dark places

i remember reading an essay by frederica mathewes-green where she asked a theologian, “what is the best way to know god?” her (and my) assumption was that the theologian would continue to follow the path of the conversation that had led them to that particular prompt, and maybe single out a few traditions to observe, outline some good practices to adopt, or even identify some good books to read. of course the theologian was much too sly to offer an obvious answer to such a timeless question. his answes to the question was, “by following him.”

i bring this up because last month i heard a great sermon by dan allender (of mhgs fame) at mars hill bible church (the one in michigan) that has lingered in my mind. i’ve heard thousands of sermons in my life, only from a handful of which can i recall any content, but this one really stood out to me. he said a lot of really good stuff, but in part of his talk he essentially took the theologian’s response and elaborated upon it:

if you want to know god, you must go to dark places. does god show himself in the beautiful light of this gorgeous church? absolutely. but if you want to know god deeply and personally, if you want to tremble in the presence of the goodness of god, you need to go to very dark places. 

since i have no qualms with this argument that the best way to know god is by following him and that god is “most present” in very dark places, the only thing really left to do is go. as i recently read, too much time is devoted to how we can escape hell, and not nearly enough to how we can freely choose to enter hell for the sake of the gospel.
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as i mentioned in the previous post, i’m gonna go ahead read the same three prayers throughout each work day at scheduled times.

the first is one of mother teresa’s, the second is the christ-hymn in colossians 1:15-20, and the third is the lord’s prayer as it’s written in the book of common prayer. i’m really actually pretty excited to see how this little experiment goes!

Dear Jesus,
Help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love.
Penetrate and possess my whole
being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine.
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus.
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others.
Amen

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;
for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers —all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in  him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed by thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
Amen.

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One thought on “dark places

  1. dan allender has been preaching this message for years and i’m glad he hasn’t strayed from it, because i believe it to be true. only problem is– who the hell wants to go there? not a one of us. we all keep a pretty tight reign to ensure we don’t have to go there. the irony is that the dark place, like dr. allender says, is where we know god more fully and intimately. it is the place where god is. in that vein, rich mullins said, ‘we meet him in the fire before we meet him in the sky’. this dark place is not the pessimism or cynicism that eugene cho has been speaking of but it is the guts of our existence– the reality that we are inept, frail and insignificant– to go there scares the crap out of us. so in the words of kierkegaard– fear and trembling. thanks for the reminder.

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