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Blessed to Be a Blessing Resources: Embrace

Henri Nouwen writes, “We keep forgetting that we are being sent out two-by-two. We cannot bring good news on our own. We are called to proclaim the Gospel together, in community.” This week we are invited to examine what it means for us to go on our outward journey together.

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Resources for further reflection:

  • The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together by Mark Votava

    • Votava encourages his readers to concentrate on our relationships and our particular place, instead of focusing on individual achievement. Our faith and spiritual practices are best undertaken together, so he emphasizes living our lives in close proximity to our local neighborhood and church and prioritizing building community and friendship with the people nearest to us.

  • In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, Henri Nouwen

    • Nouwen exposes the temptations we often experience when ministering to others, and he dismisses our insistence on defining successful leadership in individualistic terms. Instead of focusing on ourselves and our effectiveness, Nouwen reminds us that we first and foremost work together as a “called people.” True ministry can only be accomplished together from a posture of humility and reflection.

  • This week we offer two activities for you to practice. Choose the one that resonates with you more.

    • Spend some time reflecting on this question: What keeps me from understanding ministry and evangelism in communal terms? Talk to God about what comes up for you in this.

    • Is there someone in your life that you are seeking to bless with God’s love, but this is proving difficult for some reason? Ask a friend to pray with and for you and/or to join you in your time with this person.

Blessed to Be a Blessing Resources: Grace

Affirming how God is already at work

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“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” -- Thomas Merton

As we take the time to notice those around us, to listen to their story, how do we affirm the ways in which God is already at work in their lives? How do we allow our interactions to be a blessing?

Resources for further reflection:

  • The Sacrament of Evangelism by Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie

    • These authors want to renew excitement for evangelism in the Church by focusing the reader on how God is already at work in the world, and reenvisioning the work of evangelism in sacramental terms.

  • Ears to Speak podcast episodes https://www.stonecroft.org/earstospeak/

    • The goal of this podcast is to teach Christians how to be better listeners and friends as an essential element of evangelism. For the hosts, the key is cultivating solid communication skills, particularly learning how to listen well. Each episode they discuss a different aspect of evangelism, and encourage their listeners to reimagine evangelism for real relationships.

  • Activity: When we pray for others, we often find our love and connection for them deepening. This week set aside time to pray for one or two people whom you would like to bless and affirm in your interactions. Maybe someone you saw only in passing, maybe a longtime friend, or perhaps a newer acquaintance whose story has stuck with you. As you pray, thank God for being at work in this person’s life, and ask God to illuminate ways you might join him in the work he is already doing.

Hear Father Kevin’s sermon on Grace by clicking here.

Blessed to Be a Blessing Resources: Face

Week Three: Face

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Caring enough to learn their story:

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.” —Henri Nouwen

This week, in the place God has placed us, as we slow our pace and notice those around us, we practice what Nouwen calls this “simple ministry of presence:” learning people’s stories, listening deeply, allowing God’s blessing to us to flow through to those around us.

Resources for further reflection:

  • “Evangelism, Meet Soul Care,” Kimberly Penrod Pelletier: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/january-web-only/evangelism-meet-soul-care.html

    • This article teaches us how we can love others better through our own experiences of Christ’s love for us. As we receive God’s love and become aware of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, we learn to be aware of how God is moving in the lives of those we encounter, and are moved to help them engage with his love.

  • The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction, by Adam S. McHugh

    • This book emphasizes the importance of listening as a way of life. The author begins by focusing on how God listens to us and how learning to listen to him extends into a countercultural way of life, marked by listening to God and others.

  • “The Power of a Dinner Table,” David Brooks: https://nyti.ms/2edd04H

    • This article shares the story of one family who opened up their home and table to teenagers living in poverty. This article shows how extending a listening ear to others can be the first step to opening your life to bless others in powerful, concrete ways.

Hear Father Kevin’s sermon on Face by clicking here.

Blessed to Be a Blessing Resources: Pace

Week Two: Pace

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...slowing your speed of life so you can notice people with compassion and still have some time and energy to serve them.

Eugene Peterson asks, “How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am perpetual motion? How can I convincingly persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to constantly juggle my schedule to make everything fit into place?”—from “The Unbusy Pastor"

This week we will consider what this kind of slowed pace might mean in our own lives, families and communities.

Resources for further reflection:

  • Sacred Chaos by Tricia McCary Rhodes

    • This book focuses on practical ways that we can learn to meet God in our present lives, no matter how chaotic they feel to us. Rhodes teaches her readers how to be present to the presence of God and prayerful in the life they have right now.

  • “God Is in Our Moments” by Tammy Tkach: https://www.gci.org/articles/god-is-in-our-moments/

    • This article encourages us to slow down and notice God’s presence in individual moments in our lives. Slowing down and focusing on a particular moment can teach us to be fully present in our lives and to pay attention to God’s incremental work.

  • Godspeed: https://www.livegodspeed.org/watchgodspeed/

    • This is a brief documentary about one pastor’s journey to discover the slow work of God in his small Scottish parish. Father Matt Canlis begins his ministry with big ideas about how to change the world for the sake of the Gospel, but by walking his parish, he learns that God’s work is done in slowing down and spending time with people.

  • Activity: Spend one day—or even an afternoon or a couple of hours, whatever time you have—intentionally slowing yourself down so that you can notice the people and circumstances around you. We all fall into habits of multitasking--doing more than one thing at a time, like making phone calls while we drive, listening to podcasts while we cook dinner, or working while we eat lunch. As you are able, practice doing one thing at a time, and when you do so, ask God to make you more aware of your surroundings.

Listen to the accompanying sermon here.

Blessed to be a Blessing Resources: Place

Week One: Place

The first practice for us to be a blessing to people around us is to root in a place. Often, we can be ambivalent about where we live, or work, or the family we’re in. So we withdraw emotionally and relationally; we keep ourselves on the edge. But God calls us to “work for the peace and prosperity” of the place where we live (Jeremiah 29:4). This week, we want to consider what this might mean for all of us.

Read:

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  • “This Time, This Place: An Excerpt from Eugene H. Peterson’s The Pastor”:

    • This is a brief reflection from Peterson on our situatedness. His reflection encourages us to notice where we are and see the uniqueness of our own time and place.

  • Theology of the Ordinary by Julie Canlis

    • This book is about living an ordinary life in the presence of God. Born out of her family’s experiences of living in a small parish in Scotland, and then in a small community in Washington state, Canlis explores the practical theology of slowing down and noticing where God is in our everyday lives and learning to do his work there.

Listen:

  • Kingdom Roots Podcast, “The Neighboring Church (Conversation with Rick Rusaw),” Episode 24

    • This podcast is a conversation between Scot McKnight, one of C4SO’s Canon Theologians, and Rick Rusaw, a pastor. They discuss how Christians can learn to follow Christ’s teaching to love our neighbors as we build relationships with people right where we live.

Act:

  • Take a prayer walk around your neighborhood, or sit on your porch and pray as you watch people walk by. As you begin, ask God to remind you of how he has worked in your neighborhood before and to open your eyes to how he might be working now.

    • This activity can encourage us to notice where we are and who is here with us. It’s a small step toward blessing others by engaging in the life of our community or neighborhood more intentionally.

To listen to the sermon, click here.