Philosophers have measured mountains,
          Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
      with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains
But there are two vast, spacious things,
     The which to measure it doth more behove:
          Yet few there are that sound them: Sin and Love.

Who would know Sin, let him repair
          Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
     A man, so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments, bloody be.
     Sin is that Press and Vice, which forceth pain
          To hunt his cruel food through every vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay,
          And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
     Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
     Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
          Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.

A poem by George Herbert (1593-1663)

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Lord Jesus Christ,
this revelation of your pains,
fills me full of pains;
and then it came to me
that I had little known
what pain it was that I had asked,
and like a wretch I regretted it,
thinking that if I had known what it had been,
I should have been reluctant to ask for it.
For it seemed to me that my pains
exceeded any mortal death.
I though, ‘Is there any pain in hell
like this pain?’
And, Lord Jesus, you answered:
‘Hell is a different pain, for in it there is despair.
But of all the pains that lead to salvation,
this is the greatest, to see your beloved suffer.’
How could any pain be greater
than to see you suffer,
my life, my bliss and all my joy?
Here I felt unshakably
that I love you, Lord Jesus Christ
so much more than myself
that there is no pain which can be suffered
like the sorrow which I feel to see you in pain.

The cross used to denote punishment but it has now become a focus of glory. It was formerly a symbol of condemnation but it is now seen as a principle of salvation. For it has now become the source of innumerable blessings: it has delivered us from error, enlightened our darkness, and reconciled us to God; we had become God’s enemies and were foreigners afar off, and it has given us his friendship and brought us close to him. For us it has become the destruction of enmity, the token of peace, the treasury of a thousand blessings.

Thanks to the cross we are no longer wandering in the wilderness, because we know the right road; we are no longer outside the royal palace, because we have found the way in; we are not afraid of the devil’s fiery darts, because we have discovered the fountain. Thanks to the cross we are no longer in a state of widowhood, for we are reunited to the Bridegroom; we are not afraid of the wolf, because we have the good shepherd: “I am the good shepherd,” he said. Thanks to the cross we dread no usurper, since we are sitting beside the King.

From the writings of John Chrysostom, bishop of Antioch (d. 407).

HolyWeek_2014_Banner

For two millenia, Christians have recognized the week before Easter as being the most significant week of the year. Some of the most memorable events in Jesus’ life occurred in his final days on earth, including the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the Scourging of the Temple, the Last Supper, the washing of the disciples’ feet, and of course the crucifixion itself. This week we will walk with Jesus and his disciples along that familiar path through Jerusalem’s dark streets. Each evening we will remember the events that happened that day nearly two thousand years ago, beginning tonight with Jesus’ donkey ride into Jerusalem. If you’re interested in praying with us, I’ve attached our prayers for the week. You’ll notice that Friday is missing – that’s because we’ll have a special service at our house on Friday called a Tenebrae Service, which is a solemn, meditative reading of the Passion story. It’s at 7pm, so join us for that if you’re interested.

Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget Thine agony;                                                                                        Lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.

Lotus Evening Prayers for Holy Week

The following will be published in the upcoming Shalom Missions Communities newsletter.

In the midst of routine has come many exciting changes for the Lotus House community.  The winter, though cold at times, has brought many guests that have provided warmth and encouragement.  Sydney and Stella Warren, from the Bruderhof, spent about two months living in the ‘66 house and engaging in the life of our community, while also interacting with numerous individuals and faith communities across St. Louis.  They were a constant presence and fixture in our community, helping us put down a new 3rd floor in the ’66Syd-Stella dinner house and countless other small projects across the houses.  We thrived on many tasty meals and desserts prepared by their hands.  Hosting the SMC Coordinator’s meeting seemed very simple and painless, due to their presence and hospitality.  We were sad to say goodbye to them at the end of January, but remain grateful for the continuing development of our relationship with their community and the ways they have impacted our lives.

Last fall, a young man named Trevon re-emerged in our lives.  About six years ago, Trevon was a 13 year old who we worked with through the church’s tutoring program.  Trevon came to live with us in a relationship that felt challenged in so maTreny ways.  He stayed with us for about 6 months, before moving on.  Once or twice a year he would drop by the house and Candace would catch up with him.  Last fall, he returned “home.”  When he returned to us, he was already working to get his life back together, applying to get into St. Louis’s Job Corp program.  Tre moved back into the house and enlisted Candace’s help in getting him into the program.  In January, Tre was accepted into the program.  He is doing incredible things, but he has struggled with some of the program rules, which is weighing heavily on our hearts and prayers.

January was an exciting month for our community due to hosting the SMC Coordinators meeting.  Due to the smaller size of our community, we have not been able to host gatherings until now.   For several communities, this was their first time to visit the Lotus House.  We were thrilled to welcome our fellow SMC’ers, and the gathering was an incredible encouragement to our community as well.  We also look forward to additional visitors from our sister communities in the future.

We closed January  with our annual retreat to reflect on the year and our future.  We also spent some time reading and discussing David Janzen’s chapter on the art of wisdom-seeking conversation.

There are many individual transitions happening right now.  Daniel left his job of seven years in housing/mental health services after accepting an administrative position in a local medical school’s intellectual/developmental disability research center.   Stephen recently became engaged to a South Carolina belle named Emily (wedding May 21).  He and Emily will likely spend the summer in Germany if his language study application is approved, and then they will settle in St. Louis, but not as part of the house community.  James is also applying to a similar study program in Germany.  We continue to pray with Alden that his teaching options will expand, as he still has no guarantees that he can remain at SLU.

For the Basses and Daniel, who have been seeking a new church home, no decisions have been made yet, but both are feeling a little more sense of direction in where they may end up.  At this point, we are also still waiting on God to send us new community members, as we know that to sustain two houses, we will need God to provide us new members.

Understanding ourselves to be “new monastics,” we began the Lotus House with the intention of praying together every day. Our covenant said: “Following the ancient tradition of the Church, we will come together as a community twice daily at an appointed time for prayer and thanksgiving.” Ancient monks prayed more frequently of course – seven times a day – but like the Benedictines we wanted prayer to be the organizing principle of our schedule.

It took several years for our aspiration to become a reality. Prayer was infrequent at first. We kept at it, however, and after three or four years (it takes a while!) it became a regular habit. Now the prayer bell rings every day at 7am and 9pm, and we gather around the kitchen table or in the living room and pray together. Our prayers are based on the Family Devotions in the Book of Common Prayer, an ancient model with roots in the Benedictine Divine Office (Thomas Cramner, the prayer book’s original editor, believed that every Christian household ought to function like a little monastery). Though they vary from season to season, out devotions always include a psalm, a scripture reading, prayers of praise and intercession, the Lord’s Prayer, and a hymn or canticle.

Because our daily prayers are rooted in the Christian year, our daily prayers also situate us within a larger annual rhythm which moves through the story of Jesus from Advent to Easter. As the Christians seasons change, our prayers reflect different themes: hope and expectation in Advent, joy in Christmas and Epiphany, penance in Lent, and celebration in Easter. In this way, communal prayer gives structure not only to our daily rhythms, but to our whole year.

Daily communal prayer has many practical benefits. It gets us together in the same room twice a day. It provides an opportunity to check in with each other and to be accountable. It gives structure to other communal rhythms such as meals and service times. Beyond these practical concerns, however, prayer lies at the heart of our mission of discipleship formation. Becoming a disciple is not a matter of performing certain duties, or even feeling a certain way toward other people. Discipleship is a process of growth in which we move from our own culture into the alternative culture of the kingdom of God. Prayer is the language of God’s kingdom, a language of dependence, submission, and thanksgiving, and like any foreign language, it can be learned only through practice and repetition. By daily forming our mouths around the speech of the ancient psalms, the words of scripture, and the prayers and hymns of generations past, we learn to inhabit together the world where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven – the world for which God has created us all.

One of our communal practices at the Lotus House is singing grace before meals. Singing before meals is an ancient practice among Jews and Christians. Jews sing a brachah rishona before meals, especially on Shabat (Sabbath); a common blessing is:

Baruch atah Adonai

elohaynu melech ha’olam

hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.

Which means: “Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” (You can listen to short version here.) Jesus probably prayed this prayer many times, and a similar prayer inspired the Lord’s Supper. Early Christians would have sung a similar blessing before their Agape Meals, and perhaps before daily meals as well.

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Lotus House Table Graces

Our community learned the practice of singing before meals by visiting other Christian intentional communities, especially Reba Place Fellowship and the Bruderhof. From these communities we learned the traditional Moravian blessing “Be Present at Our Table Lord” (probably our most frequently sung grace), the short round “For Health and Strength”, “Morning Has Come”, and the Adelynrood Grace. Some of our songs are simply traditional hymns of thanksgiving, such as the Doxology (sung every Friday evening at community dinner), “Praise Be to God,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “We Gather Together.” We also borrowed a few from the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts, who apparently sing grace at summer camp; some of these selections include “Coca-Cola Grace” and “Yankee Doodle Grace.” Finally, we made up a few blessings ourselves.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to our collection of Table Graces. I’ve attached our songsheet in case anyone is interested in adopting the practice for their own family or community.

Table Graces

ashFor the past couple of years the Lotus House has hosted an Ash Wednesday service. Ash
Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Repentance (Lent), a forty-day period of fasting and penance which culminates with Easter. I’ve attached the order of service below for those interested in a Church of Christ-inspired Ash Wednesday service. If anyone would like to attend tonight, we’ll begin at 6pm; after the service we’ll share some lentil stew and fresh bread.

“Remember, O man, that thou are dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”

Ash Wednesday 2016

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SMC Coordinators January 2016

Last weekend the Lotus House hosted the Shalom Mission Communities 2016 Coordinators meeting. Shalom Mission Communities (SMC) is an association of Anabaptist-inspired intentional communities with shared convictions and practices. At this time, five communities belong to the SMC network: Reba Place Fellowship in Chicago, Plow Creek Community in Tiskilwa, IL, Hope Fellowship in Waco, Church of the Sojourners in San Francisco, and us. The meeting offered us an opportunity to check in with one another about the health of our respective communities, to pray and encourage one another, and to strengthen the bonds of fellowship between us. We were also able to show off our second house (Lotus 4966) and our city.

Among other events, we took our guests on a guided tour of civil rights sites in the city, including the Canfield apartments in Ferguson, the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial near our house, and the Wailing Wall of Delmar. On Sunday, we had the privilege of marching with our friends from Faith for Justice for the “Get Woke, Stay Woke Unity March,” celebrating the legacy of Dr. King. Sadly, the continuing need to “get woke” was announced to us by a police shooting which occurred right around the block from the march. It was also a reminder of the importance of cultivating discipleship communities devoted to shalom.

Here’s an article from Vox entitled “Married, with Roommates“by Thomas Burnett. It’s a nice example of a secular form of co-housing intentional community. I think we can echo Burnett’s conclusion:

“In a fragmented society with little social intimacy after people leave college, shared housing is a viable alternative that shapes us in positive ways that we might not expect. Group houses challenge my wife and me to engage in conflict resolution rather than avoidance. They encourage us to be respectful and considerate of each other rather than belittle and marginalize. Though we aren’t always best friends with the people we live with, it provides us with the spontaneous social contact that we need to thrive. In light of this, it’s worth rethinking whether shared housing is just a stepping stone or a personally fulfilling destination.”

(Thanks to David Baker for sharing.)