Involving Jesus in Our Shame

John chapter 2 begins with a dramatic scene of the miraculous: water stored within ceremonial vessels becomes wine. Astonishing! This story invites further exploration with its many layers of metaphors. It is rich with community, family, friends, cultural norms and customs with threads of shame woven through it. The text invites us to prayerfully place ourselves into the story and allow it to unfold and intermingle with the themes in our own story. What do you want Jesus to know about your shame? What might happen if we ask Jesus to become involved in our personal or communal shame? Listen in to what Jesus tells you.

John 2:1-12 (NLT)
The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. 3 The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
5 But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, 8 he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
9 When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. 10 “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
11 This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
12 After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.

For Reflection and Prayer:

Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Were you drawn to anyone in particular in this story-text? How might they have been feeling? How are you feeling? Gently bring this awareness into your prayer with Jesus.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

A Place of Great Abundance

The great teachers remind us that abundance is not situational, transactional, or a destination. Abundance is something which happens within us. The overflow of our heart is praise and gratitude to God. As you enter into prayer with this text, come and see what our God has done.
            Open our eyes God to see what you have done.

Psalm 66:1-12 (NLT)
Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth!
2     Sing about the glory of his name!
    Tell the world how glorious he is.
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.
4 Everything on earth will worship you;
    they will sing your praises,
    shouting your name in glorious songs.” Interlude
5 Come and see what our God has done,
    what awesome miracles he performs for people!
6 He made a dry path through the Red Sea,
    and his people went across on foot.
    There we rejoiced in him.
7 For by his great power he rules forever.
    He watches every movement of the nations;
    let no rebel rise in defiance. Interlude
8 Let the whole world bless our God
    and loudly sing his praises.
9 Our lives are in his hands,
    and he keeps our feet from stumbling.
10 You have tested us, O God;
    you have purified us like silver.
11 You captured us in your net
    and laid the burden of slavery on our backs.
12 Then you put a leader over us.
    We went through fire and flood,
    but you brought us to a place of great abundance.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What word, phrase, image, or feeling caught your attention as you listened? Bring it into your prayer. Journal your conversation.

Can you name an emotion which you felt as you heard these words? Where do you feel it in your body? Without judging it, can you bring it before God in prayer?

Reflect on your own experiences of trials and abundance. Is there anything from them which you want to talk over with God?

Safe Shelter

How might your prayer open the door to experiencing the safe shelter of God, regardless of circumstance?

God meets us in our prayer as we quiet our hearts and allow God's abiding presence to create a sense of safety within us. This may not happen instantaneously and our sometimes unconscious images of God keep us from trusting that God could actually be safe enough to be real and honest with. Yet God promises us his perfect peace as we set our minds on him and it is God's supernatural, mysterious power which brings this peace to us. Be patient with yourself as you learn to approach God in quiet confidence. Sometimes beginning our prayer with an image in our heart of a safe meeting place with God helps us find courage to begin to trust that possibility of safe shelter.

Psalm 36: 5-10 NLT

Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
    your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O LORD.
7     How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter
    in the shadow of your wings.
8 You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
    letting them drink from your river of delights.
9 For you are the fountain of life,
    the light by which we see.

For Reflection and Prayer:

What word, a phrase, image, or feeling shimmered as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Journal what Jesus says in response to you.

Reflect on a time when the Lord showed unfailing love and faithfulness to you. Savor this experience in your prayer. Allow God to expand the vastness or depth of the experience by returning to it. You may want to journal or express your experience artistically with pencil, ink or color.

Is there a situation now which you would like to bring with you under the shelter of God’s wings? One of the pictures on the table may assist you in visualizing this request in your prayer and simply staying there with God.

God's Great Desire for our Good

Jesus uses hyperbole (exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally) to make the point that what is a sin pattern in our life can steal, kill and destroy us. It also can be a hindrance to others, affect our peace and cause us to feel we have no worth or meaning.

We know that cutting off a hand, foot or gouging out an eye doesn't get to the inner life issues that can keep us caught in a sin pattern: addiction, resentments, fears, shame, and hiding. Maggots and fire suggest decay and destruction as a result. The imagery reveals that this is a really big deal to God.  Instead of destruction, God wants to give us life in abundance, freedom and joy. God desires that we be fully engaged in life and that we become a source of life to others.
   
So how do we get rid of it? Let God be God. Give up trying to control it yourself. Invite God to give you the power to do what you cannot do on your own. Get honest with another. Confess, name what is going on, and trust another to come alongside you who will accompany you through the healing process into freedom and restoration.

MARK 9: 38-50 NLT
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”

39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.

43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.

49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
•    What did you hear as you listened/read?  What stood out to you? What seems to be just for you in these words?

•    Jesus uses radical language to emphasize dealing with sin in one’s life. What is Jesus really inviting?  What has this been like for you?  Painful? Convicting? Life-giving? How would you describe the process that you have experienced? How has sin crippled you?

•    What is your source of saltiness?  What keeps you going, nourishing and preserving your desire for God?
 

Living in Abundance

So, what is the yeast of the Pharisees? It is that which could permeate and grow within us becoming the compelling force of our lives. The yeast which permeates us can be fear, self effort, hoarding, over responsibility, perfectionism, approval seeking, bickering, or power over others rather than living out of the abundance, generosity and graciousness of God. God has done it for us. Jesus said, "beware". Has he not been inviting us to see, hear and understand in a different way? He invites us to live a watchful life with him in the present moment. This is a radical invitation to trust in God rather than in ourselves.

Mark 8: 14-21 (NIV)
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied.
20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

For Reflection and Prayer:
As you listened to or read the text, was there a word, phrase or image which stayed with you?  Be still with it for a while. Ask Jesus, is there more that he says to you?

What do you notice in the disciples’ response through this story?

What is your own experience of scarcity? Or forgetfulness? Or responsibility? How does Jesus meet you there?