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Rhythms of grace: seasons of suffering

The invitation to prayer this week is taken from Tess Ward’s book “The Celtic Wheel of the Year,” combined with images for silent contemplation and a song. Enter the quiet and may the Spirit of God speak to you in this season. 

Praise to you O Divine Love,
for though you never ordain suffering,
you help us to make sense of love’s purpose when hardship befalls.
Reveal the meaning of this time that you have gifted to us.
Help us so to trust you in every season, we may say:
Praise to you.

Beirut blast …
Air India crash …
COVID-19 deaths … burial of unclaimed bodies …
USA protests …
Solid Black Wallpapers - Top Free Solid Black Backgrounds ...
Whatever loss or struggle you have gone/are going through …

Be still in the silence and aware of the Love with and within …

<A candle is lit if you have one at hand>

Loving God,
you have loved us through every season,
from the time of our birth, until our time to die.
Walk with us in our season this day, for you know there is
a time for wounding and a time to heal,
a time to mourn and a time to celebrate,
a time to be creative and a time to survive,
a time to surrender and a time to rebel,
a time to embrace and a time to be self-contained,
a time to speak and a time to keep silence,
a time to be there and a time to stay away,
a time to take charge and a time to let be,
a time to reach beyond and a time to consolidate,
a time to be moderate and a time to be outrageous,
a time to be anxious and a time to be at peace,
a time to stay and a time to move on,
a time to care and a time to be cared for,
a time to generate and a time to lose,
a time to love and time to let go. 
Bear us through this time, you who bear our pain and longing.
Let us hear your voice whispering,
“All is sacred. It is your time.”

The Good Samaritan

From Luke 10:25-37

This past Sunday, over Zoom, we took a fresh look at the parable of the Good Samaritan through the “wondering” questions typical of a Godly Play story. Some of the ideas that have been developing in my further reflections this week have been around … 

… how quickly we identify with the people who passed by the man who had been beaten, had everything taken from him, and was left on the side of the road half-dead or with the notion that Christ calls us to be a community who stops and takes care of the wounded and needy; yet how seldom we acknowledge that we can, in fact, be that half-dead person or one of the attackers who took, by force and for reasons that we do not know, that which did not belong to them …

… how gender, race, and age would impact the story in different ways: most of us would be willing to rush to the aid of a child who lay hurt on the side of the road; yet, as a woman, I would feel distinctly vulnerable stopping on my own to approach a man on the street – even if he was clearly in need … 

… how the one who had mercy is identified in Scripture as being the neighbour of the one in need in accordance with what God requires of us – but, in fact, all in the story are in need of mercy, of a neighbour, of the touch of God upon their lives as they journey.

As I wrestle today with what this parable teaches me about the kin-dom of God, I find myself wondering as I enter into prayer: 

  • What have I done to hurt another? To rob them of their joy, their peace, their voice, their confidence, their dream, their energy, their passion? What do I need to apologise for? And what pain am I carrying from others doing the same to me? What do I need to forgive? 
  • Who am I comfortable caring for and reaching out to? Who have I simply walked past – and why? What would it take for me to make myself vulnerable? 
  • What might it mean to be a neighbour to those too busy to stop, to those too fearful to get involved, to those who survive/prosper through violence, to those from a different culture or religion or with a completely foreign perspective on life, to those trying to keep a small business alive at this particular time, to those on a journey, to those stuck in a place of shadow and pain, to those who have been beaten and had everything taken for them and been left lying on the side of the road half-dead? 

Blessings to you in where this day takes you and on all you may meet on the way.

***

This Sunday, we hear the parable of the leaven and share in the sacrament of Holy Communion (with the elements of bread and wine or with empty hands). Feel free to get in touch if you would like more details on how to join our conversation. x Yvonne.

All

As I continue to reflect on how we all journey together in this “time warp” time towards Christ’s kin-dom, I’d simply like to share today a prayer by Karl Barth from Sunday’s worship.

O Lord our God!
You who know who we are;
men (and women) with good consciences and with bad,
persons who are content and those who are discontent, 
the certain and the uncertain,
Christians by conviction and Christians by convention,
those who believe, those who half-believe, those who disbelieve.

And you know where we have come from:
from the circle of relatives, acquaintances and friends
or from the greatest loneliness,
from a life of quiet prosperity
or from manifold confusion and distress,
from family relationships that are well ordered
or from those disordered or under stress,
from the inner circle of the Christian community 
or from its outer edge.

But now we all stand before you,
in all our differences, 
yet alike in that we are all in the wrong with you and with one another,
that we must all one day die,
that we would all be lost without your grace,
but also in that your grace is promised
and made available to us all in your dear Son Jesus Christ.

We are here together in order to praise you 
through letting you speak to us.
We beseech you to grant that this may take place in this [day],
in the name of your Son, our Lord. 

Karl Barth

Pentecost

Over the past few weeks, I – like many others – have become increasingly aware of the significance of constraints or boundaries or limitations in our lives. In the movement from death to life to life in its fullness, I am deeply challenged (again) by the identity of the Church as the pilgrim people of God and inspired by the imagery of God’s Spirit as breath or wind – invisible but tangible, uncontainable.

The gathering for Pentecost Sunday defies some of those constraints as technology enables some to meet beyond traditional sacred space and geographical boundaries for a time of conversation and contemplation through poetry, prayer, music, silence, and nature. 

This week, the service will not be recorded but I share some of the curated elements here for you to be drawn into this time in your own time and way through different voices, traditions, and experiences. If you would like to be part of the gathering, it takes place on Sunday from 9:30a.m. (with 30 minutes of opening music) to 11a.m. (G.M.T +10) and you are welcome to comment here so that I can send you an invitation to Zoom (requires computer with microphone and camera or smartphone). 

May the Spirit of God with and within you, move you.

***

Songs for worship

Poem: Pentecost is Every Day

I share and share and share again
sometimes with a new language
which, if you are so open
will take you behind the sky
and award you cartwheels across the sun
I give and give and give again
not restricted by the church calendar nor concocted ritual
I have no need of anniversaries
for I have always been
I speak and speak and speak again
with the sting of purity
that can only be Me
causing joyous earthquakes in the mourning soul of [hu]man
I am and am and am again.

Stewart Henderson, The Lion Book of Christian Poetry

Visual Prayer

Featuring names for the Holy Spirit from Richard Rohr’s book The Divine Dance. During this time, it is recommended that you move your body in some way in response to what you feel happening within you e.g. stretch, hold out your hands, follow the moving images on the screen with your finger, sway etc. Pay attention to which words or images really move you.

Prayer of presence (progressive)

We gather today
mindful of a creative,
energising magnificence
at work in all places:
– in the vastness of the universe,
– in the evolutionary development of life on earth,
– and in every breath we take.

In this Great Mystery
we are one with everything and everyone.

We open our hearts and minds
to this creative Presence,
this energising Power
in the depths of our own being, 
knowing that 
we need not ask it to “Come,”
but rather
knowing it has always 
been here with us in life,
in being,
in spirit,
in love.

We gather in memory of Jesus
who knew this Presence in his own life,
who recognised its presence in the lives of others
and who urged his listeners 
to call upon this Presence within them
to transform a world of sorrow,
a world of pain,
into a world of joy,
a world of promise and hope.

Today we give thanks for 
the Jewish men and women 
who took up the challenge
of transforming their world,
who kept the dream of Jesus alive. 

Michael Morwood, Prayers for Progressive Christians

Sacred Story

Adapted from http://www.barnabasinchurches.org.uk/pentecost-seven-signs-of-the-spirit-a-reflective-story/

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

John 20:19-23, New International Version

Questions to reflect on:

  • I wonder which of these signs of the Spirit you like best.
  • I wonder which of these signs you think is the most important sign.
  • I wonder if there are any other signs we could have to have all the signs of the Spirit that we need.
  • I wonder where we see these signs in the world around us.
  • I wonder how we can be a sign of the Spirit in the world.

Signs of the Spirit

As we pray for others, I invite you to pick up your pen/pencil and paper if you have one close at hand. As the words of the prayer are offered, without lifting your pen from the paper scribble an unfurling, unfolding, moving line in whatever way you are moved to. Alternatively, after the time of worship, tie pieces of string or ribbon outside in a spot where the wind will move them this week and you will be reminded of what you have prayed for. 

Praise to you Gentle breeze of the Spirit
For you blow where you will.
I hear the sound of you but
know not where you come from 
or where you go.
Let me be aware of your presence
as your breathe across my life this day,
though I can never grasp you.

Be still in the silence and aware of the Love with and within ……

By your breath of life which infuses all living things,
as I inhale the spirit of the people I meet,
may I exhale your love.
As I inhale the news of today, 
may I exhale prayer like incense rising.
As I inhale rumours of war,
may I exhale supplications for peace.
As I inhale the air which the leaves of the trees give to me,
may I exhale care for all that bears leaves.
As I inhale the same air of the creatures around me
may I exhale freedom from all that causes suffering.

Inspirer of the Universe,
by your grace, may we breathe your loving purpose this day.

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel of the Year.

Blessing

May the God of creation warm your heart like the campfires of old
Bring wisdom and peace as shown to the first peoples of this land
Shake off the dust from the desert plains by the refreshing rains
Followed by the glow and warmth of the sun
Let the light of God show us the right path and stand tall like the big
River gums drawing life from the ever flowing waters.

Uncle Vince Ross, commongrace.org.au

Sunday: seeking together

A huge word of affirmation and thanks to the Pilgrim elders – Betty, Marilyn, Ruth, Rob, and George – for putting together our service of worship for Sunday in such a meaningful and extraordinary way.

The full wording of the service can be found by downloading the PDF order here:

A video compilation of all the songs, prayers, readings, and sermon can be downloaded by clicking on the following link: Sunday service.

Our Ascension Day service can also be found here.

Blessings to each and every one of you
as we continue to gather in a way that moves us beyond the physical boundaries of time and place
and seek to use our gifts – together – to build up our faith and community.

With much love,
Yvonne

Monday: testing

based on Psalm 66:8-20

God, even in this testing time
we celebrate Your goodness
and offer prayers of praise.

Locked down,
shut in, 
cut off, 
we’ve found that You hold our lives safely in Your hands. 

Here, in this testing time,
You’re proving us, 
perfecting us,
making us holy,
to bring us out better than we were before:
saturated with Your goodness 
and Your grace.

May we bring the best we have before You
as a fragrant sacrifice
for You never say “no!” when we ask for help;
You pay attention to our prayers
and pour out Your tender love.

Let praise arise.
Let praise arise!

Tuesday: poetry

For me, poetry goes beyond my daily bread; it is a sumptuous feast for my soul that invites me to sit a while and savour the deep mystery that is the Divine, to revel in the rich textures and scents and flavours of a world that cannot be contained in only language or logic, to feel full yet reach still – with longing – for one last delicious mouthful knowing too well that it is probably not my last …. 

So, today, I want to share three poems that I keep returning to at present – knowing full well that few people share this love and many, quite frankly, find poetry intimidating. 

Still, I invite you to skim through them and find the one that speaks to you in some way: that captures your attention with a word or image, that provokes questions, that plonks you in the deep end with an exasperated “I can’t make any sense of this” …. 

Read through it, slowly. 

Read through it again – out loud if possible – capturing the rhythm of each line; noting where there is a pause (comma), a break (full stop), or a breathless running on of one thought into another.

Highlight two or three words that seem important to you. What do they mean in the poem? What do they mean in your own life? 

Read it one last time – not seeking to make sense of it or find the lesson but allowing yourself to be full of what it is that you are feeling: gratitude, joy, confusion, wonder, frustration etc. Let that be the starting point of your prayer today ….

God, I feel ….

Resurrection flower

You place a resurrection
Flower on my desk, an explosion
Of yellow blossom from a green
Stem. All winter it was buried
In the dirt, covered with snow,
Soaked by rains, companion to 
Earthworms. Easter in a 
Daffodil: Christ leaps up
In your green laughter and light
embrace.

Eugene Peterson, Holy Luck

Prayer 

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver, Thirst

Elusive

There is this thing 
that sits just out of reach
so that whenever I stretch out for it
I am left with my fingers
dancing in the wind
and the feelings of being exposed.
So, instead, I curl myself up again
and shimmer inside, enough
to be satisfied. I stop grasping
and let something grasp me.

Joel McKerrow, Hollowed out lungs

Monday: shepherd

It’s been wonderful to have a week away from the “work” of ministry – to spend time in my studies with the likes of Mallory and Chaucer, to enjoy the sunshine after the rain, to indulge in long baths and pyjama days, to feel energy and creativity and vision unfolding again from the resting place ….

a special word of thanks to the elders from Pilgrim who have shared their own stories, thoughts, and reflections with us in this space to make that time possible. We truly are a community that is being led and fed and built as we deepen our connection with Christ and seek to offer the gifts that we receive to one another and the world.

An acrostic prayer/poem based on Psalm 23

Sing songs of blessing and devotion to the shepherd of our souls!
He is our constant companion, our protector, our friend.
Each of us is known by name; led by his footsteps into the open way.
Peace and plenty are the gifts we will find in his resting place;
His goodness and love, the assurance that our future is safe in his hands. 
Even when the day is dark and difficulties distress us,
Remember that you are not alone – he is near.
Delight in the table set before you and and drink deeply of his Spirit!

Monday: prayer of praise & promise

written by R. Kerr;
based on Psalm 116 : 1-4, 12-19

You heard my anxious plea
And so I love you Lord
You turned your ear to me
It’s you I call toward

Death threatened everywhere
I felt it pull me down
My soul cried out in prayer
‘O save me, lest I drown’…

What ways can I repay
the good you always give?
I’ll name you when I pray
and praise you as I live

What I’ve promised, I will do
Before your people and for you.

Your saints are dear to you
Whether here or gone above
We are your servants true
You freed us with your love

Thankfulness I bring you
with all my grateful heart
Praises I will sing you
From you I’ll not depart

What I’ve promised, I will do
Before your people and for you.

In your house my voice raise
All your greatness to tell
As we offer our praise
Lord, we know all is well.

Amen.

Today’s song has long spoken into the very depths of my heart of the presence of God in the high and low places of my life. 

When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be ….

You raise me up, today’s version performed by Josh Groban

It evokes, particularly, memories of many trips down from the inland plateau of the Highveld in which Johannesburg is located to the southern coast of Kwa-zulu Natal – for family holidays (both as a child and as a parent), formation for ministry, and silent retreat.

The long drive alone was often a wonderful time of contemplation and quiet as I watched the rolling plains give way to flat fields of wheat and sunflowers to the steep and winding pass through the mountains. 

Always, I would stop for a cup of coffee and to stretch my legs just off of Van Reenen’s Pass … and to get my playlist ready for the next part of the journey. Always this song would play (very, very loudly and on repeat) as my eyes took in the wondrous beauty of God’s good creation in its green and browns and the play of light and dark on the open hills and leafy valleys.

Always, the words of the Psalmist would come to mind:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, 
the Maker of heaven and earth. 

Psalm 121:1-2, New International Version

As you listen, may you feel the hands of God enfold you gently,
offering you sufficient help for this day, 
and leading you into life in the wide open spaces
of mercy and grace.