There is a little verse near the beginning of the book 1 Samuel that goes like this “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” – 1 Samuel 3:1Often we r…
This very hard working man violating two social mores in one moment: 1) the oft cited rule that socially acceptable conversation avoids politics and religion and 2) the unspoken rule that conversation between men in the restroom is restricted to dads coaxing their sons to aim properly. So when he said, “give me a word.” I was caught off guard.
I shared with him that I have been reading about Saint Moses who said that a monk should sit in his cell for the cell will teach you all you need to know. I said I have been reflecting on this as a need for silence and solitude in a hyper-connected and noisy world.
The worker smiled and grunted with satisfaction. So I asked in return “give me a word.”
The worker began to tell me the story of the rich man who avoided Lazarus their whole lives. He recalled how when they both died the rich man, from hell, asked that Lazarus would come, from heaven, to give him a cool drink. (Those of you who know this story from the Gospels can fill in the details.)
I smiled and grunted with satisfaction.
We “man hugged” (the handshake where you pull each other to bump chests and slap the back of the other two times before you disengage) and went our separate ways.
The life of the Christian is one that holds the call to action and the call to contemplation in tension. It is not sufficient for the social justice warrior to dismiss the need for silence and stillness. It is not sufficient for the hermit to dismiss the prophetic action need in the world.
You may think that action and contemplation are opposite ends of the spectrum, that they cannot coexist in one church much less in one person. We are led to believe that we must be either/or. Justice or worship. Action or contemplation. Left or right. Unity or disunity.
The deeper call of Christ is not either but both. Perhaps this is in part why the way of Christ is so difficult – you have to embody a constant and unresolvable mystery.
It is easier to take a side.
If prayer is genuinely getting closer to God, then being uncomfortable while praying could mean that you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable to God’s direction, writes the Rev. Jason Valendy.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
Often prayer is taught in …
Tradition biblically formed Methodism focuses more on the process – the method – than on the ends, which ought to enlighten the factions in today’s turmoil, writes the Rev. Jason Valendy.
The other day I was in conversation with a member of the church I serve and he told me of a book that he was taught and memorized much of when he was younger, The Westminster Shorter Catechism. He went on to tell me that the first question and answer in this book is:
- Q. What is the chief end of man?
- A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
This was the foundation of his early Christian experience. It was also clear in our conversation that he is in a phase of this formation where he is deconstructing his faith and has more questions than ever before. This is a natural process for so many but the Church has not been very helpful at guiding pilgrims through the deconstruction (death) of their former understanding of faith in order to help usher reconstruction (resurrection). I tried my best to listen to him because he embodies the type of Christian that I desire to be – curious, open and humbling seeking.
After learning about what he was taught was the chief end of man was, it dawned on me that perhaps this is a point of difference in the UMC that I have experienced. That is to say, the United Methodist tradition that I have experienced is one that is concerned less about the “ends” than it is concerned about the “means.”
The UMC says that the sacraments of communion are “means of Grace.” The UMC has three rules – 1) do no harm, 2) do good and 3) attend to the ordinances of God. That last rule is about upholding the practices that draw us closer to the Spirit of God such as worship, prayer, fasting, study, silence, etc. These three rules all point to a process, a means a way of living. These are not rules to think about but rules do live. These are not so much of positions as they are postures that give flexibility to the Christian to discern how to live these rules out. So within the Church we have conversations about what “doing good” looks like or take actions to repent in the ways we have done harm. Methodists were made fun of in the early days because of their insistence on the “methods” of practicing Christianity. The Methodists were not made fun of because of their positions but because they emphasized the methods/means/practice.
There are some within our denomination that demand we all pick predetermined sides to the hot issues of the time. It is seen as “unfaithful” or “not a winning strategy” to be a voice that calls for incremental change. The Biblically informed Methodism that has shaped me is one that emphasizes the process (method) over the position.
The way we are having conversation these days – blaming others, scapegoating victims, dismissing arguments, creating straw-men and false equivalences, not repenting of our own hypocrisy, etc. – is less Methodist and more reflective of the newest denomination I call Positionists.
Not long ago, a group of United Methodist leaders announced a movement called “Uniting Methodists.” For those…
The Church, as a product of culture, has come to rely more on a god of efficiency than the God of all time, writes the Rev. Jason Valendy.
The Church often tells herself that she is counter-cultural. The reality is the Church is a cultural product and in influenced by the culture in many of the same ways other spheres are. For instance, the rise of the “big box” stores in culture, where o…
When Judgment Day comes as described in Matthew 25, where will Jesus be? The Rev. Jason Valendy has an imaginative take on the subject.