Continued from Newsletter
I did not have to wait long to get my answer.
In the Gospel of John, Chapter 17 begins at the conclusion of the last supper before Jesus and the eleven depart from the upper room just outside the wall of Jerusalem and walk about a mile or so across the Kedron valley. A short time after arriving at the Garden of Gethsemani on the Mount of Olives, Jesus was betrayed by the absent 12th. In a final prayer before departing across the valley to the garden, Christ asks the Father to protect and guide the eleven apostles who were with him. They were the ones that through the blessing of the Spirit upon them, were enabled to spread the spoken gospel and to show the power of God at work with the Spirit to those who just needed to hear their words. They were also the ones who would need to persevere in the face of persecution to continue building the Church Christ had laid down the foundation of.
With this Saturday morning group, I immediately noticed a heightened sense of excitement and anticipation radiate through the fiber optic lines. It was a quiet intensity that was somewhat unfamiliar to me in this setting. This group is known as the Faith & Prayer Group and differs from the previous weekly gatherings I had experienced in the spring in that prayer is the sole focus.
After an opening prayer, the discussion dove right into how our individual prayer that week may have been positively affected by passages in the first six chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. I had hit the jackpot! I had already read each of the four gospels at least twice, except for Luke so I was ready to go.
All I wanted to do was read the book of life and talk about it and how it positively affects me. Basically I had a huge unexpressed backlog of experiences from reading scripture, other lesser material and prayer that I wanted to express and was more than happy to share with anyone who would listen. The others in the group may not have had files of notions built up to express, but they brought the Spirit with them and it is in what they said that I found so much enjoyment in that first experience and each week since. If there is something this group is very good at, it is finding the similarities we have in our experiences with prayer and scripture. How we correlate them to our personal lives and the positive affect that contemplative prayer has on each one of us.
Every week has brought a different feel to the discussion and while I think I talk at least as much as the others in this group, I find such an enormous value in listening to how the others understand and feel their faith. Something important this group has taught me is that the value of sharing faith is not in the giving which in its own is important, but rather the highest benefit is in what you receive from the experience of another.
I am now reading scripture I had never read before from both the New and Old Testament. Gaining a sense of how the Word of God can enhance our lives when reflected upon in contemplative and free flowing prayer for a few minutes each day has provided a slow but steady growth spurt for my mustard tree I spoke of earlier. All culminating each week in the best discussion I could hope to have.
For January we will be taking on the 21 days of the prayer process from the book I Heard God Laugh with scripture of our own choosing for reading and reflection.
So if you are looking for an hour each week to join some fellow parishioners that will match up with what you need to get a little faith formation going during these times, please by all means; join us. We are they.