Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Love is the Measure of What is True and Good

During the last few months, I have continued to “introduce” my spirituality. Lately, I’ve arrived the pinnacle of this exercise, claiming the deep and abiding truth that we are the body of Christ. Amazing things happen when we live into this mystery.

I have already shared a few posts on the body of Christ. I shared about recognizing the presence of Christ in everything we do, that the church is not fundamentally an organization but an organism, and that conflict is a natural part of being human … in the church, disagreement is not a problem but an opportunity to love. I envisioned the “basic body parts” of the body as worship, evangelism, teaching, fellowship, and mission.

Today I continue to write on the body of Christ, having attended a few retreats lately. I love getting to know people in settings outside of Sunday mornings! This weekend, I got to attend a women’s retreat and lead music and liturgy. I found myself reading First John chapter 4 during worship.

John writes encouraging us to love one another, since love is of God and everyone who loves knows God. He reminds us that God IS love. He continues that true love is in Christ, who came to us. What we may not realize is that he was writing in the context of a church conflict. These weren't just warm and fuzzy words, but claiming what the true measure of proper teaching is … love. He prefaced these words on love with this: “From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

There were some in the church of John’s time who had separated themselves from the body over a theological dispute, probably an early Gnostic teaching called Docetism, since John says they did not teach that Christ had come in the flesh. It’s fascinating that John says the real measure of what is true is the measure of love itself … nothing more and nothing less. If it leads you to love as God loves, the teaching is of God. That’s it.

Is there a fellow Christian who challenges you, even drives you crazy? They are a gift from God, given to teach you how to love. They help you live the way of forgiveness. The greatest freedom to let go of your resentment and realize that the only thing that really counts is love.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Ash Wednesday Prayer

This morning, I participated for the first time in an Ash Wednesday morning "come and go" imposition of the ashes. The space at the church was so holy and prayerful and vibrant.

Between the times people were coming in for prayer, I had the blessing of my own prayer time and journaling. What pregnant and powerful space for meditation. I contemplated how much I, too, need deep healing and grace. There is a stubborn place of despair within me that I go back to from time to time, as if I am still a little boy crying out in anxiety and pain.

I am so utterly human, and Ash Wednesday is all about being human. I composed this prayer for Ash Wednesday.

Draw me close to your heart, Lord Jesus ...
    Draw me close to your heart, Lord ...
        Draw me close to your heart ...
            Draw me close to you ...
                Draw me close, too ...
                    Draw me close ...
                        Draw me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Body Parts

During the last couple of posts, I have continued to “introduce” my spirituality to you by sharing what is probably the pinnacle of my spiritual journey, as far as my ministry goes. It is the formative understanding that we are the body of Christ. It changes everything when we live into this mystery.

It might be simplistic, but over the years I have boiled this Pauline metaphor down to a way of understanding the basic purposes of the church and how they work together. Imagine for a moment the main sections of the human body. We have a trunk containing the heart and vital organs, plus two legs, two arms, and a head.

The very heart of the church is worship, which sends lifeblood into the whole body to make it grow and become. I have a passion for vibrant worship because I believe it feeds everything. I don’t think of us as consumers, coming to be entertained, but as the body of Christ, needing nourishment for the journey. The “legs” of the church, if you will, are teaching and fellowship. These two are so very important in taking us places where we need to go. Solid spiritual formation experiences and life-giving relationships both undergird us so that we might serve.

The “arms” of the church would then be evangelism and mission. As I shared in recent sermons, these are both core purposes, the left and right hands of the church. We are called to be radically hospitable, inviting people to a relevant relationship with Christ. We are also called to offer hands of mercy and work for justice in a broken world.

The head of the church, of course, is Christ. We believe in his pervasive and guiding presence in all that we do.