Local Missions Week 1

Readings for this week July 25 – 29
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – Sharing the Table Together

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 12:9-13

“[I]t remains my conviction that the table is sacred space and that what we do there is spiritually significant….What we do at the table expresses most tangibly what we believe, what we value and how we understand ourselves in relation to the world around us….eating is a social and political act of profound consequence, one that expresses tangibly our community identity and citizenship. And as one of the most routine activities of life – one that marks the rhythm and flow of every day – eating is embedded at the heart of what it means to be human.” (From Eating Heaven, Simon Carey Holt)

“When we gather around the table and break the bread together, we are transformed not only individually but also as community. We, people from different ages and races, with different backgrounds and histories, become one body. As Paul says: “As there is one loaf, so we, although there are many of us, are one single body, for we all share in the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:17). Not only as individuals but also as community we become the living Christ, taken, blessed, broken, and given to the world. As one body, we become a living witness of God’s immense desire to bring all peoples and nations together as the one family of God.” – Henri Nouwen

Questions to Consider
Who could you invite to share your table that you haven’t invited before? Who could you share with this week? Today? A hot drink and a chat may be all that’s needed. Ask God to help you think of someone, then go to it.

Prayer
Loving Father, may my table be a place where people can meet and eat together. May my house become known in my neighbourhood as a house of hospitality. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Transformative Eating

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 10

“Peter was giving up his lifelong foodways–tantamount to his very identity–for the sake of Christ, unifying himself with those whom he’d always regarded as unclean.” (From Eat with Joy, Marie Stone):

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him – the people who give you their food give you their heart.” – Cesar Chavez

“The common meal forces us to pull our convictions down from the clouds of abstraction and work them out together in our very specific context.”

“Maybe by recovering the ancient formative practice of the common meal, our churches can bear witness to the possibilities of diverse and peaceable conversations in a deeply fragmented culture.”

(Both quotes from Slow Church, C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison)

“Perhaps the reason why we attach so much importance to sitting down to table together is that table fellowship is one of the realities of the Kingdom of God.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Questions to Consider
What are some of the most memorable times you have had sharing a meal with others? What friendships have started over a meal? How often do you eat with strangers? Why is it so important that we share our table with others?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, your kingdom is for all people. If there’s a place for me, there’s a place for anyone. Help me welcome the stranger, the ‘unclean’, and the enemy to my table. Thank you for your love and acceptance of all. May I model it in all I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Shattering Our Illusions of Community

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realise it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great general disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but a God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community, the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp.15-16)

Questions to Consider
What illusions of community have you let go of? How has your community grown and strengthened as people have let go of their illusions?

Prayer
Lord God, puncture my illusions of myself, of others and of the community I think should be. Help me cling to your vision of community, in all its messiness and exuberance and inclusivity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A Place for All to Share Their Gifts

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4: 10

Citizens create satisfaction by recognising their individual capacities and skills. We begin to see that the neighbourhood is a treasure chest. By opening the chest and putting the gifts together in many different ways, we multiply the power of its riches.

A competent community builds on the gifts of its people. It knows that a gift is not a gift until it is given. Before it is given, it is only a beautifully wrapped box in a drawer. It is a capacity held in exile. Gifts need to be named and exchanged, not only to create a competent community, but also to create a functioning family. This is a family that has discovered its capacity to produce for itself, together with a competent community, all that is required for a truly good life, a satisfying life.

The tragedy of a dysfunctional family or neighbourhood is that the potential gifts of its members are never given. The paradox is that in the midst of this, we can hold skills that are useful to systems but never find the satisfaction of turning our skills into the gifts that are so needed by our family or neighbour […]

When we decide to build a competent, functional community, we do not need to be divided by differences. In focusing on gifts, we get beneath them, or above them, to something more foundational where people can find common ground. We don’t put people outside our value system; we include them in it. We speak to their gifts, rather than their differing values. (John McKnight and Peter Block, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods, pp.70-71)

Questions to Consider
What skills and gifts do you have? How are you using and sharing these gifts with your neighbours? How can you help your neighbours share their gifts in your community?

Prayer
Loving Father, may my gifts, given to me by you for your glory, be given to others and not left wrapped in the drawer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Slow Work of God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 2 Peter 3:9

Trust in the Slow Work of God

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are quite naturally impatient in everything

to reach the end without delay.

We would like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way

to something unknown,

something new.

And yet, it is the law of all progress

that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability –

and that it may take a very long time.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing

that his hand is leading you,

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself

in suspense and incomplete.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God,

our loving vine-dresser.

-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Questions to Consider
What evidence of the slow work of God have you experienced in your life? In your community?

Prayer
Almighty God, community takes time. You took your time with your people as they grew, moulding them, shaping them patiently, even when they resisted. Give me strength and love for those around me, and give them patience for when they are waiting for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)