By Mick Francis
Several years ago, in a sermon given in this church, I listened to the preacher of the day speak of a man who stopped going to church. A friend asked him why. The man replied :I just don't believe in God anymore.” The friend replied, “That's OK, because God still believes in you.” I have thought of those words many times since I first heard them. Since that day, we have had a shift in our congregation. Some people have left, others have joined. I have heard some people say that they don't find St. Paul's to be a very spiritual place. They don't feel that God is present in our church.
I think many people today are dissatisfied with their church because they come to that church to find God. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but let me suggest that if you come to church looking for God, you will be disappointed. It's not that God can't be found in church. Of course God is found here. The problem with coming to church looking for God is that God wanted a drive. We left home without God. It's as simple as that. We come to church looking for an encounter with the divine, a conversation with the Lord, an hour (or more) with Jesus. Why do we believe that we have to come to church to have that experience? Do such encounters only happen withing the confines of the public worship space?
If you do some reading on Celtic spirituality, you will learn a four letter word. The word is PRAY, and what it suggests is a concept that is likely not all that common to most of us, except in church. The Celts had a wonderful sense of God as being found in everything and everywhere. In everything they did, the Celts saw an opportunity to pray to God, to talk with the Spirit. God was everywhere. They never had to look for God. God was acclaimed in and through their daily work. There is a Celtic prayer that was used at the lighting of the kitchen fire each morning. “I will kindle my fire this morning in the presence of the holy angels of heaven.” From the lighting of the fire in the morning to the banking down of the fire at night, the Celts spent their entire day with God, talking and listening. Prayer was not complicated, it was common. It was not strategic, it was simple. It was not what you did, it was how you lived. They didn't have to go to church looking to find God. They took God to church in their hearts without even having to think about it. How much better our lives would be if we were always able to do the same...