He Doesn’t Have a Prayer

“He doesn’t have a prayer,” is a phrase that I have heard from time to time meaning that the situation is hopeless.  Like many people at my age and stage of life, I have been thinking about my life and my legacy.  My wife and I are updating our wills.  What do we have and what do we want to do with it when we die?  Secondly, the church that brought me to Canada had it’s 50th anniversary two weeks ago.  I was the second pastor of this church, only 18 months out of seminary when I came to Canada in 1971.  My task was to build and shape the ministry of this new congregation.  I think this situation fits nicely under this blog titled, What was I thinking? (And perhaps “What was the denomination thinking” as well.)  A young, inexperienced minister with such a challenge!

Yet, we all felt like it was a call, and in hindsight that was accurate. I was at Christ Moravian Church for 9 years with the task of building the church and shaping its ministry. I recently spent a wonderful Fiftieth Anniversary celebration reflecting on that time, renewing connections and celebrating the life of the church.  I spoke about the nine years I was pastor of Christ Moravian.  I was also asked to open the Sunday worship celebration with a prayer of gratitude that would emphasize the past and the future.   One would think this is a no-brainer for a minister with 50 years behind him.  Yet this was a challenge for an evolutionary Christian to pray at such a pivotal point in the church’s history.  In this now moment the past and the future stand on a platform where experience and opportunity meet.

This a challenge for an evolutionary who has a strong belief in God in a whole different way than seeing God as a being directing life from above.  I saw my task at the beginning of this service was to ground people in their past, to place them in the flow of divine history, and energize them for the future.  I didn’t have a prayer.

As I sat (in a prayerful mood) I began to reflect on my history and my hopes; I began to understand what prayer meant to me.  As this was working for me, I understood that my task was to bring the history of love, ministry, hope and dreams together creating a sacred time of possibilities.  This is the prayer I offered.

We enter an atmosphere of prayer
When we close our eyes, take a breath.
This is when the distance between God and our selves
 slips away and we are one.

 The distance disappears between us and those who began the Moravian church in the 1400’s and 1500’s. They didn’t believe in a denomination:

They believed in community building
They believed in music that brought people together
They believed in scripture that came alive in the language and action of the people.
They believed education of the head and the heart brought new life and hope to people’s lives
They believed in love and freedom and the presence of God for growth and healing.

And now we believe those things too because of this church, Christ Moravian Church, our church that says: “In essentials Unity, in non-essentials Liberty and in all things Love”.

FOR THESE PEOPLE WE GIVE THANKS.

 We are grateful for 50 years of leadership who had the patience and the will to hear the voice of God.

Al Taylor in finding this wonderful, just right, location,
Lew Thomas, whose roots in the Moravian tradition began and shaped the foundation of this faith community,
John Griffith, Glen Stoudt and Steve Gohdes, whose faith provided depth, vision, guidance and blessing that brings us here today.

FOR THESE PEOPLE WE GIVE THANKS.

 And for the leadership in this congregation, the hundreds of people who gave their time and energy, their faith and their doubt, their voices, hands-on help, sharing their hopes and dreams, their pain their grief, their joys and celebration.  It was a flow of history, the way God shaped us, healed us, stretched us, loved us.

WE REMEMBER AND WE ARE GRATEFUL.

 And we remember that one person who invited us to drop in, see what it was like, who, without knowing it, was teaching us about what it means to be a Moravian – to be an evangelist, reaching out to a neighbour, a friend, or a stranger with an invitation to experience a community where the grace and love of God has a place for everybody.

FOR THAT PERSON AND THAT INVITATION, WE GIVE THANKS.

 We close our eyes to shut out the world for a moment and somehow it brings us all together.  “We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord.  We are not alone.”

 In that 50 years of life – sometimes struggle and challenge, shifting priorities, questions of faith that moved us deeper, struggling to find the language to express the holy life of Christ as we realize that his body is our body too – we have become the body of Christ.

 We have all had at least one moment of Light, one experience of resurrection, we are not the same person who stepped through that doorway in the past year, two years, 10 years or 40 years.

 AND FOR THIS WE ARE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL.

We pray because it takes away the distance between God and us, between us and our neighbour, between the past and the future.

 It is all present in us now, in this congregation, in our history, in our life together. On this anniversary we are not just celebrating our past – we are beginning to see our future. This anniversary is about the life to come, the gifts of the Spirit that God promises will shape us and our community in the years to come.    Amen.  Let It Be So.

From not having a prayer to having a prayer was a spiritual journey.  I know it was a prayer because even I was surprised.  Where did that come from?  An evolution in my faith experience?

That’s what I have been thinking.

This entry was posted in Evolutionary Thinking, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to He Doesn’t Have a Prayer

  1. John Everard Griffith says:

    Thank you for your posts. It seems that I am being invited to reflect on my life, my life as a minister, and my life as a person of faith and share my experience with others. And that has been the way of my life, responding to a call. I find the contemplative life is not just doing reflective things: prayer, meditation, journal writing, attending worship services, or other spiritual disciplines. These are important, as they nurture a contemplative way of being. And yet I struggle to establish a routine practice for myself. Yet, everyday I contemplate and participate in a life that is unfolding before me. Some people seem to chart a course for themselves and follow it and accomplish a lot. I am not being critical of that way of moving through life. But for me it has always been something different: holding a question, wondering about something, being curious and being uncertain that has held me open to the gift of an invitation. And when the invitation comes I then take time for discernment before I say “yes” or “no”. Being on call has been rich and generative in my life. As I reflect now at 75, I am thankful and happy (generally, most of the time). And what I appreciate most is that I have not yet arrived at a stopping point. Thank you for your comments, they are an affirmation and a contribution to a dialogue that is creative in my life.

  2. Dave Myers (Winnipeg), an old friend says:

    It is 46 years since I was a member of Christ Moravian. You were a good friend then and still are, even if mainly by emails. Despite time and geographical distance your prayer really touched me. It brught a tear to my eye as I remembered those days. The Spirit really was at work.

  3. Brenda Wallace says:

    Thank you so much for this, John. It will go into my journal, for sure.

  4. Donna Friesen says:

    I love the process of your prayer realizing itself John! James Findlay says we have only to sit in readiness for the encounter and we are already praying—opening ourselves to the co-creative activity that we call prayer.
    They are fortunate to have someone as thoughtful as you in their midst.

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