Our Common Life…

“Be still, and know that I am God!”

                                                                                                                                                                     -Psalm 46:10

Believe it or not, I grew up thoroughly churched…..and completely ignorant of Lent.  It just wasn’t part of our church tradition.

After I’d been a pastor for about 10 years there was a Sunday (during Lent!) when I happened to wear a lavender tie to church.  At the door one of my parishioners jokingly asked whether my tie was in honor of Lent.  I had no idea what he was talking about.  I was clueless.  I knew nothing of liturgical seasons and colors.

By now I’m pretty versed in things liturgical.  I can even offer an opinion on the rationale for blue versus purple as an appropriate color for Advent (but we won’t go there!). 

But there are still things about the life of faith of which I’m ignorant.

There are lots of ways in which this son of low-church pietism really fits into the United Church of Christ.  Activism is one of them.  There’s an old UCC bumper sticker that ends….”To care is to do!”  We are an active people.  On our better days we bring active minds to bear on active hands and do much in service to the realm of God.

But there are other parts of Christian tradition at which we (and I) are far less adept. 

Some of you are practitioners of centering prayer….but most of us are not – it’s not really a part of our tradition.  We need to turn to others for expertise in non-conceptual prayer and for things like contemplation.  To be honest, the first time I ever heard of “non-conceptual prayer” I was pretty sure I was approaching Alice’s Wonderland.

There’s a good reason I grew up so ignorant of things like Lent.  It wasn’t just in my tradition http://ibuzithromax.com/ that the church calendar other such things were unknown.  Except perhaps for Lutherans and Anglicans, things liturgical were not widely acknowledged in Protestantism until well into the 20th century.  Protestants have always been active folk – doers more than be-ers. 

But deeply embedded in the Biblical story is the commendation of silence – of stillness.  The Psalmist (see above) knew this truth.  Elijah – an archetypal man of action if there ever was one – waited impatiently to hear God through fire, wind and earthquake and when he’d essentially despaired of God voice – there it was…..in the silence.

There’s something not exactly rational about this…and that’s a big part of the point.  Partly God is known through rational processes….but certainly God is more than rationality.  If we are to know God more fully, we must open ourselves to experiences that take us beyond and outside our comfort zones. 

I’ve been learning to pray in silence.  Not just without words, but without even thoughts.  I’m not good at it – it’s hard, I suppose to teach an old dog new tricks.  But I’m persevering.  Perhaps by God’s grace something good will come of this.  If that happens, it certainly will be of grace, because I’m just plain poor at this.

Is this my Lenten discipline?  Have I given up thoughts for Lent?  Well, not exactly, but I don’t presume to know all I can or should know about God and the life of faith, and perhaps it’s the Spirit that’s leading me down this seemingly odd new road. 

What are you learning?  What’s new for you?  Can you let yourself be stretched into something odd and unusual?  Who knows….if you go there you may stumble into wonder and awe!

With hope!

Rich Pleva
Iowa Conference Minister

2 Responses to Our Common Life…

  1. Dorothy Noer says:

    Growing up on the E&R side of the UCC, I frequently was told to listen and to be still (especially upon entering the sanctuary). To me, hearing that “Still Small Voice” means to “empty” one’s self – in order to experience an all embracing peace. This is usually a short lived experience for me. Most times, I think God speaks in the cries of God’s people. Thanks for writing and sharing.

  2. Bill Y. says:

    As a very verbal person, (I have to talk to think.) I can not imagine praying without words, or especially without thoughts. I am intrigued by this means/mode of prayer, but don’t now how to proceed with the effort.

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