This past week I was privileged to spend some time in silent prayer retreat at Stillpoint House of Prayer, in Burnstown.
If you’re ever looking for a safe, supportive Christian place to get away – for an afternoon, overnight, or more; with or without spiritual direction; in a setting of peace and quiet – S.H.O.P. is it. Check it out at www.stillpoint.ca
Aside from being right on the banks of the beautiful Madawaska River, one of the real benefits of this rural location, down in a valley is…….
NO cell phone coverage
NO internet access
So, given that there is a SILENCE rule enforced in the house, the only one you can make contact with, at all, is
And, judging from the sharing that goes on at chapel time (yes, we’re allowed to talk then – even encouraged) most people do. The Lord, in his gracious mercy, truly responds to the promise given through the prophet:
“When you seek me, you will find me, when you search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
When believers retreat in order to meet the Lord in still and quiet they are following a deep biblical pattern, one that Jesus himself practiced. As I read through the gospels this past week at S.H.O.P, two things struck me:
a. How incredibly demanding Christ’s ministry was. Scarcely a moment to himself. Certainly no summer frolicking at the cottage! Those in need were forever seeking him out and banging on his door. And he ALWAYS responded when they came!
b. How, in the midst of all that frenetic activity, Jesus carved out intentional time to pray – alone. Even before the most difficult part of his assignment on earth, he took time aside in Gethsemane to pray – alone. If he found it necessary and helpful, why should it be any less so for us, his apprentices?
All that said, though, I firmly believe that private retreat is NOT meant to be the sole way for encountering the power and presence of God. Actually, neither do the people at Stillpoint – they’ve also built evening group chapel into the daily rhythm. And neither does James Smith, philosphy prof at Calvin College. In his book, “Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation” he reaches to the Internet world and pulls out the image of WiFi “hotspots.” You know – the little sign at the coffee shop that says, “WiFi here” and allows you to pull in an internet signal and bang away on your laptop while sipping their latte’s and eating their oh-so-decadent oatmeal raisin cookie the size of a frizbee. Go to the next store, and you lose the signal. Got to be in the right location to get connected to the Web.
Smith suggests that while we all as good Reformed folk profess that our Triune God extends his presence to every square inch of Creation, there are places and times when we can “connect” with more intensity to God than others. They are, we could say, spiritual “hot spots.”
He’s following the lead of our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters, who have maintained this for years.
And they get it from hints in Scripture. Like the Psalmist, who finds the glory and beauty of the Lord in mind-blowing ways when he steps into the sanctuary of the Temple (eg Psalm 27). It seems to be a physical “hot spot” – sacred space.
Or the words of Jesus in Matthew 18. After pounding away at the disciples’ stubborn independent and selfish streaks, with teachings on the importance of protecting and including the little ones in the faith community, of seeking the one who wanders, and the importance of restoring the sinner to the fold – after all that Jesus says, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Remember, he’s speaking to a crowd that was raised on the Scribal teaching that it took 10 circumcised Jewish men to be gathered in one community before a Synagogue could be established and God could be worshipped there.
Jesus takes the synagogue rule and changes it. It doesn’t matter who is in the group, or what the number count is. That people come together in unity and community – wherever that happens in the name of Jesus, His Presence will be there, through the Spirit. That’s his holy, sure and special promise. And THAT, we could venture, makes such gatherings spiritual “hot spots.” Where the power and presence of the Lord is experienced in greater intensity than otherwise might be the case in day-to-day living.
Could that be why one of Satan’s biggest tools is to try and bring division within the Body of Christ? It diminishes the power of such “hot spots” and heightens his devilish chances of “success.”
By the way – I think the odds for the devil’s success are pretty good in North America right now, given how incredibly independently-minded most of us are. Less groups gathering = less spiritual “hot spots” = easier for his evil to spread.
Spiritual hotspots – when believers gather at sanctified times and places in the name of Jesus. Which includes the gatherings for worship. The unknown author of Hebrews pushes the same button in 10:25 — “Don’t neglect getting together!!” he says. IGNATIUS wrote, “When you frequently, and in numbers meet together, the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief is neutralized by your likemindedness in the faith.” (reflecting on Hebrews 10:25)
Whatever you think of the writings of such “old, dead guys” (as one person put it to me recently), I think he may be on to something.
All across the city, spiritual hot spots will come alive as believers gather in worship.
Will you be there?
What do you think?