Unum Necessarium

Unum Necessarium

25 July 2014

"One thing is needful." (Lk 10.42)


I am no longer an "itinerant preacher". At the beginning of 1993 the Teaching and Ruling Elders of St. Columba's Presbyterian Church in Auckland (where I had been a pastor for the preceding 6 years) laid hands on me and "despatched" me out and into that ministry. And so for the next 21 years I traversed and criss-crossed New Zealand and its Body of Christ, with occasional "sorties" away to Australia, the USA, England, Germany and Israel. I am especially grateful to God that (during the 90s) I was graced to share in a national revival and fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit here. Sadly, I also had to witness its suppression and "death" at the hands of Church leaders who proved to be incapable of cherishing and serving something they could not "own", dominate and control.


These days I am just some old bloke who lives in a very, very small prayer house. Its name, when translated from an original tongue, means "hole in the ground". I am "buried" in this place because I'm trying to live out my own message proposed in the book (and e-book "The Tribulation Church". It is a devout and solemn call for the Church to become "the house of prayer" evoked by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 21.13. I am also at one and the same time in the process of returning forwards to my contemplative roots. My own spiritual foundations were laid down in 1972-73 in the novitiate of an enclosed Trappist monastery. There I became a 'child" of a community of seasoned, scholar-farmers who "lived to pray". That unconventional apprenticeship went on for another 40 years, and in the past year I feel that I may possibly have begun to begin to "live to pray".


Three times a day, seven days a week, I "sing" the Psalms, read the Scriptures, and make intercession for others - known and unknown. By so going I am consciously, increasingly immersing myself in the contemplative-prophetic continuum and "river" which was released at The Cross and will be consummated by the Parousia. It is a mystery which a pray-er "moves closer to...plunges into and lets close over him". ("Poverty of Spirit" Johannes B. Metz)


Some days these very elementary activities are a struggle. My praying is usually average, ordinary and mediocre. It is always modest and simple; unexceptional and uncluttered. It involves praying "at the meeting place of two infinities," according to an anonymous Carthusian hermit. My "own infinite need for mercy, and the infinite mercy of God." That is the place, according to the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, where we might be graced from time-to-time to "exult in the union of our voice and the Holy Ghost's voice." It is the place where "the poor in spirit" (Mt 5.3) are to be found. Such "poor" ones' prayers are not our own; we find nothing to be proud of or pleased with ourselves about. But our emaciated pleadings and stunted praises are overwhelmed and subsumed into "the might of a prayer stronger than thunder and milder than the flight of doves," according to Thomas Merton. It rises up "from the Priest who is the centre of the soul of every priest, shaking the foundations of the universe and lifting up continents, and worlds to God, and plunging everything into Him."


I do not know very much about prayer at all. And that's just fine, because I'm not called to be knowledgeable, but if it be possible "prayerful"! For someone called to "live to pray" and "pray to live", it is being burned into the marrow of our bones that without exception beseeching eclipses preaching, pleading prefaces leading, and intercession is the parent of confession.


All I can say at the moment (that I do know) is that I am thankful. Thankful to have stumbled upon and fallen into that "one thing". Not a ministry, but a life. And a life I can now live uninterrupted until the end. One hope I do have for the future is that this "seed" will be enabled to "die" gracefully, and then perhaps spring up into some un-named, scrubby, scrawny bush, which might produce a few more seeds, and where this or that one may find a temporary perch or a little shelter?


"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (Jn 12.24)