A few days ago Emily and I had the idea to invite some friends over to hang out Thursday, tonight, to kick off Emily’s spring break (she rarely stays up past 9pm on a school night). Then I thought that because it was Maundy Thursday it would be great to do a little service with our friends, some of whom I rarely have an opportunity to worship with. I really enjoyed our time together this evening and wanted to share a little of what we did this evening and why we did it. You can also download our service at the bottom of this post if you’re interested in seeing what we did.
The season of Lent began last week on Ash Wednesday, which marks the 40 day period of waiting for Holy Week. Lent is a time of cleaning out our lives, remembering the frailty of life, reflecting on God and preparing space for the pinnacle of the Christian calendar that comes with Holy Week.
Life with Ghosts
Last night Emily and I started to watch “One Punk Under God,” a documentary about Jay Bakker. Jay is the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. I’ve been interested in finding out more on Jay as we had a friend who worked with Jay’s ministry, Revolution, for the past couple years. This reminded me of how the things we carry, emotionally and physically, shape us and tell something about who we are.
In reading Thomas Hamm’s absolutely wonderfulQuakers in America I came across a good quote about how virtually all pastoral Friends today would agree on what the Richmond Declaration says about worship, the statement comes from the Declaration which is actually highly disputed but Hamm believes most would get behind this (I know I can):
“Celtic Treasure: Daily Scriptures and Prayer” by J. Philip Newell is a great book for family devotions. Emily and I got it a year ago and often use it when we have prayer times together. It’s really easy to follow and has beautiful prayers and pictures painted by the author’s children in it.
The other day on my way home I was thinking about my faith and stumbled upon three questions I thought worthy of thinking through aloud with you:
1. How do I love you God?
2. How do We love you God?
3. How do they love you God?
I’ve had for sometime the idea to write posts based on questions I am asked via email or questions that people ask google and somehow land on my site. In fact I’ve been compiling some questions since early this summer on my Theo.edit (my wiki). Thus I am going to begin a bi-monthly segment answering some of these question or “Frequently Asked Questions of a Christian Theologian.” Then once I am done, I will either link to or post the answers on the wiki for later use.
Well in short our meeting last night was wonderful, there was a group of about 13 adults, 4 children (and a few lovely mennonite-volunteers) and I think it would be safe to say we all enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot from each other. For now I thought I would post the queries that we actually didn’t get to use for this meeting but I encouraged everyone to think about them, blog them, and discuss them with others. (See chart down below)
Every so often I realize that I’ve been going full speed ahead for too long and need a break, this past week I had one of those realizations. I finally got to the point where I felt like I had been running with my eyes closed, not paying attention to those around me for some time. Emily and I decided to go up to Sequoia National Park for the weekend; we needed to get a little space, some quiet, and some beauty that comes from being surrounded by God’s creation.
The time was wonderful for both of us. It gave us enough time together to get caught up with each other, it also gave us enough time to take inventory of our lives. We both spend some time in prayer together using the Book of Common Prayer as a guide in the mornings. I also had time to journal a little and think through the course of my life over the past few months. This time of reflection and prayer was useful in helping me focus on the parts of my life I’ve ignored lately.
A few questions arose as I was reflecting that worked as a guide in thinking through and journaling about my recent experiences.
Questions to Aid in Spiritual Inventory
What have I rushed by so quickly that I have missed altogether?
Who have I harmed, ignored or worse used for my own gain in this time of negligence?
Where have I been dishonest with others, God or myself?
In what ways can find I wisdom to not fall into these ways again?
What things must I turn my attention to in prayer?
A Boy and a Fish
Later on, while Emily and I were sitting down for Saturday’s dinner at the campsite, a boy named Hollis and his younger brother came up to us. Hollis, about eight years old said, “We went fishing today and caught a lot of fish, we have two extras and would like to know if you want one.” I was a little taken-a-back not really understanding what he was talking about and told him we already had food and didn’t need any but thanks anyways. As he turned to leave Emily, who had stepped away from the table just before the boys came up, returned and asked what the boy wanted he explained himself again. Emily said, “sure we’ll take a fish” and the boys in delight ran off. Moments later they returned with a trout in a plastic bag, sure enough it was fresh.
I wasn’t even really sure how to cook it, so the boy explained to me how his dad did it. They were both sweet young boys, and their innocence and kindness struck me. It reminded me of how God shares with us unexpectedly, and how often I am quick to move on to something else instead of hearing people out (see the first spiritual inventory question). If I would have listened to the boy’s more closely I would have realized they were just doing a nice thing and weren’t trying to trick us or something. There are all kinds of thoughts that came through my head after those boys walked away. I was remind of Biblical stories like the “fish and loaves” and Jesus’ talking about the “the faith of a child.” But the simplest thing that should be taken away is the importance of sharing and being willing to receive a shared gift. This may have been the one thing I needed more than anything else this weekend: oh and the Sequoias of course.
This is a prayer from New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton that I find to be moving, challenging and intriguing. Take a moment to be drawn in to the Spirit as you read this prayer.
“Justify my soul, O God, but also from Your fountains fill my will with your fire. Shrine in my mind, although perhaps this means “be darkness to my experience,” but occupy my heart with Your tremendous Life. Let my eyes see nothing in the world but Your glory, and let my hands touch nothing that is not for Your service.
Let my tongue taste no bread that does not strengthen me to praise Your great mercy. I will hear Your voice and I will hear all harmonies You have created, singing Your hymns. Sheep’s wool and cotton from the field shall warm me enough that I may live in Your service; I will give the rest to Your poor. Let me use all things for one sole reason: to find my joy in giving You glory.
Therefore keep me, above all things, from sin. Keep me from the death of deadly sin which puts hell in my soul. Keep me from the murder of lust that blinds and poisons my heart. Keep me from the sins that eat a man’s flesh with irresistible fire until he is devoured. Keep me from loving money in which is hatred, from avarice and ambition that suffocate my life. Keep me from the dead works of vanity and the thankless labor in which artists destroy themselves for pride and money and reputation, and saints are smothered under the avalanche of their own importunate zeal. Stanch in me the rank wound of covetousness and the hungers that exhaust my nature with their bleeding. Stamp out the serpent envy that stings love with poison and kills all joy.
Untie my hands and deliver my heart from sloth. Set me free from the laziness that goes about disguised as activity when activity is not required of me, and from the cowardice that does what is not demanded, in order to escape sacrifice.
But give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from prise which i s the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for you alone.
For there is only one thing that can satisfy love and reward it, and that is You alone (p. 44-45).”