Marks of Mission Sermons

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Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

How Can I Keep From Singing? – Br. Jim Woodrum

The Marks of Mission: Teaching, Baptizing, and Nurturing Believers – Br. Curtis Almquist

Baptizing, Teaching and Nurturing: The Second Mark of Mission – Br. David Vryhof

Marks of Mission: True Confessions – Br. Mark Brown

Marks of Love (Where Nails Have Been): Reflecting on the Third Mark of Mission – Br. Keith Nelson

Behold, I Make All Things New – Br. David Vryhof

Radical Radishes – Br. James Koester

Common Connection – Br. Luke Ditewig

Confess the Good: Week 4 | Day 2

What if you were asked to confess… to all the good you’ve done? Br. Mark Brown shares how important it is that we acknowledge all the ways that God’s power is and has been active in our lives.

Question: How are you already responding to human need?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: God Sighting Map


Transcript: Sometimes when I’m leading a retreat or hearing a confession, I’ll ask people to do something that often causes some confusion: I’ll ask people to confess the good that they have done.  Not just make a list of their sins but to confess how the love, and the power of the God, have actually worked in and through them, because after all, God is present, and active, and living within us, and the impulse to do good, whatever it is, comes from that source.

If we were to make a true and full confession, we not only need to list what we’ve done wrong.  But we need to actually acknowledge the ways in which God’s power, and God’s love have worked in and through us, using our hands as it were.  So I’ll ask people to make a complete confession of these things.

And I think it relates to the Marks of Mission, because the Marks of Mission are not just something out there to do in the future.  But they are, in a sense, a recognition of what we’re already doing as a church.  Maybe not fully, or completely, or perfectly, but it’s what we’re actually doing already.  We actually are already proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom and responding to human need by loving service, and other things on that list of Marks of Mission.  We’re already doing those things.  And acknowledging the reality of that, and coming to embrace the truth of that – that God is, indeed, working through us – is where we begin.

So before you think about what you might do, or what you could do to respond to human need, you might stop and reflect on how you already are doing that.  You already are responding to human need in loving service.  Think about those things.

– Br. Mark Brown

Question: How are you already responding to human need?

Week 4 Activity: God Sighting Map
This week, create your own “God Sighting Map,” which locates God’s presence and activity in your surroundings and in your interactions with others. Start close to home, then move out into your neighborhood and community. Who or what has been a sign of God’s love to you today?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Letter to God: Week 1 | Day 7

Hannah Tadros shares her experience of completing the first week’s activity, writing a “Letter to God”: how reluctance and even fear turned into not one but four letters to the One who calls her “beloved.”

Activity: Write a Letter to God

 

Transcript: So when Brother David approached me with the idea to do this exercise, my first impulse was, “Yes!”  And then I saw the exercise and my first impulse was, “No!”  There was a real reluctance when I saw that this was a letter to God.  That I was sitting and dwelling on this phrase, “You are my beloved,” and that I in turn had to respond.  There was a real reluctance and also a fear to actually do that.  And I flipped through and looked at the other exercises and said, “Can I do that one instead?  Can I do that one instead?”  They just seemed easier I guess to get out there to talk to, or to work, or to do something, rather than just sit and dwell on this thought, and to just sit in silence with God and respond to a phrase like, “You are the beloved.”

And then I read Brother Mark’s piece in the Fall edition of the Cowley, where he talks about how Jesus, after receiving this message that, “You are my beloved,” doesn’t head out and get to work.  He goes into the wilderness and he’s alone with this for 40 days, and that struck me.  I was like, “Let’s go heal the lepers and yell at Pharisees instead.”  Jesus is withdrawing and being alone with God in this time.

So I took it as a little bit of a challenge, and a push, and I tried to stay with that thought that God is love and that God loves me personally.  And I tried to kind of delve into the reluctance and the fear.  For years what I hoped to believe about love, and what I used really as a prayer book, was Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet.  And his section on love was one of my favorites.  It talks about love as this dual entity.  He says, “It will crown you but it will also crucify you.”  And he talks about love’s threshing floor, and how you start as a grain, and then it goes through kind of violent imagery to get you to the other side to be flour after you’re husked and ground, and to be part of God’s sacred feast.  And I think there is something very appealing in that imagery but also very terrifying.  And I think part of that was my reluctance to sit with this piece.

And all of this kind of made it to the four letters I ended up to God, because they were all over the place.  My reluctance, my fear, and after I sat with it a little bit my nostalgia, and kind of longing, and that feeling of missing God, and missing that intimacy that I feel like I have run away from a lot.  So that’s where the exercise went for me.  It went all over the place.  I found many different responses in me to the thought of being God’s beloved, and I kind of put them all down and left them up to God.

– Hannah Tadros

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Go in Peace: Week 1 | Day 6

When we worship, we can’t help but be changed. Br. James Koester discusses some of the moments in worship that have most changed him and urges us to “go” out into the world from our worship and bring the change with us.

Question: How are you going to be God’s hands in the world today?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: I think it’s true to say that if you asked different brothers in the community why they came to the community, we would all give you slightly different answers.  But there would be one answer that we all share in common, and that is we came here to the monastery so that we can spend our time, or spend the majority of our time, in worship.  I think for us as brothers in the community, worship is one of the central identifying marks of our life.  We have come here so that we can worship God.  And worship is really central to our understanding of our self, and how we participate in God’s mission.

One of the things that we say in our rule is that our mission is inseparable from our call to live in union with God in prayer, worship, and mutual love.  So for us as brothers in the community, our understanding of the mission of God begins with worship, and who we are, and who we become through the act of worship.

There are a number of little key moments for me in our worship, which I think change us, and transform us.  One of those moments in the Eucharist, which change us, is the exchange of the peace – where, day by day by day, we say to one another, “Peace be with you,” or, “God’s peace be with you.”  And living as closely as we do with one another, there are many, many days where I actually would rather punch somebody out than exchange the peace with them.  That being forced day after day after day to exchange the peace with brother X – who I am bearing a grudge, or who I have had an argument with – actually begins to change my relationship with them so that I actually do begin to wish them God’s peace.

Another key moment for me is hearing and doing the words “Take, eat,” or “Drink this,” as we come to feast on Christ in the Eucharist.  And that constant feeding on Christ in the Eucharist changes us.  But for me the word that I get teased for the most because of how I say it when I’m presiding at the Eucharist is the word “go.”  And I often put the emphasis, I put a strong emphasis, on the word “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” and the brothers tease me about this.  But I think that word is really significant because if we come to worship, we can’t help but be changed by worship, and then we are sent out.  We are sent out on God’s mission into the world.

So I think it’s safe to say our understanding of our participation in the mission of the God is that it begins for us in worship, and it’s from worship that we are sent out to do God’s work, and participate in God’s mission.  And so, for us, we cannot separate our participation in the mission of God from our worship of God day by day in the Eucharist.  So one thing you might want to reflect on as you leave the Eucharist this week is how are you going to be God’s hands in the world today.

– Br. James Koester

Question: How are you going to be God’s hands in the world today?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Say Your Prayers: Week 1 | Day 3

Do the Five Marks of Mission feel overwhelming, rather like a big to-do list? Just “say your prayers,” Br. John Braught recommends, because the mission is God’s, not ours, and God will reveal to you how and who you are to serve – often in very small ways that arrive throughout the day.

Question: How, in small ways, could you carry out God’s Mission today?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: When it comes to mission, the first thing I would tell someone is, “Say your prayers.”  For a lot of people the word “mission” can be rather overwhelming, and as we talk about the five Marks of Mission – abbreviated as tell, teach, tend, transform, and treasure – it can all become like some giant to-do list, as in one might respond, “I can’t do this.  I’m not qualified or I don’t have enough time.”  To which we would reply, “You’re right.  See every other servant God has called for these and similar objections.”  The point is it’s God’s mission, not ours, and God will show us how we are to serve, and who we are to serve.  So say your prayers.  Each day pray for opportunities to serve.  Ask, “God, show me how I can be helpful this day and keep alert.”  I usually add, “And please make it crystal clear, otherwise I’m liable to miss it.  I’m sometimes not that quick.”

There is a saying in the Eastern tradition that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  But the reverse is true as well.  When the teacher is ready, the student will appear.  So pray for ways to serve, pray for opportunities to serve, and stay alert.  Our mission will not often be grand.  It’s the little things, the small ways that we serve, a smile, a handshake, a hug, being kind to someone in customer service, especially when things aren’t going our way.  Each and every day we’re acting as ambassadors of Christ, and we should imagine that we’re wearing that kind of nametag on our chest, so that people come away from interacting with us feeling better, hopeful, like there is kindness, and goodness, and love in the world.  That’s our real vocation.  That’s what we are called to be and to do.  But in order to know what to do, and to have the power to carry that out, we’ll need God’s help, so say your prayers.

How, in small ways, could you carry out God’s mission today?

– Br. John Braught

Question: How, in small ways, could you carry out God’s Mission today?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

What Is God Doing?: Week 1 | Day 5

Who acts in mission? Not us, as we might often think, but God. Br. Jim Woodrum encourages us – before looking to begin acting in mission – to first look around us and see what God has been doing in and around our lives.

Question: Where do you see God at work?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: Well, often when we think of the work of mission, we think that we have to act and through our action, God responds, and actually, that’s flipped.  God actually has set things in motion and we respond with what God is doing.  It’s been that way since the beginning of time.  In Genesis, we read that God set the world in the motion.  He said, “Let there be,” and there was, and it was good.  God established a covenant with Abraham.  God reached out to deliver the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.  And we as Christians believe that God actually entered into our human condition in the person of Jesus Christ to heal all that has separated us from God and each other.

So the mission of God has already begun, and our job is to then participate in that mission.  But the first thing that we have to do before we can participate is to discern in our lives what God is doing.  What has God been doing in the world? What is God doing in our communities? And in our lives? And perhaps in the lives of our family?  So when thinking about, and praying with, participating in God’s mission, maybe you could ask yourself: “Where do I see God at work?”

– Br. Jim Woodrum

Question: Where do you see God at work?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Date with Creation: Week 6 | Day 7

Atticus Olivet shares how two separate experiences of this week’s activity, “Date with Creation,” opened him to a deeper appreciation of how the wonders of creation and the natural world can be experienced no matter where we are.

Activity: Date with Creation


Transcript: So I did this exercise twice.  And the first time I did it where I was completely still, out in a place that I genuinely cared about.  So I went out to what I call my sacred spot, which is a small bench that nobody knows about at Fresh Pond.  So I went out there and I completed the whole exercise, basically not speaking.  I couldn’t see anybody else.  I couldn’t hear any construction sounds or anything, just far away from everything in my solitude.  And I could hear wind blowing and leaves rustling and other things that you wouldn’t even think of, like a woodpecker like 100 miles away.  That’s what it felt like.  Things that you would have never even think of.

Then the thing that really got me, and I actually started kind of tearing up a little bit, was when in the exercise, the second column, when it asks to offer thanks. I was sort of thinking about all of the things that Fresh Pond has done for me, because Fresh Pond is sort of my place of solitude.  I go there when I’m sad, when I’m sort of—when I need to sort of take a breath out of fast, busy paced life, and kind of go out into nature and really connect.  And I sort of had a really deep connection to this place and sort of just said thanks in my own way to what this place has done for me.

And by doing that, it sort of helped me do all the other things in the exercise, like kind of be present where I was.  Sort of thinking about how this place has affected me, how it’s affecting me right now, what I’m doing, how I’m sitting, how my posture is, how the world is interacting around me.  It was a really, really great experience.

And then I did the exercises a second time and this time I did it physically on a bike.  I rode – because I’ve really started kind of getting into road biking a little bit – I went out as far as I possibly could.  I ended up – I don’t even know where I was, honestly.  I was way past Chelmsford or something.  So I was in the middle of nowhere.  And at that point, you’re just surrounded by trees, and you’re on these deserted roads, and then you start sort of getting into this Zen zone where you’re by yourself and it’s just you and nature.

So again, I heard the wind going by me.  I could feel the wind on my face.  I could feel the sun coming through the trees.  I heard the woodpecker 100 miles away.  It was very similar to the sort of feeling I had felt at Fresh Pond and it just sort of made me realize that nature is sort of around us all the time even if you’re not really thinking about it.  So if you’re in the city, you need to sort of make an effort a little bit to get out there.  But once you get there, it’s all the same to connect with what’s around you.

– Atticus Olivet

Week 6 Activity: Date with Creation
Nurturing a healthy relationship with Creation takes time and intention. This week, schedule a few “dates” with Creation, finding a favorite spot in nature to return to each day. Nurture your relationship with Creation by offering thanks, being present, listening, protecting, and praying in this spot.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

All Ground is Holy Ground: Week 6 | Day 6

Creation is not just sacred, but ongoing, something that God is creating each moment. Br. Nicholas Bartoli ponders along with the words of his favorite hymn, how we are still in Eden, where God is still at work creating. All ground is holy ground.

Question: When did you last recognize creation as “sacred”? How can we foster that sense of awareness?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Date with Creation


Transcript: This week we’re looking at the fifth Mark of Mission, striving to safeguard the integrity of creation.  And one thing that I find really important here is looking at our motivation to safeguard the integrity of creation.

You know we could talk a lot about biodiversity, saving habitats for certain species; we could talk about pollution; we could talk about a lot of things.  But for me, the most important way that I feel motivated to protect the integrity of creation, is remembering that all of creation is sacred.

One of my favorite hymns that we often sing during morning prayer is Morning Has Broken, Hymn number eight in the hymnal.  And I think I like it so much because it really powerfully speaks to this idea of creation being sacred.  And not only as sacred, but as something that God is creating in each moment that creation is sort of ongoing.  And in a way, God’s participation here and now in each moment is Eden, and that we never really left Eden.  We just have somehow fallen asleep, and each moment could be a good morning, a morning where we awake to find that yes, we’re still in Eden, and creation is so infinitely precious and beautiful, but it deserves protecting.  It’s a way of recognizing that all ground is holy ground, and so of course, it needs to be protected not because of anything it can give us, but simply because it’s been created by God, and we share it, and we cultivate it.

So we might ask ourselves, “When was the last time we can recall when we recognized creation as sacred?”  And having recognized it as such, is there a way we can foster that sense of awareness of creation being sacred, even all the time, in every moment, so we can help foster this sense of desiring to preserve it, and nurture it, and protect it?

– Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Question: When did you last recognize creation as “sacred”?  How can we foster that sense of awareness?

Week 6 Activity: Date with Creation
Nurturing a healthy relationship with Creation takes time and intention. This week, schedule a few “dates” with Creation, finding a favorite spot in nature to return to each day. Nurture your relationship with Creation by offering thanks, being present, listening, protecting, and praying in this spot.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Arma Christi: Week 1 | Day 4

Br. Keith Nelson shares his own personal devotion to praying with the five wounds of Christ, as remembered in medieval spirituality, especially in the visual illustration of the “arma christi,” Christ’s coat of arms. He asks us to imagine what a “coat of arms” based on the 5 Marks of Mission would look like for the contemporary Christian.

Question: Which “Mark of Mission” is closest to your wounded, sacred heart?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: A rich source of inspiration in my own prayer life has been meditating with the wounds of Christ, and in particular 13th and 14th Century medieval texts or writings, visionary writings, about these wounds.  Medieval Christians in particular during this period of time had a very intense, quite emotional devotion to these wounds of Christ.  They saw them as these kind of royal insignia testifying to the depths of God’s love, as floodgates of Christ’s lifeblood, as portals into the mysteries of heaven.  So this medieval imagination went many places that were quite meaningful to the church at that time with this devotion to Christ’s wounds.

So as I’ve prayed with these texts, with my own woundedness, with the wounds that I have perceived in the church, it strikes me that there is a kind of connection or a conversation perhaps to be had between these five Marks of Mission and the five wounds of Christ.  It has to do with our legibility, our recognizabilty to the world as Christians, in a world in which I think things of the church, of Christianity, of the way of Christ are increasingly less legible, because it’s really these wounds that are the ways that the church is recognized as the body of Christ.  And the wounds on the risen and ascended Christ are the ways that the disciples recognize, “This is Jesus.  This is the Jesus we knew before his death and resurrection.”

So one particular visual image — I’m often a visual pray-er — that I find fascinating, and relevant to this conversation, it’s called the Arma Christi, or the Arms of Christ, the Coat of Arms of Christ.  So in medieval life, a coat of arms would have been a clear visual means of recognizing a person, so what house they belonged to, what family they belonged to, certain essential information about this person, particularly on a battlefield or at a medieval tournament.  So you see on this shield they have the hands of Christ, there’s the name of Christ here, the feet of Christ, a challis, and into that challis flows the lifeblood of Christ from his wounded, sacred heart.

So we might think about what a contemporary coat of arms of a Christian might look like.  If we think about these Marks of Mission, how might the Marks of Mission be represented on a coat of arms to help us to be recognizable, legible to the world as Christians?  And you might think about of all of these Marks of Mission likely one of them captivates you or captures your heart in a particular way.  So you might think about which of these Marks of Mission is closest to your own wounded sacred heart.

– Br. Keith Nelson

Question: Which “Mark of Mission” is closest to your wounded, sacred heart?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

To God’s Glory: Week 6 | Day 5

The whole of creation is sacramental, pointing us to God. Br. Curtis Almquist suggests how an understanding of panentheism – that everything is in God – can ignite our passion and point us toward something we can do to safeguard the creation, and to God’s glory.

Question: What is it in creation that captures your passion?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Date with Creation


Transcript: Creation is teaming with God’s glory, with God’s infinite creativity, and God’s oneness with all that God has created.  As Anglicans, we embrace a sacramental theology – Now do you remember from your confirmation days what is a sacrament? A sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” – that the whole of creation is sacramental.  The whole of creation points us to God.

In the ancient vocabulary of the church there is a word for this, and it’s panentheism.  I’m not saying pantheism.  Pantheism is “God is all,” so God is rock, God is tree, God is sky, God is water.  Pantheism: theos, God, pan, everything.  But I’m saying panentheism, that everything is in God.  That everything points us back to God.  That the whole of creation is iconic, like an icon.  That God is always more than we experience in creation, but God is not less.

I’ll leave you with a question.  As you experience creation that surrounds you, what is it that captures your passion?  Now it may be passion in the sense of love, of deep love, something to which you’re greatly attracted because of its beauty, its glory.  Or it may be passion because of suffering.  Something of creation that is suffering, diminishing – to use St. Paul’s phrase – “groaning with travail.”  Is there something that you could do on behalf of something in creation to God’s glory?

– Br. Curtis Almquist

Question: What is it in creation that captures your passion?

Week 6 Activity: Date with Creation
Nurturing a healthy relationship with Creation takes time and intention. This week, schedule a few “dates” with Creation, finding a favorite spot in nature to return to each day. Nurture your relationship with Creation by offering thanks, being present, listening, protecting, and praying in this spot.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Treasure Creation: Week 6 | Day 4

The language we use to talk about something deeply shapes how we relate to that thing. Br. Luke Ditewig encourages us to consider the way our talk about creation might help us treasure creation, not as an object for our own use, but as a subject, created with dignity and love, just as we ourselves are.

Question: How do you really view creation – as “I-it” or as “I-Thou”?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Date with Creation


Transcript: As we treasure creation, remember that language shapes and indicates our perspective.  The 20th-century philosopher, Martin Buber, distinguished two types of relating, “I-it” and “I-Thou.”  I-it sees the other as objectified: I am superior, I use the other for my own use, for my need, and I can disregard it because it’s only for my purpose.  When I see the other as I-Thou, the other is equal, has dignity of its own right, has worth, belovedness that’s equal to me, and as I open myself up to it, I am changed by the other because I respect it.

If we see all of creation as I-it, as an object simply for our own use, then it’s a natural resource, just something to be used when I want to, and also to be disregarded if I don’t want to.  But if we see creation as I-Thou, then the water, the air, the soil, each has its own dignity, its own worth, indeed its own belovedness, simply as it is.  My use or preference is secondary.  I need to treat it with dignity and respect, simply as a creation of God.

So how do you treasure creation?  How do you relate to it?  As an object, something for your own use, or is it a brother or sister like St. Francis said?  Is it one who has been created with love as we ourselves are, as dignity and worth, and as something for us to cherish, to listen to, indeed to be changed by, as we relate to it.

Here is something to ponder today: How do I really view creation?  Is it as an I-it or as an I-Thou?

– Br. Luke Ditewig

Question: How do you really view creation – as “I-it” or as “I-Thou”?

Week 6 Activity: Date with Creation
Nurturing a healthy relationship with Creation takes time and intention. This week, schedule a few “dates” with Creation, finding a favorite spot in nature to return to each day. Nurture your relationship with Creation by offering thanks, being present, listening, protecting, and praying in this spot.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Icons of Hope: Week 5 | Day 7

Sarah Hill shares her experience of reflecting on transformation this week with the “Icons of Hope” activity. She honors the witness of strong women who have inspired her, identifying how they embody the gifts God has given them.

Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: Hi, I’m Sarah, and I’ve been reflecting this past week on the theme of transformation, and specifically how to transform and challenge unjust structures in our society.

The initial issue that I am thinking about is the issue of racial violence in the U.S. happening right now.  And I feel very strongly that I want to and pray that I can in some way contribute to pushing against that, and challenging it, and transforming it.  However, the issue and what I chose to reflect on this past week was the power and the empowerment of courageous and strong women that have personally inspired me.  One of those women is Mitsy Copeland who is an absolutely beautiful and courageous and strong ballerina who has overcome lots of prejudice and lots of personal challenges, including age and how her body is perceived.  And I have had this on my wall for the past week as I prepare for the San Francisco Marathon and she’s been very inspiring to me.

And I tried to reflect on what particularly is so inspiring about people like Mitsy.  And for me it is that she is embodying the gifts that God has given her so fully, and with so much strength, that the light just shines out from her.  And she shares God’s joy and God’s light with everyone who she is able to connect with and to reach.

So my prayer is that I can in some way embody and just take on and live into the gifts that God has given me in a way that is so powerful that I can’t help but share God’s light through the action of doing that.

So I wanted to reflect on Hebrews 12:1 and this is a powerful verse for me that I am going to carry with me to the marathon and then also throughout the whole marathon.  It speaks about a cloud of witnesses surrounding you and I have felt that so much during this past training cycle both through my running mates, my friends, everyone who has loved and supported me through the process.

I also resonate with the idea of setting aside the weight and the sins.  To physically run such a distance, and to put your body through such a huge challenge, you have to address, sometimes painfully, the habits and the weights that you carry with you to transform your body and to transform your ability to run such a distance.

So ultimately, we’re doing this for the sake of God’s joy and the promise of joy with God.  So I will finish with this verse from the Bible, Hebrews 12:1:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely.  And let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Thank you and I hope that you enjoy and get as much out of this exercise as I did.

– Sarah Hill

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

You Are My Beloved – 5 Marks of Love: Week 1 | Day 2

God says to each of us, “You are my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Br. Mark Brown explains how the very first sign of God’s Mission, before all the others, is that we are called into a mutual, reciprocal relationship of love with the Living God. 

Question: Can you hear those words that Jesus heard spoken to you?  Can you say those same words back to God?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Write a Letter to God


Transcript: I think the first and foremost – the primary – Mark of Mission or sign of God’s love and action in the world is that we’re called into relationship with the living God, and we’re called into a relationship of love that’s mutual and reciprocal.  And we see this in scripture in a couple of places.  At the very beginning of the gospel of Mark, we see Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.  And a voice from heaven is heard saying, “You are my beloved.  With you I am well pleased.  I delight in you.”  And Jesus doesn’t hear these words because he’s been out on mission and that he has deserved to be beloved of God.  But he simply hears these words spoken from heaven and then he takes some time to absorb them.  The 40 days in the wilderness are a time of absorption of the reality of this love of God for him, and that God delights in him.  And from that, a sense of God’s love, emerges his mission.

And we’re now that body of Christ.  We’re the risen body of Christ in a sense, and we can hear those words addressed to us: that we are God’s beloved in whom God delights, and with whom God is well pleased.  And we are called together, and we worship God individually and all together, as the church, offering praise and worship to the God who has offered us this love. And we’re invited, indeed, to return that love, to reciprocate that love.

We see this happening at the very end of the gospel of John where Peter says to Jesus three times, “Yes, I love you.  Yes, I love you.  Yes, I love you.”  Jesus has asked him three times, “Do you love me?  Do you love me?  Do you love me?”  “Yes, I love you.”  And what’s important to God, it seems to me, is that we not only that we know that we’re loved by God but that we return that love to God.  And it’s in that relationship of mutual delight, and mutual love, that we find the power, the strength to do what God asks us to do on mission.

So here’s a question.  Can you hear those words that Jesus heard at the Jordan River, “You are my beloved.  With you I am well pleased.  With you I am delighted.”  Can you hear those words spoken to you today?  And can you say those same words back to God, “You are my beloved and I delight in you?”

– Br. Mark Brown

Question: Can you hear those words that Jesus heard spoken to you?  Can you say those same words back to God?

1-letterfromgodWeek 1 Activity: Write a Letter to God
Slowly writing out our words of love for another person can be a meditative practice that connects us in a deep way. This week, spend some time hand-writing a letter to God.  What would you say? How might you express your love for God in words?

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

The Best Thing We Can Do: Week 6 | Day 3

In the face of the degradation of creation, it is easy and understandable to feel overwhelmed and powerless. Br. John Braught encourages us that God comes to us in our darkest hour and in our greatest need. The best thing that we can do right now, in the face of this situation, is pray.

Question: Have you discounted the power of prayer with regard to the restoration of creation?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Date with Creation


Transcript: I think for many people it’s easy to feel powerless in the face of the overwhelming degradation of our environment.  It can be difficult to know what one individual or one group can do.  Most of us recycle, maybe we’re involved in some organization that’s trying to make a difference.  But in the face of the world we live in, and the choices that are being made that are much bigger than any one individual or group, it can seem like an uphill slog a lot of the time.

Now I think all of us definitely need to do whatever we can do to help restore and shape the environment.  But this is a problem that really only God can solve.  It’s much bigger than any one of us, and I think it’s healthy to admit that.  At the end of the day, this is God’s world, and it’s God’s creation, and God will have the final word.

And so I think perhaps the best thing we can do, but not the only thing, but perhaps the best thing we can do is to pray.  Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in faith will be given to you.”  And I think we should take Jesus at his word.  We should take God at his word.  That prayer is powerful.  Prayer can change things.  God comes to us in our darkest hour.  God comes to us in our place of need.  And in no area of our lives are we in greater need than with regard to our relationship to the environment.  We need God to restore the environment, to help us restore the environment, to show us how the environment can be restored.  So the best thing that we can do, but not the only thing, is to pray.

Have you discounted the power of prayer with regard to the restoration of creation?

– Br. John Braught

Question: Have you discounted the power of prayer with regard to the restoration of creation?

Week 6 Activity: Date with Creation
Nurturing a healthy relationship with Creation takes time and intention. This week, schedule a few “dates” with Creation, finding a favorite spot in nature to return to each day. Nurture your relationship with Creation by offering thanks, being present, listening, protecting, and praying in this spot.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Mission Malpractice: Week 5 | Day 6

Just as malpractice exists in medicine, a tragic history of malpractice exists in the Church, where the good intentions of mission have gotten corrupted. Br. Keith Nelson explores how we might do mission in a different way, with a curious, listening, open-hearted approach to others.

Question: Where have you seen a spirit of mission that is respectful and curious? Where have you noticed mission “malpractice”?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: Professor Robert Heaney of Virginia Theological Seminary introduced the brothers to a phrase that I find actually incredibly helpful, “Mission malpractice.”

So as I understand it, in much the same way that malpractice exists in the practice of medicine – you know, a doctor, someone who is a trained healer, never intends deliberately to hurt a patient, but sometimes through negligence, through insufficient training, it happens – in the same way, in the history of Christianity, we see a really tragic and kind of trenchant pattern of mission malpractice, in which there are missionaries sent out primarily from European countries to non-western countries, bringing with them the gospel, bringing with them the desire, the good desire to spread the gospel.  But also with certain blind spots so that that good intention gets clouded or actually kind of corrupted by the interests of colonial trade, by racist denigration of the wisdom of local peoples, the wisdom that’s already active within a place, by not listening to the unique needs and unique world view of the people to whom they are sent.

It was one of the most discouraging things for me that led to a really prolonged hiatus and made high school in my early 20s from Christianity altogether, because if that was the mission of the church, then words like “mission” and “missionary” actually became kind of dirty words to me.  They were words that I didn’t really want to have anything to do with.

If we take a step back from that and we think about doing mission in a different way, doing mission in a way that is curious about – if all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God – spreading the gospel with this open-hearted, listening approach that is curious, “How might God already be active in this person, in this place?” rather than presuming that it’s something that we bring that isn’t there already.  And then also just asking ourselves the question, “In what ways do we as the church today participate unwittingly in mission malpractice?” And in sensitizing ourselves to the ways that we do that, beginning to transform unjust structures by stopping and saying, “No, we can do this a different way.”

In the church today, where have you seen a spirit of mission that is respectful, and curious, and where have you noticed a spirit of mission that contributes toward the kind of mission malpractice that we’re talking about?

– Br. Keith Nelson

Question: Where have you seen a spirit of mission that is respectful and curious?  Where have you noticed mission “malpractice”?

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Everything is Connected: Week 6 | Day 2

Ecology is not about protecting the environment, but about realizing that everything – animate and inanimate – is connected. Br. Robert L’Esperance delves into quantum physics to marvel at our connection to the world and people around us.

Question: Recognizing the fact that we are all part of a web of being, how will one choice that you are making today affect that web?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Date with Creation


Transcript: So I want to talk about – I want to say a word about – ecology. And I want to say something that I think for me is more and more becoming a guiding principle in my view about ecology and what that means.

First of all, ecology is not environmentalism.  Ecology is not about protecting the environment.  Ecology is about recognizing that everything, both living and inanimate are connected.  We are all connected.  There is an intimate connection between everything, and everything affects everything else.  And one of the amazing things about quantum physics is discovering this thing about the quarks, you know, where if you change the charge of one quark on one side of the world, then you have the opposite quark on the other side of the world – that these things will change simultaneously.  It’s the sub-atomic proof of what I’m alluding to here.  And just as if you sit in a room with other people, you’re continuously exchanging atoms with them.  The atoms in your body are passing to their body and coming back.  So there is this incredible web of interconnection, and this is what ecology tries to look at, all of the various connections that link everything to everything.

And we’re even connected to the inanimate objects around us, and everything is interchangeable.  This chair that I’m sitting in is – in a sense – this is energy that is in a solid form right now, temporarily, and my body is energy, which is in this form right now, and will someday return to the cosmos and be all mixed up again.

So I think that the guiding principle behind sustaining creation is for us to begin to recognize the fact that every time we make a choice we are affecting other living and non-living beings.  Nothing we do is neutral.  And we have to begin to think about that.  We have to begin to think about the fact that we share this existence with everything else that is existing with us. And we need to begin to start breaking down this sense of hierarchy, that human beings are at the top and anything we decide to do for our own convenience basically, anything we want to do, we can do without affecting everything that goes beyond that.

So here is a question I would like you to ask yourself.  Recognizing the fact that we are all part of a web of being, how will one choice that you’re making today affect that web of being?

– Br. Robert L’Esperance

Question: Recognizing the fact that we are all part of a web of being, how will one choice that you are making today affect that web?

Week 6 Activity: Date with Creation
Nurturing a healthy relationship with Creation takes time and intention. This week, schedule a few “dates” with Creation, finding a favorite spot in nature to return to each day. Nurture your relationship with Creation by offering thanks, being present, listening, protecting, and praying in this spot.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

I Renounce Them: Week 5 | Day 5

As good as our intentions may be, we can become complicit in the evil we renounced in our baptism. Br. Jonathan Maury encourages us to reflect on how, in our daily life, we might contribute to the evils the fourth Mark of Love names, and to renounce them.

Question: Ask God for help in being aware of the choices you are making which contribute to the suffering of others. What actions could you take to transform that suffering?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: In the Rite of Holy Baptism, the candidates are first presented by name.  They are then asked a question, “What do you seek?”  At the time of their response, they say, “I do,” and they are asked to make baptismal vows.  This is an electrifying and very powerful moment in the baptismal rite when it is used in its fullness.  The candidates make three renunciations of evil in all its forms.  “I renounce them.  I renounce them.  I renounce them,” as they face to the west.  Then they are invited to turn, to turn to the east, toward the rising sun, as they are asked to turn to Christ as their Savior, to trust in his grace and love, and to obey Him as Lord.  “I do.  I do.  I do.”

We’re committed, right from the first by God’s love, to this awareness of the world as it is, not as we would have it.  We are reminded each Lent on Ash Wednesday, in the litany of penitence, how we can become complicit in the evil which we have renounced, or become lax in the ways in which we follow Christ.  We confess our appetites and desires that in various ways ignore others and exploit other people.  We also speak of our carelessness and pollution of God’s environment and creation, and our lack of concern for others who are to come.

God’s desire in drawing us to himself in Christ is that we may be transformed, that our awareness of the world may be transformed.  And it begins with daily life.  We look to see, for example, and start to ask the questions, “Where might we be complicit in the evil, which we have renounced or lax in following Jesus?”  The energy, for example, that we use daily, where does it come from, how is it produced, and what human cost, at what cost to the earth?  The food and clothing that we have produced at various places in the world, often by persons in poverty, or our clothing, those who work in dangerous situations to create inexpensive garments that we can wear.

We’re called to this new awareness, this Christ awareness, that we may be transformed, and we transform the world to God’s vision.  Ask God for help in being aware of the choices you’re making which contribute to the suffering of others.  What actions could you take to transform that suffering?

– Br. Jonathan Maury

Question: Ask God for help in being aware of the choices you are making which contribute to the suffering of others.  What actions could you take to transform that suffering?

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

I’m Only One Person: Week 5 | Day 4

Br. James Koester confesses that to him the fourth Mark of Love is the most daunting. “I’m only one person,” he exclaims. He encourages us to start small, start here, and start now.

Question: What’s the one small thing you can do today to transform unjust structures, to pursue peace and reconciliation, and to challenge violence of every kind?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: Of all the Marks of Mission, I think I find the fourth Mark of Mission to be the most daunting: “To transform unjust structures, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation.”  That’s a really tall order.  And I often think, “What on earth can I do?  I am only one person.”

Somebody once told us a number of years ago – when we were thinking about our own sense of mission and ministry – her advice to us was, “Start small, start here, and start now.”  Yes, this particular Mark of Mission can be incredibly daunting, and so we could kind of throw up our hands and decide, “I can’t do anything.”  And yet there is something small that we can all do.

One of my favorite quotations come from Edward Everett Hale, who once said, “I am only one, but still I am one.  I cannot do everything but still I can do something.  And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Yes, this Mark of Mission is really daunting, but there is something small that all of us can do.  What’s the one small thing you can do today to begin to transform unjust structures, pursue peace and reconciliation, and to challenge violence of every kind?

– Br. James Koester

Question: What’s the one small thing you can do today to transform unjust structures, to pursue peace and reconciliation, and to challenge violence of every kind?

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

The Power of God: Week 5 | Day 3

The Marks of Love are not some check-list we need to get busy working on. Br. Mark Brown encourages us, before setting out to “accomplish” the fourth Mark of Love, to reflect on how the power of God has transformed unjust structures of society in the past.

Question: How has the power of God transformed unjust structures of society?
Share your answer in the comments below or using #5marksoflove
Activity: Icons of Hope


Transcript: The five Marks of Mission might come across to you as a kind of to-do list, or even a checklist, of things you ought to be doing.  But I think it’s especially important to remember that these are signs of God’s love already in action in the world, and they have been since the time of Jesus.  The power of God has worked through the church, through the people of God, to transform unjust structures of society, it’s been happening all along.  Not perfectly, not completely, there is still much to do.  But before you decide what you’re going to do, we need to think about how has the power of God worked through God’s people in the past, and presently in the moment, to transform unjust structures of society.

– Br. Mark Brown

Question: How has the power of God transformed unjust structures of society?

Week 5 Activity: Icons of Hope
Icons are images that open us up. They act as windows that let the light of God shine in. This week’s activity invites you to compose your own “icon” for the Kingdom of God. Draw or paste in pictures that help you recall God’s vision, to create a collage that lets God’s light shine in.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity

Listening Hand: Week 2 | Day 7

Sitraka Andriam shares how the experience of completing the second week’s “Listening Hand” activity expanded his heart and transformed his life. How might talking with five people who have been Christ for you transform your relationship with them – and yourself?

Activity: Listening Hand

Transcript: Hi there.  So this right here is my example.  I had the privilege of doing this exercise and I am here to tell you that it expanded my heart and transformed my life, as everything that God does for us, I think, should.

So I reached out to five people who have literally been Jesus’ feet and eyes to me in this world.  Who have been very strong, encouraging, and very loving to me throughout my life, especially the very difficult stages that I have had to overcome and get through.  So there was the Director of the Episcopal Service Corps, which I joined in California, then one of my favorite bishops, a deacon/lawyer who also works for the church, and then a woman who has been a godmother to me from Virginia, and my little sister from Virginia as well, who have been amazing people to me all along.  So in terms of what this felt like, this is an amazing, and deeply transformative, and a profoundly vulnerable exercise, so all things that we know God wants us to lean into even more.

So one of the most important things for me in terms of this exercise was that I really feel like I began to see folks who have been very strong, and steady, and encouraging to me in a new light, because I got to actually ask them to tell me how come it is that they have fallen in love with God, and kept falling in love with God’s embrace.  And now I know them a little more fully.  I know things about them that I did not know before, and that ultimately I think makes me a much more loving person. But also it has transformed our relationship into a deeper and ultimately more Christ-like friendship.

A couple of things I want to highlight.  Many of the folks with whom I spoke have come to understand God’s love has been for all persons, and also have really emphasized and echoed this idea that Jesus wants us to practice what they call radical generosity.  These folks have all been radically generous to me and it was really interesting kind of to hear them talk about how generosity is a core value as a way of life.  That they see through the story of Jesus and that they want to keep on embodying through their lives.  And the most beautiful thing that they said, actually all five of them, was that they know that God has been holding them all along.  So this is a God who holds, and sustains, and cherishes us through all of the things that we might be going through.

And so I highly encourage you to do this.  This will open up many things for you and for those you love.  It will break a couple of hearts perhaps, but I think in important ways, and ultimately enlarge and expand our hearts so that the dimensions that God has already created in us can be even bigger and more generous, and that we can be Christ’s hands and feet, as they have been Christ’s hands and feet, too.

– Sitraka Andriam

Week 2 Activity: Listening Hand
Who has been a channel of God’s grace for you? In conversation or over email this week, reach out to five people to find out how they came to know God’s love. How does the Good News shape the way they live? Reflect on how you are inspired by their witness and examples.

Watch Video Guidance | Download Activity as PDF | Sample Completed Activity