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February 2019


 A Contemplative Exercise for February

 

The following is a possible framework for the Witnessing of the Word. It can be personalised, or altered: its purpose is to serve as an example of how this Saying might be used primarily in the context of a Prayer Group, but it may be used by  individuals if so wished. It is not intended to be definitive.

In the context of a group, the periods of silence should be appropriate for your group - probably not less than 5 minutes, or more than 15 minutes.

 

Saying for the month

“All … is mine … I have chosen you”     Ps 50.12, John 15.16    (NRSV, ISV)

 

To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; become aware of the sounds around you and put them aside; offer this time of prayer to God.


Say this introductory invitation to prayer, then keep a further minute or two of silence:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest"   Matthew 11.28 

 

Introduction to the first silence - a preparation for listening with the mind:

 “All … is mine … I have chosen you”    

In the early books of the Bible we read of the covenant between God and his people - of how he was to dwell among them as a real and continuous presence. Here in Psalm  50 we have a call to his faithful people to honour this covenant. God says, however, “the world and all that is in it, is mine” – there is no sacrifice that we can make to him, no proof of our faithfulness, no thank-offering, that can be other than token -  all that we can give him that is truly our own is a thankful heart.

The words for this Saying consist of two linked verses from two quite different places in the Scripture, but in Deuteronomy 10.14-15 there is another reference which links the two together: “ to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; yet the Lord.. chose.. you above all peoples, as at this day”.

And the chosen people are the Jews, the cradle of the Messiah and therefore God’s instrument of salvation. But this choice is not just made at that time, in that place: we too, as people of faith, have been chosen as part of the divine plan for the re-newal and salvation of the whole created order. Here in the verses from John ch 15 this theme is developed. In the OT, Israel is spoken of as the vine, the vine that so often fails to yield fruit - now Jesus reveals himself as the true vine, the fulfilment of God’s purpose where Israel had failed. And those who believe in him are the branches, which apart from the vine can do nothing, but which, if they abide in the vine, are the bearers of the fruit. 

In this well-known passage, Jesus tells his disciples that he has chosen them, chosen them that they might abide in him and bear fruit: ‘abide in me and my words in you’. The whole emphasis is on the interdependence of God and his people: the wonderful sharing of creation by the creator with the created. What a tremendous privilege - what a responsibility. The whole world and all that is in it belongs to God; and he has chosen us…

We spend some time now in silence, listening to these words – responding by offering ourselves back to God, his own, with thankfulness.

“All ….  is mine …  I have chosen you”    


A time is now kept for silence of the mind - between 5 and 15 minutes

 

The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or repeat the Saying:

 Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word.

 “All ….  is mine …  I have chosen you”  


Introduction to the second silence - a preparation for listening with the heart:

 “All ….  is mine …  I have chosen you”  

What a contrast, between the wonderful creation that is God’s and the smallness of each one of us. If you walk in the forest near my home at this time of year, or even walk around the garden, one is conscious of a stirring of activity in so many living things – the plants (and weeds!) beginning to grow, insects gradually emerging, the birds beginning to nest and thinking about producing young: things are beginning to buzz. One feels sometimes like a very small part of an immense and complex living system. But we also realise that each element in the system is of crucial importance: from the pollenating insects to the huge oak and beech trees, hundreds of years old.  And that it is these individual components that form the structure upon which the whole of creation turns. And not just in the eco-systems, but in the realm of humanity – it is upon the faithfulness of each individual, of each branch of each vine, that the harvest depends.

I was talking recently to someone who asked how I saw God. I was rather daunted but simply suggested she imagine someone to whom she was of the utmost importance, someone to whom she mattered more than anything else: that, and more than even she could imagine, was God. We see ourselves as so small a part in the immensity of the world, but God tells us that we are part of his creation and, even more, that he chooses us to be the recipients of his care and concern.

And what has he chosen us for? To praise him, worship him, love him, serve him, certainly. And to reflect back to him the God-like qualities of his creation – think of the story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz. It is a wonderful story, partly because everyone in the tale behaves in a God-like way to one another. He chooses us to fulfil our highest potential as human beings. 

And more than anything, it is our response that matters to him – we listen to him, we have a conversation with him just as we would with any human being in whose presence we delight and who delights in us. Think how annoying it is when you’re talking with someone and they keep looking off over your shoulder to see whose eye they can catch, or when they are obviously bored and have lost interest in what you’re saying.  Today in our group we’re here to listen; to give him our full and loving attention. How few people really listen to you - you can see them wanting to chip in with their next thought. How seldom do we really listen to others – we have our own agenda which we want to get over. We have to commit ourselves to listening to God – and it’s hard work. Someone once said to me when I spoke of a contemplative prayer group ‘I don’t hold with that – it’s a cop out’. I just don’t agree – it’s not my experience. Rather I have found that there is no joy like really working at it, allowing yourself to listen attentively to God’s word, to be completely open to it - allowing yourself to ‘float like a feather on the breath of God’ (Hildegarde of Bingen)

“All ….  is mine …  I have chosen you”   

 

A time is now kept for silence of the heart - between 5 and 15 minutes

 

Conclude the silence with a short thanksgiving and/or repeat the Saying:

 Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us.

“All ….  is mine …  I have chosen you”    


Introduction to the time of intercession – we use our will to reflect God’s Word outwards.

“All …. is mine …  I have chosen you”    

 We may wish to use this Saying in intercession for individuals considering ministry or a vocation; for those who doubt their own worth and have little self-esteem; for those with great responsibilities; .....

Say the name of a person or a group of people, and after a short pause, repeat the saying.


Conclude the time of intercession with words of thanksgiving: 

Father, we thank you that your Word has gone out through us to those for whom we pray.

 

Use the Fellowship Prayer or another closing prayer to conclude your time of contemplative prayer.

 

Loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your unsearchable riches which pour forth from you as light from the sun, in boundless profusion and generosity, whether received, ignored or rejected. And now we offer to you, in so far as we are able, as an emptiness to be filled with your divine fullness, ourselves, our souls and bodies; all that we are, all that we have and all that we do. Amen

 

 You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.  

 

                                                                  This month's exercise was contributed by CO