A short reflection on my congregation’s Wednesday night service of prayer and meditation…

During the school year, I always look forward to Wednesday evenings.  On those days, a group of people from my congregation gather together for a meal, a time of prayer and meditation, and Bible study.  The time is open to anyone, but we tend to have a core group of people who are fairly committed.  In some ways, I feel very connected to these people who help to shape my understanding of what it means to be the Church to one another.  Tonight was the first meeting of the new school year.

The person who guides our prayer and meditation time had chosen an image from Yellowstone for us to consider- a rather barren scene from one of the thermal springs in the park.  There were mineral deposits around a pool of water and a tree which had died, unable to survive in the extreme conditions.  And yet, there was life which did exist in this environment, even though it was unseen.  In some ways, the image was a metaphor for spiritual barrenness that our congregation is currently experiencing.  Where is the life in our picture?

During our time tonight, we also considered one of the lectionary readings from this coming Sunday:

Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom?  Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly…

James 3.13, The Message

The combination of the image and scripture caused me to think of another image of desolation in Yellowstone.  In 1988, forest fires burned nearly 800,000 acres in the park – more than a third of the land.  The picture afterward was quite stark…

After the fires(Photograph by Jim Peaco, 1988)

Eight years later, my wife and I went to Yellowstone on our honeymoon.  There were still areas of the park that were just beginning to recover.  However, the plants in those areas seemed to have a different quality to them.  Their life in many ways seemed pure, vibrant, and even exuberant…

New life(Photograph by Jim Peaco, 1998)

 What would this purity look like in my life?  What is “pure” religion?  Tonight I was drawn to the phrase, “Live humbly”.  It reminds me of a similar admonition from the prophet Micah:

God has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6.8, NRSV

Is this not just a restatement of the two greatest commands…?

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”  He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

Luke 10.25-28, NRSV

Tonight, my prayer is for purity and humility and the new growth that comes after fire has burned away everything but love for God and for our neighbor.