Recalling the Failures

John 21.17-19
He said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep….Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Reflection: Recalling the Failures
By John Tillman

There are many meanings of the word recall.

Industries recall products that are flawed, defective, or dangerous. Employees and representatives can be recalled from their positions when they have an embarrassing failure.

At this reflective time of year we, individually and collectively, recall both good memories and bad. We tend to focus on the bad.

Christ sees more failure in us than even we know, yet he re-calls us—he calls us to himself again, and again, and again. Christ re-calls the failures.

It is not just Peter who is reinstated in the last chapter of John’s gospel and our last reading of this year. Other disciples who failed famously are there—Thomas who doubted, Nathanael the cynical elitist, the power hungry sons of Zebedee. These confused and doubtful disciples are going back to the familiar when they are met by a familiar face on the shore.

Once in a parable, Jesus said, “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead,” and he meant it. One thing that rings so true about the gospel accounts is that the disciples are slow to believe and understand what has happened, even after seeing Jesus alive.

The resurrected Jesus is patient with them, staying around, appearing to the disciples over and over. He slowly and lovingly works to overcome their doubts and fears and reissue his call on their lives. And he is lovingly patient with us as well.

Christ’s message of reinstatement is for all of us. He doesn’t see our failures as the world sees them.

The world calls us a bad debt. Jesus redemptively reinvests in us.
The world sees us as the sum of our shortcomings. Jesus adds himself to our equation and calls us to our eternal future.
The world wants to put us back in our place after failure. Jesus comes to us with a second (third, fourth, fifth…) calling.
The world wants us to compare our calling to others. Jesus rejects comparisons and personally invites us to a unique path.

The failures of the past year, or any year, are not our end, but our beginning. Jesus brings hope to our aftermath. Hope amidst our confusion. Jesus speaks calm and welcoming words to the anger prone. He feeds the weary and hungry. He comforts the hurting and troubled. He washes away the doubts of the disbelieving.

Jesus has a following—a following of failures. Join us, won’t you?

*When looking back at your year, do so with insight into your failures from the Holy Spirit, but also with his redemptive grace and love. The Prayer of Examen is a wonderful tool of reflective prayer. We recommend it daily or weekly. But the practice can be adapted to review this year in the light of God’s grace. For more information about the prayer, follow this link. Take your time in an examen prayer, especially when reviewing a long period. Set aside time this evening or tomorrow to spend in this practice.

Prayer: The Greeting
Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there! They will be satisfied by the beauty of your house, by the holiness of your temple. — Psalm 65:4

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Malachi 4 (Listen – 1:06)
John 21 (Listen – 3:58)

Tomorrow’s Readings (Happy New Year!)
Genesis 1 (Listen – 4:55)
Matthew 1 (Listen – 3:29)

Additional Reading
Read More about Prayer for Busy People
Central to the practice of healthy, gospel-centered prayer is the awareness of God’s presence in and around our lives. The Prayer of Examen, was designed to be prayed even when the necessities of life made other forms of prayer impossible.

Read More about The Beautiful Feet of Lepers
This is the gospel—that terrorists can be healed and saved and the rejects of society can bring the news of salvation and the testimony of victory unimaginable to their city.

How far will you travel in God’s Word this year?
On January 1st we restart our two year Bible reading plan in Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew. Join us on the journey. We read the Old Testament over two years and the New Testament and Psalms each year.

Read with us at a sustainable pace. Subscribe and invite friends to join you using this link.

Where will a journey through the Bible take your faith in the coming year? Jesus calls each of us, saying, “Follow me.”

Support our Work
End of Year giving and monthly giving each play a large part in keeping The Park Forum ad-free and helping us to be able to continue producing fresh content.
Support the spiritual development of thousands of readers, feeding Christ’s sheep across the world, by making a donation today or joining our monthly donors.

Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer

John 18.23
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”

Reflection: Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Making Jesus known will lead to suffering and rejection. As the world investigates Jesus in our lives, we can expect the same treatment that Jesus received. May we do so, knowing that he is with us in all our suffering.

A Prayer for the Truth

“Who is it you want?” — John 18.4

Jesus, you are the king, the gift, and the truth that the world does not want.

When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. — John 18.5

The simple revelation of who you are causes even your enemies to fall to the ground.

You refuse to be who politicians want to make you.
You refuse to be who the religious elite want to make you.
You refuse to be who even your closest disciples want to make you.

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” — John 18.11

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” — John 18.23

We must not expect, Lord, better treatment than our master. We will be struck for speaking your truth.

“The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. — John 18.37-38

The world’s powers reject even the existence of truth. Much less your truth, Lord.

“My kingdom is not of this world…my kingdom is from another place.” — John 18.36

Remind us, Lord, that we are not of this world.
Its systems are not ours to run.
Its wealth is not ours to spend.
Its power is not ours to grasp.
Its wisdom is not ours to claim.
Its kings are not our sovereigns.

We are sent into the world, Lord, as you were.
Not to join it. But to confront it.
Not to lead it. But to serve it.
Not to enslave it. But to liberate it.
To call out from it those who will come to your truth.

We need your protection, Lord…
So that we may do as you commanded Peter, and put away our swords.
We need your power, Lord…
So that we may overcome evil not with the evils of corrupt power, but with the goodness that comes of taking up our cross and following you.

Remind us, Lord, that this world is not our home to defend, but it is the world you died for and we can expect to do no differently.

*On December 28, Christians around the world remember with sorrow the slaughter of the male infants of Bethlehem. They were killed for the same reasons many children die today. They were killed that those in power could remain in power—for economic and political convenience. They were killed to prevent justice and truth from coming.

Justice came to Herod anyway. And justice will come to the powerful who remain callous to the deaths of the innocent, in no matter what age they live. As this weekend’s reading from Malachi testifies: “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Prayer: A Reading
Herod was furious on realizing that he had been fooled by the wise men…a voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping betterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are not more. — Matthew 2:16-18

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Malachi 1 (Listen – 2:47)
John 18 (Listen – 5:16)

This Weekend’s Readings
Malachi 2 (Listen – 3:12) John 19 (Listen – 6:23)
Malachi 3 (Listen – 3:13) John 20 (Listen – 4:17)

Additional Reading
Read More about What is Truth?
Christ’s kingdom does not depend, as earthly kingdoms too often do, upon craft, policy, and duplicity. The Master tells us that the main force and power of his kingdom lies in the truth. — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Read More about The Trap of Being Offended
There’s no gunshot like conviction,
There’s no conscience bulletproof,
There’s no strength like our own weakness,
There’s no insult like the truth. — Charlie Peacock

Support our Work
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Thank you for reading and a huge thank you to those who fund our ministry.
End of Year giving and monthly giving each play a large part in keeping The Park Forum ad-free and helping us to be able to continue producing fresh content.
Support the spiritual development of thousands of readers by making a donation today or joining our monthly donors.

Rohr on Transformative Faith  :: Reflections for a New Year

By Father Richard Rohr:

Moralism (as opposed to healthy morality) is the reliance on largely arbitrary purity codes, needed rituals, and dutiful “requirements” that are framed as prerequisites for enlightenment. Every group and individual usually begins this way, and I guess it is understandable.

People look for something visible, seemingly demanding, and socially affirming to do or not do rather than undergo a radical transformation of the mind and heart. It is no wonder that Jesus so strongly warns against public prayer, public acts of generosity, and visible fasting in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:1-18). Yet that is what we still do!

Any external behavior that puts you on moral high ground is always dangerous to the ego because, as Jesus says, “you have received your reward” (Matthew 6:2). Moralism and ritualism allow you to be independently “good” without the love and mercy of God and without being of service to anybody else for that matter. That’s a far cry from the full and final participation we see Jesus offering or any outpouring love of the Trinity.

Our carrot-on-the-stick approach to religion is revealed by the fact that one is never quite pure enough, holy enough, or loyal enough for the presiding group. Obedience is normally a higher virtue than love. This process of “sin management” has kept us clergy in business. There are always outsiders to be kept outside.

Hiding around the edges of this search for moral purity are evils that we have readily overlooked: slavery, sexism, wholesale classism, greed, pedophilia, national conquest, gay oppression, and the oppression of native cultures. Almost all wars were fought with the full blessing of Christians. We have, as a result, what some cynically call “churchianity” or “civil religion” rather than deep or transformative Christianity.

The good news of an incarnational religion, a Spirit-based morality, is that you are not motivated by any outside reward or punishment but actually by participating in the Mystery itself. Carrots are neither needed nor helpful. “It is God, who for [God’s] own loving purpose, puts both the will and the action into you” (see Philippians 2:13). It is not mere rule-following behavior but your actual identity that is radically changing you.

Henceforth, you do things because they are true, not because you have to or you are afraid of punishment. Now you are not so much driven from without (the false self method) but you are drawn from within (the True Self method). The generating motor is inside you now instead of a lure or a threat from outside.

*From Richard Rohr’s Meditation: Drawn from Within.

Today’s Reading
Malachi 3 (Listen – 3:13)
John 20 (Listen – 4:17)

 

Elisabeth Eliot on the Future :: Reflections for a New Year

By Elisabeth Eliot

While a new year offers us a fresh start, it can also bring anxiety. Questions crowd into our minds. Will my job become redundant? Is God going to keep me single for another whole year? Where is that mate he’s supposed to be bringing me? Where will the money come from for college, rent, clothes, food? Must I continue to suffer this person, this church, this handicap, this pain, this loneliness?

We have a calming word in Psalm 138.8; “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.” That word stands. He will fulfill. His love endures. He will not abandon.

We are meddling with God’s business when we let all the manner of imaginings loose, predicting disaster, contemplating possibilities instead of following one day at a time, God’s plain and simple pathway. When we try to meet difficulties prematurely we have neither a light nor the strength for them yet.

“As thy days, so shall thy strength be” was Moses’ blessing for Asher—in other words, your strength shall equal your days. God knows how to apportion each one’s strength according to that day’s need, however great or small. The psalmist understood this when he wrote, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.”

Whatever may be tomorrow’s cross I never seek to find. My father says, ‘Leave me to that, and keep a quiet mind.” — Anonymous

To lug into this new year all the baggage of the last year would greatly impair our ability to concentrate on what our heavenly father wants us to do…. Oswald Chambers wrote:

Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the irreparable past in his hands, and step out into the irresistible future with him.

Can we wholeheartedly surrender to God, leaving quietly with him all the “what ifs” and “but what abouts”? Will we truthfully say to him, “Anything you choose for me Lord—to have, to be, to do, or to suffer. I am at your orders. I have no agenda of my own”?

*Abridged from the Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.

Today’s Reading
Malachi 2 (Listen – 3:12)
John 19 (Listen – 6:23)

 

Heschel on Discovering our Humanity :: Reflections for a New Year

How much the faith community has to offer our divided and increasingly hostile world. Silence and solitude have been devoured by technology—the Church can be a place of stillness. Partisanship and hatred of the other have eroded our humanity—the Church can be a place of embrace through Christ’s transcendent work.

Perhaps no one lived this message more vividly in modern history than Abraham Joshua Heschel. At the 1953 gathering of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, Rabbi Heschel reflected:

If “prayer is the expression of the sense of being at home in the universe,” then the Psalmist who exclaimed, “I am a stranger on the earth hide not your commandments from me,” was a person who grievously misunderstood the nature of prayer. Throughout many centuries of Jewish history, the true motivation for prayer was not, “The sense of being at home at the universe,” but the sense of not being at home in the universe.

We could not but experience anxiety and spiritual homelessness in the sight of much suffering and evil, in the countless examples of failure to live up to the will of God. That experience gained in intensity by the soul-stirring awareness that God himself was not at home in a universe where his will is defied, where his kingship is denied.

To pray, then, means to bring God back into the world, to establish his kingship, to let his glory prevail. This is why in the greatest moments of our lives, on the Days of Awe, we cry out of the depth of our disconcerted souls, a prayer for redemption.

Great is the power of prayer…. The problem is not how to revitalize prayer; the problem is how to revitalize ourselves. Let us begin to cultivate those thoughts and virtues without which our worship becomes, of necessity, a prayer for the dead—for ideas which are dead to our hearts.

We must not surrender to the power of platitudes. If our rational methods are deficient and too weak to plumb the depth of faith, let us go into stillness and wait for the age in which reason will learn to appreciate the spirit rather than accept standardized notions that stifle the mind and stultify the soul….

To Judaism, the purpose of prayer is not to satisfy an emotional need. Prayer is not a need, but an ontological necessity, an act that expresses the very essence of man. He who has never prayed is not fully human.

Today’s Reading
Malachi 1 (Listen – 2:47)
John 18 (Listen – 5:16)

 

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