It was said of Abba Ammoes that when he went to church, he did not allow his disciple to walk beside him but only at a certain distance; and if the latter came to ask him about his thoughts, he would move away from him as soon as he had replied, saying to him, ‘It is for fear that, after edifying words, irrelevant conversation should slip in, that I do not keep you with me.’
—–Sayings of the Desert
Perhaps one of the greater criticisms of our society is its tendency to use too many words. In our abundance of words we lose the true meaning of many things. Most of us give very little thought to preparing for worship. The monk was preparing to worship and wanted the worship of God to be his sole objective. Many distractions are thrown at us every hour of every day .Maybe it would strengthen us all to see the journey to worship as part of our worship.
I can only imagine how much more God-centered our gatherings would be if we entered in a worshipful frame of mind. I know that such thinking is out of the box, but wouldn’t it be worthwhile to try. The greatest lesson of the monk is that the journey of worship is not a time for irrelevant conversation. Let us resolve not to let our times before and after worship to be squandered by irrelevant conversations. Although a somewhat hard and demanding task, it could revolutionize your view of church and make times of community sharing so much more meaningful.
While I was in trouble with my feet and very weak, some of the brethren came to see me and ask me to tell them something about the cause of my sickness. I think they had a double purpose, first to comfort me by distracting me from my pain and second to set me off talking about something profitable.
—Dorotheos of Gaza
I truly believe the monk’s assertion of the two fold purpose of any visit to those that are in need is very valid and weighty. When we comfort someone that is hurting, we have a tendency to turn them away from their pain, but more significantly we make them feel a sense of value. The monk was sitting in his cell probably thinking of nothing but the gout that caused him so much pain, but his day was interrupted with a joyful distraction. This interruption lifted him away from the routine of the day and gave him value to the brethren even in the midst of his pain.
Dorotheos gives us a very valuable lesson in his words. This lesson reframes the purpose of visiting the sick and lonely. When we comfort someone in need, we not only minister to them, but give them an opportunity to minister to us. The brothers visited the monk in his time of suffering, and they gave him the chance to feel whole again. Dorotheos teaches us that we should never stop sharing and never stop serving. In this serving and sharing, God allows us to be disciples no matter what our condition may be.
People silently entered the candlelit sanctuary. In the total quiet of the moment, the intense prayers of those gathered were almost palpable. Each brought to worship years of living with accumulated pain and joy. The lonely came, as well as the exhausted because they are never alone. Some came bearing deep hurts, and some came bearing crushing guilt because of hurts they had imposed. Some came because their pain was nearly unbearable, and some came because they were afraid they could no longer feel anything. Some came because they were afraid to die, and some came because they were afraid to live.The ancient music washed over us all calming doubts and troubles in our souls. The liturgy began and those souls were lifted up to the lord. Fear and cares receded, and peace and hope took hold. We gave God our thanks and praise and He gave back to us the mystery of His presence. We revisited the crucifixion together as we celebrated Holy Communion. No matter our pasts, our educations, and our finances – we were all the same before God. We were sinners in need of His mercy – and we received it. We left that sacred time forgiven, reconciled, and whole. We worshipped and left with grace for the journey-full of glory.Advent presents us with unique opportunities for worship. As we come to God honestly confessional, void of pretense, seeking God for who he is, not for what we want from him, we realize that we are living in the very beginning days of eternal life.Reflection – Confess to God everything that stands in the way of your worship.Monica Boudreaux
O Lord support us all the day long
Until the evening comes,
The shadows lengthen and the busy world is hushed,
The fever of life is over and our work is done.
Then Lord in your Mercy,
Give us a safe lodging,
A Holy rest and peace at the last.
—-John Henry Newman
- Thursday Morning Prayer (prayerfromtheheart.net)
This a very interesting look at the church in this post modern world. WE all need to take a creful look at the mission of our church.
the long way home
For my Gospel, Culture, and Church course this past week, we had to read the opening chapter of this book on the Church as mission, rather than seeing the Church as something that does mission. We also had to read some mind-blowing pages from Hans Kung’s epic work The Church. It got me thinking a lot about what precisely the “church” is and how it is that thing. I just wanted to share some disjointed thoughts today.
Throughout the readings, the (perhaps over-used) term “Being in Becoming” kept coming to mind. (For my more philosophically-trained friends, forgive me if I’m simplifying this term too much; My main exposure to this has been cursory, in the context of the Trinitarian theology of Karl Barth and how he describes God).
In others words, the Church’s very Being is in its efforts to more faithfully “Become” what it is. It is not…
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Abba Poeman said, ‘In Abba Pambo we see three bodily activities; abstinence from food until the evening of every day, silence, and much manual work.’
—-Abba Poeman of the Desert
Three disciplines are put forth by this shepherd of the desert. They are abstinence, silence, and manual work. These three disciplines are the heart of the monastic tradition and Christian walk.
Abstinence from food is referred to as fasting. Why should fasting be a building block in our Christian walk? The mastering of the weakness of the body is at the center of offering our true selves to God. As long as we are ruled by our physical needs, we can never fully give ourselves to our Creator.
Silence is, quite simply, prayer – the type of prayer that is not cluttered by words. Any one of us who has ever been called upon to pray in public knows the pressure of the right words. When the monk withdraws to his cell and observes sacred silence, God has the opportunity to speak. We are no different. God must be given the opportunity to speak. Consider having a time of silence every day, and you will be delighted at what God will do.
Now there is manual work. We live in a time when people avoid the use of their hands because it somehow implies that we are less than successful. An important component to the life of any Christian is to work with our hands. Your work could be painting, sewing, or some other work that would allow you to express the gifts that God has given you.
Be mindful of these three disciplines and I believe your life will be remarkably better.
Hypocrites in The Church
By Rev. Weldon Bares
( Weldon is Senior Pastor of First Unite Methodist Church of Lake Charles, and a good friend.)
Over the years I have heard many reasons why people don’t go to church.
In my opinion, one of the weakest reasons is when someone claims, “There are so many hypocrites in church, so I am not going to sit among them.”
I cannot argue the fact, hypocrites are in the church. In fact, hypocrites are found everywhere. But I don’t say, “I will no longer go to football games because some people in the stands are not real football fans. Some of those people aren’t really sincere about football, so I will not attend.”
I don’t say, “I am no longer going to concerts because some people in the audience don’t really love music.” I don’t say, “I am no longer going to the movies because some people in the audience at the movie theater are not really sincere about liking movies and are not there for the right reason. Their heart is not in it.”
Certainly, every church has hypocrites. There is no escaping that fact. May God forgive us and help us to do better. But I thank God that there is room for everyone in God’s house: saints, sinners and yes, even hypocrites. There is room for all of us!
- Hypocrites (christianmotivations.weebly.com)
Just recently I was introduced to Dorotheos of Gaza by Professor Emeritus Roberta Bondi from Chandler School of Theology. I find his words an additional treasure trove of desert wisdom that I will be blogging on from time to time. Irvin
In His loving-kindness God has given us purifying commandments so that, if we wish, we can by their observance be cleansed not only of sins but also of passions themselves. For passions are one thing and sins another. Passions are: anger, vanity, love of pleasures, hatred, evil lust and the like. Sins are the actual operations of passions, when a man puts them into practice, that is, performs with the body the actions to which his passions urge him. For it is possible to have passions and yet not to act from them.
Doretheos of Gaza
——-Dorotheos of Gaza
At first glance Dorotheos seems to be implying that we can approach God with behavior modification. That is not the base point of the teaching. We can dig far deeper by gaining the insight of the undeniable relationship between passion and sin. If we can come to understand that God is seeking to guide us to recognize our passions without allowing them to control us like puppets on a string, we can arrive at a peace that is currently beyond our grasp. Passions and sins are not one in the same. Passions are the root of sin, but passions are not an excuse for sin. The father clearly points out that we can have passions without sin. There are two keys: to observe the commands of God and avoid sin, and to understand that our passions drive us in the direction of sin. With that knowledge, it will be possible to have passions and not sin.
Additionally, I believe that passions allow us to live our lives to the fullest. Our deepest passions are one way we were created in the “image and likeness” of God. We are to go to God and ask Him to gift us with deep passion to live, to love, and to serve. With these passions, we become great servants and productive people. The acknowledgement of evil passions as the root of sin is the beginning of the road to glorification.
The seeds of contemplation and sanctity have been planted in those souls, (all people of good will)but they merely lie dormant. They do not grow. In other words: sanctifying grace occupies the substance of their souls but never flows out to inflame and irrigate and take possession of their faculties, their intellect and will. God will not manifest himself to these souls because they do not seek him.
Merton’s wisdom tells us that we can only achieve true unity with God when we seek it with our whole beings. God has implanted within each of us the seeds that will bring us to full fellowship with Him, but it is our mission to brings forth the fruit offered by these seeds. His grace is a gift that gives each one the capacity to fully possess the salvation of God.
Our desire to see ourselves fully sanctified with our creator is the lifelong mission of the Christian. Many a person has gone through life, many times a good life, without fully claiming the wonderful grace of God. Merton warns that Christian growth is a proactive venture, because God does not force Himself upon us. We are called to seek and desire Him.
- The Meaning of the Contemplative Life (christoschicago.wordpress.com)
- Pilgrimage (tbolto.wordpress.com)