Summary: Part 4 in series. Living a life of worship through contemplation and ascetic exercises - the values and the cautions.
LIFESONGS OF CONTEMPLATION & ASCETICS
Part 4 in series, “LifeSongs*: Lives of Worship”
Rev. Todd G. Leupold Perth Bible Church Sunday February 3, 2008 AM
* Title inspired by the name of the song and album by “Casting Crowns.” Overall series inspired and, to some degree adapted, from the writings of Gary Thomas and Myra Perrine.
In the summer of 2003, Al Gini, a philosophy teacher at Loyola University in Chacago made some interesting comments on American Culture as it relates to work and leisure. As re-printed in the Newark Star-Ledger (Sunday, July 6, 2003) he wrote:
“My point is simple. Even if we love our jobs and find creativity and success in our
work, we also need not to work. . . We need not always be doing. In fact, we must
studiously do less, in order to be more. As a culture whose mythology is steeped in
the hard work of our pioneering forebears, though, we just don’t do nothing well. We
are not known as a nation of relaxers. We rarely deliberately devote ourselves to
idleness. We almost never slow down enough to experience the experience of not
doing anything at all. We rarely attune our inner ear to the needs of our inner self. We
usually do too much, and in the doing insulate ourselves from ourselves (And, I would
add, from Christ!). . . It is not our nature to let time pass. Unstructured time makes us
all at ease. As a friend once told me: ’Most of us will take time off, but very few of us
want to spend time with only ourselves. It’s too boring and scary. It’s a lot easier to do
something and just keep busy. . . Unfortunately, too many Americans, primarily men,
but increasing numbers of women too, only alter their patterns, habits and lifestyles when
they absolutely have to. . . Sadly, sometimes we only give ourselves permission to change
when we’re confronted by a crisis that we can use as an excuse.”
Do these words have a ring of truth here this morning?
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 46:1, 10
What does the still and silent life mean to you? Peace or quiet chaos? Calm or frustration? Do you anticipate ’moments of silence’ as a wonderful opportunity to get closer to Jesus, or a challenge to stay awake? Do you view hermits and mystics as heroes or weirdos?
As we continue to examine the different Biblical ways in which our lives can “sing” as worship to the Lord, we will focus this morning to two temperaments that focus on quiet devotion.
I. THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFESONG
How would you answer the following statements?1
4 = very true, 3 = Often true, 2 = Sometimes true, 1 = Rarely true, 0 = Never True
1.I would enjoy reading about or talking with someone who knows God deeply so that I could learn how to have a more intimate friendship with Jesus.
2.I feel close to God when He speaks words of love to me as if He were my dearest friend.
3.I would enjoy having uninterrupted time each day to sit alone with Jesus, gazing into His face, listening to His voice or simply basking in the warmth of His love.
4.In my heart, I desire for God to be my closest friend and most intimate companion.
5.When I am with God, I tend to picture Him as my Shepherd, Abba, or Friend.
6.When spending time with God, I enjoy contemplating His love and affection.
The heart of the contemplative song is that of focusing on being with God as opposed to doing for Him. Being a “Mary” putting all else aside to just sit at the feet of Jesus, rather than a “Martha” running to and fro to do everything just right for Him.
As Dr. Perrine describes: “Contemplatives enjoy basking in the warmth of God’s love and spending extended time simply delighting in God’s presence. Their first work is the work of adoring God, and they see all of life as an opportunity to develop a deeper friendship with Jesus . . . for them, all of life is primarily about growing in intimacy with Jesus” (pg. 59).
Contemplatives carefully guard their schedules, always allowing for plenty of uncommitted time that is available for spontaneous “being” with Jesus!
Contrary to the typical American, as Professor Gini described, the contemplative makes a priority of what the early monastics called “holy leisure.” They understood that being in the presence of God is not something that can or should be hurried into nor hurried out of.
1.Spiritual Wisdom John 5:17-20; 8:28-29
2.Renewed Strength Matthew 14:13-14
3.Safety Psalm 62:8
4.Perspective Isaiah 1:18
D. CAUTIONS: Hearing The Correct Voice
The biggest danger the contemplative must beware, is that of assuming that any or every voice, idea or ’revelation’ received through quiet meditation is equally valid or of the Lord!