Friday, November 27, 2015

but I, prayer



In return for my love they accuse me,
but I continue to pray.
    -Psalm 109:4

In Psalm 109 David cries out to God for vengeance on his enemies. He is being unjustly attacked and he’s begging God to repay his oppressors unmercifully. Not only his oppressors but their wives and children as well. The literal translation of the Hebrew in verse four is, but I, prayer or but I am all prayer. David’s whole being is consumed by his need for revenge.

I can understand David’s heartfelt plea for retaliation. I can understand his rage. When we are attacked and hurting our human response is to repay, to strike back, to protect ourselves. But that is not the way of Christ. Jesus said,
Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.  Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.

He told us to love our enemies and to pray for them. He lived out this teaching from the cross praying as he hung there dying,
Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.

Brother Robert L’Esperance of The Society of St. John the Evangelist points out that,
Icons of the Good Samaritan traditionally give the Samaritan and the man he rescued the same face. This is something we might keep in mind when we examine the plight of those who go without. These people are the same as us and only their circumstances, at this particular moment in their lives, are different.

The Good Samaritan icon by artist Charalambos Epaminonda
 
Loving our enemy is one of the great mysteries of Christianity which we desperately need in our fractured world today. Perhaps meditating on these hard teachings of Christ would help us Christians see that the Syrians, the Kurds, the Sudanese, and all other hurting people of our world are not so different from us. Perhaps if we were so consumed with Christ’s love that we became prayer we would see that these people are husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters just as we are. But, like the man who fell among robbers in the Good Samaritan story, only their circumstances are different.

Our rational, human, self-protective instinct is to strike back when hurt,

but I, prayer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

Different People

I've somehow messed up the RSS feed on this blog so please click this link to see the Sursum Corda post and manually visit often until I figure out how to get it back going.  Thanks. Monty

This morning finds me in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  As I continue our week of Sursum Corda Thanksgiving meditation on Psalm 138 the last sentence of  passage calls out to me.

Lord, Your love is eternal;
do not abandon the work of Your hands.

As I drop the rest of the psalm and quieten my heart, soul, and mind in this sentence the Spirit brings to mind all the 'different than me people' I saw last night as I walked the Quarter.  As Brother Mark Brown posted this morning:



Even if we have all we need and enjoy perfect health and have accomplished everything we set out to do, just opening the newspaper pops that little bubble. Empathy can and should be an unsettling experience.
     -Br. Mark Brown   Society of Saint John the Evangelist   


They, just like me, and every human are the work of God's hand.  My prayer is for God not to abandon any one of us and for each of us to know, really experientially know, his eternal love for us.

God has made himself more known to me by my being here.  I find peace in knowing that in some inexplicable way my presence and my prayers are helping make him more known in the lives of each of these 'so very different people'.

Please join our Monastery of the Soul online community as together we lift our hearts in praise to God as we meditate on Psalm 138 this Thanksgiving week.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Quietness

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.
You're covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet.  Quitness is the surest sign
that you've died.
Your old life was frantic running
from silence.

The speechless full moon
comes out now.
     -Rumi

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sursum Corda



Let us lift up our hearts in praise

The Latin phrase sursum corda literally means ‘upward hearts’ but it is generally translated as ‘Let us lift up our hearts.’

Despite the diversity that exists within God’s church I think we would benefit in remembering that our different church traditions and denominations have a common heritage. For example, over the past two millennia most Christian gatherings have in some way called us to lift our hearts in praise and thankfulness to the God of our salvation. This is the point of our worship services.

Sursum corda or let us lift up our hearts calls us to acknowledge our absolute dependence on God. The plurals ‘us’ and ‘our’ express our desire to join our voices in praise with the vast company of fellow believers around our world. These plurals are a powerful testimony to the communion of saints which surrounds us now and remind us of the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.

In spite of our differences, all Christians acknowledge the Scriptures as God’s Word. Let’s celebrate our common faith and heritage by joining all of God’s church in praising God through praying the Psalms together.

In his book Meditating on the Word Dietrich Bonhoeffer teaches us, “It has proven helpful to meditate on a text of approximately 10-15 verses for a period of a week. It is not good to meditate on a different text each day, since we are not always equally receptive… It is a great help if a community knows that it is concentrating all week on the same text.” He goes on to say, “Meditation and prayer must be practiced earnestly… So the first rule is not to become impatient with yourself. Do not become confused and upset because of your distractedness. Just sit down every day and wait very patiently (emphasis mine). If your thoughts keep wandering, there is no need for you to hold on to them compulsively. There is nothing wrong with letting them roam where they will; but then incorporate in your prayers the place or person to which you have gone. So you will find your way back to your text, and the minutes spent in such diversions will not be lost and will no longer be any cause for worry.”

As we enter into our Thanksgiving season I will be meditating on Psalm 138 each day for a week beginning this Saturday. I invite you to join me as together our little online community lifts up our hearts in praise to our God for all the many spiritual and physical blessings he has given us. I encourage you to join me in investing 20-30 minutes each day of Thanksgiving week in silent lectio divina meditation on Psalm 138.  Here’s a version of lectio divina which works well for a 20-30 minute meditation.

Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit.  Set the timer on your phone for the allotted time then put it out of sight. Begin with silencio. Quieten your heart and mind by taking three deep, slow breaths. From this calmness we move to lectio reading the entire Psalm to get the rhythm of the complete passage. Pause a moment then slowly read the Psalm a second time listening for a word or phrase that calls out to you. Let the rest of the text slip away as you move into meditatio silently repeating your word or phrase in sync with your breath. As your meditation deepens let your word or phrase go and simply listen. Sit quietly in contemplatio with the rhythm of your breath.  When you become distracted or the voices in your head start speaking up (and they will) use the rhythm of your inhalation and exhalation to bring your focus back.  Continue to sit silently with your journal practicing scriptio when words come and waiting patiently in contemplatio when they don’t.  When your time is up graciously thank the Lord for this time with him and his word. Then return to your day secure in the firm foundation you have laid.

Remember, spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.  Let us now return to the world reflecting Christ from this solid, calm, and peaceful grounding in his Word.

P.S. I’m testing the waters to see if these meditations are something you and others would like to receive.  Please let me know what you think and, if you like it, please share with a friend. 

P.P.S. I’m also working on an online silent retreat course and some ideas for other courses which will be open to the public soon. I need a few people to look at the beta version and give me feedback.  Please email montyperegrine[at]gmail.com if you would be willing to help.