Brother Monk, I am sending you to Liverpool next week for the annual Christian worship seminar. The seminar will be conducted in the Liverpool Cathedral; you will be staying in the Anglican church nearby. Father Brian is expecting you. You will travel by coach Monday morning and return to us Friday.
Father Monk, I thank you for this wonderful opportunity. I have been looking forward to something like this for months. I’ll start getting my things together.
But before you do that, how about a nice prayer and a cup of tea?
The first two days focused on Morning and Evening Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer utilizing various editions. This was followed by prayers and discussion of prayers and poems from the book, “Common Praise,” of authors of the past, and so warmly welcomed by all. For example, we all pondered Charles Wesley’s famous Ascension prayer, verses 5 and six:
“Still for us He intercedes, His prevailing death He pleads; near Himself prepares our place, He the first-fruits of our race.”
“Lord, though parted from our sight, far above the starry height, grant out hearts may thither rise, seeking Thee above the skies.” -Charles Wesley 1707-1788
When I spoke up that I believed Charles Wesley knew something about the “Rapture of the Church,” why this provoked such great discussion, sometimes heated, about what I meant. And so we grappled over this precious doctrine some said wasn’t even in the Bible! But it is, truly, because Jesus and Paul taught it to believers that one day the Lord is coming back to gather the church to meet Him in the air, above the clouds and follow Him to Heaven. Yet we went around and around and wound up where we started! Anyway…
On the third day, Pastor June Stevens presented a session on “The Holding Cross.”
“Oh, my,” I thought, “What’s this going to be about?”
But what followed was so simple, so amazing, so powerful, so… so heartfelt.
Following opening prayer, she began:
“My presentation is entitled, ‘The Holding Cross: Ways to use this unique tactile cross in prayer and spiritual meditation.'”
“Made in Bethlehem from native olive wood, each cross has a unique wood grain pattern and color- just as each person who holds it was created to be special and unique.”
She paused and held up a holding cross.
“Hand-carved into the stem is a double cross, the symbol of Liverpool Cathedral. To trace this outline is to remember the shape of this huge space dedicated to prayer and worship – to connect with the awesome God who encounters us wherever we are.”
“The holding cross is a special gift for anyone facing a time of sadness, illness or anxiety. When words of faith are difficult or impossible, simply holding the cross is a prayer.”
‘Specially shaped to fit the palm, with fingers wrapped around it, the holding cross has been very helpful to all kinds of people, including those who are visually impaired.”
“As a focus for personal prayer each day, holding on to the cross can help us to be ‘anchored’ and still.”
“Feeling its smoothness, we can ask God to soften our ‘rough edges’ as He holds our life in His hands.”
“Remembering it was made in the place of Christ’s birth, we can give thanks for the coming of our Savior at Christmas.”
“Touching the wooden cross, we can meditate on the Easter story, the price Jesus paid to bring forgiveness and eternal life.”
“Thinking of those who made this holding cross in the Holy Land, we can pray for the millions of people all over the world who are following Jesus, with His cross at the center of their lives.”
We broke for tea and scones and restrooms.
About an hour later the session resumed:
“Now, praying with the holding cross.”
“These prayers and Bible verses have all been used when holding the cross by those who have a ministry of prayer here at Liverpool Cathedral.”
“And we want to pass on to you this precious ministry. Before we start, each one of you will now receive a gift of a holding cross…”
“Please hold the cross in the palm of your hand and wrap your fingers around it.”
Praying with the holding cross
At the beginning of the day
At the beginning of this day, Lord God
Hold on to me
As I seek to hold to You
In faith and love
Be my guide
And be my light
Be my wisdom
And be my hope
Be my peace
And be my joy
And may the way I journey through this day
Give glory to You.
May the love that held Jesus to the cross for me, be a source of forgiveness, strength, peace, freedom and healing.
In the assurance of His love and His presence here with me, guide my thoughts and prayers so that I can meditate with a relaxed heart and mind so to emerge from every act of devotion more alive to Him, and more alive to life. Amen.
Connecting with the Father
Dear Lord, no matter what I face, no matter what my weaknesses are, no matter what my temptations: You have faced them all and understand everything.
Heavenly Father, you know me so intimately that You know every hair on my head. As I reflect on the twists and turns of each of these grains of wood, help me to see how Your guiding hand has led me through my life and to understand Your will for all that lies ahead.
Please meet me at my point of need, and help me to receive Your peace. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Understanding the cross
I praise you, Father, for the astounding work of Your creation. That Your trees are the lungs of the earth and provide for our shelter and out of which so many things we use are made. But out of such a thing so beautiful, we can make an instrument of torture. Forgive me for Your gifts that I have squandered and for the people I have hurt.
I love you, Jesus, because You first loved me. You faced the cross alone so that I do not have to. While I was still far off, You were there for me. My human love is often fragile and conditional. As I wrapped my hands around this cross, so envelope me with Your perfect, unconditional love and forgiveness that lasts forever.
Teach me, Jesus, how to serve You better. As the Father sent You into the world to show us a new way of living in His Kingdom, guide me and strengthen me to live for You, no matter what the cost. Give me the wisdom to fully acknowledge the debt I owe and courage to live out the message of Your risen life, in the power of your Spirit. Amen.
At the end of the day
As I look at the shape of the cross
Help me to reflect on the shape of this day
All I have done and the people I have met.
As I look on the grain making its mark on the cross,
Help me to reflect on what has marked this day,
Whether this is joy, love, sorrow, regret.
As I look and feel the cross resting in my palm,
Help me to reflect on my feelings of this day,
And to give thanks for a special moment.
As I look at the shape of the cross,
Help me to know your love for me, and ask that You
Be with me this night and in the day to come. Amen.
“Let is now,” she said quietly, “in stillness, humbleness, and quietness, go the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving for this moment.”
And after this, the Pastor concluded:
“I should like to close with these special Bible verses used regularly for prayer and meditation:”
The Lord knows our needs:
‘Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?’ Matthew 6:27
Trust in God:
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me.’ John 14:1
Jesus will give us rest:
‘Come to Me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’ Matthew 11:28
He has a plan for our lives:
‘For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.’ Jeremiah 29:11
He hears our prayers:
‘You came near when I called on you; You said, “Do not fear!”
‘You have taken up my cause, O Lord, You have redeemed my life.’ Lamentations 3:57-58
His cross has brought us closer to God:
‘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.’ Colossians 1:20
So dedicate each day to Him with a glad heart:
‘This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ Psalm 118:24
We all left with rejoicing.
And I found a new ministry.
Glory and blessings and thanksgiving to Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Creator of Heaven and earth, and all things, seen and unseen, and His glorious Plan of the Ages and in the Church Age, the Age of Grace, the Plan of Salvation in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, forever and ever.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.