able to go and gather without cost the fruits of God's land. This was one of God's first instructions to help create, as Ron Sider puts it, 'transformed economic relationships among his people.'

As the credit crunch and recession really kicks in the tendency is to hoard and become possessive. Our generosity in the years of plenty is challenged and our response may to be tight-fisted rather than open-handed. Yet our 'imagination factory' that is the bible seems to be offering new ways of dealing with these age-old challenges. Father, help us to re-imagine your economic pattern.

Give out an action:
Buy a 'good gift' from Oxfam.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Manna in the desert

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Give out a thought:
At the end of last week we looked at how the sabbath has economic, agricultural and social aspects to its institution. One of the stories that would be at the forefront of the Israelites imagination when receiving the commandment to honour the sabbath would be the miraculous provision of manna in the desert (exodus 16). Commenting on this, Ched Myers writes:

The "instructions" in the narrative give s the three defining characteristics of this alternative economic practice. First, every family is told to gather just enough bread for their needs. In contrast to Israel's Egyptian condition of deprivation, here everyone has enough... In God's economy there is such a thing as "too much" and "too little". Second, this bread should not be "stored up". Wealth and power in Egypt was defined by surplus accumulation... The Bible understands that dominant civilizations exert centripetal force, drawing labour, resources and wealth into greater and greater concentrations of idolatrous power. So Israel is enjoined to keep wealth circulating through strategies of redistribution, not concentrating through strategies of accumulation. The third instruction introduces Sabbath discipline... We Christians regard the Sabbath as best as one of the Ten Commandments, at worst as a quaint Jewish custom. But here we say that it is instituted even before the Covenant at Sinai. 
Give out an action:
Organise a swap day - perhaps at the office get everyone to bring in something they would be willing to give a way and swap with something else. 

Monday, 9 March 2009

Week 3 prayer

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Here's a prayer written by an anonymous Franciscan that sets the tone for the coming week. Lets spend some time reflecting upon it and allowing God to prepare us for the challenges that we may face.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.



May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.



May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.



And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.


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Saturday, 7 March 2009

sabbath -three-

Give out a thought:
 “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed.’ (Ex 23:12) A further implication of the Sabbath is that slaves and servants are to be allowed rest. Here the Israelites’ memory was exercised. Previously they were in captivity within Egypt and had been overworked by their masters in order to increase their rulers economic output. Here the Sabbath not only reminds them of this story and the Lord who had saved them, but also provokes them to treat those who were their subordinates in a humane way. Rather than the bullied becoming the bully, this was the saved bringing salvation to others. 

Give out an image:

Give out an action:
Buy someone a fair trade chocolate bar/ banana and give it to them anonymously. Attach to it a reason why you think we should buy fair trade.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Sabbath -two-

Give out a thought:

‘We often forget that the Sabbath rest principle included the needs of the livestock. ‘Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest…” (Ex 23:12) The whole point of this instruction is that our dominion over the whole earth and the little creatures that creep upon it is to be a compassionate dominion. We are not to rape the earth but to care for it – kindly, lovingly, tenderly.’ (Richard Foster)

Give out an action:
Buy a plant/ packet of seeds and give it to someone with a request that they look after it and help it to grow.

Give out an image:

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

sabbath -one-

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Give out a thought:
'Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work...' (Ex 23:12). Often when we think about Sabbath we associate it with taking rest, putting our feet up or gathering together in worship. However we as less aware of the economic consequences of the '7th day' for God's people within biblical times. Working the land was how many communities provided for their family and contributed towards the wider society. To 'sabbath' meant to stay away from the fields for a day. Ignoring the Sabbath imperative would have given the individual an opportunity to gain an edge on others and increase wealth. However, God's people were to practice restraint from these impulses in order to remember that the Lord was their provider and that they should trust him for everything they needed.

Give out an action:
Take a day off from spending money. Don't cheat by using 'plastic' or writing a cheque. Literally don't spend any money.

Scarcity and unlimited appetite

Give out an image: (thanks Tom)

Give out a thought: ‘The two main axioms of classical economics are: 1) the natural condition of scarcity; and 2) unlimited human appetite. These, Lowery writes, “breed resignation to systems of distribution so unequal as to guarantee homelessness and starvation. Sabbath economics, however, based on “the principles of abundance and self-restraint turn this classical economic approach on its head. If you assume that resources are abundant, sufficient for the survival and prosperity of human life, and that human needs and wants are limited, then no one need starve or suffer the elements through lack of housing or clothing.” The conclusion we must draw, says Lowery, is that “long-term, systemic hunger, homelessness and poverty can be viewed only as a failure of human will.”

Cited in Ched Myers, ‘The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics.’

Give out an action: take a shoe box to work and leave on your desk - leave a note saying that you would like to fill it with specific items over next few weeks and then send it via "samaritans purse"