One biblical window into the importance of spiritual practices is the story Jesus tells of the ten brides in Matthew 25. Such practices are ways that we prepare ourselves to recognize God. In this spirit, here are a few thoughts on prayer from Thomas Merton:
“[I]t is the will to pray that is the essence of prayer, and the desire to find God, to see Him and to love Him is the one thing that matters.”
“Prayer and love are really learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart turns to stone. If you have never had any distractions you don’t know how to pray.”
–New Seeds of Contemplation (1961).
There are a few things that might separate many of our churches from the one in ancient Corinth. One is that not many of us wear togas (at least not in church). A second is that not many churches can boast that they have the city treasurer in their midst. The church in Corinth most likely counted just such a person among its members, a man named Erastus.
Erastus is mentioned several places in Scripture, but it is Romans 16 that identifies him as the city treasurer. Paul wrote the letter to the Romans while in Corinth, so, he likely knew Erastus well. The New Testament scholar Richard Hays tells us that archaeologists have found a commemorative block at the ancient site of Corinth with the name of Erastus engraved in it. The block commemorates the fact that he funded pavement for a section of the city. The presence of Erastus is one of the many things that would have made the church in Corinth an interesting community. Most of its members came from gentile or pagan backgrounds, so Paul had to answer questions about food and idols and whether or not it is alright for a man to sleep with his father’s wife or a prostitute. Followers of Jesus from Jewish backgrounds wouldn’t have asked those questions. In addition to wealthy patrons like Erastus, the church in Corinth also had members that were relatively poor. This disparity became a problem when they celebrated their common meal. Read more
In prayer we acknowledge “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,” — may it be so among us.
Today we reflect on three passages: Ps. 29, Acts 8:14-17 and Luke 3:21-22.
The fellow sat down heavily across the table from me. He was tall, bearded, and were it not for his bow-tie and sport jacket, he would have looked like a lumberjack. “In my country crime isn’t such a problem,” he said. “We have police but they mostly just direct traffic. You know, they blow their whistles and wave their hands.”
“I assume you’re not talking about Canada,” I say. “For some reason I thought you were Canadian. You know that it counts as Canada even if you’re outside of Toronto?”
“Well, I guess I’m thinking of my wife’s country,” he replies. “I’ve lived there over half of my life. It feels like home; I can’t wait to go back. I’m not used to this snow and ice. Why do so many people still live here, haven’t they found enough beaver pelts yet?” Read more
Have you ever wondered what other people are doing during a worship service? I mean, you can see what they’re doing with their bodies, but have you ever wondered what is going on inside their heads? Before we get carried too far down this stream we should admit that there is a philosophical problem with the question. Just like it is probably impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God, it’s also probably impossible to prove that there is anything going on in someone else’s head, anything significant that is. But even if you can’t prove it, do you wonder what they’re doing? Why are they there? Are they there? Their body is present, but is their head and heart? Of course we can ask the same question of ourselves. What is it that we are doing in worship?
There just about as many ways to answer that question as there are people at a worship service. Any one of us participates for a whole host of interconnected reasons, so we might be doing quite a number of things (keeping our parents happy, easing our conscience, avoiding loneliness or whatever). Let me suggest one thing though that we are all doing: we are enacting a liturgy. Not everyone is comfortable with the word ‘liturgy’ but I think it’s a helpful word. It’s a word often misunderstood, but one that can help us appreciate some of the dynamics in Luke 2:41-52 and Colossians 3:12-17. Read more