This month's contemplative exercise


A Contemplative Exercise for October 2017

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 in the context of a Prayer Group, and it is not intended to be definitive.

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

"I have created humankind... he shall build my city"   Isaiah 45.12-13


To begin the exercise, spend a little time in relaxation and preparing to be still.


Say this introductory invitation to the time of prayer, to be followed by a minute or two of silence:

Matthew 11.28 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest"

 

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

As explored in the contemplative exercise for September, the words "I AM understanding" from Proverbs 8.14 emphasise the 'under-standing, or standing under' nature of God. They recognise the link between Divine Wisdom and the human gift of empathy - feeling with, and giving support to, a fellow human being. This understanding nature of God is particularly revealed in the book of Isaiah: judgement and forgiveness are both dispensed, warnings of punishment go hand in hand with infinite love and tenderness.

In this chapter of Isaiah, we are reminded yet again of God's love for his people - the people made by him expressly to inhabit the world he has created. There are constant reassurances: "I will go before you" (v2); "I call you by name" (v4); "I gird you, though you do not know me" (v5). Throughout it all God declares again and again "I am the Lord, and there is no other": he is the God who made humankind in his image, to love and be loved by the creator. The people have been weak and rebellious and have suffered much, but in these middle chapters of the book of Isaiah, comfort and forgiveness and infinite love are promised to them. Gradually the new theme begins to unfold - God's plan to open the eyes of the whole world and bring salvation to all humankind. This purpose will ultimately be fulfilled, not through the nation alone but through the one who will be God's true servant.

The rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple is promised (44.28) and the assurance is that from the destruction and devastation of the exile will rise a new city. The building of the new Jerusalem, upon which the people's hopes were fixed, is in fact only a finite step in God's plan for his world and his people - the gathering into One of the whole of creation.

(In the Sayings section of the website - under 'Some Sayings to use' - you will find a commentary on this month's saying, pursuing this theme.)

We spend our first silence listening to the Saying with our minds. We have 'ploughed up the ground'; now we allow these words to sink into the prepared soil...

"I have created humankind... he shall build my city"   

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

 

Conclude by repeating the Saying, and /or with a short thanksgiving:

"I have created humankind... he shall build my city"  

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word 


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

The prophet Isaiah has the ability to see what is happening to the people in his own time as the embodiment and working out of principles which are for all times and for all peoples. As we read and study Scripture, we try to appreciate what the words meant in their particular place and time, but we also try to see their relevance to us in our own context.

One of the wonders of our creation and our search to understand its workings is the contrast between the immensely vast and the infinitesimally small. Never have we been so aware of this as in the modern world, as the boundaries of the universe are pushed further and further away. Hand in hand with this, modern particle physics tells us of the quarks that are held together by gluons, together making up protons and neutrons; of the electron, held to the nucleus by an electro magnetic force. Forces hold the individual components of the atom together: if the atom is split apart, then all the energy contained in the system is released, and in vast quantities - we only have to think of the enormity of nuclear catastrophes to appreciate this.

To the particle physicist, 'all reality is interaction'. We, as humankind, are also held together in a complex creation, each with our own crucial part to play within our own sphere of activity. We are created by God to inhabit the earth (45.12, 18), although as individuals we may feel insignificant and sometimes rather pointless. But we are each a part of this extraordinarily complex creation of "light and darkness, weal and woe" (45.7), each known by God, called by name, girded up. The energy which binds us together is sufficient to make straight God's ways and build his city - can we release in ourselves the power and energy of the Word, which is Spirit and Life? That is the charge that is laid upon us....

In our second time of silence we contemplate this Word, allowing its power to penetrate our hearts and begin to do its work.

"I have created humankind... he shall build my city"   

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


Conclude by repeating the Saying, and /or with a short thanksgiving:

 "I have created humankind... he shall build my city"   

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

 

Introduction to the time of intercession:

 In a time of intercession, we bring into the silence humankind in all its varied states, naming those who are of particular and near concern to us. Speak aloud the name or situation for whom the prayer is offered; after a moment of silence, repeat the saying - let the words flow through you, and the members of the group, to the person/people for whom you pray.

We may wish to name individuals whose lives are in need of rebuilding; institutions, national and international; the desperately poor and those suffering devastation of their homes though war or natural disaster.

"I have created humankind... he shall build my city"   

Conclude 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, our selves, our souls and bodies ; all that we are, all that we have and all that we do in your service. Amen

 You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.

                                                                                                                     This month's exercise was contributed by CO

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