Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Follow with Reverent Steps the Great Example

this week's post is a day late, and there are many things i'd like to say in it.  i'll try to focus on just one theme, though.  a few days ago as i rode my bike through the park, i thought of the meaning of worship and how often the words "worship" and "service" are tied together in the christian religion; christians often speak of a "worship service," meaning the gathering together for the purpose of worship.

as i rode along, i recalled a poem by john greenleaf whittier that was at one time included in most every american hymnal.  these lines ended the first stanza: "to worship rightly is to love each other, each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer."  that hymn has fallen into disuse because of the exclusionary opening line ("o brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother"), but it contains so much of the essence of true religion (not just the christian expression of such religion) that i wish we could sing the hymn frequently.

a central teaching of any true religion (and the foundation of any moral code for those who reject religion altogether) is the abandonment of "me" as the starting point.  in christianity that concept is expressed in the teachings that "whoever would be great among you, must become a servant" (mark 10:43) and "in order to save one's life, one must lose it" (mark 8:35).  jesus taught that in serving others, one serves God, that worship and loving service are inseparable, that they are, in fact, the same thing.

one of our ministers recently wrote a blog about our motives when we pray.  so often our prayers are centered on ourselves, whereas the right intention should be to make mindfulness of God the reason for prayer.  right mindfulness in prayer isn't about how one benefits from having prayed; it is about being so mindful of the presence of God in our lives that one must pray in order to allow God to speak to us, to spend time concentrating on the Divine to the exclusion of all other concerns.

my prayer for each of us today is that we allow our needs to become so enmeshed with the needs of others that we become one with them.  may we fill our lives with love for one another, with smiles for one another, with kindly deeds for one another.  shalom.

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