By Clare Boyd-Macrae
24 February 2022
A recent reading from the Common Lectionary used by Christian worshippers the world around was a sublime passage from the prophet Jeremiah. Chapter 17 verses 7-8 reads:
Blessed are those who trust in God, whose trust is God.
They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green;
In the year of drought, it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.
We need to draw from the boundless and unstinting resources of God’s love and grace if we are not to become cynical, disillusioned or just plain exhausted. Jesus put it another way in his encounter with the woman at the well – “I am the living water with which you shall never thirst”. To this she pragmatically replied, “Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep”.
So what are our buckets? What are the ways we can drink of the living water, send our roots into the stream of divine grace? Because, let’s be honest, the way of Jesus is not easy and at times it is profoundly counter-cultural. And life itself is fraught with suffering. But Christians have been given a variety of buckets with which to draw from that deep well.
Study of the Bible is a complex but rewarding source of revelation and a time-honoured way of aligning ourselves to God’s purposes.
Another is weekly worship with fellow travellers. The reading of the stories out loud, the corporate prayer, the preaching of the word that rarely fails to touch me, the majesty of the music: worship is a practice that provides the anchor and arrow for my week.
There are others: meeting with fellow believers to share life and talk about the God stuff, reading theology or devotional books.
My preferred bucket, my mainspring of resilience and strength, has been the practice of contemplative prayer or Christian meditation. Sitting in silence, in a group sometimes, but more often by myself, breathing steadily and saying a prayer word over and over has sustained me through decades.
We are blessed to have a multitude of buckets, because sometimes one becomes a struggle. Recently, my meditation practice of a lifetime has been a burden. It has been so hard to sit and be silent and dwell with God, and doing it seems drier and more pointless than ever before.
During this fallow time, my two worship communities – my congregation and the tiny chapel group at work – have reminded me why I am a Christian. The richness of the stories has fed me. Music has moved me. The companionship of my fellow-pilgrims has given me strength. My meditation practice will continue, and the delight will return, but right now, worship is what is feeding me, and that’s okay. We have so many disciplines with which to deepen our faith, sustain our hope and increase our love. Let’s make use of them, so that we can be like trees, planted by water.