Reading: Part I – From Relevance to Prayer (p 25 to p 47)
Thanks to each of you for joining us on our Lenten journey—whether you have posted a comment or are following along quietly. We have been richly blessed by those of you that have opened your hearts and shared your experiences and insights so beautifully.
This week Henri leads us to look at our lives through the twin lenses of Jesus’ response to the temptation to turn stones into bread at the outset of his ministry and the three-fold question “Do you love me?” that he posed to Peter—and to each of us—as his earthly ministry was ending. Henri captures the essence of the Gospel and the challenge of our mission to build up the Kingdom of God when he exhorts us:
The great message we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of human life. (p 30)
And Henri then offers us the discipline of contemplative prayer to help us live our calling.
As will be the case for three consecutive weeks, you are encouraged to reflect on the temptation, the question, and the discipline and to prayerfully consider how they are related to your own life experiences—either now or in the past. I will pose several questions that may help get you started. Finally, please share your thoughts and insights on these questions or anything you find meaningful, to the extent you are comfortable.
1. In reflecting on the temptation to be relevant, Henri describes the modern secular world and the challenges it poses to Christian ministers, indeed to all Christian people. (L)oneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world… (M)ore and more people are suffering from profound moral and spiritual handicaps without having any idea of where to look for healing.
a) Does Henri’s characterization of the secular world reflect circumstances you observe in your own life or in the lives of others? b) How are you or other Christian leaders you are aware of responding the challenge posed by Henri?
2. In presenting the question, “Do you love me?” Henri describes the unconditional and unlimited love only God can give as “God’s first love.” And the the broken reflection of that love that we receive from parents, our spouse, our children, and others in our community is the imperfect and sometimes painful “second love.” Henri writes:
Jesus’ heart is the incarnation of the…first love of God… Knowing the heart of Jesus and loving him are the same thing… And when we live in a world with that knowledge, we cannot do other than to bring healing, reconciliation, new life, and hope wherever we go.
a) How does Henri’s description of God’s first love and human second love align with your experience? b) What steps have you taken or seen others taking to open your heart to Jesus’ heart and to bring God’s first love into the world.
3. In describing the discipline of contemplative prayer, Henri says, The original meaning of the word “theology” was “union with God in prayer”… Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-formed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus…
a) What disciplines or practices do you or others that you know use to develop a heart that knows God intimately through “union with God in prayer”? b) On page 45 Henri compares the Christian leadership of those rooted in a relationship with Jesus and those that are not. Have you experienced these different approaches and what was the result?
We look forward to another rewarding discussion this week.
Peace and all good.