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Fullness of Joy

submitted by the Rev. F. Thomas Lichner

Julian of Norwich said, “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.” For more than ten years I sat beside a framed version of this quote each time I met with my spiritual director. I sat on a chair in a long, dimly lighted, hallway of a Jesuit monastery, across from her office and read Julian’s simple words many times. They always got my attention and led me to wonder deeply about joy and how experiencing God in all things could bring me the most abundant joy.
Numerous times, the Bible refers to God restoring our joy and making our joy complete. St. Paul names joy as one of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22. When we are genuinely joyful, we can be pretty certain that we are in tune with God, because God is the source of joy. Consequently, when we can experience God in all of life, in everything, then the source of joy will be present to us always.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has said, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” During this next week take particular note of the times you experience joy. When you notice, savor the experience of joy. It is a life-giving feeling. Savor it. Breathe-in the joy and bask in it…You are closely connected with God. Enjoy the moment and give thanks to God. If you can read music, sing the chant below and let it lead you into this prayerful time.

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Joy

submitted by the Rev. F. Thomas Lichner

Today is my birthday…marking another year in my life; another year older, thanks be to God. Among other gifts, my wife gave me a card that said, “Your love fills my heart with joy”. What a beautiful sentiment. What gracious words for her to say to me. I loved the message and expressed my gratitude to her. It also led me to ponder the meaning of “joy”.
Synonyms for joy are: happiness, pleasure, delight, gladness, merriment, and enjoyment. The words joy, rejoice, joyous, and joyful are found over 200 times in the Bible. Joy is the fruit of a right relationship with God and yet it is not something that we can create by our own efforts. Pleasure seeking is not the same as the deep joy that we find in relationship with God. Godly joy is the satisfaction that comes from finding the lost sheep, the lost coin, and lost son…Read Luke 15.
Take a prayerful moment to recall a time in your life when you’ve experienced the feelings that accompany the recovery of a precious treasure that was lost. Slow down… Take time now to breathe… Remember that moment… Savor it… Receive the life that it gives to you… Savor it even more… This is the joy that comes from living in the spirit of God…Thanks be to God.

(written by the Rev Tom Lichner, D. Min.) 

In practicing hospitality we share not only what we have, but also who we are.  We offer our guests food and drink, shelter, rest and protection.  But we also offer care, enjoyment, and peace.

Many congregations extend hospitality to Christ in their communities by making inviting space for various “not-for-profit” organizations to hold meetings; groups like: neighborhood police watch, food pantries, recovery groups, play groups for young moms, youth scouting programs, and many more.

In two congregations that I served, I created the volunteer position of hospitality liaison.  For each community group meeting in the facility, I recruited one member of the congregation to serve as a friendly contact person.  Each liaison would meet the leader(s) of their assigned group to extend a welcome from the congregation.  They would also periodically check with the group leader to be sure all was well between the congregation and the group.  This hospitality liaison program allowed the parishioners to take ownership of this community outreach ministry and gave them another opportunity to practice hospitality.

You’ve heard it said, “My house is your house.”  This sounds like a very hospitable attitude, but it’s not easy to share our space with others.  Without God’s help we tend to protect it by not allowing others in.  However, true hospitality is not simply tolerating the stranger/guest in our midst, but showing genuine concern for their comfort and well-being.

“When a street is cordoned off, refreshments provided, music and

 games offered by neighbors to each other, and people are given an 

excuse to mingle for a few hours on a summer evening, then the street

 takes on a new and more hospitable meaning.  Do it often enough and 

that street becomes a place where people pass each other with warm

 memories and hopeful expectations rather than unawareness and suspicion.”

(Parker J .Palmer, The Company of Strangers: 

Christians and the Renewal of America’s Public Life, p. 69)

Try This Guided Prayer Experience

(Take a few minutes to be still with God and think about the ways you and your faith family have demonstrated hospitality to your neighbors or your community.  Linger for a while with these thoughts and savor them. Thank God for these ways that you’ve practiced hospitality and express your gratitude for others who demonstrate hospitality.  Ask God to provide you with the desire and the energy to continue in your hospitable ways.  Pay attention to the ways that God guides you in the next days).

(written by Rev. Tom Lichner, D.Min.)

In practicing hospitality we share not only what we have, but also who we are.  We offer our guests food and drink, shelter, rest and protection.  But we also offer care, enjoyment, and peace.  Consider here your personal hospitality toward God by trying this 30 minute guided prayer experience.

WHATS THE ROOM LIKE IN YOUR INN?

Guided Prayer with Scripture

Centering Prayer – As you prepare to be prayerfully in the presence of God, settle-in to a quiet space. Relax and slow your pace by breathing slowly and deeply in and out. Further open yourself to God by expressing your thanks for this time and your dependency upon God’s grace.

1. Read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and John 14:23 twice.

1 Cor. 3:16-17: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

Jn. 14:23: “Jesus replied, ’If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’.”

2. Read the following commentary and reflect upon it for 2 minutes…

Have you ever sought lodging at a hotel or motel after long hours of travel?  If you have, did you ever ask the lobby desk clerk if you could see the room before checking-in?  This is a common practice for many travelers who are hoping to find the room in a particular condition before agreeing to “take-up” lodging.

Offering a cordial welcome and a pleasant, sustaining environment are particular aspects of behavior which we generally associate with hospitality. Hospitality is a very important part of life in all cultures and more prominently practiced in some parts of the world. Regardless of where hospitality is practiced, it is a wonderful gift from God; a deeply spiritual and yet simple gift. However, it is not always easy to offer.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and John 14:23 remind you that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells within you. If God’s home is your very body, as these verses of scripture suggest, then you will want to take particular notice of your hospitality toward God. Consider all of the ways that you would normally be hospitable to house-guests and in the same ways practice your hospitality to God.

3. Reflect and Journal:

a) Imagine that you are preparing to welcome a houseguest who will be staying in your home for a few days. Consider the variety of ways that you would pay attention to your practice of hospitality for your guest. How would you make your guest feel welcome and at home?

b) Close your eyes and imagine casually walking through the interior of your body, where you find numerous spacious rooms. All is pleasant and all is well within your interior home. As you continue your walk and enter the next room, imagine discovering a houseguest who is God. Imagine sitting and talking with God. Eventually, get around to asking God, who dwells within you, how God experiences your hospitality. Listen and wait for a response for 10 minutes. Now ask how you might be even more hospitable to God, your houseguest. Listen and Wait 10 minutes for God’s response.

c) Ask God for the gift of hospitality and in your own way, express your thanks to God for this time together in prayer.

(Continue this prayer into the rest of your day by singing the chant below several times and then allowing it to resonate within you throughout the day.)

(written by Rev. Tom Lichner, D.Min.)

While serving as a pastor in center city Allentown, Pa., I was presented with a “hospitality opportunity” on one cold, snowy, winter day.  A homeless person came to my office asking for a dry pair of socks.  After a friendly greeting, I walked with him to the parish’s community clothing closet to search for socks.  Sadly there were none to be found.  So I sat down, removed my shoes and then the almost new, white sport socks that I was wearing.  I offered the gentleman-stranger the socks from my feet and he was delighted and grateful to have them.  He put them on his feet immediately and left the church satisfied.

Later that day, I reflected about the incident and how Christ was powerfully present in both of us; in the giving and receiving of genuine hospitality.  I remember that this experience was very life-giving for me.  The parable of “the last judgment”, (Matthew 25:31-46), holds up the idea that we demonstrate hospitality to Jesus, himself, when we minister to the needy.

“Hospitality not only welcomes strangers; it also recognizes their holiness.

 It sees in the stranger a person dear to and made in the image of God, 

someone bearing distinctive gifts that only he or she can bring.”

(Ana Maria Pineda, Hospitality, Chap. 3, Practicing Our Faith).

This leads me to say something about hospitality in reference to an indwelling God.  The Genesis creation story describes God as breathing God’s spirit into our god-fashioned-figure to bring us to life.  Consequently, the spirit of God dwells within us and we are indelibly spiritual beings.  We can honor that “God-spirit” within our neighbors by offering hospitality to them whenever the opportunity presents itself; especially in times of obvious need.  As Jesus reminds us, in so doing we offer our tender loving care to him.

Try This Guided Prayer Experience

(Take two minutes now to recall any incident in your life when you sensed that you offered care to Christ or received care from Christ in the guise of a neighbor or stranger. Do your best to recall what that incident was like for you. How did Christ seem to you?  Now be still and sing the chant below several times and allow it to resonate within you throughout the day.)

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(written by Rev. Tom Lichner, D.Min.)

In practicing hospitality we share not only what we have, but also who we are.  We offer our guests food and drink, shelter, rest and protection.  But we also offer care, enjoyment, and peace.

Early church members met in each other’s houses where they regularly took turns being hosts and guests.  St. Paul traveled far and wide, from one house church to another, appreciating the nourishing hospitality offered to him.  Perhaps the gift of hospitality was especially precious in these days when travel was very perilous with few public amenities to make it safer or easier.  This made the giving and receiving of hospitality more naturally reciprocal.

In some mysterious way, acting as a gracious host encourages our guests to want to reciprocate with their own hospitality. When I served as a host at our parish’s weekly shelter for homeless guests, during the coldest months of the winter, I noticed this happening.  Numerous guests would spontaneously volunteer to assist with cleaning the kitchen, rest rooms, and sleeping area.  One of our regular guests always brought baked-goods to share with everyone.  I also experience this phenomenon with friends who reciprocate dinner invitations to their homes after having been a guest at my house.

“To offer hospitality to a stranger is to welcome something new,

 unfamiliar, and unknown into our life-world…Strangers have stories

 to tell which we have never heard before, stories which can

 redirect our seeing and stimulate our imaginations. 

 The stories invite us to view the worlds from a novel perspective.”

Thomas Ogletree, Hospitality to the Stanger

(Take two minutes right now to recall and reflect upon your most vivid memories of receiving and offering hospitality. How might God have been a part of those experiences?)

(written by the Rev. Tom Lichner, D.Min.)

Chances are that you’ve heard many times about the fruits of the spirit.  When we can see any of the following characteristics in our lives, it can be a sign of the spirit of God shining through us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, generosity, and self-control (Gal 5:22).  I can imagine mixing these nine ingredients in a blender and pouring out hospitality.  Practicing hospitality involves so many aspects of who we are and it can reach into a great variety of life’s places.

Marjorie Thompson (Soul Feast, An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life) says, “Hospitality means receiving the other, from the heart, into my own dwelling place.  It entails providing for the need, comfort, and delight of the other with all the openness, respect, freedom, tenderness, and joy that love itself embodies.”  In practicing hospitality we share not only what we have, but also who we are.  We offer our guests food and drink, shelter, rest and protection.  But we also offer care, enjoyment, and peace.  Can you see how the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:22) are the heart and soul of hospitality?

(What is the essence of hospitality for you? What do you think the most important ingredients of hospitality are? Take a few minutes to write your response.  )

God’s expectation for us to welcome strangers and treat them justly is woven throughout the Bible.  “…you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt…” (Lev. 19:33-34 and Deut. 10:19).  A major focus of the Seder (Passover Meal) is to remind participants of their past, living as strangers in a strange land.  The biblical story makes clear that all God’s people are spiritually descended from migrants and wanderers. Consequently we should always identify with the plight of the stranger and offer them our hospitality.

Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality to the three strangers (angels) at Mamre results in receiving God’s promise of a son in their old age (Gen. 18:1-10).  Connected to this story is Hebrews 13:2, which urges us to show hospitality to strangers because they might be angels.  A related theme can be found in Romans 12:13, which reminds us to “…extend hospitality to strangers.” And we can’t forget our faith tradition regarding hospitality for Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem when she was “with child”.

Another take on hospitality is presented in the story of Martha and Mary where Martha invites Jesus as a guest into her house and wears herself out with serving only to be taught that on this day it is better to sit, enjoy the presence of Jesus, and receive the hospitality he has to offer (Luke 10:38-42).

Try This Guided Prayer Experience

(Make time this week to sit still and prayerfully meditate upon several of these Biblical references to the practice of hospitality.  If it is truly your desire, ask God to increase within you the gift of hospitality and to guide you in ways of practicing this spiritual discipline in your life.  In the coming days, watch for the opportunities to be hospitable that God puts before you.)

 

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