God of the Weak and Doubtful

Matthew 28.16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Reflection: God of the Weak and Doubtful
By John Tillman

Some of the details that ring the most truthfully from the scriptures regarding the resurrection of Jesus, is how long it took the disciples to fully believe and understand what had happened. They were incredulous. They did not trust their eyes that saw or their hands that touched. They couldn’t believe it. 

We sometimes skim over the many mentions of the disciples’ doubt looking for examples of strong faith to emulate. We should emulate faith. This is the purpose of the great chapter of faith in Hebrews and the descriptions of faithful moments in the lives of many throughout scripture. But we shouldn’t overlook the importance of the presence of doubters among the disciples. 

If God placed examples of faith in the scripture, he also placed doubt in the scriptures. Stories of faith come from doubt. When God shows us a story of the faithful, he points us to where he is calling us. When God shows us his doubtful children, he comes to where we are, puts his reassuring hand on our shoulder, and claims us as his children as well.

The ones who touched with their hands experienced doubt. The ones who saw with their eyes struggled to believe. Even up to the moment of Christ’s ascension into Heaven before their eyes, doubt was among them.

It was these doubtful few with whom Christ placed the responsibility of his most precious and vital mission. It is to this confused assemblage of rebels and failures, that Christ entrusted the Gospel.

Oh you of little faith…
He accepts and encourages you today. You who doubt his care. You who doubt his provision. You who doubt his presence with you. You who doubt that you are loveable, that you are valuable, that you are called, that you are his precious child… He calls. He loves. He holds out his hand, and trusts the gospel, to all of us doubters.

Christ did not allow Peter to sink in the waves when his faith was too weak. He will extend his loving hand to you as well.
He did not turn away the father who struggled to believe. He will not turn you away.

Thank God, that he is the God of the weak and the doubtful.
In doubt hold out your hands.
In weakness cling to him.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Look upon your covenant; the dark places of the earth are haunts of violence. — Psalm 74.19

– 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
Genesis 29 (Listen – 4:45) 
Matthew 28 (Listen – 2:39)

Read more about Rend Your Hearts

In every news cycle, the governments and powerful leaders of our world give us new reason to mourn and lament. Rending our hearts and not our garments doesn’t mean silence. It means taking personal responsibility for our failure to bring the gospel of life and light to a culture of darkness and death.

Read more about Taking Advantage of the Desperate

There is a reason economically disadvantaged neighborhoods often contain payday lenders and abortion clinics, but few doctor’s offices or grocery stores—monetization of desperation.

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

A Trinity of Neglect :: A Guided Prayer

Matthew 25.37-40
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

1 Timothy 4.13-15
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

Reflection: A Trinity of Neglect :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Matthew 25 is famous for the sheep and the goats parable. But really, the entire chapter is about people who shirked their responsibilities to themselves, to their master, and to others. The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

Pray this weekend through the three stories. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you warning signs if you are following the path of one of these neglectful souls.

May we avoid the neglect of The Foolish Virgins…
We need not stumble into extravagant sin to endanger our relationship with you, Lord.

The virgins excluded from the banquet were not lascivious, or lustful. They were not greedy or cruel. They simply were irresponsible and unthoughtful.

May we never fall into the dim thoughtlessness of complacency, and may we regularly refresh ourselves with the oil of your Holy Spirit to brighten our lamps when called on.

May we avoid the lazy apathy of The Wicked Servant…
We need not squander your blessings to use them unworthily, oh Lord.

The servant given one bag of gold didn’t lose it, or gamble it away. He didn’t try to steal it. He just didn’t try to use it. The servant failed to understand, and so do we, that the king wasn’t investing his money with people. He was investing in people with his money. The king expected growth in the servant. Growth of the gold would only be a side effect. He would have found more mercy in the master had he tried and failed, than in failing to even try.

May we dare to step out with whatever seemingly insignificant gift he has given us. You, oh Lord, do not despise small beginnings or small gifts well and truly used in faith.

May we avoid the careless denial of responsibility of the goats…
We need not be ignorant of you, Lord, to miss heaven. We need only be uninvolved and unconcerned for others.

The goats didn’t actively cause hunger, or thirst, or homelessness, or refugees. They didn’t cause nakedness, or crime, or unjust punishment, or oppression, or sickness. They just didn’t do anything about it. This was enough to show that Christ had no place in their lives and they had no place with Christ in his eternal life.

Dwell with the Holy Spirit this weekend, asking him to enlighten you about areas in which you may be prone to following in the missteps of the virgins, the servant, or the goats.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– 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
Genesis 26 (Listen – 4:31) 
Matthew 25 (Listen – 6:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 27 (Listen – 6:25) Matthew 26 (Listen – 10:01)
Genesis 28 (Listen – 3:17) Matthew 27 (Listen – 8:45)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will begin with the first of a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Cultivation Leads to Harvest
We are responsible for the care of our communities, spiritually and physically. This requires a financial and a spiritual harvest.

Read more about Beyond Selfish Thankfulness
We too often, like Jonah, feel responsible that those who have wronged us should not “get away with it.” But in God’s timing, nothing goes unpunished.

Distrust of God and Fraud :: Throwback Thursday

Genesis 25.34
So Esau despised his birthright.

1 John 2.15
Do not love the world or anything in the world.

From John:
Esau sins by giving up something of eternal significance for temporal satisfaction. Jacob sins by resorting to deceit and theft to gain what had already been promised by God. They each despised God’s providence and acted faithlessly in their own way. May God have mercy on us when we fall in their same steps.

Reflection: Distrust of God and Fraud :: Throwback Thursday
By Richard Baxter

Cure covetousness, and you will kill the root of fraud and theft.

As a drunkard would easily be cured of his drunkenness, if you could cure him of his thirst and love to drink; so an extortioner, thief, or deceiver, would easily be cured of their outward sin, if their hearts were cured of the disease of worldliness. The love of money is the root of all this evil. Value these things no more than they deserve.

To this end, acquaint your hearts with the greater riches of the life to come; and then you will meet with true satisfaction. The true hopes of heaven will cure your greedy desires of earth.

You dare not then forfeit your part in that perpetual blessedness, for the temporal supply of some bodily want: you dare not, with Adam, part with Paradise for a forbidden bite; nor as Esau profanely sell your birthright for a morsel.

It is the unbelief and contempt of heaven, which make men risk it for the poor commodities of this world.

Be content to stand to God’s disposal; and do not allow discontented thoughts to feed upon your hearts. When your minds run all day long upon your necessities, the devil tempts you to think of unlawful courses to supply them.

He will show you your neighbour’s money, or goods, or estates, and tell you how well it would be with you if this were yours. He showed Achan the golden wedge; he told Gehazi how unreasonable it was that Naaman’s money and raiment should be refused: he told Balaam of the hopes of preferment which he might have with Balak; he told Judas how to get his thirty pieces; he persuaded Ananias and Sapphira, that it was but reasonable to retain part of that which was their own.

If you accepted God as your God, you would accept him as the one that is fitter to measure out your part of earthly things than you yourselves. Then you would rest in his wisdom, will, and fatherly providence; and not shift for yourselves by sinful means.

Discontentedness of mind, and distrust of God, are the cause of all such fraud. Trust God and you will have no need of these.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. — Psalm 62.6

– 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
Genesis 25 (Listen – 4:18) 
Matthew 24 (Listen – 5:59)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will begin with the first of a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Meditation in Spiritual Rhythm :: Throwback Thursday
Nor should we imagine it will be as well to take up with prayer alone, and lay aside meditation…We need the one as well as the other…and our speaking to ourselves in meditation, should go before our speaking to God in prayer. — Richard Baxter


Read more about Lament the Effects of Hard-Heartedness :: Throwback Thursday
Take notice of the doleful effects of hard-heartedness in the world. This fills the world with wickedness and confusion, with wars and bloodshed; and leaves it under that lamentable desertion and delusion, which we see in majority of the earth. — Richard Baxter

Unsettled by Faith

Genesis 24.40
But [Abraham] said to me, “The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you and prosper your way. You shall take a wife for my son from my clan and from my father’s house.”

Reflection: Unsettled by Faith
The Park Forum

The closer Abraham drew to God, the more unsettled his life became. All of the fathers of faith were wandering creatures—their minds, souls, and bodies sojourning as the spirit led. And yet, time and again we read of the people of God trying to leverage God’s grace to create stability, comfort, and earthly benefit.

The great people of faith, like Mother Theresa and St. Francis of Assisi, among many others, purposefully held their lives in liminality—for this is where God moves. Richard Rohr explains:

“We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown.”

There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible. It’s the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way.”

The invitation of faith is unnerving. Anything received without merit demands we leave the moorings we have always relied upon in order to discover a world yet unknown. Rohr concludes:

“Because we have avoided liminal space, we have created a very smug and middle class kind of Christianity that has little wisdom or compassion to offer the world today. Much of the work of authentic spirituality and human development is to get people into liminal space and to keep them there long enough that they can learn something essential and new….

Most of us cannot run off to the wilderness or the hermitage forever. But spiritual traditions offer temporary and partial liminality in experiences like pilgrimages, urban plunges into different levels of society, silent retreats, extended periods of fasting, solitude in nature, and sacred times like Lent and Ramadan. There has to be something different and daring, even nonsensical, to break our comfortable sleepwalk and our compulsive cultural trance. Mere piety will never do it.”

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
How sweet are your words to my taste! They are sweeter than honey to my mouth.  — Psalm 119.103

– 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
Genesis 24 (Listen – 9:42) 
Matthew 23 (Listen – 4:53)

Join Us:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will begin with the first of a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Angelic Visions Require Childlike Faith
The faith of intellectualism is interested in explaining away the angel. To take angels seriously, Madeleine L’Engle insists that we must have a bit more childlike faith.

Read more about Gospel Faith or Garbage Faith
The only worthy thing is knowing Christ in the power of his resurrection and in participation in his suffering. This kind of faith is our foundation.

The Undeserved Banquet of the Gospel

Matthew 22.8
Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.

Reflection: The Undeserved Banquet of the Gospel
By John Tillman

Meals during Christ’s earthly life were an important cultural ritual. They were more than just fraternity, but pedagogy.

When God wished the Israelites to remember forever what he did for them in the Exodus from Israel, he didn’t have them sit for an exam, but for a meal—the first taste of the first covenant. The Passover Meal is the source of the second covenant as well, for Christ’s last meal before the crucifixion was this same instructive dinner.

Today’s parable also provides a unique picture of the gospel. In Matthew and Luke the king angrily describes his initial guest-list of no-shows as being undeserving of attending the wedding. These unworthies are described as being more concerned about their businesses and fields. Profit takes precedence over a relationship that should be a priority—a royal relationship.

It is hard to imagine turning down an invitation to an earthly royal wedding. It is not so long ago that most of the world stopped to view one. But we do turn down our King. We turn him down. For work. For divertments. For pleasures. For money. For lusts.

But our great king, still calls for his banquet hall to be full. He sends out his servants to the far places, the poor places, the places where the sick gather waiting to die. He takes all comers. He takes us all.

God sets his table for scoundrels, shaking hands with undeserved trust. He polishes the silverware for the impoverished, sending spoons and dishes home with the leftovers. He welcomes the wanderers, washing their feet as they enter. He dresses the wounds of the oppressed and broken, staunching their bleeding and soothing their pains.

This is how we, the undeserving, motley, scandalous louts that we are, find ourselves with our feet under Christ’s table. Christ invites all to the banquet. We will surprise someone by being there, and be surprised in return.

None of us deserve to come. Not those first invited, and not those brought in from the highways and hedges. We do not choose who dines at Christ’s banquet. For if we were honest about our own sinful hearts, we would not choose to allow ourselves there.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.  — Psalm 51.16

– 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
Genesis 23 (Listen – 2:34) 
Matthew 22 (Listen – 4:56)

Join Us this Weekend
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will begin with the first of a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. You must be an email subscriber to join. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Better Things to Do
The uncaring attitude that the wealthy market owner has starts with a greedy lie that he has better things to do than worship God—namely, to wring out profit from every minute, every worker, and every square foot of land.

Read more about Recalling the Failures
The world wants to put us back in our place after failure. Jesus comes to us with a second (third, fourth, fifth…) calling.



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