The Upper Room

I have recently completed my forth and final year of EfM (Education for Ministry), a unique distance learning certificate program in theological education based upon small-group study and practice. During the final class we discussed how we’ve been changed and challenged by our time in the course. Four years worth of study and development came flooding back as we all shared what the course had meant to us. I realized that from the readings, to the group discussions to theological reflection exercises it really was an intense exploration of faith and service, scripture and history. At the start, I came purely with an interest in the academic and was apprehesive when it came to the group sharing, unaware that I was carrying a bag of prejudices and judgement. I found myself so frustrated in the first year by other opinions and theological points of view that I really struggled with wanting to drop it and leave. But, I remember telling myself I had to stick with it– to see if I would be changed. So, week after week I came back to that same room and to those same people and with very few exceptions, I always left changed. My mother is my witness to this fact, as I often called her after each class eager to share some insight or personal revelation I had experienced that evening. My decision to stay and see what would happen helped me understand the baggage I was carrying that was preventing me from knowing God better, through the very people I was journeying with each week. Over time, I was able to put aside that judegment and amazing personal lessons were learned.

Referencing the class, one member remarked that the Lord can do marvelous things whenever a group comes together to seek God, noting the upper rooms mentioned in various passages of the New Testament. Sitting in an upper room of the church week after week, the similarity was glaringly obvious but there was more too it that the location we came to dwell.

From the last supper to the miracle at Pentacost the image of an upper room is potent to believers. If you examine Old Testament discriptions of upper rooms it is easy to deduce their importance. Houses and palaces of the ancient world often created larger, more public spaces downstairs– receiving halls, dining rooms, and kitchens, but upper rooms were often reserved for private and intimate purposes, only for members of the household. Being able to utilize or gather in an upper room of someones home must have been a great sign of closeness and familiarity. Each time the disciples gathered in an upper room it was very deliberate and  they always left changed. Their closeness to one another through shared experiences brought them closer to God. Most importantly, in that quiet, smaller, more intimate space they were able to receive God in both a personal and communial way and God was able to meet them where they were, free from the intrusions of the outside world. In essence, they found themselves in an intimate space where God could be intimate with them. In that same vein, when we can come together prepared to seek God, we can know Him in ways we never imagined. Think about what an upper room in your life might look like. Are they places where you can share your zeal for God with others; places of quiet and intimacy where God can find us? I know I have grown from my time in an upper room and I thank God in advance for the next opportunities to gather together and be changed.

Peace +

Breathe Deeply

With it’s incredibly complex theological mystery it is no wonder that many people tend to gravitate toward one of the three parts of the Trinity. Something speaks to their soul that causes them to identify with either the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit, and while this association may certainly change over time given the context of our lives, we find strength and inspiration in this relationship. I often seem very drawn to the Holy Spirit. It’s not that I don’t feel close to the Father or the Son, but there is something about the descriptors in the Bible around the Holy Spirit that moves me. Sadly, the immaturity of the human soul often misrepresents the true persona of God (the Father) leaving him much smaller, more calculating, vengeful and angry. Even Jesus the Christ is misunderstood by the people, the authorities and even his own disciples! But, there is a clarity found in the Holy Spirit. She empowers wisdom (Daniel 4:9), voice (Mark 12:36) and even life itself (Luke 1:35). I like to think the Holy Spirit is the verb of God… She is the very real action of God in creation as well as His presence. Beautifully described as a dove, breath, wind, fire, water and guide, we invite this Spirit within us as Christians knowing that we cannot achieve our true potential in God without it. Just as our bodies long for air to live, the Holy Spirit longs to fill us with purpose and love, but in both cases, we must create a space for air and Spirit to dwell.

Mind your manners

I was asked to serve at a posh dinner in the role of butler.  This is not an uncommon request for me, as I regard etiquette and traditional table service as a passion of mine, as my good friends know well.  It is true that hospitality is a ministry of the Spirit and the body of Christ.  As one church put it, “one must always extend a sense of welcome to others and make them feel at home. Such qualities are a blessing, especially to the stranger in our midst.”  So then, by extension I would say that manners carry equal weight in good spirituality.  Manner and etiquette are not a means to separate class or qualify who is in and out; for regardless of the rules, the primary purpose of manners is the same… graciousness. Emily Post so eloquently states that, “manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.” I would agree, and further that by saying that this awareness is what allows us to reach out to others, a sort of empathy of the spirit.  And sincere “gracious living” becomes the very model of Christ’s love.  So remember that kind manners really can provide a space for compassion and grace… no matter which fork you use.

Prayer – Lord, let me be mindful of the feelings of others and, wherever possible, help others feel comfortable, at ease and loved in your name.  Amen