Transcendent Peace and Rest

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 4.1-3
1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said…

Reflection: Transcendent Peace and Rest
By  John Tillman

Quarantine experiences vary widely. Some of us are at leisure while some are pushed to work around the clock. Some suffer in boredom and some in financial panic. Some are in danger outside the home at essential jobs and some are in danger in the home from abusers they cannot leave home to avoid.

Despite the variety of our experiences, there is a resource available to believers that the rest of the world cannot tap. It is a type of rest in which the busiest can recharge and a type of refreshment and stimulation unavailable in the most captivating leisure activity. There is a place of peace that those in peril can hold on to. There is security unattainable even by those with stockpiles of resources. Christians can rest in God.

This is a spiritual rest that can exist in the midst of strenuous activity. It is transcendent rest, that is unassailable by physical suffering. It is rest that, although invisible, is as tangible as our next breath.

Hebrews speaks of this rest by referencing the Genesis account. Many commenters note that the end of the seventh day, the day of rest, is not noted as the others are. It has no “morning and evening,” no beginning and no end. God’s “rest” was not intended to end. But for sin, Adam and Eve may have lived in a continual “seventh day” period, experiencing “shalom” or peace with God. 

In Jewish culture, sabbath, or shabbat, and peace, or shalom, are linked. We find shalom within shabbat. We find peace within the sabbath. This weekly illustration was never intended to mean that we can only have peace on one day out of seven. Instead, we can experience God’s peace in every day and any moment. Hebrews tells us that “we who have believed enter that rest.” 

God has made a new day for us to live in. The author of Hebrews and David the psalmist call it “Today.” It is a day of opportunity. This day we choose who we serve, as Joshua said on the banks of the Jordan. God sets before us the Promised Land, the Sabbath rest. 

Israel, when they trusted their strength, failed. So will we. Israel, when they trusted in wealth, caused needless death. So will we. Israel, when they trusted only in God, saw impossibly great walls fall to the ground. So will we.

Trust and enter his rest. Carry his peace with you always.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully. — Psalm 145.19

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 4 (Listen – 2:46)
Hebrews 4 (Listen -2:43)

Read more about A Restoring Sabbath
This post by Dena Dyer from 2019 reminds us of the value of a Sabbath. How are you using the unintentional Sabbath of Quarantine? How are you allowing yourself and your “land” to rest

Read more about Better Things to Do
Amos 8.5-6, 11
When will..the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?
…buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals…

Tabernacling While Quarantined

Scripture Focus: Hebrews 3.6, 13-14
6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory…13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.

John 7.37-39
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

Isaiah 55.1 (the scripture Jesus is quoting in the above passage)
“Come, all you who are thirsty, 
come to the waters; 
you who have no money, 
buy and eat! 
buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

Reflection: Tabernacling While Quarantined
By John Tillman

Hebrews tells us that we are God’s “house” which Jesus has been placed over. The concept is a repeated theme in other New Testament writings (1 Corinthians 3.16; 1 Timothy 3.15). 

No matter what the atmosphere of our quarantine, we can remember that Jesus dwells or “tabernacles” with us. (Leviticus 26.11; Ezekiel 37.27; John 1.14; Revelation 21.3) Whatever suffering we endure, he feels it with us. Whatever joys we experience, he is celebrating with us. 

In John 7, we read of a Feast of Tabernacles celebration during Jesus’ ministry. The Feast of Tabernacles was a reminder to Israel of their dependence on God in the wilderness. It recalled the years of wandering and being a people who dwelled in tents and who worshiped a God who dwelled in tents with them.

Jesus entered this festival secretly. He misled his brothers who did not believe in him, telling them that he would not go. Then he snuck in. He then revealed himself to call attention to elements of the festival that pointed to him.

In particular, Jesus called attention to one new element. Priests would dip water from the pool of Siloam and pour it on the altar in the Temple. This symbolized salvation through the water from the rock in the desert.

In our “tents,” our quarantined homes, we may feel as if we are isolated in the wilderness. Like Israel we long for Egypt. In Egypt they didn’t know thirst. They didn’t know hunger. In the desert, Israel reevaluates Egypt. How bad was the subjugation and slavery really? 

We aren’t enslaved in our vocations in the same way Israel was. Our culture enslaves us with consumerism and greed, among other idols. We hang the carrot in front of ourselves on the treadmill and run ourselves to death. We forget our chains in our longing for chain restaurants. 

In the desert and in the Temple, Israel is offered something better. Water from the rock. The water of life. Jesus stands among us wanting to quench our thirst with Living Water. “Come to me!” Jesus cries. While we are tabernacled with him, take time to drink what he offers.

As with Jesus’ brothers, Jesus may sneak up on us and sneak into our “tabernacle.” Are we aware of him? Are we trusting in him? Will we come to him and drink?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say for ever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 3 (Listen – 1:48) 
Hebrews 3 (Listen -2:25)

Read more about Presence is Precious
Practicing the presence of God means living as a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, making everywhere you set your feet holy ground.

Read more about Prayer, Our Tent of Meeting
Prayer is our tent of meeting, where the deepest thirsts of our souls may be satisfied.

Ennobled by the Incarnation

Scripture Focus: Scripture: Hebrews 2.14-15
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Reflection: Ennobled by the Incarnation
By John Tillman

Jews were accustomed to visitations of God in various categories but Jesus frustrated and overturned their expectations. 

They were used to ambiguous messengers such as the three “men” who visit with Abraham (Genesis 18.16-17) prior to Isaac’s birth and the destruction of Sodom, the “angel” who wrestles with Jacob (Genesis 32.24-30), and the “Commander of the Lord’s Armies” who speaks to Joshua (Joshua 5.13-15). Some interpret these as angels speaking for the Lord but some call them “theophanies” or appearances of God, or even of a pre-incarnate Jesus. 

Other common visitations were supernatural, non-human forms such as the voice from the burning bush (Exodus 3.1-5), Elijah’s whisper (1 Kings 19.12-13), Joel’s image of God riding at the head of columns of locusts (Joel 2.1-11), or God’s voice speaking from the storm to Job (Job 38.1). 

In Hebrews, Jesus is the redeemer Job prophesied would “stand upon the Earth (Job 19.25).” The writers remove ambiguity, proclaiming the humanity and divinity of Jesus without sacrificing either to better explain the other. 

Hebrews systematically elevates Jesus. Jesus is “greater than” is a recurring theme. Jesus is greater than the prophets, greater than angels, greater than Moses, greater than Abraham, greater than Aaron…But despite his preeminence, Jesus comes to us. 

Jesus comes not to condemn our humanity but to share in it. The incarnation is an ennobling epiphany. (Hebrews 1.3; Colossians 1.15-18) Our bodies are not hopeless or meaningless partly because Christ has become one of us.

To the gnostics, the early church had to emphasize that Jesus was not an incorporeal spirit, pretending to have a body. In more modern terms, Jesus is not a spirit-alien wearing a flesh-space-suit. Jesus is the most “real” human to ever have lived. 

Christ’s human “realness” makes the gospel tangible. His defeat of death was not symbolic but actual. Jesus did real things in the real world and calls us to be real human beings who act to benefit our world in real, tangible ways.

Just as Jesus came to us humbly we are commanded to humbly go to others. Just as Jesus was able to live among us we are sent to live among people. Jesus shared in our humanity in order to reach us, so we should share in the humanity of those around us as we walk and serve as his hands and feet on Earth.

How is Jesus calling you to enter and experience the humanity of your community to enact the gospel?

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
That evening they brought him many who were possessed by devils. He drove out the spirits with a command and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He himself bore our sickness away and carried our diseases. — Matthew 8.16-17

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Song of Songs 2 (Listen – 2:15) 
Hebrews 2 (Listen -2:47)

Read more about The Internet as Babel
When you are worshiping them, idols don’t seem religious. They seem immensely practical.

Read more about God Who Speaks
The Jews this text was written to were people accustomed to the idea of a God who spoke. Most religions were not. Most gods don’t speak. But our God does.

Wisdom in Houses of Mourning

Scripture Focus: Ecclesiastes 7.2-4
It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Proverbs 4.7
Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Hebrews 12.1-2
…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…

Reflection: Wisdom in Houses of Mourning
By John Tillman

What happens when a society addicted to activity, distraction, and consumption has every activity canceled, normal distractions displaced, and consumption disrupted? We mourn.

Solomon tells us that there is more wisdom to be gained in a house of mourning than one of celebrating. In some ways, the homes in which we are sheltering have become houses of mourning. We are certainly mourning the frenetic fantasy of fruitfulness that our former schedules gave us. Our economies, both global and personal, were accelerated and everything else was trimmed out so that we could push harder for greater gain. But were we really gaining in the ways that are important? Did we trim out the wrong things? What can we learn from this unexpected experience of mourning? 

Paul writes that we should throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us to run after Jesus, fixing our eyes on him. But in our previous life, pre-COVID-19, did we ever throw off anything to get closer to Jesus? Did we ever lay aside even one entanglement to grow deeper in faith? Did we fix our eyes more intently on Jesus than on our devices, work tasks, and investment portfolios? Did we strip even one thing out of our lives because it interfered with reading the Bible? Did we cancel even one activity in order to make more time to pray?

For the majority of us, the answers to these questions are probably “no.” Many of us may need to confess that what we tossed aside was Jesus, and the entanglement we escaped was the cords of loving-kindness that God sought to guide us by. We limited Jesus, the Bible, and prayer, to “when we have time” as if time was the issue and not our heart.

What if we learned from what we have lost how valuable what we still have is?
What if we, relieved of the burden of physically running from activity to activity, learned to run after Jesus spiritually?
What if we learned to make time with the most important things the most important time in our day?

I think personally we would be blown away by the tangible presence and power of God in our lives.
I think it would be a revelation.
And I think culturally the world would be blown away by the shockingly beautiful things God would call the church to do in the world.
I think it would be a revolution. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. 
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. — Psalm 126.6-7

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 7 (Listen – 3:37) 
2 Timothy 3 (Listen -2:21)

Read more about Prayer Amidst Evil :: Guided Prayer 
The inevitable next tragedy will come. Whether it is the result of unthinking violence, tragic accident, or premeditated and targeted hatred, we turn to God in prayer…

Read more about Fasting from the Feast
Our culture has steadily, for decades, been encouraging us to abstain from spiritual disciplines in favor of activities that we are led to believe are more profitable.

Hours of Prayer

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This past week we have taken some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer to strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer. Tomorrow we return to following the reading plan with a series on the book of James by Jon Polk.

“Praying the hours,” which is also called “fixed-hour prayer,” “daily office,” or “the divine hours” is an ancient practice of prayer in which psalms, other scriptures, and written prayers are prayed according to a set schedule throughout the day at assigned times. It has been continually practiced by faithful Christians for thousands of years.

Reflection: Hours of Prayer
By John Tillman

I grew up in a faith tradition that eschewed “rote” prayer for “spontaneous” prayer. When I discovered the freedom, emotional connection, and expression that was possible in fixed-hour prayer, it was a revelation and a revolution in my spiritual practice. Ruth Haley Barton writes from similar experience in her essay, Sweet Hours of Prayer.

“I was convinced that spontaneous prayers were the only real prayers because they came from the heart; only people who were not very spiritual and did not have much to say to God needed to rely on prayers that were written by someone else!”

In so-called “spontaneous” prayer times of my youth, our leaders and I often fell back on familiar patterns and idiosyncrasies. We knew that deacon so-and-so was going to incessantly repeat, “DearLard,” in a pattern so familiar when it was our turn to pray we inadvertently mimicked him. These repetitions became just as “rote” as reading prayers thousands of years old but less polished and beautiful.

Of course, every prayer, well worded or not, is beautiful and may be heard with joy by our Father, but Barton continues:

“No matter how alone we might feel on any given day, fixed-hour prayer gives all of us a way to pray with the Church even when we are not in a church…This way of praying affirms that we are not alone, that we are part of a much larger reality—the communion of saints that came before us, those who are alive on the planet now, and all who will come after us. In a spiritual sense, praying with the Church through fixed-hour prayer expresses that deeper unity that transcends all our divisions—and that is no small thing.”

*Quotations from, Sweet Hours of Prayer by Ruth Haley Barton.

Another way to pray with us as a community is through our private Facebook group for subscribers to The Park Forum. Its primary purpose is for us to pray and connect as a community. Join us there if you have not yet and leave us a prayer request to pray for you.

You can also pray in community with us by following our prayer feed on the Echo prayer app.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.—Isaiah 1:18

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 11-12 (Listen -11:59)
Hebrews 13  (Listen -3:31)

Thank You!
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Read more about Called to Prayer :: The Angelus
It is not the bell that unites them—it is the spiritual bond of prayer.

Read more about The Cultivating Life
Praying is like watering the soil of your heart so that it doesn’t become hard and dusty and so that the things God plants there can grow.

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