A Season of Surprise and Imagination

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Advent is a season of surprise and imagination.

The lectionary texts for the First Sunday of Advent included Isaiah 64, where the prophet ponders the “wonders beyond all expectations” God has done in the world. 

The Scriptures invite us to imagine a God who catches us by surprise. 

When Jesus was born, it caught the world by surprise. And I think this element of surprise brings God joy: that redemption would show up in a place that was thought forgotten or abandoned, that the surprise of God was first revealed to (and for) those who were lowly and meek. 

Later in the passage, the prophet invites God’s people to imagine themselves, collectively, as clay and to imagine God as the potter who works tirelessly and creatively to form and shape a people who participate in the ongoing creation of the world. 

This isn’t the God we (or our world) might typically imagine - a god likened to a stern old man in the clouds with a big beard who constantly makes sure each of us knows that we don’t measure up. Like an eternally-grumpy Santa Claus. 

What if we imagined God as a craftsman? Someone who carefully and meticulously and skillfully designed and sketched and then sourced different materials together to make something sturdy, something that will last. Someone who creates and builds and develops the spaces needed for the world to flourish?   

What if we imagined God as an artist? Someone whose imagination was sparked and then compelled into creativity, creating a sculpture and painting a canvas and weaving a tapestry of life and beauty and goodness, a storyteller who’s artistry reflects and guides the intricacies and possibilities of life in the wonder-filled expanse of our universe.  

What if we imagined God as caretaker or a gardener? Someone who got down into the dirt and the mud and the clay. Someone whose hands were familiar with the soil, someone who is filled with equal parts hope and patience and perseverance as they plant tiny seeds anticipating a great harvest. 

The scriptures invite us to imagine God as a potter who creatively works the cay, a mother who fiercely protects her children. as a Father who is constantly looking out for his children. as a host who is always inviting, always opening the door, and never shutting it in your face. 

What if, this Advent, we positioned ourselves to be surprised by God? 
To be caught off guard when we find God at work in unexpected places? 
To dare look for those things we’ve thought were lost?
To risk hope in the places we’ve let go of hope?

This Advent, may we step forward toward the God who was stepped toward us in the journey of becoming a people of laughter, creativity, surprise, and imagination.

An Advent Home Liturgy

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There are a lot of "liturgies" we follow during the Christmas season.

  • We make shopping lists for friends and family and slowly cross of the lists as we've found the perfect gift. 
  • We prepare a place in our house for a tree or other special decorations that remind us of the holiday festivities. 
  • We surround ourselves with food and tastes and smells that we associate with the season or memories of the season..

These are all "liturgies" - rhythms, practices, and routines - that form us. For good or ill, we are shaped by the rhythms, rituals, and practices of everyday life and special seasons like Christmas. 

Each year, Advent is a season of time marking the movement toward Christmas. Journeying through the season of Advent is a liturgy designed to form us as people who can receive the gift that Christmas represents - the birth of joy, the arrival of hope, life springing forth in the world.

Because of the arrival of Jesus, the world has changed. Advent helps form us as a people who participate in the change that God is up to in the world. 

In addition to our Advent Journey in our Gathering rhythm, we put together an Advent Home Liturgy to help you (along with family and friends) mark the time of Advent through candle lighting, scripture readings, simple discussion questions, and prayer. (The Scripture passages and prayers are adapted from the Revised Common Lectionary, which is a guide used by churches throughout the world to move through the Scriptures together.)  

Download the Advent Home Liturgy PDF as we move toward Christmas together!

Open Door Abundance

In the beginning, God created a world of abundance. 
Out of an abundance of love, Jesus offered up all he had so that we could live. 
Through the work of the Spirit, God continues to weave a world of abundance all around us. 

In our world, scarcity is often the loudest voice: there is not enough, there can never be enough, you are not enough, you can never be enough. 

Yet this is the world of God’s abundance.

The good life that Jesus invites us into (life 'to the full') is marked by a pervasive and holistic shalom, love of God and neighbor, and joining a family formed around Jesus that practices faithful stewardship and a deep trust and reliance in God's abundance. 

In contrast to the economic imagination of the world around us, we are invited into a Jesus-looking economic imagination that invites us to reconsider the economic status quo and move deeper into a kingdom imagination of abundance.

For the last several years, Open Door has created space for a digital, experience, and relational economy rooted in abundance. Open Door Abundance is where the Open Door family redistributes our resources, skills, time, talents and possessions for the sake of others. On Abundance, you'll find people trading housewares, skills/talents/ideas, recommendations, as well as reaching out for prayer and tangible help in response to pressing needs. 

But sharing our stuff is just the beginning. 

Acts speaks of the Jesus-following family as a community that shared all they had in common. In a letter to the Jesus-community in Thessalonika, Paul talks about sharing the good news of Jesus but also the entirety of life as well. 

What if we continued this journey?

What if we, like the flowers in the field and the birds in the air, practiced abundance to such an extent that we no longer got caught up in worry and stress? What might the world look like if we placed our trust, not in the sound of scarcity, but in the beauty and goodness of God’s abundance?

May we step into this invitation into the fullness of God’s abundance, recognizing that we not only have access to an abundance of stuff, but that we ourselves, together, embody a holistic abundance that can be offered up for the sake of the world around us.

Join us in this journey of Abundance!

Praying the Beatitudes

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Last evening, Mark Scandrette invited us into a Beatitudes prayer of practice and posture.

Take time each day to reflect and pray together as we step into the Way of Jesus.

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Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Lead us in the way of trust (posture: open hands).

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Lead us in the way of lament (posture: head in hands).

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Lead us in the way of humility (posture: palm flat on heart).

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (or justice), for they will be satisfied.

Lead us in the way of justice (posture: clenched fists crossed).

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Lead us in the way of compassion (posture: make heart with hands).

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Lead us in the way of right motive (posture: jazz hands).

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Lead us in the way of peace-making (posture: stretch out and clasp hands together).

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Lead us in the way of surrender (posture: hands crossed, ready for arrest).

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who came before you.

Lead us in the way of radical love (posture: arms outstretched, in posture of a cross).

Everyday Story | Vanessa Sanders

I was a part of the Enneagram Circle that just recently ended. Every week we were all surprised at how quickly the time went because the discussion times were so enjoyable, especially one night where we met on the Kludt's front porch. The conversation would go back and forth and there were many laughs. I remember coming into the Circle one night worn down, feeling like a very unhealthy version of myself, but by the end of our time I felt like our time together had given me grace and encouragement and lightened my mood.  We have been coming out of a hard season of change and I have felt very focused on myself and my little family. It can be incredibly hard to look outside myself and focus on what ways who I am can be used to better those around me. This Circle, and Dave leading it, did a great job at pulling us all out of ourselves and challenging our perception of how we can use the way we were made for the good of the world.

I was a part of the Enneagram Circle that just recently ended. Every week we were all surprised at how quickly the time went because the discussion times were so enjoyable, especially one night where we met on the Kludt's front porch. The conversation would go back and forth and there were many laughs. I remember coming into the Circle one night worn down, feeling like a very unhealthy version of myself, but by the end of our time I felt like our time together had given me grace and encouragement and lightened my mood. 

We have been coming out of a hard season of change and I have felt very focused on myself and my little family. It can be incredibly hard to look outside myself and focus on what ways who I am can be used to better those around me. This Circle, and Dave leading it, did a great job at pulling us all out of ourselves and challenging our perception of how we can use the way we were made for the good of the world.