In the fall of 2003, my bishop asked me to head a task force which would develop prayer resources, promote www.prayingchurch.org and its resources, as well as promoting evangelical spirituality.
That last one obviously needs a little explaining to ELCA Lutherans, and I intend to do that over time. It's actually very simple, very Lutheran and you probably already know very well what it is. We just need more of it, I think. At our last meeting of the Commission for Evangelical Outreach, our Chairman, Pr Bill Hurst, Trinity, White Plains, said, "we need to be "evangelical and evangelistic." You probably know what that means, too, though you would also like it to be unpacked a little. Good, relax, we have years of work ahead!
Here's one piece of the puzzle: do you notice the similarities in words and wonder about the root meanings they share? When I think about "evangelical spirituality" I think about the good news that I was lost and a savior was sent to find me, and them the rich world of biblical imagination kicks in. see, I believe that God has redeemed every part of me, and besides those really negative things that get kicked immediately into the recycling bin (we are like computers, and the redeemed of the Lord have a Spirit virus scan that catches these viruses and asks "Delete?" to which we can say, 'Oh, no, let me enjoy that one a little longer," or, just like the relief we feel when virus scan tells us they have caught a bug, we say "Yes, please delete. Thank you, Lord." So, the Lord has redeemed my imagination and feeds it with His Word, so we never know what God will use next.
Back to roots, have you ever noticed the similarity of humility and humus? You non-gardening types might not be so familiar with that word; humus means soil. Luther said humility was basic to evangelical spirituality, and we all know we sing, "Let me heart be good soil," thinking of the Word being planted in our hearts. Our hearts are the starting place of each new beginning, the place from where the plant is going to stretch forth. I'm reminded of another hymn, "The Word of God is Source and Seed. This time of year gardeners get catalogs from nurseries. They have beautiful pictures of gorgeous roses, majestic trees, gardens packed with blooms. If you order, they send small, gnarly roots. They have to be planted in specially prepared soil, watered and nourished. If you have the patience, now is the time to plant seeds indoors to be transplanted when the conditions are right outdoors. In that case, what we need is a seed catalog (I love running across the old-fashioned ones like Ferry-Morse). Those catalogs are a source of seed, so please think of the Bible as a source of seed. Just like someone can page through a seed catalog and see a picture of a tomato plant drooping with a hundred big toms, and think to themselves "Oh, look at those tomatoes, they look so good, I can taste them. let me order some- I'll have so many I can give them to my neighbors, my family, maybe I'll have so many I can take a basket to work!" -the same way, we can open the Bible and order seeds, watering cans, fertilizer, and get a few timely tips on gardening ion places that have poor soil.
I've been praying for revival in our New York churches seriously for over three years, and as we all know, the soil is rocky and hard to plant in. The problem is it was rocky and hard and then it had pavement poured over it! I have this picture of us planting neighborhood gardens, that each of our 230 or so Metro NY congregations could get a small group to get out the seed catalog, think hard about what kind of garden they want, order the seeds (there's a real good offer-the price has already been paid!), and then fan out through the neighborhood and see who else wants to be part of a team of gardeners. Who knows, maybe some will find someone with a tractor and a plow?
"Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it, cleared it of stones,
and planted it with red grapes.
In the middle he built a tower,
he hewed a press there too.
He expected it to yield fine grapes:
wild grapes were all it yielded.
Jeremiah said in
"Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose hope is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
Jesus told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, "See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?'
He replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.' " (Luke 13:6-9)
Mainly pray. We have our mission. Go deep in prayer.