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Jul 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 17, 2022

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, dear ones!          May the Lord be with you!

A while back, I was waiting for my car to be serviced and a woman with a young dog, actually a puppy, came in to the waiting room.  The puppy was wearing a vest that read, “Support Dog in Training.”  She told the dog to Sit, and he did.  But he was looking all about, distracted with everything in the room.  Then she said, “Settle,” and the dog sort of half-heartedly relaxed, but was still very distracted as if he would jump at the chance to be released from this torture of sitting.  She looked at him and kindly but firmly repeated the order, “Settle.”  He calmly lay down beside her with a completely relaxed posture, head down, not looking for any way out.

I borrowed these terms for myself; knowing that often I am like that puppy, distracted by many things.  I can move from Sit (ok I’m sitting, Lord) to Settle–letting go of distractions, settling my heart (I’m safe, I’m loved, one thing I desire), settling my mind (I’m fixed on my intention to be-here-now, letting go of everything else), as well as settling my body, relaxing my muscles, relaxing breath.

Then I was introduced more recently to the beautiful phrase “Sink Down to the Seed.” Isaac Pennington wrote those words in 1661.  Pennington was one of the early members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers.  Here it is in context, I call it a prayer to settle our souls:

Give over thine own willing, give over thy own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee, and be in thee, and breathe in thee, and act in thee; and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of Life, which is its portion.

Sink down to the Seed.  So now, the movements for me are Sit, Settle, and Sink Down.

I’m offering those words to you.  You can use them in your Quiet Time this week if they seem right to you.  See where they take you.  Are they helpful?  Do they seem lovely?  Do they speak to your soul, as they do to mine?

So, as we begin:  Sit.   Settle.   Sink Down to the Seed that God has sown in your heart.

Morning Talk: Beth Khorey

I’ve chosen ACTS 9, the episode of Saul’s encounter with Jesus as a demonstration of my
definition of the religious word “prayer.”
PRAYER: an ongoing conversational reality with God, myself and others.
Monastics for centuries have said in a “nutshell”:
Prayer is an integrating dynamic:
• OF ENCOUNTERING JESUS–his person, his words, and his works
• OF CONVERSION OF SELF OR SOUL–or the continuous change (or transformation) of the soul in Christ
the world.

What Jesus pointed to as the two great commands to follow were LOVE GOD and LOVE
OTHERS as I love you. In conjunction with spiritual reading and faith formation practices, PRAYER
• live and die,
• learn to love in tangible life giving ways,
• experience conflict both inner and outer – the frictions and fractions of being human and
longing for the Divine
• which leads to forgiveness and the freedom of being forgiven, (absolved of guilt and
• to see the invisible and visible signs of God-With-Us in the world
• endure hardships and heartaches, patiently, with the hope of restorative healing and
• and the imagination to inhabit God’s-story, embodying it as a “livable faith”
o something more than spectator or observer – but as a participant
o something more enriching than the acquisition of religious knowledge and information
out of curiosity – but a becoming a flourishing and wise person as God intended
[Please read ACTS 9]

(In public domain)

(With reference to the painting by Caravaggio – a visual narration of Saul’s
conversion as told in by Luke, Paul’s traveling companion and author of Acts.)
A story of Saul’s on his murderous mission to apprehend Jesus’ followers, “breathing threats”
with the backing of the “religious leaders”!
Back Story: In Chapter 8 Luke tells us: that Saul approved and applauded the execution of
Stephen one of the early friends of Jesus.
Saul was a young zealous Jew – trained, skilled, educated, and because of his Hebrew pedigree,
he was given a prestigious position with the religious leaders to take on a this mission with full
backing and authority to APPREHEND and ARREST any friend of Jesus.
Saul encounters Jesus on his way to Damascus (the conversational reality begins!)
• Jesus, comes – (always coming to meet his people) – with disruptive invitation to stop the
and reorient Saul on a new course.
To STOP the violence: German scholar Klaus Wengst stated of God’s people (The Church),
We are “the sphere of interrupted violence in the midst of a violent world.” (quote taken from
Michael Gorman’s, Cruciformity)
• A Light Shone From Heaven: (later in Paul’s life I wonder if he was thinking of this moment
and connecting dots when he said to the people of Corinth:
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of
the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
2 Cor.4:6
I believe this was a Genesis Moment for Paul – a generative moment of making a NEW
CREATION in Paul – (thinking of “prayer” as generative, making new as I encounter Jesus, the life
and the LIGHT of the world).
(I think the NEW CREATION is linked inextricably to stopping the violence, the death, the damage
of sin and destructive actions of humans bent on life “without” God.)

We may know this episode in the life of Paul as his “conversion” and conversion is another
religious word that may connote a “one time event.” Unlike what we might have understood of
conversion in the Christian tradition–I don’t think it’s a one time event … but rather more like the
entrance into ongoing conversational reality of relationship with God in Christ.
Our conversion is not static but fluid.
• It ebbs and flows into developmental spiritual growth;
• it takes place in the prayerful conversation and encounters with Jesus (through his person
and his Word); with our relational exchanges with others; and in our circumstances
It’s an ongoing, lifelong rhythm of change
While still retaining foundational marks of the JESUS-FAITH and the JESUS-STORY we find
ourselves in need of:
o rethinking,
o re-imagining
o re-embodying the whole God-story… in order to grow in relationship with God, the
self and others
Thomas Merton (a 20th century American Trappist monk, activist, writer and theologian of the contemplative life) wrote:
“We are not converted only once in our lives, but many times; and this endless series of
large and small conversions and inner revolutions, leads to our transformation in Christ.”
(quote taken from Bradley Holt’s, Thirsty for God)

I would like to suggest that Saul’s encounter with Jesus and conversation shaped an ongoing
imagination and prayerful dialectic with Jesus for the rest of his life: for his experiential life, his
vocational work and his circumstances (as Jesus stated in Acts 9 “he is my instrument…I will
show him all the things he will suffer for my name’s sake.”
• Paul’s conversation didn’t scrub him of all his education and knowledge of God from the
Hebrew Scriptures rather the analogue to that knowledge with Jesus
• Jesus would begin to intricately stitch together all the Scriptures in Paul (as he wrote in Romans 1 says the “Gospel of God” is the whole story)
• Paul would become the best source for telling the integrative story of the Jesus-life
• For centuries, leading scholars and theologians continue to parse out Paul’s literature to
make sense of the Jesus-life
• Psalm 139–and Paul in some of his biographical literature indicates this is true of himself–God knew him in the womb – his entire life was known by God
• His knowledge and education is put to use – AND – put in appropriate order after
meeting Jesus (Php. 3 – counting all things loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus)
(With reference to the painting)
Combined with the Scriptural narration – there’s a rather revelatory artist insight offered to us in
the painting by Caravaggio. It shows me a little bit of how Saul’s encounter, conversion and
conversation with Jesus contoured his personhood:

The Artistic intuition reveals these things:
• The otherliness of the exaggerated use of light and darkness – Saul is bathed in brilliance
– shining on his face – in contrast to his dark surroundings as the overshadowing of the
Divine Presence “off the canvas frame” indicating it comes from “outside” of our selves
– it is Other than our selves.
• Articulates a change: something of the Genesis account hints at the description of the
Holy Spirit hovering, brooding over the dark waters – the formless and void – precreation
earth – in a waiting anticipation for the new creation to take shape.
• Light and darkness also articulates the paradoxical poetics of Saul’s sightedness (he
could see, yet was blind, he was blinded, yet could see). His eyes and ears needed Divine
adjustment in the New Creation-Making of his being.
• let’s say he was “grounded” maybe for the first time . . .
• This grounding posture conveys the soul’s receptivity in prayer to God’s Spirit who imbues
the soul with power to change the human self.
• Bodily posture is the most vulnerable – we are the least physically strong on our backs –
indicating a type of openness, vulnerability and humility, that became for Paul a
patterned posture (Php. 2 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, who humbled
himself . . .”
• Defenses dropped/Knocked off his high horse, sword falling to his side – All the horse-like structures and weapons used to power up, posture ourselves as better, stronger, bigger, “more than you.” All this
falls away in the presence of Jesus (through prayer – the ongoing conversational reality I engage in when meeting Jesus – who comes to meet me – to stop the violence and to convert my soul and transform me into His likeness).
{Michael Gorman in his work of Pauline literature in his book Cruciformity asserts in the early days of his
conversion Paul was with the disciples (Acts 9:19), learning the ancient creedal prayer of Php. 2 from
which Paul would base his entire spirituality and teaching on to the entire Church.}
• Lastly Paul askes: “who are you LORD?” – an intuition emerging, though unrecognized in
his conscious state – that who he was meeting was “The Lord.”
• In prayer we learn to listen to the inner intuition and authority. It is THIS voice – the voice
of Jesus we follow. (Paul was given “authority” by the religious leaders – now, he learns
the real authority in his life – Jesus).
A revelatory experience of TRUE DIVINITY and TRUEST HUMANITY engaging together

When we follow Jesus as LORD, instead of a “muscled up” – clinched fists, highly defended stand, we take a posture of vulnerability, honesty, arms open as receptive (almost a “cradle posture” of a babe waiting for parental embrace)
It’s an invitation to live the Jesus-Paradox:
• weakness is the new faculty of understanding;
• strength is located in risked vulnerability;
• true power is reconstituted in Christ’s own HUMILITY, DEATH and resurrected life;
• and love is demonstrated in a self-donating hospitality through the Spirit of the Crucified-
It’s a new creation identity and vocation: “FLESH AND BLOOD DID NOT REVEAL IT”
• Instead of gaining authority, prestige and position from religious leadership or popular
political affiliations or crowd wining – people-pleasing antics – We follow Jesus, we learn
to listen to his voice, discern his guidance, we live and move and have our being in him.
It’s also a creation model of vocation: we act in the authority of Christ–to co-labor and
collaborate with Christ, in the power of the Spirit of Christ for the sake of Christ being
formed in others (Galatians 4:19)

JESUS and PEOPLE – this is how deeply Jesus is relationally committed to people – it’s UNION.
“Why are you persecuting Me?” Indicates just how integrated Jesus is in the life of his friends.
“I in them, and Thou, Father, in Me, that they may be made perfect in One…. And the glory which
Thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be One as we also are One.”

(John 17)
• Unless we come into this realization, religion is reduced to a privatized affair – and that’s
just not what God’s Story pictures.
• HUMANITY is God’s intimate and ultimate concern – his heart beat beats with
compassion, reconciling and redeeming the people to himself in Christ.
• I believe wholeheartedly Paul learned something KEY to his formation – GOD IS FOR US –
NOT AGAINST US – and that we are to live for Christ’s sake and the sake of others.
• The only way I know to become “FOR OTHERS” instead of “AGAINST OTHERS” is in and
through the ongoing conversational reality of encounter and conversion through the
Jesus experience.
• PRAYER includes waiting and listening.
• Ananias is addressed by Jesus in a vision simultaneously to Paul’s silent prayer
• Ananias is responsive to Jesus: “HERE I AM LORD”
• Ananias has his own encounter and conversion experience in conversation with Jesus –
specifically with his perception of Saul – the way he thinks and sees another person he
doesn’t know personally. In prayer, Saul goes from perceived enemy (AGAINST US) to
Friend of Jesus – enabling Ananias to meeting him with affectionate intimacy “BROTHER

• Ananias is led from a posture of defensive distance-keeping to nearness and intimacy as
he “lays hands”
HEALING often transpires within a COMMUNITY of pray-ers.
Thomas Merton shortened the John 17 prayer of Jesus as:
“I in You (Father) and You in me;
You in them;
Them in me.”
Saul sees and is filled with the Holy Spirit – a redemptive baptism into new creation life.

I am going to close with a prayer that is a poem written by E.E. cummings (1894–1962)
I Thank You God . . .
I thank You God for this most amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(I who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

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