by the Rev. Christopher Potter, Vicar
This weekend, the Gospel stories tell of Jesus’ healings of two people who had lives full of challenges and setbacks. The stories got me thinking of what it may mean for us to set aside space and time for God in these days.
When asked about setting aside time for God, most go straight to Sunday mornings spent in pews in a church. While attending worship on Sunday morning is ‘time with God’, it could also be a defense against making time for God outside the context of worship. There are many options available for us at St. John’s in pursuit of this sacred task; in Bible studies, book groups, adult forums, and EfM, we can search for answers, ask questions, learn history, even share our common understandings. All of these, however, can be a source of learning about God — and faith, and religion — instead of being with God.
“What’s the difference?” you ask. An analogy is the difference between learning about knitting and learning to knit. The first involves getting information from books or teachers and spending a lot of time understanding the principal concepts. The second involves long thin needles, some yarn, and conversations with a teacher.
Many people spend a lot of time learning about God in sacred scriptures, in theological tomes, in sermons, and from great teachers. Though a laudable task, I would argue that if this was the sum of one’s faith-experience, one’s connection with God would be quite one-dimensional. I contend that one with only this intellectual exposure to God would find no impulse or motivation for ethical behavior, for Godly compassion or for human decency.
Conversely, if someone spent their time experiencing God — after learning God’s attributes of love, mercy, and compassion — that person would be demonstrably different than the first. This person would be motivated by good thoughts, good acts, and by a need to seek more and authentic experiences of God. Likely, I think, this person would be accounted as loving, friendly, and approachable.
It is not a matter of one or the other, or one over the other. It is, like most things, a matter of balance.
I have had a few recent conversations with members of the family at St. John’s, including those with long histories of learning about God, who express a desire to explore a more intimate relationship with God. Sometimes people don’t know how to refer to this kind of relationship, but usually add, “Something beyond what I can learn from books.”
For some, this could mean an intentional directed pursuit of a spiritual path — a journey with God. People in the practice of ministry (and others) talk about having a spiritual director — one who has experience with various spiritual paths (such as contemplation, meditation, worship, centering prayer, and so on), and who can facilitate the exploration and growth of a spiritual life with others. These mentors spend time developing skills for the sojourner (or sojourners in groups) and establishing an intimacy of prayer and service with their disciples. Among the outcomes of these relationships are people deeper in love with God, with greater commitment to serving gospel values, a greater sense of inner peace, and a fresh look at the world through God’s eyes.
There is a program in the Diocese of Los Angeles that both hosts spiritual direction groups and trains people as spiritual directors. Stillpoint is an international, Christian (largely Episcopalian, though not exclusively so) organization of seekers who have explored their own spiritual lives and who invite and teach others to become seekers themselves. They are not psychotherapists nor are they consultants. They are people who make primary in life their journey with God, who know the dynamic of the human-divine interface and are motivated by love to share their path with others. You’ll find Stillpoint here if you wish to find out more.
I bring this to you also as a response to the conversations Rev. Karen and I have had with some over the last months, especially through the pandemic. We would like to offer and support a small group for spiritual direction of interested or curious Christians at St. John’s. This would take place only in the context of a qualified, trained spiritual director (which Rev. Karen nor I are qualified to do) with skills dealing with a group of seekers. Time, place, and frequency of meeting would be mutually determined.
If you would like to be a part of this nascent group, get in contact with me via email. Also, check out Stillpoint’s invitation for the group that is happening around the Diocese by following this link.
Making space for God is both a blessing and a threat. When we make room, God moves in. Sometimes, though, God moves in and wants to take over. This is always beautiful, but rarely pretty.
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Your Worship Bulletin for Sunday, June 27. Print it at home, or bring your device to church and follow along during the service.
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Q: Where do I find out what’s happening at church?
Throughout COVID the announcements of upcoming events and classes have been at the back end of the Sunday worship bulletin. Many of you didn’t know the info was there and we’ve heard your comments! You can now find all the details on all upcoming events in our weekly e-blast. Check it out!
Here’s an at-a-glance look at what’s coming up:
+ Saturday evening In-person worship is at 5 p.m. today. Join us!
+ Red Cross Blood Drive is Sunday in the gym, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you didn’t sign up you can check on appointment availability at the gym.
+ Godly Play, Sunday School, and the Nursery are open to receive your children!
+ Coffee Hour is Back! Join us after the Sunday service on the lower courtyard (Learning Commons Courtyard) which is the perfect spot to hold coffee hour where tables, comfortable seating, and shade abound. We even have an elevator you can use to get there!
+ Youth Group meets next on ZOOM July 7 at 7 p.m. Contact Patti Peebles for more info.
+ Book It On Mondays! meets in-person June 28, 6:30 p.m. on the patio of Christy Morinello’s home. The book: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.
+ Youth and Adult confirmations are coming up with Bishop John.
+ Women’s Hybrid Bible Study on Wednesday mornings, 10:15 – 11:30 a.m. at DJ Gomer’s home. Hybrid = in-person and on ZOOM.
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We’re back on campus:
Clergy and staff are back in the Church Office. Schedule a time to come to the church office and meet face-to-face. Contact Rev. Christopher or 949.888.4568, or Rev. Karen or 949.888.4595, x239.
In-Person Worship Schedule:
• Evening Prayer or Compline ZOOM services continue to be held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m.
• Sunday morning worship will be held in-person at church and on ZOOM at 9 a.m.
• Saturday in-person worship in the church TODAY at 5 p.m.
We’ll see you at St. John’s!