Spirituality

Tempted by an Apple

’Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’Tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves
in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love
and delight.

Elder Joseph Brackett penned these words to his famous Shaker dance song in 1848. They captured a way of life of a people who found joy in simplicity.

It has taken the near collapse of our economy to help us remember the truth of these words and to finally wake from a stupor in which we found ourselves addicted to consumption. Even most Christians (both good liberals and good conservatives) had subconsciously adopted a life mission captured by a single word: MORE (and its siblings “bigger,” “better,” and “cooler”).

My own persistent struggle with this was exemplified by my desire for the original iPhone. My old phone was nearing the end of its useful life, and I had been waiting anxiously for Apple’s new phone—it was smarter, better, and cooler than my old not-so-smart phone.

I went to the Apple Store on the day the new iPhone came out. I spent nearly an hour there trying to convince myself that Jesus needed me to buy an iPhone. With a battle raging in my heart and mind over whether I should plunk down $400 for this new phone, I walked to the counter. “Tell me once more about the iPhone’s features,” I begged. Finally I handed the clerk my credit card. And then it happened: My credit card was refused! This should have been impossible. I have great credit and the card is paid off monthly. Perhaps Jesus didn’t need me to have an iPhone after all! The clerk asked if I wanted to try another card. “No!” I replied and quickly left the store with a tremendous sense of relief.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2009
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What Sustains Me

Let Jesus Love You, by Tony Campolo

I try to start each day by setting aside about 20 minutes for centering prayer. I empty my mind of the 101 things that are apt to start spinning in my head the moment I wake up. Then, focusing on Jesus, I let him love me. I wait to feel myself enveloped by his presence. I silently yield to being saturated by his Spirit. In my morning prayers, I say nothing to God and I hear no words from God. But in these times of “waiting upon the Lord,” my spiritual strength is renewed.

Secondly, at the end of each day I practice the Ignatian prayer of examen. Lying in bed I reflect on all the good and God-honoring things that I did during the day and thank God for allowing me to be an instrument of love and peace. Following Philippians 4:8, I remember whatever I did that was true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Only then, after such affirmation, am I prepared to review the day a second time, recalling everything I said that was hurtful to others and fell short of God’s will. In accord with what I read in 1 John 1:9, I ask not only for God’s forgiveness, but also for God’s cleansing. I ask Christ to reach out from Calvary, across time and space, and absorb out of me the sin and darkness that accumulated within me during the day.

I believe that because the Holy Spirit is holy, the Holy Spirit is frustrated coming to dwell in dirty temples. Thus, Christ’s cleansing of my temple at the end of the day is a requisite for receiving the infilling of Christ’s Spirit during centering prayer the next morning. Without Christ’s Spirit in me, I lose heart and lack the energy to do justice and evangelism.

Tony Campolo, professor emeritus at Eastern University, is founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education.

Open Yourself to Community, by Soong-Chan Rah

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Sojourners Magazine July 2009
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Everything Old is New Again

I was raised Plymouth Brethren in the 1950s and 1960s, a group that has taken some pride in skipping over the centuries of church history between about 63 C.E. and about 1835, seeking to be “New Testament Christians” who are freed from “traditions of men,” whether they be Catholic men or Protestant men. (The gender-specific language was intentional and unambiguous.)

Not only that, but in the 1970s I had experienced a powerful conversion in my teenage years through the Jesus Movement. It was a movement known for being hip, not ancient; contemporary, not contemplative; and oriented around evangelistic practicalities, not spiritual practices. In the ’80s I was involved in the house-church movement. In the 1990s, it was the church-growth movement.

At each stage, we focused on how to “be” the church and “do” evangelism in the rough waters of late modernity and early post-modernity. We looked around and ahead, but not necessarily back. We were so busy trying to escape the tyranny of the recent past that we had little reason to explore the resources of the ancient past.

Beginning in the mid-90s, the modernist categories of my faith had deconstructed, and something new began to emerge. My dualisms began to fade away. I began integrating the polarities of liberal vs. conservative, pastoral vs. prophetic, contemplative vs. activist, and so on.

But to understand what was happening, I had to understand what had happened.

Dualism has had a long history in the Christian religion. It springs from the belief that ultimate reality exists in two incompatible airtight zones. The distinction begins with a dualism that pits matter against spirit or body versus soul. Eventually there are many dualisms: the contemplative versus the active, the individual versus the communal, the church versus world, the political versus the religious, and so on.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2009
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