The First Commandment
We love, because God first loved us (1 John 4:19)
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’ ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Mark 12:28–34 (NIVUK)
Every Christian knows about the first and “most important” commandment. Yet in my experience nobody ever talks about it. Perhaps this is because we all instinctively know and share the unspoken but common dilemma: how does anybody love a God you cannot see, touch or have a conversation with, in the sense we take for granted with a fellow human being? We feel easier with what Jesus says next: “Love your neighbour as yourself”. We may well reassure ourselves that if we love our neighbour, then in this way we are expressing our love for God. That is not wrong, but it is only part of the story.
The great dilemma is, who (or even what?) are we loving when we talk about loving God (or for that matter fearing God)?1. Many people today do not even believe that God exists, never mind believe in God as a real person to be devoted to … in love. So it takes any one of us a big step of faith to believe in God in the first place. The next huge question is what kind of God do we believe in? No thinking person is going to be satisfied with worshipping some stereotypical sugar-daddy in the sky, or some capricious, vindictive, hell-fire threatening monster either. There are of course a great many people of many religions and cults who will be very keen to tell us what kind of God we should believe in.
Christians point to the Bible and say that we believe in the God of the Holy Bible. That is a good start, but that approach also raises a huge number of questions, since Christians are not all necessarily in agreement about what kind of God we are reading about in the Bible. And another thing, many Christians would say that the Bible is the Word of God, whereas other Christians would say that Jesus Christ is the Word of God (see John chapter 1) and that the Bible points us to Jesus as ‘the living Word’—someone we can relate to.
Moreover, we all read the Bible in ways that are inevitably coloured by our own understanding and experience of life. For instance the person who is brought up by a caring, loving, nurturing father is likely to respond well to Jesus teaching us the Lord’s Prayer beginning, “Our Father … ” Whereas the person who was ignored, abused, shamed or otherwise ill-treated by their father is going to have a very hard time with that concept of God. The person who has had good experiences of authority figures may find it easy to trust sources of authority, whereas people who have suffered great injustices at the hands of those in authority are going to feel extremely suspicious of a sovereign God who has ultimate authority.
There has never been a greater wealth and availability of books, and literature on the internet, offering expository teaching about the nature of the God of the Bible. But whose interpretations are we to believe? The Bible is a good place to begin, to be sure. It gives us a huge collection of stories of people who have sought God and who tell their stories through many generations. There is invaluable wisdom there; much we can usefully learn to inform our spiritual journey. But there is no avoiding personal responsibility for our journey.
Jesus is a man renowned the world over to have lived a life of goodness and the utmost personal integrity; a fact believed by all but the most cynical of people. As a keen student of scripture, he also had an intimate knowledge of God as Father through prayer, walking with God daily. Jesus promised to give his Spirit to all who follow him. In my experience, the Spirit of Christ is our best personal guide today (in tandem with the Bible). However, each person has to find their own way; there is no such thing as second-hand faith.
So where do any of us begin? I can offer a suggestion here: we need look no further than the very first chapter in the Bible to discover a hugely important foundational revelation:
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Genesis 1:27 (NIVUK)
Maybe at the same time consider Paul’s words to the church in Rome (Romans 1:20):
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made … ”
If these statements are genuine revelation about God, then we have a couple of significant clues to begin our spiritual journey. So to grow in knowledge of the God in whose image we are created, and in whose world we live, let us begin by thinking about the way in which God has made us: What kind of a person am I? What kind of people are around me? What kind of world/universe do we live in? Surrounded as we are, everywhere, with evidence of creativity based on human endeavour, it would be very hard to imagine that such an awe-inspiring world and universe could exist without having an infinitely more amazing creator behind it all. If so, what ‘invisible qualities’ of God do we see and understand from this amazing world? If we consider these things with innocent eyes like a child who is keen to learn (certainly not the jaded views of a cynical adult), we will soon find ourselves in awe, as we contemplate the greatness of creation and our place in it.
“What is man, that you are mindful of him?” Psalm 8:4 (NKJB)
Forty+ years since making a commitment to following Christ, I am convinced more than ever that coming to know the true and living God is the pathway to knowing who we truly are; who we are as authentic human beings, and what the purpose of this life is all about. And increasingly I have discovered this life to be a pilgrimage—with a wonderful friend, unseen with the human eye but perceived at the deepest level in our spirit, bringing guidance, peace and fruitfulness in our life. This is easier for Christians—who are able to envisage that journey as being IN Jesus Christ, in whom we discover God’s utterly amazing love for us; and in all creation, over which God is absolutely sovereign. The spiritual journey of a Christian leads us to discover that our creator God’s love is something so amazing that death need no longer hold any fears for us; rather death is something we can embrace, when our time comes, as a gateway to eternal life with God, a gateway we reach when we have learned the lessons we were given this life to learn. Some of us are given more time than others; some almost none (when you think of the children who never make it to adulthood). None of us know how long we’ll have.
Integrity is everything
Of course living with integrity is the hallmark of an authentic spiritual life and is absolutely essential if we are to begin grasping what Jesus meant by the most important commandment. Knowing God and knowing ourselves go together, enabling us to become authentic human beings. As Carl Jung the Swiss psychiatrist once observed, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
Many nurses working in palliative care to help make people as comfortable as possible in the last hours of their life, have consistently noticed that the one greatest regret people have on their deathbed is that they were not true to themselves during their lives. So often they hear patients say, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Another common regret is that they did not give more time to friends and family; all too often work or other pursuits took higher priority.
Why is it so hard to be true to oneself?
Why is it so hard to give priority to loving those who are close to us?
The inescapable truth is that we are who we are when nobody is looking. Or in H. Jackson Brown’s words: “Our character is what we do when we think nobody is looking.”
Maybe we believe too much in the images that we or others have projected? Maybe we work harder on our external image because of social incentives or pressures to conform? Sadly, a religious environment which should free us from such pressure, is often the most guilty of creating it. Whatever the reasons, none of us can live with integrity unless we can be honest about ourselves and who we are. As Polonius observed in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act 1 Scene 3):
“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
How then are we to get to know our true selves unless we get to know God?
How do we get to know God?
One of the great things about evangelical Christianity is the emphasis on developing a personal relationship with God, and studying the scriptures to understand the reasons for the faith that grows within us. Some of us began our Christian life believing on the basis of objective propositions presented by pastors, bible teachers, church leaders and others whose faith has impressed us. It is essential for us to have an understanding, indeed some real clarity, as to what we believe. But the faith that truly sustains us in the toughest times, the faith that enables us to grow, has to come from a profoundly personal encounter with God at a depth that words cannot describe, from where we experience a sense of guidance and destiny. This emerges from the depths of our soul that our minds cannot always access. Every major character in the Bible reveals this. For this reason I believe that a contemplative prayer life has to become an essential part of our pilgrimage. Jesus often took time out to be alone in prayer (see Mark 1:35), and so do the best teachers and spiritual guides in our world today.
A great trap of evangelical Christianity, however, is to allow ourselves to be seduced into the delusion that a cerebral understanding of right doctrine is not only where faith begins, but where it ends too, as if all we need to do is to have proper understanding of ‘right doctrine’ discoverable by studying the Bible. But unless this is grounded in a life of prayer, in practice this approach so easily leads to a life of hypocrisy and falsehood. Such temptation is nothing new of course. Jesus made it clear in his ministry that the pursuit of knowledge of the law without knowledge of the God who gave the law is the greatest deceit, the greatest darkness of all. The whole of Matthew chapter 23 (all 39 verses) is devoted to Jesus’ dire warnings against hypocrisy. No other sin mentioned in the New Testament has an entire chapter devoted to a single long discourse on the subject and in such startling terms. By way of example, here are a couple of solemn warnings:
‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
Matthew 23:13–15 (NIVUK)
Tragic though it is, it cannot be surprising that the credibility of so much contemporary Christian teaching comes unstuck when presented with an issue like homosexuality. The bankruptcy of our human ability to understand the deeper spiritual life has never become more plain than in recent years since the church has attempted to grapple with this issue. A simplistic approach to interpreting this subject creates major stumbling blocks again and again, presenting obstacles so high that it is impossible to climb over them.
Here’s a thought for meditation that might give us a clue to resolution: in his resurrection life, Jesus had the ability to walk through walls (Luke 24)! And even before his death and resurrection, he could walk on water (Mark 6:49)! This is impossible for us, we would say! Really? Well if we are going to follow Jesus, we are going to have to learn to walk on water.
The way to walk on water or pass through walls begins with setting out to obey the greatest commandment—to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. So let us begin to open our hearts and minds; let us draw close to God and begin to learn how living out this commandment will change our perspective on everything in life. For some of us, maybe we need to allow our frustration over the challenge of homosexuality to motivate us—to seek God anew; because this command transcends all others in priority. It is the very summation of all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:40).
We love because God first loved us
As the foundation to all we are going to be looking at here, let us keep in mind the revelation of John who teaches us:
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:16–18 (NIVUK)
Also, as Paul writes to the Ephesians (Ephesians 17a–18):
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”
In scripture, God is defined as love; God is defined as good; God is defined as faithful.
To be sure, there are also many times when God is described as angry. But this is always in the context of God’s response to human wickedness. God is never defined by anger any more than we are; this is a description of God’s response to an evil situation. But God is defined as love, goodness and faithfulness eternally: and we are learning to be the same. None of us will ever seek God under threat, but nor do we need to: as the arms of Jesus were stretched out on the Cross, his willingness to embrace even his worst enemies was evident as he prayed for them … “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 22:34). God never had a ‘hidden agenda’ from those who seek him. In Jesus, God made himself totally vulnerable, even to the worst of suffering and death, at our hands.
Let us therefore begin to consider what the scriptures have to say about our heart, soul, mind and strength, and how we might understand these things on our journey …
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Goodness, truthfulness, loving kindness, wisdom, honesty, peace, patience, etc., come from the heart. So also does bitterness, cynicism, gossip, lies, false witness, anger, hatred, murderous intent, pride, arrogance, selfish ambition, judgmentalism, and hidden agendas. These toxic sins have a way of wrecking our own lives, our communities and our churches. Let us therefore guard our hearts diligently, and when we become discouraged as we come to realise how hard, self-centred, proud and ego-driven our heart is, let us also remember that God in his mercy has covenanted to give us a new heart.
The basis of “the new covenant” is that God will give us a new heart … It does not take all that long to discover how greatly we are in need of it. Fortunately there are many scriptures where God’s promise is spoken of:
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Ezekiel 36:26–27 (See also Ezekiel 11:19–20)
‘This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, “Know the Lord, ”because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’
Jeremiah 31:33–34 (and Hebrews 8:10–12)
The promises of God to give us a new heart may be fulfilled in one of two ways; either we resist God and discover him through the suffering that results; or we can seek God and receive his promise through meditating on and giving thanks for his love. Tragically most of us, perhaps inadvertently, choose the way of great suffering.
Verse for contemplation:
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
A good starting point in this part of our meditation might be to consider the opening words of the 23rd Psalm:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Recognising the Lord as the good shepherd is a great help to meditating on God’s ways. And Jesus—the good shepherd—comforts us with the words:
‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: “They will all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.’
This principle is confirmed again and again in the Bible—which is why the revelation of scripture is so fundamental to the Jewish and Christian faiths.
Once we begin to draw on such revelation, we find that we become more open to a personal encounter with the living God, through Christ who reveals him. And lest we fear we can never believe anything with any confidence, because we were not present with Jesus when he taught his disciples, Jesus reassures us with this promise of the Holy Spirit to teach us:
‘All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’
We still have choices—to resist, ignore or embrace such revelation. To know God will mean resisting our false self; it means sacrificing the cherished images of ourselves that we have projected to those around us. We must stop listening to the critical, judgmental voices that demand we conform to social—even ‘church’—norms, to avoid becoming too discouraged. If we choose to continue in the ways of the world, God’s love will eventually draw us back; but resisting the Holy Spirit’s call makes life a lot harder in the long run, both for ourselves and everyone around us. The only voice worth listening to is the inner voice of love.
“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.”
When we talk about our soul, there is of course a big overlap with our heart. It is hard to define, but we are moving towards a deeper level here: encountering the spiritual immortal part of our being that transcends this life. This is the part of our being where hope resides, a hope that can never be extinguished (see Romans 8:38,39). Yet Job, in the most well known part of his story, speaks of anguish of soul; the bitterness of soul. This is part of the normal spiritual journey. By contrast, some of the Psalms are full of adoration, such as:
“Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege.”
Verse for contemplation:
“My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.”
Just recently, I was talking to a woman whose husband is tragically suffering from dementia; she explained that in day by day living (unseen by visitors) the signs of his dementia were gradually becoming more obvious and distressing. Yet she shared with me that when, in a prayer meeting, someone asked him to pray, the most extraordinary and wonderful thing happened; it was as if a different part of his brain came into play, a part that remained unaffected by the dementia. Instinctively using this part of his mind, he prayed wonderfully and eloquently from the depths of his soul, speaking as if from a totally sound mind. Whilst his mind and body are in decay, his spirit remains whole.
This true gentleman has spent his lifetime serving and worshipping God and the fruit is still evident. For many of us there is still much work to do, however.
In the introduction to his book Peace of Mind in Daily Life, Remez Sasson writes,
“The natural tendency of the mind is to be restless and constantly thinking.
“The restless mind jumps from one thought to another, allowing thoughts to come and go incessantly, from morning till night, giving us no rest for a moment. Most of these thoughts are not exactly invited; they just come, occupy our attention for a while, and then disappear, making place for others.
“Thoughts are the like clouds drifting through the sky. Like the clouds, they are not permanent. Due to their incessant movement, they distract our attention and disturb our focus.
“Thoughts also resemble the waves of the ocean, which are always in a state of motion, never standing still. The mind always thinks and analyses whatever it contacts. It likes to compare, to reason, and to ask questions, and to constantly indulge in such activities …
“This activity of the restless mind occupies our attention all the time. Now our attention is on this thought, and then on another one. We spend a lot of energy and attention on these passing thoughts, most of them being unimportant, wasting our time and energy.
“This is lack of freedom. It is as if some outside power is always putting a thought in front of us, making us pay attention to it.
“It is like a relentless boss constantly giving us a job to do.
“This shows lack of inner freedom. We enjoy real freedom only when we are able to choose our thoughts or still our mind. There is freedom, when we are able to decide which thoughts to think, and which ones to reject. We live in freedom, when we are able to stop the incessant flow of thoughts.
“Stopping the flow of thoughts might look like an unfeasible feat, but concentration exercises and meditation, can eventually lead to … freedom.”
So what occupies our minds day by day?
Many of us find that our thoughts often get bogged down with a load of trivia. We so easily imbibe vacuous ideas, sensational stories without solid foundation, gossip, slander, and especially all kinds of negativity. The news media bombards us with endless speculation if we listen to it. How much better life is, when our minds become quiet in the presence of God.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Verse for contemplation:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
The secret of Samson’s great physical strength was that he had been set apart for God, from the time he was in his mother’s womb. The sign that he accepted this dedication was that he did not cut his hair. This vocation clearly made a profound impression on Samson who, as it turned out, developed a legendary superhuman strength (forfeited when he unwisely betrayed his secret). This was a God-given strength, and the means by which he benefited was by trusting in God to whom he had been set apart. His empowerment, therefore, came from God not his own efforts (i.e. not reliant on being a fitness fanatic at the local gym!). (Hebrews 11:32–34)
It also needs as to be added here that whilst we might greatly admire Samson’s faith in God and strong sense of calling as an example to be followed, his savagely violent lifestyle is most definitely not! (See Judges chapters 13–16.)
If the greatest commandment has been presented to us as a demand from a terrible God-who-must-be-obeyed who threatens hell-fire and damnation on all who don’t obey, it is little wonder that we’ve ignored it, hoping perhaps that God will go away and leave us alone! If we see this command as an invitation from the most wonderful loving creator God who is revealing the way to a truly fulfilling, fruitful life, we would begin to focus on it more.
We would then realise that our growth and strength is based on two essential foundations:
- The knowledge that we are profoundly loved by God; that our sense of security and true value lies in that fact that God loves us as we are, and frees us to be ourselves in an authentic way.
- The hallmark of Jesus’ ministry in a world full of suffering was to restore, to everyone who came to him, a profound sense of dignity and self-respect. In following the second commandment, we will do the same.
In contemplative prayer we come to see that whilst we are loved by God, we are not really special—at least no more than any person created in the image of God. Because everybody is loved by God, everyone has their own unique place in the scheme of things and can therefore stand in a place of profound self-respect.
This may seem very hard to apprehend for those who have been abused, exploited, betrayed, shamed, ridiculed by others. In pastoral care work, it can be tempting to try and make a hurt person feel they are special. But this is short-sighted; if we were to achieve our aim, the person would still feel isolated, separated out from all those ‘ordinary’ other people who are, for some reason, less special. They may then ‘justify’ the habit of holding onto bitterness and unforgiveness towards their abusers; but to do this means they end up becoming like them. We all become what we judge and despise, what we cannot forgive.
Realising we have our own unique place in God’s world gives us confidence to be who we are and do what we are given to do. We discover best who we are and what we are called to do by spending time in quiet with God, in the place where we can allow God to speak to our hearts (rather than chatter away telling God what he already knows). When praying for others, if I don’t quite know how to pray—for someone sick or in dire circumstances—I say, “Lord, I am feeling deeply concerned for this person; what do you think I should pray?” Prayer then becomes more about listening than speaking.
As we come to a deeper understanding of what it means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength we become authentic as people. It matters not what our situation in life is, whether we are male or female, black or white, rich or poor, privileged or humble in our origins, gay or straight … All that matters is knowing God as our sovereign creator who gave us life. Indeed, every breath we breathe—from the moment of our birth to the last moment of our life—is a sign of God indwelling us and giving us life.
Verse for contemplation:
“… those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
True and false prophets
‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
During my lifetime I have seen so many issues divide Christians, split churches and undermine the proclamation of the gospel: divorce and remarriage, the validity (or otherwise) of the charismatic movement, infant or believer’s baptism, women in leadership, gay priests, gay relationships, the list seems endless. Such debates are nothing new; arguments and schisms have occurred in every generation. But none of those ‘issues’ would ever become so divisive if we observed the Bible’s teaching about the most important commandment. In turn it would follow that we would fully embrace the second—to love our neighbour as ourselves. In reality however, when we think about the second commandment, more often than not (a bit like a pre-nuptial agreement) we have taken the liberty of inserting a pre-love-your-neighbour clause that requires doctrinal agreement as a prerequisite that qualifies our neighbour to be loved (or not). All these agendas are actually about promoting man’s ego and vanity; anyone can see that this is not true worship at all. Worse than that, in practice our own agendas constantly nullify God’s express command to love and to “… do to others what you would have them do to you … ” (Matthew 7:12).
There’s a famous parable in Matthew 22 when Jesus tells the story of a king inviting many guests to a wedding banquet for his son. The invited guests all refused to come for one reason or another; so the king sent his servants out again to gather anybody they could find to come. And verse 10 notes that the wedding hall was filled with guests—good and bad. It is God’s place to judge, not ours. The principal task we are given is to love—as we are loved.
I am often asked what I believe needs to be done about the schism in the churches over homosexuality? This is because my pastoral ministry over the past 30 years has involved working with gay Christian people (and those affected by gay issues). The endless arguments and debates amongst Christians are wearisome. We are better at building walls than passing through them. But I hope that after reading this message it will have become plain that schism occurs because of the spiritual bankruptcy of so many of us who, contrary to Jesus’ unambiguous command not to judge, nevertheless judge and condemn others anyway. All that we achieve by doing things in our own way is to deceive ourselves into a false sense of importance in our own eyes and betray the Saviour we claim to worship. Whereas the way of humility that Jesus modelled would prevent us from ever making such foolish, shallow, ungodly judgments.
We really need to learn to ‘number our days’ (Psalm 90:12) because our lives on this earth are quite short. Do we really want to spend our lives in worthless activity that in the end harms ourselves as much as those we disagree with? Or will we allow the spirit of Christ to take us on a deeper spiritual journey, which will leave a legacy of good things for those we leave behind, as well as storing up treasure for ourselves in heaven?
Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength will mean cutting out all the dross.
This way, we find ourselves in possession of the key to walking on water and passing through walls!
Jeremy Marks, Post-Courage
Notes written for a talk on 25 October 2015
Updated as an article 28 February 2016
Passages for contemplation:
Mark 10:18 God is good
1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful
Psalm 145:13 God is trustworthy
For anyone wishing to take up the practice of contemplative prayer, I can highly recommend Richard Rohr's daily meditations available free of charge:
2016 Daily Meditation Theme
Richard Rohr’s meditations this year invite us to discover, experience, and participate in the foundation of our existence—Love. Throughout the year, Fr. Richard’s meditations follow the thread of Love through many of his classic teachings in 1–2 week segments. Read previous meditations and view a video introduction at http://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/.
"Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Hebrews 11:6 (NIVUK)