Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy New Year!

Today, Sunday, November 30, is the first day of the church new year. The first part of the church calender begins with the season of Advent, which begins today and goes until Christmas. (See previous post for more about all this.)

We've written an original weekly Advent meditation.

We'll also update the blog daily through out Advent with daily reflections that include art, music, and videos.

Here is the first reflection based on the scripture being read in many churches today.

Sunday, November 30th
First Sunday of Advent
Conscious Living

"Jesus said, ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’ "
—Mark 13: 32-37
(Read the whole chapter of Mark 13 to get a larger sense of the story)

Part of the Christian story is the idea that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. Some people take this idea very literally, and there is tremendous Christian mythology about how exactly the world will end (think The Left Behind series). According to the Bible, Jesus made predictions about the destruction of the Jewish temple and about a time when there would be (among other things) plagues and famines, false messiahs, and persecution of those who followed him. Of course, all of these things and more have already happened in the two thousand years since Jesus was alive. Jesus’ suggestion that people must be ever ready was not merely a helpful hint in the face of these pending disasters, but also important advice for life.

Whether or not all the details of the various ideas about the end of the world ever come to fruition, the truth of every human story is that there will be unexpected events, tragedy, and death. Many religious traditions share Jesus’ admonitions towards constant vigilance. Ideas that our lives are precious and finite, or that we must live in the moment, that all things whether good or bad are only momentary are common across not only religions but philosophy as well.

Conscious living is one of the hardest things we are called to, but it is such an important part of life. Try this week to keep awake. This is not advocating insomnia, but rather the conscious presence in every day waking life. Feel every breath in your lungs; taste every morsel that comes into your mouth; look into the eyes of friends and strangers. Be awake.

The idea that we are slaves keeping track of a household that the master might come back to at any moment is terrifying in many ways. However there is also some truth in this imagery. Jesus told this story not to scare people, but to raise their level of consciousness. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by the complexities and implications of life that we become numb to our everyday existence. The call to keep awake then, is not meant to scare people, but rather to awaken them to the mysteries that surround us. What comes to us when we live consciously is both terrifying and beautiful. It is amazing what your life becomes when you live with your eyes open.

God we do not want to squander our lives. Help us to wake up. And to be ready to welcome you with open arms where ever you show up this week.

Activities to try on for the week to make a space for more conscious living

* Practice breathing. One way to do this is to pick something that comes up frequently in every day life and to notice your breath when you interact with that thing. For example, you might focus on water or sunlight or laughter. Every time you experience that thing, pay attention to your breath. You can also check out the website for some links to breathing exercises.

* Journal. Writing about your day can help make you more aware of what happened to you and how you experienced it. You can journal in a notebook or on your computer or on napkins. You can share your journal with someone or everyone or no one. Just write your own life and see what happens.

* Enjoy Silence. Turn off the TV, radio, or computer. Go for walks, read, meditate.

* Connect to someone you love. As you prepare for Christmas, think about how you might reach out to someone you care about. It could be someone you see everyday or someone you have not talked to in a long time. How could you give them a gift that would show how much you care about them? Could you write them a letter? Make them a coupon book of activities you might enjoy together? Think of a way to deepen your relationship.

* Practice compassion. All over the world there are people whose waking lives are torn with hunger, violence, and suffering. Many of these people do not have the luxury of quiet walks or journal time. What can you do this week to reach out to someone whose waking life is more like a nightmare? Be mindful every day of these people who are often overlooked.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The New Year (Intro to Advent Reflections)

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the season of Advent, and the start of a new year for the church-- which basically means reading from a different gospel. As part of our Christmas Conspiracy, we're making some weekly Advent reflections, which will be available in print tomorrow. We'll also be posting reflections here daily throughout the season.
We hope to see you tomorrow at the gift making party (fabulous winter squash and apple soup to follow) and wish you a blessed new liturgical year!

Here's the introduction to our meditations for Advent:

What is the season of Advent?

Within the Christian tradition, the season of Advent is typically a season of waiting and preparation. In the most traditional sense, Advent is the season of waiting for Christmas, telling the stories of those who prepared the way for the birth of Jesus, and examining how we prepare our own lives for Christ. Christian scripture contains both Jesus' own words about conscious living, as well as stories of prophets who prepared a new way. Scripture in Advent also explores the story of Mary, specifically as she learns that she is pregnant and waits to give birth. In exploring these stories and images of hope in the midst of a darkening season, we ask a larger question: what are we waiting for?

What's this reflection thing about?

Each Sunday of Advent we will list a reading, reflection, prayers, and activities focused on a specific theme related to the season. The scripture from which the theme comes will be posted along with a short prayer that is designed to be used with people of all ages. There are also some ideas for simple activities you might do throughout the week to explore the theme further. Here on the bog, we will post daily reflections with music, video and art that relate to that theme throughout the week.

Creating Advent/ Christmas space

How you celebrate the season of Advent is totally up to you. You can use these reflections to create a space in your own life to explore the questions and themes of Advent. This space might be literal—creating an altar or placing an Advent wreath at the center of your dinning room table, or it might simply mean taking time each day, or at the beginning of the week, to reflect on the theme of that week.

As you pray and reflect during the season of Advent, you join your intention with millions of others around the earth who seek to walk the way of hope and peace and life that Jesus taught.

However you prepare for Christmas this season it is our prayer that your journey leads to transformation, for you, those you love, and for your community.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Next Up Christmas Gift-Making Parties

We had a great time being disturbed by consumerism and then eating pumpkin soup last night. We watched What Would Jesus Buy? as the kick off to the Christmas Conspiracy projects.

Next Sunday, November 30 is the first gift-making party. Think of it like a giant Stitch N' Bitch. You can bring your own project to work on. Or you could come pour over books and magazine that we'll bring with ideas on things you can make. Also, it's sort of like a craft-supply potluck. If you have things like wrapping paper, brown paper bags, buttons, old Christmas cards, containers, glitter, yarn, that you'd like to share/or get rid of, bring them. We'll put all the stuff for sharing on a table in the middle. The church where we are having the parties has a lot of tables and chairs in the parish hall and an outdoor courtyard. And there's a kitchen if you need it.

We'll have a couple of demonstration projects set up. This week, we'll show you how to make an advent wreath, for instance. If you are an artist or crafter or just know of a nifty project that you'd like to share with others, we'd love to give you a space to set up to teach a mini-workshop on the spot. We just want to create a space where people can share creative ideas, and feel safe enough to take some creative risks if it's new to them, and have a great time.

Gift Making Party
4 pm
St. Andrew's Parish Hall
545 S. 5th AVE, (enter on 16th St.)
Free. All Ages.
Local, seasonal vegetarian meal
5:30 pm.
$5 suggested donation for adults, $1 for kids, but whatever you can give is great.
Extra funds collected through out the season will go to the Community Food Bank.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Th Bible as a Graphic Novel

A new book from Church Publishing offers a new way to chew on Paul.
It's a graphic novel (that just means comic book style) by Steve Ross about the Apostle Paul. Picks up where his previous novel, Marked, left off.

Also, check out this Manga Bible and this story about it in the New York Times.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Catch Kate Preach This Sunday

Kate's preaching in Tucson at Christ the King Episcopal Church at 10:30 am, November 23.

She said she plans to weave in stories from teaching 5th grade this year at Imago Dei Middle School.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Would Jesus Buy? This Weekend

We're showing What Would Jesus Buy? this Sunday.

It's the kickoff event to 5 weeks of Christmas Conspiracy events. It and all other happenings begin at 4 pm at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church parish hall. That's in Armory Park, just south of downtown, 545 S. 5th AVE.
After the movie is over we'll serve a vegetarian meal if you'd like to hang out. For those who can swing it, a suggested donation of $5 is requested to help cover the cost of the local, seasonal goodness.

This documentary came out last year and it is both a hilarious and disturbing hard stare into consumerism. It's also rated PG, so we'll have a kid friendly video and activity ready.

If you can't make it Sunday, there will also be a free showing on Saturday, Nov. 22, at 7 pm at Mountain View Nazarene Church, 410 S. Pantano Rd, in East Tucson. See to see what else is happening at Tucson area churches to support the Conspiracy.

Here's a trailer for What Would Jesus Buy?

Map to St. Andrew's ...

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tucson Christmas Conspiracy

Stores are already stocking the shelves with Christmas kitsch. So, it's time to get subversive. Introducing the next Join the Living project: The Tucson Christmas Conspiracy. We're offering opportunities and tangible ways to embrace the spirit and revolutionary love of Christmas without all the stress and credit card debt. And we aren't the only ones. A whole slew of creative churches and communities around Tucson are participating in a national movement called the Advent Conspiracy.

The Tucson Christmas Conspiracy is our way of bringing the idea to life locally. Join the Living's offerings kick off the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and continue every Sunday at 4 pm until December 21.

The scoop on The Tucson Christmas Conspiracy:

• November 23: First off is a showing of the documentary, "What Would Jesus Buy?"
• November 30 & December 7: For the next two Sunday's at 4 pm we'll buck consumerism and the mall. Instead we'll gather for a group craft/art/creative extravaganza. Like a giant Stitch & Bitch, with the purpose of making gifts for our friends and loved ones instead of buying them.
• December 14: Barter Bazaar and Baking. Bring things you've made or have laying around the house for trading with others. One person's trash is another person's Christmas gift! At the same time make and decorate cookies and baked goodies.
• December 21: Longest Night Christmas Service. Join however makes sense for you. From 4 to 5:15 is meditation. 5:30 is a shared meal. And at 6:30 we'll offer prayers and sing while recognizing both the pain of the world and the light of Christ being birthed in us. This is the actual longest night of the whole year.

All events will begin at 4 pm in the parish hall of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 545 S. 5th Ave., just south of downtown Tucson. Each gathering will include a vegetarian meal at 5:30. We'll use local seasonal food. A $5 donation is suggested if you can swing it to cover the cost. Any extra funds will be donated to the Community Food Bank.

Everyone is invited. So come, spread the word and bring some friends!