New Brunswick is a seasonal place, our lives entwined with the weather here.Februaries in Saint John bring heavy wet precipitation that seems undecided as to whether it is snow or rain. Fluctuations about the freezing point mean layers of ice sandwiched between cement and dustings of snow.
We gathered in the front window nook of an uptown coffee shop for our February proclamation meeting, several of us packed into the smallish spot. Outdoors may be bleak and cold, but indoors we could gratefully warm our hands with the radiant heat of our teas and coffees and bask in the warmth afforded by indoor heating systems. People are drawn indoors in weather like this, and the coffee shop was brimming with customers, making it hard to hear one another at times.
In February, the awareness that we are situated in season and place can’t be easily overlooked. Overwintering in Saint John necessitates slowing down and acquiescence.God gently prods us with constant reminders that you have to be patient in February: patient with the weather, with the dormancy, with your neighbour, with yourself.
It’s all too easy to be caught up in the desire to be active, to deliver, to produce tangible goods, show measurable results. Earnest Christians are far from exempt from this desire. In our longing to serve God and love our neighbours we can be tempted to be overly active. To see our role primarily as doers. We can go on autopilot and forget to slow down, to stop doing, so as to rest in Him in prayer and to just be. February reminds us of this.
The proclamation group’s desire is to gather publically to pray and proclaim Scripture over our city. In these colder months, this active part of the ministry is put on hiatus. The alluring instinct is to switch into full-gear administrative planning mode. Instead we gather to pray, to listen, to share what God has been whispering into our hearts in the slowness and silence of this cold winter. When we gathered in February and we began to share the Scriptures that had been put on our individual hearts, a unified message began to unfold that spoke powerfully to each one of us.
Here are the Scriptures that we brought to the table:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in[h] him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in[i] him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
‘’…you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew,circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
John 17; Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 1; Psalm 143:8; Psalm 23; Psalm 51; and Matthew 16
We spent the majority of our time in prayer considering the passage from the third chapter of Colossians which details what unfolds as we put on the new self.
Just as the Lord showed the sisters in Bethany — Martha caught up in her busy-ness of service and Mary sitting in stillness, raptly, at our Lord’s feet — we were reminded that it is ‘the better part’ to abide in Him, to wait for His direction, to be rooted in our identity in Christ, and to act only out of the overflow of His life in us. There is a natural, unforced germination of God’s plan — and our transformation — that takes place when we root ourselves in our true identity in Him, forgetting ourselves and putting on Christ. Striving to remain rooted in our identity in Christ as chosen, holy, and beloved ones, we will bear fruit in the form of the virtues necessary to make us capable to best love our neighbour. But what is it to love our neighbour? To love requires the conditioning of our hearts to will the good of others over ourselves. Perhaps, we said, as we pondered verses 11 through 17, this passage was particularly ordered thus as a road map to that destination. We considered whether each preceding layer prepared the soil for the germination of the next:
Recognizing ourselves as chosen, holy, and beloved→
We can experience heartfelt compassion→
Which will manifest in kindness→
Preferring others to ourselves,this produces humility→
In a spirit of humility we become gentle →
Gentle with others and ourselves, we develop patience→
Patience will enable us to bear with one another→
As we bear with one another we find the
capacity to forgive one another→
This is the manifestation of love.
Imagine the power of each one of us living out this progression from our identity as holy, beloved, and chosen! Imagine each of us who are the Church in this city living thus! Imagine an entire city transformed by the discovery of their true identity and purposes, their dignified destiny and calling!
Embracing the stillness of this season, we rest in being; in who we are, not what we can do. We sit at the feet of the Lord, drawing radiant heat from Him as though from a crackling log on a fire. And uplifted in our awareness of Christ in us and we in Him, we go forth in praise and thanksgiving, bathed in the love of God, moved by the Holy Spirit to liberally pour that same love out on our families, our neighbours, our city.