Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August e-update: Listening

This month ROC board member, Patrick Wersell, shares with us insights about listening to God:

I often have a hard time hearing God amidst the busyness of life.  I was preparing a sermon for the nursing home a few weeks ago on Jude and my son, Eli, came down stairs.  He asked me if I would play with him and I told him that I was busy doing something right now and could play with him when I was done.  He said o.k. and went away.  About five minutes later he was back, with a ball and said, “Dad watch me” as he bounced it on his hand.  “Yes Eli,” I replied, “Good job, I’m busy.”  Five minutes later he’s back again, flipping.  “Good job, still busy.”  “When are you going to be done Dad?”  “In a while, why don’t you play with your cars for a while?” The cars were on the floor next to the couch I was sitting on.  So he starts to play, and he begins to sing a song. 

Now he’s not even paying attention to me, he’s playing with his cars and he’s just singing to himself.  The song went like this, “Oh won’t you play with me, Oh why won’t you play with me?”; repeated over and over in a soft 5 year old voice.  It took me a couple of minutes even to hear it.  As I sit here typing and wiping my eyes, I don’t think that I’ll ever forget it. 

Needless to say I did not preach on Jude.  I taught on the importance of listening to God; of being able to hear His still, small voice, and realizing that Christianity is built on relationships, my relationship with Christ and my relationship with others.  We often spend so much time doing the “really” important things, that we miss the things that are actually important to God. 

The folks at the nursing home may not have received a heavily researched message on Jude, but they did receive a message from God, and more importantly I did.  My sermons don’t mean much to Eli, he just wants me to spend time with him.  And my intelligence isn’t especially impressive to the creator of the universe. No, he wants the same thing my 5 year old does, to be important enough to me that I will set aside what I’m busy doing and just spend time with him.

Your brother in Christ,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Time with Jesus

The circled window on the 2nd floor of the building on the
right nearest the tree is where I stayed.
I've just returned from a personal retreat. This was my sixth visit to Gethsemani (yes, they spell it that way) monastery West of Lexington, KY. God often grants me insight into myself and my service during these retreat times. This time I was fascinated by an invitation given by the “Guest Master,” Fr. Damien. He invited the retreatants to take part in an “Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.” He said that both Catholics and Protestants were welcome.

When he made the invitation, he stated that they didn't do anything but pray for an hour. He also stated, “If you want to get to know Jesus, you have to spend time with Him, you know?”

I went to the chapel and got there early (around 4:05 p.m.) though I thought I was arriving late. When I arrived, there were already people there. Sitting. In silence. I waited. I read Scripture. When Fr. Damien arrived, around 4:20, he put on a stole, unlocked and opened a box on the wall, and removed a small, lovely jar/bottle sort of thing. This ornate container he placed on the altar and then took a seat. He said nothing. There were about 15 of us there together. A few people read silently, some watched silently, others prayed silently. Everyone sat in silence. (It looked as if Fr. Damien may have fallen asleep a time or two—but if he did so, he did so in silence.)

At around 5:20 another of the monks came in and sat next to me. I thought that it was potentially going to be a bit embarrassing to break the silence in order to explain to him—older as he was with a hearing aid and cane—that he should go up past me when it came time to partake. Since I'm not Catholic, I would not be allowed to receive the Eucharist. Around 5:25 Fr. Damien got up, approached the altar, took the container, made the sign of a cross with the bottle and put it back in the lock box. The “exposition” was over.

I didn't have to explain anything to the old brother monk because no one partook of communion at that time. We just sat with Jesus—we watched and we prayed. I wondered how many of my Protestant brothers and sisters would sit in silence with one another for over an hour receiving nothing more than Jesus' presence. I recalled Jesus' own words in another Gethsemane, “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) and I thought that three times a week there is a small band in a chapel at a monastery in Kentucky where people are doing just that; silently watching with Jesus for an hour.