Friday, January 09, 2009
We all find ourselves with this surprising ability to love God and to desire love from God, often with no reason in particular. That doesn't happen every day, truly, but hopefully more often a you learn to trust and rest in life. Moments of unconditional love sort of slip out of you and no one is more surprised than you when it happens! But when it does, you always know you are living inside a Larger Life than your own. You know, henceforth, that your life is not about you but you are about God.
[Richard Rohr - Things Hidden: Scripture As Spirituality]
The Wisdom of the Desert.
Last week, I recorded a History Channel program on the life of Thomas Merton. It was quite well done and reminded me of how much I love the writings of Merton. With that thought I went back to my library to see if there was any Merton writings I had not read yet. Lo and behold, I had a small collection of teachings of the Desert Fathers which Merton had translated, entitled The Wisdom of the Desert, which I found in a used bookstore quite some time ago. Fresh from my Merton experience, I decided to dive in. While most of the book is a collection of the Desert Fathers' teachings, Merton wrote an introduction with some thoughts on the life and mission of the Desert Fathers which is absolutely worth the price of the book alone.
One of the sections in the introduction deals with the issue of love. Here's just a sample of what Merton wrote:
Love demands a complete inner transformation - for without this we cannot possibly come to identify oruselves with our brother. We have to become, in some sense, the person we love. And this involves a kind of death of our own being, our own self. [p. 18]
My Personal Revolution of Time
January 8, 2009 - 4:10pm by Thomas
I remember how poorly I did my "quiet time" in high shcool.
I had the quiet part down. I even had the time part down. But it was not time well spent.
I had bought into the common notion that if I was quiet for a certain length of time with a Bible in my hand I was becoming a better Christian.
The picture in my mind of me opening the Bible to a random page and reading for 10 minutes is kind of pathetic when you think of it. How is spirituality dictated by random pages and quantity not quality?
I have been getting quality time now, and it has been due to a personal revolution of how I view time. I do not give God ten minutes like a mother gives her child ten cents to buy a Jolly Rancher. My spirituality is no longer self-centered, in that God has given me a new day and it is his anyway---I can give him none of my time because it was his to begin with---so I need to live within God's time and pray that he establish himself in my life. He is present. I need to make myself present in his presence. I travel to him, he does not get chump change from me.
I pray in the morning, at noon, and at afternoon. I have the times set in my Outlook to go off as a reminder. I have pages of the noon daily office at my desk and write in my journal at around three o'clock for a few minutes. I am not giving God my time. I am letting his time redeem me and the time between prayer, when my work is pleasing to him (even if it is not pleasing to me all the time). My work provides for family and the kingdom. That is enough in his eyes (while not always in mine).
I am sometimes haunted by feelings that I haven't spent vasts amounts of time with God. I am haunted by the voice of my pastor in high school who commented on how "new Christians read the Bible for 15 minutes, then grow to 30 minutes, then grow to one hour when they are really spiritual." I am haunted by the concept of time as an idol, but I must not let that control me. All time is God's, and I dwell within his time. May I always recognize this.
Studying for the Wrong Test
By Don Heatley:
The Kingdom of God is like a student studying for an exam. Night after night, he studied Chapter Twelve of his history book. “Surely, I am prepared for my test,” he thought. The very next day he went to school and sat his desk. Behold! The test was on Chapter Thirteen. He had studied for the wrong test. He who has ears, let him hear!
Recently, I was having a conversation with a sincere fellow Jesus follower who demanded to know my beliefs. The questions they asked made it clear that this too was a test. The very first thing they wanted to know was my stand on homosexuality, my opinions about abortion, and my beliefs about the Bible.
I don’t think I passed.
Yet I wonder if, like the student in the parable, this person was studying for the wrong test. When we pass out the number two pencils and evaluate the orthodoxy of others, why are the criteria always issues that Jesus himself never addressed? Would it not be more appropriate to ask one another the questions Jesus asked, “Have you fed the hungry? Have you given water to the thirsty? Have you clothed the naked? Have you visited the imprisoned?”
In retrospect, I cannot recall ever being asked those questions by anyone who was attempting to size up my Christianity. I have never had someone ask me, as litmus tests, questions such as, “Does your church have a prison ministry?” or “What are you doing for the homeless?” No one ever asks how I feel about materialism, poverty, war, or if I turn the other cheek. No one ever asks if I have done justice, shown mercy, or acted humbly. No one asks if I have comforted the mourning, been a peacemaker, loved my enemies, or crossed to the other side of the road to care for an outcast. No one asks if I have loved everyone as Christ loves everyone.
That is a good thing, since I would probably fail those tests too. I can take some comfort in the fact that for the most part, no one is cast out of our churches for giving the wrong answers to these kinds of questions—the kinds of questions Jesus asked. Conversely, I routinely read about individuals being expelled from churches and whole congregations leaving denominations over issues that neither Jesus nor our creeds ever mention. I never hear about a congregation severing ties with their denomination because they felt the denomination did not put enough emphasis on loving our neighbors. Perhaps they should.
It is bad enough that we pass out exams to one another. What is even worse is that many of us are studying for the wrong test.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
This Sunday, January 11, is the second Sunday in Epiphany and is the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. As we talked about before, the season of Epiphany (from January 6 to Ash Wednesday) is a season that is concerned with presenting Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. Events in the life of Christ that are commemorated during this season are events like the visit of the Magi (Ephiphany proper--January 6), the baptism of Jesus, the wedding at Cana (the first miracle), and the Transfiguration.
This Sunday is the Baptism of the Lord. We will examine four aspects of this subject: the implications of Jesus' baptism, the baptism of Jesus and our baptism, the significance and meaning of our baptism, and a brief service of reaffirmation of baptism.
The Scripture for this Sunday is Mark 1.4-11.
Here are some links on the subject:
Methodists: Means of Grace by Rev. Gregory S. Neal
A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism by Mark C. Trotter
By Water and the Spirit The official United Methodist document on baptism
This week's worship bulletin is here.