Tuesday, January 3, 2012

CONTEMPLATING THE CROSS: A 40-Day Pilgrimage of Prayer by Tricia McCary Rhodes


As a Christian of 40+ years, the pilgrimages I have made with others using "Contemplating the Cross" is one of the major highlights of my life.

We live in the "information age." Much of this has crossed over to the Christian church with its obsession with acquiring endless exegesis of scripture, sermonizing, homeletics, etc. Steve Meeks in his book "Relational Christianity" states that contemporary Christianity is "data-based." We are soaked to the bone with biblical information, precept upon biblical precept, principle upon biblical principal, but somewhow we remained unchanged, unchallenged, and unrepentive.

"Contemplating the Cross" sets us on a different path. It jolts us out of our fascination with biblical information and plants our feet, and our hearts, on an interactive journey with Christ from Gethsemane to the Cross. We do not just "read" the story; we "enter" it. And while the disciples slept after Christ asked them to stay up with Him, and while they all fled, we can, in some small measure, rectify this by staying up with Him "one hour" and walking with Him to the Cross.

In "Contemplating the Cross" the prayer pilgrims are introduced to "sacred reading" or lectio divina. In this ancient prayer form, we are invited to cultivate an approach to scripture that doesn't seek to control the content in our typical abstract, linear fashion, but allow the sacred text to spill into our hearts as we learn to "be still and know God."

"Contemplating the Cross" also invites the participants to prayer-journal their responses. And when the little group of pilgrims meet on a weekly basis, their journal entries can be shared with the rest of the group. I say "can" because there is no compulsion. All such deep sharing is a free-will gift for the others, from the heart. But all such sharing brings insights too deep for words, tears of repentence and tears of gratitude. And the group experiences a deep, spiritual connectedness that has nothing to do with how many cars we have in the garage, how big our houses are, or what political party we belong to. In the shadow of His Cross, all of us are reduced to what we all hold in common: our need for grace.

What tends to come out of this 40-day pilgrimage is not only a renewed love of our wonderful Savior, but spiritual gifting as well, and the gift of prayer. Those who have never had a very deep prayer life all of a sudden discover that they can indeed pray, deeply and intimately, using a pin and their journals. And the gifts of prayer-writing that come out of this are awesome! (And it's not often thought about in this fashion, but the book of Psalms are really David's prayer journal).

I currently meet in a house church. This material lends itself beautifully regarding helping to cultivate "spiritual gifts" and "mutual participation" with "every member functioning" as described by Paul in I Corinthians 12 & 14. There is no one person "teaching" the material; the Holy Spirit truly becomes guide and teacher through each member.

"Contemplating the Cross" is designed to be read with the Lent season, with 40 days of prayer and contemplation leading to Easter. I hope you'll meet us at "the Cross".

"If we share in His sufferings, we shall certainly share in His Glory." Romans 8:17

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