Yielding To Christianity

Patricia Hofer


Continuum of consciousness explored in Living Strong.

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Christianity–more than just a group activity.

Have you ever wondered why being a Christian is more than just a group activity?
On my walks in winter mornings, I’ve often watched a gaggle of geese, maybe 15-20, circling in their daily “fly about” around their warm and sunny “resort,” a nearby lake at Green Valley Park. Today I heard a single goose crying off in the distance, separated from the normal noisy camaraderie of the group. This bird was desperately struggling to avoid being left behind. What frantic cries, what an effort on its part! But it did finally catch up with the others and pulled into line third from the end.
As Christians we feel, at times, not unlike that lone goose. When we are falling behind in life’s “formation,” our fellow church members make a place for us and offer reassurance. That’s why working and praying with others in Christian fellowship is essential. As Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (NRSV Matt. 18:20).
But that doesn’t mean that such a group dynamic is all that there is to Christianity. Which leads me to ask you, what would you do if you were the only Christian in your town? What would you do if you were the only Christian in the world? How much faith would you have? How alone would you feel?
That aloneness is going to happen to each of us. As we die, as we begin to find out what the next life is like, we are going to be moving off into uncharted territory by ourselves. Congregations can’t help us. Friends and family can’t help us. But the Lord will be there, his spirit ever-present, supporting our spirit.
And so, as Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Carmelite monk, discovered, Christianity is a great deal more than a group activity. In essence, it’s a one to one conversation with the Lord. And so Brother Lawrence tells us: “Lift up your heart to Him, sometimes even at your meals, and when you are in company; the least little remembrance will always be acceptable to Him. You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.” (The Practice of the Presence of God, Letters 46)

“Lift up your eyes”–look with your mind’s eye.

Why do we look up when we pray? It could be because the sky or the heavens have always hinted at something that is greater than we are. Or, looking up may be our way of turning away from what is troubling us, up and away from the natural life’s pain and burden.
In one of his last sermons, Jesus “lifted up his eyes to heaven” as he prayed (KJV John 17:1). He was talking directly to God, asking the Father to look after his disciples and all who would follow. He wanted them to “be one” with the Father and with himself (21). And at another time, when Jesus was raising Lazarus, our Lord “lifted up his eyes” to his Father as well (KJV John 11:41).
But I think the most interesting encounter with this image of lifted eyes was a rather abstract comment Jesus made to his disciples after his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. The disciples were being literal, not understanding at all how Jesus could have “meat to eat” if no one had brought him food. When he responded to their concern with “I have meat to eat you know not of” (KJV John 4:32), he was using a metaphor, as he often did. He was saying that he was being sustained by something other than food.
And then he added an even more challenging abstraction, telling his disciples: “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (35). Jesus was challenging them to look through their mind’s eye, where the fruits of their labor and the spiritual harvest were always visible.
This ability to visualize, to “see” things with the mind, is unique to human consciousness, to the consciousness that God breathed into us with “his breath of life.” And so, lifting up our eyes means consciously turning away from what the world is showing us. When we do that, as Jesus assures us, we’ll see that the thing we most need is already here.

Day-by-Day Series

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