Christ Presbyterian is a spiritual incubator, caring for members as we listen for the voice of the Spirit calling us to service.  We affirm that as a spiritual community we seek growth, not perfection, and welcome all in love.  We are hopeful that each of you will form a stronger bond with God and the community of Christ on your journey.

Thought for Contemplation

Jesus’ Self-Portrait – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness” (Matthew 5:3-10). These words offer us a self-portrait of Jesus. Jesus is the Blessed One. And the face of the Blessed One shows poverty, gentleness, grief, hunger, and thirst for uprightness, mercy, purity of heart, a desire to make peace, and the signs of persecution.

The whole message of the Gospel is this: Become like Jesus. We have his self-portrait. When we keep that in front of our eyes, we will soon learn what it means to follow Jesus and become like him.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen


Jesus is Poor

Jesus, the Blessed One, is poor. The poverty of Jesus is much more than an economic or social poverty. Jesus is poor because he freely chose powerlessness over power, vulnerability over defensiveness, dependency over self-sufficiency. As the great “Song of Christ” so beautifully expresses: “He … did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, … becoming as human beings are” (Philippians 2:6-7). This is the poverty of spirit that Jesus chose to live.

Jesus calls us who are blessed as he is to live our lives with that same poverty.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

No Telling What You Might Hear

WHEN A MINISTER reads out of the Bible, I am sure that at least nine times out of ten the people who happen to be listening at all hear not what is really being read but only what they expect to hear read. And I think that what most people expect to hear read from the Bible is an edifying story, an uplifting thought, a moral lesson —something elevating, obvious, and boring. So that is exactly what very often they do hear. Only that is too bad because if you really listen — and maybe you have to forget that it is the Bible being read and a minister who is reading it —there is no telling what you might hear.

Frederick Buechner- Originally published in The Magnificent Defeat

Jesus’ Compassion – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Jesus is called Emmanuel which means “God-with-us” (see Matthew 1: 22-23). The great paradox of Jesus’ life is that he, whose words and actions are in no way influenced by human blame or praise but are completely dependent on God’s will, is more “with” us than any other human being.

Jesus’ compassion, his deep feeling-with us, is possible because his life is guided not by human respect but only by the love of his heavenly Father. Indeed, Jesus is free to love us because he is not dependent on our love.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

Jesus’ Freedom – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Jesus was truly free. His freedom was rooted in his spiritual awareness that he was the Beloved Child of God. He knew in the depth of his being that he belonged to God before he was born, that he was sent into the world to proclaim God’s love, and that he would return to God after his mission was fulfilled. This knowledge gave him the freedom to speak and act without having to please the world and the power to respond to people’s pains with the healing love of God.

That’s why the Gospels say: “Everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all” (Luke 6:19).

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

This is the rule of most perfect Christianity, its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good. For nothing can so make a person an imitator of Christ as caring for [their] neighbors.

-John Chrysostom

Remaking Ourselves
As human beings our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world—that is the myth of the Atomic Age—as in being able to remake ourselves.

Mahatma Gandhi

“The thing about light is that it really isn’t yours; it’s what you gather and shine back. And it gets more power from reflectiveness; if you sit still and take it in, it fills your cup, and then you can give it off yourself.”

Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, 21st century

“…have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.”
― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Drinking the Cup – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

After firmly holding the cups of our lives and lifting them up as signs of hope for others, we have to drink them. Drinking our cups means fully appropriating and interiorizing what each of us has acknowledged as our life, with all its unique sorrows and joys.

How do we drink our cups? We drink them as we listen in silence to the truth of our lives, as we speak in trust with friends about ways we want to grow, and as we act in deeds of service. Drinking our cups is following freely and courageously God’s call and staying faithfully on the path that is ours. Thus our life cups become the cups of salvation. When we have emptied them to the bottom, God will fill them with “water” for eternal life.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

For further reflection …

“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 (NRSV)

The Cup of Life – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

When the mother of James and John asks Jesus to give her sons a special place in his Kingdom, Jesus responds, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Matthew 20:22). “Can we drink the cup?” is the most challenging and radical question we can ask ourselves. The cup is the cup of life, full of sorrows and joys. Can we hold our cups and claim them as our own? Can we lift our cups to offer blessings to others, and can we drink our cups to the bottom as cups that bring us salvation?

Keeping this question alive in us is one of the most demanding spiritual exercises we can practice.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

Sharing Freely Our Knowledge – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Often we think that we do not know enough to be able to teach others. We might even become hesitant to tell others what we know, out of fear that we won’t have anything left to say when we are asked for more.

This mind-set makes us anxious, secretive, possessive, and self-conscious. But when we have the courage to share generously with others all that we know, whenever they ask for it, we soon discover that we know a lot more than we thought. It is only by giving generously from the well of our knowledge that we discover how deep that well is.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

Seeing the Miracle of Multiplication – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundancy mentality. With an abundancy mentality we say: “There is enough for everyone, more than enough: food, knowledge, love … everything.” With this mind-set we give away whatever we have, to whomever we meet. When we see hungry people we give them food. When we meet ignorant people we share our knowledge; when we encounter people in need of love, we offer them friendship and affection and hospitality and introduce them to our family and friends.

When we live with this mind-set, we will see the miracle that what we give away multiplies: food, knowledge, love … everything. There will even be many leftovers.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.

– Matthew 14:19

The godless Galileans feed our poor in addition to their own.

-Roman Emperor Julian
Julian was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363, as well as a notable philosopher and author in Greek.

God’s Generosity – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

God is a god of abundance, not a god of scarcity. Jesus reveals to us God’s abundance when he offers so much bread to the people that there are twelve large baskets with leftover scraps (see John 6:5-15), and when he makes his disciples catch so many fish that their boat nearly sinks (Luke 5:1-7). God doesn’t give us just enough. God gives us more than enough: more bread and fish than we can eat, more love than we dared to ask for.

God is a generous giver, but we can only see and enjoy God’s generosity when we love God with all of our hearts, minds, and strength. As long as we say, “I will love you, God, but first show me your generosity,” we will remain distant from God and unable to experience what God truly wants to give us, which is life and life in abundance.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

For the Sake of Communion

Be subversive for the sake of communion. The theater of the Spirit is peopled with thrilling images of love and mercy in a community centered around a table from which no one is excluded. The images of a subversive Eucharistic table set the political and social agenda for our being in the world.

Alan Jones
Source: Reimagining Christianity

Easter Exultet

Shake out your qualms.
Shake up your dreams.
Deepen your roots.
Extend your branches.
Trust deep water
and head for the open,
even if your vision
shipwrecks you.
Quit your addiction
to sneer and complain.
Open a lookout.
Dance on a brink.
Run with your wildfire.
You are closer to glory
leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.
Not dawdling.
Not doubting.
Intrepid all the way
Walk toward clarity.
At every crossroad
Be prepared
to bump into wonder.
Only love prevails.
En route to disaster
insist on canticles.
Lift your ineffable
out of the mundane.
Nothing perishes;
nothing survives;
everything transforms!
Honeymoon with Big Joy!

James Broughton
Source: Little Sermons of the Big Joy

Losing and Gaining Our Lives – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey
The great paradox of life is that those who lose their lives will gain them. This paradox becomes visible in very ordinary situations. If we cling to our friends, we may lose them, but when we are nonpossessive in our relationships, we will make many friends. When fame is what we seek and desire, it often vanishes as soon as we acquire it, but when we have no need to be known, we might be remembered long after our deaths. When we want to be in the center, we easily end up on the margins, but when we are free enough to be wherever we must be, we find ourselves often in the center.
Giving away our lives for others is the greatest of all human arts. This will gain us our lives.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
For further reflection …
“Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.” – Ecclesiastes 11: 1 (NIV)

Being Sent Into the World – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey
Each of us has a mission in life. Jesus prays to his Father for his followers, saying: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).
We seldom realise fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live. We act as if we were simply plopped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was. Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen

Here’s a great summary of the danger of conflating Church and State.
The Early Christian Church
From Bottom to Top
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
The last great formal persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire ended in AD 303. Ten years later, Christianity was legalized by Constantine I. After this structural change, Christianity increasingly accepted, and even defended, the dominant social order, especially concerning war and money. Morality became individualized and largely sexual. The Church slowly lost its free and alternative vantage point. Texts written in the hundred years preceding 313 show it was unthinkable that a Christian would fight in the army, as the army was killing Christians. By the year 400, the entire army had become Christian, and they were now killing the pagans.
Before AD 313, the Church was on the bottom of society, which is the privileged vantage point for understanding the liberating power of Gospel for both the individual and for society. Overnight the Church moved from the bottom to the top, literally from the catacombs to the basilicas. The Roman basilicas were large buildings for court and other public assembly, and they became Christian worship spaces.
The Christian church became the established religion of the empire and started reading the Gospel from the position of maintaining power and social order instead of experiencing the profound power of powerlessness that Jesus revealed. In a sense, Christianity almost became a different religion! This shift would be similar to reversing the first of the 12 Steps to seek power instead of admitting powerlessness. In this paradigm only the “winners” win, whereas the true Gospel has everyone winning. Calling this power “spiritual” and framing success as moral perfection made this position all the more seductive to the ego and all the more disguised.
The failing Roman Empire needed an emperor, and Jesus was used to fill the power gap, making much of his teaching literally incomprehensible and unhearable, even by good people. The relationships of the Trinity were largely lost as the very shape of God: the Father became angry and distant, Jesus became the needed organizing principle, and for all practical and dynamic purposes the Holy Spirit was forgotten. An imperial system needs law and order and clear belonging systems more than it wants mercy or meekness or transformation.
By the grace of God, saints and holy ones of every century and in every denomination and monastery still got the point, but only if they were willing to go through painful descent–which Catholics call “the way of the cross,” Jesus called “the sign of Jonah,” Augustine called “the paschal mystery,” and the Apostles’ Creed called “the descent into hell.” Without these journeys there’s something essential you simply don’t understand about the very nature of God and the nature of your own soul. You try to read reality from the side of power instead of powerlessness, despite the fact that God has told us (through the image of the Crucified) that vulnerability and powerlessness is the way to true spiritual power. But Christians made a jeweled logo and decoration out of the cross, when it was supposed to be a shocking strategic plan, charting the inevitable path of full transformation into God.
Adapted from Richard Rohr’s Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer, pp. 48-51; and Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, p. 100

Late March
Again the trees remembered
to make leaves.
In the forest of their recollection
many birds returned
They sang, they sang
because they forgave themselves
the winter, and all that remained
still bitter.
Yet it was early spring,
when the days were touch and go,
and a late snow could nip a shoot,
or freeze a fledgling in its nest.
And where would we be then?
But that’s not the point.
Do you think the magpie doesn’t know
that its chicks are at risk,
or the peach trees, their too-frail blossoms,
the new-awakened bees, all that is
incipient within us?
We know, but we can’t help ourselves
any more than they can,
any more than the earth can
stop hurtling through the night
of its own absence.
Must be something in the sap,
the blood, a force like gravity,
a trick called memory.
You name it. Or leave it nameless
that’s better—
how something returns
and keeps on returning
through a gap,
through a dimensional gate,
through a tear in the veil.
And there it is again.
Another spring.
To woo loss into song.

Richard Schiffman
Source: Grey Sparrow Journal (Winter 2015)

Being Sent Into the World – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Each of us has a mission in life. Jesus prays to his Father for his followers, saying: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).

We seldom realise fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live. We act as if we were simply plopped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was. Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

For further reflection …

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes; and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17: 7,8 (NRSV)

Community of Creation

We belong to the community of creation—a phrase that embraces everything God created: every species, human and nonhuman, every living organism in the air or under the water or buried in the dirt. When I encountered the idea of creation as one massive living organism, it made sense to call it ‘community.’ This community is so intertwined and interconnected that, if one part is destroyed, the other parts will be affected.

Sally Bingham
Source: Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation

Dear Friends,
I thought this was apt in light of our Abraham’s Table Discussion about Fasting and Feasting last Sunday.

Ordering Our Desires – from Henri Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey

Desire is often talked about as something we ought to overcome. Still, being is desiring: our bodies, our minds, our hearts, and our souls are full of desires. Some are unruly, turbulent, and very distracting; some make us think deep thoughts and see great visions; some teach us how to love; and some keep us searching for God. Our desire for God is the desire that should guide all other desires. Otherwise our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls become one another’s enemies and our inner lives become chaotic, leading us to despair and self-destruction.
Spiritual disciplines are not ways to eradicate all our desires but ways to order them so that they can serve one another and together serve God.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen

For further reflection …
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.” – Psalm 37: 4-5 (NIV)

The Power I Cannot Explain

The power which I cannot explain or know or name I call God. God is not God’s name. God is my name for the mystery that looms within and arches beyond the limits of my being. When I pray to God, God’s answer comes to me from within, not beyond. God’s answer is yes, not to the specifics of my prayer but in response to my hunger for meaning and peace.

F. Forrester Church
Source: Everyday Miracles

Growing Into Our True Freedom

True freedom is the freedom of the children of God. To reach that freedom requires a lifelong discipline since so much in our world militates against it. The political, economic, social, and even religious powers surrounding us all want to keep us in bondage so that we will obey their commands and be dependent on their rewards.

But the spiritual truth that leads to freedom is the truth that we belong not to the world but to God, whose beloved children we are. By living lives in which we keep returning to that truth in word and deed, we will gradually grow into our true freedom.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

For further reflection …

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3: 17 (NRSV)

God’s Presence

I am a reasonably orthodox Methodist, and I go to church on Sunday because fellowship matters, because I find meaning in the history of the Israelites and in the Gospels, and because I love to sing hymns. But it is not in “God’s house” that I feel God’s presence most—it is in his outdoors, on some sun-warmed slope of pine needles or by the surf. It is there that the numbing categories men have devised to contain this mystery—sin and redemption and incarnation and so on—fall away, leaving the overwhelming sense of the goodness and the sweetness at work in the world.

Bill McKibben
Source: The End of Nature

Reading Spiritually About Spiritual Things

Reading often means gathering information, acquiring new insight and knowledge, and mastering a new field. It can lead us to degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Spiritual reading, however, is different. It means not simply reading about spiritual things but also reading about spiritual things in a spiritual way. That requires a willingness not just to read but to be read, not just to master but to be mastered by words. As long as we read the Bible or a spiritual book simply to acquire knowledge, our reading does not help us in our spiritual lives. We can become very knowledgeable about spiritual matters without becoming truly spiritual people.

As we read spiritually about spiritual things, we open our hearts to God’s voice. Sometimes we must be willing to put down the book we are reading and just listen to what God is saying to us through its words.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

Utter Fullness

If we honor, as Jesus did, the primary role of the Kingdom of God, which is about life radically lived to the full, then resurrection is not so much about the vindication of his death as about the affirmation of a life lived in utter fullness. Resurrection belongs to the life rather than to the death of Jesus. In a similar vein, resurrection is an affirmation and celebration of the fullness of life as exemplified by Jesus and offered as a new horizon of creative engagement for all who follow the pathway of Jesus.

Diarmuid O’Murchu
Source: Catching Up With Jesus

Praying is no easy matter

Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched.

-Henri J.M. Nouwen

Daring to Become Dependent

When someone gives us a watch but we never wear it, the watch is not really received. When someone offers us an idea but we do not respond to it, that idea is not truly received. When someone introduces us to a friend but we ignore him or her, that friend does not feel well received.

Receiving is an art. It means allowing the other to become part of our lives. It means daring to become dependent on the other. It asks for the inner freedom to say: “Without you I wouldn’t be who I am.” Receiving with the heart is therefore a gesture of humility and love. So many people have been deeply hurt because their gifts were not well received. Let us be good receivers.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

Using Our Imagination

I believe our task is to develop a moral and aesthetic imagination deep enough and wide enough to encompass the contradictions of our time and history, the tremendous loss and tragedy as well as greatness and nobility, an imagination capable of recognizing that where there is light there is shadow, that out of hubris and fall can come moral regeneration, out of suffering and death, resurrection and rebirth.

Richard Tarnas

His Living Presence

THE EARLIEST REFERENCE to the Resurrection is Saint Paul’s, and he makes no mention of an empty tomb at all. But the fact of the matter is that in a way it hardly matters how the body of Jesus came to be missing because in the last analysis what convinced the people that he had risen from the dead was not the absence of his corpse but his living presence. And so it has been ever since.

Frederick Buechner – Originally published in The Faces of Jesus

Becoming What We Are

We shall never in this life be simply creative, loving and free. The old opposites in lesser strength will still be with us as long as we live. However, we accept them now with more tolerance of ourselves, with less fret and self-hatred and self-punishment. We die to the old pattern of living in the past and for the past in order to live toward the future and for the future. We trust in a deeper way and we risk in new ways as we lay claim to our essential selves, as we become what we are.

Jesse Trotter
Source: Christian Wholeness

Planting Seeds

There is room for all of us in the resurrection conspiracy, the company of those who plant seeds of hope in dark times of grief or oppression, going about the living of these years until, no one knows quite how, the tender Easter shoots appear.

Robert Raines
Source: A Time to Live

Easter Day

Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!!

The Risen Christ

AS YOU DID IT to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. Just as Jesus appeared at his birth as a helpless child that the world was free to care for or destroy, so now he appears in his resurrection as the pauper, the prisoner, the stranger – appears in every form of human need that the world is free to serve or to ignore. The risen Christ is Christ risen in his glory and enthroned in all this glorious canvas, stained glass, mosaic as Redeemer and Judge. But he is also Christ risen in the shabby hearts of those who, although they have never touched the mark of the nails, have been themselves so touched by him that they believe anyway. However faded and threadbare, what they have seen of him is at least enough to get their bearings by.

Frederick Buechner – Originally published in The Faces of Jesus