Sunday, March 11, 2012

Practicing the Presence of God

During the last several months, I have been posting thoughts about my spirituality regularly. I never seem to finish! In recent weeks, I arrived at the pinnacle of this exercise, claiming the joy of being the body of Christ. Amazing things happen when we live this mystery.

I would like to introduce you, perhaps, to a concept which has changed my life. Brother Lawrence wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence of God. He lived in the early 17th century. After serving as a soldier for a while, he entered the monastery but was uneducated so he entered as a layman. He served in the kitchens and as a cobbler for the remainder of his life. He had no exalted position, but he became known for his devotion and his ability to bring God into every aspect of his life.

He “practiced the presence” while doing dishes, cleaning floors, or whatever he was doing. He rejoiced in everyday tasks, prayed constantly, and became known for his kindness and willingness to help out.

As the body of Christ, the church has a real opportunity to help people learn to practice the presence in their everyday lives. How do you gain that constant, comforting connection to God in all that you do? This is the secret of being the body of Christ … knowing that Christ is here, Jesus shows up, God is present. Church is not about doing good things but about a pervasive love that is felt and shared. If we passionately believe that to be true when we gather, we also believe it to be possible wherever we go.

I think we are in a very difficult time in history to be in ministry. The culture is increasingly disinterested in church and mainline Protestant churches are declining. There is great divisiveness in our political culture, and there are ongoing hostilities across the world. Yet at the same time, people are searching and yearning for something more.

In the midst of this critical time to be in ministry, people are hungry and looking for a sense of real community, of relevant spirituality, and of relational missions. The church can help them practice the presence of God. It changes everything!