Daily Meditations - May 25 - June 4

Thursday, June 4

Baba Yetu

In February, the choir sang Malotte’s version of The Lord’s Prayer. It’s probably the best known and most loved classical version of the prayer. Today’s meditation is about The Lord’s Prayer as you’ve never heard it before.

Baba Yetu was composed by Christopher Tin for a video game, Civilization IV. He won a Grammy for the piece. Since then it’s been performed by choirs on numerous stages. My favourite version is by the Stellenbosch University Choir of South Africa at the Langollen International Music Festival in Wales. Their enthusiasm is infectious. (check out the fellow’s eyebrows at 0:30!)

When our church hosted the World Day of Prayer in March this year, with the service written by women of Zimbabwe, we showed this version featuring the translation. I was very moved hearing the gentleman sitting behind me quietly reciting the prayer in English as we listened to the Kiswahili words.

I was curious as to why Tin would choose The Lord’s Prayer as the basis for his soundtrack. The video and the advance of civilization certainly involve armies, combat, the subjugation of other races and cultures. A paradoxical pairing, to be sure. Kristin and I discussed this dilemma. Perhaps Tin’s thought involved the advance of ‘civilization’ across the globe, in many cases coupled with the dissemination of Christianity often through violence.

I found a performance by the acrobatic group Zurcaroh using Baba Yetu. During the dance, there is a symbolic struggle over the world. The two cultures depicted eventually come together in peace and love.

The Civilization IV video starts with the words “What will your civilization stand for?” Words to ponder, indeed, in these days of division.

Let us pray:

God of all worlds, God of every nation and peoples, guide us in this time of racial conflict and violence to find true empathy and understanding. Open our hearts and minds so that we can actively find ways to effect true change and bring peace to our ‘civilization’.

Amen

Afterword…If you’ve become obsessed with this compelling song, as I obviously have, watch this version to ‘see’ the words being formed.

Linda Rodgers
Choir Director

 

Wednesday, June 3

Psalm 8 is a psalm of praise to God, lifting up God’s name as majestic in all the earth, and celebrating the wonder of God’s work in creation.

The Psalm then gives thanks for the blessings God has given to us, saying when you consider all the wonders God has done, including the glory of the heavens, the moon and the stars, how amazing it is that God is even mindful of us mortal human beings! And more than that, God cares for us, and has given us intelligence, abilities, and glory that enable us to draw close to God.

But I have struggled with the words of verse 6, and I want to share it as an example of why looking at different translations of the Bible can be helpful toward understanding the meaning.

In the responsive version of the Psalm in Voices United, worded similarly to the New International Version, verse 6 says:  “You have made us rulers over all your creation, and put all things under our feet.”  

I don’t like humankind being called rulers over all creation. The New Revised Standard Version, which we use the most frequently in the United Church, says “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands”, which still makes it sound as though humans have ownership and supreme power and authority over the rest of creation. And too often we have acted towards creation as if we own it, as if we can use our power to rule over it however we like, with no thought given to the effects on creation. And we see the negative effect that this kind of “rule” has had on the land, the seas, the sky, and all the living things of Earth, and we are realizing now more than ever, that we need to see ourselves differently.

When the Bible uses these words, we should remember that it also talks about God’s dominion, and says that God rules over all creation, including us. And how does God rule over us? Well, right here in Psalm 8 it says that despite all of God’s power and glory, God still takes notice of and cares for us little mortals. That is how we are called to use the power we have, by taking notice of even the smallest and seeming insignificant parts of creation, and by caring for creation, not treating it badly.

The last time we said Psalm 8 responsively in worship, I changed the words of verse 6 to what is printed in The Inclusive Bible. This is a translation I received when I was commissioned, and I like it.  It is not always as poetic as some translations of the Bible, but the “Priests for Equality” scholars who developed the translation have kept it faithful to the meaning of the original text, and conscious of our use of modern English.

In TIB, verse 6 reads:  “You have made us responsible for the works of your hands” and to me, this fits much closer with God’s intentions for our role in Creation.

So for our prayer today, I invite you to read Psalm 8 from TIB, and praise God for the wonders of creation, and for the gift of our role in creation.

God, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your Name in all the earth!
   You have placed your glory above the heavens!
From the lips of infants and children
   you bring forth words of power and praise,
   to answer your adversaries
   and to silence the hostile and vengeful.
When I behold your heavens,
   the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars which you set in place—
what is humanity that you should be mindful of us?
   Who are we that you should care for us?
You have made us barely less than God,
   and crowned us with glory and honor.
You have made us responsible
   for the works of your hands,
   putting all things at our feet—
all sheep and oxen, yes, even the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, the fish of the sea
   and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
God, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your Name in all the earth! 

Amen.

 

Tuesday, June 2

One of the scripture readings assigned for this upcoming Sunday is the first account of the Creation, Genesis 1:1-2:4. I won’t copy the whole passage here, just this one bit from the end of the story, verse 31: “God looked at all of this creation, and proclaimed that this was good - very good.”

Throughout the Creation story, God the Creator names each part of Creation as “good”. Once God is finished and the whole Creation is all together: the light, the sky, the earth, the seas, the plants, the sun, the moon, the stars, the living creatures in the seas, in the sky and on land, including humans; God says this whole Creation is not just good, it is very good. This “goodness” is not just talking about how it looks, although we certainly can be awed by the beauty and wonder of Creation. This “goodness” means that God knows that good things can come from it, that God’s intention for Creation is that it be put to good use, and it is capable of this goodness.

Sometimes, especially in times of pain, whether it be a crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, or violence and hatred in our world, or painful situations in our lives, we can doubt whether this world is all that good, or whether parts of it, like us humans, are all that good.

God’s intentions for Creation are good, and God has named Creation, including humankind, as capable of that good. If we look closely, we can see this goodness, even in the times of pain. We can see it in the way the natural world has the ability to heal itself (including healing us who are part of Creation), and nurture new life and growth. We can see this healing ability in humankind as well: physical healing in the skills of those who work in health care, but also the healing and goodness that we see in those that stand against hate and injustice, those who risk themselves for the good of others, and those who reach out in love to those who are in pain.

God pronounced the whole of Creation very good, because the whole of Creation, including humankind, has the capacity to bring more goodness into our world. I encourage you, today, to keep your eyes open for the goodness of Creation - in healing, in beauty, and in love.

Let us pray:

Thank you, Creator God, for caring for me, and for all of Creation, for naming us as very good. Help me to see the goodness of Creation: the goodness of the natural world around me, the goodness of the people I interact with, and the goodness in myself. May I be inspired to participate in the goodness which you intended for all of Creation. Amen.

Blessings,
Kristin and Maureen

 

Saturday, May 30

Saturday’s Easter Word: One

Scripture Reference: John 17:11

“I’m no longer in the world, but they (Jesus’ disciples) are in the world, even as I’m coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them in your name, the name you gave me, that they will be one, just as we are one.”

Today I’m sharing with you a song written by Ruth Moody and sung by the Wailin’ Jennys. This female trio originated in Winnipeg and yes, their name is a pun on the country singer Waylon Jennings. The song One Voice has been covered by countless artists and performed throughout the world in concert halls, schools, and churches.

The song speaks to me on a very deep and spiritual level. During this time of lockdown when we could not meet, I missed our community of faith.  I missed singing with ‘my’ choir and I missed contributing to our worship through music. Although this song is not essentially ‘religious’, it is appropriate for a church community and I decided that, because of the multiple layers of meaning, it would be our first anthem when we are able to meet again in person. What a joyful time that would be, singing with One Voice.

Most of you are aware that singing in public is now an unsafe activity because of the extra spread of droplets due to the movement of air involved in singing. There is a real possibility that when we can meet in the church building again, we may not be able to sing (either as a choir or a congregation) for a significant length of time. (To say that this was difficult for me to hear and internalize would be a vast understatement.) Because of that, I’ve decided to share the song with you now.

This is the sound of one voice; one voice, one spirit. The sound of one who makes a choice, this is the sound of one voice.

One person can make a difference; one person can make a choice to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ and to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’.

This is the sound of voices two; the sound of me singing with you. Helping each other to make it through, this is the sound of voices two.

How much easier life is when you have an ally, someone to support you, a friend to help you see through the darkness into new possibilities.

This is the sound of voices three, singing together in harmony—surrendering to the mystery, this is the sound of voices three.

We need not all sing the same notes, but if we sing with a common vision, a common purpose (as in Deep in our Hearts), a synergy comes alive and the mystery, the Spirit, evolves and works in our lives and around us.

This is the sound of all of us, singing with love and the will to trust. Leave the rest behind, it’ll turn to dust. This is the sound of all of us.

The climax of the message is here, and I’m having a ‘eureka’ moment as I write this. If we metaphorically ‘sing’ even when we can’t physically sing, if we live with love for each other and the world, and if we trust we will be OK and find new ways to be in our ‘new normal’ that will be meaningful and rich while keeping us safe, then all will be well with our souls.

This is my last meditation for the Fifty Words of Easter series which ends with Pentecost. Writing them has been an unexpected gift of challenge and learning. I thank you for reading and for your responses.

Linda Rodgers
Choir Director

 

Friday, May 29

Today’s Easter Word: Receive

Scripture Reference: John 17:1-11

Have you ever heard the expression: “It’s better to give than receive”?

Certainly it’s true in many ways. It feels good to give to others, and giving is part of what we are called to do as Christians: “God loves a cheerful giver” says 2 Corinthians 9:7. It is a blessing to be willing and able to give.

But in our Gospel passage today, Jesus says he has given the disciples the words of God, and then says “and they have received them” (John 17:8).  The disciples receiving Jesus’ gift was not taken for granted, Jesus names it as an important step in their faith. And so I wonder if this is a good reminder to us that not only is giving a blessing; receiving and receiving well, is a blessing too.

I have seen some people who love to give freely and frequently, but who find it very hard to receive instead. Some people feel uncomfortable receiving presents or tokens of appreciation, even compliments. Some people are so used to being the ones to give assistance and care to others, that when they are the ones in need of assistance and care, they struggle to receive it graciously, and sometimes even refuse it.

We are called to be “cheerful givers”, but we should be cheerful and gracious receivers as well. If we know the joy and blessing of giving to others, we should allow others to also experience that joy and blessing as we receive what they wish to give us.

Of course, really all of us are “receivers”. God is the ultimate giver, having given us so much: life, Creation and the continual gifts of love and mercy, to name only a few. And we should not push these precious gifts aside, or allow ourselves to feel unworthy or guilty. Instead, let us experience the “blessing of receiving” and accept these gifts with the same grace and love with which they have been given to us.

Let us pray:

Gracious God, thank you for all the gifts you have given to me, I receive them in gratitude and love. Help me, O God, to cheerfully give when I can, in love and service to others. Help me also, to graciously receive the love and service that others give to me. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who is both giver and gift, Amen.

Blessings,
Kristin and Maureen

 

Thursday, May 28

Today’s Easter Word: World

Scripture Reference: John 17:1-11

These 11 verses need a lot of unpacking, in fact the whole 25 verse prayer does! Jesus talks a lot about God having ‘given him’ the disciples whom he is about to leave, and about their corner of the world in which he ‘found’ these people. In these verses he is petitioning NOT for the world but for them. I think he is feeling the pain of leaving his friends and followers behind, and it is actually a heart wrenching prayer of absolute love and care for those who have journeyed with him during his ministry.  He states that God ‘gave’ him these followers. Does that remind you of the scripture in John 15v6, “You did not choose me but I chose you”?

When I was a young Evangelic Christian our lovely Irish Pastor was always reminding us young zealots, ‘We were in the world but not of the world”. (Now if anyone wants to unpack that statement with me, give me a call!)  Perhaps I am way off beam here, but I think God has placed each on us in our corner of the world to make a difference. Do you think that God sees each one of us as part of the bigger picture, part of God’s plan for the world?

The world we know is changing. If we didn’t know it before, we certainly know it now after Covid 19. For some of us the changes are hard, isolation is difficult and we long for things to return to normal. Funny thing is after major events, things never quite return to ‘normal’ do they? We may never be the same again! The world around us has changed, the only thing that does not change and is sure and steadfast is God’s love. 

Our vision of God and what God wants for us as individuals, as families, as CHURCH changes and that is good. This good change won’t happen without faith and much, much, prayer. Prayer changes things, in its supreme mystery it can move mountains!  We can believe that wholeheartedly, but to experience those mountains shifting we must put it into practice and actually pray! I reiterate, PRAYER CHANGES THINGS!

In so doing we will not only survive but we will thrive! Covid has changed how we do church and is giving us new challenges, and in some ways renewed energy... energy to embrace that change and celebrate that we live in God’s world and we will go with GOD! Changing the small corner of our world can and will have a chain reaction for good, and we will thank God with full hearts; after all, this is “God’s wondrous world”

Let us pray…

Thank you God that you are with us in the changes of life and you will never leave us. Bless this gift of your world given to us in trust, in faith and in love. May we prove to be worthy of it.

In the name of Jesus we pray….

Amen.

Blessings,
Maureen and Kristin

 

Wednesday, May 27

Today’s Easter Word: Word

Scripture Reference: John 17:1-11

In John 17:8, Jesus says he gave God’s words to the disciples. But at the beginning of this gospel, John writes that Jesus is “the Word”:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-4, 14)

The word “Word” here, is the Greek word “Logos”, which also means “reason” or “discourse”. This name for Jesus, “the Word”, says a lot about his role as a connection or mediator between God the Creator or Father, and humankind. He not only shares God’s words with us, but as “the Word made flesh”, his life itself is a message from God to humankind, and that message is one of life.

I’ve found it interesting how similar this passage from John, Chapter 1, about Jesus being the Word is to Proverbs, Chapter 8, where Wisdom is also personified. In this passage, Wisdom was with God when the world was created, and participated in creation. Wisdom lifts up her voice, and so asks people to both listen to her, and also to find her in order to find life.

I wonder why our ancestors in faith wrote these concepts of Wisdom and Word as being alive. Perhaps they found that the words of scripture they received from God were not just marks on a page; that the wisdom they inspired was more than simply knowledge, but were gifts of God, full of the life of God, and that by not only studying them but living these words, they too became full of God’s life. And then when they met Jesus, they saw in him that same life, that not only the words he taught, but his very life connected the people to the life of God.

Let us pray:

Loving God, as I read the words of scripture, may I not see just words on a page, but may I encounter your Word, alive in the world. May your Wisdom fill me not only with knowledge, but with your life, and with a desire to walk in your Ways. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the Word, Amen.

Blessings,
Kristin and Maureen

 

Tuesday, May 26

Today’s Easter Word: Name

Scripture Reference: John 17:1-11

Before they move out of the upper room where they have eaten supper together, Jesus prays for his disciples; these eleven verses from John’s Gospel are part of that prayer.

John’s Gospel does not give the details of the last supper, or of Judas leaving to betray his friend to the temple authorities.

It would appear on this Thursday evening the disciples receive some of the most intimate and understandable teachings they have received in their three-year association with Jesus. This same Jesus, whom they now truly believe to be Messiah!

Jesus has tried several times to warn them of his departure from this world. They have either NOT understood or not really wanted to hear, and least of all, accept that the death of their beloved Jesus was possible or imminent!

In chapters sixteen and seventeen, the disciples finally seem to understand what he is saying.

In v23 of Ch.16, Jesus tells them because they have believed in Him and his message that they can now ask God ‘anything’ in His name. He then prays with them (the prayer is the whole chapter, all 25 verses.)

Jesus makes it clear that God has sent Him and if we believe in God, we also believe in the Love that God sent in Jesus the Christ. His name was and still is worthy of being the only necessary mediator between us and God.

1st Timothy: Ch. 2v5, “For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus…….”

Let us pray:

God you have many names and we all have our favourite way to approach you. We thank you that you are not only approachable, but you are also accessible! As Jesus told his disciples those many years ago, we can pray through Him who loves us still. May we always honour your most precious name in respectful and loving ways. In Jesus Name we Pray….. Amen.

Linked here is a lovely, gentle rendition of the Old Hymn “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds”, played and sung to a different tune than we sing. I found this version and this man’s voice to be incredibly calming and reassuring.

His name is Chris Bowater. Our friend Google tells us he is a British Christian songwriter, worship leader and pastor (for more info and more of his songs check him out on that amazing Google!!).

 

Monday, May 25

Today’s Easter Word: Authority

Scripture Reference: John 17:1-11

Authority means having power and control, usually over other people.

Many times in his life, Jesus was in conflict with the religious authorities of his time. His teachings seemed to threaten their authority to be the sole experts on how to live proper religious lives.

In the last week of his life, this conflict intensified. In Matthew 21, we read that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, while the people waved palm branches, and shouted “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”. Next, he drove the money changers out of the temple. This seemed to be the last straw. The religious authorities then approached him while he was teaching in the temple and questioned him: “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)

However, Jesus would not answer them because they would not answer his questions - they were too afraid of either angering the crowd, or being shown as hypocrites. So Jesus went on to offer a parable about wicked and greedy tenants who did not respect their landlord, saying these religious authorities had abused their power, and had not respected what God wished them to do with their authority. Jesus criticized them for being greedy, using their authority to gain wealth, while the poorest people were commanded to give; for being aligned with the Romans who oppressed the people, in order to gain more power; and for following the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it: on the surface they looked devout, but they were not “producing the fruits of the kingdom” (Matthew 21:43)

In this week’s passage, John 17:1-11, Jesus says God has given him authority over all people to give eternal life. The authority Jesus has and uses, is to give, not to take. And as we saw in his ministry, Jesus was most concerned with giving to and caring for the vulnerable and the poorest, those without power.

In our world today, some people generally trust those in authority, and some others are generally suspicious of those in authority. I don’t think it’s an all-or-nothing situation. We should consider how those in authority use their power. Do they use it to gain more wealth and power for themselves, or to prop up others with power at the expense of the vulnerable? Or do they use it to give to others, to encourage life, and to care for those who are most in need?

Let us pray:

Loving God, we remember with thanksgiving that Jesus’ authority was given to him so that he could give life, care for the vulnerable, and share your love. And yet, sometimes in our world today, it can be hard to know who in authority to trust, because we know that people do not always use their power for the good of others. So help us to be wise and discerning in who we follow. And help us to use the power we have in the same giving and caring way that Jesus did.

Amen.

With Blessings,
Kristin and Maureen