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BECOMING APOSTLES

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money — not even an extra tunic . . . They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere (Luke 9: 1-6).

If we’re willing to listen, I believe this passage of Scripture can teach us a good deal about how we should approach Advent. For most of us, accustomed to succeeding through diligent preparation, Jesus’ suggestion that the disciples “take nothing” seems a little odd. We wonder why Jesus did not want the disciples to bring along a few supplies, a little extra cash, or some snacks.

First, I think the answer lies in understanding the context. In this passage, for the first time, Jesus inaugurates the notion of what it means to be an apostle. (That word comes to us from the Greek apóstolos, which translates as “one who is sent out.”) Thus, following Christ will require that they leave their rabbi behind and start on their own journey.

It will require the same of us. No longer would the disciples simply stand around and watch Jesus’ miracles and ministry. Jesus taught them, as he teaches us, that the Christian life is not a spectator sport.

So, why would Jesus send his disciples, his friends, out without any tools, equipment or provisions? I don’t think Jesus wanted the disciples to be unprepared. I think rather that Jesus was telling them, “None of that stuff is what you need. In fact, it will only get in your way.” The disciples needed to trust that God would give them everything they needed to do the work he wanted them to do. When they learned to use God’s resources, rather than their own, they were capable of far more than they imagined.

That’s not a bad notion for us to carry forward into our journey through the season of Advent. We will need to leave a lot of stuff behind. Mostly, we’ll need to leave behind the illusion of self-reliance that we’ve come to accept. We need to learn to trust God and trust that God will give us the tools for His work. We may also need to leave behind our notion of who we are, and what we’re capable of doing. The real question we should ask during Advent is, Where is God sending us, and what can He accomplish through our lives?

– by James R. Dennis a novice in the Anglican Order of Preachers, (Dominicans). He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, San Antonio, Texas.

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Advent Reflections 2011 – Week 1
November 27, 2011

We are very familiar with the concept of waiting when it comes to Advent…we know we are supposed to be anticipating the birth of Jesus and preparing for his re-birth in our lives…but what happens if we turn that around…what if we look at Advent as a time of Jesus waiting for me…waiting for me to give up my preoccupations, my worries, my unnecessary anxieties…how would this “turn-around” change my approach to Advent this year?

Jesus is a patient wait-er ..? Jesus as servant longs to be servant to me…waiting to fulfill my every need…if I would only allow him to be that in my life….or is it that I need to be in such control that the thought of Jesus waiting upon me seems so foreign? Allowing Jesus to wait on me would be to admit that I am in need of something I cannot provide for myself…I open myself up in vulnerability to the infant vulnerable one….I open my door to the One waiting at my door…knocking, eager to be invited into my crowded life….Can the call to advent be really a call to simply BE…to revel in the knowledge that my God is waiting for me to recognize his presence, to accept his love for me, to say “yes” to the miracle of rebirth, to speak his name with courage, to tell his story, to follow in true discipleship.

God is waiting for me to become as simple as the shepherds, as wise as the magi, as brave as Joseph, as open as Mary…God gives me this time each year to become the best I can be….and waits year after year for me to wake up and see the star…and then to follow it…

As this new Advent season begins, I ask for the grace to respond to all that the Lord calls me to be. May I take more precious time to be present to my God who waits for me with open arms!

– Sister Marie Paul Gretch, Sisters of Notre Dame

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Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!” Amen.

– Henri Nouwen

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Blessing for Waking

This blessing could
pound on your door
in the middle of
the night.

This blessing could
bang on your window,
could tap dance
in your hall,
could set a dog loose
in your room.

It could hire a
brass band
to play outside
your house.

But what this blessing
really wants
is not merely
your waking
but your company.

This blessing
wants to sit
alongside you
and keep vigil
with you.

This blessing
wishes to wait
with you.

And so
though it is capable
of causing a cacophany
that could raise
the dead,

this blessing
will simply
lean toward you
and sing quietly
in your ear
a song to lull you
not into sleep
but into waking.

It will tell you stories
that hold you breathless
till the end.

It will ask you questions
you never considered
and have you tell it
what you saw
in your dreaming.

This blessing
will do all within
its power
to entice you
into awareness

because it wants to
to be there,
to bear witness,
to see the look
in your eyes
on the day when
your vigil is complete
and all your waiting
has come to
its joyous end.

– Jan Richardson at The Advent Door

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“As the days grow short,
some faces grow long.
But not mine.
Every Autumn,
when the wind turns cold
and darkness comes early,
I am suddenly happy.
It’s time to start making soup again.”
– Leslie Newman

“Soup puts the heart at ease,
calms down the violence of hunger,
eliminates the tension of the day,
and awakens and refines the appetite.”
-Auguste Escoffier

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For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Thanksgiving

I have been trying to read
the script cut in these hills—
a language carved in the shimmer of stubble
and the solid lines of soil, spoken
in the thud of apples falling
and the rasp of corn stalks finally bare.

The pheasants shout it with a rusty creak
as they gather in the fallen grain,
the blackbirds sing it
over their shoulders in parting,
and gold leaf illuminates the manuscript
where it is written in the trees.

Transcribed onto my human tongue
I believe it might sound like a lullaby,
or the simplest grace at table.
Across the gathering stillness
simply this: “For all that we have received,
dear God, make us truly grateful.”

~ Lynn Ungar ~

(Blessing the Bread)

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Thank You, thank You, thank You, generous God!

You have injected life with joy, thus we know laughter.

You have dabbed creation with color, thus we enjoy beauty.

You have whistled a divine tune into the rhythm of life, thus we hear music.

You have filled our minds with questions, thus we appreciate mystery.

You have entered our hearts with compassion, thus we experience faith.

Thank You, God, Thank You. Thank You!

– C. Welton Gaddy

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1. It’s important to dot our lives with unscheduled as well as scheduled feast days. That way we remember that we are able to make joy as well as to expect it. Or as Lin Yutang, the Chinese philosopher put it: “Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks.”

2. Food and feasting are the things that remind us of the unending glory, the limitless love, of God. Voltaire said of it: “Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”

3. A Jewish proverb teaches us that “Worries go down better with soup.” Treating food as a sacrament rather than a necessity reminds us that, in the end, there is always more good in life than bad. The trick is to notice it.

4. To love good food is a measure of our love of life. Food preparation teaches us to do everything we can to make life palatable, spicy, comforting, full of love.

5. Sitting down to a meal with the family—table set, food hot, salad fresh, water cold, dishes matched and food served rather than speared—may be the very foundation of family life in which we celebrate our need for one another. The loss of the family feast may do more to loosen the family bonds than any other single dimension of family life.

6. One purpose of feasting is to get back in touch with the earth that sustains us, to glorify the God that made it and to pledge ourselves to save the land that grows our food.

7. In this country, we are conditioned to think that taking time to eat together, to make a meal an event rather than an act, takes time from the important things of life. That may be exactly why we are confused now about what the important things of life really are. “Happiness,” Astrid Alauda writes, “is a bowl of cherries and a book of poetry under a shade tree.”

8. Good food is the hallmark of every season: fresh fruit in summer, roasted chestnuts in the fall, warm bread in winter, oyster stew in the spring. Leslie Newman says of it. “As the days grow short, some faces grow long. But not mine. Every autumn, when the wind turns cold and darkness comes early, I am suddenly happy. It’s time to start making soup again.” Good food is the sacrament of life everlasting.

9. Food doesn’t have to be exotic to be wonderful. Peasant societies give us some of the best meals ever made. It is always simple, always the same—and always different due to the subtle changes of sauce and cooking style that accompany it. As the Polish say: “Fish, to taste right, must swim three times—in water, in butter and in wine.”

10. To be feasted is to be loved outrageously.

– Joan Chittister

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“Thankfulness
brings you to the place
where the Beloved lives.”

– Rumi