January 29, 2017 / LOVE (Lectio Divina) / Sara Wolbrecht / 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a
Today, we’re finishing our winter series, eight weeks looking at harnessing the power of community – we have referred to it like water…How a few drops of rain, when they come together with more drops, and more, becoming a stream that feeds a river, that pounds it’s way to the sea – so it is with community. There is power and majesty when we join together – we become a Force of Nature – and God uses all that we have, together, to be a force that grows and transforms one another through caring, challenging community, and works through the community to be a force in this world.
This journey in community sets us up to then launch our version of small groups, we call them Thrive Teams, this week (this week!). These teams will be – as we’ve discussed, groups that embody the relational balance that Jesus shows us, Jesus’ and our three great loves: connecting with God, with each other, and in mission beyond ourselves and our comfort zone. We call it Up, In, and Out. These Thrive Teams are coalescing around an area of ministry, responsibility, leadership in our community. Today is your final call to choose a team, to sign up. We have post it notes – before you leave here today, if you’re able to commit to a team, please be sure to leave your name, phone number and email address before you go, and our team leaders will be in touch this week
We have heard about four teams in the past weeks, and now we’ll hear from two more. First, we’ll hear from our Kids’ Thrive Team. Friends, you may not know Michelle Beebe, but she, from day one, has been committed to caring for our kids, planning our program, and in doing so, choosing to spend her Sunday mornings not here in this room, but in the invaluable work of loving kids with the love of God, with such giftedness and playfulness. We would not be able to do what we do without Michelle, and now Jill and Bob Benoit, and those who have been covering Salt House Kids. So thank you, thank you, thank you. And we need more folks, more dreamers, folks who are willing to help shape and innovate how we make ministry with kids fun and relevant and rich with the love of God. Michelle, tell us what’s cooking up with our Kids Thrive Team. Kids’ Thrive Team. Michelle Beebe.
Thank you, Michelle! And now, we’ll hear from our Meals Thrive Team. Before we launched as a church, we were first a group of people who gathered for dinner on Sunday evenings every week for six months. As we decided on what and when worship should be, we recognized God’s goodness in our meals, and so we kept at it – having dinner together twice and month, and now brunch as we’ve moved to a morning worship time. Food together is part of our DNA – we believe good and sacred things happen when we eat together – and we are so grateful for Nancy Wessman’s leadership, culinary prowess, and passion, and the work of so many others that make these meals possible. Thank you, thank you, Nancy and all! This is a team that sort of exists already, in that we’ve had people making meals happen, and yet this team will broaden their experience of how they are a team that cares for and serves together – and please do know, that we absolutely need more cooks in the kitchen, including folks who may not actually be cooks. Nancy, tell us about what is coming together so far for the Meals Thrive Team. Meals Thrive Team. Nancy Wessman.
Thank you, Nancy. And now, let’s turn to our time of listening together to scripture and our lives to hear how God is speaking and moving.
In this final week of Force of Nature, it makes sense for us to talk about the L word. Love. To talk about community, we need to talk about love. And HOW we’ll do that, is by BEING community together, letting God speak to us and through one another in what we hear.
We’ll use an ancient practice that we’ve used before – it’s a contemplative approach to reading scripture. It is a practice that was first used in the 3rd Century, and it was formalized into four steps in the 11th century.
This practice is called Lectio Divina (leave up). The Latin “Lectio” means word or reading. And “Divina” means holy, sacred, divine. And so what we’re about to try is called Divine Reading, or Holy Word. Lectio Divina.
Lectio, uses repetition – reading through the text many times listening for a word or phrase that gets our attention, then prayerfully reflecting on how that word or phrase connects with our lives.
Listening like this, affirms two things. First, it reminds us that we believe Scripture to be God’s LIVING word. It has a pulse and breath and continues to speak to us in fresh, alive ways – it’s not just a static text. And second – Lectio affirms that we are also changing and living in transition. God’s word will speak to us in new ways TODAY because WE are in a different place today. There is always a fresh word to hear amid the rhythm and reality of our lives. So that’s Lectio Divina.
Our reading is from 1 Corinthians 13:1-8b, The Message (folks watching online can turn to 1 Corinthians 13 now). Last week we read nearly all of the previous chapter, 1 Corinthians 12. The apostle Paul is writing this letter to Jesus-followers in Corinth, folks who were super gifted, yet had made community life competitive, ranking people based on their gifts. And in last week’s reading we heard Paul challenging all that, painting this picture of an image that is woven throughout the NT as to who and what we are as a community of Jesus-followers. And what is that image? …. The Body of Christ. In the many and varied ways God wires us with skills, experience, gifts – ALL of it is needed, ALL of it is valued in order for the Body of Christ to BE the body together – then, throughout the centuries, and absolutely now in this time we are living. You have been designed as YOU – not just for you to be amazing, but also for the sake of the common good, for the sake of folks sitting here in this room, and our world beyond our doors. So carry that awareness of the Body of Christ, of you being a gifted person, and then how Paul continues the conversation.
Because that argument/conversation flows right into what we hear now. We hear today the loooove chapter. We finished last week with Paul’s words: And yet I will show you the most excellent way… And Paul describes this way of love as the way in which we use, live with, embody the gifts we have in community. And so we read, we listen, now.
The first step in Lectio is READING. Our first time reading is to just hear the text. No agenda. I recommend for this round closing your eyes and just listening for the words.
Let us pray. God, we let our breath slow down, we settle into this space, yet we also attune our ears, minds, hearts to you, with great anticipation that you are here – and we are listening now as we turn to scripture…Amen.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-8b(The Message)
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
(Pause) Now this next time through, we listen for a word or phrase that touches our heart, that gets our attention. That’s what we listen for – one word or phrase. Do not expect lightning to strike, just something that shimmers for you. When the word or phrase is found, gently recite it, repeat it and reflect on it during the silence that follows. You can just listen, eyes closed, or if you are a more visual person, pull out that bulletin insert and on the back you can follow along with the words.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-8b- Sara
(Silence) If you are willing, I invite you to share out loud the word or phrase that has touched your heart. Just the word, no commentary yet.
…Thank you for sharing. The next step is REFLECTION. We each ponder the word that has touched our heart and ask where the word or phrase touches our life today. As we do this, do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of ourselves that, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of our self. Embrace those things that come up, listen to them. Continue to repeat your word while holding it in dialogue with God, listening for WHY this word grabs our attention today, as we hear the text again, this time read by Thomas, with silence after.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-8b(The Message) – Kris
(Silence) We’ll have a chance to share what we’re hearing in a moment, after our final reading.
The third step is RESPONDING. The third and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ "calling us t respond." What is God in this text calling us to do or to become today or this week? God is always inviting us into transformation, into seeing our lives in a fresh way. How are we invited to be or to do or to see things differently? We listen for our response, as we hear the passage a final time.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-8b(The Message) – Sara
And now we make space to share, for those who would like to. You do not have to worry about sounding smart or insightful or being articulate – you can be brief. I’ve noticed in my experience, our own willingness to speak up of how we’re experiencing God – God always uses it to speak to someone else. And in the season we’re living through in our country, I know many of us are hungering to hear words of grace from God spoken by others – this is a great way to practice that. So let’s see together: what word/phrase spoke to you and what have you been noticing about it? How are you invited to respond? (For this part we’ll use a mic so that we can be sure everyone can hear).
…Thank you for sharing, friends. For sharing your experience.
I want to add my own brief reflection. For me, what first strikes me in this text is the repeated phrase: I’m nothing. How in three different ways Paul says – if we don’t have love, no matter how much we think we have – how gifted, even if we can move mountains, we’ve got nothing, we are nothing.
Which on the one hand, my response to that is – yes, absolutely, love is the center of all things and the center of the life of Jesus and should be the center of my life and my motivation – and on the other hand, I respond with a – well, dang, looking at this list – do you see verses 4-7? This is a list, a poem, of what love is! And as I read this list, I feel, well, like I have a lot of room for growth. Anyone with me?
But the other phrase that shimmers for me in this text, that stops me in my tracks is the last one. Love never dies. Which in meditating on it, I heard meaning in a fresh way. And to briefly unpack that meaning, I’d like to draw our attention to our painting. Our own Dani Dodge painted this live, over four Sundays during December as an experience of WONDER together. And we’ve been revealing the meaning behind each of these constellations, one at a time, as they speak to us about community, and today we reach our final constellation.
The Hand: (Modeled after Adams in Michelangelo’s creation of Adam) We have a direct connection to God. For some people it’s so hard to see, in fact not even worth believing exists. When to others it seems so obvious! Adam as the first Human was not perfect. Neither are we. As we err, we can still see that God is making time and room to let us explore, make mistakes and find him. The hand reaches up as if it’s toward the sky to give weight to those to recognize God and his Wonder; but his hand is still limp, waiting for a sign, not fully engaged with how God is connected and in everything. We know people like this too. I find this to be a fully encompassing representation of the human race. – Dani Dodge
Now, if you were here on the fourth Sunday of Advent, as Dani finished these constellations, then you may have noticed that as she painted this hand, I actually, not knowing that she was adding this image, referenced Michelangelo’s painting (Creation of Adam image added behind the quote). Which was ridiculously fun!
Friends – as we see this image of the hand we also hear the words: love never dies. Adam, and Dani’s reflection here, reminds us that even though we live in this connection with God, we continue to make mistakes, to err in this life of love. And in those moments, despite or perhaps because of them, we find God. And we are found by love – the hand of God that reaches out to us – this love that never fails, never runs out, never dies.
This list, this poem Paul pens – it describes the life of Jesus – what Jesus did and said, and also the life we’re invited to live. We are invited to let this list speak of us! And when we find that it doesn’t, to remember that love never dies! It never runs out – there is more for us – to receive, to give. To let there be grace upon grace – when we blow off a friend, when we snap with our kids, when we belittle our partner, when we take advantage of the coworker, when we turn away from the pain we see in others.
We will get love wrong – but we do not have to get stuck when we fail to love well. But instead we get to see how: love never dies – it never dies, which means there is an endless flow of it. It flows from the one in whose image we are made, it flows from the center of how we have been designed to be in this world because – we are meant for love.
As a community that belongs to Jesus and to each other, we see what we do here together – at our best we are a school for love. A place to learn, practice, fail, and get up and brush ourselves off – to keep moving forward to become people who embody the fullness of the life of Jesus – this life of love.
And part of how we do that is to keep helping one another plug back in to the flow of love. To reach, like Adam, for the connection that is there all the time. For it is undeniably the love of God that makes our love possible, that fuels our very capacity to love in the way Paul has just described.
Which is why we’re about to do what were about to do here at Salt House for Lent. I am so excited for Lent – because we’re pressing into listening for God, the voice of love that fuels our love, for the six weeks of Lent. We’re reading a book together. (Pic of Justin’s book) Prayer: Forty Days of Practice. There are lots of books out there about prayer: on how to pray, or when, where and why. Those can be very helpful and even transformative. But this book is different. This book isn’t about prayer; it’s for prayer. Each day, a page of the book gives you a sentence prayer and a piece of art – something to center our daily prayer and focus. Each week also highlights a different prayer practice: journaling, exercise, fasting, meditation, lament, and intercession. What I love about this book is its gentle invitation to pray in simple, accessible ways, while challenging my old patterns. I am busy and I am wordy – anyone else like me? And to have a single sentence, a beautiful image, to carry with me during the day is a new way for to pray for me.
You are invited to join a Thrive Team as a place to reflect and process your journey – or simply pick up this book on your own and see what happens.
And as we gather on Sundays for Lent, we’ll make room for creative, simple ways to be with and for each other – watch out for some fun surprises. We’ll enter into it as people who are invited into the love of God, this love that never gives up, never dies. Do you feel how remarkable that is? That this is who we get to be together?
As we finish our time in Lectio together, the fourth and final step of Lectio Divina is to REMAIN. To simply rest as the Beloved of God in the presence of God. To hold what we have heard spoken through the bible, spoken through each other, as a word of grace and hope for us. For God most certainly speaks through us as a Force of Nature. So as we finish this holy time together, let’s continue to hold that kind of space for each other as the band comes up. Let’s pray as we remain with God, together: