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April 5th, 2018

Because Love: Easter Discussion Series from 1 John

We celebrate Easter with churches around the world. We’ll join them in reading 1 John together for the next six weeks in liturgy and community groups.

The beautiful message of 1 John might be difficult for some of us to read. Much of the language sounds ‘churchy’ and might remind us of how religious language has been used to divide and exclude people.

But it was originally written as an invitation to what resurrection life looks like in Jesus’ community of followers. We hope it can be an invitation for us as well.

Here are two ways we can prepare for our time in 1 John together:

1) Take a deep breath…take as many as you need. Ask God to open your mind and heart through the words of the early teaching on love in the resurrection community in the coming weeks.

2) Watch this video. It is a brief but thorough overview of what the message of 1 John is.

Reflections
December 1st, 2016

Considering the Common Life

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This Sunday, our liturgy becomes a Common Life Celebration. And brunch!

Many of you are reflecting this week on what it might look like for you to participate for the year to come. (If you still need a copy of the Common Life, you can find it here.)

I’ve had some thoughtful conversations with those considering it, and even read some of the Common Life responses that have come in so far. I thought it might be helpful to share a few thoughts to consider for those still thinking about participating or forming their responses.

1) There is no place to “sign”
It may seem like a small thing, but the response sheet specifically doesn’t include a place for a signature. You aren’t being asked to “sign” on and agree to specific commitments that were written by others. Instead, we invite you to share with others the way of living you have crafted within our shared rhythms and practices. There is much space for how you choose to pursue those. As we share our formed intentions with others, we can all encourage and learn from one another.

2) There are no right answers
You aren’t being asked to make a commitment to the leadership team or the organizational entity of Austin Mustard Seed. No one is approving and signing off on peoples’ responses. Rather, it’s important to recognize that we are joining alongside one another as peers, as brothers and sisters. Each of us is invited to shape a way to live as disciples of Jesus that is meaningful in our time and place.

3) It’s helpful to be specific
As Chris Morton says, quite often: “Put it on a calendar.” The reflection questions that go with each rhythm/practice are open-ended, but they also encourage you to be somewhat specific in your answers. The more clarity you can define, the better you equip yourself to create habits that will continue to form you as a follower of Jesus.

4) If you can’t make it this Sunday…
We hope to collect a good chunk of responses this week as we celebrate together. But this week isn’t a deadline. Feel free to bring your response sheet to Liturgy in the weeks to come and we’ll add it to the stack.

5) If you are still feeling like this isn’t the right time for you…
Whether you share with others in this Common Life or not, nothing that is part of the life of Austin Mustard Seed at this time will become unavailable to you. You can still join Midweek Groups, take or serve Eucharist, read prayers in liturgy, and you can certainly still help with setup! (We do think Common Life participation will be an important consideration for those who are future nominees for the Leadership Team.) We hope you’ll walk alongside, this week and this year, as a witness and encouragement to those who are participating.

If more questions or comments come up as you weigh the Common Life, let me know.

John

Reflections
March 26th, 2016

Holy Week Readings: Saturday

This week is Holy Week, and we journey toward Easter together. Each day we are posting Holy Week readings that are being read millions of Christians around the world.

Today’s Reading — John 19:38-42

38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Reflections
March 25th, 2016

Holy Week Readings: Good Friday

This week is Holy Week, and we journey toward Easter together. Each day we are posting Holy Week readings that are being read millions of Christians around the world.

Today’s Reading — John 18:1-19:37

1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” 5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

(more…)

Reflections
March 24th, 2016

Holy Week Readings: Maundy Thursday

This week is Holy Week, and we journey toward Easter together. Each day we are posting Holy Week readings that are being read millions of Christians around the world.

Today’s Reading — John 13:1-17, 31-35:

1 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Reflections
March 23rd, 2016

Holy Week Readings: Wednesday

This week is Holy Week, and we journey toward Easter together. Each day we are posting Holy Week readings that are being read millions of Christians around the world.

Today’s Reading — John 13:21-32:

21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

Reflections
March 22nd, 2016

Holy Week Readings: Tuesday

This week is Holy Week, and we journey toward Easter together. Each day we are posting Holy Week readings that are being read millions of Christians around the world.

Today’s Reading — John 12:20-36:

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

Reflections
March 21st, 2016

Holy Week Readings: Monday

This week is Holy Week, and we journey toward Easter together. Each day we are posting Holy Week readings that are being read millions of Christians around the world.

Today’s Reading — John 12:1-11:

1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Reflections
February 23rd, 2015

Happy Are The Poor In Spirit

article-1203226-05E4859C000005DC-605_634x410My original hope for this post was that I could bring something clearly tangible for you to take away from this passage. That I could come up with the best way to explain it. After spending the last few days reading and thinking I have ended up with more questions than answers. I am ok with that. So I will give you a place to start, a place to approach it from. Here it goes-

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Here are some of the interpretations that seem to be pretty popular these days.

It’s about privation or doing exactly as the 12 disciples did.

It’s about giving up or giving away your belongings.

It’s about the renunciation of self interest.

It’s about giving up self-reliance to depend fully on God.

It’s about declaring your spiritual bankruptcy.

I may have missed some interpretations but on the whole I feel like this is a good reflection of some ways this passage has been taught to me. Today I am going to propose something slightly different because my thought is that it would be pretty impractical for all of us to live by one single interpretation of this passage. I don’t think God intends for us to be monotone and we are all in different places. What is good and life giving for you may not be so for me and vice versa.

So maybe what this beatitude, being poor in spirit, means is that we are open to the probability that God will ask something of us and that we will be ready to respond- even when the response required is uncomfortable, when it means I need to ask for help, when it means I need give of my possessions, money, and time. Looks likes the Lent challenge is on.

14-cost-of-discipleship1Bonhoeffer in The Cost Of Discipleship makes a great point that I want to remind us of, because I think is easy to get wrapped up in the “correct” action and loose sight of the heart.

“The error lies in looking for some kind of human behavior as the ground for the beatitude instead of the call and promise of Jesus alone.”

So in the light of this quote what should our posture be towards this beatitude? I definitely don’t think you should pick something off the list and try to force it.

It happens by engaging our minds in thought and by engaging our spirits in prayer. Ask Jesus to show you how to be poor in spirit. Ask him what it requires of you. Wait and listen and be prepared to respond to the call of Jesus, whatever it may be.

I need to be honest with all of you now. This first beatitude is kinda intense. I like to be comfortable. I am kinda nervous about carrying this out in my own life. So this Lent I must pray more. I must ask Jesus for strength that I can respond to the calls he makes of me.

As I wrap this up, I would like to make one last note. In the greek writing of this passage blessed is also translated to mean happy.

Madeleine L’Engle says this,

But the happiness offered to us by the Beatitudes in not material; it is more spiritual than physical, internal than external; and there is an implication which I find very exciting that the circle of blessing is completed only when man blesses God, that God’s blessing does not return to him empty.”

So what is the end result of living out the first beatitude. It is happiness and blessing. Not material but spiritual. When we respond to the call of Jesus we get to see his promises’ fulfilled. When we choose to be poor in spirit, we see the kingdom of heaven. We get to take an active role in God’s work and we get to experience that truly real happiness and then we are blessed.

For those blessings, my only thought is don’t forget to say thank you!

“Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Reflections
February 18th, 2015

Ash Wednesday: The Beginning of Lent

Flying-bird-tattoos5699I am fairly new to the practice of Lent. It wasn’t part of my upbringing and my first experience of it was during my senior year of college. I decided to give up beer.

I figured denying myself something I regularly enjoyed would be good form for Lent. I mean that’s what Lent is, after all? I had made it about two weeks before I caved in when one of my all-time favorite breweries had a pop-up tent at a free SxSw show.

The next year I gave up red meat. I thought the health benefits would be an added motivational bonus, and I did make it that year. However, it was more of a result of my ability to drop it into casual conversation rather than a desire to show love and appreciation to God.

So as Lent is now here I ask myself, Why did I give up those things and was there any benefit to it? Do I want to do something similar this year or should I try something new?

51smSyPMDVL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorite authors. Her most famous work, A Wrinkle In Time, is a children’s series that everyone should read. However, my favorite book of hers is The Irrational Season. This journal mirrors the church calendar, and it has been a great help to me as I am learning how to be a Liturgy Curator.

I love the way she writes because I feel like she brings a deeply creative and relatable theology to the table. She shares her experiences in a way that encourages and challenges, with a hope that whatever you may find in her writing will be helpful.

As an introduction to this blog series, I would like to share a quote from her book with you:

“Perhaps what I am supposed to do about Lent is to think about some of the things I have put off thinking about. The Beatitudes, for example. They have seemed to make demands on me that I’m not sure I want made.”

And so again I ask myself, what does Lent look like for me? Should I just stick to what I know or would I be willing to try something new? I think if I stick to what I know at best I will avoid some heartburn and while that is appealing I think there is more to gain.

So I think I will engage my mind with The Beatitudes. In this process maybe I will be asked to sacrifice something in my life, or maybe they will demand a new practice of me. Or just possibly the results are still yet to be discovered. Whatever happens my heart is open. I hope I am ready.

As we move forward in the series, I will be making a short reflection post this coming Sunday. The Beatitude of my choice will be the first, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”.

In addition to myself I have invited several voices from AMS community to join this Lent exercise. So stay tuned, I think we have a lot to learn from each other.

As we begin the Lent season, let Mrs. L’Engle send you off with an encouragement-

“Around Crosswicks the sere fields need their blanket of snow to prepare the ground for growing. In my heart, I am too eager for Easter. But, like the winter fields, my heart needs the snows of Lent.”

See you throughout the week.

-Daniel

Reflections