Worship in the Everyday Ordinary

A cursory reading of the spontaneous and glorious worship described in John’s vision or Revelation is filled with hard to grasp imagery and metaphor. These descriptions might overwhelm our understanding and possibly shut down our curiosity. Yet in this season of Eastertide where we live in the joy and possibility of renewal in the now, this text and our questioning of it might be just the place where God meets us today. How might we make room for the spontaneous moments of worship in our everyday ordinary? What beauty or glimmers of gratitude in the small things are worthy of our stopping to notice and simply offer our voluntary praise and thanks?

Revelation 5:11-14 (NIV)
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Did a word, or phrase or picture shimmer for you as you listened to the text? Journal or artistically express what you noticed.

Place yourself in this scene. Who are you? What are you witnessing? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Is there anything you want to say to Jesus or do for him? What does he in turn say to you?

Savor any consoling words or pictures God gives you. Simply rest in God’s presence.

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Remembering Times of Not Enough

Many of us remember this miraculous story of bread and fish multiplied for the multitudes. We can join the crowd on the mountainside with Jesus and feel the intensity of the collective physical and spiritual hunger. What is Jesus wanting to embody to his disciples and followers on this day? With the season of Passover hovering about them, it seems Jesus is helping each one remember those days in Egypt when "not enough" reigned:
- not enough bricks
- not enough rest
- not enough food
- not enough time
- not enough worship
- not enough peace
- not enough grace
- not enough hope
- not enough love

Perhaps they could feel "not enough" in their bellies again. The spaciousness of the mountainside, the expansiveness of the sea, the tenderness of the grass and the responsiveness to the hunger vividly contrasts with the narrowness of Pharaoh's Egypt.
Eat the "broken bread" afresh this day. Taste God's goodness. Notice what satisfies your hunger.

John 6:1-15 (NIV)
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

For your reflection and prayer:
As you listened, was there a word, a phrase, an image, or something else that stood out to you? Notice what it stirs in you. Have a conversation with Jesus about this.

Place yourself in the story and enter into it as it unfolds. Who are you? Who is interacting with you and around you? What are you seeing, smelling, sensing, hearing, touching? Write about your experience in the story and allow it to be your prayer.

Slowly savor any consoling words or images which God gives you in this time of prayer. Simply rest in God’s presence with them.

Living Large

Psalm 138, a resounding "thank you" to God, reminds us again just how good the Good News truly is. God is ever the initiator. And we always have the choice of our response. The moment we accept God's invitation by calling out, God steps in and "makes our life large with strength" (TMG).

May you be encouraged by these words of testimony spoken by those around the table:

"It's so no all up to me"
"The Lord will work out his plans for my life - I'm resting in that"
"Thank you God for cutting off this shackle in my life"
"Both hands hold me"
"I really like being alive in Christ"
"For me it used to be that if it was not all good, it's not good. Now I am thankful"
"I'm anticipating the Advent of God's grace afresh this year"
"I can fall and rest in God's presence"

May the Spirit meet you as you dwell with Psalm 138.

Psalm 138 (NLT)
1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with all my heart;
    I will sing your praises before the gods.
2 I bow before your holy Temple as I worship.
    I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
    by all the honor of your name.
3 As soon as I pray, you answer me;
    you encourage me by giving me strength.
4 Every king in all the earth will thank you, LORD,
    for all of them will hear your words.
5 Yes, they will sing about the LORD’s ways,
    for the glory of the LORD is very great.
6 Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble,
    but he keeps his distance from the proud.
7 Though I am surrounded by troubles,
    you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
    and the power of your right hand saves me.
8 The LORD will work out his plans for my life—
    for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever.
    Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

For Reflection and Prayer:

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

What gratitude arises out of your whole heart towards God? What are you most thankful for in this season? Consider the smallest of things you are grateful for and make your own gift list.

Where have you experienced God making your life “large with strength”? Is there a place now within you which cries out for this again to God? Bring it into your prayer.
 

The Gate of Our Hearts

If we believe that we are the temple where God's Holy Spirit dwells, what might the gate which allows entrance to our hearts be like? Is it elegant and ornate to passerby's? Is it fortified with locks, chains and bars of iron? Can the gate be opened? And who will open it?
Ponder anew and enter that gate today. And may God give us the courage to trust his goodness and enduring love when we cannot see or feel it. 

This is what the Lord says...I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness-secret riches...Isaiah 45:2-3

Psalm 100 (NIV)

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
     Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
 Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Footnotes:
Psalm 100:3 Or and not we ourselves

For Reflection and Prayer:

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

How does your soul want to respond to God in worship? What forms of worship seemed heartfelt to you in the past? Are there different (to you) forms of worship which you feel drawn to now?

When has God shown his goodness or enduring love to you? Perhaps you want to journal the details. Savor and linger with what the Holy Spirit brings to mind.

Bring to God your own thanksgiving list. What do you notice?
 

Prepare to Receive

The Feast Days celebrated by the Hebrew people are of great significance. Each one, including the weekly Sabbath, involve careful and intentional preparation. The feasts themselves encompass all the senses - sight, sound, touch, smell and taste - which in turn embed deep memories within the body, mind and spirit of the participants. Yahweh has prepared us to remember. We are to remember that which we have received.

Jesus, our Rabbi, takes great care to instruct his disciples on the preparation of his last Passover Feast with them. What is the purpose of these preparations? Is there something more that he wants to give them? How might this text guide us in our own preparation to receive from Jesus? Are we willing to be blessed - to bend the knee to receive?

Mark 14:12-26 NLT
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover meal for you?”
13 So Jesus sent two of them into Jerusalem with these instructions: “As you go into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ 15 He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” 16 So the two disciples went into the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.
17 In the evening Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.”
19 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”
20 He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”
22 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”
23 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. 25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”
26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

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 them for a while. Ask Jesus, is there more that Jesus says to you?

Place yourself in the story today. Where do you find yourself? Have a conversation with Jesus in that context. What do you say to him? What does he say to you?
 

Invited To Be In The Story

You are invited to step into this familiar story of Jesus' miraculous  feeding, so that you become part of the action. Come alive to the sights, sounds, smells and feelings of the event. What might the disciples be feeling before they got away? What did they think of the crowd who followed them? Sense the excitement of the families as they sit in circles on the grass wondering what is going to happen. Watch Jesus as he prays to the Father, breaks the loaves, and gives the bread and the fish to each of the disciples. Notice the amazement of the disciples as they distribute what they have. Sit in one of the circles, taste the bread and the fish, enter into the astonishment of the people as they talk about the miracle. See the compassion Jesus has for the people. Let him look into your eyes as though you were there on that day. Feel the love he has for you now.

Alex Aronis in his book, Developing Intimacy with Christ, suggests that you ask yourself these questions, "What in the text moves me to want to attach myself to Christ? What causes me to appreciate or love Christ more?" Try to understand why he takes the action and says the words that he does. Seek intimate knowledge of Christ.

Mark 6:30-44 NIV
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[a]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What was it like for you to step into the story with Jesus? to be a part of the miracle?

Was there something in the text which moved you to want to attach yourself to Christ?

What caused you to appreciate or love Christ more?

Have a conversation with Jesus about these things.