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I’ve been thinking about prayer today, and the many ways we pray that are not simply meal-time prayers (God thank you for the food). I came across Psalm 104:33 in my reading this morning which makes this point clearly:

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

I like that for the Psalmist singing is living, it is being. And as long as we are a live we should be full of song, full of surprise and awe. Our lives will sing our prayers.

And then I remembered a favorite image from Abraham Heschel:

First of all, let us not misunderstand the nature of prayer, particularly in Jewish tradition. The primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests. The primary purpose of prayer is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song and men cannot live without a song. Prayer may not save us, but prayer may make us worthy of being saved. Prayer is not requesting. There is a partnership of God and men. God needs our help.

via The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel

-How can I learn to make my prayers like songs?

-How can I make my life full of singing and surprise?

C. Wess Daniels, USA

Let me do my work each day;
and if the darkened hours
of despair overcome me, may I
not forget the strength
that comforted me in the
desolation of other times.

May I still remember the bright
hours that found me walking
over the silent hills of my
childhood, or dreaming on the
margin of a quiet river,
when a light glowed within me,
and I promised my early God
to have courage amid the
tempests of the changing years.

Spare me from bitterness
and from the sharp passions of
unguarded moments. May
I not forget that poverty and
riches are of the spirit.
Though the world knows me not,
may my thoughts and actions
be such as shall keep me friendly
with myself.

Lift up my eyes
from the earth, and let me not
forget the uses of the stars.
Forbid that I should judge others
lest I condemn myself.
Let me not follow the clamor of
the world, but walk calmly
in my path.

Give me a few friends
who will love me for what
I am; and keep ever burning
before my vagrant steps
the kindly light of hope.

And though age and infirmity
overtake me, and I come not within
sight of the castle of my dreams,
teach me still to be thankful
for life, and for time’s olden
memories that are good and
sweet; and may the evening’s
twilight find me gentle still.

By Michelangelo Rossellini

———————————————–

Hi, I’m Mike and I am from New Orleans, Louisiana. I am an R.N. with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), specializing in Public Health. I love being outdoors in nature, hiking, camping, exploring old roads, rain forests, thunderstorms, the smell of fresh coffee, hot cinnamon rolls and snuggling under the covers in cold, rainy weather. I’m a Quaker (Hicksite-FGC) and my spirituality is an important part of who I am. I’m a sports fan, especially rugby, ice hockey and football. I enjoy cooking, reading, listening to music, playing backgammon and card games. I like to travel.

Mike

Loving Father

God of our yesterdays, our today, and our tomorrows.

We praise You for Your unequaled greatness.

Thank You for the year behind us and for the year ahead.

Help us in Your new year to fret less and laugh more.

To teach our children to laugh by laughing with them.

To teach others to love by loving them.

Knowing, when Love came to the stable in Bethlehem, He came for us.

So that Love could be with us, and we could know You.

That we could share Love with others.

Help us, Father, to hear Your love song in every sunrise,

in the chriping of sparrows in our backyards,

in the stories of our old folks, and the fantasies of our children.

Help us to stop and listen to Your love songs,

so that we may know You better and better.

We rejoice in the world You loved into being.

Thank You for another new year and for new chances every day.

We pray for peace, for light, and for hope, that we might spread them to others.

Forgive us for falling short this past year.

We leave the irreparable past in your hands, and step out into the unknown new year knowing You will go with us.

We accept Your gift of a new year and we rejoice in what’s ahead, depending on You to help us do exactly what You want..

In Jesus name,

Amen.

Pray with and for Rabbi Lerner.

Rabbi Lerner returned home on Monday from the University of California Medical Center where he was operated on for lung cancer (no, he never smoked). His wounds are slowly healing after the upper lobe of his left lung was removed. Pain meds and prayer help him deal with the remaining pain. This Shabbat we welcome people to dedicate healing prayers to Rabbi Lerner wherever you live. For those who wish to say the traditional prayer, his Hebrew name is Mee-cha-el ben Beyla ve Yosef Chayyim. If you are in the S.F. Bay Area of Northern California you are invited to join us in person as Beyt Tikkun synagogue holds its Shabbat gatherings with Rabbi Lerner at his home, 951 Cragmont Ave, Berkeley (cross street: Marin Ave).

• Friday night, Shabbat Celebration starts at 7 p.m. sharp . Followed by a vegetarian pot-luck.

• Saturday morning Shabbat celebration starts at 10 a.m. (only for people who enjoy praying the traditional prayers in Hebrew)

11 a.m.Torah Study (in English-no previous familiarity with the Hebrew or the Torah presupposed). During the Torah study we will offer healing prayers for Rabbi Lerner.

Please bring prayers, blessings, poems or songs to share which you are invited to offer to Rabbi Lerner as part of the healing circle at each of these events. If you live out of town, please add your prayers wherever you are. You can also send jokes, short stories, dvds, or whatever else will help distract Rabbi Lerner from the pain of the wounds.

Admission: a main course vegetarian dish to share with at least ten other people. Don’t bring bread, pita, challah, take out from Chinese restaurants, or canned anything. We’ll supply challah for everyone. Do not bring meat of any sort, chicken of any sort, or any shell fish (including sushi with crab or lobster or oyster or eel or shrimp or anything that doesn’t have scales and fins). Do not bring rice that has been cooked in chicken stock, or any other soup that has used chicken stock or any other meat stock. Do not expect to make something at rabbi lerner’s home using the oven or stove-no cooking allowed on Shabbat.

Please RSVP by email to Will.Pasley@gmail.com  or call 510 644 1200 and leave a message for Will by Friday morning at 10 a.m. and tell us what you will bring so that we know how many people for whom to buy challot, wine, grape juice, and dessert. You are welcome to come to both Friday night and Saturday morning services. Just tell us by Friday morning, please. (Yes, if you really can’t tell us, come anyway-but bring something delicious).

Rabbi Lerner has taken great solace in the beautiful notes of support that he continues to receive that are posted (by many people aligned with the Tikkun community, the NSP, Beyt Tikkun synagogue and others) at the website:

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/525/t/8751/blog/index.jsp?blog_KEY=570

He finds this much better than receiving phone calls-with web notes, he can read them when he feels up to doing so. Rabbi Lerner has asked us to extend to you his great thanks at the outpouring of love and prayers that he has received and which have had a marked impact on accelerating his recovery. He especially wants to thank those who have made contributions to Tikkun or the NSP in his honor, and to the people who have sent him notification that they have instructed their own financial planners to bequest Tikkun in the circumstances of their own possible future death. He wishes them long life-it’s the thought that counts!

News about the biopsy of his cancerous lung will not be available till this coming Monday. Till then, he can’t tell you much about his situation except to say that the canerous lung was successfully removed. Please don’t ask “how are you doing, Rabbi Lerner?” The answer is: he is doing fine, he is in pain,he appreciatest your presence and anything you’ve written to him (if you want it to be purely private, mail to rabbilerner@tikkun.org  but put “cancer” in the subject matter, and don’t expect an answer in the next few weeks). He is greatly moved by the expressions of love he has received. He is greatly saddened by the loss Debora Duenas’ nephew. And he is deeply appreciative of being part of such a wonderful, loving and supportive community.

——————————————————————————–

web: www.spiritualprogressives.org
email: info@spiritualprogressives.org

World Day of Prayer is a worldwide movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year, and who, in many countries, have a continuing relationship in prayer and service. It is a movement initiated and carried out by women in more than 170 countries and regions. It is a movement symbolized by an annual day of celebration – the first Friday of March – to which all people are welcome. It is a movement which brings together women of various races, cultures, and traditions in closer fellowship, understanding, and action throughout the year. Sierra Leone Philippines Lebanon Through World Day of Prayer, women around the world affirm their faith in Jesus Christ share their hopes and fears, their joys and sorrows, their opportunities and needs Through World Day of Prayer, women are encouraged to become aware of the whole world and no longer live in isolation to be enriched by the faith experience of Christians of other countries and cultures to take up the burdens of other people and pray with and for them to become aware of their talents and use them in the service of society Through World Day of Prayer, women affirm that prayer and action are inseparable and that both have immeasurable influence in the world.

Papua New Guinea 2009

In Christ, Many Members Yet One Body

On March 6, 2009, the women of Papua New Guinea invite us to have the confidence of Ruth, who left what was familiar to her and went with Naomi to another land. They call us to ponder the mystery of our oneness in Christ in their context and our own. Papua New Guinea has one of the most heterogeneous indigenous populations in the world. More than 800 languages are spoken. Their diversity is expressed in this saying, “For each village another culture.” Yet, the bilum, a traditional string bag is found nearly everywhere. Bilums come in many colors, sizes, shapes, and styles and often the creative designs identify where the bilums were made. Men usually prefer a long handle style that is worn over the shoulder. Women carry their babies and their market produce. Bilums are also used as a hanging cradle for a sleeping baby. We are also invited to reflect on the collaborative networks among women. In Exodus, the story of deliverance from bondage begins with women’s non-violent intervention. Their actions ignore the social forces that are rooted in the fallacy that one group is superior to the other and is entitled to exploit them. Together, the women overcome evil with good. So, too, in the context of Papua New Guinea, we are given examples of women’s intervention in Bougainville and in the Highlands. And we are called to identify women’s intervention in our own context. We thank you, God, for directing our lives. As women united as one in your body, with your love and your power in us, we pray that we would be your instruments for peace and reconciliation.

http://www.worlddayofprayer.net/

Sermon – Pastor Mark Phillips – USA

ON BEING THE GOOD SAMARITAN
(Text: “Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” – Luke 10:37)

A few years ago, an astonishing thing happened in New York City. A construction worker named Wesley Autrey was standing on a subway platform with his two young daughters, ages four and six, waiting on a train. Suddenly another man on the platform, apparently suffering from a seizure, stumbled and fell off the platform down onto the subway tracks. Just at that moment the headlights of a rapidly approaching train appeared in the subway tunnel. Acting quickly, and with no thought for himself, Wesley Autrey jumped down onto the tracks to rescue the stricken man by dragging him out of the way of the train. But he immediately realized that the train was coming too fast and there wasn’t time to pull the man off the tracks. So Wesley pressed the man into the hollowed-out space between the rails and spread his own body over him to protect him as the train passed over the two of them. The train cleared Wesley by mere inches, coming close enough to leave grease marks on his knit cap. When the train came to a halt, Wesley called up to the frightened onlookers on the platform: “There are two little girls up there. Let them know their Daddy is OK.”

Immediately, and for good reason, Wesley Autrey became a national hero. People were deeply moved by his selflessness, and they marveled at his bravery. What Wesley had done was a remarkable deed of concern for another person. He had no obvious reason to help this stranger. He didn’t know the man. He had his young daughters to think about. What he did was at severe risk to his own life. But a human being was in desperate need, and Wesley saw it and, moved with compassion, did what he could to save him. “The Subway Superman”-that’s what the press called him, the “Harlem Hero.” But the headline in one newspaper described Wesley Autrey in biblical terms. It read, “Good Samaritan Saves Man on Subway Tracks.”

Wesley Autrey was indeed a Good Samaritan, and when I heard his story, I wondered, “If I had been the one on the subway platform that day, what would I have done? Would I have been as courageous as Wesley? Would I have had what it takes to jump down on those tracks, with a train bearing down, to help that man?” In other words, would I have been a ‘Good Samaritan’ that day?”

Many people believe that this is the exactly the question that Jesus wants us to ponder. That’s why, they say, he told his original parable of the Good Samaritan in the first place. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of Jesus’ most familiar stories, and the way we usually hear that parable is as Jesus’ way of getting us to ask ourselves, “Am I willing, when the circumstances arise, to be a Good Samaritan to other people? If I see a person lying in a ditch somewhere or in trouble on the highway or on subway tracks in distress, would I risk myself to be of help? Am I a Good Samaritan?” But I wonder if that’s what Jesus was really saying in that parable.

Let’s take another look at it. You may remember how it happened that Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. He was headed toward Jerusalem, and in a village along the way, he got involved in a rather testy conversation with a local attorney. The lawyer evidently did not like Jesus’ message, and he was pressing Jesus, trying to make him look foolish, attempting to expose a weakness in his teaching. He was figuratively cross-examining Jesus on the witness stand: “In your view,” the lawyer asked Jesus, “just what do I need to do to inherit eternal life?”
“You’re the lawyer,” said Jesus. “What does it say in the law?” Well, the attorney knew the law, of course, the law of Moses, and he quoted it. “The law says, ‘Love God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind and also love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” “Well,” said Jesus. “There you have it. You’re right. Love God fully and love your neighbor as yourself. Do this and you will have life.” But the lawyer was not going to let this drop so easily. “Ahh, but wait just a second,” he objected. “There’s a problem with your definitions here. State your terms, Jesus. Just what do you mean by ‘neighbor’? Be precise here. Who exactly is my neighbor?”

It was in response to that challenge that Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s not the story about the man on the subway tracks, of course, but it’s like it. Jesus’ parable is about a man traveling down to Jericho who is mugged by robbers and left bleeding and near death beside the road. So, like the man who fell onto the tracks, here is another man in serious, life-threatening trouble. A man in desperate need of help. Nothing unusual about this, really. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously dangerous, riddled with thieves, unsafe to travel alone, so the fact that a man was beaten and robbed…well that was a familiar story. Nothing shocking. But now, two genuinely shocking things do happen in Jesus’ story. The first shock is that two people who could have helped, in fact who might have been expected to help, a priest and a Levite, both religious people, came up the road and saw the man in trouble, but did nothing, absolutely nothing. They intentionally avoided the man by crossing over to the other side of the road and continuing on their journey. This would be like saying that the pastor of New York’s largest church and a New York City police officer saw the man in trouble on the subway tracks, but simply shrugged their shoulders, turned, and walked the other way. That would be a shock. But if the first shock in the story is that people whom we would expect to help did nothing, the second, and even bigger, shock is that the last person in the world we would count on for help is the one who in fact mercifully and bravely rescues the injured man.

Down the road, said Jesus, came a Samaritan. Now Jesus is, of course, Jewish, and the lawyer and the rest of those listening to this parable are also Jews. Even the characters in the parable are Jews-the priest, the Levite, almost surely the injured man, maybe even the robbers. But here comes a Samaritan, and Jews and Samaritans have a bitter history of racial and religious hatred. They have nothing to do with each other. Jews and Samaritans are enemies. In fact, not only would the injured man not expect any help out of one of these despicable Samaritans, he probably wouldn’t want any help from a Samaritan. A Samaritan was viewed, well, like a member of Al Qaeda. Better to die in a pool of blood on the road than to be touched by a Samaritan. But it is this Samaritan, despised and rejected, who is nevertheless moved with compassion and who tenderly cares for the injured man. Even though they were enemies, he cared for him.

Having told that story, Jesus now says to the lawyer, “So, you now define the term ‘neighbor.’ Who proved to be the neighbor in this story?” The lawyer cannot bring himself even to spit out the word “Samaritan.” He simply mumbles, “The one who showed mercy.” “Go and do likewise,” said Jesus.
Now, as I said before, some people think that what Jesus is saying in this story is, “OK everybody, I want you to go out and be just like that Good Samaritan. He cared for someone in need; I want you to imitate him. Go and do likewise.” But there are two problems with this. The first problem is that if this were really Jesus’ point, then he probably would have told the story differently. He would have made it into a simple moral example and left out all that troubling Samaritan business. What he would have said is there was a man in trouble, and three people passed by who could have helped. The first one didn’t, and neither did the second, but the third one did, so be like the third one and not like the first two. But this isn’t a simple moral story. It’s a parable, and parables always have something shocking, surprising, unexpected, something to be wrestled with and puzzled over, and in this story, it is the fact that an unwanted, rejected Samaritan is the one who shows mercy to his enemy. That throws a monkey wrench into any simple explanation. There’s something deeper going on here than merely, “OK folks, go out and be like that Good Samaritan.”

The second problem is even more significant. If Jesus’ point is that he wants us to imitate the courageous compassion of the Good Samaritan, the sad fact is we can’t do it. That is why what Wesley Autrey did on that subway platform is so remarkable and almost incredible. Almost none of us would have done it. It is simply not in our nature to forget ourselves and risk everything for a stranger.

Some years ago a famous experiment was conducted with seminary students. Researchers gathered a group of ministry students in a classroom and told them that each of them had an assignment. Their assignment was to prepare a lecture on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The thing was, the recordings were going to be done in a building on the other side of the campus, and because of a tight schedule, they needed to hurry to that building. Unbeknownst to the students, on the path to the other building the researchers had planted an actor to play the part of a man in distress, slumped in an alley, coughing and suffering. The students were going to make a presentation about the Good Samaritan. But what would happen, the researchers wondered, when they actually encountered a man in need? Would they be Good Samaritans? Well, no, as a matter of fact, they were not. Almost all of them rushed past the hurting man. One student even stepped over the man’s body as he hurried to teach about the Parable of the Good Samaritan!

We should not look down at these seminary students who couldn’t put the Parable of the Good Samaritan into practice, because neither can we. Simply knowing in our minds what the right thing to do is does not mean we can do it. If we are going to be Good Samaritans, then this will mean more than a change of mind. It will take a change of heart. And that’s what this parable is about: a change of heart.

Robert Wuthnow, a professor at Princeton University, once conducted some research about why some people are generous and compassionate, while others are not. He found out that for many compassionate people something had happened to them. Someone had acted with compassion toward them, and this experience had transformed their lives. For example, Wuthnow tells the story of Jack Casey, a rescue squad worker, who had little reason to be a Good Samaritan. Casey was raised in a tough home, the child of an alcoholic father. He once said, “All my father ever taught me is that I didn’t want to grow up to be like him.”

But something happened to Jack when he was a child that changed his life, changed his heart. He was having surgery one day, and he was frightened. He remembers the surgical nurse standing there and compassionately reassuring him. “Don’t worry,” she said to Jack. “I’ll be here right beside you no matter what happens.” And when Jack woke up again, she was true to her word and still there.

Years later, Jack Casey, now a paramedic, was sent to the scene of a highway accident. A man was pinned upside down in his pickup truck, and as Jack was trying to get him out of the wreckage, gasoline was dripping down on both of them. The rescuers were using power tools to cut the metal, so one spark could have caused everything to go up in flames. The driver was frightened, crying out how scared he was of dying. Jack remembered what had happened to him long ago on the operating table, how that nurse had spoken tenderly to him and stayed with him, and he said and did the same thing for the truck driver, “Look, don’t worry,” he said, “I’m right here with you, I’m not going anywhere.” When I said that, Jack remembered later, I was reminded of how that nurse had said the same thing and she never left me. Days later, the rescued truck driver said to Jack, “You know, you were an idiot, the thing could have exploded and we’d both have been burned up!” “I just couldn’t leave you,” Jack said. Something had happened to Jack Casey that transformed him, made him into a Good Samaritan.

Has anything like that ever happened to you? Yes it has. That is the point of Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. What the lawyer discovered-and what we discover, too-is that we cannot stand on the sidelines and figure out how to be good, defining our terms-is this person my neighbor or not-figuring out just what we have to do to inherit eternal life. For all of our religious virtues and attitudes, we just cannot do it. We are helpless to be Good Samaritans on our own strength. In other words, we are the person in the ditch, the one who lies helpless and wounded beside the road, the one who needs to be rescued. And along comes a Good Samaritan, a Good Samaritan named Jesus -despised and rejected-who comes to save us, speaks tenderly to us, lifts us into his arms, and takes us to the place of healing. As Paul said, while we were still God’s enemies, God saw us in the ditch and had compassion, and in Jesus came to save us.

So, the question is not the lawyer’s, “What is the definition of ‘neighbor’?” The question is who has been neighbor to you. Jesus Christ has been neighbor to you. The crucified one has been neighbor to you. Have you felt his mercy make your own heart merciful? If so, then in your heart you will know what this means: Go and do likewise.

Let us pray.
O God, when we are honest about ourselves, we know that we do not choose in our own strength to do what is right. We talk a good game about right and wrong, but we do not have the wisdom or the power in ourselves to be righteous. We lie helpless on the side of the road, and even our best moral instincts pass us by on the other side. Come to us, O God, come to us again in Jesus Christ. Lift us out of our brokenness and take us to the place of healing. Prone to wander, Lord, we feel it, prone to leave the God we love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above. Amen.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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