Hello – Local Week continued

Readings for this week June 26 – 30
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – What We Do at Table

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 2:1-10

‘Eating is a sacred business. Whether it’s eggs on toast in a café, cornflakes scoffed down at the kitchen bench, a sandwich shared with colleagues in the cafeteria, or a leisurely family dinner at the dining room table, eating is a spiritual act. Granted, to define eating in this way has the sound of wistful nonsense. Indeed, sitting down at a table to eat is an activity so grounded in the ordinary, so basic to the daily routines of life, we rarely ponder it beyond the simple inquiry, ‘What’s for dinner?’ However, scratch a little deeper and you discover in eating one of the most meaning-laden activities of our lives, one so immersed in human longing and relationship that it’s a practice of sacred dimensions […]

Whether from an overtly religious perspective or not, it’s important that we value what takes place at our tables, finding ways to embrace them more intentionally and intelligently than we presently do. It is this conviction that motivates the writing of this book. In an age of fast food, microwave ovens and fragmented schedules, the dining room table sits routinely empty in many households, a museum-like tribute to a quaint practice of long ago. Indeed, times have changed and so much of life has improved along the way. But what has been lost? The quest for meaning, intimacy and community seems ever more urgent. The table beckons. It beckons because, at its core, the table is about such fundamentally human things as intimacy and family, identity and communication, reconciliation and romance, covenant and community, redemption and friendship, sustenance and celebration, beginnings and endings. The table beckons because it plays host to so much more than biological necessity.’ (Simon Carey Holt, Eating Heaven: Spirituality at the Table, pp.2, 3.)

Questions to Consider
Who could you invite to share your table with that you haven’t invited before? Who could you share with this week?

Prayer
Loving Father, may my table be a place where people can meet and eat together. May my house become known in my neighbourhood as a house of hospitality. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Guarding Against Exclusion and Isolation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Hebrews 13:1-2

‘Dotted around […] are people who, for a wide variety of reasons feel their sense of connection with the community is in danger of fraying. The relentless demands of caring for disabled, sick or frail family members, or even of young children, can narrow the focus of daily life to the point where the carers find it hard even to hang on to the idea that there’s a ‘life’ going on in the community around them. If neighbours don’t stay in touch […] feelings of isolation and confinement can snowball into a miserable sense of exclusion…

Whatever the cause, social exclusion is a major blow to our sense of identity. It also creates a challenge for neighbours. In some of [our] streets where neighbours have established regular contact with each other, people are alert to any problems of social isolation in their midst; in places where neighbours have not been quite so assiduous about keeping in touch, the very instability of the socially isolated means they don’t attract anyone’s attention. In the most tragic cases, social isolation has preceded a lonely, unnoticed death.

The art of belonging is not just about finding your own place in the networks and neighbourhoods that sustain you; it’s also about creating space for others to join (or rejoin) the circle. Social exclusion is a crime against humanity. While it’s true that people sometimes exclude themselves, our duty as humans is to ensure that they receive every encouragement to reconnect, knowing that the longer they remain excluded, the harder it will be for them to emerge from the shadows.’ (Hugh Mackay, The Art of Belonging, pp.230-1, 232)

Question to Consider
How can you reach out to the lonely and isolated in your community?

Prayer
Lord God, open my eyes and my heart to see the lost and lonely around me, and help me do all I can to help them not be lost and lonely any more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Welcome at the Edge

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 15:7

‘The truth is every local community of any kind is a group of specially connected people. But the very fact of their special connection creates outsiders. An association of Labrador retriever owners, without intention, makes outsiders of poodle owners. And every neighbourhood necessarily creates outsiders by establishing boundaries. The question is, what kind of boundary is it? Is it a boundary of superiority and exclusion, a dangerous place to approach? Or is it the edge of a place that has a welcome at the door?

The challenge is to keep expanding the limits of our hospitality. Our willingness to welcome strangers. This welcome is the sign of a community confident in itself. It has nothing to fear from the outsider. The outsider has gifts, insights, and experiences to share for our benefit. So we look forward to sharing our culture, gifts, and associations with others. “Come on in. What would you like to eat? We have a great community band we want you to hear. And let us show you our new park that we created ourselves.”

The beautiful, remarkable sign of a secure community is that it has a welcome at the edge…there are important connections to be made beyond our borders[.] For beyond them are people who need our gifts, as we need theirs. The only thing we have to fear in our community is fear of outsiders.’ (John McKnight and Peter Block, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods, p.139)

Questions to Consider
When have you experienced a ‘welcome at the edge’? What did others do to make you feel welcome? How can you do the same for others?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, your kingdom is for all people. If there’s a place for me, there’s a place for anyone. Help me welcome the stranger to my table. Thank you for your love and acceptance of all. May I model it in all I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – A Place for All to Share Their Gifts

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4:10

‘Citizens create satisfaction by recognising their individual capacities and skills. We begin to see that the neighbourhood is a treasure chest. By opening the chest and putting the gifts together in many different ways, we multiply the power of its riches.

A competent community builds on the gifts of its people. It knows that a gift is not a gift until it is given. Before it is given, it is only a beautifully wrapped box in a drawer. It is a capacity held in exile. Gifts need to be named and exchanged, not only to create a competent community, but also to create a functioning family. This is a family that has discovered its capacity to produce for itself, together with a competent community, all that is required for a truly good life, a satisfying life.

The tragedy of a dysfunctional family or neighbourhood is that the potential gifts of its members are never given. The paradox is that in the midst of this, we can hold skills that are useful to systems but never find the satisfaction of turning our skills into the gifts that are so needed by our family or neighbour […]

When we decide to build a competent, functional community, we do not need to be divided by differences. In focusing on gifts, we get beneath them, or above them, to something more foundational where people can find common ground. We don’t put people outside our value system; we include them in it. We speak to their gifts, rather than their differing values.’ (John McKnight and Peter Block, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods, pp.70-71)

Questions to Consider
What skills and gifts do you have? How are you using and sharing these gifts with your neighbours? How can you help your neighbours share their gifts in your community?

Prayer
Loving Father, may my gifts, given to me by you for your glory, be given to others and not left wrapped in the drawer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The Risk of Relocation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Ruth 1:16

‘Stability in community is always a half-born condition. We are suspended between heaven and earth on a ladder that promises communion with God but is also planted firmly on the ground. To both see clearly the life we are made for and, at the same time, to have to deal with the selfish desires and petty preferences of people where we are is, indeed, agonising. “But there it is,” [Clarence] Jordan says with a different kind of realism. Stability is a commitment to trust God not in an ideal world, but in the battered and bruised world we know. If real life with God can happen anywhere at all, then it can happen here among the people whose troubles are already evident to us.

Community is always a risk. We cannot know beforehand who will stay and who will leave. But each decision to stay – every prayer lifted up from our half-born condition – can be seen as an act of faith that our God will give us what we need, as Clarence Jordan said, “in the nick of time.” To trust the God of Jacob is to know that God is in this place, whether we sense yet that the place is holy or not. My well-being is tied up with the health of my neighbour – even my enemy – and the place on earth that we share. No, we cannot halt the tide of mobility through a stubborn insistence to stand our ground. We can, however, trust that our God is a firm foundation, giving us grace to stand even when it seems we will all be swept away. We can entrust ourselves to one another in faith.’ (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, pp.24-25.)

Questions to Consider
How are you mentally and culturally ‘relocating’ yourself and your life into your local community? How are you opening your life up to the input of those around you? Who are you joining in doing this?

Prayer
Loving God, show me my neighbourhood the way you see it and my neighbours the way you see them. Give me the courage to risk community with them, and them with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)