The Spirituality of Prayer Practices

buy Clomiphene in australia The Spirituality of Prayer Practices

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; July 24, 2022

7th Sunday after Pentecost

Psalm 16, Luke 18:10-14

 

When I started working on this sermon series on spirituality, I knew I wanted to provide space for your participation. God Sightings have allowed for that, plus, moments for sharing woven within each sermon.  This sermon on prayer practices is designed to be even more experiential in nature. In fact, you might even say that I am not preaching this morning—we are! So, let’s make it a good one, okay?

 

The plan before us is to engage with our gospel reading in various ways and then we will reflect on other prayer practices that might encourage us along our faith journey. Let’s begin with a familiar practice, Lectio Divina, but first, for those who are new to the practice, allow me to offer a definition. Lectio Divina or “Divine Reading,” is a way to read the Bible in a contemplative manner. It is an ancient practice that can be traced to the early centuries of the church. In fact, by the 6th century, it was well established as a monastic practice. Lectio Divina can lead us deeper into the Word. We slow down. We read a short passage several times. We sit in silence between readings. We chew on God’s Word. We savor it and then, the Word reads us—speaks to us. It is a wonderful way to prayerfully read Scripture on your own or in groups. The method of Lectio Divina that I generally lead is simplified in nature. I read the text through 3 times aloud. We sit in quiet meditation between the readings and then, I offer a prompt so that you can share your musings with one another. [Practice Lectio Divina.]

 

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.

 

The second prayer practice for this morning is Visio Divina. Visio Divina, translated as “Divine Seeing,” is similar to Lectio Divina, but instead of contemplating Scripture, we utilize a visual image like a photograph, a painting, or an Icon to allow the Spirit to speak something fresh into our hearts. The piece of art we will consider is on your bulletin cover. Take a moment now to gaze at the image. [Silence.] What do you notice?

 

A prayer practice that actually grew out of the gospel reading from Luke is The Jesus Prayer. While there are shorter versions of it like “Lord, have mercy,” the most widely used version is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The Jesus Prayer, also referred to as the “prayer of the heart,” is one of the most used prayers to heed Paul’s teaching found in 1st Thessalonians to pray without ceasing. Repeating The Jesus Prayer is often done with Anglican prayer beads in hand or perhaps while holding a stone. It is not an incantation. It has no magical power. But what it does is what most prayer practices do—allow time and space for us to move out of our heads and into our hearts—to change the script that keeps playing in our minds—to help us focus on the One to whom we belong. Saying the “Jesus Prayer” for as little as ten minutes a day has been shown to decrease depression and anxiety perhaps because it reminds us of Christ’s deep and abiding love for us and it reminds us that we are irreversibly broken without him. Let’s take a moment to repeat it together:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

 

The last type of prayer practice I want us to consider is body prayer. Body prayer, as the name indicates, adds physical movement to the mix. A few years ago, during the Season of Lent, I placed Stations of the Cross throughout the Fellowship Hall and Sanctuary and created a self-guided devotional to accompany them. Praying the Stations of the Cross is a form of body prayer. Another form that was available that week was a Labyrinth, placed in the auditorium of the Centennial Building. A Labyrinth looks a bit like a maze but unlike a maze, there is only one path that leads to the center and back out again. In my own faith journey, walking a Labyrinth has often helped me when I was wrestling with something difficult in my life. While Labyrinths and Stations of the Cross aren’t readily available to most people—you lucky ducks—your pastor possesses both. So, if you would like to experience either of these sometime in the future, please let me know.

 

To conclude our survey, let’s practice a body prayer together—it’s quite simple so don’t freak out on me. Those of you who are in the Zoom Book Club will remember Steven Charleston who wrote Ladder to the Light. He is a retired Episcopal bishop and Native American elder. I follow him on Facebook because of his daily inspirational posts. Recently he shared a body prayer that helps him stay hopeful in times of conflict or chaos. When stress comes our way, we instinctively try to protect ourselves—to fold in ever so tightly—to close down. Charleston offers a counterweight to this instinct. I will allow his words to guide us through the practice:

 

[T]ry standing or sitting as upright as you can. Be still for a moment. Close your eyes. Pull your shoulders back. Hold your arms out. Open your hands. Lift your head and feel yourself opening up to the universe. Open your heart, your mind, and your spirit. Release the spiritual energy within you. Let it go out into the world around you. Open your eyes and breathe deeply. Believe again that through faith all things are possible.

 

It is my hope that one of the prayer practices that has been named or shared this morning will resonate with you. In our fast-past world, we need to slow down and contemplate the wonder of God our Creator, Christ our Savior, and Spirit our Guide. We need to engage in practices that quiet our hearts and minds and that increase our compassion and empathy toward others. How you choose to do that—well, that’s up to you. My only advice is to be open. Be curious. Do what works for you and when or if it stops working—have faith for there are a multitude of other ways to connect with the Divine. Amen.

 

(Silent Reflection)

The Spirituality of Gardening

The Spirituality of Gardening

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; July 17, 2022

6th Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 2:1-15, Isaiah 58:1-11

 

This morning we continue the sermon series on spirituality with The Spirituality of Gardening. What is it about gardening that helps us experience the holy? No doubt, gardening slows us down and invites us to pay attention. Gardening can also leave us with a sense of gratitude and purpose, wonder and awe.

 

In her book, The Spirituality of Gardening, Donna Sinclair offers these words of wisdom about gardening as a spiritual practice:

 

I know that in [my garden] I connect with God. That surely is a spiritual matter. In my garden, I understand the natural world to be part of God, something God encompasses…I also know that spirituality has something to do with harmony and balance… True spirituality is healing. Gardeners know this. It is why my father went to his garden during times of trouble. Working hard, feeling the muscles in your shoulders stretch, noting the death of day lily blossoms and the endless opening of new ones offers a long view. These lilies do not worry and yet they are glorious.

 

Indeed, turning over the compost is to marvel at nature’s cycle of decay and renewal…This celebration of death and new life, this celebration of hope, is without doubt spiritual in nature…[Furthermore] gardening is filled with spiritual practice, the repeated rituals that draw us closer to God. There is the body prayer of bending to plant and weed, the whispered prayer at the presence of angels, the incantations of thanksgiving by those who gather and share beauty and food. Gardens are our connection to the land and the One who created it. They are autobiography, memory, and hope. Gardeners strive to re-create Eden on their own small pieces of earth. In fact, the whole earth is a garden and what we learn on our little plots we bring to the larger landscape of creation.[i]

 

Gardeners know the spiritual dimension of gardening. They also know the strenuous nature of preparing the soil, planting, and kneeling upon the earth with gardening tools in hand to pull out weeds throughout the growing season. Gardeners know about the value of a good rain and when it doesn’t come, they carry heavy buckets of water or drag water hoses about to quench the thirst of their beloved plants—whatever it takes to care for their living treasures.

 

In a blog post entitled, “The Spiritual Dimension of Gardening,” Miriam Diaz-Gilbert shares how the hard work of gardening rewards her with a spiritual calmness. In her words,

 

As I engage my body muscles, my mind is still and quiet. Almost always, the chorus of singing and chirping birds perched on trees and power lines accompanies this stillness. As I plant, weed, and water the flowers, l listen to their calming chatter and I contemplate. I set my worries aside. I have a silent conversation with God. The gardens sprout with resurrected life again in the spring and summer. From death comes new life and hope. Toil, care, and time commitment makes this possible. Each planting, weeding, and gardening season bestows the gifts of joy, quiet time, contemplation, and hope. Gardening strengthens my spiritual health.

 

 

There are numerous references to gardens in Scripture. In the story of creation, after God forms man from the dust of the earth and breathes into his nostrils the breath of life, God the Creator becomes God the Gardener, planting the Garden of Eden—making trees to grow—some for the sake of food and some for the sake of sheer beauty. God the Gardener provides all that is needed for life and flourishing and there, in the fruitful garden, God places the man he has formed from the soil to tend to it. In this place of beauty, God walks in the cool of the evening. And in this place of wonder, Adam and Eve are betrayed by the serpent, cast out, and barred from returning.

 

John 19:41-42 tells of another important garden near Golgotha. “Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” In this sacred space Jesus’ body is put to rest and from this place he rises and is mistaken for none other than the gardener. You remember the story. After Jesus has been killed, Mary goes to his tomb, but he is nowhere to be found. When the angels ask why she is weeping, she says, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Then she turns and sees Jesus standing there but she does not recognize him. He, too, asks why she is weeping. Assuming he is the gardener, Mary pleads with him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away.” Finally, Jesus speaks her name, “Mary!” and Mary knows him for who he is, her Lord!

 

About this text, Sinclair remarks how thrilled she is that Jesus is mistaken for a gardener. Why?

 

[It’s] not because I want to cast all gardeners in some holy light, although that is tempting. It’s because the image is so delightful: Jesus sweaty and physical and real, not clothed in white—gardeners don’t wear white for long—but dressed humbly and looking competent. I love it, too, because of Mary’s notion that this gardener might have carried away Jesus’ body and placed it somewhere else…The implication is not that the gardener buried it, or hid it, or threw it on a trash heap, but that he had laid him down, gently, carefully, with respect. And now Mary offers to take on this generous task, the respectful care of the dead. When she does, she sees her friend alive.[ii]

 

Whether vegetable gardens, flower gardens, or grand gardens built by horticultural geniuses—gardens speak to us. They speak of hope and transformation. They remind us that out of death can come that which is life-giving. They speak of abundance—of humility and reliance on God, for this we know, it is God who provides the earth upon which we dwell, and who rains down water from the heavens.

 

Working in a garden, or simply repotting a plant keeps us in the present but it may also remind us of days gone by. Many of the plants and trees on our property in Tennessee, for example, bring back memories of Kinney’s mother and father who were master gardeners. We have two Rose of Sharon bushes—that I especially love. There are irises, lemon balm, monkey grass, nandina and forsythia shrubs, and canna lilies.  Whenever I see the plants that Janice and Guinn gave us many years ago, I pause and think of them. I wonder, what might you have planted in your garden that reminds you of friends or family who gave them to you? (Time of sharing.)

 

Allow me to share a few quotes on the topic of gardening and then close with a prayer. Wendell Berry penned, “We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: how much is enough?” From Arthur Solomon, “We are only visitors here in this part of Creation. We are guests of the one who owns this Creation. We are always to keep in mind that we can own nothing here, not even our own lives. So the purpose of life then is not to acquire possessions but to honor the Creator by how we live.” In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting—a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.” From Patricia R. Barrett, “Connections with gardens, even small ones, even potted plants, can become windows to the inner life. The simple act of stopping and looking at the beauty around us can be prayer.” And finally, a prayer written by Celtic poet George R. MacLeod:

 

Almighty God, Creator:

The morning is yours, rising into fullness.

The summer is yours, dipping into autumn.

Eternity is yours, dipping into time.

The vibrant grasses, the scent of flowers,

the lichens on the rocks, the tang of seaweed.

All are yours.

Gladly we live in this garden of your creating. Amen.

 

(Silent Reflection)

[i] Donna Sinclair, The Spirituality of Gardening, 10-16.

[ii] Ibid, 103-104.

*Cover photo by Mark Crawford, The Butchart Gardens, used by permission

The Spirituality of Water

The Spirituality of Water

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; July 10, 2022

5h Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 3:1-13, Isaiah 43:1-7

 

This morning’s sermon on “The Spirituality of Water” is the second in a series I will preach this summer. Last week we looked at “The Spirituality of Bread and Wine” and, to get us started, I offered my working definition for spirituality. For those who were not with us, allow me to share it again. When I think of religion, what comes to mind is a system of beliefs and practices that nurture my faith as a Christian and as a Presbyterian. But when I think of spirituality, my heart wanders to experiences of the sacred in worship, yes, but also in the day-to-day. How do I make room in my busy life to encounter the Holy? How do I practice my faith to become more aware of the Spirit that indwells all living things? For me, spirituality is about gratitude and inspiration, meaning and purpose, wonder and awe.

 

It is in our very nature to be inspired and in awe of water—how it moves, how it flows, its power, and the life force it provides to sustain us. After all, we cannot live without it—neither humans nor any other living thing. Water is needed for drinking, cleansing, and making crops grow. Here are a few interesting statistics: 66% of the human body is water, 75% of the brain is water, a living tree is 75% water, and while 70% of the earth is water, only 2.5% is fresh water. Sadly, 1 in 10 people on the planet do not have access to safe water and two-thirds of the world population experiences severe water scarcity at least one month each year.

 

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” Why? Because water is essential to life and to our overall health. Scientist and activist, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols has written a book entitled Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. In it, he writes about a term he coined, “blue mind.” In his words, “blue mind” is:

 

…a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. It is inspired by water and elements associated with water, from the color blue to the words we use to describe the sensations associated with immersion…Today the search for the sort of focus and awareness that characterizes Blue Mind extends from the classroom to the boardroom to the battlefield, from the doctor’s office to the concert hall to the world’s shorelines. The stress produced in our overwhelmed lives makes that search more urgent.

 

So, water is essential to our physical health AND our emotional health. But before any of that, it is a blessing from God. In her book on Sabbath blessings, Molly Wolf writes,

 

Water is marvelously expressive stuff, full of deep meaning to all humankind, perhaps the most beautifully symbolic stuff of all. The water of life, the water of baptism, the water that cleanses and heals, the water that breaks down and destroys, the water that lifts us and floats us when we come aground, the water that churns and pounds us out of our complacency and into awareness; the water of swamps and sloughs and soggy despond; the rolling sea-ice powerfully sculpting a coast; soft groundwater, tenderly upwelling to green a barren landscape; the singing chuckle of a creek, the roar of a fall, the calm assurance of a great river, the crash of a sea swell, the quiet privacy of fog, rain washing or slashing or downpouring or falling gentle as a leaf; the soft healing, or bitter springing, or joyful welling of salt tears…..God be praised for the gift of water.[i]

 

Our Holy Book starts and ends with images of water. In Genesis 1 we are told that “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless voice and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Then, in Revelation 22, an angel shows John the river of life, “bright as crystal,” he writes, “flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life…and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” And if you take some time to peruse Scripture further, you will find endless other references to water. For example, from Isaiah 12, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord…” From Isaiah 44, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like willows by flowing streams.” From Psalm 63, “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water,” and finally, from Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters…”

 

Wells of salvation, flowing streams, and still waters speak of physical water, but they also draw us into the spiritual dimension. On that topic, I found the following from an online article about healing the earth:

 

[Water] is a feature of the natural world that has been a centerpiece of spiritual symbolism and religious ritual in human communities for thousands of years. With remarkable regularity across human cultures, water has been used to communicate the sacred value of life; the spiritual dimension of purification, protection, and healing….[ii]

 

How easy it is for us to take water for granted even though we need it so desperately—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Let’s take a moment for you to share where or how you have experienced the holy through water. (Time to share.)

 

My love for water is deep and wide. I could talk about it all day, but my guess is, you wouldn’t stick around. So, let me be brief. The first spiritual experience of water that I recall happened when I set eyes on the ocean for the first time. Growing up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, trips to the beach were not easy to come by. But an uncle invited me to go with his family on vacation. I remember the car topping the crest of a small rise and then—nothing but water as far as the eye could see. My 10-year-old self lacked the words to express the wonder before me. I daresay, I would still come up short. Years later, I sat by another body of water, the Cooper River at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. I was there on retreat to pray about what God was calling me to do—be ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I sat by the water and with the breeze blowing on my face and the view calming my nerves, I said yes. (This week marked 15 years as an ordained pastor, by the way. My how time flies!) Finally, I shall never forget the Sea of Galilee—walking along the shoreline, crossing the lake on a boat, watching fishermen cast nets much like the first disciples must have done. My reading of the gospels was forever changed through that experience.

 

Streams of water flow through the life of Jesus—especially along the Sea of Galilee. From there, he calls his first disciples—two fishermen—Simon and his brother Andrew. There, he walks on the water, and he sleeps in a boat as a storm rages, only to awaken and calm the storm. After his resurrection, it is by the shore of the Sea of Galilee that he cooks for his disciples and bids them, “Come and have breakfast.” Other references to water in Jesus’ life that bear mentioning include his baptism in the Jordan River and his first miracle—turning water into wine.

 

In John 17, Jesus proclaims, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” With Jesus’ words ringing in our ears, I leave you with two questions to ponder: First, considering the importance of water to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health, how might you expand your awareness and gratitude for this God-given resource? And second, for whom might you be living water?

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Silent Reflection)

[i] Hiding in Plain Sight: Sabbath Blessings, Molly Wolf

[ii] “Water and Spirituality” http://healingearth.ijep.net/chapters/water/water-and-spirituality/

 

*Cover photo by John Zirkle, used by permission

The Spirituality of Bread & Wine

The Spirituality of Bread & Wine[i]

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; July 3, 2022

4th Sunday after Pentecost

Psalm 104:1-15; I Kings 17:2-16

When I accepted a call to Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church in Virginia in 2010, the saints of First Presbyterian Church in Jefferson City, Tennessee gave me a gift that I still treasure—a set of books entitled The Spirituality of Wine and The Spirituality of Bread. I brought them with me and will leave them up front so you can check them out after worship—if you are interested. Not only do the authors do an amazing job sharing their passion with the reader, but the pages are also adorned with breathtaking art. Sometime after I received the books, I was on retreat at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina and happened to wander into the gift shop. (“Happened to wonder,” yeah, right!) I was stunned when my eyes landed on a large book entitled The Spirituality of Gardening—obviously published by the same company.  In a heartbeat, I was on my phone googling more books in what might actually be a series. My search uncovered: The Spirituality of Nature, The Spirituality of Art, The Spirituality of Music, The Spirituality of Grandparenting, The Spirituality of Pets, and The Spirituality of Mazes & Labyrinths. Since my doctorate is in Christian Spirituality, you can imagine my excitement. What a find!

 

Soon, I began to purchase the books. Because they are a bit pricey, I was on the lookout for good used copies. Once I had the collection on hand, I began to dream of a sermon series on spirituality. I wanted to wait for just the right time. That time is now! In addition to the titles I have mentioned, in the weeks ahead we will consider topics that did not make it into the book series. We will reflect on The Spirituality of Blessing, The Spirituality of Water, The Spirituality of Community, The Spirituality of Storytelling, The Spirituality of Rhythm, and The Spirituality of Sacred Space. So, sit back, relax. It’s going to be a fun summer!

 

Let’s start with a definition of spirituality. Truth be told, if you ask 50 people to define it, you’ll get about that many responses. When I think of religion, I think of a system of beliefs and practices that nurture my faith as a Christian, and as a Presbyterian. But when I think of spirituality, what comes to mind are ways in which I experience the sacred in my day-to-day life. How do I make room in my busy life to encounter the Holy? How do I practice my faith so that I can become more aware of the Spirit that indwells all living things? For me, spirituality is about gratitude and inspiration, meaning and purpose, wonder and awe. Perhaps, by the end of this sermon series, you will come up with your own definition of spirituality. I hope so.

 

Our journey begins with “The Spirituality of Bread & Wine,” which is only fitting since it is Communion Sunday and since the very words themselves, “bread,” and “wine,” conjure up images of The Lord’s Table. But let’s take a moment to reflect on other references to bread found in Scripture. There are many. Take our reading for today, for example. Elijah is running for his life and God instructs him to go and hide east of the Jordan. There, ravens provide bread and meat morning and night. When the wadi dries up, the Lord whispers, “Go to Zarephath for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” And so, God provides bread for Elijah as well as for the widow and her son who offer him hospitality.

 

When we think of bread in the Bible, other stories that come to mind may include manna in the wilderness, Joseph interpreting the dream of Pharoah which resulted in grain being stored during the 7 years of plenty so that grain would be available during the 7 years of famine. And, of course, Jesus, who sees hungry folks gathered around him and what does he do? He feeds the 5000 with 2 loaves and 5 fish.

 

In ancient history, in Scripture, and in our own lives, bread provides nourishment for body and soul. In her book, The Spirituality of Bread, Donna Sinclair declares her love for breadmaking. For her, the slow art of making bread gives her time to notice and give thanks for the things in life that matter. And she is always eager to share the finished product with others—another gift of the process.

 

When Kinney and I were first married, I confess that I thought of myself as something of a modern-day Betty Crocker. I’m serious! I made everything from scratch and baking, well, as the young people say, “That was my jam!” From biscuits, to whole wheat bread, to dilly bread (that goes great with chili), to cinnamon rolls, to dinner rolls (from the recipe of a dear German woman I worked with at the Senior Center one summer during college), to Teddy Bear bread (shaped into the form of a bear with raisins eyes), I loved combining the simplest of ingredients—flour, oil, sugar, salt, water, and yeast—and then watching it all rise to perfection. My family loved it too—so much so—I was soon tasked with making bread for every big Hollingshead Family gathering. But as the years passed and our lives got busier, I admit I was ready to set aside my bread pans when Sister Shubert opened shop. Since then, dare it say it, I have purchased a bread machine and now rely on it when I have a hankering for fresh baked bread.

 

Ghandi said, “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Certainly, Jesus comes to us in the form of bread. “I am the bread of life,” he said.

 

Jesus also said, “I am the true vine.” Wine, often referred to as the nectar of the gods, has been around for thousands of years. John Calvin proposed that “Wine is God’s special drink. The purpose of good wine is to inspire us to a livelier sense of gratitude to God.” In the words of Tom Harpur, author of The Spirituality of Wine, “Vines, vineyards, and the wine they produce, all speak of the art of aging or maturing gracefully.” I love that! He goes on to say, “This, like any truly spiritual process, can only happen when we have done our best and can then relax and trust those powers that lie beyond our culture’s lust for close control. They cannot be forced or rushed. Good wine always speaks to us of that reality.”

 

Interestingly, the vine is the tree most cited in the Bible. As Harpur puts it, the Bible is “drenched” in wine—with some 205 references. In fact, it is mentioned in almost every book of the Bible. It is central to the Last Supper, and it plays a significant role in the Messianic banquet at the end of the age to come.

 

I am convinced that one of Jesus’ most important teachings for his disciples—then and now—originates at The Table—through simple things—bread and wine. Because, from this sacred Table Jesus invites us all to come and dine. Here, he says, my body for you. Here, he says, my life force pressed out like grapes from the ripened vine—for you. From the Table, Jesus reveals the mission of his peaceable kingdom: There is more than enough bread to go around; there is wine in abundance; and there is room for everyone.

 

At this time, I invite you to close your eyes and imagine those of us here in person and via livestream, sitting around the Table. (Pause) Now, invite your family to join you. Our children just came to the Table—Samuel, Sarah, Seth, Shane, and their families. Who has joined you? (Pause) Now, ask your extended family, your neighbors, friends, and strangers, “Come on in. Pull up a chair.” (Pause) Finally, let’s welcome those who have preceded us into Glory. I am glad to be at the Table with my Uncle Clyde, Aunt Doris, and my beloved grandmother. Take a moment to greet everyone. (Pause) Now, pay attention as Jesus stands up at the Table with his arms outstretched and listen to him say, “I’m so glad you are here. I’ve been waiting for you! See, the Table is ready—the Bread of Life, the Fruit of the Vine. Remember, you are always welcome here. Eat! Drink! Be nourished—body and soul—so that you can live life to the fullest—so that you can go out into the world to do my work—my work of love.”

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

[Silent Reflection]

[i] Resources: The Spirituality of Bread by Donna Sinclair and The Spirituality of Wine by Tom Harpur

*Cover via Pixabay by GiniGeo, used by permission