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Tuesday, 15 January 2008 22:26

Chuck Smith Jr. Back In The Pulpit

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by Jackie Alnor

Chuck Smith Jr. is back to his pulpit at Capo Beach Calvary Chapel after taking a sabbatical that included a month-long stay last October in a Catholic monastery in Big Sur. He told his congregation of his experience there and brought back the "truths" he discovered under the tutelage of a monk named Romuald - so named after the medieval founder of the hermitage called Camaldolese. Below is a major portion of that message.

Please pray for Chuck Jr. - he seems rather irrational. And pray for Chuck Sr. who must be hurting very badly for his son's spiritual and mental condition. Pray that Chuck Sr. would do the right thing and separate his ministry from that of his sons. To this day - even after a recent redesign of Calvary Chapel's main web site - Chuck Jr. is still on the page that links to other Calvary Chapels. Pastor Chuck has to know that his son is a spiritual threat to his hearers but he might think he's protecting his son's feelings by continuing to link to him and allow him to keep the Calvary Chapel name. However, this is no favor to those who are being led astray by Chuck's Jr.'s decline into Catholic contemplative mystical religion.

What will it take for Chuck Sr. to stop the nepotism? Does his son have to burn incense to Isis and Zeus before he is disfellowshiped from a Bible-believing fellowship of churches?

You can check out Chuck Jr's hermitage and its purposes. Here's the description from their own site:

"Camaldolese Institute for East-West Dialogue In 1993, Pope John Paul 11 lauded and encouraged the Camaldolese commitment to East-West monastic dialogue: "Camaldolese communities, especially those in California and India, have been committed for years to this spiritual search, interwoven with prayer and respectful dialogue with Buddhist and Hindu monks." The Camaldolese Institute for East-West Dialogue continues this dialogue with meetings, publications, and exchange visits." http://www.contemplation.com/Hermitage/nhd/nhd_004.htm

Isaiah 2:6 "For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with influences from the east, And they are soothsayers like the Philistines, And they strike bargains with the children of foreigners (NAS).

Chuck Smith Jr. Capo Beach Calvary Chapel - "What I Did On My Summer Sabbatical" Dec. 29, 2005 Partial Transcript:

I wanted to tell you a little bit about my time away and what happened, what God did for me because I thought that you might be interested. And that way if I tell you I don't have to say it a hundred times. . . they can get the DVD.I spent the month of October at a hermitage up near Big Sur. Have you been up to Big Sur, been up that way, up Highway 1, like between San Simeon and Monterey? It's just a beautiful drive. It's ocean all the way, you're just above the ocean. The hermitage is about 1300 feet above sea level so when you get to the entrance, you drive up this windy road for two miles, but because it's so steep you're just about over the ocean, so you have this 180 degree view of ocean all the time. And there are days you don't even see a boat on the water. And no ones on the beach there, in fact a lot of it is cliff or rocky so so you can't get down there. But it's just pristine and beautiful - great place for a hermitage.

Now the question is, why go to a hermitage? Why did I do this, was I thinking about converting to Catholicism? The monks think so. (chuckle) I went there because first of all for me it's a place of peace, and therefore rest. It's not just peace because it's quiet. It is a silent hermitage. But it's peace because I connect with God there. I also go there for spiritual direction. There's one particular monk who has obliged me a number of times just by sitting down and talking to me and answering questions and giving me a perception of things that comes from 30 years of devoting himself to a contemplative life. And by contemplative, what I mean is that he spends a great deal of every day in prayer and contemplation of God and scripture in quietness just practicing spiritual exercise to just open his mind wider and wider to the presence of God so that he can really know God in this way. I also go there because it gives me an opportunity to reorient myself to what's important - God.

It's easy when you're busy for God to forget about God, to miss him. It's like the husband who works during the day whose wife works at nights so she's coming home and he's leaving for work and they're always just passing each other and they don't really have intimacy; they don't really have a relationship. That's how it can get in ministry where you're just like passing God all the time, like you're doing errands for him. And every once in a while it's really important to just pull away and be with God for God and not for anything else, not to get another sermon from him, not to just get energy to go on doing what you're doing, but just be with God for God.

Another reason I go up there is because they have a communal time of prayer and reading the scripture and singing together four times a day. Vigils is at 5:30 in the morning. They have vigils while it's still dark because vigils was something that's supposed to be done in the night time and the idea is that those in the monastery are praying for people who sleep, people on the other side of the world, people who are not able to speak for themselves, they give them a voice by being their prayer voice. Then it's complete silence - no one speaks to anyone from 6:00 o'clock to 7:00 o'clock, then a bell rings and it brings you back to the chapel again and this is for lauds. And lauds means praise and that's what you do. You sing praise. And vigils is mostly reading the psalms. Everyone reads them together, but lauds - we all sing praises to God together and then there's a time of prayer afterwards.

Then from lauds to Eucharist - Eucharist comes at 11:00 o'clock. It's another time of praise, only this time there will be a short sermon, or homily, and they'll take communion or celebrate Eucharist. Then in the evening, vespers is also a time of praise - actually it's thanksgiving, thanking God for the day. It comes at 5:30 or 6:00 o'clock in the evening. And, you know, my favorite vespers is on Saturday night or Sunday because they have this incense ritual and when they light the incense the monks will sing the song "Like incense, let my prayer rise before you, Oh Lord." It's so beautiful because they're all facing the incense altar and they all have their hands up and they're singing "like prayer may my incense rise before you, Oh Lord. The lifting of my hands like an evening oblation." And you find that, of course, in Psalm 104, incense representing prayer and worship.

Another reason why I went up there was I wanted an encounter with God. I wanted to get away someplace where I could mostly be by myself in nature and encounter God. And I was hoping that in that encounter I would discover his will for me or recover his will or confirm his will. I'm 54 years old, been doing this for 36 years and I just wanted to see if there was something else.

When I went up there I was very depressed and I had been depressed for a while. But I think as most of you know it's a battle, an ongoing battle, for me. So, I took that with me. I had wronged a good friend of mine and I felt badly about that and was carrying guilt and depression because of that. Also other friends that I have had become like enemies, I'll explain that, but there was all this talk going on about me, like why I was really going away for six months. And some of it was funny; some of it was just nasty - some pretty rotten lies came out of that. I went up there because I needed space away.

All right. So, I get up there and like I said and vigils they read the psalms. They actually use this particular translation - it's the Grail Translation right from the Hebrew. It's the Roman Catholic edition. It's an updated one. And I bought this because in the morning when we'd be reading the Psalms they're like speaking to me so much, addressing my situation so much that I said, I've got to have that book so I went into their bookstore and I got it and then after we'd read the Psalms in the morning, I'd go back to my room for an hour and just underline the things that we had read and write notes to myself I felt like, okay, God's trying to break through here, or at least he's saying I know, I know what it means to be depressed..

The second day I'm there, I'm going down to the beach. .. So I climbed down to the ocean. It's just beautiful there, but on the way down, I'm just depressed and I hear the voice inside my head saying, you stupid, you evil person, you're so corrupt; you're disgusting and I - right, no wonder I get depressed - You're so worthless! And I just keep hearing this and I think I've got a very busy brain and it's doing this to me all the time. This is the voice that's going constantly. This is the voice that's defining reality for me. This is the voice that telling who I am and what I am and it's constantly beating me up. I'm really screwed up here.

And that night I was reading this book "The Sociopath Next Door" cause I was trying to understand some people. (chuckle) Yes, I'll be happy to loan it to you. It's very good. But Martha Stout said in it, just that night I found this quote just after I realized I'm beating myself up. She said, 'according to psychoanalysts, an especially harsh super-ego hammering away inside someone's head can create a life-long depression or even propel its poor victim to suicide.' (pregnant pause) Yeah, (chuckle). So, okay, this is making sense and I realized, I have to be in silence. I have to have internal silence. And I know about the contemplative life, centering prayer, and that sort of thing and I'm thinking, okay, this is going to be good for me. I'm going to work on silencing this internal voice while I'm here. And so I began during prayer time - you know, one of the really great things at the hermitage is when they pray, or when they read scripture there are long pauses. . .

There are these long pauses between prayer and scripture reading and no one's saying anything and at first it's irritating, it's like come on, get on with the show here. But after you're there for a while and you fall into the rhythm of worship and the rhythm of your day which is punctuated by a bell ringing, calling you back to the communal worship, you learn to - you learn that God is in the pauses. And you take advantage of them by breathing deeply and holding in your mind and heart what was just read and holding that before the Lord and allowing his spirit to work it into you. So it's not all going by really fast and then you walk out and say what just happened? What did I just learn? What did I just hear? How's that going to help me?. . .

(reads psalms)

I want God to talk to me (voice chokes). In the first week - in fact, it was October 6th, I was - oh, how do I say this? -- I was frustrated. I was angry with God. I said, okay I've been here six days and I've been seeking you, I need an answer. You're not saying anything. I'm not hearing you. You got to tell me what I'm I doing in my life?. . .But you're not saying anything! And I was getting really frustrated with him. ..

(reads more psalms w/comments)

When we read that passage in vigils this particular morning, it was like I heard the poet saying, 'now, Smith, who do you think you are to get angry with God and to say why won't you answer me?' I mean, let's get perspective here. You don't have God in your hip pocket. He is not at your beck and call. You can't rub the lamp and conjure his presence. It doesn't work like that. And I began to think about the immensity of God. Of course, I was in a place that it was really obvious to me because every time I went outside I saw the ocean to the horizon. When I'd get up at 5:15 in the morning to go to vigils, the stars were incredibly bright. This is like before the sun's come up. . .We saw the most radical shooting star, it was like a big tennis ball going through the sky, it was just big and had this great tail. So, you see the Milky Way at night and in the morning. . . So I came to a place of peace with his silence. .

So the second week I'm wrestling with God because I went up there to have an encounter with him and my prayer is the prayer of Moses, show me your glory. And I keep - show me your glory, God, show me your glory - and nothing, nothing (sigh). And what I expect is something supernatural. See, I was born into the Pentecostal church and the Pentecostal church is all about the spectacular. It's like the book of Acts we live it today. Did God appear to Moses in a burning bush? Yes. Did he appear to Abraham? Yes..So you always look for the spectacular - and, you know, that's all I'm asking for. Nothing more than what Moses got, what Paul got. He's been passing out goodies for centuries. Show me your glory, I'm really sincere God. I want to fully know you.

I have to check my motives, you know God I'm not sure I really believe in you, but if I had a breath-taking encounter with the supernatural, I'd believe in you. Well, the monks in the monastery have this saying that if you - it goes 'beware of the big.' They say, we're looking for the big all the time but there's a danger in the big that it might be a deception to begin with and secondly, even if it's real, we'll misuse it, we'll abuse it, we'll beat other people over the head with it. We will get conceited about it and that God is in the small. . . he's with the least.

Yeah, we can order this book (to someone off camera) even though we're Protestants, we're not protesting anything. This is what causes my grief, that the way of the Most High has changed. I remember the deeds of the Lord, I remember your wonders of old (lists miracles - raise dead, walk on water, etc.).I'm not asking for anything you can't do, God. And this is my grief that you've changed your ways. That's not what you're doing today. You are the God who works wonders. You showed your works among the people. So where is it?

.God reveals his glory in creation and the morning we read those passages in chapel I just bowed my head and said, God, I am so sorry, I am so sorry, because I had started thinking about everything I had seen while I was there - deer coming up to me at night., gray foxes.two sea otters.(reads entry from his journal about beauty of the ocean and sea and wildlife).

. Frederick Schmidt - I'm reading this book by this Episcopalian priest who is also a professor at a Methodist seminary and the first chapter to it, I'm totally pissed off with the guy because he's saying don't expect God to do the very things I was asking him to do. He says, just live with the world as it is because God is in the world as it is. And by the time that God was working that into my heart, I was getting to the really good chapters of this book and realizing that this guy was so right. In fact, since I got home I found his email address.and I sent him an email and I told him what his book has meant to me. And I got an email back from him the same day and he said, what a good Christmas gift. Anyway, he said what we need are not signs and wonders but a deeper determination to nurture the presence of God in the midst of the common place.

The common place - that's with us every day. That's with us right now. He said, 'when we take the miraculous and the exceptional to be the measure of God's presence, rather than think of God as an enlivening presence throughout creation, we do not resacralize the world. Instead we confine God to its margins and gaps. In other words, if God is only present in miracles, and those are so rare, then we only encounter him in the margins or in the gaps. or in the singularities. The key to seeing God at work in our world lies in not in defining the events that reflect the movement of God, but in what Paul describes as the renewing of our minds.'

Okay, so by week three I came to this place of great peace in God. I was in - I was totally at peace with him not speaking to me, not seeing any more glory than what I saw in the world. I was at peace with not knowing what he wanted me to do with my life at this point. I was at peace with just living with him and becoming more and more aware of him in time and space - in the time and space in which I live, not trying to get out of that or get something into it that doesn't belong here, but to just be at peace because God is here. And the more I would just go to that place of contemplation and just receptivity and silence where I'm not doing all the talking, I'm just listening, the more that I would become aware of him. It's almost like when I gave up and accepted things as they were, I began to get from him what I most desired, but not in the ways that I had prescribed, rather in the ways that he always works and that he wanted to work.

Now, a couple of friends of mine - Craig, and another guy, Tom, Mike Wood - came up that third week that I was there and we got to sit down with my friend Romuald who is one of the monks, my spiritual director of sorts and he talked to us about chronological time. and then chiros time which comes down to us from Heaven. Chiros is like that opportune time, that special moment, and that's when heaven time and earth time intersect. And right at that intersection, there's a moment of mystery, there's a moment of discovery. There's a moment -- like when Jacob woke up from his dream in Genesis 28 and said, "the Lord is in this place and I knew it not.' We mostly go around ignorant of God in this place, blind and deaf, but there are those chirotic moments in which we say, 'the Lord is in this place,' and we're fully aware of it.

So I want to play for you just a little bit of our conversation with Romuald and what he said to us in this context. So, you get to meet Romuald, which is good because he has cancer and you probably won't get to meet him otherwise. He's in a lot of pain last time I was up there:

Romuald: "You always get the cosmic hinges of the day which are very monastic. You gotta be awake for sunrise and sunset and notice, you know, high noon and various parts of the day because that's part of your prayer; it's part of your praise. The point of the life is that you would do some liturgical worship type of prayer at the hinges of the day in a cosmic sense, so you've got to be up before - before dawn. That would be for sure, and we're getting up very late if we're talking about vespers at 5:30 because they were traditionally at 2:00 o'clock or even midnight. You would break your night's sleep and that would be a lot harder. You've got to be in the church praising for sunrise and sunset. Sunrise was always praise, sunset was always thanksgiving and then there were prayers during the day at hinges of the day whenever was convenient. And all that was justified by the idea of Paul that you would pray always.The modern conception of time, I think, is rather difficult for the whole concept of God and prayer. But time isn't artificial because it's created by God as an invitation. And I think there's an interweaving, I would say it differently or add something of what you said, Chuck, in terms of the New Testament. You have two types of time interweaving and this is what the monastic life is always consciously doing is - you have chronological time and then you have chirotic time where God is present - eternity is present in chronological time. The problem is that we don't notice it, so we're quite willing to let God perform a miracle of some sort or be present in some form and just walk right by it in our chronological preoccupations and so that would be the worse case of - oh, we're watching, we're just getting everything done and we're making our appointments and we're squeezing more things in, but in fact we're becoming less and less sensitive to who we are and who God is for us, and that becomes compartmentalized or just rather abstract. But Jesus is always talking about this chiros, this is the moment, and of course, it's always the moment if we have the sensitivity to realize it is and at the moment there is always this kind of cross where God is breaking into time and you can elaborate that in many different ways. But a monastic day is created that way. So obviously, one way to expand beyond chronological time, I would say, the first way would be to watch nature. That changes you. I mean, it's a great idea, of course. But if you live it decade after decade, it changes you because now you're part of something bigger and you're aware of that and it isn't about you and about your agenda and your watch and your appointments. It's about this magnificence of this creation because -- I feel like an ancient person. I'm sure every night that the sun will never rise again. It has - it can't. It's impossible to imagine and it's a miracle every morning when it does. And I check it during my silent prayer between vigils and lauds because now it's - sunrise is so much later - but 'is it going to happen? Because it's still so dark, I mean, we're going into winter, and I have this doubt that it will happen, so therefore, I have to wait. Is the chiros going to come? But if you're waiting, then you're ready for it. And when it comes, well, there's appreciation, gratitude, praise. But that happens every day, and of course it happens in many different ways in terms of the light, not just sunrise, sunset, but everything in between, if you're going to notice. But I think it's an important spiritual thing because of this two types of time in the New Testament. Chronological time is very important, but we leave out the chiros, the chirotic time. And I don't know what we expect of God's magical stuff once in a while, but actually God is intersecting - and this is what we've talked about a lot in terms of the incarnation of God, is eternity has come into chronological existence and that we can't imagine. I mean, it makes no sense. It's logically beyond our grasp, but in fact it's true. So how do we wake up to that?"

Back to Chuck Jr: -- Okay, so, one of the things that - okay, did somebody bring a Bible, like a whole Bible? I just brought the Psalms and you're not afraid to get up and read it in front of a group of people. Okay, Heather, would you find Colossians 4:17. Um, the chiros time - eternity breaking into chronological time, or to say it another way, the kingdom of God coming into our world is all the time. It's not like you just wait for a special moment and it all comes together. That's how we experience it because we're so fixated on the material part of our world and our lives. But any time that we stop to contemplate and listen, there's always mystery present and the kingdom of God present. Okay, I told you by about the third week I was completely at peace with God not talking to me, not showing me heavenly glory and not telling me what to do with my life. And then the fourth week, almost like the day or two before I left, I was reading in Colossians and this particular verse that I read. Heather, would you stand up and read it just as loud as you can? (Heather reads off camera).In the New American Standard, it says 'be faithful to the work that God's given you.' And so I just said, all right. That's it. And that's what I gotta do. And so that's a long story to tell you where I'm at now.

Please stand.Gather us to yourself now father, and open our eyes in the common place, the simple, the mundane. It's so easy to hear your voice in thunder, in bird songs, so hard to hear it in the engine of a Mac truck rolling down the highway, but all creation praises you and brings you glory. So, give us a greater sensitivity and God, the times we have to really be present in the moment and fully conscious, take us to that place of consciousness of you and of mystery and of the kingdom of God. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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