Listening and Reflecting
Lent 2016 Session 1
… is about our love of God, our response to his overwhelming love for us.
… is about living for God not for ourselves.
… is about acknowledging that He comes first in our life.
… is about being a “living sacrifice”.
This is about growing in our relationship with God and joyfully acknowledging his Lordship in our lives. How can we do that?
- Spend a few moments settling into this particular time and place. What thoughts, concerns, questions or hopes are you bringing to this gathering? You may like to make a bowl of your cupped hands. Let them rest on your lap and look at them. What are you carrying just now? What is your life full of?
- Now close your eyes and see if you are able to lift your attention from the ordinary concerns of daily life, work, family, church business, relationships and re-orientate yourself again under the loving gaze of God who has your times and all your concerns, in his hand.
Psalm 91:1-2 give us four names for God
- You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
- will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.’
These opening two verses contain four divine names:
- Most High, a Hebrew name for God (Elyon), also used here:
For the LORD Most High is to be feared, A great King over all the earth.
"You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.
I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.
I will cry to God Most High, To God who accomplishes all things for me.
"When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, When He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the sons of Israel.
2 Samuel 22:14
"The LORD thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice.
I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.
That they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, Are the Most High over all the earth.
"This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers And the decision is a command of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, And bestows it on whom He wishes And sets over it the lowliest of men."
- Almighty (Shaddai), In Hebrew, the title "God Almighty" is written as El Shaddai and means “God, the All-powerful One” or “The Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2,5). The title speaks to God’s ultimate power over all. He has all might and power. We are first introduced to this name in Genesis 17:1, when God appeared to Abram and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.”
- Lord or Yahweh, proper name of God in the Old Testament, hence the Jews called it the name by excellence, the great name, the only name, the glorious and terrible name, the hidden and mysterious name, the name of the substance, the proper name.
- ‘my God’ which personalises and makes more intimate the relationship between the psalmist and God
- Exodus 15.2: The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
- 2 Samuel 22.7: In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears.
- Psalm 5.2: Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
- In groups, reflect on and discuss your reaction to R.S. Thomas’ poem. How does it make you feel. What images does it conjure up in your mind?
- Psalm 27 which we shared yesterday is a Psalm of comfort which underlines God’s power and ability to protect. Reflect on these verses and discuss your reaction to them in the group:
4 One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.
- Leaving the realities of day-to-day life aside, how should we live our life in response to God Almighty, the Most High?
- Which hymns and/or worship songs reveal something of the author’s concept and understanding of God? Which have been most helpful for you in bringing understanding about God? Try to choose some verses with which you have difficulty as well as some which reflect your own understanding.
The early Christians gathered to worship on the first day of the week (Sunday) and in Acts 2 we read “42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
MORE GROUP WORK
Sunday Worship and Eucharist
Making the Journey Up we lift our heads, raise our gaze to the God who is Lord of creation and Lord of our lives.
Read Psalm 63:1-4
A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
1 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.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
and Hebrews 10:19-25
19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
- What does it take to form a friendship or relationship? What do we need to do to maintain and deepen a relationship once it has been embarked upon?
We will probably be able to name a few key factors from our experience. The diagram below may give us a starting place to think about how we might invest in our human relationships and our friendship with God :
- How does our faith express itself in our lives today in Moseley with all the demands of family, work, friends and church? Discuss your reaction to what is set out below.
The early Christians were able to meet daily and gathered every Sunday for the Eucharist. We need to ask ourselves: what will we regularly commit to in terms of Sunday worship in response to God’s overwhelming love for us? It’s important to be realistic about what is possible, but also to be prepared to make an effort to enable this to happen.
Holy Communion (the Eucharist) is a central part of Christian spirituality and in particular Anglican identity – we have been commanded to do this in remembrance of Christ. But this does not mean that any other act of worship is second best, or not worth the effort. It may not always be possible to have a service of Holy Communion in our church each Sunday.
- What sustains you spiritually? Discuss the following:
Being a Christian is not solely about participating in the Eucharist. There are many more aspects to participating in a way of faith. An important element is prayer. Prayer is about listening as well as speaking, so spending some time with God in silence is important. There are many good resources to help in your prayer life. Please see the list at the end of this booklet.
Listening and Reflecting
Each of us has journeyed to this point by travelling our unique journey. We may have been in Moseley and have worshipped at St Anne’s or St Mary’s for all of our life (so far) or we may have lived and worshipped in many different places and even countries. Hazel said this in her sermon yesterday “let’s remember that we are a collection of people all at different stages in that cycle of orientation and disorientation and re-orientation.” As we bring all of these elements of thought, prayer and reflection together what do they say to the two questions before us tonight? How do our individual and communal experiences of orientation, dis-orientation and re-orientation feed into:
- Where have we come from
- Who are we?
We feedback and discuss our responses to questions 8 and 9.
The closing verse of Psalm 27 features a recurring theme that echoes throughout the Psalms. We are going to pick up that theme as we sing the Taizé chant Wait for the Lord. As we do so, you might wish to meditate on the picture. What are you waiting on the Lord for?
Ruby Green Singing
by James Chapin
RESOURCES FOR PRAYER
- Retreats or quiet days A retreat may mean a day of quiet at home dedicated to prayer and silence, or going away to a place of retreat for one, two or more days. A number of places of retreat are available relatively locally. Have a look at http://www.retreats.org.uk
- Also valuable are Christian festivals or Conferences.
- Bible reading notes such as those produced by Bible Reading Fellowship (http://www.brf.org.uk/) and Scripture Union (http://www.scriptureunion.org.uk/Shop/Biblereadingguides/164493.id)
- Books such as
- How to Pray: Alone, with others, at any time, in any place by Stephen Cottrell
- How to Pray: A User’s Guide by John Pritchard
- Patterns not Padlocks by Angela Ashwin (is a good book for busy parents).
- A more demanding book would be God in All Things by Gerard W. Hughes
- Spiritual Accompaniment or Spiritual Direction – more information available from the clergy or at http://www.retreats.org.uk/spiritualdirection.html