how we serve: Our Practice Demonstrates what we Believe
My closest spiritual friend and I were sitting on a bench, looking out at sun-drenched fields and reading the Jude Benediction aloud to one another a couple of times each. We read:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24,25 NRSV)
We entered a shared silence, letting the words of the blessing wash over and in us – and then began to laugh out loud almost simultaneously. It was laughter of joy and wonder. This God “who is able to keep us from stumbling” has been present to us even when we weren’t aware of it. But we know that this God has been the bond of our friendship. The blessing expresses the reason and desire for that friendship.
We have been given the gift of this time together with congenial companions who share this desire. Let me just remind us of how this time together is shaped to assist us on this voyage.
We believe God is present in all of life. Our playing and our praying; our eating and our drinking; our speaking and our listening; our reading and our thinking – all are expressions of the presence of God and means to experiencing it together. This time together is sacred space where we leave ourselves deliberately in position to be interrupted, give up plans for outcome and trust the Spirit’s work.
Jesus lived his life in deep relationship with the Father and the Spirit. Jesus’ prayer just before he heads for arrest and trial includes the following hints about our times together; “Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:18-23 NLT)
We are being drawn into that relationship that Jesus has with the Father. He invites us to join this dance of love that draws us into God and toward one another. This informs all that we do here. Jesus tells us he is present in each one of us as a community.
We are being sent by our Lord and Friend Jesus into the world as he was sent. This means we operate out of a sense of call in our work, family, service to the world and causes of justice and mercy. Our friendship with God and one another is not an inward directed experience. The healing and help we receive in our broken and confused places refreshes and empowers us to go on mission in the church and in the world.
We believe in the power of silence and stillness. On retreats and in our own personal practices we create time and space to become silent. Silence enables us to become aware of God, creation, one another and our own inner life. Extended periods of silence, passively open to the loving God who is present and communicating with us is a powerful doorway to the experience of God.
Our playing and our praying are gifts to allow us to break from the normal patterns of life and work into a brief Sabbath. Our playing (walks, games, leisure) has drawn us away together, given us the motivation to be here and is just good fun and relaxation. Our praying together meets the real longing of our hearts to know and experience the love of God. Our praying together is also a gift that encourages us to listen deeply to God in silence and peace – a hard place to get to, most times in our daily lives.
Our eating and our drinking are gifts from God as well. We need food and drink to just get through the day but we need food and drink of a richer sort to find nourishment for all of life. Meals can be sacred places of conversation and intimacy as stories are shared and new things are discovered.
Many of Jesus’ most amazing conversations were at a table with saints and sinners alike. He enjoyed the hospitality he was offered. We are trying in this time together to offer him hospitality at our table and while we enjoy the odd beverage.
We will enjoy our “Celtic Meal” together – a meal that connects with our deepest need for freedom, love, forgiveness and hope. Eating and drinking in honour of King Jesus has been our tradition.
Our speaking and our listening also express this hospitality to Jesus and one another. It takes time and discipline to give one another the airtime that allows us to know real inner journey and to recognize God’s presence in the other.
Interruptions are normal in life but not helpful in conversations that are committed to listening and learning. The opposite of interrupting is active, responsive silence.
This non-interrupting spirit must infect our time together over meals, conversations, laughter and reflection.
We believe God is present in our midst, present in each one and present in our circle of friendship. Quiet, deep, watchful listening sharpens our eyes to see and ears to hear the Presence.
We watch and listen for signs of grace in the other, actions of love in the other. Catching each other out in the good we see transforms us from analysis and judgment to wonder, awe and affirmation.
Weakness and failure is easy to see – it takes eyes and ears of love to discover the good and grace in the other. Our fears, our hopes, our failures, our achievements – the things we are truly asking from God – can be enriching ingredients to listening and speaking with one another.
Our reading and our thinking are rich resources for one another. We will share ideas, books we’ve read, movies we’ve seen –even engage in arguments about them.
On several occasions we will do a different sort of reading. We will hear the reading of a story from Jesus’ life, we will release our imaginations to the Spirit and see and hear things we may not have seen and heard before.
These readings will often shape our conversations for the rest of the day just because we have opened our minds and souls for the Spirit to take us in new and refreshing ways.
Let’s enjoy our time together, letting the freedom of the Spirit’s interruptions allow us to experience the love of God in Jesus and one another. Let’s pray and play knowing we are empowered by the one who can make us stand without blemish in His presence.