A few summers ago, I preached a sermon titled “Contemplative Practice.” It was part of our worship series we called “Practicing Faith” and the text was Ephesians 3:14-19. Besides the Bible, the book we used for the series was Brian McLaren’s 2008 book The Return of the Ancient Practices: Finding Our Way Again. McLaren’s book discloses faith practices and explores them for modern people. In fact, McLaren and others in the “emerging church” renders a different way of being a Christian than simply defining ourselves by either what we believe or what we do not believe.
There is a splendid quotation in Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor. Originally from Moby Dick, the quotation follows Melville’s sketch of the chaotic commotion aboard the Pequod when the crew sighted the great whale. Amidst the shouting and maneuvering a lone person stands poised and patient. It is the harpoonist. Melville writes:Being in tune with the bigger picture—in contradistinction to most of the rest of us—is what allows the harpoonist to do what he does. What allows us to do what we do? And, by the way, what are we doing?
To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start their feet out of idleness and not out of toil.
As the whalers go out on their hunt, there is one alone who must sit still. He is the harpooner, and his most important assignment is to anticipate, focus. Everything rests upon his concentration, his attentiveness to respond in the moment.