We Can’t Do It Alone

2 05 2014
David R. Brock

David R. Brock

We were seated in a circle of 35 at Deer Haven Campgrounds in Florida. It was the close of a course on ministry of the evangelist. Before we partook Communion, which awaited on a table in the center, Jim and Jan Slauter offered the Prayer for Peace.

Because of news about Ukraine and Crimea, Jim asked that we focus our prayers on Ukraine instead of Republic of the Congo. It felt right to pray for that complex situation. It felt good to uphold the church members there.

I can’t measure the value of prayers for members and citizens, for world leaders whose decisions will have impact for generations. Sometimes I wonder, “What value?” But, I join in the prayer for peace. I enter the spiritual practice.

As we partook the Lord’s Supper a few minutes later, I thought about Russian Orthodox priests serving Communion to members of their parish in Kiev. I thought about Ukrainian Orthodox priests offering the same only a few blocks away. Both symbolically lifting up Christ. Both reenacting the death of Christ in bread broken, in lifeblood flowing out in the wine. Both sharing the promise of peace through the One who breaks down walls of division.

But, I knew that some who partook would then walk out of that sacrament into political tensions and violence, possibly in opposition to each other.

I partook, as did Christians in Ukraine, conscious of divisions and tensions that seem to mock promises of the spiritual-formation moment that is the Lord’s Supper.

Again, I wonder, “What value?” But, I kneel as the prayer is read. I receive bread and wine. I enter the practice once again.

Spiritual formation, spiritual practices, spiritual disciplines, spiritual awakening, discernment; the words are more and more a part of our vocabulary. New practices are being introduced. Traditional disciplines are being refreshed. Silence and listening are held up as practices that open us to, as President Steve Veazey says, “divine-human encounters that transform our lives. We are healed at our deepest levels of ego-centered insecurity and pain. We learn to yearn for God and then with God. We are freed to radically love others in true community that reflects God’s nature and purposes.”

My thoughts and actions often betray the declaration that spiritual practices provide a space for God to heal me and others; that God, through the practices, frees me to love radically.

I wonder at times, “What value?” but when there is a rhythm of vulnerable silence, of kneeling, of partaking, of dwelling in words of scripture, a truer self begins to awaken.

A discipline of daily grief for the way things are leads to widened compassion and broader vision. It leads to hope.

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says in The Great Partnership, we are here through God’s love, we live on God’s Earth, we breathe God’s breath. There is a radiance and gravitas, a belonging in the lives of those who “practice the Presence,” who reenact the story and perform the rituals, then make that presence real by constantly living in response to it.

The blessing of spiritual formation as President Veazey says, “is rest, renewal, peace, and vision and energy for mission.” We cannot bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, or let the oppressed go free without the Spirit of the Lord resting on us. We simply can’t do it in our own strength. Not for the long haul. Believe me!

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