Parish Newsletter Column on Contemplative Prayer

July 2014

Dear Prince of Peace Family,

Last month I promised more on contemplative prayer this month, but then I preached on it a week later. It was a sermon that generated a lot of interest, so here is an address of where to access it on the Internet:

Easter 7A Sermon (2014)

With summer vacation time upon us, I thought I’d suggest some summer reading. To learn more about mindfulness and contemplative prayer, I recommend two books by Richard Rohr: Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation and Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. A highly regarded introduction is Martin Laird‘s Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation. And, of course, I continue to recommend the book that I featured in my sermons, Dan Harris10% Happier.

On my summer vacation last week, I finished a book in basically one day. I couldn’t put it down. It’s the most compelling call to the discipleship of peacemaking that I’ve ever read. And it comes from a somewhat surprising source, a non-denominational evangelical pastor who has mainly been considered a conservative in his career. The book is A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace, by Brian Zahnd. It’s an account of a personal conversion in which he journeys from nationalistic support of our American wars to reading the Bible as the story of God’s inaugurating a reign of peace through Jesus. So he also articulates a conversion in terms of his way of reading the Bible. It’s an inspiring book which taught me new exciting readings of biblical texts, all mixed in with his personal story and insight into our contemporary culture. I loved this book. And, since it’s a well-written book by a good preacher, I consider it an excellent book for a wide readership to glimpse the conversion I’ve talked about in my own life — how much theology and biblical interpretation has changed since I was in seminary. Read this book!

Finally, there’s another beautifully written new book that has great importance to our church life. At times of great change in Christian history, the emphasis changes from educating our children to educating the adults, because it’s not just a matter of passing on what we learned as children. When all of that is in a matter flux, it’s most important for adults to relearn the faith before we can pass it on to our children. This is actually why Luther produced two Catechisms, Large and Small. He did not write them for children or youth! He wrote them for parents and grandparents to relearn the faith at a time of great change.

Brian McLaren, who many consider the Martin Luther at our time of great change, has written an ideal adult catechism, entitled We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation. It’s essentially 52+ sermons that lay out in an orderly fashion a contemporary interpretation of the Christian faith. The number 52+ signals its correspondence to a one-year lectionary approach, with Christmas and Holy Week additions.

I encourage you to read one or more of these excellent books. Have a safe and refreshing summer!

Pastor Paul

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