The Prayers from #JTreat


Wow, what a wild and wonderful weekend it was! The Jumping Tandem Retreat was all that we hoped and prayed for . . . and more. I hope to write some personal reflections soon in this space, but until then, here are the prayers I read at the close of Friday and Saturday evening’s keynote events. And the homily from Sunday morning’s worship service, too.

Friday evening, after Holley Gerth’s wonderful beginning to our weekend together, these words from a martyred Zimbabwean pastor’s notes, found after his death:

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed.
I have the Holy Spirit power.
The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made– I’m a disciple of His.

I won’t look back,
let up,
slow down,
back away,
or be still.

My past is redeemed,
my present makes sense,
my future is secure.

I’m finished and done with low living,
sight walking,
smooth knees,
colorless dreams,
tamed visions,
worldly talking,
cheap giving,
and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence,
prosperity,
position,
promotions,
plaudits,
or popularity.

I don’t have to be right, first, tops,
recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.

I now live by faith,
lean in His presence,
walk by patience,
am uplifted by prayer,
and I labor with power.

My face is set,
my gait is fast,
my goal is heaven,
my road is narrow,
my way rough,
my companions are few,
my Guide reliable,
my mission clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured,
lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice,
hesitate in the presence of the enemy,
pander at the pool of popularity,
or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up,
until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up,
preached up for the cause of Christ.

 I am a disciple of Jesus.
I must go till He comes,
give till I drop,
preach till all know,
and work till He stops me.
And, when He comes for His own,
He will have no problem recognizing me…
my banner will be clear!”

And from Saturday evening’s creative and inspiring message from Jennifer Dukes Lee, this adapted piece from Celtic Daily Prayer:

Teach Us to Speak, Teach Us to Listen
adapted from “Caedmon – A Declaration of a Dream” in Celtic Daily Prayer, pg. 85

 Teach me to hear your story through each person,
to cradle a sense of wonder in their life,
to honor the hard-earned wisdom of their sufferings,
to waken their joy that the King of all kings stoops down
to wash their feet,
and looking up in their face says,
“I know, I understand.”

 This world has become a world of broken dreams
where dreamers are hard to find and friends are few.

 Lord, be the gatherer of our dreams.
You set the countless stars in place,
and found room for each of them to shine
You listen for us in your heaven-bright hall.
Open our mouths to tell our tales of wonder.

 We have a dream that all the world will meet you,
and know you, Jesus, in your living power,
that someday soon all people everywhere will hear your story,
and hear it in a way they understand.

 I cannot speak unless you loose my tongue;
I only stammer, and I speak uncertainly;
but if you touch my mouth, my Lord,
then I will sing the story of your wonders!

 I cannot hear unless you loose my ears;
I turn away, and miss the quiet cues;
but if you touch my ears, my Lord,
then I will hear the wonders of your word,
the wonders of your word as
told through those I meet.

 So touch our tongues and touch our ears,
tune them to the Truth.
And as we share and as we hear,
may we not forget to tell
your story–of love and grace and peace.

Here am I, my Jesus–teach me.

And Sunday morning’s homily:

Jumping Tandem Retreat
Closing Worship Service
April 21, 2013

 Finding Our Way Home
Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30

It’s been a rich time together these three days. We’ve been stretched — some of us quite literally! — we’ve been encouraged, we’ve probably been a little bit overwhelmed from time to time, I’m guessing. After all, dreaming great, big, audacious dreams can do that to a person. Dreaming any kind of change, imagining a picture of a new future, big or little or in-between — any kind of dream can feel sorta scary.

And now, in just a few short minutes, we’ll begin to journey back home, that place where all these dreams, no matter their size, just might begin to come true.
Are you feeling the butterflies? A teensy bit queasy? Uncertain? Excited? Challenged? Maybe even hopeful?

Well, good.

Because that means we’ve done the job God began throwing our way many months ago. Our fearless leader, Deidra Riggs, began mulling and yes — dreaming! — about each one of you a LONG time ago. And look around you — go ahead, look around. And now, look down at your own lap, at those hands of yours and those feet.

Do you see yourselves?

YOU are Deidra’s dream come true, dear friends. Yes, you are. Yes, WE are — every single one of us, young, old and in-between. And I want to tell you a little secret here: you, we, each of us and all of us together — we are GOD’s dream come true, too.

So, as we spend these few moments together, facing God, linking arms and hearts, singing and speaking, hearing the Word, eating the Word, I invite you to reflect with me on the strongest single image of this week’s lectionary texts, a word-picture we read about very specifically in 3 of the passages before us today. It’s a through line, a sparkling red thread, as my friend Sandy King might say: and that red thread is this one: the image of God as our shepherd.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t run across shepherds very much where I live. We’ve got some goats roaming the foothills above my house — rent-a-goats, actually, goats for hire, sent out to eat up the oh-so-dry underbrush that is so dangerous during wildfire season in southern and central California. But sheep and shepherds? Not so much.

Yet our scripture is full of ‘em — full of sheep and those who tend them, both literally and figuratively.

God is described as the Shepherd of Israel at several points in the large arc of our OT narrative. David, Israel’s greatest king, began his career, corralling those pesky sheep-critters. And his most famous psalm, the one we read responsively just a few minutes ago — number 23 — is a primary place where we discover a God who looks out for the sheep of his flock, who tends those he loves, all of us who live and work on the edges of the wilderness with its wild beasts and steep cliffs and barren landscapes.

In this psalm, we meet a Shepherd-God who brings weary sheep to cool, still water, to green pastures for food and rest, and then guides them right through the darkest and scariest ravines.

And in that last chapter of our holy book, the image of lamb and shepherd comes together in ONE Kingly Savior in the passage from Revelation 7 — a passage rich with symbolism and singing, with contrast and transformation and eternal joy. An endless sea of people, all kinds of people, from every race and nation and language, and all of them coming out of trials and troubles to get to that throne room, to wear those white, white robes, to sing their hearts out to the One on the throne, who sounds a lot like the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23.

Our gospel reading for today reminds us that John used this same imagery to tell us about Jesus when he walked the earth; he uses words about sheep and shepherds all through chapter 10. In fact, Jesus preaches a small sermon on this image at the beginning of the chapter, a few verses before our reading for today. Jesus proclaims himself to be the Good Shepherd, the one who lovingly tends the sheep, who knows them and protects them, and walks beside them across the barren back-countries of life. And Jesus makes a claim with those words, a claim to be God the Shepherd, an image all those listening should have recognized.

Somehow, however, folks didn’t seem to catch on to what he was saying. And in the scene before us today, Jesus is most certainly not on heaven’s throne. Instead, he’s on the hotseat.

And even though Jesus is surrounded by people who are on the very grounds of Israel’s primary place of worship, this scene is completely unmoored from the worship scene we heard about in Revelation 7.

To be accurate, this circling crowd of adversaries is not in the temple — they’re alongside it, milling around, almost menacing in their probing and questioning. They’re located, the text tells us, in a magnificent long, covered courtyard or porch, with double columns all along the sides of it, columns that stood 38 feet high. Surely an awe-inspiring place — but those folks circling around Jesus out there on Solomon’s Porch? They are SO not wearing white robes.

No, they are not. They are full of themselves, they are full of attitude, and they are confused. They’ve got these dreams, you see. They’ve got it all figured out — and the Messiah they’re looking for doesn’t look a thing like this strange-talking, fringe-people-loving, low-brow rabbi standing before them. They think they already have all the answers — yet, in reality, they don’t even know how to frame the right questions.

Because that’s where everything that’s good and right with the world, everything that’s true and holy and helpful and life-giving — that’s where it all begins: with good questions, asked in a spirit of humility and openness:

Who am I?
Why am I here?
What is real?
Who is God?
Where can I find hope?
How can I go on?
What do I dream about?
What dream has God planted in me?

These are good, open-ended, honest, searching questions, sincerely asking for answers, and when they’re asked well, they’re laid out with no pre-conceptions, no expectations, no ready-made answers. These are good questions. Not easy ones, but good ones.

The people in Solomon’s Porch, however, were not bothered by honest self-reflection nor were they interested in understanding much beyond their own snarling, circling selves. “How long are you going to keep us guessing?” they ask, anticipating the answer they thought they knew. “Tell us who you are,” they demand.

But Jesus knows their hearts. And he knows that they do not hear him, they are not his sheep. And how does he know this? Because he has already answered their question and they missed it.

Oh! I do not want to miss the answers! I want to come before the throne with my heart honest, my hands open, my attitude easy, my imagination fired up, my conscience clear.

And that most likely means that I am going to have to admit that I am not my own shepherd, that I cannot be my own shepherd. I want to allow Jesus to be the shepherd he is and not the shepherd I think he should be. I want to know that I’m heard when I bleat, that I’m found when I’m lost, that I’m fed when I’m hungry, that still water is around the next bend.

I want to offer my dreams up, like the gift that they are, releasing them to God’s tender care and provision. I want to listen for the One True Voice, to recognize it in an exceedingly noisy world, and to trust it when I hear it. I want to be fully engaged in worship, and not ‘alongside’ it in the bustling porches of this life. I want to sit at the shepherd’s feet, not circle around him with a menacing attitude. I want to let him lead.

I want to let him lead.

That’s what a shepherd does, right? He leads. He provides. He protects. He sings my name.

And I also want to know, in the very deepest parts of me, that I am part of a flock. We may not all look alike, we may not all think alike, but we are, every single one of us, just plain old sheep. Sheep, I tell you. And we don’t go through this life all on our own, no, we don’t. We belong to one another almost as much as we belong to our Shepherd.

In the early 1980’s, during one of the endless skirmishes between Israel and Palestine, soldiers moved into an area and rounded up all the sheep, shoving hundreds of them into a single pen. A widow came to the officer in charge and begged him to let her in to find her sheep. He laughed at her. “Find your own sheep in this throng? Fat chance. But go ahead if you think you can – and good luck to you.”

She entered the large pen with her son, who carried a flute with him. Softly, he began to play a particular sequence of notes, over and over again. Suddenly a head popped up, then another, then another, until as they left the pen almost 30 sheep followed happily along. They heard the song of the shepherd, my friends. They heard the song of the shepherd and they came together as one to follow him out to safety.

My prayer for each of you in the days and weeks ahead is that you will hear that shepherd song loud and clear, that you will follow it out of whatever place you may find yourself penned in, that you will know you’re not alone in the following, and that the song will lead you all the way home.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Ro eliott says:

    Thank you for sharing these….each one is rich….so thankful for the sweet time of fellowship you all shared!

  2. Diana,
    Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this!! It was an HONOR and a BLESSING to meet you this weekend! (Meeting you made me want to both sit at your feet for hours and LEARN, and sit with you in conversation with a large pot of hot tea. 🙂 Since I went to the airport early Sunday, I was sad to miss your homily, and wondered what you have shared – THANK YOU for posting these beautiful and important words! I look forward to hearing your reflections on this beautiful weekend–I too am still processing, and want to right before the glorious experiences move from the immediacy of my thoughts ! 🙂 I ordered the book of Celtic Daily Prayer today 🙂 – abundant thanks for praying these prayers upon us and with us. Glad your home safe and sound – and hope you are now gladly reunited with your luggage! 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by, Sarah, and for your kind words. I travel again tonight and will not have much time to really reflect and absorb until later this week, but I’m looking forward to reading lots of others’ thoughts in the meantime!

  3. eeek, sorry about the typos above – “write”, not ‘right’ !

  4. Oh, my goodness. That poem written by the martyred Zimbabwean pastor is such a powerful statement of faith and conviction. Thank you for sharing, Diana. I plan to print it out for meditation-speed contemplation!

    • It is powerful, Nancy! I first heard this when a college student attending our church read it in worship when she was on tap to offer the Prayer of Intercession. I looked it up and have used it several times.

  5. Diana, I’m so happy to read this since I couldn’t attend the retreat.

    During this very sad weekend, it was comforting to hear those readings, to remember Jesus as the Good Shepherd. I think that these last few days, others (you know who you are!) sang the song for me. I am forever grateful.

    • Megan, I am grateful that you found these words helpful during this hard time. Someday soon, we will be in a lovely space at the same time!!

  6. Dave Vander Laan says:

    Diana, as I read these words from your heart, I kept hearing the Apostle Paul’s words from Romans 8 (I like The Message):

    So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing…

    None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

    Thank you for the role you played in a weekend where Dreamers were encouraged to listen to the Voice of the Shepherd, who is the Giver of dreams and the One who is for us.

    • Thanks so much for you kind words, Dave – and for putting one of my favorite all time passages here in the comments. Love The Message version of it, too.

  7. I read this quickly yesterday, then left it open on a tab all day because I wanted to come back to it when I had more time to drink it all in. And now I’m thinking, “Diana needs to talk to that Lindquist woman and ask her to put a print button on her site.” Because I really want to print it out, carry it around with me, and mull over these words.

    I keep coming back (being brought back?) to this shepherd imagery. I was still thinking about your words at Bible study this morning when we finished up our study of I and II Kings, a depressing tale of descent into disobedience and evil, all of which culminates in God declaring he rejoices in doing for his people what they are unable to do. And we finished with this from Zechariah 13:

    ““Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
    against the man who stands next to me,”
    declares the Lord of hosts.

    “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
    I will turn my hand against the little ones.
    8 In the whole land, declares the Lord,
    two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
    and one third shall be left alive.
    9 And I will put this third into the fire,
    and refine them as one refines silver,
    and test them as gold is tested.
    They will call upon my name,
    and I will answer them.
    I will say, ‘They are my people’;
    and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

    God awakening the sword to strike the shepherd who stood next to him, so that we–so that I could be his people. And now I just gave myself goosebumps all over again.

  8. Is there such a thing as a ‘print’ button? I print blog pages a lot and just get all that goes along with it, including the buttons in the sidebar!! Thanks for reading . . . and for reading again. So glad you found this helpful, friend.

  9. Diana, I have just subscribed to your blog because I don’t want to miss a single post!
    Beautiful words here, and thank you for sharing. The Celtic Prayer entry, especially, reminded my heart of a Ken Medema song, “Is there a place for dreaming in the corners of your mind; in a world where dreams are broken and dreamers hard to find? Do you dream and weep sometimes about the way that things should be? Come dreamin’ with me, dreamin’ with me, admission is free…”
    I do hear the shepherd song, loud and clear, and my heart is full of hope. Your words are an oasis in the midst of all the current affairs of the world, current labor pangs of a church trying to define and redefine itself, current blogging angst. I wish we were neighbors in RL; have so much to learn from you. It feels like we’re sisters. Well, I guess we are! 🙂 Bless you!

    • I love Ken Medema – and I’d forgotten about that song!! I actually read books on tape for him years ago and whenever I’m lucky enough to catch him in concert, he still remembers who I am. Such a talent. Oh, my. Thanks for signing on and for leaving such encouraging words, Jamie. I love that Celtic Daily Prayer, too – I love that entire prayer book, actually. A real gift in my life so many times.

      • I used to try to get to as many of his concerts as I could! Then I moved to Chicago and sorta got buried in motherhood. My Dad has all his records and I grew up with knowing all the songs by heart. That’s neat that he remembers you! So cool!
        I will have to see if my library has the prayer book.

  10. Please get a a place on this blog where I can forward ALL THESE BEAUTIFUL WRITINGS. I DON’ HAVE A PRINTER. THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST THINGS I HAVE READ ALL DAY. I AM GOING TO BOOKMARK IT AND READ IT TO MY HUSBAND AND ANYBODY ELSE THAT WILL LISTEN

    • Thank you, Cherie. There is a ‘share’ button and a ‘print’ button at the very bottom of the home page – at least that’s what my web designer tells me. :>)

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