Prayerways: Pray as you are

A lot of the time when we pray we think about different things, it is difficult not to be distracted. In our ‘Second Cup’ Lent Prayerways series Mtr. Kim reminded us to be mindful of our simple physical actions throughout the day, and turn them into moments of prayer.

The first step is to ‘tune in’—to come into yourself, and be aware of how your body is. You should feel at ease, and you can start this by becoming aware of your breathing. Then, ‘tune into’ the experience— what do you see? What do you smell, feel, or taste this very moment? It’s about connecting with your senses.

Slow it down—continue to be really aware of, and attentive to the sensations. Now, thoughts may come to our heads as we focus on our immediate environment and ourselves.

Notice deeply— there are many things that we do every day but we don’t engage deeply, such as eating and drinking. We are used to doing them in a hurry, we’re always in a rush. Let us be mindful of the first mouthful of our next meal, let the taste of that bite spread in your mouth, slow yourself down and change the experience.

Give thanks—you may be surprised by the experience, no matter how trivial it may seem, it may be different to what you expect. Give ourselves those little moments, and be immersed in them. Finally, if you felt the experience was good or positive, give thanks to God for all the gifts we receive, every sip of water, every bite of food, every step we take…these are all little, simple, and wonderful things.

 At the second cup meeting, participants were given a cup of sparkling water, here’s what they did with it:

First of all, start to feel at ease, start to become aware of your breathing.

 

Then, start to listen out, for noise, for the traffic perhaps.

Then start to be aware of yourself, your body, your senses.

Now look at the cup (filled with a bit of sparkling water).

Hold it in your hands and notice what it feels like.

Notice about the water. Can you hear the fizz? Can you smell anything?

Raise the cup really slowly. Don’t rush to drink the water.

Notice the sensation. Feel the cup touching your lips.

Now take a sip. Feel the water inside your mouth, what is your tongue feeling? Swallow.

Repeat if you wish. Think about the experience. Slow yourself down to connect with your body, and give thanks to God for the senses and the experience.

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Jesus helped by Simon of Cyrene

Jesus Helped by Simon of Cyrene

On Fridays in Lent this year we offer a refection on one of our stations of the cross by a person connected with St Chrysostom’s.

The Fifth Station: Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world

Simon had come in from the country, or from overseas to keep Passover.  He probably knew little or nothing about Jesus, and assumed he was a condemned criminal paying the price of his misdeeds.  He had no choice when he was press ganged into  helping with the cross.  Perhaps Jesus looked at him, and showed his gratitude, so that Simon, looking back saw only goodness in those eyes and could say “I will do it for you.”

Jesus give us the humility to do, without grumbling, the humiliating tasks that may come our way, and the awareness to recognise you in those we may be serving, and to serve with joy.

(This reflection was written by Sister Jean Mary CHN)

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The revolutionary demand of Christianity

Our series of Bible reflections by a wide selection of members of St Chrysostom’s continues through Lent. Today, we hear from Fred, a regular member of our congregation. Fred is a Civil Servant and lives in Levenshulme with his wife Amy and their two children Albert and Edith.

Here is a summary of Fred’s thoughts, on the Bible reading for the Thursday in the Second Week of Lent – Luke 16. 19-31, the story of Lazarus and the rich man.

“This story makes me think about the injustice of our society, for this story tell us that if there is any financial disparity within society then we are not living how we should be living. This makes me think of our context especially the homelessness in our City. This story made me think about the unnamed man in the story, are we as a society like him? Are we in a way complicit in their homelessness?

Lazarus at the rich man’s door (Tissot, 19th century)

This story shows that sin is not only based on an individual level but also based on what we do as a society. For if we don’t actively change society and its oppressive structures then we are all mirroring the image of the rich man. However, I don’t believe that the unnamed man is necessarily a horrible person, rather he didn’t see Lazarus. This made me think if I were in the story what would I say to the rich man? I wonder what would happen if I pointed Lazarus out to him… Even though this story shows a justice for Lazarus, it also makes me question whether this story really is a fair system of justice. Is it really fair for the rich man to go to hell?

But, this story highlights to me the revolutionary and radical nature of Christianity, and the importance of our practical theology. Often the Church gets called the “Tory party at Prayer” but this story shows Jesus flying the red flag (this shows the socialist side of Christianity – something I very much believe in.)

Throughout history, scripture is often used to defend the status quo but thanks to the work of liberation theologians we can now remind ourselves what a fundamentally revolutionary demand Christianity places upon us.”

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Finding ultimate joy and satisfaction

Mary Salome and Zebedee with their sons, James and John the Evangelist (Hans Suess von Kulmback, 1511)

The way of service is a theme of today’s Bible reflection from a member of St Chrysostom’s Church. our reflections go through Lent and are based on a Bible reading for the day. Today the reflection is on Matthew 20. 17-28. This is the Gospel reading for the Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent.

Fr Chris spoke to a senior member of the congregation who kindly offered these thoughts:

The thing that stands out most for me is the acceptance by Jesus – acceptance of the future and “they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified”. It was in Jesus’ power to change the course of events, but he chooses to continue on the painful path which will see him crucified.

I feel that there is  a marked contrast here with the actions of Zebedee’s wife who is asking for earthly glory for her sons. The tension between her and the rest of the disciples can be felt, together with the feelings of being usurped and jealousy. Jesus is submissive to his painful fate, whereas this mother is asking for fame and fortune for her sons.

For me this is a story of service versus worldly glory. “But whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave”. It is in serving others, in serving God, that we find ultimate joy and satisfaction – not in the pursuit of wealth and fame.

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Joseph accepts Jesus as his son

Rembrandt: The Dream of Joseph

Joseph Accepts Jesus as his son (Mt. 1:18-25)

Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph…she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was faithful to the law…he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit…

In our Lent series of reflections on a Bible reading for the day we come to St Joseph’s Day (19th March) and we welcome one of our younger church members to share thoughts with us…

“I think Joseph is an accepting person. He initially misunderstood the situation, but then when he realised what happened to Mary, he accepted Jesus as his own son.

“Why do you think Jesus needs an earthly father?” I asked.

Our contributor of thoughts on St Joseph

I think that Jesus needs to learn from both genders, and Joseph can teach him about being a human man, while Mary teaches him about human women. Also, Jesus needs Joseph to care and raise him. He needs a father as well as a mother.

“As someone’s son, what do you think being a son means, beyond just being born into a family?”

I think that it is about love and being loved. I am loved by my parents, their love meets in me, and I love them back. It goes both ways.

“Why do you think God chose to tell Joseph through a dream, instead of an angel appearing before him, just like what happened to Mary?”

I think this is because God wants Joseph to think about the message more carefully. When he had woken up he had to think about what happened, and decide to think of it as just a dream, or as God really speaking to him. He then needs to make a choice of believing in what he heard or not. I think this is a way to let Joseph choose what to do.”

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Judge not, and you will not be judged

 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.”

During Lent St Chrysostom’s people share with us thoughts on the Gospel reading (or other Bible reading) of the day. Rose shares with us thoughts on the Gospel reading for Monday of the Second Week of Lent. (Luke 6.36-38)

Rose has been a regular member of St Chrysostom’s congregation for many years. Her background is in nursing, caring for the elderly, working with looked after children and fostering.

Rose shares the following thoughts on the Bible reading: I would summarise this reading as ‘turn the other cheek’. ‘Do not judge’ is very difficult, because sometimes in life we have to make judgements about situations and people. I find it more pleasurable to give to others and in putting other first. I find things come back home to me, when I least expect and when I have needed it the most. Sometimes I’ve had nothing and then help arrives unexpectedly. This reading makes me think of the saying ‘What goes around comes around’. I have been a foster carer for a number of years and I have found that what I have given out to my foster children, I’ve got back through my own family too.

What really sticks out for me is about judgement; how we are judged and how we judge others. In other words, treat others as God treats us – be merciful. This can be very difficult when others have hurt you and treated you badly. I have experienced racism in the workplace and in personal circumstances, often because people don’t take the time to get to know me. It is hard to forgive, but I think God wants us to try and forgive and pray for those who hurt us. In one situation, once the person got to know me, they ended up apologising for their actions and we are now close. Forgiveness is hard, but it can change things.

Thank you to Rose for these helpful thoughts.

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The Mosque: a playground, a sanctuary, a gathering place.

“A mosque is not simply “a place of worship.”

Asma Akbar addresses the gathering at Central Mosque with these words

With these words Asma Akbar began a moving, honest and insightful talk at the gathering at Manchester Central Mosque at which people of differing faiths and people of goodwill gathered in the face of the horrific terrorist attacks on the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her words helped all present understand the mutual connection between mosques, and the feeling of home attached to them. Asma continued:

“People get married in mosques. They take their children to full-time or part-time schools that are located inside of mosques.

People gather at mosques to celebrate the birth of babies, and to pray over their loved one who have passed away.

Mosques are home to food banks and soup kitchens for those who are struggling in our communities. Our mosques house study circles, and charity events.

We have classes at the mosque, and meals, and meetings. There are libraries inside of mosques.

We grow up in mosques, making too much noise at prayer time, running through the lines of worshippers and climbing on the backs of our parents when they’re prostrating. It’s a playground, a sanctuary, a gathering place.

Mosques have served these purposes in our communities for the past 1400 years.

Our mosques are not just ‘places of worship’ where we bow our heads and then go home. They are our second homes.

Mosques are certainly not perfect places. We have our disagreements and divisions and faults. But if I were to walk into a mosque anywhere in the world, I would feel at home. It doesn’t matter if the people around me speak a language I do not understand – our hearts and limbs and smiles speak one language when we’re standing next to each other.

An attack on a mosque isn’t just an attack on people worshiping. It’s an attack on the very heart and soul of our community. That’s why it hurts so much.

Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”

#NewZealandAttack

Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
To God we belong and to Him we shall return.”

We are very grateful to Asma for allowing us to post her insightful words here on our church blog.

#WeStandTogether

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