And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” Matthew 14:23
From the Justice Primer
Couched between the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and the miracle of walking on water, we find Jesus “up the mountain” alone praying. In the Old Testament in the book of I Kings we see Elijah, having defeated the prophets of Baal, sitting under a broom tree being nurtured by an angel for a journey that will land him in a cave on Mount Horeb where there he will hear God’s still small voice. Whether we are retreating from our ministry for personal renewal or if we are running from our ministry to find peace, Jesus still stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. As Christ’s disciples we have the privilege to embrace deep Christian spirituality as a mark of our identity.
In his book 20/20 Vision, former General Minister and President Dick Hamm offers a working definition of Christian spirituality as “. . .a way of life that relates who and what we are to who and what God is as revealed in Jesus Christ and as experienced through the Holy Spirit.” As Disciples our spirit is refreshed by the model and ministry of Jesus that is revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. When we give careful attention to God’s revealing of God’s self, our inner life is strengthened so that we may be poured out on behalf of God’s beloved children — all of them.
Opening ourselves to God, whether intentionally like Jesus on the mountain or out of necessity like Elijah in the cave, we are inspired to serve God by serving God’s people, seeking justice on behalf of the whole family of God. Cultivating habits of attentiveness can be counter-cultural. In our fast paced, overstimulated society, a faith where God adapts to our schedule can be more attractive than one that requires our own stillness for discernment for God’s will. “The goal of Christian spirituality is not to merely know ourselves, it is to offer ourselves to God: . . . to empty ourselves so that we may be available to hear God’s call and to respond . . .” This spirituality is less reminiscent of the country club and more like a soup kitchen. Deep Christian spirituality emboldens Disciples to feed when there is only bones and broth, to teach where the binding on books is worn, and to speak when evil renders members of God’s family speechless.
Submission to the Holy Spirit through intentional ‘pulling away’ by attention to the scriptures, prayer, solitude and gathering around the Table of the Lord, our hearts and minds are equipped for the essential work of being the Good News from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.