Way of Love: Pray

We began our bible study with a prayer, in the form of what we know in The Episcopal Church as a Collect. A Collect is a prayer to God which calls us together around a common intention, offered in the name of Christ. Last year, we worked to write a Collect for our bible study group, Faith from the Margins to the Web. We prayed this together, and reflected on the way in which our lives are shaped by prayer:

Gracious God who is made known to your people through your incarnate Word, we ask your prayers for those who study, reflect, and share your good news through Faith from the Margins to the Web. Be present in every conversation and through your Holy Spirit, carry the good news to all those who yearn to hear. Be known to us in each other across the divides of this world through sharing the eternal words given to us in the life of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Each member of the group took a turn reflecting on the role of prayer in our lives:

Jamillah:

“I pray at home and in church; in church I pray to the Lord to show me things. At home, I pray with my hands folded before I do to bed. I think of words, you know, I’m actually studying the bible and I put my head down and pray and see what words come to me.”

Paulette:

“I pray anywhere and everywhere. I pray before I eat my food, to bless my food and to bless me. I could be walking along the street and things just hit you and sometimes, you know, you end up praying right there in the middle of the street.

I go to the park sometimes where I can be isolated from people, to get myself concentrating. I sometimes pray with my head down and my hands folded and sometimes I just speak to God like I was talking to my friend. I pray for safety, my health, my strength and for finance. I pray to keep all harm and all danger away from me. I just pray all the time; whenever I feel I need prayer I pray. Amen!”

David:

“Prayer to me is a cleansing. I’m a silent prayer. I might, you know, I might have to get to the point where I break down and then I get silent and that is when I really pray, pouring out myself.”

Marvin:

“I just pray to God like I’m talking to a friend. Just talk to Him, you know, and the Holy Spirit offers me feedback. There’s no specific time or place to pray, you just pray whenever you think about it. I was trying to think of a simple way to put it: you’re getting ready to do something and you know that maybe it’s a problem and all of a sudden you here, “hey hey, don’t do that.” You know, that is also prayer. That’s when I know that God is also talking to me. “

Arthur:

“I pray every morning and every night. That’s the way I was come up in Church to do, every morning and every night. My day say that everything would be alright if you do that. And you know, that’s right. When I keep with that it seems to me that things have a way of working out, or for me understanding them.”

Mrs. P

“I pray constantly. There is always something going on my life with my kids or my grandkids. So you know, I just realize that I pray all the time. Not always for me. But I love them so I pray for them. Anywhere and everytime, I pray a prayer. Pray when I’m happy, pray when I’m sad. Pray all the time.”

Sarah

“I sing; it’s how I most love to pray…there’s this saying that “those who sing pray twice” and for me that is true. There are some chants I sing every day, and sometimes it a song or a hymn that comes into my mind. There are other ways I pray, too. But my soul feels deeply connected to God when I sing.”

Gifts We Have Been Given

A Faith from the Margins to the Web bible study interview for Epiphany, Year B:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Matthew 2:1-12

 

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

 

`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

 

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

 

Contributing Authors: Lynnette and Davis

After opening with a prayer, Davis and Lynnette took turns reading the Gospel lesson for Epiphany

Davis: “We’ve heard the Christmas message many times, haven’t we?” He went on to paraphrase the Gospel, emphasizing that for him there is such wide-spread recognition of the importance of this child. On the world’s terms, is he a threat or a great ruler? To Herod, he’s a threat. But to the Magi, there were something more that they were following: “The whole idea is they came from halfway around the world and left him treasures…what do you think all that means, for us?”

Lynnette was quiet, then laughed a bit and said: “I think maybe I need to start going to church more!”

“Don’t we all!” Davis chuckled in response.

Sometimes it can seem, from the corners of our world and the social margins that we are on that we don’t know enough, or aren’t spiritual enough, or aren’t something enough to be entrusted with how the Holy Scriptures open up to us.  But that isn’t how it is with God, present with us throughout time and in every corner of our lives, revealing truth that is in our midst.  It was Lynnette who seemed to experience that Epiphany unfolding in the thoughtful, deliberate response that she offered up next:

Lynnette thoughtfully reflected; “Well, if Jesus and God…the Lord…are the same person and Jesus was formed through his mother…well it seems to me that none of us would be here if it weren’t for God, as well as our mothers and fathers.”

Lynette continued, “So, that makes me think that I have to give thanks to God; I pray every night to God and then I’m thankful in the morning when I wake up. I didn’t have to wake up…but I did wake up, so that gives the day a whole new possibility.”

Davis nodded, “That’s a really good way to live; a great way to look at it, really. Every day we wake up and we realize that if it weren’t for God, we wouldn’t be here.”

Lynette spoke again, “God is good, all the time.  I pray to God, and I realize God shows me the way, too. Like today, I woke up and saw that it was a beautiful day. I knew I had to get up, to put me on a smile, to get here to this place. I mean, I know that it isn’t something I can take for granted, you know.  There was a time and place when I thought I was going to die, when they said I needed a transplant. But I knew, I knew that I didn’t have to live that way, that if I kept taking medicine and started taking care of myself it would work. I believed that, and I believed that was God telling me that.  And it has worked out, and that is why I thank God and why I come here.”

Lynnette also reflected about the gift of her family.  “I have three boys; I worry about my kids sometimes but they have their own lives and they are on the right track!”

Davis asked their ages, and was surprised when he heard her children were in their 40’s, “You look like you’re younger than that!”

Lynnette laughed, “I do hear that a lot.  But it’s true.  They are good boys; they grew up with me and I tried to be a good Mama. I taught them good manners, and to have a spirit of love. My own parents raised me right and taught me how to walk the right ways of this life, too, and so I pass that on.”

Davis smiled at her and said, “It seems like Spirit has been in your life for a long time.”

Lynnette said, “Well, maybe I don’t know a lot, but I do know that God is with me.”

“Does God ever speak to you?” wondered Davis.

“You know one day, I heard someone say my name, plain as day. I thought ‘is that God?’” But I didn’t have to wonder. I remembered my Momma telling me, when you talk to God, He listens. So I take the time, take that time now to just talk to Him. I tell God my heart.”

Davis asked, “So, is there anything in here that we learned and we want to tell God?   The take home of this Gospel for me is that this ends up being the way that we celebrate Christmas: we give Christmas gifts…”

Lynnette added, “…and we give love…”

“Right!” said Davis. “We end up re-enacting the scene of Jesus being born, and the Three Kings are always there, giving gifts. It’s like we keep it going.  I want to be thankful for that gift of Jesus’ birth and the ways that we keep celebrating it.”

David and Lynnette shared about how each of their churches have celebrated Christmas over the years. A sense of welcome and giving emerged in their sharing, the commonality of love as the expression of Christian faith surrounded them.

Davis began to wrap up their conversation: “So, since we know that God is here right now, what would you tell God…what would you say…can we just talk right here, to God?”

Lynette chimed in immediately. “Of course we can!  I would.  I’d tell Him I love Him!”

Lynnette started their prayer with that: “I love you, God! Thank you for waking me up in the morning. Thank you for letting me be here. I love you God, and I learned more about You today, Lord and mighty God, through my friend Davis here.  Thank you for being with us.”

Then Davis prayed:

“God I thank you for Lynnette. She reminds me that you are always here. Sometimes I don’t pause enough to give you thanks. But, thank you for being here with us today. Thank you for allowing us to share together today. Thank you for reminding me of your loving presence, here with us today.”

Thank you, Lynnette and Davis, for the gift of your sharing and the light it brings to open this season of Epiphany. And than you, most of all, to God for the gift of your presence of love with us today and always.