Yesterday, I sat with four other people in our sanctuary at MCC Richmond for almost an hour, praying. I did the same thing the week before (with some of the same people and some different ones).
Based on my experience, I plan to spend my Wednesday noons praying as I did with them. The power we shared was real. It changed me.
I sometimes forget how powerful prayer can be, especially when it is shared. But these past two Wednesdays have made that power very real.
We prayed for the world, for our nation, for our state, for our metropolitan city, for our church, for ourselves, for others in need. We used printed prayers, and prayer request lists, and we also spoke from our own need and hearts.
The words are important, but equally so is the silence between them. The silence allows us to hear God, just as we hear each other. And even when we are not silent, there is something healing about the quiet of the sanctuary around us.
One thing is clear to me: when we gather in the quiet of the sanctuary, with the intention to be in conversation with God and each other, we are healed, and we help with the healing of the world.
One of my seminary professors said, “Faithful people often do the right thing, even before their leaders figure out what that is.”
A great example of this truth is shown by Roman Catholic AIDS workers in Africa. Well in advance of the Pope’s recent stumbling comments about condom use by “male prostitutes,” and the clarification by Vatican authorities that this could include people who were trying to protect themselves and others from disease, these valiant caregivers have been handing out condoms.
“The people in the trenches have been allowing people to use condoms for 10 years now,” says Sister Elaine Pearton in South Africa. “We don’t hand them out [indiscriminately] for people to make balloons out of,” she said, laughing. “But if someone needs them to protect themselves from a deadly hazard, we just give them a box.”
In reality, the Roman Catholic Church is not nearly so monolithic as the Pope and the hierarchy want to believe–and hope the world believes. On every continent there are faithful Catholics gathering in house churches led by lay women and men, there are churches where priests incorporate indigenous religion into the approved liturgy, and their are women and men religious giving out condoms–not to mention the large number of laypeople who use birth control in complete disregard to church teachings.
The Holy Spirit never stops helping folks witness to their faith.
The other day I was stuck for a few hours at the garage where my car is serviced.
I had a feeling this would happen, so I took a good book, some newspapers, and my laptop. I also knew that I would have to endure the lobby television.
I did some work on my laptop, and some reading. And I practiced my still-developing skill in tuning out unwanted noise.
When I first arrived, however, an evangelizing preacher and his wife caught some of my attention. Mostly, they and their guests did not appeal to me.
But I heard two pieces of wisdom that I will never forget. Here is one: Its not enough to love God, we have to love like God.
I’m sure others have said it, maybe I have even said it sometime, but in that moment it got right inside me. I thought, “I love God, alright, but the fruit of that love is to do as God does. How well do It do that?”
Then I thought of the church I serve: we come to church because God loves us, and we love God, but the point of staying is to learn, and to help each other, to love like God. How well do we do that?
I can fall into the trap of thinking television evangelists don’t have much to say to me. But I forget that God is working through even those with whom I often disagree.