This Summer our focus is on creating habits that help us to draw near to God. The hope is – through being nudged into new spiritual disciplines – we would be challenged and stretched into a deeper faith and healthier lifestyle.
This week, we are exploring the discipline of Solitude (if you didn’t listen to the sermon or need the week’s “Digging Deeper” questions, you can get them here.)
There’s a concept that is often attributed to Celtic Christianity that hinges on the idea that there are physical spaces where God’s presence is felt more than others. These places are called Thin Places and the belief was/is that they exist in the space where “heaven and earth touch.”
There’s definitely a theological debate to be had around the concept, but it can’t be denied that there are moments throughout history where the Holy collides with the mundane. Scripture is full of them — Moses on Mt. Sinai or the burning bush, Saul on the rode to Damascus, the incarnation of Jesus… The challenge is to find those times and spaces in our lives today.
I was first introduced to the Thin Place phrase while at a retreat center in the mountains. A lot of people visit this place with the intention of getting away from the daily grind or to spend time relaxing and in reflection. It’s important that we visit these places on a consistent basis, but if we want to live spiritually healthy lives we also have to learn to find Thin Places in our daily lives and weekly routines.
What does that look like for you? How can you find ten minutes, a half hour a day or a few hours a week? Can you walk on the beach, designate a chair in a room for silence, or sit under a tree in a park? Thin Places are all around us. Psalm 46 says that they exist in the midst of the chaos that so often surrounds us, that God is standing in the middle of it all and saying, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
How do you implement the discipline of solitude in your life? Where is your Thin Place?
Grace and Peace,
Years ago I was approached after a worship service by someone who was visibly frustrated with something from the service. The person said, “what is with your new age theology?!?” I paused, trying to quickly think through what I had said to see if there was anything that could remotely be considered “new age theology.” I think the person saw the puzzled look on my face and piped up, “YOU DIDN’T PRAY IN JESUS’ NAME!” I thought through the prayer I led that morning and said, “who do you think I was referring to when I said, ‘we pray all these things in the way that your Son taught us to pray…’”
“BUT YOU DIDN’T SAY JESUS!”
Prayer. It’s one of the most important things we do as Christians. It says a lot about who we are as individuals and what we value as a community. The words we choose are important, as is the time we spend listening.
Who better to model our prayer life after than the one we claim to follow? Jesus spent a lot of time connecting with and listening to his Father. In the Gospel of Luke, the disciples asked Jesus how to pray. He responds with the Lord’s Prayer. In Matthew, Jesus includes the same prayer as a part of his Sermon on the Mount. These words are important. They’re personal, they’re intentional and they tell us a lot about who God is and how our relationship with Him should look.
Over the next four weeks, we’ll be exploring the words that Jesus’ taught his disciples to pray. And as we do I’m going to invite us to think about how we choose our words, both in prayer and with one another. My hope for us as a community during this season is that we would learn to use Jesus’ model for prayer every day, that the words he used would define our relationship with God and would remind us that we serve a relational God.
Journeying with you,
Over the last few months our second service worship team has introduced quite a bit of new music. As we explore the Apostles Creed together this Summer, there are a few songs we’ll be singing during our services and we’d LOVE to give you something to listen to throughout the week. Enjoy! (Note – Spotify is free: If you are using a Windows based machine download it here. If you are using a mac, download it here).
A year or so ago I attended a weeklong leadership training retreat. Somewhere around the third day, after we had gotten to know each other a bit, the instructor/facilitator mentioned that I focus on “Titanic stories” instead of “Mayflower stories.” The point was, this person thought I had a tendency to highlight and think about failures instead of successes. I fired back, “the arrival of the Mayflower wasn’t a celebration for everyone!” The instructor wasn’t amused.
One of the reasons I love the Lenten season is that it forces us to take inventory. Spiritual disciplines help us to look back to where we’ve come from, as well as forward to where we’d like to go. They help me to ask questions about where I am today and how I’ve arrived here. In Isaiah 43 we read that we shouldn’t dwell on the past. But the truth is, both as a church and as individuals, none of us would be where we are today if it weren’t for our histories.
We usually think of the narrative of Jesus’ resurrection as one sweeping historical event. And it is true — Jesus’ sentencing, execution and conquering of the grave is a defining moment. We should point back to it and say, “that changed everything.” But we shouldn’t be stuck there. The resurrection continues to change everything.
The key word in Isaiah 43:18-19a is dwell. If we dwell on our past, we stay stuck in it. We blame past events or continually define ourselves by pointing to something we did twenty years ago. By doing so, we ignore the present and don’t allow new things to come. We rob ourselves of having “resurrection moments” every day — those times where we can see God redeeming our past and giving new life. As we head toward Easter and look forward to the new life that comes with Spring, I hope we can be a community that both looks backwards with grateful hearts while looking forward for opportunities of resurrection in the present. May the image of the empty tomb that once held Jesus’ lifeless body guide us to new life in him.
– Pastor Dave