The Breathe of Our Spiritual Life

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It has been a very exciting week at Church of the Resurrection. The preparation of the classrooms and of our hearts has finally come to fruition as we welcomed the students, faculty and staff of Saint Paul School of Theology into the Leawood campus. As a Saint Paul alumna, it was heartwarming to reconnect with many of my former seminary professors in the hallway. Henry H. Knight, lll, my former professor of evangelism wrote a book titled, “Eight Life Enriching Practices of United Methodists,” which teaches us about the spiritual practices John Wesley calls “means of grace.” These practices help us enter into a life- changing relationship with God and nurture our Christian growth toward holiness.  I have never met an individual more passionate about John Wesley’s life and what it means to be a United Methodist Christian today than Dr. Knight, so for today’s prayer tip I will share several excerpts from his chapter on prayer.

“[John Wesley] called prayer ‘the grand means of drawing near to God.’ Prayer is so indispensable to the Christian life that the other means of grace are themselves helpful only ‘as they are mixed with or prepare us for this.’ Prayer, he says, is ‘the breath of our spiritual life, ’” p. 31.

“Prayer is how we go through each day in constant awareness of God’s presence and in continued gratitude for God’s gracious love,” p. 32.

“Just as we must inhale air and then exhale in order to live and grow, so must we also receive the life-giving Spirit and then breathe back to God our prayers….Without prayer, our life with God cannot continue,” p. 33.

“To give God thanks and praise is at one and the same time to acknowledge who God is and who we are. It is to remember all that God has done in creating our world and saving us through Jesus Christ. It is to thank God for all of life’s blessings but most especially for the gift of new life. In the process, we acknowledge as well our need to be saved and to be remade in God’s love. Offering praise and thanksgiving to God is the ultimate form of realism. We cannot enter into this kind of prayer and remain the same, “p. 34.

“Our prayers to God do not remove us from the world so much as they prepare us to engage the world. They increasingly enable us to look upon our neighbor and our world with something like the eyes of God and to shape our lives and actions with the love of God,” p. 35.

To complement our sermon series on the lived-out faith of John Wesley, our small group is going to read and engage in the “Eight Life-Enriching Practices of United Methodists” for our fall study. This book, which is also wonderful for personal spiritual reading, can be found at the Well bookstore on the Leawood campus. I invite you to pick one new spiritual practice this fall so that your life might be renewed by the Holy Spirit and in the words of John Wesley, your heart become “strangely warmed.”

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Light a Candle!

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If you worship in the main sanctuary on the Leawood Campus, you have probably noticed the candles that are there for you to light as you walk in.  The warm glow of a flame is an enduring symbol of the Trinity.  God led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness in a pillar of fire by night to give them light to travel through the dark nights. Our acolytes bring the light of Christ into the sanctuary during each worship service. During Advent we light candles as a sign of the coming light of Christ,  and  through Holy week, the days leading up to Good Friday, we extinguish the light, symbolizing the darkness of  sin in the world.  Our symbol of the United Methodist Church,   the flame of the Holy Spirit is positioned next to the cross.   Today in worship, we will hear how the Holy Spirit appeared like individual flames of fire alighting on each one of the people worshipping together in that early house church on the day of Pentecost.

We also light candles to welcome God into our times of personal prayer, and there are so many ways that we acknowledge the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in the regular times of our lives. We light candles for hope when someone is ill, for peace during wartime and for times of celebration like birthday candles or the unity candle in weddings.  We light candles as a meaningful way to honor the memory of a loved one, dear friend or patient. This week I invite you to light a candle with intention as a part of your prayer practice. Here is a prayer you can say as you do so.

You love me.
You are my Maker.
You Know me.
You dance in and out
of my footsteps.
God, Light of the universe,
shine in me.

You love me.
You are my friend.
You know me.
You challenge my darkness.
Jesus, Light the streets
around me,
shine in me.

You love me.
You hug me.
You are closer to me
than breathing.
you give me hope and courage.
Holy Spirit, Light of my journey,
shine in me.
–Ruth Burgess in Prayers for Lighting Candles, Wild Goose publications.

There is a Quaker saying, “it’s far better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” This week as people of faith, let us remember, we need to be in the business of lighting candles.

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

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