Monday, May 26, 2014

The Being-made-perfect-in-love Prayer

Last night's sermon was a meditation on “Be Ye Perfect,” how perfection is interpreted in the Wesleyan tradition, what it meant to the preacher (a candidate for ordination) to be made perfect in love, and her own struggles with perfectionism.

This reminder of the goal of Christian Perfection got me wishing for a prayer practice, something that I could pray whenever I’m feeling at a loss and unsure what the loving thing to do in a given situation might be.  It would have to be something I could say quickly, remember easily, and use unobtrusively as I tried both to stay engaged with the person before me and to reach out for divine assistance, simultaneously.

I thought of and rejected a number of options, went to bed with no satisfactory answer to my quandary, and woke up at 1 AM with the desire for a discipline still foremost in mind.  The early morning inspiration was to follow the pattern of the doctrinal order of salvation, Repentance-Faith-Holiness.  I chose three words and three body parts to associate with each step in the analogy of faith, and came up with the following--

Focus on the head and think “Help”
Focus on the heart and think “Save”
Focus on the feet and think “Move”

I like the head-to-toe coverage of this form of prayer; it feels like I’m all in, every part of me seeking and listening for guidance.

“Help” is the point where I admit that I am clueless and have no idea what a loving response would look like in a given situation.  “Save” is an act of trust, in which I reaffirm my belief that Christ can transform me and teach me how to love.  “Move” is an expression of my desire to discern the direction in which God’s grace is already leading and to follow.

I will be heading to the hospital this afternoon to visit two relatives who are gravely ill.  I don’t know if I’ll need the perfect love prayer during the visit, but it does feel good to have this prayer to experiment with should I feel the need.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Paul's Guidelines for Worship

I want to experiment with the form a worship described in Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 14: 26-40.  The first expectation that everyone will come to worship prepared to serve is very appealing.  I also appreciate the fact that Paul gives church members options; they can sing, teach, pray, tell a story, share an insight (limited to two or three speakers).  There's so many options here that it makes me think that the list is not exhaustive.  I also note that Paul had to give the Corinthians rules for courteous behavior, and that his etiquette (at least the way that Peterson has paraphrased it) seems fair: Speak from your heart, Don't criticize a prayer offered in an unfamiliar language, Be considerate.

Who's with me?  Ready to scrap the model of worship you've been following for years and instead experiment with Paul's guidelines?  And if you know of anyone who has already implemented this Pauline framework, I would appreciate it if you would let me know.

Monday, May 12, 2014

It's raining. Love is Reigning.

Radar from NWS of May 11, 2014 supercell storm
A supercell storm passed through the Midwest yesterday causing tornadoes, hail damage, and flash floods. The sirens went off around 7pm in Omaha, and we spent an hour in the storm shelter of our apartment building.  

According to the meteorologist from Channel 6 news, the storm cell blew out as it reached the outskirts of the metro area.  Wind speeds reached 80 mph by some reports.  Falling tree limbs knocked down power lines in some parts of the city.  As of 9am, 6,000 homes are still without power.

Given all that transpired last night, my early morning meditation seems extremely inappropriate.  I awoke around 5am but didn't feel rested.  The adrenaline-fueled reaction to the evening's weather event had made it difficult to fall asleep.  I'm in the habit of praying in bed whenever I wake up before the alarm goes off.  I start with a morning affirmation followed by the Lord's Prayer.  This morning, however, my attention wandered.  I made it as far as the affirmation for the metro area before my monkey-mind jumped to something else.

I imagined myself sitting and meditating, palms raised, and in that moment I felt loved. The divine was delighting in me.  It was clear that this love and delight wasn't about anything that I had done.  It wasn't a reaction to an accomplishment or deed or goodness. I caught a glimpse of the divine nature this morning, and I'm here to report that that nature is an eternal embrace.  

All I had to do was sit there (actually still lying in bed) and let the love reign down on me and into me.  But after all the damage that rain did last night, I felt myself resisting the way the mediation was unfolding.

The passivity of it bothers me.  When Christ blesses the disciples in Matthew 28:19, John 20:22, and Acts 1:8, he follows it up with a commission.  The disciples are blessed and empowered to go, witness, serve.  I was getting my early morning blessing, it felt great, but where were my marching orders?

Homes have been destroyed.  Families are picking up the pieces of their lives.  Nerves are frayed.  I was expecting a Holy Spirit shove out the door; a motivation to help those in need.  Instead I was getting the Stay message.  Abide.  Soak Up.

Apparently, my duty for this day is to abide in Christ and spend these next 24 hours reflecting the light of divine love.  Big whoop.  Fat lot of good that's going to do those waking up to devastation.  Also, how do I do that?  How do I become more reflective? I need more than the Sit command.  I need some detailed instructions.

My inclination is to be helpful.  The Spirit's idea of my helpfulness is different than mine, and I find that extremely frustrating.  I need grace to show me how to be still for Jesus because inaction goes against my nature.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Our Three Responses to Grace (typically)

The video clip below is from my Wednesday, March 26, 2014 presentation at Rockbrook UMC in Omaha, Nebraska. In it, I tell the audience about an experience I had the Sunday before Lent.  

On that particular Sunday, my husband and I had arrived early for the evening service.  After finding seats, a member of the staff approached us and asked if I would read the scripture lessons during worship. When I told her that I would be glad to help out, she handed me two pieces of paper, one of which contained Psalm 131 in a translation that was unfamiliar to me-
"O Lord, my heart is not proud nor my look haughty; I do not aspire to great things or to do what is beyond me; But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore."
I almost burst out laughing when I read the second stanza because I do aspire to great things and I do over-reach.  It was a convicting moment, and it was the start of a process in which I moved from repentance to faith to holiness in the space of a few minutes as the service started.

Repentance-Faith-Holiness is the order of salvation in the Wesleyan tradition.  It is the analogy of faith that Wesley followed when he interpreted scripture, and it is how he characterized Methodist Doctrine.  It is the succession of responses that one typically has to an experience of grace when belief is new, and it is a repetitive sequence throughout the stages of the spiritual maturation process.

I shared this experience with the good folks at Rockbrook because I think it's illustrative of what I mean by Wesleyan Spirituality, and because I'm looking for new terms, something other than repentance-faith-holiness, to describe our typical responses to God, and I was hoping that the audience would tell me about similar experiences that they had had and what terms they use when they describe those experiences to others.