Nov
30
2007
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Celebrating Advent in your home

The Advent devotional booklet is finished — just in time for the start of Advent on Sunday. We gave out the first part of the booklet at “big worship” in November, and here is the completed booklet, with reflections for each week of Advent in addition to the readings and rituals already distributed. Click the link below to download the booklet as a PDF. Contact Bob (267.377.7192) if you need a printed copy.

Link: Advent Devotional 07

Written by Bob Fisher in: advent,resources,spirituality |
Nov
30
2007
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Advent greetings!

This Sunday begins Advent, the time in the rhythm of the church when we anticipate with joy, wonder and awe the reality that God is with us.

At our pre-Advent “big worship” we talked about the importance of creating space to encounter Christ in the run-up to Christmas. Creating space for God in our lives is a spiritual discipline. I don’t know about you, but I cringe when I hear the word discipline. I’m terrible at building new habits, and I beat myself up if — no, when — I don’t do it perfectly, and end up giving up too soon.

Here’s some good news: I’m learning through my spiritual journey that God nurtures gently. Jesus promised that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). That means that we are freed from the “need” we feel to get our relationship with God “right.”

Here’s more good news: Creating space for God isn’t a law that has to make us busier than we already are. It isn’t yet another thing to do. The amazing truth is that we make room by paying attention to what God is already doing in, around and through us. Our God comes to us all the time, where we are, and invites us to receive his Spirit and align our will with his. And if we don’t accept, God keeps inviting, because his desire is not to burden us with ceaseless striving but to teach us what Matthew 11:29 calls (in The Message) “the unforced rhythms of grace.”

As you journey through Advent this year I invite you to join me in the life-giving discipline of noticing and celebrating what God has done and is doing, right here and now. It doesn’t matter whether you do that by reading more of the Bible, praying around your own Advent wreath, using the rituals in our C@L devotional booklet, spending time in nature or some other practice that seems right to you. The key is noticing what God is up to, and asking for what you need to cooperate with the work he is doing in you. Our God is faithful, and if you attend to your relationship with him he will return the favor.

Just one thing. Be gentle with yourself in the process, as gentle as your Savior is.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matt. 11:28-30 (The Message)

Have a blessed Advent,

Bob

Written by Bob Fisher in: advent,being church,spirituality |
Nov
10
2007
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advent : creating space

creating space

Love, the guest, is on the way.

Do you have room?

Join us for a time of praise and contemplation, interaction and rejoicing, as we welcome the Advent season by creating space for Christ’s presence in our lives.

Sunday, Nov. 18 @ 3 p.m.
United Friends School
1018 W. Broad Street
Quakertown, PA 18951

Info: Call Bob at 267.377.7192

Written by Bob Fisher in: announcements,gatherings,spirituality |
Aug
17
2007
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Praying for peace

On Aug. 17 and 24 we will focus on praying for peace in the world.  We live in a time when people all across the world and right in our neighborhoods cry out for the peace that God desires for the world. But what does that peace look like? The next two Friday’s we will draw on the Prayers for Peace published by www.sacredspace.ie  (a great devotional resource, by the way). To make it easier for you, the prayers are linked below. Please pray along with the community over the next nine days, whether or not you’re able to be at our gatherings. Link: Peace Prayers

Please bring a food donation for the Quakertown Food Pantry and/or a cash donation for the Liberty Center for Victims of Torture, an organization in Philadelphia that works with refugees who suffered torture in their home countries.

God’s peace be with you this week!

Written by Bob Fisher in: gatherings,spirituality |
Jul
29
2007
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Worship resource for Aug. 3

We will not be gathering on Aug. 3 due to a number of vacations and other conflicts. But you can be in community with us by using this discussion starter. See you Aug. 10. On Prayer reflection guide

Written by Bob Fisher in: gatherings,resources,spirituality |
Jul
19
2007
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Laying down our burdens

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” the old song says. Still, even as things slow down (!?) in the dog days, many of us carry around the same old burdens. Worries about work. Concerns about family and finances. Sometimes there are real challenges facing us, other times we work little things up into huge burdens, and then slump under their weight.

Jesus knows about our burdens, real and self-imposed. And he promises rest for all of us who are worried and weighed down. The Message says it beautifully: By watching Jesus we can learn “the unforced rhythms of grace,” and “learn to live freely and lightly.”

Jesus doesn’t offer us a pass on suffering. He doesn’t promise to take away our labors and burdens, doesn’t promise a magical eternal vacation. He does offer rest. Time to regroup, to recharge, that helps us to carry the weight. And that gift, he says, comes as a result of learning from him to be meek and humble of heart, from watching him dance to the unforced rhythms of grace. You and I are invited to join the dance, even if we have two left feet. There’s no entry fee or cover charge. We just have to learn to lay aside our burdens for a while, and dance.

What is burdening you and/or the people around you? Can you hear Jesus calling you, asking you to lay down your burdens and take up his yoke for a while? Do the rhythms of your life feel unforced, free, light? Do you need a rest? Talk to Jesus about what you need to feel less burdened and more open to grace.

We’ll talk more about this at our gathering July 20. We’ll also welcome home our South Dakota servants. If you need info or directions, call Bob at 267.377.7192.

Written by Bob Fisher in: gatherings,spirituality |
Jun
24
2007
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The way of prayer

This last week we had a wonderful discussion about prayer, based on Jesus’ example in Matthew 6. We had a great time delving into the text and hearing its resonance in our lives. As Christians*at*large it is tempting to think we’ve got prayer nailed, but our discussion revealed that making prayer as Jesus modeled it a way of life is a long-term project. For those of you who weren’t there, here’s some food for thought from our experience:

Prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind, it’s about changing our hearts. Many of us have a hard time bringing our personal needs and desires to God; it seems selfish, somehow. But if we are honest about what we want and what we think we need, God can show us what we really need and help us to accept the things we don’t want.

Jesus tells us that prayer shouldn’t be a public show; we should go to our room to pray. One of us noted that that direction is a wonderful metaphor for “being real,” for praying from the place we really are at, not the place we’d like others to see us in. Prayer can’t be walled off from the world, because a relationship with the God of this world means we will join him in blessing it, not retreating from it. But prayer for the sake of seeming “holy” or “smart” might accomplish that goal, but it can fall short of helping reveal God’s kingdom.

This text includes the Our Father, or the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus taught his disciples. Jesus’ model prayer isn’t just a way to talk to God (though it certainly is that), it is also a great example of how to live in the kingdom of God. Imagine what life would be like patterned after the Lord’s Prayer:

  • The first thing would be praising and honoring God, and joining God’s mission to the world, so our lives would honor God.
  • Even though we are creatures with “will” and “kingdoms” (or, at least, areas in which we have authority to do our will), it would be natural to yield our desires and power to God’s.
  • As we look to reconciliation with God in heaven, we would also work to bring that reconciliation and healing here and now.
  • Gratitude for the daily care God provides — food, family, health and faith — would overshadow the anxiety we feel to succeed and get ahead.
  • We would be as quick to show mercy as we are to ask forgiveness.
  • We’d be aware of the devil’s snares and our own tendency to mess things up (The Message says it beautifully: “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil” – read it here).
  • And praising God would be our final answer.

Download our worship for personal or family devotions here: Matthew 6 meditation

Written by Bob Fisher in: gatherings,spirituality |
Jun
24
2007
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Lost!?

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The texts for the commemoration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus tell of God’s amazing, almost unfathomable love. Like a widow who turns her house upside down searching for a lost, valuable treasure, God seeks us out relentlessly — going so far as to send Jesus to die for us before we were reconciled to God.

Our worship focused on noticing and experiencing this care, and recognizing ourselves as the ones pursued by God. A PDF of our slides is linked below. Use it for a personal or family devotions. When you get the the picture of the sheep after the second reading, take some time to ponder these questions:

  • Does leaving 99 sheep to seek out one lost one make sense? Isn’t 99 good enough? What does this say about God’s love for you?
  • Take a few minutes to imaging God’s relentless love for you? How do you feel in the face of such love? Can you trust it?
  • When in your life have you been lost? Did someone seek you out and rescue you? Who? How did you feel if they did (or did not) find you?
  • How are you “lost” in the context of your journey with God? What is Jesus calling you to do so that you can be reunited with your Good Shepherd?

Enjoy! Thanks to Bob Hyatt for the background image.

Written by Bob Fisher in: gatherings,spirituality |
May
23
2007
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Finding focus, breaking down barriers

Finding focus

Last Friday we focused on the story of the how the early church dealt with including outsiders, told in Acts 15. Through the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, and earlier of Peter, many gentiles, people outside the family of Israel, are coming to faith. And that is too much for some insiders, who insist that these newcomers must be circumcised to fulfill the demands of the law handed down to Moses, before they can be part of the Church. The Apostles convene a conclave to settle the matter. Finally, the Church agrees that if God sees fit to give the Holy Spirit to these outsiders, who are they to demand more?

This story is a powerful example of a theme often repeated throughout Acts: God, not the Apostles or any other religious authorities, is running this show. Just as Jesus tells the disciples before his Ascension that they will not just witness to Israel but to the ends of the earth, so here the Spirit again makes clear that the Message is for all people.

We also see the church reading its context, both shaping and being shaped by the new environment it is in. As a sect of Judaism, the church could safely balance the Message and its historic rules and practices. But now, engaging the diversity of the world, the Apostles face a challenge. Do converts have to become Jews in order to become Christians? The Spirit leads them to focus on Christ rather than Moses, and they instruct the new believers to adhere to essentials of the faith without requiring them to observe the letter of the Jewish law.

This story also raised some deep questions: In fulfilling the law on our behalf, did Jesus lower the bar for us, or raise it? Would God, after exhibiting the most costly love imaginable – sending his son to the cross – then simply revert to demanding that everyone adhere to the pre-existing law? If our role is not just to tick off do’s and don’ts on a list, what is our role in the world and relationship with God?

What do you think? What questions does the story bring up for you? If you want, please share and discuss them by leaving comments to this post.

A Prayer for Eyes to See God’s Work

Daily life and work often breeds in us tunnel vision…we focus intensely on the issues and problems and opportunities right in front of us, but we lose the big picture sense of the world around us that our peripheral vision can provide. So we spent some time looking up, and down, and right, and left, to exercise our ability to notice what is not right in front of us, concluding with this prayer:

Look up: Give us your eyes as we approach the season of your coming.

Look down: Give us your eyes as we learn to love in the way of your love.

Look to one side: Give us your eyes in our homes, our churches, and outward in the world.

Look to the other side: Give us your eyes. Let us see your presence in all of us.

(From “Body Prayer,” Doug Pagitt and Kathryn Pryll)

Written by Bob Fisher in: gatherings,spirituality |
May
15
2007
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Friends, not servants

“You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.” — John 15:12-16, The Message.

Servants, as Jesus points out, only do what they are told. They never have insight or input into what is going on. Their role vis-a-vis the master is defined and unchanging. They have their place never to leave it, despite how well they might do their work.

Friends, on the other hand, are in relationship. Friends share many things, and respond to each other, adapting to the needs and circumstances in each others’ lives. For Jesus to call us friends is an amazing thing, and it frees us to be in relationship with him and to participate in the kingdom with him. We are neither slaves nor sheep. We have freedom and responsibility to point the way to the kingdom.

Of course, it’s not as simple as What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Just before uttering the words above, Jesus reminds the disciples that following his command means loving others as he has loved them, and that means loving unsparingly, dangerously, sacrificially — laying down one’s life for one’s friends.

But neither can we just follow orders, keeping the rules and ticking off our obligations. That’s the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and Jesus was clear in the Sermon on the Mount that that’s just the starting place. Servants have no obligation beyond obedience. But Jesus wants us, as his friends, to be his partners and co-conspirators in loving all his friends — all of God’s people and God’s creation. We’ve been invited to transform ourselves and our world. We’ve been chosen for a life we could never choose for ourselves.

Read John 15:12-16 again. How does it sound to hear Jesus call you his friend? In what ways has Jesus called you to join him in transforming your life or your world? How might he be calling you today?

Written by Bob Fisher in: spirituality |
May
09
2007
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“We will…make our home with them”

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them; and we will come to them and make our home with them.” — Jesus (John 14:34)

Home is a place of safety and security for most of us. Wherever we feel safe, wherever we can be accepted for who we are, as we are — there we say we are “at home.” Home is not just a physical location but a psychological one, the place where our true selves, our God-created selves, are OK.

What a promise Jesus makes to the disciples — and to us — in this passage from John’s gospel. We will come to them and make our home with them. This is amazing because it promises that we can be “at home” — safe, secure, accepted as we are — with the Father and the Son. And what is even better is that God doesn’t hold us at arm’s length, doesn’t place a lot of conditions, but can be at home with us if we love Him. The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14, The Message)

At home with God, we are surrounded with his love, safe in His arms. Christ is with us even if we fail to notice him, calling us into his presence. As you go through this week, think about the ways Christ is taking up residence in your life and calling you into the safety and security of his love. How is he making you “at home?” How is he calling you to help others to feel “at home?”

Written by Bob Fisher in: spirituality |
Apr
15
2007
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Easter reflections

Risen Lord - He Qi
“The Risen Lord” – He Qi

An event as amazing as the Resurrection requires a season to reflect on. Jonny Baker writes this week about the Stations of the Resurrection gathering held by Grace, a small alt.church in the UK. In it he shares a video of a presentation he made for the service collecting some beautiful paintings by He Qi, who is described as “China’s most internationally sought after contemporary Christian artist.” The images take very familiar scenes of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances and render them in a new light, full of color and life.

Pop on some favorite music and fire up the browser to take a look at this short video before you pray this week.  These images will help you re-experience the glory of Christ’s rising. [ Link ]

Written by Bob Fisher in: spirituality |
Mar
19
2007
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Mark Holy Week with Easter Vigil

We’re going to celebrate an Easter Vigil service on Easter Saturday, April 7. If you’ve never been to a Vigil, it’s a wonderful service, one of the most ancient in the Christian tradition. Of course, we will give it our usual Christians * at * Large spin. The service includes the return of the light after Good Friday, retelling key parts of God’s story of salvation, remembering our baptism, and celebrating Christ’s resurrection. We’re going to make it family and kid friendly by involving families in retelling parts of the story, and we’ll keep it to about an hour and finish with dessert. So mark your calendar and watch your email for more information. If you’d like to be part of the story telling or of other parts of the service, contact Maria or Suzanne. (Need contact info; call Bob at 267-377-7192 or email cal@liveservegrow.info.)

Written by Bob Fisher in: gatherings,spirituality |
Mar
04
2007
1

Hello world!

OK, here we are! [ christians * at * large ] is a community of followers of Jesus exploring ways that we can nurture and support each other in our spiritual journies and in our daily lives. We’re on the web as a way of communicating, learning and planning our life as a community of faith.

Written by Bob Fisher in: announcements,gatherings,service,spirituality |

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