Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Week Six: December 28, 2015 - January 3, 2016 - Luke 2:36-52

Three years ago, I had an overwhelming experience of God's presence.  Standing in the nighttime air at the foot of what is left of Herod's Temple Mount in Jerusalem, I was overcome by the Spirit of God as I glared upward at the huge, ancient stones.  My mind was flooded with the thoughts of countless ancestors in faith who had encountered The Most High God in that place.  Priest, prophets, kings, and commoners had received grace and witnessed the glory of God for hundreds of years in the Temple at Jerusalem.  God dwelled with the people in the Holy of Holies within the Temple...set apart from them, yet with them.

My wife took this picture of the moment.  I'm in the center-left wearing the red/maroon shirt and khaki pants.

Yielding to God in prayer with my hand against the ancient stones, I sensed the presence of God with me in a profound way.  I poured out my heart to God in awe, in praise, and in humble recognition of God's grandeur and love.

Upon returning to the United States, I began realizing that God desires for me to experience His presence on a daily basis.  While the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is most assuredly "Holy Ground," the presence of God through the Holy Spirit makes every physical space "Holy Ground" and every moment an opportunity to experience the presence of God.

Our Scripture this week tells us of two people who walked closely with God.  First, we read about Anna, a prophetess, who spent her life worshiping God at the Temple.  For what must have been close to sixty years, "she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying." (Vs. 37) How incredible...her life was spent in worship, abiding in the presence of God.

Second, we read about Jesus, God in the flesh.  After accompanying His earthly parents to the Feast of the Passover at the age of twelve, He wanted to stay in the Temple even as His parents traveled back home.  His parents "found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." (Vs. 46) Jesus says to His alarmed parents, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Vs. 49)  The focus of Jesus' life was abiding with the Father.

I believe both Anna and Jesus teach us that a Jesus-shaped faith practices the presence of God.  Brother Lawrence, a lay member of a Carmelite Monastery in Paris during the seventeenth century, understood that a person can find the holy presence of God within the ordinary routine of life.  Brother Lawrence, whose daily tasks were to cook in the monastery kitchen, learned to do everything with a constant current of love toward God who is always present.  He said, "As often as I could, I placed myself as a worshiper before him, fixing my mind upon his holy presence, recalling it when I found it wandering from him. This proved to be an exercise frequently painful, yet I persisted through all difficulties."*

Anna, Jesus, and Brother Lawrence have much to add to our walk with God.
-What can Anna's fasting and praying night and day teach us about worship and devotion?
-What can Jesus' thirst to remain in the Temple teach us about our own desire for God?
-What can Brother Lawrence's practice of the presence of God teach us about conversing with God on a regular basis and doing everything in life with love toward God?

May the reading of this week's Scripture draw us closer to God and fuel our own life of prayer and worship.

*Brother Lawrence - The Practice of the Presence of God

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