Using the Bible in prayer. An ancient way of finding God’s Word for ourselves in the scriptures today.
via Lectio Divina.
Thoughtful post about why busy people may be part of a local church.
1 John 3.16-24
I was sitting in my office one day. Not here, it was a few years back when I was head of the Pastoral Care Department of The Wesley Hospital. I’d just picked up the phone. There was a very angry woman on the other end, who was a member of the Uniting Church.
Let me start at the beginning. The chapel at ‘the Wes’ is open 24/7. As you’d expect—people want to come in and pray in a hospital chapel at all sorts of times. Sometimes, staff came in to pray too. There were a couple of staff members who at that time were coming daily to pray.
One had been coming for some time; she was almost part of the furniture. The more recent ‘pray-er’ was a student in the hospital. Like the first, she’d come in around mid-morning to pray. Unlike the first, she’d unfold her prayer mat, kneel and bow low to the ground. You see, unlike the first, she was a Muslim.
Sometimes, the two women would be in the chapel at the same time, the Christian and the Muslim each at prayer in their own way. The angry woman who rang me thought we were setting a very bad example to ‘young people’ by allowing this student to use the chapel to pray her Muslim prayers. She wanted to know why we hadn’t forbidden her.
I told her we were showing hospitality to a stranger in our land. That’s quite a biblical value, by the way, and to her credit she realised straight away that it was. She didn’t give up her objections, but she did eventually run out of steam.
What do you think our responsibility was in this situation? Especially in the light of Peter’s confession of faith to the leaders of his people:
There is salvation in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.
If there is ‘no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved’, should we have done something different? Should we have offered her another space to pray? Should we have told her that Jesus is the Saviour of the world? I’m comfortable with what we did, though I do understand that for some people it’s not clear that we were right.
‘There is salvation in no one else…’ What does that mean?
Psalm 147.1-11, 20c
Where is God?
Someone in India once asked a group of Hindu children, ‘Where is God?’. These Hindu children pointed to their hearts. That person later asked the same question of group of Indian Christian children. ‘Where is God?’ They pointed upward, to the sky. Where is God? Within us, or in heaven? Which group was nearer the truth?
Let’s see what Isaiah says.
Haven’t you known this? he says. Haven’t you got it yet?
It is God who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers…
Sounds like the Christian children were right according to Isaiah. God sits high above the circle of the earth. Isaiah does mean a circle and not a sphere; we should think of the world like a pizza with a dome over it. And Isaiah pictures God, sitting, on his mighty throne, over this world. When God looks down, he sees us—but we’re like grasshoppers moving around.
Does God care?
Perhaps not. After all, God says
To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
What can we compare with God? Nothing. Every picture we have falls short. God is Father—but not like any father we’ve ever come across. God is judge—but God’s judgement is unlike anything you’d ever get in the Queensland Supreme Court. God is Lord—but not the kind of lord we’re used to.
God is more than all this. God is greater. God is so great we can’t grasp more than a tiny piece of God. Not even that, if the truth be known.
To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
Erm, no one really, God…
It must have been an ordinary enough scene. A young couple come to the temple in Jerusalem, forty days after the birth of her firstborn son. They were obviously a devout couple, a couple who obeyed the Law of Moses, which said:
Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord.
They’d been taught that since the time of the first Passover, the firstborn son had belonged to the Lord; they were required to offer sacrifice to redeem their son, to buy him back, from the Lord.
But this particular man and woman were also quite poor. If they could afford it, they would bring a lamb and a pigeon or turtledove to the temple. But those who couldn’t afford a lamb were allowed to bring two birds. Mary and Joseph brought two birds.
An observer would have only seen an observant couple, a poor couple, doing the right thing.
I’ve come across a blog written by a former Christian who has given up apostasy for Lent. He is trying to practise the Christian faith, but as one who no longer believes. It is an enlightening read. Take a look and follow it here.
Richard Rohr has written a new book called On The Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men. I’ve ordered my copy, but excerpts are appearing in his Daily Meditations. (You can subscribe here.) I found today’s excerpt particularly helpful:
Much of a man’s life is spent going to work, running errands, cleaning house, mowing the lawn, waiting in lines, attending meetings, and tending to the necessary but endless minutia that make up life. We know that we can’t live as if we’re in the middle of an Indiana Jones adventure. We know that much of life is rather dull and repetitive. That’s why it’s so important to be fully present to the ordinary things that keep us going: a movie, a concert, dinner with a friend. Anything you do fully gives you joy. Anything done halfheartedly will bore you. People do not tire from overwork nearly as much as from halfheartedness. Wholeheartedness requires that a person be fully present. And people who are present are most ready to experience the Presence.
In the middle of the ordinary, in the midst of the tedium, if we pay attention to the Presence, we will be blessed by joy, grace, and simple, sustaining pleasures. We no longer need religious highs to know God; the lows and mediums are more than high enough.
Wholeheartedly living in the ‘now’ is for me a great stress buster. If I am present to what I am doing—to the person I am with at the moment—I can attend with all I’ve got. I can then turn to something or someone else and give my attention where it now belongs. When I am able to do this, I am not preoccupied with what’s going to happen/what should have happened/what did happen. I am present to the Now.
It reminds me of a quotation from George MacDonald, a great source of inspiration for CS Lewis: he spoke of “living in the eternal carelessness of the eternal Now”. Isn’t that a great aim for life?
I remember when I was a first year medical student. It was back when crinoline dresses were all the fashion and horseless carriages had just begun to make an appearance. I was at a meeting of the Christian cell group in our year, and another student spoke of some research he’d come across. It was that most of us in that group, most of us—who were keen enough to spend a lunch hour studying the bible (ok, and looking at the girls…)—most of us would have stopped being part of the life of the church by the time we were thirty. Thirty seemed a long way off at eighteen, but it was a frightening thought nonetheless.
Ironically, the lad who quoted that research had stopped attending church by the time he was thirty.
There may be all sorts of reasons why people drop out of church. Some of them make sense. Congregations can be dysfunctional. I think though that many people leave because they haven’t allowed Paul’s words in Colossians 2.6-7 to dwell deeply in their hearts:
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Today I want to look at some of these words, and put alongside them Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Luke 11. Continue reading
In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus says,
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
The ‘new commandment’ is ‘Love one another.’ That’s nice, isn’t it? That’s really lovely.
But let’s set the scene. Jesus and the disciples are gathered together, but not at any old time; it’s the night before the crucifixion. I say, ‘Jesus and the disciples’ are there, but there is one who is missing. Judas. He has gone out. What we read is this:
Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor.
We know why Judas has gone out. But let’s imagine we’re hearing this story for the first time. Sometimes, we can learn new things that way. Continue reading