“Prayer or meditative practice is about being dis-membered in order to be re-membered.”
says my friend John Philip Newell, a celtic theologian and mentor. His book Listening to the Heartbeat of God ( http://www.amazon.com/Listening-Heartbeat-God-Celtic-Sprirtuality/dp/0809137593) was so earth-shattering to me as a curate in my first parish that, when I told my Rector that I had just read it, he told me not to come to work. He said “If you just read that book, then you will need a couple of days to figure out the new you now.” He was right. Reading it made me the Christian I had always wanted to be. The irony was that it showed me that I was the Christian I had always wanted to be, all along.
It takes a lot of courage to meditate, because God will, along the way, take you on a tour of yourself, showing you bits here and there like a proud uncle showing his friend a new house he just built. God tours me around me, and shows me how beautiful I am. And though I can see the dust-bunnies in the corners of my psyche, all he seems to see is a loving heart. And perhaps that is because it is His heart that is they eye with which He sees me.
John Philip taught me that I am basically good and only streaked with evil. The church had always taught me that I was basically evil and only streaked with good. Perhaps it was job security. If I needed the sacraments in order to reach God, then I needed the church.
Happily, I was able and willing to stay in the church while being liberated from its domination. I found that the church is not God, but it is a place in which I find God.
I will spend the next few days with John Philip. The best of what I am today as a priest is, in part, due to his nurturing, his smile, his laughter, his books and his theology. He gives me hope in today’s church.
If you are free Friday night, join us…