If the audio will not play, here is the YouTube of the original composition:
If the audio will not play, here is the YouTube of the original composition:
From some years ago…
Sleeping… waken… open eyes… beautiful… lights dancing, but small lights. Seemingly in random motion, yet not… as I rest, relax, cease striving, I see pattern, beauty, praise. This is life itself… rather, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. Somehow, I have wakened inside worship. How amazing.
“Lord?” I whisper, reverently, sacredly… awed.
And there is caress, a tender hug and enfolding… no words… direct impression of idea… He unspeaks… “Hush… be… I AM… you… be.” Can’t really translate the impression into words. That is as close as I can come. I was simply to exist in Him, and hush. So I did.
And then… I was inside of Someone with no boundaries or limits. Strange, to be inside One Who has no “outside”. But then He spoke, He uttered, and I flowed with that tide, that current from within Him to “other”, to “beyond” Him… He had spoken The Word.
And now, with infinite others, I was inside that Other… Holy Other… spoken forth from the First, from the Prime Mover… still dancing lights, all the same, identical pattern, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. No different, yet different, for now all this worship and praise had an Object, a Focus, the Other, the Prime Mover.
And This One, This Holy One, spoken forth from the Object of His Love, now spoke forth His Own First Word… it was, “Father”, as He wholly and entirely adored the Prime Mover. And again there was movement, the lights, we, flowed from Him, outwards, back to the Father. Amazing.
And then, between them, forevermore, remained that “word” that “bridge” the relationship between Them. And it grew, expanded, encompassing all and everything, in its own light, as This Too became Alive and Whole in and of Himself… the Relationship Between Them, as the Prime Mover spoke again… the word “Son.”
There was nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to think, but to flow with this Life, this Love, these Words… There was no awareness of anything beyond the moment… the “I”… the “Now”… the “Here”… and Here, was, distinctly, worship.
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Oh, sweet irony. I do not wish to speak. I am yet There… and when I “hush”, when I now “relax” and allow Him to draw me into Him with “no distance”, “no apartness”, then my mind stops thinking, there is no more I/Thou, and I am there! Such… no, no words. The sweetness, the joy and light of that, is so immediate, so poignant, that it pierces the heart and soul. Seems strange to say… joy so great it is nearly painful in its intensity. A moment more… then work… then obedience…
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There are some who pray, who have discovered God in Silence. I never understood before. Trappists, Carthusians… My Jesuit father frequently said, if God did not command his obedience and service as a Jesuit, or if the Order ever chose to release him (as he had a request before them to do for years)… he sought to join a Carthusian monastery he knew. I asked why, and he said, “They are forever silent. They live ever in His immediate presence, and hear only Him. God grants me that only when I contemplate… but then commands me to teach. So I obey. But someday, if He grants my wish and reward, I shall be a Carthusian.”
I did not understand. I do now.
The Music! The Harmonies of the Silence! Would that I never again spoke or uttered a sound. The irony. It seems I very much am “my father’s child”. Now, that finally I desire no speech… now I am properly prepared to craft words. Now, it is time… to teach. Though all I would seek is solitude and silence.
Paulfg has just posted an excellent reflection (“More godly than God Soft Hands Jesus”) on a lot of the commentary surrounding the movie/book “50 Shades of Gray”, and the oft-heard Christian echoes of “do not watch the film, do not let this filth enter your eyes, I have not watched it, I never will, and you shouldn’t either.”
Paul rightly points out these scriptures:
”Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” Mark 7:15
”What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:11
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For me to say “I agree”, would be comically pretentious. Not only do I agree, but for more years than I could count I agreed SO much that I would judge and ridicule many Christians with principles more conservative than my own. I have NO sense that Paulfg is doing this, and I don’t want to be read that way. I only see Paul as confronting a rightly wrong thing… what I call “bubble wrap Christians”, who seem to believe that if you can keep “evil” from coming in through the eyes, ears, or touch… you can keep it out of your universe. (Would that were so!)
I have more than a few friends who keep their radios and TV’s tuned to nothing but “Christian” programming…. not so much because they truly ENJOY that programming, but rather because they are afraid of seeing or hearing anything else. They subscribe primarily to the “Three Monkeys” interpretation of the Gospel, apparently believing they can insulate their hearts from darkness or shadow.
And I used to “judge” them. Even if I did not do so in words, in my heart I would “ridicule” them. Paulfg does not. But I did… Can you relate? I hope not, but I think most of us have or do at some time or another. Whether we think eating fish on fridays, or praying the rosary is “quaint”… or that saying grace before meals in public is “showing off”… or that carrying a big print Bible to church in these days of iPads and electronic tablets is exhibitionist… or that abstinence from alcohol is contrary to Scripture, or the reverse… I have struggled for years with the challenge of not judging the piety or devotion of others by my own standards.
Ironic, is it not?
This is the nature of the critique of those who advise all others “not to see this movie”, and judge/condemn those who do… at the very same time that I, for one, am tempted advise all others “not to listen to these critics”, and judge/condemn them and those who do.
Um… it seemed like for years I could not find the “center line”, the “balance point” between “not judging” people for their taste in reading, drama, or art… and judging those who did! Given my own worldview, I almost constantly struggled with this frustration. My Jesuit Dad was the world’s best at attaining this balance, and he had a saying. “I have unboundedly liberal principles, that lead almost unerringly to conservative conclusions.” And that was true. There were no unaskable questions, no unspeakable thoughts, no irreverent propositions… God, when left free to consider all possibilities and propositions, always leads back to Scripturally consistent outcomes.
OK… now I want to share a “how” thing… not so much a “what” or “why”, but a “how?”… but I don’t want to come off as “having my act entirely together” on this, with some tone of “spiritual superiority”. You are more than welcome… invited even… to pray for my ongoing “reformation” in this area. Over years, as I struggled with my own judgmentalism, God would lead me to the same Scriptural place… every… single… time…
“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his ownmaster he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” [Romans 14:1-4]
“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” [Romans 14:13-17]
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So here’s the thing… here’s my problem…
When people whose conscience convicts them that it is “sin” to watch a given movie, and they go watch it anyway, that is out of order. OK, fine so far. BUT, when they tell OTHER people who do not share their convictions, that watching that movie is “sin”, because of THEIR convictions… that’s just as wrong.
And, of course, when *I* judge… whether for watching, not watching, advising to watch or not, or refraining because of these criticisms and commentaries… *I* am just as out of order as any of it!
It’s like being stuck on some horrible mess of fly paper. Every way you turn or twist, you just keep getting caught and gummed up. I was left “twisting” this way for years.
Finally, only a fairly short while ago, (and written up in this blog in a reflection on drosophila), I got this sorted…
The “trick” to this is… follow one’s own conscience, realizing that God deals with us each in our own appropriate way. “Share” about those reflections freely, as the spirit moves one, for the encouragement or edification of others… But only in the encouragement of “obedience to one’s own template”, NOT for the imposition of one’s own template onto the lives of others.
It takes no special training or theological sophistication to know the sense of “violating one’s conscience” or “being wrong”. Little children get this one down fairly early in life. There’s nothing “neurotic” or “psychologically unhealthy” about the sense of “right and wrong”, or the signals of conscience given off when we violate our values. In fact, we have a variety of “symptom terms” for conditions that have no sense of right/wrong or responsiveness to the ““, or the prick of conscience.
I know this may sound incredibly dense, but after a lifetime of wrestling this specter, I finally “got it”, and came ’round to the simple statement the Apostle Paul put right out there in black and white, that… “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love.”
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C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, narrates Screwtape advising his apprentice (Wormwood) about encouraging judgmentalism, spiritual arrogance and superiority in his “client” (the fellow being tempted). Screwtape’s comments include:
“We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials—namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples. You would think they could not fail to see the application. You would expect to find the “low” churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his “high” brother should be moved to irreverence, and the “high” one refraining from these exercises lest he should betray his “low” brother into idolatry. And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour. Without that the variety of usage within the Church of England might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility,Your affectionate uncle SCREWTAPE”
Eventually, I figured out the key that sorted this whole thing for me. Having done so, I sometimes upset some of my more conservative brethren, because it can seem to them as if I “have no standards”. But, rather like my boss and mentor from long ago, it comes down to the “One Rule”, and the iron grip of the discipline of that.
The key Scripture here is: “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” [Romans 14:5-6]
Or, as the One Rule was woven into my internship, “discern the clearly delineated will of God, as affirmed by scripture, love, and witness of spirit, and obey that without hesitation or argument.” I find it enough of a challenge, these days, to conform to this alone. I don’t need to try to “inform the conscience of others”, or overlay my template on their lives.
But… but… what about exhortation? What about encouragement? What about confrontation of sin?
Well, that would be a whole new post of its own, but here’s how that works out in my own life and walk…
I encourage everyone I know and love to… discern the will of God for each moment as affirmed by their conscience and spirit… and do that. Right alongside that there’s the truth that although I endeavor to do that, sometimes I don’t succeed… and Jesus embraces us regardless. Like all of humanity, I am frail, I stumble and fall with clockwork regularity.
What then? Then Jesus stretches out His hand, I grasp it and He helps me up, we brush off the dust, and keep on walking. It’s the JOURNEY that He enjoys… the destination will come in its own time. If I keep staring at the map, or inspecting everyone else’s, I miss all the scenery, adventure of the trip, and joy in the company of wondrous travelling companions!
Grace to thee — The Little Monk
As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.” They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” [Luke 19:33-42]
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I have wakened this day, and felt each moment filled since, to the echoes of a single phrase…
We are surrounded this day, yesterday, every day… by this world, this life, this creation that we — as humans, rational beings, scientists — marvel at and usually readily admit that we do not understand. This creation supports us, sustains us, permits us life, love, relationship, growth, breath, heartbeats.
Isn’t that amazing? We live in a “cocoon”, an incredible supporting matrix that allows life as we know it to go on through time! Does that ever make us stop? Think? Thank? We did not design this. We do not know what makes it run. We could not repair this universe, if somehow it broke down. We are utterly dependent.
And why? Why does this all “work”? That is the even more amazing part. God created… God loved… God quickened, enlivened… God spoke! Yes, all of that. But look! Behold! God not only did all of that… He not only “creat-ed”… but always, at all times, every second, moment, nanosecond… He does… He “creat-es”… He utterly revealed Himself, but IS utterly REVEALING Himself through all that is, that everyone have opportunity to know Him.
I… I almost feel like apologizing here… because in this moment I am experiencing “worship” on a personal level, and normally… those are not moments I share with others. Those are “prayer closet” moments… just me and Him. If they are shared with others, that’s one-on-one, or perhaps a small group prayer or worship. I’ve never been called, or given permission, to sit here typing to blog, in this state.
But perhaps it is this content… this Triumphal Entry thing… that is creating this moment. The people, witnessing the King Himself enter into Jerusalem, are overwhelmed with their amazement and adoration. Regardless of politics, of public reputation and possible problems with the Temple and pharisees, they cry out from their hearts their praises. Their passion overcomes their prudence, and they praise without candor!
A pressure wells up inside, a pressure of Truth itself, of Truth Himself… and they cannot contain it or constrain it. They praise, they adore, they worship, they cry out.
And, they are rebuked. They are criticized, having been threatened and bribed to betray this Truth. The Churchmen, the Church Leaders, the Religious… knowing the threat to their power base that the actual Truth Himself posed… they beseech the Lord to “shush” those proclaiming His glory and His Truth.
And… He… can… not… He says, outright, were He to do so, things would go even MORE badly for the Churchmen. It would not be merely PEOPLE shouting His praise and glory… but Creation Itself… the very stones! O my! *Psst! Pharisees! Be thankful it’s only people, that you can bully and bribe! What would you do if the very environment began to sing for Him?!*
[In seeking a graphic for this post, I came across a blog post from a couple years ago by another minister I had never seen before. The post just wrapped itself into my worship, and pulled me along into the train of Jesus’ following disciples that day. Please have a look at this, and see if it blesses you as strongly as it did me. It just enriched this experience, this moment of worship so much. It made my heart just “amen” with a consistent “Yes!” “Triumphal Entry — Story Behind the Story”. ]
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But here is where this morning leaves me.
This Triumphal Entry… this parade of the victory of Jesus the Christ… came in its precisely correct moment in an incredibly dense weave of moments leading up to the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Pentecost. All these “Lenten Events”… the miracles, the marches, the anointings, the anguished discussions or arguments with Companion Disciples, the raising of Lazarus… all these events heralded what Jesus called His “baptism” as He drank from the cup the Father had prepared for Him from the beginnings of the world.
And we, both as His children, His disciples, His friends… and as part of Creation itself… have our own role to play in this dense weave.
The King has come. He has done all that He was sent to do. Now there is only the finish, the closure, yet to endure. And we can SEE that, ENGAGE that, or not. That is OUR choice.
But whether we do, or whether we don’t… still, it is going on. Still He is revealing Himself.
Where is the chorus? Where are the voices? Where is the wonder? The joy? The Love? The passion?
I am blessed. Many days, there are those around me who “hear the music, and sing along”. Yes. But also, many days I am surrounded by only pharisees… only those trying to “shush the children”. You know them! You hear them! They can be intimidating, can’t they? Some days, they even quench MY spirit.
But then there’s THESE days. There’s these incredible… “‘Hey, Ya’ll! I”m right HERE!’ — Signed, Jesus” Days. There are these days where the very Tide of Worship draws us forth so strongly that it can scarcely be resisted.
So, let us all let go! Let us all yield to that tide. Let us be drawn to Him as He begins to be lifted above the earth in this time.
Let us listen. Let us hear. Let us hum along… Do you hear it? Do you hear the rocks beginning to hum, the trees clearing their throats, the stars tuning their instruments?
No? Well, sometime this week, make some time to get apart with Creation… stars on a clear night away from city lights, back yard garden in early morning, sunrise or sunset, quiet lake or chuckling river, seaside, mountain, or moor… whatever it takes, whatever you have. Just get apart… and LISTEN! Listen to a tree, or the grass, or the stars, or the stones.
Hear them sing, hear them praise Him. Hear them, ever so quietly, call out…
You may not be able to defeat the Pharisees in your life, but you can get apart from them from time to time… to worship, and acknowledge the wonder who is the Ever Revealing Lover God…
Just a little while more… the Cosmos trembles on the brink of rebirth!
Joy and grace to you in these moments of worship! — The Little Monk
I often rise on Sundays and pray for ministers who today will lend their voices to the Lord, that He touch hearts, minds, and souls of His beloved children. I will, in fact, have that privilege today as I serve in place of a friend who is a bit under the weather at the moment.
I have this overwhelming sense of this “Good News” I come to bring. To “lift Jesus up, that HE draw all men to Himself”. I need not draw or push them, they need not work or beg or force that to happen. Christians, with such frequency, tragedy, and futility try to “climb to the mountaintop of God”, or “purify themselves to warrant His grace”, and so on and so on. My heart breaks in the presence of such misunderstanding.
I have a friend who once lamented: “On my best days my highest thoughts of God are yet so poor as to be slanderous. He receives my thoughts of Him as a loving parent receives the rough crayon pictures drawn by their little boy.”
And that’s TRUE, Gentle Reader. I cannot gainsay that. It’s like setting a matchflame alongside the inferno of the Sun, and imagining that to be anything but pathetic. Yes, I agree.
But here’s this incredible thing… this ebullient joy I’m filled with this morning, that I almost feel as if welling up inside me…
Because GOD HIMSELF knows all that… Because He Himself yearns for our intimacy and closeness… HE has done ALL the “heavy lifting”:
All He requires of us is trust and faith. The amazing thing about our matchflame, is that He Himself sucks it into the center of His heart, and melds us there… our limited little selves, utterly united with Him, and all that that means.
All that that means, though, is vastly more than our little selves can encompass, comprehend, understand, or express. Nonetheless, we certainly CAN “experience it”. We can live through it, know it, know that it is real, and be nourished by and grown from it.
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Today many of us will go off to worship, to praise, to fellowship with God and one another. All our words, all our songs, all our expressions of love and adoration, will… assuredly… fall pitifully short of doing justice to the glory that is Him.
But watch this… “Ecce!”… “Behold!”… “Look at this!”
KNOWING that, God has done this incredible thing that it is very easy to lose sight of. WE DON’T WORSHIP of our own selves. We cannot. We cannot create “good” apart from Him. It is He Himself, within us, in His Infinite Self who is the Holy Spirit, who is responding to Him with worship in the first place. We merely “ride along on His coat tails” anyway.
So… do you want to praise, pray, worship Him “worthily” (whatever that truly means)? Then “hush”, listen and ride along with the wordless Holy Spirit as HE worships the Father this day. When you feel your heart soar or flutter at an unexpected moment… go with it… don’t look about or read the bulletin to “quit being distracted”. Should tears come unbidden or silence come to your lips during the music, don’t shake yourself, wipe your eyes, and clear your throat for fear of embarrassment before neighbors. Should the sermon prompt in you the need to affirm some incredible truth, and you feel moved to go to the front and share that affirmation in words before a witness, don’t staunch that grace for fear of what the deacons will think. You’re not there for them, you’re there for Him, and He is here for all His family.
This is a wondrous day, Gentle Reader… Beloved Brethren. He came to declare “Jubilee” and fulfill all the requirements of the Law because we cannot and could not. Go forth this day and Celebrate that… with all the joy in your heart!
Grace to thee — The Little Monk
(I’ve been told that using that title for this post would drive up traffic. Lol. I replied that I was more concerned not to lay a stumbling block, than to generate traffic.)
We are discussing “Worship” here. Such a powerful word. So critical… to God, to us, to our relationships with Him and with one another…
Ah, Gentle Reader, feel free to chuckle at me, if you will…
I have tried now, three times, to type this post “my own way”. The first time, well along the way, the Lord trashed it. I went to “Save Draft” and got that annoying message: “Something went wrong here, do you want to retry?” And when I retried, I’d lost everything after the first paragraph. The next two attempts just wouldn’t go anywhere, and I trashed them.
Clearly I’m not supposed to get all “preachy/teachy” here, but rather just set out some little stepping stones, some breadcrumbs towards my Rose Garden, and let you meander on to wherever He leads you. Perhaps that will be the same place as I am, perhaps something entirely different. But that will be between you and Him.
There are two Greek words often translated “worship” in the English New Testament. Both of them appear in this quotation Jesus makes to Satan…
Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus *said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. [Matthew 4:8-11]
The two words, in this text, are translated “worship” and “serve”. The first is the “crouchy-cringy” word. The second is the “reverence through service” word. In Greek they are προσκυνέω (proskyneō) and λατρεύω (latreuō).
Working your way prayerfully down the list of verses that use these words, makes it very clear that Jesus reserves the first to apply to Our Father, and the second is deep in the nature of discipleship to Him.
It’s important to note a thing here… through all this pondering it’s been my singular hitch of discomfort. To be honest, I frequently worship Jesus. I can’t help it, sort of. It’s not a ritualistic plan on my part. It just happens. Know what I mean? I mean, don’t you sometimes just have those… well… those Isaiah 6 kind of moments? I mean you just see Him, feel Him, sense His majesty and the very power of His love, and it just takes the legs out from under you? Well, whether it happens sometimes to you or not, I can assure you… it happens to me.
So… this gave me pause. Is the fact that Jesus never says to DO this, the same as Him saying NOT TO DO it? I have to admit, many MANY of my colleagues work this way! If Jesus didn’t say to do something, or didn’t say it was specifically good… then we are to assume it is bad! (In fact, for some of them, even some things Jesus actually DID, were somehow bad. This reasoning escapes me utterly, but anyway…) So I had to keep looking at Jesus use of proskyneo and see what I could make of it, and the verses that use it.
What I found was this. It seems Jesus reserves His recommendation or encouragement of this kind of worship to the Father alone. HOWEVER, there are various times and occasions when, uncommanded, people spontaneously do this to HIM. He does not object, correct, or condemn them when this happens. But He never solicits it.
A number of examples come to mind. The Man Born Blind, when Jesus reveals Himself to him. Certainly the Galilee mountaintop after His Resurrection, when He meets all the disciples after the women tell them to go there. Sometimes we even see the phrase that someone or other worshiped at His feet.
This reality confused me, as sometimes… at least for myself… sometimes, worship seems to “overtake me” or “overcome me”. I don’t seek after it, it just sort of jumps on me unexpectedly. Know what I mean? And the sensation may indeed be “crouchy”, but not in the least “cringy” or fearful. It’s more like bowing my head that the Lord be able to reach out, lay His hand atop it, and bless me. Reverence? Absolutely! Fear? Not a bit of it!
So, at least for my own spirit and heart (feel free to discard this if the Lord leads yours differently), but it seems as if Jesus is perfectly at peace with the proskyneo worship of Him when it is spontaneous, a reaction to the heart’s leap of wonder at His presence or grace. But He is not looking for this as an ongoing lifestyle.
The worship He seeks as an ongoing lifestyle is the latreuo worship. That’s the “follow Me” worship, the servant one, the walking one. That’s the kind of worship that can go throughout the world, sharing Good News, making followers of the Way, teaching all that He commanded, and healing broken lives. We can’t do any of that from our knees.
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There’s where it all seems to come together for me, Gentle Reader. Three points:
On this last point… kneeling down in homage to an enthroned Jesus mounted upon His holy plinth may not be a “wrong” posture or a “bad” posture, but it is a distinctly “separated” posture. Sometimes, in moments of conviction, awe, amazement, wonder… that may well be a “right” posture. But those are “moments”, not the fundamental tenor of the “relationship” with Him. THAT seems to be Jesus’ biggest concern in my spirit on this.
The Lord seemed to sum all this up this way…
“Little Monk, such moments are true, good, and right, yes. But those moments are transitory. I seek intimate presence with My Bride, My people, My brethren under Our Father. People hardly dare conceive of this Identity, let alone enter into it, and I work constantly to try to remove barriers and boundaries between us.
“My words were clear. ‘You in Me, and I in you, and together we in the Father.’ I meant what I said. But a brother and I can only enter the same space at the same time through the most intimate ‘hug’. And that has to be face-to-face, not face-to-toes. No one can enter into Me through My feet. Can’t be done! It’s eye to eye or not at all.
“So, feel free to bow or kneel when you must or you feel so moved. But remember, the relationship I WANT… the one I came to make possible and establish… is person-to-person, face-to-face, eye-to-eye. This is how I most seek My followers to worship Me, and then together, we will worship the Father as we enter into Him, speak His words, and do His works.”
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Yes, I think that about sums it up. Thank you for being here, Gentle Reader. Feel free to comment, disagree, agree… ponder… whatever! Grace to thee — The Little Monk
As you are probably aware, if you visit here often, I explore “Church” a lot. What is it? What did Jesus mean, what DOES He mean and intend for it? What does the word mean, to the institution, to God, to us? This is an exploration that the Lord began with me long ago. Through my youth and early career I could feel, could sense, a deep sense of dissatisfaction, of dissonance, between what “we do” and what the First Century church was. That quest, to understand the difference, began decades ago. Across that time, the Lord has been more than faithful and even I, dull as I am, have come to understand some things about that.
More recently, though… the past few years… I’ve felt particularly challenged to envision this experience we call “Church”, as Jesus intends for us to. To learn (from scripture, reflection, prayer) what Church is and means, and what role that is to play in our lives, and we are to play in the life of Church. You see this more clearly expressed in the phrase of one category of this Blog… “If Jesus Did Church”. There is the critical question…
“If Jesus Christ came to earth to pastor a church for the next 10 years, exactly what would that be like? What would He do? How would that run? What would be its mission? How would that work?”
The questions, the study, the prayer and pondering have led me to a number of different ideas on a vast array of things. But right here I just want to consider the matter of “Worship”.
One of the major “Tasks of the Church” could be considered “To Worship”.
Pretty clear, obvious, self-evident, isn’t it? No problem with that, is there?
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From here, the Lord just posed a few questions to consider. Rather than enter into a long discourse, let me just pose these questions to you, your mind and spirit, and see how you comment and respond.
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“How many times in the New Testament did Jesus instruct, command, order, anyone to worship Him?”
“What DID Jesus instruct, command, order anyone to do regarding relationship or action regarding Him?”
“Which would it seem that The Church should focus on?”
“Which does it seem that YOUR church focuses on?”
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Please feel free to ponder, respond, discuss, comment. We’ll continue tomorrow…
One day this picture painted itself so clearly before me… Jesus was right there… and here was this picture… people fawning, throwing themselves down at His feet, crouching, not daring to look Him in the face or the eyes… finally… LICKING His hand, like a dog fawns over his master…
Made me more than a little nauseous…
Pop Quiz… Super short post today…
Question One: What would you guess is the meaning of the Greek word (a BIG TIME Bible word) there in the title of this post?
Question Two: How often did Jesus command that we do this to or for HIM?
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(Extra Credit) – Question Three: If not this… what DID He command that we do to/for Him?
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Feel free to put answers, thoughts, ideas in the Comments below!
Grace — LM
Our Journey is drawing to a close. We are now in Holy Week. Different religious traditions deal in a variety of ways with the “rhythms” of the Liturgical Year. But no matter the tradition, there are few who fail to sense the increasing intensity and background hum of the Passion of Christ as we approach Easter Sunday.
Jesus, just ahead of us, has just made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.” They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord;
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” [Luke 19:29-39]
It has been this last line that has captivated me in recent weeks. “Crying Stones”… “Talking Rocks”. I know that may sound strange, but that was what struck me about this passage. I mean, Jesus SAID that. I’m kind of used to just blowing past that in the text, but this time it stopped me dead. Usually, I just pass over it, unconsciously covering it with a “poetic license” or “hyperbole” label. But recently, I’ve learned not to do that. I’ve learned not to assume that Jesus could speak anything less than the truth.
So I found myself pondering how stones could cry out. To be honest, I haven’t figured it out. My brain, my mind, cannot comprehend how rocks… can speak. But there’s lots of things Jesus taught, that stretch my reasoning beyond the way words are typically used. Things like being born again, or dying to save one’s life, or worshiping in neither mountain nor temple. I believe Jesus utterly, but I also acknowledge that there are times He uses words differently than I do.
So I took this Truth, that stones could praise Jesus, and looked across scripture for other similar applications. In short, I came to realize that there are many times “inanimate creation” does “living things”. All the way back to Cain and Abel, blood can call out to the Lord. Many Old Testament passages state that the blood of the righteous call out to God. Balaam’s mount clearly spoke in defense of her actions. Trees and mountains will obey a command uttered in sufficient faith. All these thoughts and reflections blended together into what seemed a single truth.
That all of creation is a unified whole. Everything “lives” in God, and He is God of All. We, His children, are a PART of that, but we are part of a greater life that is all of creation itself. All of creation praises and worships Him, and while we are blessed to be graced with free will, we are not the only creatures who inhabit His Kingdom.
This scripture seemed to echo:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. [Colossians 1:15-20]
“In Him all things hold together…”
That phrase arrested me as well. He is Life Himself.
I still cannot say I “understand”, in the sense of “comprehending”, or being able to contain and constrain this truth by my reasoning and logic. Nonetheless, I KNOW that Jesus spoke the truth of creation praising Him. There are moments, like in the quiet of the night or extremely early morning, where I can almost hear the praises of nature and stars as they sing to Him.
And beneath all of this, there is great joy in knowing… we are not alone. We are never alone. Not only does God Himself wrap us in the arms of His embrace, but we are surrounded by a creation that is held together at each and every moment in and by Him. We are inextricably woven into the fabric of Creation, and all of that, is woven in Him.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” [Exodus 20:8-11]
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“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” [Matthew 11:27-29]
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This is an unusual post, Gentle Reader. I welcome you to this journey, this caravan, as we take this special time this year… this Lenten Season… this 40 day period… and head into our own spiritual Jerusalem for our Passover sacrifice, our celebration of the Resurrection at Easter. We began last Wednesday, 5 days ago.
In my own life, the Lord had again placed me on notice that come Resurrection Day, He would again show me something new and spectacular that I have never seen, never known, of Him before. He has done this from time to time in the past. But there is always this “run up” to that awareness. The epiphany ALWAYS came after a time of preparation. But I did NOT always KNOW that. In some years, it just happened… I’d have this extraordinary, often quite painful, process of “spiritual housecleaning” and “preparation”… but WITHOUT knowing that the Lord had something special in His hands come Easter.
So this year, there are these two massive differences from years past.
One, that each day the Lord Himself has chosen simply to identify something in and of me, of my life, my spirit, that encumbers me. These encumbrances are “my stuff”… stuff I grasp as treasure in my hands, clutch as treasure to my heart, that are empty, meaningless, and that build a barrier between me and Our Lord. Even more amazing… He is NOT going to take these things away from me. He’s not going to love me less, think less of me, if I cling to the emptiness of “my stuff”. No. He is choosing to leave it to me, after He identifies the item, after He speaks Truth over the item… He is leaving it up to me to choose to cast it away… or not.
Two, the other big difference between this year and past years is… we are inviting others… any others… all others… to travel with us. This is a journey in company, a caravan of companions. This is quite new for me. This is rather transparent and vulnerable. Nothing inappropriate, of course. The invitation is out here, Gentle Reader, to enter in fully to this journey. Feel free to share anything you’d like about letting go “your stuff”, if you identify encumbrances.
So there is our context, Gentle Reader. Last Sunday, at least in my little section of the universe, here in the Buckle of the Bible Belt… God called a “Snow Day”. In this city of 100 churches… they ALL closed, because of dangerous driving conditions. Amazingly, that turned into an incredible day of worship, right here in my home. It was a simple day, a quiet day, music, internet contacts with other worshipers, prayer… all that… but the Lord came in a massive and incredible way with prayer response that just overwhelmed.
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Today, fellow travelers… do not strike camp and saddle up. I didn’t realize that, though probably I should have… but we’re not traveling today. Nope, as the day started, the Lord came striding out among the tents, calling out for everyone to hold fast.
He cheerfully gathered everyone around Him, had food brought to Him prepared at various hearths, blessed it, divided it up, and served us all breakfast. As we all sat together, we chatted, laughed, enjoyed one another’s company. I’ve never so relaxed.
As Jesus ate, He spoke. He spoke of the Father, the Father’s love, for Him, for us, for all. He spoke of His love, for the Father, for us, for all. He spoke of the Spirit of Love, from the Father, of Him, in us. It was amazing. It wasn’t like any “sermon” you’ve ever heard. It was wonderful. He spoke of us as His children, His brethren, His family, His friends. Wondrous…
As He closed, He invited us all to “lose something” today. He said He was going to ask us for something, and then He was going to give us something. That His gift was for us, whether we chose to lose what He called for or not. This was not a “deal”, and His gift was not conditional. Both matters were simply appropriate for today.
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The Lord said He wanted us to consider holding on to today in our hearts… remembering… replaying… reliving… how wonderful it was when we simply sat down, let Him feed us, rested, and enjoyed one another’s company. THIS, He said, was “Sabbath”. This was what it was always intended to be. That we were to stop, for just one day out of seven, and TRUST HIM to run, not only the Universe-at-Large, but also our own little corner of it.
What did He challenge us to give Him? To cast away from us, and drop along the trail today? Our “Control Key”, like the Remote Control we use to manage and micromanage all our circumstances and activities for every day. Our worries, our work, our stresses, our planning, all that. Just to take our hands off the control panel… at least for one day each week. He challenged us to Trust Him to manage that day, and just rest from all our work of the rest of the week.
That was what He asked me to drop today… not as a “big deal”… but just as a reasonable ongoing part of what He has made into a wondrous day to begin with. I have done that.
But then, without waiting for our responses or answers, He did this incredible thing. Just sitting there with us, all circled about… He said He wanted us to try something. For these moments, He wanted us just to sit, to feel the love present here, and behold Him. Just look upon Him, see Him, and Know Him as He sat there loving us.
Then He said, as we did that, as we quieted our hearts, minds, selves to simply see Him as He is, in all that love… we would come to see the Father Himself.
His closing words, as we began, were… “Be still, and know that I AM God…”
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We are still there, Gentle Reader. What a wondrous day this is.