This year we'll be going through the Gospel of Luke - a gospel where we get to see Jesus reaching the marginalized, being so inclusive to the poor, to the outcast; where we see the spirit at work in the lives of all who Jesus encounters. And so may these Abide sessions help you to see the lost or the outcast in the world, but maybe even within yourselves, knowing that Jesus includes all of that into his heart.
Welcome Tyndale, it’s Lizzie Reynolds here, and I’m so glad you are tuning in to this prayer session. It’s been a long summer, so I’m so glad that we’re back and we can be together on these Wednesday mornings, or whenever you’re listening.
This year we’ll be going through the Gospel of Luke - a gospel that has really made its home in me this summer, where we get to see Jesus reaching the marginalized, being so inclusive to the poor, to the outcast; where we see the spirit at work in the lives of all who Jesus encounters. And so may these Abide sessions help you to see the lost or the outcast in the world, but maybe even within yourselves, knowing that Jesus includes all of that into his heart.
This 30-minute practice is a Lectio Divina, or a divine reading where I will read Scripture and then pause and have spaces for you to interact with the Scripture. And I find many times our faith gets somewhat removed from our daily life. Daily life seems to take over our faith, and the complexities of the day eclipses the capacity to stay true to our God. And so, to sit in this prayer time is to choose to let the concerns of your day, of your week, fall to the background and allow the words of the Scriptures to start to envelope you. And this sustained attentiveness - this beauty - can then calm the anxieties, the fears, the business of your mind.
So, let’s begin by just settling our bodies. Whether you’re sitting in a chair, whether you’re laying down, whether you’re on a walk, just begin to notice your breath.
Breathing in through the nose and exhaling out- slowing all the systems down. Then just becoming aware of this present moment, remembering that Jesus your Saviour is within you, around you, above you, below you. There is nowhere you can go where he is not. And so may you begin to settle into that loving presence.
And I like to begin our prayer times with a gratitude practice, just to get our reflective and meditation muscles working. And I’m wondering if you can reflect on the past day, or the week. We all know the anxieties and the fears and the stresses that have been in our day. It seems what is most essential is pretty much forgotten, but what is inessential or unessential seems to bombard us- which is those anxieties. So, the small subtleties of life - the touches of love and kindness and joy - I’m wondering if you can bring some of those memories to the forefront of your mind. Where in the last few days have you touched peace? Through a person’s face or conversation? A word? Something in nature? Then just spend this next moment with Jesus, uncovering that beautiful place. And bring what is subtle, and unimposing, but so rich to the forefront of your mind now.
If your mind begins to drift and wander into the tasks of the day, that’s ok. Just gently bring yourself back into this space- into these places where you’re touching peace.
I find if I bring these places, these faces and words and beauties to the forefront of the mind, I’m able to counterbalance or balance out all the different fears or unknowns. And it’s a wonderful tool to use to settle and to balance out the systems in the body. So may we saturate in that, in this time and also through the rest of our day.
The first passage we’re going to look at together - or listen to together - is from Luke Chapter One, then the narrative of Zechariah. And so, I’ll read it through. Just allow the words to wash over you.
“In the time of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron, and both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s Commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children because Elizabeth was barren and they were both well along in years.
“Once, when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshippers were praying outside.
“Then an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zechariah saw him, he was startled- was gripped with fear. But the Angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth, she will bear a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord in the Spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
“Zachariah asked the Angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife, she is well on in years.”
“The Angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”
“Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them, but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days, He has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.””
Listen for the guidance of the Spirit in this moment of silence.
Allow me to read a piece of this Scripture again.
“In the time of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s Commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children because Elizabeth was barren and they were both well along in years.”
I find it interesting to read of two faithful servants of God, who were faithful all the years of their life and yet had great lack, great longing, great barrenness within. Interesting, how we can live a devout life toward our Saviour, in our practices and our desires, and yet still have deep longings- unsatisfied dreams.
And so, as you sit with Zachariah and Elizabeth here, I wonder if you could share with God: where do you have longings that our not yet answered, or not fulfilled? Spend this time opening your story- your heart - to God, as we see Zachariah living so faithfully in his story.
Jesus, encourage and hold all of us in our lives that we devote to you. In our words and our actions, hold that as well as all the unanswered questions, the longings, the things not yet seen.
Allow me to read another part of the scripture.
“Then an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. Then when Zachariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and a delight to you.”
“Zechariah asked the Angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
“The Angel answered, “I am Gabriel, and I stand in the presence of God. And I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens.””
What an encounter we see and we hear of, with this Angel and Zechariah; how God knows his heart, and how God knows ours; how God reveals himself to Zachariah, and reveals himself to us. I wonder if God has asked you to step out in faith in this new season of university, of life. I wonder if God has asked you to up your faith- strengthen it beyond what you can see or imagine. Maybe you’re asking - being asked - to participate in something new, something you never thought you could do. And maybe you’re resisting it like we see Zachariah here resisting the invitation.
Take this time now to sense where God might be meeting you, and inviting you into a deeper faith journey, a deeper evolvement of yourself. Are you welcoming of this word or welcoming this new challenge? Or do you sense you’re resisting? Speak to God in this time of silence.
Allow me to read you another piece of the story.
“When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. And on the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father, Zechariah. But his mother spoke up and said, “No, he is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment, he wrote, His name is John. Immediately, his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosened and he began to speak, praising God.
The neighbors were all filled with awe and throughout the Hill Country of Judea, people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.”
Zechariah has a new journey. He’s been asked to up his faith- deepen his walk and trust in God. And when he’s asked what the name of the child will be, he does not say what generations have always done. He does not even say what’s most comfortable for him. But he says what he’s been called to be and to live in. And that is a new name: John, which means the Lord is merciful.
And so, I ask you, is God calling you to a deeper knowing of yourself and your journey that is unlike your parents, your siblings, your friends, your colleagues? Will you have faith to journey into your story that is unlike anyone else? Speak with God now about your story, about where God is leading you in your very own unique way, and allow his mercy and the beauty of this evolving story to surface within you.
Father, thank you for this word today, the sacred Word. Thank you for the lives of your people, the lives of Zachariah and of Elizabeth, and of John. They are your children that lived a devout life, and yet one of longing, of suffering, of joy, of bewilderment.
Lord, help us to walk with our longings, to be patient for the unfolding in your time. Lord, may our ears be attentive to what new places you would like us to serve- what new ways you would like us to act. And may we not resist the beauty of our story deepening and moving forward in you. And Father, may we rejoice as so, Elizabeth and Zechariah did at the birth of their son- at the birth of something new, that you planned for the salvation of your people, for preparing a way, for Jesus.
Lord, may we embrace the new things forming in us, and celebrate with joy, the uniqueness of our stories.
Father, thank you that you unconditionally love us, and that your love is not dependent on our ability or inability to follow you, to listen, to do things right. You’re not waiting for us to get it together. But you are here now, and always will be. In the midst of the ebbs and flows of life; the mystery of knowing you, not knowing you - you are our God.
So, as we begin to close this time of prayer and sacred reading, I’d have you just do one more soaking in of that gratitude practice we began with, soaking in that touch of peace, of joy. And I pray that you, and that I would be able to hold the sacred space throughout our day, so that when the anxieties build up, or the fears, or the unknowns, that we can return back to this abiding place with you, God, that is always here. And so, we close this prayer saying, ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Spirit, as it was in the beginning, as it is today, and as it ever shall be, world without end.’
Go in peace, my friends.
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