Skip to comments.Next in the Lenten collaborative series from Lent and Beyond: Pietist
Posted on 03/11/2006 6:29:40 PM PST by sionnsar
Today in the Lent and Beyond collaborative Lenten meditations series, we have Praising God (on the way to the killing ground) by Eric Swensson of the Pietist blog. Pastor Swensson is a minister in the ELCA and a friend of Anglicans, and he has written a meditation for those of us who have had hearts broken by what has happened in our churches--well worth reading.
Give ear to my prayer, O God,
And do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and hear me;
I am restless in my complaint,
and moan noisily,
Because of the voice of the enemy,
Because of the oppression of the wicked;
For they bring down trouble upon me,
And in wrath they hate me.
My heart is severely pained within me,
And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me,
And horror has overwhelmed me.
So I said, Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
Indeed, I would wander far off,
And remain in the wilderness.
I would hasten my escape
From the windy storm and tempest.
Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues,
For I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it on its walls;
Iniquity and trouble are also in the midst of it.
Destruction is in its midst;
Oppression and deceit do not depart from its streets.
For it is not an enemy who reproaches me;
Then I could bear it.
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me;
Then I could hide from him.
But it was you, a man my equal,
My companion and my acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together,
And walked to the house of God in the throng.
As for me, I will call upon God,
And the LORD shall save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I will pray, and cry aloud,
And He shall hear my voice.
He has redeemed my soul in peace
from the battle that was against me.
Cast your burden on the LORD,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
(excerpted from Psalm 55)
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each ones praise will come from God. -1 Corinthians 4:5
Praising God on the Way (to the killing ground)
As everyone knows, before our forebears were known as Christians (see Acts11:26), or 2,200 other denominational monikers, we were the people of the Way (see Acts 9:3).
Pietists like me are accused of being legalistic because we are seen as judges on whether or not people are keeping to the Way. Actually, we are more concerned with what is going on in peoples hearts than what they are doing. It does not take a gift of discernment to know that a persons behavior is an insight to what is in their heart, so when they are involved in problematic behaviors there is certainly something amiss in the heart. We also know that on account of original sin people are pretty good at hiding what is in their heart. Of course, since only God can change hearts, we have to do our best to love an support people, pray for them, and have a ready word for the right time. Therefore, there is really much too much to do to be seriously legalistic, and so, take it from one who should know, it is much better to be proactive about hearts.
How can we be proactive about what is going on the hearts of people? Well, we best start with our own. Hence, as you know, we are prone to say that God is good and has proven His goodness by giving us our focus on prayer and praise. After we are on the road to new life we can begin to lead the people by prayer and proclamation and praise, all always, since we are busy little pietists, the best is to turn minds through God through Scripture.
Now, this Lenten meditation is a directed to a group of people who have their share of heart problems. I believe that many of us have had our hearts broken by what we see going on in our churches as well as the world. I do not think the devil is breaking our hearts. I think the devil draws a veil over eyes so that hearts will not be broken. I know in my denomination, there are still many behind the veil, particularly among clergy and activists. It is a very disturbing thing to think back on years of ministry done in collaboration with people from whom we now seem to be spiritually divided.
This mornings psalm is a reminder that many of us have experienced being attacked by former friends. Many have been in the undesirable place of confronting friends on their unbiblical proclamation, and many find themselves in the odious position of being in judgment of those in authority over them. The psalm speaks of my experience of being being restless, complaining (Oh, do I!), moaning noisily (in prayer!), experiencing oppression of the wicked, and having a severely pained heart.
I think God deliberately breaks our hearts so that we can see our utter dependence on him. One old saw is that the reason God asks us to pray first is so we dont think we can do it without Him. It is that, but much more. If we think we can restore our churches to their foundations through being better organized, trying harder, locate a source for funding, a swell program like Alpha, we are fools. Those things are necessary, but we must first be willing to seriously turn all this over to God, and surrender afresh daily. The more is this, our prayer is more than asking Gods blessing, moaning, groaning prayer is the killing field, where our nature is met and refined. As we wrestle with God we are changed. We must decrease so He increase. Luther knew this and a few appreciate it. Had not the Holy Spirit begun the reformation of Luther, Luther would not have had a word to a Church so badly in need of a Reformation.
Those who know me are aware that I do Luther research. He was a man who believed passionately that we must daily die. We live our faith to the degree that our old self is replaced by the presence of Christ in us. This happens only through the Holy Spirit. We love God and show His love to all solely on account of the presence of Christ in us. We are born up on wings as we go through the day helping our family, doing our jobs, being a good citizen, and helping our neighbors.
To do this is it good to pray and praise exceedingly well, and we count ourselves happy to have Scripture. Nothing works as fast as the Word to lift us up out from under the weight of our burdens as well as Scripture. Nothing reinforces it as well as song (well the sacraments are in their somewhere but I dare not digress too much).
I have a woman in my parish who blesses me greatly in many ways. Most of these flow out of the hours she spends reading the Bible everyday. If she calls me during the day and says, Pastor, I hope Im not interrupting you, but would you look at ____ when you have the time? I always write it down, turn to it when I can, and it always begins to show up in my life in concrete ways. And always the blessing keeps popping up.
The most recent example was 2 Chronicles 20. You need to read it as soon as you have the time and put yourself in the place of Jehoshaphat, and the rest of your parish in the Temple. You have all heard crushing news, the enemy is coming, we have to go and meet them on the battlefield, and we are going to ask God to bless us. Amazingly, the Holy Spirit comes upon one of the worship assistants and says, Do not be afraid, do not be daunted by this vast horde, for the war is not your affair but Gods Take up your position, stand firm, and see what salvation Yahweh has in store for you. Judah and Jerusalem, be fearless, be dauntless; march out against them tomorrow and Yahweh will be with you. (2 Chronicles 20:15, 17)
So the whole congregation receives the news and begins to sing a Te Deum!
They go out the next day and find that the work has indeed been as good as done. There is nothing better to please God and to help the hearts of the people of the Way more than praising God. Praise Him! Sun, moon, stars, praise Him! praise Him for the victory he is giving!
I am suggesting in this meditation that if we learn to trust more we will do more. This is a word that I really need to hear because waves of darkness wash over me daily. I praise God that He gave me a praying wife to help me get going right, a job which turns me to the Word of God, and the support of intercessors, prayer team members and even cyber praying friends. Still I need encouragement to trust enough to die daily.
If God is in it, He will win it. If He aint, Im beating a retreat.
Eric Swensson is an ELCA pastor in the Metro-NY area. He is a committed intercessor and has offered much encouragement as well as prayer support to Anglicans in the midst of our current crisis.
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