Old Testament Reading: Lectio Divina
Center yourself in silence. Become still, and aware of God's presence.
Pray: "God, prepare me to receive your Spirit and your hope with joy this day."
Isaiah 11:1-10 (NRSV)
11:1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
11:2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
11:3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;
11:4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
11:5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
11:6 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
11:7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
11:8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
11:9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
11:10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Read Isaiah 11:1-10 aloud slowly, simply absorbing the sense and flow of the sacred text.
Read Isaiah 11:1-10 aloud again, slowly. This time, listen in your spirit for a word, phrase or image that catches your attention. You don't have to understand why; simply notice, then make note of, your word, phrase, or image.
As you read Isaiah 11:1-10 a third time, pause when you arrive again at your word, phrase, or image. Ask God, "What is your invitation to me today through this word (or phrase, or image)?" Reflect on the word, phrase, or image you have received, and what God's Spirit is saying to your spirit in this moment.
Respond to God in prayer.
Now, release your own thoughts, plans, and anxieties. Allow your mind, body and spirit to simply rest in God's loving presence. Receive God's grace, and be at peace.
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19: Visio Divina
You are invited to read this psalm as a prayer for those in power over the nations.
As you do so, imagine yourself seated on a hill, overlooking all the world's peoples.
Invite God to draw your eyes to the poor and the needy, the oppressed and the forgotten,
that you might see their faces before you as you pray this psalm.
New Testament Reading: Reflection
Romans 15:4-13 (NRSV)
15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
15:5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus,
15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15:7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
15:8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
15:9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, "Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name";
15:10 and again he says, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people";
15:11 and again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him";
15:12 and again Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope."
15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Questions for Reflection:
1. What in the scriptures gives you hope?
2. What in the scriptures offers hope to people like the "poor," the "needy," and the "oppressed" mentioned in today's psalm?
3. "Live in harmony with one another" and "welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you." How has Christ welcomed you? With whom is it difficult for you to live in harmony? Whom is Christ calling you to welcome in this season?
Gospel Reading: Integration
Matthew 3:1-12 (NRSV)
3:1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,
3:2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
3:3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'"
3:4 Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
3:5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan,
3:6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
3:7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
3:8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
3:9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
3:10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
3:11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
3:12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Reading for Reflection:
From "Reconciliation" in Disciplines of the Spirit by Howard Thurman
"The discipline of reconciliation for the religious man cannot be separated from the discipine of religious experience. In religious experience a man has a sense of being touched at his inmost center, at his very core, and this awareness sets in motion the process that makes for his integration, his wholeness.
[ . . . ]
There must be a sense of leisure out of which we relate to others. The sense of it is far more important than the fact of leisure itself. Somehow it must be conveyed to the other person that our effort to respond to his need to be cared for is one with our concern to be cared for ourselves. Despite the pressures under which we live, it is entirely possible to develop a sense of leisure as the climate in which we function. We cannot be in a hurry in matters of th heart. The human spirit has to be explored gently and with unhurried tenderness. Very often this demands a reconditioning of our nervous responses to life, a profound alteration in the tempo of our behavior pattern. Whatever we learn of lesiure in the discipline of silence, in meditation and prayer, bears rich, ripe fruit in preparing the way for love.
[. . .]
Ultimately, there is only one place of refuge on this planet for any man - that is in another man's heart. To love is to make of one's heart a swinging door."
may your Spirit rest upon us,
as we rest in your Spirit.
May we be so changed by your love,
so transformed by your hospitality,
that our hearts become a doorway
to hope and love for all in need,
as our hands prepare the way before you,
making paths of justice and of peace.