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Letter to God: Week 1 | Day 7

Hannah Tadros shares her experience of completing the first week’s activity, writing a “Letter to God”: how reluctance and even fear turned into not one but four letters to the One who calls her “beloved.”

Activity: Write a Letter to God

 

Transcript: So when Brother David approached me with the idea to do this exercise, my first impulse was, “Yes!”  And then I saw the exercise and my first impulse was, “No!”  There was a real reluctance when I saw that this was a letter to God.  That I was sitting and dwelling on this phrase, “You are my beloved,” and that I in turn had to respond.  There was a real reluctance and also a fear to actually do that.  And I flipped through and looked at the other exercises and said, “Can I do that one instead?  Can I do that one instead?”  They just seemed easier I guess to get out there to talk to, or to work, or to do something, rather than just sit and dwell on this thought, and to just sit in silence with God and respond to a phrase like, “You are the beloved.”

And then I read Brother Mark’s piece in the Fall edition of the Cowley, where he talks about how Jesus, after receiving this message that, “You are my beloved,” doesn’t head out and get to work.  He goes into the wilderness and he’s alone with this for 40 days, and that struck me.  I was like, “Let’s go heal the lepers and yell at Pharisees instead.”  Jesus is withdrawing and being alone with God in this time.

So I took it as a little bit of a challenge, and a push, and I tried to stay with that thought that God is love and that God loves me personally.  And I tried to kind of delve into the reluctance and the fear.  For years what I hoped to believe about love, and what I used really as a prayer book, was Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet.  And his section on love was one of my favorites.  It talks about love as this dual entity.  He says, “It will crown you but it will also crucify you.”  And he talks about love’s threshing floor, and how you start as a grain, and then it goes through kind of violent imagery to get you to the other side to be flour after you’re husked and ground, and to be part of God’s sacred feast.  And I think there is something very appealing in that imagery but also very terrifying.  And I think part of that was my reluctance to sit with this piece.

And all of this kind of made it to the four letters I ended up to God, because they were all over the place.  My reluctance, my fear, and after I sat with it a little bit my nostalgia, and kind of longing, and that feeling of missing God, and missing that intimacy that I feel like I have run away from a lot.  So that’s where the exercise went for me.  It went all over the place.  I found many different responses in me to the thought of being God’s beloved, and I kind of put them all down and left them up to God.

– Hannah Tadros

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Go in Peace: Week 1 | Day 6

When we worship, we can’t help but be changed. Br. James Koester discusses some of the moments in worship that have most changed him and urges us to “go” out into the world from our worship and bring the change with us.

Question: How are you going to be God’s hands in the world today?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: I think it’s true to say that if you asked different brothers in the community why they came to the community, we would all give you slightly different answers.  But there would be one answer that we all share in common, and that is we came here to the monastery so that we can spend our time, or spend the majority of our time, in worship.  I think for us as brothers in the community, worship is one of the central identifying marks of our life.  We have come here so that we can worship God.  And worship is really central to our understanding of our self, and how we participate in God’s mission.

One of the things that we say in our rule is that our mission is inseparable from our call to live in union with God in prayer, worship, and mutual love.  So for us as brothers in the community, our understanding of the mission of God begins with worship, and who we are, and who we become through the act of worship.

There are a number of little key moments for me in our worship, which I think change us, and transform us.  One of those moments in the Eucharist, which change us, is the exchange of the peace – where, day by day by day, we say to one another, “Peace be with you,” or, “God’s peace be with you.”  And living as closely as we do with one another, there are many, many days where I actually would rather punch somebody out than exchange the peace with them.  That being forced day after day after day to exchange the peace with brother X – who I am bearing a grudge, or who I have had an argument with – actually begins to change my relationship with them so that I actually do begin to wish them God’s peace.

Another key moment for me is hearing and doing the words “Take, eat,” or “Drink this,” as we come to feast on Christ in the Eucharist.  And that constant feeding on Christ in the Eucharist changes us.  But for me the word that I get teased for the most because of how I say it when I’m presiding at the Eucharist is the word “go.”  And I often put the emphasis, I put a strong emphasis, on the word “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” and the brothers tease me about this.  But I think that word is really significant because if we come to worship, we can’t help but be changed by worship, and then we are sent out.  We are sent out on God’s mission into the world.

So I think it’s safe to say our understanding of our participation in the mission of the God is that it begins for us in worship, and it’s from worship that we are sent out to do God’s work, and participate in God’s mission.  And so, for us, we cannot separate our participation in the mission of God from our worship of God day by day in the Eucharist.  So one thing you might want to reflect on as you leave the Eucharist this week is how are you going to be God’s hands in the world today.

– Br. James Koester

Question: How are you going to be God’s hands in the world today?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

What Is God Doing?: Week 1 | Day 5

Who acts in mission? Not us, as we might often think, but God. Br. Jim Woodrum encourages us – before looking to begin acting in mission – to first look around us and see what God has been doing in and around our lives.

Question: Where do you see God at work?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: Well, often when we think of the work of mission, we think that we have to act and through our action, God responds, and actually, that’s flipped.  God actually has set things in motion and we respond with what God is doing.  It’s been that way since the beginning of time.  In Genesis, we read that God set the world in the motion.  He said, “Let there be,” and there was, and it was good.  God established a covenant with Abraham.  God reached out to deliver the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.  And we as Christians believe that God actually entered into our human condition in the person of Jesus Christ to heal all that has separated us from God and each other.

So the mission of God has already begun, and our job is to then participate in that mission.  But the first thing that we have to do before we can participate is to discern in our lives what God is doing.  What has God been doing in the world? What is God doing in our communities? And in our lives? And perhaps in the lives of our family?  So when thinking about, and praying with, participating in God’s mission, maybe you could ask yourself: “Where do I see God at work?”

– Br. Jim Woodrum

Question: Where do you see God at work?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Arma Christi: Week 1 | Day 4

Br. Keith Nelson shares his own personal devotion to praying with the five wounds of Christ, as remembered in medieval spirituality, especially in the visual illustration of the “arma christi,” Christ’s coat of arms. He asks us to imagine what a “coat of arms” based on the 5 Marks of Mission would look like for the contemporary Christian.

Question: Which “Mark of Mission” is closest to your wounded, sacred heart?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: A rich source of inspiration in my own prayer life has been meditating with the wounds of Christ, and in particular 13th and 14th Century medieval texts or writings, visionary writings, about these wounds.  Medieval Christians in particular during this period of time had a very intense, quite emotional devotion to these wounds of Christ.  They saw them as these kind of royal insignia testifying to the depths of God’s love, as floodgates of Christ’s lifeblood, as portals into the mysteries of heaven.  So this medieval imagination went many places that were quite meaningful to the church at that time with this devotion to Christ’s wounds.

So as I’ve prayed with these texts, with my own woundedness, with the wounds that I have perceived in the church, it strikes me that there is a kind of connection or a conversation perhaps to be had between these five Marks of Mission and the five wounds of Christ.  It has to do with our legibility, our recognizabilty to the world as Christians, in a world in which I think things of the church, of Christianity, of the way of Christ are increasingly less legible, because it’s really these wounds that are the ways that the church is recognized as the body of Christ.  And the wounds on the risen and ascended Christ are the ways that the disciples recognize, “This is Jesus.  This is the Jesus we knew before his death and resurrection.”

So one particular visual image — I’m often a visual pray-er — that I find fascinating, and relevant to this conversation, it’s called the Arma Christi, or the Arms of Christ, the Coat of Arms of Christ.  So in medieval life, a coat of arms would have been a clear visual means of recognizing a person, so what house they belonged to, what family they belonged to, certain essential information about this person, particularly on a battlefield or at a medieval tournament.  So you see on this shield they have the hands of Christ, there’s the name of Christ here, the feet of Christ, a challis, and into that challis flows the lifeblood of Christ from his wounded, sacred heart.

So we might think about what a contemporary coat of arms of a Christian might look like.  If we think about these Marks of Mission, how might the Marks of Mission be represented on a coat of arms to help us to be recognizable, legible to the world as Christians?  And you might think about of all of these Marks of Mission likely one of them captivates you or captures your heart in a particular way.  So you might think about which of these Marks of Mission is closest to your own wounded sacred heart.

– Br. Keith Nelson

Question: Which “Mark of Mission” is closest to your wounded, sacred heart?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Say Your Prayers: Week 1 | Day 3

Do the Five Marks of Mission feel overwhelming, rather like a big to-do list? Just “say your prayers,” Br. John Braught recommends, because the mission is God’s, not ours, and God will reveal to you how and who you are to serve – often in very small ways that arrive throughout the day.

Question: How, in small ways, could you carry out God’s Mission today?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: When it comes to mission, the first thing I would tell someone is, “Say your prayers.”  For a lot of people the word “mission” can be rather overwhelming, and as we talk about the five Marks of Mission – abbreviated as tell, teach, tend, transform, and treasure – it can all become like some giant to-do list, as in one might respond, “I can’t do this.  I’m not qualified or I don’t have enough time.”  To which we would reply, “You’re right.  See every other servant God has called for these and similar objections.”  The point is it’s God’s mission, not ours, and God will show us how we are to serve, and who we are to serve.  So say your prayers.  Each day pray for opportunities to serve.  Ask, “God, show me how I can be helpful this day and keep alert.”  I usually add, “And please make it crystal clear, otherwise I’m liable to miss it.  I’m sometimes not that quick.”

There is a saying in the Eastern tradition that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  But the reverse is true as well.  When the teacher is ready, the student will appear.  So pray for ways to serve, pray for opportunities to serve, and stay alert.  Our mission will not often be grand.  It’s the little things, the small ways that we serve, a smile, a handshake, a hug, being kind to someone in customer service, especially when things aren’t going our way.  Each and every day we’re acting as ambassadors of Christ, and we should imagine that we’re wearing that kind of nametag on our chest, so that people come away from interacting with us feeling better, hopeful, like there is kindness, and goodness, and love in the world.  That’s our real vocation.  That’s what we are called to be and to do.  But in order to know what to do, and to have the power to carry that out, we’ll need God’s help, so say your prayers.

How, in small ways, could you carry out God’s mission today?

– Br. John Braught

Question: How, in small ways, could you carry out God’s Mission today?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

You Are My Beloved: Week 1 | Day 2

God says to each of us, “You are my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Br. Mark Brown explains how the very first sign of God’s Mission, before all the others, is that we are called into a mutual, reciprocal relationship of love with the Living God. 

Question: Can you hear those words that Jesus heard spoken to you?  Can you say those same words back to God?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: I think the first and foremost – the primary – Mark of Mission or sign of God’s love and action in the world is that we’re called into relationship with the living God, and we’re called into a relationship of love that’s mutual and reciprocal.  And we see this in scripture in a couple of places.  At the very beginning of the gospel of Mark, we see Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.  And a voice from heaven is heard saying, “You are my beloved.  With you I am well pleased.  I delight in you.”  And Jesus doesn’t hear these words because he’s been out on mission and that he has deserved to be beloved of God.  But he simply hears these words spoken from heaven and then he takes some time to absorb them.  The 40 days in the wilderness are a time of absorption of the reality of this love of God for him, and that God delights in him.  And from that, a sense of God’s love, emerges his mission.

And we’re now that body of Christ.  We’re the risen body of Christ in a sense, and we can hear those words addressed to us: that we are God’s beloved in whom God delights, and with whom God is well pleased.  And we are called together, and we worship God individually and all together, as the church, offering praise and worship to the God who has offered us this love. And we’re invited, indeed, to return that love, to reciprocate that love.

We see this happening at the very end of the gospel of John where Peter says to Jesus three times, “Yes, I love you.  Yes, I love you.  Yes, I love you.”  Jesus has asked him three times, “Do you love me?  Do you love me?  Do you love me?”  “Yes, I love you.”  And what’s important to God, it seems to me, is that we not only that we know that we’re loved by God but that we return that love to God.  And it’s in that relationship of mutual delight, and mutual love, that we find the power, the strength to do what God asks us to do on mission.

So here’s a question.  Can you hear those words that Jesus heard at the Jordan River, “You are my beloved.  With you I am well pleased.  With you I am delighted.”  Can you hear those words spoken to you today?  And can you say those same words back to God, “You are my beloved and I delight in you?”

– Br. Mark Brown

Question: Can you hear those words that Jesus heard spoken to you?  Can you say those same words back to God?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Activity Guidance – Letter to God: Week 1

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

The first week, as we reflect on the meaning of our baptism, we are invited to participate in the meditative activity of writing a “Letter to God.” What might you say to God in response to this good news that you are valued and loved?


Transcript: In this first week of our program, we’ve been introducing the “Five Marks of Love,” the Five Marks of Mission that characterize the lives of the people of God, and which reflect God’s mission in the world.  Each week we offer an exercise for you to do, a reflective, meditative exercise that will bring you in touch with the goals of that week.  In this first week, we’ve been exploring the meaning of our baptism – exploring the fact that we’ve been claimed by God, and loved by God, and that we are marked as Christ’s own forever.

The exercise that we’re inviting you to do this first week is to write a letter to God.  A letter that expresses your love for God, your gratitude for having received the love of God in your baptism, and having been claimed and marked as Christ’s own forever.  So we invite you to ponder what might you say to God in response to this Good News that you belong, that you are valued and loved, that you are treasured and forever held by God’s love.  How can you respond?  How would you respond?  What words would you use to respond to this initiative of God claiming you as God’s own?  So write just a short letter and express some of your feelings and thoughts to God.

– Br. David Vryhof

Marked as Christ’s Own Forever: Week 1 | Day 1

In Baptism, we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever.” This introduction to the six-week series,”5 Marks of Love,” from the Brothers of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, invites you to participate in God’s mission.

Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: Hello, and welcome to our six-week program entitled The Five Marks of Love.

I’ve always been moved by the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  At the moment of the baptism, the priest takes into his or her arms the infant, baptizes them with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and then dips a finger in holy oil and makes the sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead.  And as he or she makes the sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead, the priest recites these words, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”  In baptism, God claims us as God’s own children and tells us that we are beloved.  We are joined with the family of faith, the Church, the Body of Christ in the world, and we are incorporated into the life and the mission of God in the world.

God’s mission could be described in a number of ways.  Jesus came proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God – a different sort of kingdom in which the first were last and the last first, in which we were called not to be masters but to be servants, in which the ideal is to lay down our lives for one another in love.

In 1984, the Anglican Communion identified Five Marks of Mission – five activities that are characteristic of the work of the Church in the world.  These are really five characteristics of God’s mission in the world, because God is mission and all mission originates from God and from God’s love.  The Five Marks of Mission that the Anglican Church identified were:  first, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God; second, teaching, baptizing, and nurturing new believers; third, responding to human need by loving service; fourth, transforming unjust structures, challenging violence of every kind, and pursuing peace and reconciliation; and fifth, striving to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustaining and renewing the life of the earth.

We’ll be taking each of these Marks of Mission and spending a week kind of spinning them out and reflecting on them.  But before we do that, this week will be a week of introduction in which we will just talk about the nature of mission, to underscore that mission comes from God.  It’s God’s mission, not the Church’s mission.  It’s God’s mission.  And the Church, Christians, believers, are invited to participate in that mission and carry out that mission with God.  But it is God who initiates and God who leads the mission.

And so our stance first of all in coming to these Marks of Mission is to come in the spirit of listening and receptivity.  We want to hear God’s voice.  We want to know God’s mind.  We want to discern God’s will in these areas before we act.  And so we want to stress the importance of prayer, and of worship, and of our deep connection with God as the source of the life that leads us to manifest these various Marks of Mission.

Well, welcome to our study.  Each day you will receive an email video from one of the brothers.  And at the end of the week, a sample exercise is contained in the workbook (that you can download from the web or that you can purchase).  In the exercise at the end of the week on Saturday, we’ll give you a chance to put into practice some of your thoughts and ideas and to be prepared to share those with others.  Welcome again to this program and God bless you all as you meditate with us on these marks of God’s life within us.

– Br. David Vryhof

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity