This past week I had more than one conversation with some individuals who were seeking a way to deepen their spiritual lives. As a pastor, these kinds of conversation are what I and other pastors long for–we want to lead our brothers and sisters to a well where they can drink deeply. As it turns out–and it always seems to turn out like this in our spiritual journeys–a serendipitous discovery came across my footpath and is often the case in my life, I was guided to this discovery by my wife who was reading the 2018 updated version of What Color Is Your Parachute? and she offered me a link to a site that the author had mentioned in the book. I went there. I found an ad for another site and it is this site I want to suggest to you as a tool for your daily practice of spirit and spirituality.
The site comes to us via the Jesuits who are trained in the discipline of Ignatius of Loyola. They have created a marvelous site and a very practical and cool app that you can download called “Pray As You Go.” If you are trying to find a way to kindle a spark in your faith or simply add sparkle to your walk in God, then go to the site. You can listen to daily prayers on their web site (you don’t need the app to do that). I have tried it and find it to be soothing, peaceful, and yet willing to confront questions about our spiritual lives that can get us unglued from the traps of a too-busy culture.
Finally, there is one practice you are urged to make part of your life by the scriptures. It is there from the moments of Creation. It is enshrined at Sinai. And the Church insists that this practice is the work of the Church: W O R S H I P. Standing together as those called out by Christ; embracing one another fully as made in God’s Image; Rejoicing and Praying and Loving; this practice every week lends a rhythm and sense to our scattered activities and infuses us with hope. Join us Sundays at 10 a.m. where, in the auditorium of Jefferson Academy Middle School, we become the People of God. Practice makes perfect. ~See you Sunday
This coming Sunday, the first Sunday of 2018, we will return to Jefferson Middle School for our worship at 10 a.m. Back to an auditorium that has served us well for over one year now. And hopefully, prayerfully, we will walk into a new sanctuary sometime this Fall. Return. Come back.
Though we were never truly apart. Our worship with Westminster Presbyterian Church on Christmas Eve was a delight. How great it was to worship with our friends, our brothers and sisters there. They welcomed us and made us feel so at home in a true illustration of ecumenical life. We are better for having come together. Thanks to Pastor Ruth and Pastor Brian and the entire congregation there. I will be working with SW clergy and especially Ruth to guide our congregations to more shared experiences and shared ministries in 2018. Then this past Sunday on New Year’s Eve, Christ United Methodist welcomed us into their beautiful sanctuary. Their reception of us was as warm as it was warm inside on a cold day. And again, we felt the strength and joy of being together with fellow believers. Their new pastor, Monica Raines, is fresh out of Wesley Seminary and offers them (and our community) energy and vision. We pray for your ministry and presence, Christ United.
Now it is time to return to our “church” such as it is and this we have learned: while a building is wonderful (how wonderful it was to be inside those two churches!) we the people are the church. Return and let us begin this year with renewed commitment and purpose. Be here as often as you possibly can. Step up and support our ministry. Reach out and embrace one another. Let us be the Church.
And for any who have searched and longed for a church of peace, justice and Christ-centered joy, come with us this year. Return. Come home. Your spirituality and life in God can begin or continue here. As we embark on this journey together, may Christ the Good Shepherd gather us, guide us and bring us to his Kingdom. ~See you Sunday
The first day. Day One. As your Spirit, Creator God, hovered over the vast and dark seas, so sweep over me on the beginning of this week. Re-create me. Shape and configure my days not so much that I avoid suffering as that I fulfill my life and all that is within me, a still unshaped potential.
Resurrection Day. Gardener, Good Shepherd, you were meek as you ambled among us and though you conquered death, your meek and humble presence led Magdalene to mistake you for a gardener. Tend to us and bring us into the sphere of your humble life that has overcome the world.
Sunday. Fountain of Light, fill this day and may your boundless love radiate throughout its unfolding so that we, your creation, might awaken to the light within us and stop harming ourselves, our families, and our world. Light of Light, remove the darkness and bitterness from us. For another day and week of second chances, we give thanks. Amen.
After the kingfisher’s wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.
t. s. eliot, from Four Quartets, Burnt Norton IV.
The sound of silence on the seventh day! Listen. This is prayer. Listen. This. is. prayer.
Hallowed is your name. Blessed are those places so sacred because we, in our labyrinth wanderings have suddenly encountered you there. We thought we were alone and abandoned, Holy One. We were certain all of this, all of this–was some accident without purpose. And then a bird hidden in a tree sang and the song of other birds, these were twined to stars barely visible in the dawn and somewhere human voices were interchanged within the grand landscape of it all and we awakened. To presence. To the sheer, staggering beauty of it all and the truth that it did not have to be. But it is. And I am.
Guide me through what the world calls Friday. Help me now to be rid of things that have kept me preoccupied and unfocused so that I give up what was vitally important for what was trivial or secondary or even mediocre. I would lay these aside like a swimmer discards the weight of clothes and objects in order to glide through the life world. I can see the sabbath rest breaking over the horizon. Rest, restoration, healing these are near.
For the Day of Rest, Lord God, we are grateful. For the end of the sixth day, its lengthening shadows arrive not as darkness but as measured rest and reprieve. I don’t need to work now. No more delusions about my work saving the world. I will ponder the Creator and Sustainer and the Liberator. To all your creatures, great and small, Lord God, bestow Sabbath rest. An end to work for a while. A reprieve from suffering. A gate opened to candles lit and friendships kindled and family embraced. Let the day begin. Let the sixth day end. Hallowed be your name. Amen.
Midweek. The 4th day. Wednesday. Halfway home to Friday though, Sabbath God, we of the 21st century have lost sight of the star of the Sabbath to guide our paths. Darkness was separated from light on the fourth day, so place in our dimly lit lives a window opened to the light. You, who created suns and stars on the fourth day and separated darkness from light, help us at this midpoint in our week to remain silent at the still point of your rest. We breathe deeply and in silence, whispering your Holy Name. Fountain of light, fill us with light.
We are middling and middled, if that be a word; we are stuck in the in-between and have woven ourselves into plots and schemes; we are twined by events and schedules and we pray and plead on this Wednesday that you would, like a mother, bend near us and untie the knots that have begun to tighten. Reassure of us of your love and that you walk this journey with us. God, come near.
In the midst and middle of our week, in the midst of the crowd, we are raising our hands and saying to you God, here we are! Alas, you know us and are aware of our coordinates. Help us to find you for it is we who are lost to ourselves, tracking the path of this week across the field of Wednesday, the earth resolutely spinning and not consulting us for its journey. We of the midpoint seek you, whose circumference is nowhere, whose center is everywhere. Amen.