I’m not quite suggesting that all Christians move into the wilderness and live in cells and never talk to anyone. I don’t even mean that people who are serious about Jesus should seclude themselves from the “impure” influences of “secular” society. What I do mean is that I get to know people by talking with them–the more often and the more in person (rather than calling or texting) the better.
How else can a person get to know God but by talking to him?
My friend, Andrew Petiprin, makes this argument in a recent blog post for The Living Church, ending with this convicting thought experiment:
When archeologists find the 1979 Prayer Book 1,000 years from now, they will have no choice but to assume that all Episcopalians (and their Anglican forebears before them) prayed in highly structured ways twice a day, participated in the Holy Eucharist at least once a week, and made certain promises about living in the world. It is not too late to prove these future archeologists right, and find ourselves made into strong disciples equipped with God’s solution for a world in need. Let us pray.
This is the project of Anglicanism: to so soak ourselves and our lives in prayer, that God draws so close to us, that we would no longer be “Episcopalians” or “Anglicans” but simply “Christians.” Anglicanism is the only denomination in existence in the world today that actively seeks its own demise–the point of the Anglican Communion is to be so close to God through prayer and so close to Christian brothers and sisters of any stripe (“denomination”) that we’re not identified by a denominational moniker, but only by our relationship to God made known in Jesus Christ.
I believe that the point of life is to know God. There are plenty of ways to know and experience and grow close to God, but some ways really are better than others (there are many ways for me to be in contact with my family in the Midwest, but some ways–visiting them in person–are objectively more powerful for the fostering of our relationship than others–like emailing or texting or even talking on the phone). The compiler of the Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer, thought so too, and that’s why he gathered up all the books that the best “professional” pray-ers were using (nuns, monks–those living in monasteries) and sewed together the best pieces he could find to make up a set of prayers for everyday use by everyday people.
There is much poverty in the world today, even on Columbia’s own Main Street, but we cannot fish specks out of hungry peoples’ eyes by tossing a few dollars into a cup or magnanimously giving away a sandwich if we forget the log in our own eyes, ignoring our professed commitment to daily prayer. A friend of mine always says, “the first job of a priest is to save her own soul.” Affix your own oxygen mask before helping others.