Thursday, September 19, 2013

book launch prayer

This is the prayer I wrote for the launch of Rosemary Dewerse’s book, Breaking Calabashes, Becoming an intercultural community.

Go, little, lucid, book
filled with dreams
and wherever you go
may you birth more dreams

Go, little, lucid, book
filled with intercultural stories
and wherever you go
may you create more stories, of faith and life and richness across cultures

Go, little, lucid, book
filled with lived theology

and wherever you go,
may you create more theology lived in life

Go, little, lucid, book
filled with practical wisdom

and wherever you go,
may you encourage all who seek a wisdom that is grounded

Go, little, lucid book
filled with pictures and poetry
and where ever you go,
may you draw forth metaphors of beauty,

God
You who break calabashes in the person of Jesus
Be with your author,
your publisher
your readers
and all those who are touched by your intercultural vision of community
In the name of the intercultural Christ, through the Breath of the inter-cultural Spirit, Amen.

Posted by steve at 10:06 PM

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

praying our goodbyes: a book soaked in memories

Some books are soaked in memories. I pulled Joyce Rupp’s Praying Our Goodbyes off the book shelf yesterday. It offers a range of ways to grieve. This includes a selection of rituals for different situations that life deals us – terminating a relationship, feeling betrayed, farewell, living with constant pain. And for each, some Scripture, some prayer, some action.

The book has been so well used that as I opened it the pages fell out. I held them, remembering the times I’d used it – our struggles with infertility, twice in 9 months being turned down for a job I thought would be ideal, the pastoral transition away from a loved church family, some difficult work situations. And how different those situations seem now, 5 and 10 years later. Felt the pain, still. Yet realised, almost laughed in delight, at the different trajectories now in play.

And reflecting on the truthfulness of these words from Joyce

for the Christian, hello always follows goodbye in some form if we allow it. There is, or can be, new life, although it will be different from the life we knew before. The resurrection of Jesus and the promises of God are too strong to have it any other way. (Joyce Rupp Praying Our Goodbyes, 15)

Posted by steve at 09:02 AM

Thursday, August 08, 2013

life to the full, plucking duilisc

I’ve been enjoying reading Columba: Pilgrim and Penitent, by Ian Bradley – slowly, devotionally – over the past few weeks. Columba is a pioneer, setting off around 563 AD in a small boat with a few friends, from Ireland, to land on the west coast of Scotland. A little venture, that, with hindsight is now considered one of the most significant events in the Christian history of Britain. Columba was to found a monastery, now called Iona, which over the centuries was hugely influential.

I’ve returned a number of times over the last weeks to one particular poem, attributed to Columba.

At times kneeling to the Heaven of my heart,
At times singing psalms;
At times contemplating the King of Heaven, Chief of the Holy Ones;
At times at work without compulsion, This would be delightful.
At times plucking duilisc from the rocks
At other times fishing
At times distributing food to the poor
At times in a hermitage.

It’s such a rich and varied life. A reminder that life to the fully emerges from full of a wide range of activities. For Columba, fishing, gathering food, mercy, solitude, work, prayer.

And what is duilisc, you might wonder? Apparently an edible aquatic plant.

Posted by steve at 11:43 PM

Friday, June 14, 2013

a theology of sighing

On Thursday, as a staff team, we gathered for our weekly prayer. I was intrigued by the opening verse of the Psalm for the day:

Give ear to my words, O LORD; give heed to my sighing. Psalm 5:1

Perhaps because I’ve become aware, suddenly, in the last week, that one of the children in Team Taylor sighs exactly like one of their parents. It’s uncanny. Perhaps, because I’ve found myself sighing quite a few times in the last week. Perhaps because, at the start of winter, in the last week of a semester, I’ve heard a number of the team, well, sigh.

So, we paused at “sighing.”

And we asked each other – what are you currently sighing over? Together we heard a wide range of life events. There was some good sighing. And some sad sighing. And some worried sighing. With a candle lit to remind us of God’s presence, it was a rich time. As part of the time, one of our team offered a reflection from their ministry practice.

“Sometimes when I sit with people and hear their story, the only response seems to be sighing. To sit in the silence and sigh. It’s the most appropriate, Christ-like, pastoral response.”

A theology of sighing. People sigh. In Psalm 5, God is asked to hear those sighs. In Mark 7, Jesus looks to heaven and sighs deeply. Only in the gospel of Mark is it mentioned that Jesus sighed. More remarkably, Mark uses two different forms of the verb in
this passage. It is an act of deep empathy and prayer. Being in ministry is thus to sigh with the sighing. Pastoral prayer is sighing.

So I’m off for the weekend. To sigh – to God, through Jesus.

Posted by steve at 07:21 PM

Monday, June 03, 2013

the place of repetition, of the word “just” in prayers

I’ve been enjoying Paul Bramadat’s, The Church on the World’s Turf : An Evangelical Christian Group at a Secular University (Religion in America Series). He enters, as an outsider, as a researcher, an evangelical group on a University Campus. He spends 18 months worshipping with them, talking with them, interviewing them. He even goes on a missions trips with them. It’s a rich introduction to researching lived experience, the actual practices of groups of people.

As a researcher, he notices the constant use of the word “just” in their prayers. Here is how he processes what he is observing.

It’s most common syntactical location is near the beginning of the approximately half of the prayers offered … For example, a customary beginning of … prayers is “Fathergod, we just come before you tonight to,” a variation of which might be “God, we just want to sing your praises tonight because we’ve just seen all the wonderful things you do in our lives.” This term seems to muffle the students’ demands somewhat, underlining their indirect and humble approach to God. Without “just,” their prayers would be comparatively bold. For example, they would be reduced to the overly direct alternatives: “We come here tonight to” and “God, we want to.” … By implying that the speaker is unable to finish a prayer because he or she is overwhelmed by the opportunity to communicate with God … emphasizes his or her respectful love for and approach to God.

That’s fascinating. The use of the word “just” reveals an inner humility toward God.

I think it’s a wonderful example of research. It is so easy as an outsider to look down upon the religious practices of another. But Bramadat tries to understand not from his perspective, but from the perspective of the group.

Posted by steve at 06:45 PM

Friday, March 08, 2013

Prayers of illumination

Preparing for Pocket lamp worship first, with Jonny Baker and CMS Pioneers, second with the mission shaped ministry Board, a few weeks ago got me thinking about Prayers of illumination. I think it was holding the pocket lamp open, thinking about light, and the phrase – prayers of illumination – sort of floated through my consciousness.

Liturgically, a prayer of illumination is the prayer prayed before Scripture is read and spoken. In churches that consider themselves non-liturgical, it has a predictable pattern asking for God’s help as Scripture is preached, a predictable place just before the sermon and a performative dimension, inviting a focus on what is about to be said.

In liturgical churches, when used (curiously more infrequently, in my experience, than in non-liturgical churches), it tends to be a set prayer, more likely to be varied, drawing from church tradition or various Scripture.

One example of a prayer of illumination, slightly varied from Scripture, is drawn from Psalm 19:14

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and Redeemer.

What is interesting is the context, what comes in the 13 verses prior. You see, in the Psalm illumination comes from two places – nature and Scripture.

The first six verses (1-6) reference illumination in creation – heavens, skies, sun, heat – all of these are proclaimers of God’s handiwork. From them “pour forth speech.” (19:2). As for example, in this “baptism” experience, or in this recent book release – Forest Church: A Field Guide to Nature Connection for Groups and Individuals by Bruce Stanley – which I am hoping to blog review chapter by chapter over the next few weeks.

The next five verses (7-11) reference illumination in Scripture, and the hope of wisdom, joy and light.

So, presumably when the prayer of illumination is prayed, it is invitation to consider both the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture. And it suggests that the sermon that might follow will tell stories of human experience, offer insights from nature and reflect on Scripture. Perhaps in at least equal measure? Now that’s the type of prayer, I’d love to say Amen too.

Because, according to the Psalm, both are arenas of illumination. Sure, not without discernment. I mean, you sure need discernment to read Leviticus, or Proverbs, or Revelation or any portion of Scripture. And yes, you need discernment to read nature. Which is probably why you pray the prayer. Because illumination is a gift, from God’s Spirit. And prayed in community, because faith is corporate and discernment is always about what seems “good to the Holy Spirit and us.” (Acts 15:28)

In community and in need of God.

So a variant on pocket lamp worship would be to spend an entire service exploring Prayers of illumination. Place a whole lot up around the walls. Give people a lamp. Get them to walk, to read. Invite them to place their lamp beside the one that most connects. Share this in groups. Invite discussion on where God reveals Godself, on how discernment happens, both in practice and in the history of the church. Invite them to chose the prayer most meaningful, and pray it individually, at home, as they gather around Scripture. In so doing, the use of Prayers of illumination corporately would be enriched and renewed for another season of the life of the church.

Creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary (in this case, visual images on themes of pilgrimage). For more resources go here.

Posted by steve at 11:06 AM

Monday, January 14, 2013

A prayer for writers (for me)

Having returned from holiday over this weekend, my main task for the next 12 weeks is to write. (I have some research to do, but that takes second place behind my hope of completing a book – on sustainability in emerging and fresh expressions.) I face the 12 weeks with mixed feelings. It’s been 7 years since my first book and that breeds a certain sense of anxiety. I feel quite unsure if I can capture what I want to say. Will I be clear enough? Sustained enough? Academically able enough?

Writing is such an individual experience. It feels so egotistical, this individual pursuit to be heard. Why might my words be worthy of being read? Why, in a world of so many books, should I pollute with yet more information?

There are a whole lot of academic pressures at work – to publish, to get the right press, to be recognised. Again, a complex set of emotions and motives to sift.

So this morning I found some phrases from Philippians 1:9 helpful.

“And this is my prayer:”
“love” – and so to write out of love for God, church, people and world
“knowledge” – and so to write respectful of the tradition, of those who’ve gone before and my contemporary colleagues in scholarship, all the while conscious of the intuitions and feelings that are learnings within myself
“depth of insight” – to write something that might, through God’s mercy, shine some light on the yet simply complex and complexly simple task of being a disciple in this contemporary world.

And so, to writing I will go …

Posted by steve at 09:08 AM

Friday, December 07, 2012

creating the church of tomorrow

Twice in the last few weeks, a prayer by Oscar Romero has come my way. Romero was a Catholic Archbishop in El Salvador, assassinated on 1980, while celebrating Mass in a small chapel in a cancer hospital where he lived.

God of hope,
Help us to step back and take the long view.
Remind us that what we do in our lifetime
is only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is your work..
Nothing we do is complete, which is only a way of saying that your realm always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No one program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals includes everything.
Help us remember what we really are about:
we plant seeds that will one day grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need future development.
We provide yeast that produces
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything.
Knowing this frees us, for it enables us to do something.
It may seem incomplete, but it is really a beginning,
a step along the way.
Our efforts provide an opportunity
for your grace to enter and do the rest.
You are the master builder, and we work with you.
We may never see the end results that are known to you.
Even so, we are prophets of a future
that holds your promise.
Amen.

Given the way the prayer has found me, it seemed appropriate that it become the devotional for our team retreat on Thursday. I provided two ways to respond. One was to pray by planting a seed of petition. The other was to pray by watering as thanks. Outside (because dirt and water don’t go with carpet), I had placed a seed tray and a pot of colour from home.

Inside, we said the prayer together, a different person taking a phrase each. We then sat with the prayer in silence for 5 minutes. I then invited folk to move outside. And to either plant a seed “we plant seeds that will one day grow” or to water the pot “We water seeds already planted.” We then concluded by again saying the prayer together, again a different person taking a phrase each.

The focus of the retreat day was strategic planning and it was just lovely to begin the day watering and planting, reminding each other that- “We cannot do everything. Knowing this frees us, for it enables us to do something.” (To end the day, we shared communion and had a party. But that’s another post).

Posted by steve at 11:27 PM

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

book review: Liturgies from Lindisfarne

Liturgies from Lindisfarne. A book review (for Touchstone) by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

In a strange twist of fate, I encountered the author (Ray Simpson) and the sacred place (of Lindisfarne), before I opened this book. In September 2011, during study leave in England, I found myself in the North of England and close to Lindisfarne. Intrigued by its history of Christian pilgrimage, I decided to visit.

Over a long weekend I appreciated the isolated scenery and the abundance of bird life. I visited the church ruins, soaking in the stories of Celtic mission through Cuthbert and enjoyed the chance for regular prayer with the Christian residents on the Island. It was a deeply renewing few days.

Over breakfast on my last day, I enjoyed tea and toast with Ray Simpson. Past retirement age, Founding Guardian of the Community of Aidan and Hilda, still a popular speaker on spirituality and mission, we shared of faith and formation.

Upon my return, “Liturgies from Lindisfarne,” awaited on my desk. This makes the book the actual record of the work of a praying community: the Community of Aidan and Hilda, a dispersed, ecumenical body who seek to apply lessons from the Celtic Church in Britain (280 to 634 AD) to the church of the 21st century.

It offers a wide range of prayers – for daily prayer through a week, for the journey through Christian festivals, for special celebrations and for the events of life.

The words are fresh and clear, evidently honed over time by their actual use in a praying community. The theology is creation-centred, paying close attention to the experience of being human, including the seasons and the rhythms of life. This shows respect for the patterns and experiences of Celtic spirituality which shaped the first missionaries to Lindisfarne.

A pleasing feature is how attention is paid to the different experiences of the seasons. Thus prayers for Easter are not linked with Northern Hemisphere experiences like spring or lengthening day light, which makes them less useful in a down-under context.

One drawback is that it is A4 and thus, as a book, large in size. While this allows the type to be easily legible and for the layout to be spacious, it can make it difficult to hold, perhaps more so for those older in life.

A bonus is that all the prayers and services are contained in an accompanying CD-ROM, making it easy to reproduce on orders of services.

Over the last few weeks, I have enjoyed offering the Daily prayers among my community. It makes a welcome resource for prayer, both individual and communal.

Posted by steve at 02:40 PM

Monday, February 13, 2012

project progress: some first signs of life

A first sign of new life over the weekend at our house/project, with seeds germinating. They are a “cottage garden” mix, given to one of our kids in the “transition pack” we gave them as part of the move. Planted, last Sunday, protected by wire in case the 3 cats the previous owner has left behind try to take revenge, they are sprouting by our front deck.

They are a small sign of hope in what has been a week on the home front we would prefer to forget. The day we moved the builders decided to sand the gib, which meant all our stuff now sports a fine film of gib dust. The next day one of the subbies did a runner, with their replacement following suit a few days later. We are perched in the top part of the house, one of the kids sleeping on a sofa in the lounge, while we wait for the builders to finish. The other child has been sick, suffering asthma symptoms, trying to rest in a house filled with gib dust!

So finding even the tiniest sign of growth, the smallest sign of new life, is important.

I am using this post as a prayer, adding as a comment the initials of a person/place which today I want to experience life. You might like to pray with me, adding initials for a person or place in which you would like to see God breathe fresh life.

Posted by steve at 04:09 PM

Monday, January 16, 2012

a prayer for the year coming

Lindisfarne Scriptorium produce A Call to Pray as a discipleship resource. It includes 13 cards, each with an artistic image, each with a prayer. They are wallet-sized, so over the summer holiday, they’ve been great to sit with at the beginning of each day. Or to place in your pocket as you go for a reflective walk.

Sunday I headed up a hill for a 2 hour walk, with the following prayer. As I walked and pondered, some questions began to emerge, which helped me as I began to pray for the year ahead.

Please God
grant us the grace
to change our hearts,
to open our minds

To ponder: What are the images of God in which you find grace?

Grant us the grace
to bless our small corner,
to encourage each other

To ponder: What is your “small corner”/refuge/sanctuary? What will bless it?

Grant us the grace
to pray for the world,
to care to much.

To ponder: How can you care too much for the world?

Grant us the grace, please Lord.

Prayer from Lindisfarne Scriptorium. Reflective questions by Steve and Kayli Taylor.

Further links:
- Photo essay of Lindisfarne here.
- Lindisfarne spiritual legacy here.
- Further discipleship resources here.

Posted by steve at 04:25 PM

Thursday, November 17, 2011

the future of grace: B is for blossom

I love flowering trees.

One of my most spiritual moments was coming across a tree in blossom, in a howling Canterbury nor’wester. I was battling some major change processes at Opawa.

And I lay on the ground under this tree, with the wind cascading all these blossom around me. As they swirled on my hands, my skin, my uplifted face, I realised how much bigger, slower, differently paced, was the rhythm of God.

So today, in the midst of some ongoing personal change, I paused and snapped this pic. Of an Adelaide tree in blossom. Which became a prayer,

God in this change, help me pause, walk slower, be differently paced, in your rhythms of grace.

(This is another entry in dictionary of everyday spirituality, under the heading B is for blossom).

Posted by steve at 06:30 AM

Monday, August 08, 2011

Prayer for the dead of winter

God
in this winter I run,
and so much feels dead
in me, in others, in our world.

God,
help me not forget
nor run on by
the unseen sap of your presence
the hard-worn history,
summer work and autumn blaze
hope in blossom

If you want to make this prayer your own, you could add your initials in the comment section. Similar prayers can be found here.

Posted by steve at 05:52 PM

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Prayer for those with a common cold

I’m suffering from a common cold – sore ears, sore throat, snuffles, blah.  This prayer (hat tip Michelle Coram) is proving helpful.

God bless those who suffer from the common cold.
Nature has entered into them;
Has led them aside and gently lain them low
To contemplate life from the wayside;
To consider human frailty;
To receive the deep and dreamy messages of fever.
We give thanks for the insights of this humble perspective.
We give thanks for blessing in disguise.
Amen – Michael Leunig

Posted by steve at 10:24 AM