Worship is central to CPT's identity. Our teams engage in devotional and worship time together as a way of staying grounded in our faith and healthy as a team. Worship helps build resilience as we face the violence of the world.
We share here some of the common worship materials that have gained importance for us.
CPTer Jim Loney wrote the "Litany of Resistance" in 1991, during the first Gulf War. It has been translated into several languages and is prayed regularly by CPT teams as a spiritual response to violence.
by CPTer Kathleen Kern; a CPT-printed 33-page booklet
This unit of four lessons from the Book of Acts is designed
for groups who wish to study the work of CPT within the
context of the biblical witness. Each lesson is tied to a
passage from Acts with study focusing on the first century
church and the history of CPT. Great for Sunday School
The "Way of the Cross in Occupied Palestine" is a series of Lenten reflections to raise awareness of the suffering of the Palestinian people living under Israeli military occupation. These short reflections connect contemporary parallels to the themes found in the Stations of the Cross, a tool used for reflection on the suffering and death of Christ.
First Station | Second Station | Third Station | Fourth Station | Fifth Station | Sixth Station | Seventh Station | Eighth Station | Ninth Station | Tenth Station | Eleventh Station | Twelfth Station | Thirteenth Station | Fourteenth Station
by Jean Fallon
As we recall Jesus standing before Pilate, who represents the Occupying Roman Forces, and the full weight of the Roman Empire, let us meditate on a scene happening in Hebron. Six Palestinian youths, between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, stand before the Israeli military, accused by a settler woman of breaking and entering her home.
Not knowing what would happen to them, they stood with their arms
raised, hands on metal doors, legs apart, some of them still in the
thin clothing they were wearing at home when soldiers came to arrest
them. For close to four hours of standing in the cold, blindfolded and
handcuffed, they endured a heckling crowd of settlers, before the
police took them the police station, questioned them, and finally
released them after midnight. At a checkpoint on their way home, a
soldier tore up one of their IDs.
Six Palestinian teenagers… whose actual crime was breaking through a fence into an open square near the settlers’ housing area to look for scrap metal. Even though their families gave witness on their behalf, the word of a settler condemned them. Two are now facing a hearing and the rest have their names on the Israeli police list of potential terrorists.
For a photo of this incident, Click here.
By Joy Ellison
When the chief priests and the guards saw [Jesus] they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him." ... They cried out, "Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. John 19: 6, 15-17
For 40 years, Palestinians have born the cross of military occupation. Palestinians have lost their land, their homes, their olive trees, their cultural traditions, and their lives. Throughout these 40 years, people around the world, but especially Christian Zionists, have offered their support to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Because the unconditional support our governments offer the state of Israel, we are complicit in the suffering of the Palestinian people.
By Jean Fallon
We see Jesus falling the first time beneath the weight of the cross... the full weight of the Roman Empire! It is someone crushed and un-recognizable, beaten down by soldiers of the Occupying Roman Forces and the unseen power behind Jesus' condemnation. Let us continue the meditation, Jesus in Palestine now. We see scenes of several years ago in the Beq'qa Valley, Hebron. Standing with the Christian Peacemakers Teams we are like the crowd, forced to stand by as helpless witnesses.
August 1998: members of two Palestinian families sit dazed and crying before their fallen homes, now utterly crushed and unrecognizable! For one family, this is the second time! The remains of their houses, built with such hope on their own land, now represents a bleak future for themselves and their children, and all that is left of their life savings. The Israeli Occupation Forces, enforcers for the Occupiers, (the State of Israel), had come, guns at ready, just before sunrise, driving the families outside... with them come bulldozers, demolishing the houses in a total of five minutes. Left are heaps of rubble and the families, sitting in the cold, with nothing but the heavy weight of their lost homes.
Simon was an innocent bystander in the crowd. We know from the accounts in the gospels of Luke and Mark that Simon did not step forward to take the cross. Different Bible translations tell us that the soldiers of the occupying Roman army ‘grabbed’, ‘seized’, ‘laid hold upon’ him, then ‘compelled’, ‘forced’ him to carry the cross.
In wars and conflicts, the bystander in the crowd is still made to carry the cross of suffering. Yet, how often are the peacemakers ridiculed and mocked when they speak out against the arbitrary loss of life?
In the first two months of 2008, Israeli security forces killed 146 Palestinians in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Gaza Strip. Like Simon, at least 42 were bystanders, who “did not participate in fighting when killed”.
Between 28 February and 3 March, at least half of the 108 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military in Gaza, were civilians. On 6 March, a Palestinian gunman entered a Yeshiva (a Jewish religious school) and killed 8 students, at least four under 18 years of age.
Just as the Roman soldiers ‘seized’ and ‘grabbed’ Simon, those with military power target the bystander. On 27 February the Israeli military targeted the civilian Interior Ministry in Gaza, damaging nearby buildings and killing a six-month-old baby. The same day, Palestinian military groups in Gaza targeted the Israeli town of Sderot, killing a 47 year old civilian.
We know that Jesus was not ‘compelled’ or ‘forced’ to take up the cross. We too are called to willingly take up the cross by speaking out against war, by saying that the death of any one person is too much, that violence leads to violence, it will never lead to peace.
Note: B’tselem is an Israeli human rights organization
Let us try to imagine Veronica as she steps out from the jeering, mocking crowd. Was she afraid as she walked past the hostile, armed soldiers? It was not appropriate for her, as a woman, to touch a man, but Veronica refused to be constrained by social norms. She saw the suffering, bleeding Christ, and she was moved by compassion and mercy to step forward.
In the 15th century many Jewish and Muslim families fled Christian persecution in Spain, and came to build a new life together in Hebron. For hundreds of years, until 1929, these families lived together in harmonious co-existence.
In 1929 Muslim rioters attacked and killed 67 Jews in Hebron (and wounding many others). Although most people chose to either participate in the riots or simply stand by and watch, some Muslim families sheltered and saved hundreds of their Jewish neighbors.
Just across from the CPT apartment, in a building now evacuated and requisitioned by the Israeli military, the Muslim Shaheen family saved their Jewish neighbors, the Mizrahi family.
Rioters were at the door, sure that there were Jews in the house. The Hajji (elder woman of the family) went to the roof of her home, tore off her veil, and tore her clothes (a shameful act in Islam), swearing to those below that all who were in the house were her family. The rioters, horrified to be the cause of dishonor to such an old, respected woman, left the area. The Mizrahis were saved.
In the face of such violence and hatred, Veronica and the Hajji refused to stand silently by.
by Jean Fallon
We see Jesus falling beneath the cross the second time. Despite the help of Simon of Cyrene, the cross has crushed Him once more, and He is beaten down by the Roman soldiers. Let us continue with the meditation of Jesus in Palestine now. We see scenes of Baqa’a Valley, outside of Hebron. The second time it is even harder for Jesus to get back up. It is even harder to stand by as witnesses in helpless frustration.
Rebuilt by Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD), once again a Palestinian family sit dazed and crying before their fallen house, utterly crushed and unrecognizable. Not too far away, another Palestinian family experiences the same trauma. For them, it is their third demolition! It is still 1998, and both families had built their homes once more with a renewed hope that now lay in ruins. Their future also lay in ruins. Just before sunrise, the Israeli military had come in the name of the State of Israel, gun and demolition orders at ready, driving out the families, forcibly holding them back while the bulldozers smash their houses… Left in the piles of rubble, the families sit crushed with nothing left but the weight of their homes twice and thrice lost. .
It means nothing that these Palestinian families have held the land for generations. Above them still, on the top of a hill the settlements continue to expand, clearing this area of Palestinians and taking their land.
by Mary Wendeln
A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.' At that time, people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!' and to the hills, ‘Cover us!' for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?" Luke 23: 27-31
Jesus tells the women of today to weep for themselves and their children if their society continues on the path that it is on.
The reality is that all women living in Palestine and Israel bear the cross of division. Palestinian women, bear the possibility of home demolitions, substandard social and health services. Mothers fear home invasions or not knowing the whereabouts of their sons, detained by the Israeli army. Others fear that their sons may be wounded and blacklisted for throwing stones.
Israeli women bear the burden of a national policy of violence and injustice. All suffer from a national budget that prioritizes military power over human needs. Many live in fear of violence as the mothers who lost their sons in the Yeshiva seminary killings.
Jesus meets Israeli and Palestinian women working together and together they question why this is happening.
They meet us and ask how many times have we felt sorry for the victim and failed to question the policies that perpetuate this injustice? How many times have we failed to question our involvement in the injustice? How many times have we continued to talk about an injustice and failed to act?
by Jean Fallon
This time Jesus lies unmoving after falling the third time beneath His cross…Is He dead? The occupation soldiers kick Him, make Him stand and drag on. This time it is almost impossible for Jesus to get back up! It is the same in Palestine now, and hard as it is, let us continue on with Jesus. We see Him in the same Baqa’a Valley, Hebron. How can we continue to be silent witnesses?
For this Palestinian family the third time is different. The family refused to remain, sitting without hope! It is now 2000, and though cautious, they refused to give up or to leave their home in ruins… Still dazed, they worked together to rebuild their home. However, this time, instead of the Israeli military, the settlers themselves descended into the valley. The settlers enter the Palestinian family’s new home, destroy windows, rip out wiring and obliterate as much as they could. Left in the shell of their home when the families were finally allowed to return, once again they were under the crushing weight of their home thrice lost. In place of hope, they now knew fear… No longer are the families from the hilltop settlements above them, quietly watching their attempts to rebuild their lives and their homes, they are now on the attack to clear this area of Palestinians and to forcibly take over the whole of the Baqa’a Valley.
by Jan Benvie
In a final attempt to humiliate Him, the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothing. Were they aware that they could have power over His body, but not His mind? Even in death He was still greater than they.
Our clothes are part of our identity. Stripped of our clothing we can be seen as worthless in worldly terms.
In Guantanamo Bay prison the US strips prisoners of any clothing that makes them identifiable as an individual human being. All prisoners must wear the same shapeless, orange jump suit.
In Abu Ghraib (Iraq) the US guards stripped prisoners naked in order to shame and humiliate them.
Throughout the world prisoners are regularly ‘strip searched’ for no good purpose other than to humiliate them.
At the numerous military checkpoints all over the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israeli soldiers attempt to humiliate Palestinians by making them lift up, or sometimes remove their clothing. Any ‘security check’ deemed necessary could easily be carried out using a metal detector wand.
Despite the threat of these searches Palestinians continue to travel throughout their land. Here in Hebron Palestinians continue to come to the Ibrahimi mosque, to their shops in the Old City souq, and to live in their homes near the Israeli settlements, even with the risk of degrading searches at checkpoints. They stand firm and steadfastly refuse to be stripped of their dignity.
Just as we are called to accompany Christ on his road to crucifixion, so too we are called to accompany those who are stripped and humiliated by the powers of this world.
By Lorne Friesen
They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. (Mark 15:22-24, New International Version)
The scene of Jesus being nailed to the cross is more painful than most are willing to comprehend. The use of crucifixion to execute those condemned to death was not only painful but also embarrassing and humiliating for the one being executed and their loved ones who helplessly stood by. Some of those being nailed to the cross will have screamed because of the excruciating pain. The words of Jesus from the cross indicate that he was clearly conscious of his surroundings, and was still able to speak words of compassion.
The gospel writers inform us that Jesus knew he would face death in Jerusalem. Jesus was not naïve; he understood the consequences of promoting the ‘Kingdom of God’, especially in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Jesus made his journey to Jerusalem because he was committed to fulfill his divine mission. Jesus did not choose to be crucified. Rather, I believe that crucifixion was the consequence of faithfulness. Jesus was crucified, because people rejected his message and mission. Jesus chose to be faithful to his divine calling, to preach, teach and heal; the crucifixion inevitably followed. What a price to pay for faithfulness!
Jesus endured the cross, not for his well-being but for ours and all who suffer in the world. In the same way, God calls his faithful community to take upon themselves the brokenness of the world. The price of faithfulness today is still high, especially in places of military occupation and war. Courage is an essential quality if one is to confront the powers of death and destruction. It takes courage for men and women to speak about non-violent resolution to the occupation in the Palestinian Territories. Many Muslims, Christians and Jews, who have committed themselves to non-violence and stand in solidarity with victims of non-violence, find themselves targeted for death by the powers of destruction. As we remember Jesus’ faithfulness to endure the cross, let us commit ourselves again to remain faithful in the face of the violence that many people must endure daily.
by Jan Benvie
“It was the third hour when they crucified him. … Those who passed by hurled insults at him… And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,… ‘My God, my God why have you forsaken me?’ … With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” (Mark 15: 25, 29-34, 37)
Jesus was mocked and crucified because He dared to speak out and challenge the powers. He was seen as a threat, He had to be silenced.
The word ‘crucify’ is often used to mean harsh criticism. Do we remain silent in the presence of oppression and persecution for fear we will be crucified – named a ‘terrorist’ or ‘anti Semite’?
In the name of ‘security’ or ‘the war on terror’, many governments around the world have passed laws curtailing the rights of defendants. In April 2006 Amnesty International produced a report detailing the practice of rendition – “the transfer of people from one country to another by means that bypass all judicial and administrative due process” (part 1.1). In November 2007 Amnesty reported that approximately 300 detainees were still held without charge or trial by US authorities in Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp. Many who speak out against these unjust laws and practices are accused of supporting or appeasing terrorism.
Israel detains Palestinians without charge or trial in ‘administrative detention’. According to the Israeli Human Rights Group, B’tselem, Israel, in 2007, held a monthly average of 830 prisoners in administrative detention. Christian Peacemaker Teams, and other groups who speak out against the actions of the Israeli occupying forces in the Palestinian Territories, are accused of being anti Semitic.
Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me … will save it.” (Mark 8: 34-35)
We know that God did not forsake Jesus. Jesus overcame death and rose again from the tomb. Neither will God forsake us if we have the strength to take up our cross and follow Jesus. God will be with us as we speak out or take action against oppression and injustice, even when that means mockery or death.
by Jean Fallon
We stand beside Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as she holds her dead son in her arms, washes His face with her tears and mourns His short life. With this vision still before our eyes, in Palestine, we stand beside two other mothers, one Israeli and one Palestinian…
Who had not heard of the assassination of eight students in the Jerusalem Yeshiva by a young man, crazed with the killings of women and children in the Gaza. This latest assassination in the Israeli/Palestinian cycle of violence had a great impact on our CPT Team in Hebron. It had an even greater impact when our CPT Delegation received word that one of the eight was the sixteen-year-old son of Rivka, a kindly Settler woman who has regularly invited the Delegations to her Settlement home. In her sorrow, she invited the Delegation to come sit Shiva with her instead of their regular visit… deeply touched we all promised to come. We had just received this news when a Palestinian woman appeared at our door to tell us that, because of the murders in Jerusalem, her home had been invaded by the Israeli Occupation Forces, torn apart by the soldiers and her four sons taken away by them. She had no idea to where they had been taken, or, whether or not they were still alive… We could only stand with her in her sorrow and pain… We were, at least, able to call those who could help her in her search. Another Palestinian friend took her to this group, but before leaving we all stood and prayed with her that these lost sons would be restored to her soon. Mary is close indeed to the mothers of all the women who mourn because of the endless cycle of violence brought to this land by those with the real power to execute or spare all their sons.
by Lorne Friesen
The Burial of Jesus: It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. Mark 15:42-47
The body no longer bleeds, the breath is gone, the skin is cold to the touch. Life is gone. Is this possible? Is it really happening? The One who loved so much, is now lifeless and cold. And so the body is prepared for burial. But it is not only the body that was buried. The many hopes and dreams that were inspired by Jesus must also be buried. The disciples had chosen to leave their old profession and their old perspectives on life. Now with the burial of the body, the disciples also found it necessary to bury their newly chosen way of life. All those who had followed Jesus these past years, now found themselves bewildered, confused and without direction, without a future.
War and military occupation have a similar impact upon people. According to the B’Tselem records for 2007, 373 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed as a result of the war of occupation. Families bury their loved ones with a clear knowledge that the death was needless and violent. But, families bury more than the body of their loved ones. Military occupation means that they must also bury many of the hopes, dreams, a normal, healthy way of life, when a military power occupies their land.
Palestinian families tell us that under the occupation they have lost much more than just their freedom. Many live with the fear of home invasions or even the demolition of their homes by bulldozers. The Palestinians have been robbed of their security and dignity. One Palestinian father said, “I am walking dead”. Israeli families tell us that they do not think they should have to live with the fear of attacks of rockets and suicide bombers. As people bury their loved ones, they also lay to rest their hopes and dreams for a future.
This is the stark desolation of Good Friday.
These brief 20-minute services were developed as part of CPT's Peacemaker training.
(Excerpted from Ched Myers, Sojourners May 1983)
[Note: Part 2 focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus]
Call to Worship
L: "The kin-dom of God is among you." (Luke 17:21)
P: Let us gather together and search it out.
L: "Your kin-dom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)
P: Let us seek to do the will of God and, in doing so, welcome God's kin-dom.
"Lamb of God"
The singular model for civil disobedience for the Christian is the ministry of Jesus, much of which can be understood as calculated confrontation with the socio-political powers of his day in two phases: 1) his ministry in Galilee and 2) his final days in Jerusalem.
Mark's gospel presents us with a Jesus who systematically assaults the social order of first-century Jewish Palestine.
• Jesus takes on the rigid social caste system of clean and unclean by calling a tax collector into his discipleship community, touching a leper, and sharing table fellowship with a variety of outcasts (Mark 1 and 2);
• He attacks the symbolic center of synagogue Judaism, the Sabbath, by healing a man's hand in violation of Sabbath laws (Mark 3);
• He challenges the authority of kinship regulations (Mark 3:31-35) and the claim of the wealthy and educated to their social and religious status (Mark 10:17-23;12:28-34).
In each case, the act is public and carefully planned to address the various aspects of the social world in which Jesus lived. Jewish religious law was the law of the land at that time. There was no "secular realm," only a foreign colonizer (Rome). Thus, Jesus' sequence of action is a dramatic and protracted "civil disobedience campaign" challenging the foundation of Jewish social order.
Jesus' campaign is finally directed at the center of power, Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-56) where he carries out another sequence of highly symbolic and politically crafted actions beginning with his entrance on a donkey and lament over Jerusalem's imminent demise (Luke 19:28-44). Then comes Jesus' most dramatic and provocative action – the "cleansing"of the temple (Luke 19:45-48).
The temple was the political and economic heart of Jewish social formation. To take action to shut down its commerce completely and denigrate its operation was a bold interpretation of the prophetic tradition of civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience is most potent when it provokes a crisis of authority. Those in power are outraged at Jesus' audacity to undermine their legitimacy and assert the new authority of the reign of God. They arrest him, bring him to trial, collaborate with the occupying Roman authorities to convict him and impose a form of capital punishment reserved for political dissidents – the cross.
Even that doesn't end Jesus' challenge. After his execution by the authorities God raises Jesus. "Resurrection was illegal. When the state puts you to death, you are supposed to stay dead." (Tom Cordaro, To Wake the Nation).
Silence (about the time of three slow, deep breaths)
How does Myers' view of Jesus intersect with your understandings of Jesus? Who are the authorities today needing to be challenged by those called to nonviolent direct action?
(Closing in unison) God, grant all of us the strength to reject despair so that our imaginations are available to the great ministry of nonviolent action.
"For the Healing of the Nations"
(Excerpted from Ched Myers, Sojourners May 1983)
[Note: Part 3 focuses on the early Christian church – The Post-Easter Community Takes up Where Jesus Left off]
The format for this worship/teaching is a drama, with (1) a questor (21st century peacemaker seeker), (2) a Voice representing Jesus and (3) three persons garbed in 1st century robes representing the apostles Peter, John and Paul. Gamaliel comes in at the end briefly either in person or as a voice.
Call to Worship (Prayer from Acts 4:25-26 NEB)
Maker of heaven and earth and sea and of everything in them, who by the Holy Spiritdid say:
"Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples lay their plots in vain?
The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers made common cause against the Lord and against his Messiah."
"Lamb of God"
Questor: Jesus, it seems from the way Ched Myers interprets you, that you deliberately chose a prophetic style of confrontation with authorities. Why? [enter Jesus as a voice behind a wall, door or partition]
Jesus: Simply put, it was in order to underscore that with my coming and as prophesied, the New Authority was the reign of God.
Questor: OK, but your allegiance to that choice led you to the cross! Do you really expect us, your church to also embrace such a lifestyle and the cross?
Jesus: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me..." (Mark 8:34)
Questor: You mean that when we publicly challenge the contemporary order of sin and death that we too can expect to be delivered up to councils, beaten in synagogues, stand before governors and kings? And all because of you, as a testimony to them ? (Mark 13:9) And we are not to worry when we are on trial cause the Holy Spirit will give us the words?! (Mark 13:11) Awesome!
Jesus: Just take a look at the early apostolic church. This is precisely what you'll find. Start with Acts where its recorded that it all flows from bearing witness to Jesus (2:3) (voice trails off).
Questor: Guess we have a New Order here! [Enter Peter and John] Oh, whom do we have here?
Peter: Ah, I'm Peter, the outspoken one. (Looks around) Wonderful to touch down here with you 21st century followers of THE WAY.
John: And I am John. Grateful I am that you all are also IN THE WAY as we were so often after that powerful Pentecost experience. Here's a very brief look at what we said and did when the first century Jerusalem authorities nailed us (so to speak) and arrested us for preaching about Jesus. The details are all there in the third and fourth chapters of Acts.
Peter & John: We simply said: "Whether it it is right in God's sight to listen to you rather than God, you must judge." (Acts 4:19)
John: We were released but not for long. Soon you'll find that the two of us plus others were arrested and put into the public prison (Acts 5:18) after signs and wonders were done among the people.
Peter: Miraculously during the night an angel opened the prison doors. First thing you know, we were teaching in the temple. So the police brought us again before the full senate of the Israelite nation for interrogation. Our reply was:
Peter & John: "We must obey God rather than any human authority. God exalted Jesus as Leader and Savior. We are witnesses...." (Acts 5:29). That time we weren't killed, only flogged and let go – [laughing] rejoicing! Must go now. [Peter & John exit singing "Marching in the Light of God"]
"How Can I keep from Singing?"
Questor: Wow. There is a lot to think about... [enter Paul, from a distance, singing] Who is that?
Paul: I'm the persecutor Saul turned Resurrection/Witness/ Paul. Now before you 21st century followers rush away from reflecting on Peter and John, I do want to briefly (I know you are always strapped for time in these trainings!) encourage you to dig even more deeply into the post-Easter community. Check out the Acts 16 story where Silas and I were seized and dragged before the authorities in Philippi. As you know they called us "disturbers," had us beaten and jailed. Remember our midnight prayers and songs? And that wonderful jailer and his family? What a night that was for moving ahead God's reign! But it was just one of many encounters we first century folks had with the authorities. So go ahead, read on in Acts 19 and 20 and 25...You'll recall also that many of my letters were written from jail cells, including Philippians and Ephesians. "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them, as you are doing nonviolently in Canada and the U.S. and in Colombia and other places!" (Eph. 5:11). Must go now before I start preaching on the non-cooperation of Romans 13 [exit Paul, his voice trailing off as he leaves.]
Questor: Well, my fellow CPTers, we have run out of time, so we can't talk about John banned to the Island of Patmos, or how Ched Myers speaks of resisting the slave trade and oppressive economies and military policies, but you are encouraged to study his document.
What are your impressions, your thoughts of these Biblical characters? Do they inspire, discourage, enliven? What contemporary (or even historical persons) come to mind as you take several moments to silently reflect on this drama from the past. When the five nuns were jailed for their September 2000 Plowshares Action in Colorado, were they being faithful to the Acts episodes? Have you been compelled to act with love and compassion in your heart for justice, for the earth, for peace? How do we discern when, where, why and how we are to be the Divinely Obedient (D0) folks in our time?
Remind us, O Lord, of the debt we owe to our spiritual ancestors who willingly gave their lives and left their homes to follow you. Remind us that they, too, struggled with sin, relationships, and power, as they sought to live faithfully. Let us neither forget them nor attribute to them powers unavailable to us, but instead learn from their struggles and their witness to live faithfully in our homes and in our communities. Amen.
"It Doesn't Matter"
May the wisdom of God in its rich variety be made known to the rulers and authorities in boldness and confidence through the faithful followers of Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:10-12)
"They That Wait upon the Lord"
• Daniel 2:1-5 – The King's Unreasonable Demand – unjust laws are all too prevalent in present-day occupations (examples: collective punishment in the West Bank, IMF structural adjustment policies).
• Daniel 2:10-13 – A Volatile Enraged Monarch Issues a Death Order – Note the pleas of the Bees in Chiapas or the Aboriginal efforts in Canada and the USA.
• Daniel 2:14-18 – Intervention by God's Quartet of Captives – Noteworthy elements in their nonviolent direct action strategy include requesting more time; working as an Anabaptist team; inviting prayer; connecting with the source of Life and Mystery.
"Singing for our Lives"
Litany: (based on Daniel 2:19-23)
L: Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night
P: And Daniel blessed the God of Heaven
L: Blessed be the name of God from age to age
P: For wisdom and power are God's
L: God changes times and seasons; sets up kings and deposes them.
P: God gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
L: God reveals deep and hidden things;
P: God knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with the Creator.
ALL: We thank and praise you, O God of our ancestors, for you have given us wisdom and power and have revealed what we asked.
With the vision of the dream and its meaning secure in his hip pocket, Daniel goes back to Arioch, the Prime Minister in charge of executions, who wisely brings Daniel into the royal presence (Daniel 2:25-30). In the end, lives are saved, God is glorified and the four Hebrew foreigners are given promotions. (Daniel 2:46-49)
What aspects of the story are instructive? Note that Divine Obedience led the Daniel affinity group into further witness - as into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3) and the Lion's Den (Daniel 6). The Babylon in which the Hebrew captives witnessed is today's Iraq with devastating sanctions. Or consider Carl Meyer's July 10, 1999 statement: "For these reasons of conscience, and because I place my allegiance to God higher than my allegiance to the United States, I openly state my refusal to register with the Selective Service and my willingness to accept the legal consequences of this choice."
"This Little Light of Mine"
Call to Worship: (sung)
Gathered here in the presence of this hour,
Gathered here in one strong body
Gathered here in the mercy and the pow'r,
Spirit draw near.
"This Little Light of Mine"
Reading (by person in "regal" setting):
Who are these four Hebrews who have been taken captive from Jerusalem (500 miles east) to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar (605 BC?) and find themselves in the foreigner's palace?
A. The Training and Testing of the Remnant
(Daniel 1:3-7) Daniel whose name means "God is my judge" realizes that he is asked to indulge in something consecrated by a heathen religious rite. To eat would be comparable to idol worship. He assertively speaks to the palace master, but gets nowhere. (Daniel 1:8-10) So he goes another route and makes a specific proposal, which flies. This guy is serious about his diet! (Daniel 1:11-17) So begins "the triumph of God's power and grace in Babylon." Which means they could discern the false and true in their instructions (literature) and whatever constituted local diplomacy or statecraft, i.e. politics (wisdom). So now the three years of training are over and all the young men are scrutinized by royalty. (Daniel 1:18-19 ) The powers that be are impressed. Promotions to the white house! Heady stuff for lowly Jews to be cabinet insiders! (Daniel 1:20) Daniel's 60 years under a series of kings continue.
B. King Nebuchadnezzar's Dream and Daniel's Interpretation
Now moving further into Nebuchadnezzar's reign, we note the king is baffled by nightmares. To tell the dream and its interpretation is too tough even for the court magicians and sorcerers. (Daniel 2:10-11) A volatile enraged monarch issues a death order. Arbitrary? An unjust law -- common to even present occupations. (Daniel 2:12-13) Daniel, spokesperson for the four, judiciously intervenes. (Intervention tactics didn't begin in the 20th century) asking for time, first with Arioch, and then goes right to the top. (Daniel 2:14-16) Another nonviolent direct action strategy now surfaces. Daniel:
a) works in Anabaptist fashion as a team
b) invites prayer, connecting with the source of life and mystery
c) is motivated by life over death and not only for himself (Daniel 2:17-18)
It's after this that a miracle occurs – the impossible happens! (Daniel 2:19) A hymn of thanksgiving follows. God rightfully is credited. (Daniel 2:20-23 litany format) With the vision of the dream and its meaning secure in his hip pocket, Daniel goes back to Arioch. (Daniel 2:24) Well, this Arioch knows which side is up when it comes to saving lives, and he moves to action. (Daniel 2:25-30) Fait accompli! In the end lives are saved. (Daniel 2:46-49) God is glorified and Daniel is promoted once again.
C. The Golden Image and the Fiery Furnace
But now the idolatrous saga continues. The king has learned nothing from his earlier dream. Pride and power prevail. He erects a 90-foot high image (of himself?) to be dedicated, i.e. worshiped. Compulsory state religion. No religious freedom evident for natives or foreigners... So the scene is set. The dignit Arioches are assembled. Let the worship begin. The command is clear; the penalty severe. (Daniel 3:3b-6) Everyone acquiesced, no questions asked. It's the law! (Daniel 3:7) But wait. There are some resisters present. Non-compliance must be punished. Racism and jealousy prevail. (Daniel 3:8-12) Another kingly rage episode follows. Daniel's friends are brought in and tried. Recant or be burned. (Daniel 3:14-15) What a response! Non-defensive, clear, trusting of God. (Daniel 3:16-18) Prefigures the Gospel promises in the courts (Mark 13:9-12). The sentence is immediate. Execution! (Daniel 3:19-23) Again a miraculous deliverance occurs – even as an unidentified Other One joins the faithful. (Daniel 3:24-30)
D. King Nebuchadnezzar's Insanity
King Nebuchadnezzar has a second troubling dream of a great tree. Only Daniel is able to explain it. His call to repentance being ignored, the king is punished and loses his mind for a time. Years later, he repents and praises. (Daniel 4:34-35)
E. King Bel's Festival and Punishment
In Daniel 5, King Belshazzar (son of Nebuchadnezzar?) has a great festival for 1000 of his cronies. A drunken orgy ensues, using sacred vessels from the Jews' temple. A mysterious message appears on the palace wall. (Daniel 5:4-9) A woman intervenes. Daniel is summoned. In Babylon, the queen Mother held the palace's highest rank. (Daniel 5:10-12) Daniel is welcomed. (Daniel 5:13-16) Daniel announces God's judgment and interprets the writing. (Daniel 5:20-31)
F. Daniel and the Den of Lions
The account of resistance is not over. Divine obedience by a faithful minority continues. Group witness (Daniel 2 and 3) is followed now by Daniel's solitary witness, not unlike that of Franz Jagerstatter, who resisted the Nazi regime in the 20th century. Darius the king elevates Daniel to one of three presidents. Jealousy among the powerful rears its ugly head. Destroy the favorite foreigner! (Daniel 6:3-5) Because the king is regarded as God's sole representative on earth, the opposition decides to attack the religious aspect. (Daniel 6:6-9) A new law is signed by an unsuspecting ruler. What follows is a story of courage and faithfulness in the face of opposition. (Daniel 6:10-13) The opposition succeeds in getting their man. (Daniel 6:14-18) Amazing intervention, this time by God, results in an unharmed Daniel, while his accusers are punished. (Daniel 6:19-24) And thus we have the account of yet another king in the Babylonian empire fearing God. Another life-giving, death-defying decree is passed. (Daniel 6:25-27– litany)
"It Doesn't Matter"
Based on "The Sacrament of Civil Disobedience," John Dear S.J., 1994, Ch. 3, pp 44-68
Call to worship:
"Lamb of God"
John Dear lists ten major episodes as actions of nonviolent disobedience by Jesus, followed by the nonviolent act of resurrection (note that this is only one of many ways of looking at the incarnation.) Jesus' first public declaration in Mark 1:15 – "The Kingdom of God is at hand..." – was subversive, as were his readings from Isaiah (Luke 4:17-19) in the synagogue. To enact a "jubilee year" would have meant the complete upheaval of the class structure. As a truth-teller he was in trouble from the start.
1. Jesus' first action was a public exorcism of a man with an unclean spirit in the Capernaum synagogue (Mark 1:23-26). He disrupts the cultic atmosphere. He exorcized the culture's possession of people. The man was amazingly cleansed from the unclean spirit of imperial violence which had been internalized.
2. The healing of the leper (Mark 1:40-42) was civilly disobedient because it went beyond the designated boundaries of society. Lepers were "outsiders." Buy touching him, Jesus became a marginalized outsider too. He broke social and religious laws of behavior. (Gandhi also associated with India's "untouchable" cast.)
3. A third set of illegal actions includes Jesus' mingling with the outsiders: sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, the dying, the hungry, widows, women, fishermen, and children. He declared (Mark 3:34) his total union with the poor and oppressed. By eating with the marginalized (Mark 2:15) Jesus publicly embraced all who were excluded by societal laws.
4. Working and healing on the Sabbath constitute a fourth series of civil resistance actions: (Mark 2:23) plucking grain by the disciples (their first public action was illegal!) Mark 3:1-6 healing of the withered hand; Luke 13:10-17, healing of the woman, Luke 14:1-6 healing of man. For Jesus, mercy and human needs preceded regulation and rule.
5. This addresses the economy of militarism , the business of war which allowed the imperialistic forces of Rome ("legion") to control people (Matt. 8:28-34). The man possessed by the unclean spirit represents the poor who were under the oppressive and violent Roman military occupation. Jesus also called for the economic conversion from profits and oppression to justice and disarmament. Then, as now, Jesus' message was scandalous and radical.
6. Jesus challenged the religious leaders by breaking the legalized religious dietary codes used to manipulate and oppress (Mark 7:1-23). Not washing hands before eating could result in condemnation and ostracization. Essentially, Jesus called for a return to the basics of justice and mercy (Luke 11:37-43). He used very strong language ("Woe to you!")
7. Jesus was constantly fraternizing with the enemy: loving one's enemy was dangerous, subversive activity and yet it is the hallmark of Jesus's teaching and life. In his time the enemies were Samaritans, Gerasenes, and Greeks. (John 4:4-43 – the Samaritan woman; Mark 4:35-41– enemy territory). When crucified by enemies, he prayed, "Forgive them!"
8. The street theater of the donkey ride into Jerusalem is considered a satire on the military parades of the empire (Luke 19:29-40). He is demonstrating how a real liberator acts: in humility, nonviolence, and simplicity. The procession is public and political, like Gandhi's salt march to the sea or King's march from Selma to Montgomery.
9. The climax is Jesus' nonviolent direct action at the temple, the public center of the Jewish-Roman system, which kept the people subdued and oppressed. By wrecking the tables, Jesus symbolically throws over the imperial and religious domination (Mark 11: 15-18). He quotes Isaiah and Jeremiah who regularly condemned the Temple-state system and called for justice and peace.
10. Following the Temple action, Jesus continues to stress obedience to God. High on the list is not to pay taxes to Caesar – a revolutionary declaration (Mark 12:13-17 etc.) Dorothy Day commented, "Once we give to God what is God's there is nothing left for Caesar." If the people followed Jesus in voluntary poverty and radical obedience to God, Caesar would be out of power. Recognizing the political nature of Jesus' Divine Obedience, the authorities arrested and killed him (Luke 23:2).
11. God raised Jesus from the dead and the resurrection was the ultimate act of nonviolent civil disobedience! According to God, suffering love and truth-telling (not the empire's law) always lead to resurrection and life. Thomas' "my Lord and my God" was an act of faith and an expression of love for Jesus. Beyond that it was an act of political "blasphemy" because the emperor had been declared God. "The resurrection inspired the disciples to practice nonviolent civil disobedience as a way of life towards the ruling authorities of the day" (p. 67).
"God of Grace"
Call to Worship: (From Mary's Song in Luke 1)
One: "My soul proclaims your greatness, O God,
All: And my spirit rejoices in you, my savior...
One: You have shown strength with your arm,
All: You have scattered the proud in their conceit...
One: You have filled the hungry with good things,
All: While you have sent the rich away empty."
"You are Salt for the Earth" #226, Hymnal
Even though 3 of the Gospel writers record the extravaganza anointing incident (Mark 14:1-9 and John 12:1-8), we have consciously and unconsciously concluded: Since there were poor in Jesus' time, there are poor today and there will be poor when Jesus returns. Therefore there is not much we can or should do for them. We conclude that to have 550 million hungry people in our world is a normal state of affairs. And so we can go on living like we always lived.
All: YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE POOR WITH YOU!
Once again, people who receive some form of welfare are being targeted as the enemy in spite of the figures that just don't add up. (e.g. in the United States, food and housing subsidies account for less than 4 percent of total federal spending. By contrast, over $1 trillion in government subsidies goes to corporations and wealthy Americans.)
All: (LOUDER) YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE POOR WITH YOU!
But poverty is not just isolated figures – it is lives of people, usually women and children. (Pause now and "see" the face of a poor person for several moments.)
All: (EMPHATICALLY) YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE POOR WITH YOU!!!
Obviously there is some confusion here. So I ask you, Jesus – Did you or did you not call for systemic change by the rich and powerful (the Domination System) so that the poor may live?! You are suggesting that hearing the context of this most oft-quoted and misunderstood text might help? Ok, let's hear it.
So, our superficial conclusion that what we do for the poor will not do much good anyway is not the conclusion that the disciples would have drawn from Jesus' statement. They certainly knew Deuteronomy 15 with its vision of "Sabbath economics." And they knew about your Luke 4 mandate about the poor for your mission on this earth. For them this statement was not a resignation to the inevitable. Rather, it was a declaration that because there are poor and hungry people, they should be fed. And certainly Jesus' commendation of extravagance this one time did not negate our ongoing responsibility for the poor and needy.
Prayer: (in unison)
All-nourishing God, your children cry for help against the violence of our world –
Where children starve for bread and feed on weapons;
Starve for vision and feed on drugs;
Starve for love and feed on videos;
Starve for peace and die murdered in our streets.
Abiding God, loving renewer of the human spirit, unfold our violent fists into peaceful hands.
Stretch our sense of family to include our neighbors.
Stretch our sense of neighbor to include our enemies,
Until our response to you finally respects and embraces
All creation as precious sacraments of your presence.
Hear the prayer of all your starving children. Amen
(From Prayer for a New Society)
"Freedom is Coming"
A Letter to Jesus About the Poor
Taking issue with you is probably irreverent, but why didn't you quote Deuteronomy 15:11 in its entirety when you said, "You'll always have the poor with you?"
Three of the Gospel writers record the extravaganza anointing incident (Matt. 26:1-13, Mark 14:1-9, and John 12:1-8) so it must have been important. Besides, you were about to be killed, so this episode takes on even more significance -- loyalty vs betrayal and denial, you might say.
Furthermore, it even sounds like your inaugural mandate back in Luke 4:18: "anointed to bring good news to the poor." I'm confused. Did you or did you not call for systemic change by the rich and powerful so that the poor could live? Or did you mean that only giving token relief was necessary -- not trying to change the unjust structures like the military-industrial complex and the World Bank.
OK, if your statement on the poor was descriptive rather than prescriptive, maybe we should not proof text this one, but look at the whole of your teachings and life. I know you'd not condone having millions of hungry people in our world. And we do have Matt 25 too. I am beginning to see the story of this woman's spontaneous act of love was to show her dedication to you. And furthermore, your disciples knew the whole Old Testament passage, that because there are needy people they should be cared for...
Ah ha...I get it now. Thanks for listening. I'll try to listen and obey: "Since there will never cease to be some need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.'"
Call to Worship:
"For the Healing of the Nations"
Accepting the Unacceptable – The Book of Job
Job 1:1 Job was blameless and upright.
Job 1:11-12 God makes a bet with Satan at Job's expense.
Job 1:13-19 Job's children are killed, and his property is taken or destroyed,
including his servants, who are killed!
Job 1:20-22 Job passes the test and does not blame God.
Job 2:5-6 God makes another bet with Satan at Job's expense.
Job 2:9-11 Job's wife tells him to curse God, but he refuses.
Job 3:3-4 Job curses the day he was born.
Job 4:7-8,17 Eliphaz says that Job has sinned.
Job 6:14-15 Job asks, "What have I done to deserve this?"
Job 8:3-6 Bildad calls on Job to repent.
Job 9:21-22 Job insists he is blameless.
Job 21:7, Job 24:1-12 Job complains of injustice on the earth.
Job 38:1-7 God answers Job.
Job 42:7-8 God humiliates Job's friends.
Job's friends claim that if Job suffers, there must be a reason. Job insists that he is an innocent victim and his suffering, and the world, is unjust. By reprimanding Job's friends and restoring Job's fortune, God confirms Job's point of view, but reminds him who is in charge.
"We Shall Not Give Up the Fight"
L: Grace to you and peace from God
P: who was, who is and who is to come
L: and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness
P: to whom be glory and power forever and ever!
"Wade in the Water"
• Exodus 1:22 - "Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, 'Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.'"
• Exodus 6:20 - "Amram married Jochabed, his father's sister, and she bore him Aaron and Moses..."
• Hebrews 11:23 - "By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king's edict."
"Now Let Us Tell of Jochabed" by Muriel Thiessen Stackley (see below)
Silent or Shared Reflections
Response (sung): "Our God Hears the Cry of the Poor. Blessed be our God"
"Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be that of water or tears, say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.' From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says ‘Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.' Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
- Julia Ward Howe
Original Mother's Day Proclamation
Boston; September, 1870
"Spring Up Oh Well"
Credit: Joyce Hollyday, Clothed with the Sun, p. 140.
Now Let Us Tell of Jochabed
by Muriel Thiessen Stackley
Suggestions: Reader reads scriptures while a woman dressed in a Palestinian fellaheen peasant dress recites the monologue.
Reader: Exodus 2:1-2 - 1 "Now Amram from the house of Levi went and married Jochabed, a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months.
Woman: By faith, dear woman, you hid your baby, and rallied your husband, son, and daughter in the monumental task of shushing an illegal infant, pretending he wasn't there. For ninety long days you broke a vicious law, tenaciously protecting a tiny human life.
Reader: Exodus 2:3 - 3 "When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river."
Woman: By faith you made a basket waterproof with bitumen and pitch. You did know about boat-building. I learned from G. Ernest Wright that reeds coated with bitumen are a good way to make a boat.) Did you do your boat building at night, praying that the baby wouldn't cry to be nursed while your hands were sticky with pitch? What did you use to clean your hands? What did Amram say about the project? Did he help?
When the little boat was dry, you made it soft inside, petting the place where your three-month-old would lie. What did you think when you laid the baby inside? The basket-boat could just as easily have been a coffin. Was the baby rolling over yet? Were you afraid he would rock the boat and fall into the water? Did you fasten the lid shut? I know there was a lid -- later the record states that the basket "was opened."
By faith, dear woman, you placed the basket-boat on the water -- just put it to float -- and walked away. Where did you get such a hair-brained idea? Surely you shared your plan with Amram. What did he say?
You just walked away from the baby you had so vigilantly guarded for ninety days -- day and night -- so that no Pharaoh's patrol would suspect a thing. How did you manage to walk away? Trusting God -- and who else was there? Hoping against hope that by some unknown circumstance -- Almighty protection -- your baby might live. Giving up everything, having done everything that you knew to do (precious stupid though it appeared), you walked away. You gave up control. You went where you couldn't see the baby. Couldn't even hear the baby. Did you carefully time the placing of the basket on the water so he wouldn't have any unburped burps, so he wouldn't immediately have a bowel movement and cry uncontrollably and toss the little floating boat?
Reader: Exodus 2:4-10 - 4 "His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. 5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. 'This must be one of the Hebrews' children,' she said. 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, 'Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?' 8 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Yes.' So the girl went and called the child's mother. 9 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.' So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, 'because,' she said, 'I drew him out of the water.'"
Woman: Did you give Miriam any instructions? Did she have any reason to expect the princess? What a daughter you raised, who was not a bit intimidated by the royal entourage! She asked just the right question and got just the right answer.
And you! Jochabed, Jochabed! You got your baby back! A gift from the princess. Now he could live. Now he could cry. He could laugh. He was now legal. He was now royal! He was alive!
How did you manage to be subservient and poker-faced when that innocent princess-instrument-of-God gave you back your very own baby? What kept Miriam from jumping for joy? Did she comprehend the moment? Surely she did after her dazzling demonstration of restrained wisdom.
Jochabed, you are my teacher. You teach me to take seriously the guidance which the world considers strange if not absurd. (Who would have recommended putting a baby in a floating basket for his safety?) You teach me to walk away from situations I cannot control, and rather walk with God into situations where I don't have the foggiest notion of the outcome. (What mother in her right mind would leave her baby floating on a river and go home?)
You teach me that God is able to save that which I treasure most only when I give it up, when I allow myself to be terrifyingly vulnerable. (Who would have predicted that the baby was safer on a river than in his bed at home? Yet, home in bed, he would have inevitably been given a death sentence rather than becoming legal, let alone regal!)
Jochabed, you teach me to walk by faith and thus, mystically, participate in God's participation in the world. I will tell of you as long as I am able! God used you to preserve a nation, to redeem the people of God, and to teach me a thing or two.
L: Come to be our hope, O Jesus, come to set your people free.
P: From oppression, come, release us, let us turn to life in Thee.
L: Come release from every prison those who suffer in our land.
P: In your love we find the reason still to live and understand.
L: Come to build your new creation through the road to servanthood;
P: Give new life to every nation, changing evil into good.
L: Come and open our tomorrow for a realm, now, so near.
P: Take away all human sorrow, give us hope against our fear.
- by Jaci C. Maraschin, Brazil
"Wade In The Water"
Once when we were going to prayer, we met a household worker who was possessed by a spirit of divination, and who made a great deal of money for her employers through its fortune-telling. She began to follow Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These are faithful followers of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation!" She did this for many days.
Finally one day Paul lost his temper, and turned around, and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to leave this woman!" It left her that moment.
When her employers saw that their profitable operation was now hopelessly dead, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities in the public square. They brought the mto the chief magistrates and said, "These people are Jews and are disturbing the peace by advocating practices which are unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice."
The crowd joined in the attack on them, and the magistrates stripped them and ordered them to be flogged. they were whipped many time and thrown into prison, and the jailer was told to keep a close watch on them. So, following these instructions, the warden threw them into the innermost cell of the prison and chained their feet to a stake.
About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the other prisoners listened. Suddenly a severe earthquake shook the place, rocking the prison to its foundation. Immediately all the doors flew open, and everyone's chains were pulled loose. When the jailer woke up and found the doors wide open, he drew a sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We're all still here."
The jailer called for a light, then rushed in and fell trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and, after a brief interval, led them out and asked them, "What must I do to be saved?"
They answered, "Believe in Jesus the Savior, and you will be saved -- you and everyone in your household."
They proceeded to preach the word of God to the jailer and his whole household. At that late hour of the night he took them in and bathed their wounds; then he and the whole household were baptized. He led them up into his house, spread a table before them, and the whole family joyfully celebrated their newfound faith in God.
In the morning the magistrates sent officers with the order, "Release them both."
The jailer reported to Paul, "The magistrates have ordered your release. Go in peace."
"What's this?" replied Paul. "They beat us publicly and throw us, Roman citizens, into prison without a trial. And now they want to release us quietly? No! They'll have to come and escort us out themselves!"
The officers brought this news to the magistrates, who were horrified to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. So the magistrates came to assuage them, led them out of prison and begged them to leave the city.
From prison Paul and Silas returned to Lydia's house, where they met with the sisters and brothers to give them encouragement. Then they left.
(From The Inclusive New Testament, Priests for Equality, Brentwood, MD)
"It Doesn't Matter"
Based on Myers/Briggs Personality Styles
Call to Worship
L: Come! And trust that which brought you here.
P: Come! Riding in on the grace of the wind
L: Come! Floating in on the river that feeds your soul.
P: Come! Walking on the path that unfolds in front of you.
L: Come! And be in this moment, this place; welcoming in the love of living.
"Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying"
Introduction to Prayer and Temperament
Four pairs of preferences:
E - I extroversion - introversion
S - N sensing - intuition
T - F thinking - feeling
J - P judging - perceiving
The first and last pairs are called attitudes because they represent the orientation of the individual in regard to the world.
E – extrovert: stimulated by the outer world of people and things
I – introvert: derives energy from the inner world of ideas, concepts, feelings, and spirit
J – judging: primarily concerned with how things should be.
P – perceiving: primarily concerned with how things are.
The middle pairs of preferences are called functions. They have to do with the method one uses to relate to the world or to oneself.
S – sensing: concentrates on what is available to the senses (visible, audible, etc.)
N – intuitive: concentrates on the inner sense of things
T – thinking: uses the intellect to arrive at a conclusion through reasoning
F – feeling: makes decisions based on how one feels about things
Small Group Reflections
Benedictine Prayer – Lectio Divina
Lectio divina is suitable for all temperaments; it uses all four functions. Bible reading is the base.
1. Lectio (reading) – uses senses in reading or perceiving God's works.
2. Meditatio (meditation) – uses thinking to reflect upon one's reading
3. Oratio (prayer) – uses feeling to personalize insights for communion
4. Contemplation (contemplation) – uses intuition to coalesce reading, meditation, and prayer into new insights
The four steps respond to characteristics of all four temperaments:
1. Reading – SJ: study and search to discover wisdom and direction
2. Reflection – NT: gets answers and practical fruit
3. Prayer – NF + SP: intimacy with God, feelings of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving
4. Contemplation – NF: adapting to one's own situation
Ignatian Prayer and Spirituality – The SJ Temperament
This way of praying was used by Israel 1000 years before Christ. In remembering a salvation event, the people relive, participate in, and symbolically make past events real. All four functions apply, and the structures resemble Lectio Divina. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, developed this method in the 4th century AD. Casting oneself back into the events of the past, one imagines the scene through all five senses, making the story real and present and becoming part of it. It's important to draw some practical fruit. The Christian Liturgical Year, commemorating events in Jesus' life, especially the Holy Week Liturgy, indicates the popularity of Ignatian Prayer.... SJ's represent 40% of the population and 50% of church attendance. They have a strong sense of duty, and a good imagination. They tend to be pessimistic.
Augustinian Prayer and Spirituality -- The NF Temperament
Named in honor of St. Augustine -- who developed rules of spirituality for the monks and convents in North Africa. The key word is projection, using creative imagination to transpose scripture to today's situation. Especially used by NF's who are usually creative, optimistic, verbal, persuasive, outspoken, writers and speakers; good listeners, counselors, conflict resolvers and peacemakers. Handling negative criticism is difficult for NFs, but they blossom under affirmation. 12% of population. Visionaries. Prayer is a discourse between God and the self.
Fransiscan Prayer and Spirituality -- The SP Temperament
St. Francis (an ESFP?) introduced this type of spirituality in the 13th century. It is characterized by an attitude of openness and willingness to go where the Spirit calls. (38% of population). SP's are impulsive free spirits, often witty and charming. They love action and work best in a crisis. They are good at unsnarling messes, making them good negotiators and diplomats. They tend to be flexible and open-minded, living in the present. They are best at short-range projects, because they need to see results. Centering life in God. Creation is a Bible – every sense is impressionable; Gospels are appealing as another example of the incarnation of God in creation. Appreciate the grand gesture, like St. Francis stripping off his clothes... Although very sacrificial, SP's don't respond well to the symbolic. They usually dislike formal prayer, preferring spirit-filled, impulsive prayer or seeing work, celebration, or enjoying nature, etc. as prayer.
Thomistic Prayer and Spirituality -- The NT Temperament
Recommended by St. Thomas Aquinas and using syllogistic methods of thinking and orderly progression of thought from cause to effect, i.e. rational thinking to arrive at an appropriate conclusion. Based on the rationalism of the West's last four centuries. NT's (12% of the population) have a great thirst for truth and for the freedom that flows from knowing truth. They desire to comprehend, explain, predict and control. The tend to be leaders, and also tend to pursue perfection and see stupidity and incompetence as the worst possible faults. They can be overcritical and are often work-a-holics. They are poor losers -- very competitive. They tend to be impersonal in relationships. NT spirituality is scientific-oriented. May use seven auxiliary questions: "what, why, how, who, where, when, with what helps" to explore the topic at hand (like "faith"). "Metanoia" or conversion is an important result.
Source: Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Michael and Norrisey
(The first recorded Biblical nonviolent direct action)
Call to Worship:
L: Lift up your hearts
P: We lift them up to the Lord
L: The Lord be with you
P: And also with you
"God Give Us Power"
Exodus 1:7-14; Acts 7:17-19 - A People Oppressed
The Egyptians, once slaves of the Israelites were now the enslavers of two million people and growing. Even severe oppression by the authorities could not stop the multiplication. Unfortunately, oppression continues since the l3th century BC: Palestinians, those in Chiapas, Africa, the poor in North America, etc.
Exodus 1:15-16 - A King's Command
Pharaoh, fearful of their strength, devised an abhorrent scheme to resolve the birth dilemma: he ordered destruction of all newborn Hebrew males. (Female children seemingly posed no threat.) The slaughter of the innocents continued after the birth of Jesus; it continues with the 40,000 children who died within the last 24 hours.
Exodus 1:17 - Divine Obedience for Life
The authorities hadn't counted on the faith of ordinary, God-fearing women. Brute power did not deter Puah and Shiphrah from allegiance to a higher power. In their discernment they surely weighed the cost, realizing that by their disobedience they might be risking their own lives. Or perhaps, as they listened to the inner voice, their consciences led them to obey a higher law – at any price. At any rate, these midwives and their followers tenderly caught all children as they entered the world and let them live.
Puah: This time Pharaoh has come down with a biggie!
Shiphrah: I know. He wants to Kill! Imagine that. Remember all those babies we helped bring into the world? Must be hundreds.
Puah: Right. Our work is to save life. All human life is sacred, especially when they are helpless.
Shiphrah: What if we don't obey that evil law. Do you think Pharaoh will kill us for that?
Puah: Yeah, probably we're taking a huge risk. But my conscience says NO to this unjust law and YES to life.
Shiphrah: Mine too. No matter what the consequences, I will not kill those newborn baby boys either.
Exodus 1:18-22 - Responses
When summoned before the authorities, their daring shrewdness paid off. Their non-violent direct action (NVDA), their civil disobedience (CD), their divine obedience (DO) may have been indirectly applauded by Jesus centuries later when in the four Gospels, he counsels dependence on the Advocate, when witnessing to truth in the presence of principalities and powers [Matt 10:16-20, etc.] Amazingly, Pharaoh didn't take vengeance upon the defiant midwives. Rather, God preserved them, blessing them with families.
CPT Story: When Christian Peacemakers in Hebron, West Bank were ordered by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) at a military check point to leave, they stayed. Instead, CPTer Wendy Lehman called the police to report yet another injustice toward Palestinian women. Hannah and Lena were barred by barbed wire for nearly two cold hours from returning to their home. Dianne immediately sat down by the obstruction and took pictures. Hedy stood and embraced the five year old daughter, Wisam, who was traumatized by what she saw. Eventually the women were freed.
Naming of oppressors and oppressed; Communal response – "Lord, have mercy."
"God Give Us Power"
Credit: Joyce Holliday, Clothed with the Sun, pp. 93-94.
"Lamb of God"
L: Come, One called Love,
P: That we may find You around us, within us among us.
L: Come, One called Peace,
P: That we may find You around us, within us among us.
L: Come, One called Hope,
P: That we may find You around us, within us among us.
L: Come, One called Love, Peace, Hope,
P: That we might share love, peace and hope with the world. AMEN
Matthew 5:1-12 (see also Luke 6:20-26) from the Inclusive New Testament:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountainside, and after he sat down and the disciples had gathered around, Jesus began to teach them:
Reflections: (see back for additional resources)
Reflections: (see below for additional resources)
"Seek Ye First"
Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and God's righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you; Allelu, Alleluia
Ask and it shall be given unto you; Seek and ye shall find;
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you; Allelu, Alleluia
We shall not live by bread alone, but by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God; Allelu, Alleluia
On the Beatitudes
The following reflection on the Beatitudes comes from Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian, in "We Belong to the Land" (pp 143 - 144).
Knowing Aramaic, the language of Jesus, has greatly enriched my understanding of Jesus' teachings. Because the Bible as we know it is a translation of a translation, we sometimes get a wrong impression. For
example, we are used to hearing the Beatitudes expressed passively:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
"Blessed" is the translation of the word MAKARIOI, used in the Greek New Testament. However, when I look further back to Jesus' Aramaic, I find that the original word was ASHRAY, from the verb YASHAR. ASHRAY does not have this passive quality to it at all. Instead, it means "to set yourself on the right way for the right goal; to turn around, repent; to become straight or righteous."
How could I go to a persecuted young man in a Palestinian refugee camp, for instance, and say, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted," or "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven?" That man would revile me, say neither I nor my God understood his plight, and he would be right.
When I understand Jesus' words in the Aramaic, I translate like this:
Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you who are hungry and thirsty for justice,
for you shall be satisfied.
Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you peacemakers,
for you shall be called children of God.
To me this reflects Jesus' words and teachings much more accurately. I can hear him saying, "Get your hands dirty to build a human society for human beings; otherwise, others will torture and murder the poor, the voiceless, and the powerless." Christianity is not passive but active, energetic, alive, going beyond despair.
One day two bats fell into a pot of milk. The pessimistic bat said, "What can I do? Will I struggle and sink, and die so very tired? I will not die tired." He sank and drowned immediately. The optimistic bat said, "I will strive to the end, and at least they will say I tried everything." She struggled and struggled, trying to fly, until she fainted. Later she awakened and found herself resting safely on a big roll of butter. This is not giving in to despair, but going beyond despair.
"Get up, go ahead, do something, move," Jesus said to his disciples.
CPT - 12/98
Then Simon Peter said, "Will this count?"
and Andrew said, "Will we have a test on it?"
and James said, "When do we have to know it for?"
and Phillip said, "How many words?"
and Bartholomew said, "Will I have to stand in front of the others?"
and John said, "The other disciples didn't have to learn this!"
and Matthew said, "How many marks do we get for this?"
and Judas said, "What is it worth?"
and the other disciples likewise.
Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus' lesson plan and inquired of Jesus his terminal objectives in the cognitive domain.
And Jesus wept.