Solitude : Lent

Henry Nouwen (The Way of the Heart) on solitude: In solitude we get rid of the scaffolding of our lives: no noise, no people, just vulnerable, weak me. Solitude is the furnace in which the transformation of our compulsive self occurs. Thus we seek solitude as an aspect of an overall plan to deal with the great struggle and the great encounter with God that is necessary for unconditional surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ—not drifting along, passively accepting societies’ views and values that form a dangerous web of domination manipulation—its social compulsions, creating in us false selves who seek affirmation through living by false values. From this conversion flows a quality of heart, and inner disposition, an authentic life and authentic ministry to others…

To peruse such a life…(adapted from Adele Calhoun; Spiritual Disciplines Handbook) I desire to find time alone with God to address my addictions to being seen, being connected and being active; I will steep my imagination in the scriptural themes of — go into your room and close the door…slip away…go off alone…send the crowds of your life away; find some seclusion…I will then schedule uninterrupted retreat from people and activities in a distraction-free environment, to rest…to be refreshed by letting all demands and outcomes flutter away from my racing mind; to invite God to work deeply on my hidden motivations and compulsions and thus re-focus on what is really most important—so that the world would not squeeze me into its mold but rather that I can offer my present life to God as a living sacrifice…

Our Word Eucharist

Our word Eucharist, sometimes called the Lord’s Supper or Communion, comes from a Greek New Testament word meaning thanksgiving or giving thanks. The thanks involved here is twofold: Christ gave thanks at the meal which instituted the Eucharist, and the church throughout the ages has practiced the Eucharist as the supreme act of Christian thanksgiving . . . The “thanksgiving” is completed when the life we receive overflows to others – and they then give thanks for us, for the good they receive from us.

The Eucharist conveys to those who receive it in faith, the body and blood of Jesus, that is, Christ’s life. It transmits by faith all the benefits of his broken body and shed blood, these being sacramental signs of the totality of his virgin birth, life, teachings, works, death, resurrection and ascension. No matter how we might explain it, the Eucharist is meant to be a real continuation of the life of Christ, just as the Passover was a continuation of God’s deliverance from Egypt for the Jews.

The totality of Jesus’ life and the meal he instituted are eschatological events. In Jesus, and now in his meal, the perfected end of God is inaugurated in our present. This means that in the celebration of the Eucharist we partake of not just the life and death of Jesus. We also partake of the presence of the future; we receive life from Jesus’ current life, the first fruits of the life to come. We receive the wholeness of this future life, inaugurated in us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Spirit, as we celebrate the Eucharist. Though “eschatology” may not be a new concept for most of us, it might new in relation to Jesus’ meal. Realizing that in Communion we partake of both the past and the future is the key to repracticing the Eucharist. Doing so provides the vision and power to live in such a manner that others will give thanks for us.

Through participating in the Eucharist we are announcing solidarity with the notion that God’s new world has already broken into this world. N.T. Wright says this would be laughable

if it wasn’t happening. But if a church is . . . actively involved in seeking justice in the world, both globally and locally, and if it’s cheerfully celebrating God’s good creation and rescue from corruption in art and music, and if, in addition, its own internal life gives every sign that new creation is indeed happening, generating a new type of community – then suddenly the announcement makes a lot of sense.

Giving Church Another Chance, Todd Hunter, pp 136-137

Peace Of Heart

“It is generally safe to say that noise and turmoil in the interior life are signs of inspirations that proceed from our own emotion or from some spirit that is anything but holy. The inspirations of the Holy Ghost are quiet for God speaks in the silent depths of the Spirit. His voice brings peace. It does not arouse excitement, but allows it because excitement belongs to uncertainty. The voice of God is certitude. If he moves us to motion, we go forward with peaceful strength. More often than not, his inspirations teach us to sit still. They show us the emptiness and confusion of projects we thought we had undertaken for his glory. He saves us from the impulses that throw us into cold competition with other men. He delivers us from ambition. The Holy Spirit is most easily recognized where He inspires obedience and humility.”

Ascent to Truth, 185-186 (Harcourt & Brace, 1981)​
Thomas Merton

For more on this subject we recommend listening to Todd Pickett’s sermon Peace Of Heart: Babel Revisited (click here to open player in new window).  For a complete list of sermons online – click here or to subscribe on iTunes.

 

A Poem for Pentecost

Unless the eye catch fire,
The God will not be seen.
Unless the ear catch fire
The God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catch fire
The God will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire,
The God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire,
The God will not be known.

William Blake (1757-1827) from Pentecost

On the day of Pentecost the disciples found themselves to be in a highly flammable condition. They had been obedient to Jesus’ command to wait for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and they had gathered together in continual prayer—a dangerous mix. On the day that the Holy Fire fell, their eyes, ears, tongues, hearts and minds were ignited by flames that continued to spread through 3,000 parched souls like a California wildfire driven by a raging Santa Ana. That fire remains, to this day, uncontained.

In his poem Pentecost, William Blake’s repetition of the word, “unless” might be received by the reader as an onerous, guilty-inducing, commission. Unless his repetition of the word “catch” is given equal time, we might tend to turn our soggy pockets inside out and offer up a defeated shrug in lieu of prayer. But, we cannot set our selves on fire any more than Simon the sorcerer could buy rights to the Holy Spirit.

So how do we catch fire?  We catch a cold because our resistance is down and in a similar way this is how we catch fire. We ask God to search our hearts and to reveal any areas of resistance to the Holy Spirit: Lord, in what ways have I saturated my eyes, ears, tongue, heart and mind in a fire-retardant? By works? Addictions? Busy-ness?  How might I be trying to ignite my own fire by rubbing together the sticks of moralism and performance? Maybe I’ve just resigned myself to a dark, dank climate of the soul.

Once these areas of resistance are revealed, we confess them as sin and to the degree that we are able, we place ourselves downwind of God’s all consuming fire. In a posture of receptivity, we receive God’s grace and forgiveness. We ask for the Holy Spirit to make us kindling, to set our hearts on fire for God and his Kingdom. And when the rainy seasons come we ask each other to help us stoke the flames.

May the Spirit who set the Church on fire upon the Day of Pentecost bring the world alive with the love of the risen Christ.

Amen

– Patricia Conneen