One of the great benefits of being released to pastoral ministry is the freedom to take time in the day to getaway and hear from God. What’s sad is how relatively infrequently I take advantage of it.
I carved a few hours out of my schedule and drove to the Mt. Angel Abbey Monday, past Woodburn on the way to Silverton. It’s about a 45 minute drive, and to be honest, the drive was a big part of the goal. When I was in college, I had an internship in Woodburn, and the drive through the farm fields in northern Marion County was often a significant God experience for me. So now, simply driving those roads through the fields is nostalgic and a starting place for hearing God.
Mt. Angel is a hugely Catholic town, with a very large and beautiful cathedral (all right, it’s not a European kind of cathedral, but somehow calling it a large and beautiful church just doesn’t do it justice). It’s at the bottom of a little hill, a hill that at the top houses a seminary, an abbey, a library, and a retreat center. Beautiful, old growth fir trees line the road that snakes up the hill, and on your right, you can see a walking path with little tiny shelters alongside. I’ve walked that path before, and experienced worship by walking the stations of the cross. It was very much a joining of body, soul, and mind. Walking up a fairly steep path as you walk the stations of the cross enables your body, in just a little way, to feel the increasing pain and stress Jesus felt going to the cross.
I’m a convinced Friend, very much at home with Quaker theology. But physicality, integration of our bodies and our spirits, is something perhaps we miss out on. Walking the stations of the cross was an experiment in worship, a new experience that was moving. Monday, I experimented again. I had a loaf of sourdough bread in the car, and as I was praying before I went into the library, inviting God to continue to speak to me, I grabbed a piece of the bread and rehearsed in my head that Jesus is the bread of life. I told him he was my sustenance, the one true thing that gave me strength. I told him I ate this piece of bread in remembrance of him. And then, I continued in communion with him as I thought, journalled, and prayed.
I don’t want to push for physical communion with the elements at all, because I believe and know the power of striving for communion with God at all times. But I also don’t want us to be afraid of physical expressions of our spirituality, because God made us as whole people.
It was a good day!