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Aug 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 26, 2018 – Micah 4:1-5


Intro: I’m going to tell you a story few people have heard

Early in the 1970’s, Dad was looking for a conference center, which made sense because of the number of retreats Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa hosted every year. Dad heard about a facility in Twin Peaks that was for sale, so he and Mom went there to meet with a realtor and look it over. They also took Dan, who had been a good friend of theirs for several years. Like my folks, Dan had grown up in a religious home and though he loved God, his attitude toward the church culture was somewhat cynical. Sometimes he would poke fun at the silly behavior of believers.
When they arrived at the mountain facility, it was more beautiful than they imagined. Dan decided to have a little fun with my folks, so he said, “Let’s find out if this it is God’s will for the church to buy this place!” Borrowing my dad’s Bible, he closed his eyes, opened the Bible at random, and planted his finger on one of the pages. He then began reading,

And it will come about in the last days
That the mountain of the house of the LORD

Will be established as the chief of the mountains.
It will be raised above the hills,
And the peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will come and say,
“Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD
And to the house of the God of Jacob,
That He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For from Zion will go forth the law,
Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between many peoples
And render decisions for mighty, distant nations.
Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they train for war.
Each of them will sit under his vine
And under his fig tree,
With no one to make them afraid,
For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.
Though all the peoples walk
Each in the name of his god,
As for us, we will walk
In the name of the LORD our God forever and ever. Micah 4:1-5

– for a long time after that, Dan didn’t say anything
• if you visit the Twin Peaks Conference Center,
◦ look for the sidewalk where someone etched into the concrete “Micah 4:1-5”

In Micah’s lifetime, Jerusalem had been unstable

God’s messages began coming to Micah during reign of King Jotham
– he was good (faithful to God), but unremarkable
• after him, his son Ahaz took the throne and we’re told:

. . . he did not do right in the sight of the LORD …. he burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel (2 Chr. 28:1-3)

• Ahaz was followed by Hezekiah, who did right in sight of LORD
◦ in fact, Hezekiah was a spectacular king
◦ led a spiritual revival in Jerusalem, the nation and into the northern kingdom
– but underneath the social reforms, a secret illness persisted
• and it terminal

Now hear this, heads of the house of Jacob
And rulers of the house of Israel
Who abhor justice

And twist everything that is straight,
Who build Zion with bloodshed
And Jerusalem with violent injustice.
Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe,
Her priests instruct for a price
And her prophets divine for money.

Yet they lean on the LORD saying,
“Is not the LORD in our midst?
Calamity will not come upon us.”
Therefore, on account of you
Zion will be plowed as a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins,
And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest. (Mi. 3:9-12)

– in light of Micah’s doom and gloom message,
• his audience had a few questions:
◦ “Is there any hope for us?” “Do we have a future?”
◦ “Will we ever be what God wants us to be?” And,
◦ “If so, what will that look like?”
• God’s answers are in the first passage I read
◦ Zion will become the center of a world looking for God

What is Reflexion?

How did we get started and where are we going?
– the first question is easy to answer
• in 2004 I visited a friend who had sequestered himself in a monastery
◦ while there, I met a monk whose spiritual depth and insight left a deep impression on me
◦ I continued to visit him for the next two years
• he introduced me to contemplative spirituality
◦ simply put: contemplative spirituality is real-life Christianity
– the challenge is, we have to live in reality – that’s all there is
• but many people feel they cannot live in reality
◦ so we have created unrealistic forms of religion
◦ some that are unrealistically miraculous, others are all in the head, and others that treat Jesus like an imaginary friend
• contemplative spirituality is the real experience of God
◦ a real hope that doesn’t require the world to be good or people to be nice, or miracles every day

After leaving my former pastorate
– a few people wanted to keep tracking with me
• eventually I agreed to share what I was learning and invited into our home
◦ for ten weeks we watched videos I had recorded of my talks with Fr. Romuald
◦ discussion afterward was profound, open, experimental and non-judgmental
• by the eighth week, the group was asking me, “What are we going to be doing next?”
◦ I realized that a “we” had formed around these conversations
◦ we were growing together, but I wasn’t prepared to do anything about it
– perhaps a year and half later, I suggested we meet Sunday nights
• we sat in silent prayer for fifteen minutes, I read passage of scripture,
◦ and together we explored it in light of living in ongoing mindfulness of God
• we were being freed from a lot of religious programming
◦ the emphasis on our faith now was on the journey
◦ the growing, changing and becoming

It was a couple more years before we started Reflexion
– the idea was to include more people in our conversation
• again, Barb and I opened our home on Sunday mornings
◦ a few months before our first meeting,
◦ I started working on a “vision” (every leader has one)
• then one day I felt that God was telling me to stop
◦ he told me, “Just meet, and let My Spirit create the shape of the community”
– that’s what makes the second question difficult to answer
• where are we going?
• I pray for us every week
◦ and many days when I pray, I wonder what we are

I have a question I would like all of us to think about

I think that, collectively, we hold the answer
– Here’s the question:
What do people expect to experience when visit a spiritual community?
• what is Reflexion’s gift to its visitors? to Dana Point? to the world?
– I’m not asking, “What do we want Reflexion to be known for?”
• “How will we market and advertise ourselves?”
• I don’t believe God throws his support behind any religious brand
◦ there is only one name he has placed above every name

. . . so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow . . . [and] every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Php. 2:9-11)

On my first visit to the hermitage, I was very nervous
– I knew nothing about Roman Catholic liturgy or ritual
• I was worried they might find out I was a Protestant
◦ what would they think?
◦ would they want to convert me?
• but when I arrived, my friend told me,

“It doesn’t matter what you believe, they accept you. Buddhist, New Age, or even atheist, they love you and are willing to sit with you and provide spiritual direction.”

– at first this jarred my (former) fundamentalist sensitivities
• but then I realized, if they accepted anyone no matter what,
◦ the would have to accept me too — and they did!
• after one of my visits there, I left them a gift with a note in which I wrote,
“I was a stranger and you took me in”

From the fourth century, Christians began visiting monasteries
– for spiritual the depth and understanding they found there
• in fact, many important theologians, like St. Augustine, were monks
• in the monasteries the would experience spiritual renewal
◦ and receive help in various practices of prayer

Fr. Romuald explained that people came to the monastery “because the most horrible kinds of situations are welcome at the monastery. Mercy is at the monastery.” A church pastor may not have time or space in his schedule to deal with ongoing issues, but “in a monastery, you have no place to be but God.”

I’ve wondered if visiting Reflexion could be like visiting a hermitage or monastery?
– if so, what would that look like? What would we have to be?
• perhaps no more than the first verse of “Amazing Grace”

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see. (John Newton)

• we would be like the people who swarmed around Jesus
◦ deaf, sick disabled, possessed, broken
◦ and like them, we were once alone in the world, with out hope
– but we were found and rescued by a Savior,
• whose strong arms and deep compassion we trust
◦ we keep coming back because we know we’ll never be turned away
◦ by grace God points us in right direction and by grace moves us forward
• we can admit our imperfections

I heard Anne Lamott, the author of Traveling Mercies, interviewed a few years ago. At one point she said casually, “I’m a Christian–not a very good one.” I loved that and have held onto it. We are Christians, but we are still human. We may not be the best examples of our faith, but we are constantly improving thanks to the ongoing work of Jesus in our lives.

◦ our honesty, in fact, is our credibility
◦ our story is that in spite of ourselves Jesus doesn’t reject us
(in fact, its’ because of what I am that Jesus keeps me on a short leash)

Conclusion: Maybe we’ll never be like a monastery

What can we be or do?

  • We can accept people as they are, and without judgment
  • We can keep making our own progress in contemplative prayer
    – and through prayer, to an increasing awareness of God’s presence at all times
  • We can strengthen our shared life together
    – living in a community like ours means having all sorts of friends, and for all sorts of reasons
  • We can talk about our new life – “I once was lost, but now am found”
    – at least we can talk about our moments of “aliveness”
    – that it’s the Spirit, the well of living water within us
    – our partnership is with the Spirit and it’s greater than we know
  • We can talk about Jesus – how he has connected us with God
    – as I said, God does not endorse any brand names
    – and as Paul said, “We do not preach ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:5)
    – or Peter, after healing a man who for years had not been able to walk:

Why are you looking at us? By the name of Jesus Christ this man stands before you in good health. For salvation can be found in no other name under heaven can produce this kind of wholeness! (Acts 3:12-16; 4:8-12)

We cannot be everything to everyone
But we can be the one thing that everyone needs
We can be human,
we can be love and light,
and we can be hope

One Comment

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  1. Bill Livingston / Aug 29 2018

    I see us as a sanctuary from the tempest. A safe place where we are free to be with the Father, receive his love, maybe hear from him, maybe feel his touch. Safe from the storm, being accepted as we are. Never judged. Our orthodoxy never questioned….not even asked if we Have one! And we hear lessons in life from the Word. From such a place we can go out and love.

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