Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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Moments in a Monastery – Part 9


Compline the last worship service completes the circle of the day, calling the monastic community to come and examine their conscience before Christ. As darkness descends we become more acutely aware of our Saviors sufferings in light of our sin. As we are brought face to face with failings of the day we also see more clearly the forgiveness of the Father. This is a time to evaluate the health of the heart, a time of confession as we come before Christ. A time to admit our faults instead of faking and allow His forgiveness to flood over our failures. It is in the last rays of light that we are reminded of the resurrecting power of redemption. Just as we start the day focusing on the Father so we end it reflecting on His redemptive call to relationship. Compline as completion is in some ways an oxymoron for compline may signal the completion of the day but is any day ever really complete? So often in our culture the completion of the day just means we made it to its end, its over and tomorrow we will get up to continue what was not completed this day! This in many ways will be the case with our lives, there will probably be things left undone, lists still unchecked. Which makes me wonder, what does a completed life look like? Compline with its call to completion causes us to look back, to reflect on the road traveled, and the time spent sojourning. A time to reflect on what is really important, for we will live for eternity but our earthly time is temporary. Compline as the completing of the day and its coming darkness also reminds us of death and the limits to life. You see we love the idea of and end to the day, but for many just like the darkness we fear the end to this life. Yet Jesus at His compline of completion turned to the disciples and in John 14:1-3 said “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” Jesus was describing the life to come and the twin realities of heaven, residence and relationship, a place to be and a person to be with. Isn’t this the great cry of our culture, the searching of every soul, wanting to belong and be loved. May be a complete life is not one chocked full with accomplishments and accolades but one completely content with Christ. A life lived not striving for success but striving for the Savior, a life enriched by the reality that He is enough. Jesus then went on to pray to the Father in John 17:3 saying “this is the way to have eternal life to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” According to Jesus eternal life has more to do with relation than duration. Its not about the length of life but The Lord of your life. Jesus was reminding His disciples of the true depth to life, that we are not really living until we are living life with The Lord. That truth is always more important than time, that we should not fear the future because as believers it always involves hope in a heavenly home. That because of Christ’s work are blessed with being and belonging. What if we were willing to wade out into the deep water, to surrender our lives to the Savior in spite of the scary currents of servanthood. What if we stopped paddling around in the shallow pool of selfishness? Isn’t it time to stop living living lives that are less than, to stop settling for second and embrace His best? How many today are drowning in the shallow pool of selfish desire, seduced into Satan’s destructive plan instead of serving the Savior. Jesus said that eternal life is knowing God, doing life with The Lord of light, responding to His relational invitation, to return to our first love. For it is in knowing God that we come to see who we really are and who He called us to be. Relationships are like mirrors, the more we relate the more they reflect, the more we seek the more we see. The more we live in relationship with The Lord, the more we live with the reflection of who we really are. The more we see who we really are in the reflection of relationship, the more we see who we are to be and the change that needs to take place. A complete life is a changed life, one that is converted and conformed to Christ, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:51 “we will all be changed” But this is not just a change of address, but a change in actions. More than just a move from earth to eternity but truth that transforms from our skin to our soul. Today I wonder if the church by and large hasn’t just settled, waiting for a location change instead of life change. This is more than just believing in the beep from the backup of a celestial moving company but belief in Christ who conforms and changes us. I need more than just an address change, I need an attitude change, where my belief affects behavior. Have we given into the temptation to pray for a trouble free life instead of a transformed life? In Psalm 27 David understood that the antidote to difficulty and danger was more than just the removal of problems, it was the presence of Christ. He describes in detail the dangers he faced: “When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.” In the midst of danger David asks for one thing, not for the removal of his problems but to be in the present of Jesus: “The one thing I ask of the LORD — the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.” Compline at the end causes us to come back to the beginning, Christ is the completion of the circle. David states at the beginning of Psalm 27 “The LORD is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? Just as the day starts and sets with the sun so ours should with the Savior. As we come to the closing of the day we come ready to repent, conscious of what needs to be confess before Christ. This is a time of not just looking back at what has been but longing forward to what will be. These moments in the Monastery sitting still with the Savior have been both rewarding and renewing. In the silence when everything is stripped away and we simply come we find Christ and that is enough, a complete life is a life learning to live content only in Christ.

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10 Sabbath Rest Part 1

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”

When most people think of the 10 commandments they tend to focus on the rules and miss the relationship. The first 4 commandments deal with our relationship with God and the next 6 our relationship with others. What is interesting is that of the 10 commandments keeping the sabbath is often the one taken most lightly. Against the other commandments like, “Thou shall not kill”, “Thou shall not steal”, and “Do not commit adultery”, “Remember to observe the Sabbath day” seems rather mild and innocuous. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, as the final commandment dealing with man’s relationship with God it concludes with all that we need to know in order to have a full life. The problem is that when we hear the word sabbath instead of thinking rest we hear rules and regulations. Sabbath is not about rules and regulations it is God’s gift of Sabbath rest. You may be asking “How can we afford Sabbath rest in the midst of the craziness of modern life?” Perhaps the better question is, “How can we afford to IGNORE the Sabbath rest in the midst of the craziness of modern life?” If we would value God’s gift of Sabbath rest enough to embrace it we would discover the key to living a life of tranquility even in the midst of turmoil. When we rediscover God’s gift of the Sabbath we rediscover rest. In our modern world of more and more, go and go, do and do the margins become blurred and our boundaries erased. God our Father created us and knows our limitations, He knows our need for boundaries when it comes to work. Many of us choose to ignore this God given gifts, the blessing of boundaries, we see them not as rest but restriction. We think we know more than our Maker, we start to resent His rest and rebel, referring to them as Old Testament rules that don’t relate to us. Yet God has given us boundaries about the marriage relationship, no extra-marital affairs or boundaries for our tongue, be quick to listen and slow to speak or boundaries about chasing after, accumulating and putting our trust in wealth, when he said “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” So too God gives us boundaries regarding work, to keep work in its proper place. His boundaries keep us from becoming “human doings” and allow us to become the “human beings” that He created and intended us to be. Keeping the sabbath is not about ritual or rules it is a boundary marker meant to be a guardrail to keep work from consuming us.
These lists of the 10 Commandments can be found in two places, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. In each of these lists the commandments, boundaries are the same but each passage gives a different reason for the boundary. They have a differing explanation as to why Sabbath is to be honored and each reason for Sabbath is significant. Exodus 8:11, gives us this reason. “For in 6 days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the 7th day.” We keep Sabbath because God himself did, the created order, His work was done. When God concluded a boundary was set and He modeled for us a weekly rhythm. From the very beginning God was teaching us that this was and is His design, plan, model and intention. We need to remember that Sabbath is pre sin, it was created before sin entered the world. So when we honor it we are participating in something that sin hadn’t touched. Yet for many we forgo God’s pleasant plan of rest opting instead for self. What if we stopped viewing this as ritual and rule and instead participated in His plan of restful relaxation? What are you resting in?