Friday, March 16, 2012


I've been through a number of places and things since I last posted here.  Some invigorating, some perplexing.  

I've listened in sadness to the stories of former members of the church community to which I belong (some of the actual congregation where I worship, and some from other congregations) who somehow managed to miss the love and graciousness of God there.  There are lots of reasons for this, some of them quite significant,  but one of them is not that God in the richness of God's love and grace was not present there, or at work, or the gospel proclaimed . . . but rather that, somehow, Jesus being the center of it all was somehow missed.  At least that is what seems to have happened for them.  And when that happens, things get distorted, and people get hurt.  

But oddly enough, though they are now in a place where they feel they understand the gospel, the scriptures and love of God more than they did before, what struck me was that how they were now defining themselves was more in terms of what they were against than Who they were for.  Sadly, in the wake of that, in the rigidness of their new doctrinal beliefs, their understanding of  the church they left has become as distorted as the experience they describe having had within it.  Somehow, it seemed to me at least, that Jesus being the center of it all was still being missed in some significant ways.    

One another occasion, I had an opportunity to have a conversation with someone who was quite concerned about what they felt were deceptive practices and influences that were infiltrating the church - things that they referred to under the category of "spiritual formation."  Interestingly enough, when I described to them the various practices that come under that heading, only with their labels removed (things like reflecting on a passage of scripture, taking time to enjoy being unrushed and undistracted in prayer, simply enjoying being in the presence of God, or intentionally taking time to think about those times during the day when we were aware of God's grace being manifest, or of things we did or observed hindering that grace, etc. ) they were very comfortable with those experiences.  

However, once the labels were applied (meditation, contemplative prayer, or the practice of examin) they suddenly become suspect.  After all, aren't those things that eastern mystics and Jesuits do?  How do we know we are not being deceived?  Indeed, how do we know that about anything . . . as if we need to avoid all things we have in common with those who we may disagree with on some things!  Of course there are significant distinctions between the way meditation is practiced in an eastern religion and how it is practiced in a Christian setting, and lots of ways that otherwise good and healthy practices can be misused,  but it seems that the exercise of discernment is not nearly as appealing as the application of labels and the identification of potential enemies.  Once again, I was struck by how much we tend to cling to the things that make us anxious or to which we are opposed in order to know who we are, as if simply focusing on Jesus and what Jesus is all about is not enough to define us. 

Whether it is within or without the community in which I worship and find fellowship, there are plenty of things that can go awry when we begin to define ourselves more in terms of what we are against than what (Who) we are for.  That is why it was both so refreshing and challenging to hear about the One project.  While this probably speaks the most directly to the Adventist community (mainly because it is Adventists talking among themselves, and thus reflects some of our quirkiness), I also think that has much to say to the broader Christian community as well - of which Adventists, at least when we are at our best, are a part. 

. . .  All of which brings me to what I really wanted to share - the link to the One website where you can explore (check out the many video presentations), listen, be refreshed, challenged, and perhaps reminded once again about the One.  Enjoy! 

For some additional comments and reflections on the One project, you might also be interested in Nathan Brown's article

And if that is not enough, you can also listen to some of my reflections on the reasons why we sometimes miss Jesus in the midst of all this at the link that follows (The sermon is "Living with Anxiety - or Not" on 2-25-2012)

No comments: