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In 1 Corinthians 13 -the love chapter- Paul tell us many things, but I think I should let the source speak for itself:

And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have no love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keep not record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fail. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection in a mirror; then we shall se face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

This is what all of our spiritual disciplines are about, love. Love is the greatest force mankind could ever fathom. Love, unlike anything else, has the power to destroy evil within us and without us. Love has the power to stop war, to destroy poverty, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to breathe life into the living dead, to show us what is true, and to save us all.

            This love is what this journey is about. If you’ll remember that, last week, I asked you to think of this series as a journey that we are going on together. Because, as I said last week, many of you may understand God more than I do. I may have the head knowledge that some of you may not have, but, like Paul said, without love I am nothing.

            We find in 1 John 4:16 that God is love and whoever lives in love, lives in God. This echoes back to the two greatest commands of Jesus as told to us in Mark: love God and love your neighbor. And who is our neighbor? Everybody.

            Last week we compared God to three different elements of nature: the ocean, the sky, and flame. We focused more on the flame aspect and ended with the command that if you choose, you can become all flame. The command is still in effect today and the actions and thought patterns we talk about today are totally focused on your choices. I am not forcing anybody here to do anything and I would hope that the same would be true in the opposite as well. This week, however, we are going to compare God to something a little bit more esoteric, understood by only a few people, and attempt to grasp at a fuller understanding: the wind.

            The wind is impossible to hold in your hands, and only with the proper instruments, like a balloon, is impossible to contain for that matter and only a small amount of it can be contained. The wind can be so gentle that a grain of sand doesn’t even move, or so incredibly powerful that whole houses can be taken up in it and gigantic waves can be created. The wind is one of natures most wonderful mysteries, if it weren’t for the wind, we would find breathing quite difficult, but it can be very frightening as well. You cannot see the wind under normal circumstances, but you can most certainly feel it’s reality.

            Jesus, in the book of John (3:8) compares the spirit of God and those born of it to the wind:

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit

So, as it were an aspect of God is compared to wind and so we are also. The wind is such an untamable thing, and one cannot tame God. This goes back to what we were discussing about love. Love cannot be tamed. Just like the gentle lion, Aslan, in the Chronicles of Narnia. He goes were he pleases and is dangerous, after all, “he is a lion.” Why is it that we continue to capture the wind and cage the lion within our own lives rather than allowing ourselves to simply feel the wind on our skin, to bask in its eternal glory?

            What do you think would change about our spiritual lives if, instead of trying to capture the wind, we allowed it to blow around us so that we could feel its touch and it’s breezing. What would change about how we related to God if we allowed Him to affect us instead of trying to make us affect Him?

            Remember, we talked last week that the goal of every spiritual discipline is to seek and be sought by God so our spirituality is mostly about being affected by God. That is what the contemplative or inward disciplines are about, being affected by God. To continue to use my metaphor, to bask in the wind of God’s presence.

            If we were to distill everything about the contemplative disciplines, the years of journeying that many seekers of the depths of God, those who have sought God and have found that they were being sought after with even greater fervor, we would find that there are three aspects to the inward life: the first is silence, the second is meditation, and the third is God. I am hoping that through this I do not bring any disgrace by our brother’s and sister’s who originally paved the way. The pioneers in the frontiers of the spirit.

            The first aspect is silence. Silence by itself, of course is not effective, it must be accompanied by solitude. Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline, says that “without silence there is not solitude” and later, “Of necessity, therefore, we must come to understanding and experience the transforming power of silence if we are to know solitude.” It is through the times alone with God that we truly are able to experience Him. But we need to truly be silent as well, or our times alone will not allow us to totally feel God acting upon us.

            We need to be careful though, this is not simply the mouth-closed, not talking type of silence that many of us are acquainted with, but a silence in spirit or a silence in essence. Richard Foster also says, “Though silence sometimes involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening.” If we are not listening for God then we are not truly experiencing the silence of God.

            When Elijah was on the mountain after the Barbeque on Mount Carmel running away from Jezebel’s minions he felt an extreme sense of loneliness, after all, he was the only true prophet of God left and was being sought to be killed. We have all heard the story, God was not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in the still-small voice. To hear God we need to silence our selves to hear the still-small voice of God. It is through silence that we can connect with God, that we can listen to God.

            To live in silence doesn’t always have to mean not talking, although, in some instances it is, but rather, it means speaking when you need to speak, saying what you need to say and then listening. To live in a sense of inner silence we need to disregard speaking that builds ourselves up, and speak of what is truly important. But, that is hard to do and I do not mean to make it sound simple, this is why these are called disciplines, because it takes an enormous amount of discipline to hold our tongue, especially for some of us who are paid to talk a lot. Through this discipline we learn when to speak and when not to speak. I guess it seems that in our seeking of God we are allowing ourselves to be sought after in such a way that God is who controls our tongues, rather than ourselves.

            It is through silence that we can find the will of God. What would happen at this church if we could control our tongues to the point of surrendering their control to God? Would gossip cease? What kind of things would we talk about in meetings? Would we eventually be able to come to a unified decision on things? What if we could remove our ego from the picture? What would the direction of our church be?

            The next aspect of the inward life is meditation. We need to attempt to change our views of meditation here a little bit before we move on. There are miles of difference between Christian meditation and other kinds of meditation, although they may look similar. In eastern religions, namely hinduism and buddhism (we must not forget that Christianity itself is an eastern religion, not a western religion) the goal is to empty oneself totally to free one from the restraints of the flesh and join with the cosmic mind to enter into nirvana. The goal in Christian meditation, while it begins with emptying oneself, it ends with filling oneself as well, with God. Meditation, rather than only being an exercise in emptiness is actually an exercise in fullness. We are seeking to fill ourselves with God. This is why silence and solitude are the first aspect of the contemplative or inward spiritual journey, without silence or solitude, we will be unable to fill ourselves with God, because, as we have discussed, God speaks in the sitll-small voice.

            Meditation can be of many different flavors. We may meditate upon scripture, whether that be through the study of scripture to find its meaning or simply meditating on scripture, a process called lectio divina (or divine reading), in which we focus on words and what scripture is trying to tell us, the ones reading it. We are seeking to allow God to speak through His inspired word. We can meditate through silence, meditate on current events or meditate on nature. We can seek to find God in the events that occur on a daily basis, because He is there, or we can meditate on His creation, to wonder at the majesty. How is it that a tree taller than a house can draw water up to the very topmost leaf without any machinery, God is amazing! There is such thing as centering prayer in which we can focus on an aspect of God, for example His love.

            As you can see, there are many forms of meditation and, of course, I have only brushed the surface and you may be a little overwhelmed, and that is ok. The best thing to do is seek God through silence, solitude, and focusing on Him in whatever way you are most comfortable with. There are two great books that talk in depth about this subject that you should check out as well, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and The Sacred Way by Tony Jones. I own both books if you would like to borrow them just ask. The most important thing to remember is that, whatever you do, you need to be put in a place where you can seek God and be sought after by Him.

            The third aspect is, by far, the most important aspect of the inward disciplines if not all of the spiritual disciplines, and that is God. Without God, all of this would be meaningless striving. There isn’t much to say about God that hasn’t already been said earlier, but we need to remember God when we do these things. He is what affects us, He is like the wind that moves to and fro. We need to remember this as well. We cannot seek to meditate to achieve a feeling. That would be missing the point. The point is to move closer to God, and while, sometimes that may cause an ecstatic spiritual experience, it is most likely not to, but that’s not important. The most important aspect of spiritual discipline is to seek and be sought after by God. If we are seeking spiritual disciplines for any other reason but this, we are seeking these disciplines for the wrong reasons. To seek after God is to deny the self.

            Contemplation allows us to see things for the way they really are. Too often we are controlled by our sight that we fail to move beyond that sight and feel things for the way they really are. In A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle, there is a race of beasts that live on a planet called Ixchel who have no eyes, but yet the main character, Meg Murry, finds that our sight limits us from the understanding that these beasts have. To these sightless beings, we are exceptionally primitive. Our sight and our speech limit us greatly. As Christians, we can move beyond these limitations to achieve a greater knowledge about the way things really are, to experience the reality that is God, that is good, that is love, that is spirit, that surpasses all understanding. After all, we see through a dark mirror,  yet one day we will fully know, as we are fully known.


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