Tag Archives: Baptism

Relishing Your Thin Places

I believe with all that is in me that we are able to say, “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and… put out my hand and touched the face of God.” That quote from John Gillespie’s sonnet “High Flight” was made famous by President Ronald Reagan in his speech following the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. That is the type thin place I seek – a place where I can feel the presence of God.

Without question there were such thin places in the Bible. The fire that followed the Ark of the Covenant, the conversation of Paul on the Damascus Road, the encounter with Jesus on the Emmaus Road and the Temple in Jerusalem are examples of such places. These stories stand separately from the Celtic notion of thin places. Jesus expands the thin places of life by saying: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” Scholar N. T. Wright tells us, “Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.” When heaven and earth meet, a thin place is discovered. I wish no dishonor or disrespect to the more purist concept of thin places but do wish to expand on the opportunity for each us to recognize our encounters with the thin places God has presented to us. With that in mind, I want to speak about some thin places we can experience.


Particular Places

In 1871, the German people of the town of Carrollton (now part of New Orleans LA) demanded their own church, and the Mater Dolorosa German Church was established. Mater Dolorosa still ministers to all seekers, and is a thin place for

Font Mater Dolorosa

Mater Dolorosa Font

me. Thirty-five years after its ministry began my grandfather Frank Klundt was baptized there. In 1926 he was married to my grandmother at the same church and in 1927 my mother was baptized there as well. Now if that is not enough, in 1955 I was presented for Baptism at Mater Dolorosa church. Tradition and spiritual experience have made the area of the baptismal font a thin place for me. When I am there, I am with my family, God and a gathering of the communion of saints. Mater Dolorosa church is a place where generations of my family have expressed their faith. I can sit silently and just wait for the touch of God, and He does touch me. He touches me though the hands of my faith. Ask God to reveal a thin place to you. I know you have one.

 


 

Particular Experiences

Intentional Retreats —

Many of us have gone “on retreat” at least one time in our lives and in the midst of such an experience we have felt a special touch of God. Perhaps it was the teaching, the music or the other people. God spoke to you, He gave you a mountain top experience. As we leave that particular set of circumstances we have a great desire to “can” the feeling so that we will always have it in our possession. Don’t can it, relish it, and know that God has brought you to a thin place and he will do it again.

Communing with Nature —

Azalea churchLove of nature is built into our creation DNA. Experiences with nature drive us to an awareness of creation. Columbanus said, ‘If you wish to understand the Creator, first understand His creation.’ If we seek to be continually aware of His presence in nature, He will present to us a thin place of communication – a place where heaven and earth will intersect and glory revealed. Sunsets, mountains, sea waves, majestic creatures are all gifts to remind us of His magnificent creation. That reminder breaks the great veil of separation.


 

Particular Practices

To allow heaven and earth to meet, we must seek God. He is sought in prayer and worship practices. The importance of having regular and disciplined practices is the key to thin place experiences.

Let me suggest a few.

Silence –

The act of silence is a simple emptying of self and inviting God to fill the void. Centering prayer and other forms of meditation are windows to heaven. According to Dominican Meister Eckhart, a fourteenth century mystic, “There is nothing so much like God as silence.” Silence is a thin place.

Crucifixion_Icon_Sinai_13th_century

A Classical Icon – 13th Century

Praying with Icons –

The practice of writing icons is one of the earliest acts of prayer in the ancient church. Such a practice calls for us to leave ourselves behind and seek God. We desperately need a concrete image of God and icon gazing is a way reaching out and touching the face of God.


Lectio Divina –

Simply put, it is the praying the scripture. Picking a passage and reading with careful attention to the words and thoughts that are contained therein and allowing those words to sink deeply into your souls can be a sacred experience.

Worship –

In a world that sees worship as far more people centered than God centered, we are truly challenged to seek God in our time of worship. For worship to become a thin place we must put our personalities on the shelf and put the Holy Spirit on a pedestal. Allow God to pierce through all the distractions and enter into that place. Pray for those special moments that come in worship and you will find them.


I certainly hope that these words will inspire you to actively seek a thin place. God IS inviting you to find Him.

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The Bitter Conflict

We are caught in a bitter conflict between flesh and spirit. Jesus has delivered us from sin, but not from the weaknesses and desires of the flesh. We have to reproduce in our life the Cross of Christ so that, have died sacramentally to sin in baptism, we may also put to death sin in our flesh by restraining our evil desires and bad tendencies. This is the basis of monastic asceticism. (Or the Christian walk)

—-Thomas Merton from Basic Principles of Monastic Spirituality

There is not one among us who has not felt the tug of war caused by the conflict of flesh and spirit. This conflict of soul lives in everyone, and the battle rages with little relief. As we face this reality and own it, the conflict takes on a new aspect. The acknowledgement of our fleshly weaknesses allows us to turn to the spirit that is promised by Jesus. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.(John 14:26) Through this spirit we can achieve small victories over our desires, but we have to work at it, and be vigilant.

Prayer young manMerton points to a very important, and the often neglected reality of sacramental grace. Through our baptism the community lift us up so that we might die to sin. That grace is an important tool in our battle with the flesh, and one that should not be neglected. When the congregation (community) says, “-we will so order our lives after the example of Christ, that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith-” that pledge is the communion of saints in action. We must never abandon the strength that can be garnered from the sacramental community.

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Wesley on Baptism

BaptismBaptism is the rite of adoption. We are all children of God by Creation, and Christ alone is Gods Son by natural and eternal generation. Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 8:15-16 state, “Ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba Father. The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him. Paul infers this through the rite of Baptism when he states in Galatians 3:26-27, “Ye are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.”

So the rite of Baptism is a sign to the world of our regeneration through a new birth, and whereby we are engrafted into the Church. Through this act the Holy Spirit visibly signs and seals the promise of the forgiveness of sin and our adoption as sons of God. John says I was told that I would recognize the Son. Upon whom the Spirit would descend in baptism that would be the Messiah. So the Holy Spirit through Baptism declares that we have received Him and are therefore now, also, the sons of God.

From the Articles on Religion

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Baptism of Our Lord

Jesus BaptismToday we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, but we also remember our own Baptism. In remembering our Baptism we affirm our commitment to our Lord. This day is a time of deep introspection and examination of our Christian journey.

At that time Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

—–Matthew 13:13
 
 

A Prayer

Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit.  Grant that all who are baptized into his name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, One God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

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Kingdom of God

St John Baptist. Stained glass window, Chateau...

  • Jesus’ public life begins with His baptism at the hands John the Baptist.
  • Although sinless, Jesus chooses to identify Himself with the repentant sinners who flocked to baptism.
  • Before embarking upon His ministry, Jesus withdraws to the desert for a 40-day period of fasting.
  • The coming of God’s Kingdom means the destruction of the devil’s dominion over this world.
  • Jesus now goes forth to preach the “good news” of the coming of the Kingdom.
  • Jesus backed up His words with mighty miracles that inspired belief in Him.
  • Jesus gathers people to Himself, and this is the begining of the Kingdom of God.
  • Jesus emphasizes that everyone is called to enter the Kingdom. He reaches out to the poor, the marginalized and sinners.
  • In a very special way, the Kingdom belongs to the poor, lowly, humble of heart, those who know that they need God.
  • Jesus often illustrated His teaching by means of parables,and these stories call us to radical discipleship.

Live Your Faith

Rather than viewing the Gospels strictly as mini-biographies of Jesus, we should instead use our imagination to put ourselves into the stories.

Which people resonate the most with me? What would it be like to watch Jesus preach or perform a miracle?

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Discovering God

Prayer KneelerThere are some fascinating words of Jesus in John 17: 23&24, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Have you ever pondered on this passage? What does it mean to be one with God? Further, why are we one with Him?

The contemplative monk Thomas Merton had this to say about the passage. “The seeds of this perfect life are planted in every Christian soul at Baptism. But seeds must grow and develop before you reap the harvest. There are thousands of Christians walking about the face of the earth bearing in their bodies the infinite God of whom they know practically nothing.”

Life would be so different if only we recognized and nourished these precious seeds we bear in our souls. God has given each of us a small part of himself. After all, we are created in the “image and likeness” of God. The pilgrimage of a lifetime is to discover and nurture that precious gift God has given us. We discover this gift as we spend time with Him-fully open to His presence. We can pray, fast, meditate, worship and engage in sacred reading, all with the objective of allowing our master to complete this process. It is so very sad that so many people never allow for the development of the divine within themselves.

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