What Matters Most (Part III)

By David Brock, presiding evangelist

For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.  III Nephi 10:18

The hall of power that matters most may be the rough-hewn, semi-permanent Community of Christ structure. It serves as gathering place for the residents of Monte Sión (Mount Zion).

This new, unplanned community of the poor defines the urban sprawl on the brown and treeless hills on the outskirts of Lima, Perú.

It is the place where every Friday and Saturday young adults and the pastor from Callao make the trek from the city.

They climb the steep hillside to teach 40–50 children in a small, dirt-floored room. Here they hang out, play sports, worship, and study with other youth. They pray for jobs, health, food, and schooling for children with parents trying to find a sense of place in the world.

The hall of power that matters most may be the small room where a sister or brother is offered sanctuary. Here they are free to tell of their amazing and heroic journey that merits the writing skills of the best biographers and the money and time of the most-literate readership.

It is the place where after the telling a minister of blessing is privileged to lay hands on the head.

Words of the sacrament of evangelist blessing are shared.

These words can never capture God’s presence and promise in a life, yet the Spirit confirms in a way that provides enough…and to spare.

Prayer for Peace:

God of the gathering places, God of two or three, God of the multitudes, hear the prayer for sanctuary from those with heroic stories. We are blessed by these stories. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Spiritual Practice:

Stand or sit with your hands extended in front of you. Prayerfully ponder all the things you hold in your hands that make you feel too full, busy, drained, or tight. Spread your hands up and apart to release these things. Then hold them open and empty them again. Thank God for relationships that fill and feed your spirit. Pray for a generous heart and open hands that reach out to make room for all in the circle of Christ’s community.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will kneel in prayer and, again, through your Holy Spirit, discern what matters most.

 

What Matters Most (Part II)

By David Brock, presiding evangelist

O let the suffering come to an end all around me, but establish the righteous, you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God. God is my shield, who saves the upright in heart.  Psalm 7:9–10, adapted

The place that matters most may be the carport in front of a small chapel now transformed into friendship hall. It may be a place where laughter splashes over the conversation and adds a flavor to the meal.

The classiest of restaurants cannot match this meal.

That “hall” is also the place where a sister comes to share the weight of incomprehensible burdens: a grandchild with leukemia and a husband in prison, the scarcity of food in a house without a kitchen, her leg, swollen and festering with a disease doctors cannot cure.

This may be the true hall of power because here the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick is offered. Here she is renewed by embrace of arms and words of love as she limps away with hope in her heart and a promise to return this evening.

I don’t know how well my what matters most theory will hold up under tough, objective scrutiny. However, when I have the privilege of placing my hands on the head of a newborn named Melissa in the sacrament of child blessing in another small chapel in Filadelfia, Perú, the theory seems to bear up well.

To say her name aloud in the presence of parents and faith family is all I need. To proclaim her identity as a beloved child of God, to pledge with other sisters and brothers to be her guide and spiritual companion is all I need.

To simply experience the presence of the Holy in and through the child and surrounding us in that small space is all I need.

Prayer for Peace:

God of blessing and burdens, we look to embracing arms for the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick. We thank you for your holy presence.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation

Each day this week choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following suggested practices or create your own.

Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude and “holy attention.” Write a psalm of praise for the beauty of the Earth or a prayer of healing and blessing for the wounds of the Earth. Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the unique diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will kneel in prayer and discern, through your Holy Spirit, what matters most.

What Matters Most (Part I)

 By David Brock, presiding evangelist

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.  2 Corinthians 5:18–19

I have this working theory. The power centers where what ultimately matters most in life are not the stock exchanges of London, New York, Beijing, or New Delhi. Nor are they the halls of political power in capital cities such as Brasilia, Canberra, Nairobi, Ottawa, or Moscow.

Yes, I know that decisions made in those places touch billions of Earth’s inhabitants and the planet itself. Yes, I know the political party I vote for and the rise and fall of financial markets can change our lives. Yes, I know the latest research in the laboratories of universities can cure or cause disease, stop or start plagues, target and destroy a distant enemy, or develop earthquake-resistant technologies to save millions.

But, my working theory goes something like this: What ultimately matters most may happen in a little chapel built on the side of a pastor’s home in an agricultural town in Argentina.

Here people crowd in to sing of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. They kneel to pray for a parent who is suffering from advanced cancer. They reach out to receive bread and wine and connect to a faith community.

Here are the sinners and saints who span the centuries and solidify forever their identity as children of God.

Prayer for Peace:

Creator God, we would kneel alongside those of our community connected to us in ways that matter most. May we solidify our relationship with them and work together for the peace of Christ.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation

Each day this week choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following suggested practices or create your own.

Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude and “holy attention.” Write a psalm of praise for the beauty of the Earth or a prayer of healing and blessing for the wounds of the Earth. Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the unique diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will kneel in prayer to discern, through your Spirit, what matters most.

Invitation to Spiritual Renewal

By Joann Condit of Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Be still, and know that I am God!  Psalm 46:10

It was late in the afternoon of a retreat in the Arizona mountains, and I was tired—physically, mentally and spiritually. I had no heart for journal writing, meditating, or praying. I sat, chin on my hand, staring at a torrent of rain. Slowly the downpour eased to a drizzle. The trees dripped, stirred by a soft breeze. I brooded.

At a soft pat on the shoulder, I looked up and saw my daughter and grandson, jackets and hair damp with rain, motioning conspiratorially to follow them outside. We walked silently to the road, down a hill, and around a bend, stepping over rivulets in the wet soil. They stopped, pointing with triumph toward the trees.

Tiny streams cascaded over rocks, loud in the silence. Suddenly I saw them…mushrooms! Hundreds of mushrooms dotted the hillside. Even as we watched, a giant red-capped one arose visibly, a mat of needles crowning its head like a shaggy wig.

From the miniature to that huge one, they rose in new life. The rain liberated them. We stared, mesmerized.

We returned to the building in silence, under watery sunshine. Fatigue gone, my heart and soul clean and filled with life. I sat down to express my gratitude. I wrote my thanks to God for Laurie and Stephen, their kindness in sharing, for eyes to see miracles, for renewal of body, mind, and soul found in a hillside of mushrooms, and for sunshine after rain.

And, oh yes…thank you for making me know you are God!

Prayer for Peace:

For refreshing of the spirit, for renewal of our bodies, for the sunshine after rain, we praise you, divine Creator.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation

Each day this week choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following suggested practices or create your own.

Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude and “holy attention.” Write a psalm of praise for the beauty of the Earth or a prayer of healing and blessing for the wounds of the Earth. Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the unique diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant:

God, I will rise up from my brooding and look for the sacred places of liberation and new growth.

Remember the Everlasting Covenant

 By Ron Harmon, Council of Twelve Apostles

When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.  Genesis 9:16

When I visit places of great historical significance I often wonder about the ordinary people of that time period. What were their hopes and aspirations?

Recently during a gathering of the North East USA Mission Field we had the opportunity to reenter the story of the church in Kirtland, Ohio. We learned about members’ hopes for a Christian community based primarily on the experience recorded in Acts, chapter 2. We also learned about their expectation for endowment of the Holy Spirit in their ministry.

As we shared in our weekend together I could almost hear the voices of those early Saints of the Restoration. As a child growing up I experienced the history and sacred space of Kirtland many times.

I sensed in a personal and profound way that I was called to carry on the great and marvelous work these pioneers of faith so courageously pursued.

Our last day together in worship we were blessed with a powerful affirmation that we were endowed in that moment with the power of the Holy Spirit for ministry and mission.

At the heart of this mission is God’s covenant of peace that calls us to embrace a radically different vision for our world. This covenant connects me in powerful ways with the early Saints of our movement. It also connects me to the voices of the prophets in Isaiah.

I pray that years from now others will be able to connect with God’s covenant of peace as they reenter our story.

Prayer for Peace:

Affirming God, endow us with the power of your Holy Spirit to embrace the ministry and mission to which we are called.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation

Each day this week choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following suggested practices or create your own.

Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude and “holy attention.” Write a psalm of praise for the beauty of the Earth or a prayer of healing and blessing for the wounds of the Earth. Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the unique diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant:

I will keep the vision of the covenant rainbow to remind me and inspire me to share the peace of Jesus Christ.

God’s Music Flows

 By Karen Hutchinson of Loveland, Colorado, USA

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.  Psalm 85:8

I’ve always wondered who else lives with a song running through their head. I always hear some song in my soul. It can be old camp songs, children’s songs, classical pieces I’ve sung, old or new hymns, folk songs. You name it, I hear it. (Right now it’s “Old mother Leary left the lantern in the shed.”) I can almost tell what my mood is by what I’m hearing. It’s something I value and enjoy greatly.

Music has always underwritten my life. I grew up singing and have continued loving to sing, listen, and just enjoy the gift of music. It almost defines who I am. It strengthens and enlivens me daily.

For all of my 70 years it has been a ground for my life. It has become an integral part of who I am. What a joy!

I have accepted music as my personal gift from a Creator who loves me and wants me to enjoy life to the fullest.

The God who encourages me to sing, listen, and participate also has given me the beautiful world we live in. I have a great family that daily blesses me. I have great friends with whom I can share my life. Through music I can connect in astonishing ways to those who need me.

Another personal gift I receive daily, if I listen, is God’s divine Spirit. I feel God’s presence flowing through me like music. This is when I most feel at peace.

Prayer for Peace:

We turn our hearts to you, O God, and we listen to the peace that you speak. May we always speak this peace to one another.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation

Each day this week choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following suggested practices or create your own.

Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude and “holy attention.” Write a psalm of praise for the beauty of the Earth or a prayer of healing and blessing for the wounds of the Earth. Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the unique diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will listen for your voice. I will listen for your music in my soul. I will listen to the music of others.

Written on Our Hearts

By Andrew Bolton, Council of Twelve Apostles

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors…But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people…for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.  Jeremiah 31:31–34

At the heart of today’s scripture are these words, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” What does this mean?

I recall the first apostolic sermon I ever heard. It was by Aleah Koury at a church conference in Germany. I was a young adult who had just discovered Community of Christ. Brother Aleah’s sermon was simple: “Love releases the power to love.” This made sense to me. I could see it working. I knew I was better behaved; more loving when I felt loved. This came from within. When I received love I passed it on without having to think about it. I was just nicer.

I think I behave best of all when I sense God’s love for me. My behavior is better not because of fear of punishment or the reward of praise, but because my heart is at peace. The love of God’s people opened me up to receive the love of God. I am renewed in God’s love through the companionship of the church. That is why I go to church and go to camps and retreats.

Hanging out in the companionship of the sacred community is a way for me to hang out with God.

As I endure in God’s love, so my heart is remade to love deeper. God writes on my heart, the words “I love you, and I forgive you. You now have the power to love others.”

Prayer for Peace:

Author of the centuries, we open our hearts for a blessing of love from you. We receive and then give what you write on our hearts. Our hearts are at peace and ready to give peace to others.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation

Each day this week choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following suggested practices or create your own. Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude and “holy attention.” Write a psalm of praise for the beauty of the Earth or a prayer of healing and blessing for the wounds of the Earth. Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, fasting from over-consumption of resources.

Notice the unique diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant:

Today God, I will love others because you first loved me.

God’s Steadfast Love

By Monica and Alex Wharton of New Port Richey, Florida, USA

Happy are those…who give food to the hungry…who lift up those who are bowed down…who watch over the strangers; who uphold the orphan and the widow…  Psalm 146:5–9, adapted

After selling our home in Buffalo, New York, my 15-year-old son, Alex, and I decided to move. We gave away many of our belongings, packed the rest into a rented moving van, and drove to Tarpon Springs, Florida. With no job prospects, the first six months proved challenging.

On neighborhood walks with our dog I often stopped by a small, white Community of Christ building. I rested on a bench on the church lawn and drew inspiration from the inscribed scripture: “Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” One day, after my utilities were disconnected, I prayed for help.

I decided to call the pastor of the Tarpon Springs Congregation. Pastor Lillian met me at the church office. She didn’t ask if I attended church—she just met my need. Still overwhelmed that someone cared enough to help us, my son and I received a blessing of aid for car repairs, food, and housing bills.

I was baptized in December 2009. Alex, now 17, recently stated, “The church helped us in spirit, in our finances, in our minds, and especially in our hearts.”

Thank you, from our hearts, for your love and care. It is special to be a part of this wonderful family of believers who daily display God’s steadfast love! Your contributions to the Abolish Poverty, End Suffering mission initiative help bring hope to those in need.

Prayer for Peace:

Generous God, we would be generous, too. We would give to watch over and uphold strangers. We would invite and welcome them into your fold and cradle them in your peace.

Spiritual Practice:

The chalice prayer is a form of intercession. Create a cup or chalice with your hands in front of your heart. Open your heart to God’s concern for the Earth and human family as you hold them in your chalice. See beauty and suffering as you lift the chalice and release the creation (open hands) to be blessed and healed by God.

Form the chalice again and hold people who have particular needs—friends, loved ones, even enemies. Lift them and release them for God’s blessing. Place yourself inside the chalice as you confess your deepest needs. Lift and release yourself to God for healing. Say “thank you and amen.”

Peace Covenant:

Today God, with hope I will answer the call of someone in need.

Preparation For Life

 By Gary McDonald of Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

Humble yourselves, and continue in prayer to him; cry to him when you are in your fields, and over all your flocks; cry to him in your houses, and over all your household, morning, midday, and evening…And when you do not cry to the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn in prayer to him continually for your welfare, and for the welfare of those who are around you.  Alma 16:219, 222, adapted

When I graduated from high school I felt as though I were standing in the junction of a three-pronged path. Which path I took depended on my choices. One was to get a job. Another was to join the army, which I wanted to do. A third was college, but I didn’t want to go because I was tired of school. I was having difficulty deciding which path to travel.

That summer I attended reunion at Cloudcroft, New Mexico, high in the mountains. Before this I had not been attending church. At this camp I attended a class taught by Evangelist Glaude Smith, who taught about the evangelist blessing.

After reunion, I decided to join the army, but first I wanted to visit my maternal grandmother, who lived in Independence, Missouri. I believed her to be a spiritual woman, and I wanted to discuss my career choices with her. We spent several weeks together, praying, reading scripture, and visiting. She encouraged me to have my evangelist blessing.

Glaude Smith, who also lived in Independence, set up an appointment for us at church headquarters. He interviewed me to get some idea of what I was seeking. I told him about the paths I could take and my inclination, but I said I wanted God’s direction. We set a date and agreed to prepare for the sacrament.

The blessing was a beautiful experience, and I shed tears as the Holy Spirit touched me. Brother Smith gave me counsel to develop my God-given abilities through education to become “a polished shaft” in God’s hands. Under the impress of the Holy Spirit I chose to attend college.

I had not made proper preparation, but doors opened as I moved forward in faith. That blessing has guided my life and continues to inspire me.

Prayer for Peace:

Compass God, we need your direction in our lives. May we be faithful and listen when we pray for your guidance to the path of peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart

Open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breath slow and deepen. Spend several minutes focusing on breathing in God’s generosity. With each breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.

Peace Covenant:

Today, God, I will pray and discern your direction for my life.

Home in the Community

By Rozanne Dowell of Independence, Missouri, USA

Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.  II Nephi 9:136–137

We returned to our “home” congregation after helping get a new congregation off the ground. Fond memories of our good experiences drew us back, and we wanted to renew old acquaintances.

This is the congregation where I studied music and attended women’s seminars. I was a friend of the congregation at the time. I since have become a member. Singing in a student recital is also a special memory. What a joy it is to sing for worship services in the beautiful sanctuary. I experienced the Spirit in abundance then and still do today.

Ed and I had two special experiences in our loving congregation. One was when our son, Rob, and his wife, Sarah, were married. The other experience was when our grandson, Joshua, was given the sacrament of blessing of children. Those were happy and special days as our family shared in the blessings of community.

It’s great to be back in this accepting, caring, and dedicated congregation. Ed and I are so grateful to be part of it. We look forward to serving God and supporting the goals of the church now and in the future. We will continue in our pursuit of peace.

Prayer for Peace:

Eternal Presence, may we be open to you in our personal and community lives. May we welcome others as we have been welcomed. May we sing your praises of love and peace.

Spiritual Practice for the Week: Growing a Gracious, Generous Heart

Each day this week open your heart to God’s grace and generosity with a “breath prayer.” Let your breath slow and deepen. Be aware of God’s breath moving in and out of your heart. Spend several minutes focusing on breathing in God’s generosity. With each breath, silently name one gift for which you are thankful. “God, I breathe in the gift of  with thanks.” Let your heart expand to contain God’s gracious outpouring.

With each breath out, name one gift you want to share from the overflow of your heart.

Eternal joy and peace await those who grow in the grace of generosity that flows from compassionate hearts.  Doctrine and Covenants 163:9

Peace Covenant:

Today God, I will sing more and talk less.