Prayers of the People • Third Week of Advent

Here is the beautiful prayer our brother Sejun lifted up during our worship gathering on 13 December 2020. We invite you to read and to make it your ongoing prayer during this Advent season as well.

Heavenly Father,
The year 2020 has been a very challenging year
and many of us will never forget.
Help us remember
that the good news of Jesus’ birth
has the power to bring us
great joy this Christmas season.

We thank you for sending us Your Son,
So that He can become our Saviour,
So that He can bring peace
in the hearts of those that believe,
and joy to those that find their hope in Him.

We rejoice knowing that You love us,
And that You will always be with us.
Help us share the joy that we receive
from You to those around us.
We pray for the people
of this nation and this world,
That You will open up their hearts,
and that many will find joy
through You in these hard times.

As we look forward to a brighter 2021,
we pray for the completion
of many safe COVID-19 vaccines,
And Your continued protection
upon our healthcare workers and frontline workers
until the vaccine is widely available.
In Christ’s name we pray.

Prayers of the People • Second Week of Advent

Here is the beautiful prayer our sister Yang lifted up during our worship gathering on 6 December 2020. We invite you to read and to make it your ongoing prayer during this Advent season as well.

Heavenly Father, hallowed be Your name!
As we await Your Son’s return,
we pray to receive Your Holy Spirit.
May the Spirit guide our thoughts,
guide our hearts, guide our words,
and guide our ways,
Every moment of the day.

We also seek Your Shalom during the troubled times,
like the sheep seeking for the green pastures,
like the fish seeking for the crystal streams.
We want to be the peacemakers you desire,
and be proudly called Children of God. 

As Your peacemakers
We pray for the people who are sick, hungry, or cold,
who are sad, angry, or lonely.
We pray they will accept Your Son, the Prince of Peace.
Your Spirit will be upon them,
so they will seek Shalom, not the worldly comforts.
May You lead us all onto the righteous pass. 

As this troubled year seems never ends,
and we don’t know what the days ahead hold.
We have faith in the One who does!
We will proclaim Your name,
we will hold steadfast,
Until the day Your Kingdom comes
and Your Will is done on earth.
In Christ’s name we pray.

Advent Conspiracy 2020

The Season of Advent 

Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. The word “advent” means “arrival.” During the season of Advent, we celebrate Christ’s coming into the world and watch with expectant hope for his coming again. We celebrate the incarnation of Jesus, “God With Us” and, at the same time, eagerly await the day he arrives again — to redeem, restore, and renew all things.

This is what the Book of Common Worship says about Advent:

In Advent we expectantly wait for the One who has already come. We anticipate the promised justice of God’s new world, yet we praise God who raised the “righteous branch” to rule with justice and righteousness. We hope for the restoration of the afflicted, the tormented, and the grieving, yet we delight that healing has come in Christ. We long for the beating of swords into plowshares, yet we rejoice that the Prince of Peace has appeared. We yearn for the barren deserts of our inner cities to flourish, yet we laud the desert Rose that has bloomed. We dream of the land where lions and lambs live in harmony, yet we acclaim the child born to lead us into the promised land.

The PC(USA) Directory for worship says, “As God created and appointed days, God created a rhythm of time and appointed seasons for worship.” Advent is a gift — a time for us to slow down, breathe, worship, and hope again.

Advent at Home

As we continue to shelter in place, this season of Advent takes on even deeper meaning as we wait in hopeful expectation for Jesus to renew all things. The following resources are included in your Advent care packages, but we’re including them here as well in case you’d like an electronic copy.

Advent Conspiracy 

Anchor City is proud to continue to be a part of the Advent Conspiracy movement. Here’s what Advent Conspiracy is all about (from their website):

Advent Conspiracy was founded on the radical idea that we can celebrate Christmas humbly, beautifully, and generously. Advent is the story of a wondrous moment when God entered our world to make things right. It is the greatest story ever told and it changes everything—including the way we celebrate Christmas.

You can watch the video below to catch a glimpse of what it means to be a part of a different story this Christmas, one that celebrates our King and brings hope to the watching world.

Advent Conspiracy Offering 

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, December 22nd, we will have our Advent Conspiracy offering. This year, through our offering, we are thankful to support:

Justice Ventures International 

Freely In Hope 

World Vision

Transformed Lives: From Resentment to Gratitude

This week, we are exploring the movement Henri Nouwen describes from resentment to gratitude. Below are some exercises and spiritual disciplines to practice to help you join the Holy Spirit in this transforming movement.

A Diagnostic Checklist for Resentment

Do I feel like I should mask or hide “negative” emotions such as sadness, anger, frustration, or anxiety?

  • How can we break through the chains of resentment and free ourselves? Resentment has very deep roots in our human condition as is not easily cleared away. But once we confess our resentments within a safe and supportive faith community, we create space for forgiveness and freedom. When this happens, God’s liberating grace is able to make all things new. — Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation p.64
  • Ask God to help you be honest in discovering the what and the why behind the actual state of your inner life. If you need help identifying what emotions you’re experiencing or where they’re coming from, bring that before God in genuine conversation and prayer.

Do I find myself feeling unhappy or jealous of other people’s successes?

  • Spiritual formation is the way by which resentment can slowly be transformed into gratitude. Through the spiritual practice of letting go of jealousy and bitterness, and forgiving and affirming others, we can make rivals into friends and competitors into companions on the way to true greatness. Servanthood might sound like a pious idea, but it really asks for the humble recognition that our life is not our own to be defended but a gift to be shared. All we have has been given to us. Our part is to be grateful and to give thanks. — Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation p.65
  • As you pray, focus on God as the Generous Giver, whose love & grace is inexhaustible. Instead of imagining that someone else’s success takes something away from you, ask God for a mindset of Kingdom abundance — where there is not only enough for everyone, but where joy is multiplied when it is shared.

Do I believe I deserve more than someone else because I’ve demonstrated more faith, virtue, obedience, or hard work than they have?

  • Authentic Christian community occurs where there is fertile ground for gratitude to grow, for gifts to be received, and for blessings to be shared. Such a place embodies the true nature and function of what we call church no matter where it gathers or what name it bears. Authentic Christian community nurtures the spirit of gratitude and service in the spiritual life. It does so by inviting us to give constant attention to the condition of our hearts, where we listen to the voice of God and respond with thanksgiving. It calls for an ongoing willingness to remove our defensive armor and create inner space where the Spirit of God can live. It requires courage to scrutinize our compulsive selves and to open our hearts to new ways of being. — Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation p.65
  • Ask God to help you see that getting to be a part of Jesus’ mission in the world, spending time with God, and working alongside sisters & brothers in Christ are priceless rewards, in and of themselves.

When things don’t go according to my plan, do I become overly annoyed or frustrated?

  • Resentment is exactly the complaint that life does not unfold the way we planned; that our many goals and projects are constantly interrupted by the events of the hour, the day, and the year… The movement to gratitude involves the discover y that God is the God of history and that things are quietly and slowly unfolding as they should. My spiritual task is to learn to listen to all that is going on and trust that God’s hand is guiding me. — Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation p.66
  • Ask God for the flexibility and adaptability that comes from trust in God’s plan (and not just personality type). Lift up those people or circumstances that cause interruptions in your life and ask God how they might be an invitation into God’s plan.

In all of these self-reflections, friends, please be kind to yourselves! It can be really hard to look inside. All too often, when we see something we don’t like, we end up feeling bad and kicking ourselves — but nothing changes (except, perhaps, feeling worse). If and when you hear the voice of criticism who is waiting to pounce on your mistakes, move past it and listen for the true voice of Love, who is patient, kind, and protective.

[The following two exercises are from Nouwen’s book, Spiritual Formation]

Given how destructive the passion of resentment can be in human life, the movement from resentment to gratitude is necessary. Once we enter into this movement of the Spirit, we can let go of our resentments and stretch out our arms to the God who sets us free for joyful service — service not as a religious obligation, but as a manifestation of our inner gratitude. Nouwen’s challenge is for us to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now in the light of a loving and guiding God. 

Reflect and Journal 

  • Can you name one difficult stepping-stone that has brought you to where you are now, and reflect on it in the light of a loving God who guides your steps? 
  • For Nouwen, to be grateful means to live life as a gift — that wherever I live, whatever I do, or whatever happens to me, I see somewhere in the experience a gift for which to be thankful. What past experiences in your life that were hard at the time can you now be truly grateful for?
  • The Apostle Paul encourages us to “give thanks always and for everything” (Eph. 5:20). Further, Paul reminds believers that “in all things God works for the good” (Rom. 8:2). In your journal, write down ten things that you can thankful for today. Share these with someone else. 
  • Read the parable of the lost sons in Luke 15:11-32. Write a page in your journal on the question, In what ways am I the older son in the parable? 

Visio Divina: The Graceful Dancer 

Russian troops entered Paris in 1815 with force and violence. In the aftermath of destruction and loss, an important acquisition was made for the Hermitage. Alexander I arranged for the purchase by private treaty of a collection of artworks belonging to Empress Josephine, former wife of Napoleon, housed in her Malmaison Palace. Among the priceless additions were four sculptures by Antonio Canova: Hebe, Paris, Woman Dancing, and Cupid and Psyche.

As you ponder the Dancer image, reflect on the following insight of Nouwen’s: 
“I once saw a stonecutter remove great pieces from a huge rock on which he was working. In my imagination I thought, That rock must be hurting terribly. Why does this man wound the rock so much? But as I looked longer, I saw the figure of a graceful dancer emerge gradually from the stone.” 

  • In what ways do you feel the pain of the rock being made into a statue of a dancer? 
  • What chipping away at the protective wall of your soul do you feel God may be engaged in right now? 
  • In what ways are your resisting or resenting the process? 
  • In what ways are you open and graceful? 
  • As you look at Woman Dancing by Antonio Canova, can you feel the cold marble of the statue? 
  • Can you sense the movements of the dancer in motion? 
  • Can you see yourself alone or with another on the dance floor? 
  • What would it take to make you dance with joy? 

Transformed Lives: From Illusion to Prayer

This week, we are exploring the movement Henri Nouwen describes from illusion to prayer. Below are several prayers to help you engage in a deeper life with Jesus through prayer.

A Prayer of Recollection

I am not God, but a finite creation of God.
Lord, I know that I have a body that has limits. 
I am here right now and cannot be other places.  
I cannot grant everybody’s wishes. 
I am grateful for the truth that I am not you, God. 
Only You can meet all the needs around me.  

Calls us to rest in God’s sovereignty and love — God will accomplish God’s purposes. We don’t need to be God.  

In my deepest place, I am not my names, roles and qualities, and these are not my righteousness (my salvation, my rest).  
At my deepest place I am not a daughter or son, a husband or wife, a father or mother, a boyfriend or girlfriend. 
I am not what I do. I am not how much money I make. 
At my deepest place, I am not what others have named me. 
I am not my failures. I am not my successes. I am not my strengths. I am not my weaknesses.  
I confess any image of myself I cling to as a means to find my own salvation, my own righteousness apart from you.  

Calls us to rest from, indeed to repent of, our efforts to somehow find our identity, our worth, our salvation, in things apart from God.  

I affirm the truth of my soul’s identity in Christ.
In my deepest place, I am a spirit now clothed with the righteousness of Christ. I am precious in God’s eyes.
From all eternity, God calls me beloved and holds me with an everlasting embrace.  

Calls us to rest in our deepest identity as God’s beloved, which was given to us through the cross of Christ and the gift of the Spirit.  

Live in me. Make your home in me as I do in you.
— Jesus in John 15:4 (The Message)

You must begin by fixing this truth in your minds: that there is within you a palace of surpassing splendor, whose whole structure is composed of gold and most precious stones — such, indeed, as is fitting for the great King who resides within it; and that the beauty of your own soul is, in part, the cause why this palace is so beautiful.
— Teresa of Avila

Since God’s Divine Majesty has made the soul to God’s own image, how great must be its dignity, how surpassing its beauty! It is a sad pity, and a shame as well, that we do not know ourselves and what we are.
— Teresa of Avila

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
forever and ever.

The Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
have mercy on me,
a sinner

A Prayer by Thomas Keating

Here I am, Dear Lord, desperately in need of your Holy Spirit. 
Give me your Holy Spirit, according to Your promise. 
I don’t know how to ask rightly,
so I just sit here and allow You to pray in me,
asking for what You most want to bestow,
which is Your own Holy Spirit —
with the Gifts through which the Holy Spirit takes over more and more of my life.

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life

A Prayer for the Evening (Compline)

Keep watch, dear Lord,
with those who work, or watch, or weep this night,
and give Your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ;
give rest to the weary,
bless the dying,
soothe the suffering,
pity the afflicted,
shield the joyous;
and all for Your love’s sake.

Visio Divina
from Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen

As you pray, imagine yourself sitting on the bench at Saint-Rémy de Provence, under a tall old tree as painted by Vincent van Gogh.

Read this parable shared by Henri Nouwen, adapted from Chuang Tzu:

A carpenter and his apprentice were walking together through a large forest. And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful oak tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice: “Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?” The apprentice looked at his master and said: “No…why?” 

“Well,” the carpenter said, “because it is useless. If it had been useful it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax.”

How is this tree useful? How is it useless? How does it glorify God in its branches and shade? Can all creation praise God by simply being what it was created to be?

Consider these questions, and then simply look at the image for ten minutes letting God speak to you through the image. Write down your thoughts and reflections. 

Like the old tree in the parable, we don’t pray to be productive or useful, but to be open and grateful. In prayer and meditation, we can live and be; we can bear or not bear fruit, and we can grow old freely, without being preoccupied with our usefulness. Faithfulness in prayer is its own reward, with or without tangible results.