During this Lenten Season I have had numerous opportunities to educate people about contemplative spirituality. I have encountered all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds with all kinds of questions. In my teaching, I have learned a very important lesson: It’s not about what you pray. It’s not even about who you pray to, one would argue. The important thing is that you pray.

I have spoken to Episcopalians, AMEs, Baptists, Catholics, Sikhs, people that practice Kabbalah, Yoruba, Astrology and people with no particular religious affiliation. The common thread that holds true is that one must recognize that there is a higher power and one’s life should be dedicated to reconnecting to that power by love and compassion. The ultimate goal of the universe is to reconnect completely with that higher power. We achieve that by connecting our divine essence with those around us, thus strengthening the divinity of God.

We can facilitate these divine connections by spending time in prayer. Not necessarily prayer in the traditional sense, but in spending time simply being in the presence of the Divine. The more time we spend resting in God’s Presence the more able we are to recognize what that Presence feels like. We then can be able to notice that Presence in others and can connect the Divinity within us to that Presence. Every connection we make is another step closer the universe is to achieving its ultimate goal.

Simply put, the more time we spend recognizing God’s presence (whatever we call it) and loving one another unconditionally, the more fulfillment we will gain for our own lives and the closer we are to the ultimate goal of the universe. So the next time you pray, brothers and sisters, don’t say anything. Simply listen to God and recognize what that feels like. Carry that feeling with you and spread it into everyone you encounter.

God’s Peace…

Br. Ashton J. Reynolds, OPC

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Over the last week, I have been reading Bishop Carlton Pearson’s The Gospel of Inclusion. He argues, quite eloquently, the fact that there is no need to “get saved” because the world has already been saved through the work of Jesus Christ in his crucifixion and resurrection. Needless to say, the majority of the Christian community (especially in the African American community) has labeled him a heretic and has shunned him.

As an African American, I am baffled. I would think that our community, whose ancestors knew not of freedom and salvation, would rejoice in this logic. Instead, we have refused it and have chosen this “woe is me, I’m a horrible sinner” theology. In my meditations, I asked why any African American Christian would not embrace this message of liberation. I began to think back on my days growing up in the Missionary Baptist Church and I realized why we don’t like Bishop Pearson’s message. It’s because we have been preaching the same “feel good” sermon since slavery. When Christianity was introduced to us as slaves, it was meant to keep us in line. We weren’t encouraged to study the history of Christianity or explore our individual spirituality. We were given a mind-numbing, watered-down version of the Christ Principle and it has changed very little in the last 400 years.

This deeply saddens me, brothers and sisters. In this day, we have more opportunities than any generation ever has. We MUST take advantage! We need to know the history of the religion we practice if we want to fully appreciate it. We must approach scripture with an opened mind and an opened heart. We must faithfully listen to God and openly accept God’s evolving creation. One of the most profound, yet saddening, points Bishop Pearson makes is that Christians would rather make a deal with God instead of simply accepting the free Gift of Salvation.

We are no longer slaves, beloved… we are FREE! Free to live eternally with the knowledge that the work of Christ is finished. There is no sign-up. There are no conditions. There is just salvation.

Now, people of God, take this Gospel of Freedom and rejoice! Embrace it and explore the benefits of God’s grace, such that you may be able to exhibit the same love and compassion to those that you encounter. God’s Peace…

Br. Ashton J. Reynolds, OPC

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Along with the rest of America, I am deeply saddened by the horrifying events that took place at Virginia Tech. It would be quite difficult for one to not feel such an abrupt and tremendous loss. As a college student, as an American and, most importantly, as a Christian, there are several things that disturbed me about this massacre.

As a student, I am very concerned about the safety of our campuses. I don’t understand how it was possible for one man to be able to kill so many people and no one stopped him. He shouldn’t have been able to make it on the campus with those weapons in the first place. During my time at Morehouse College, I heard far too many stories of robberies, shootings and killings in the Atlanta University Center area. Just a few weeks ago there was an incident at Xavier University in Louisiana in which a campus security officer pulled a gun out on a student and one of the deans advised some students who reported it to “forget what they saw.” There has been a ridiculous history of bashings, hate crimes and irrational acts of violence on our college campuses. We need to stand up and demand more security at our schools. Our primary focus should be our education. We shouldn’t have to worry about the risk of losing our lives by simply going to class, or to a study session or even to a friend’s dorm room. We need to question our administrations and challenge them to come up with better standards for our security.

As an American, I am disappointed in our media. I do understand the necessity to keep the American people knowledgeable of the most recent information about this tragedy. However, this “around-the-clock” coverage seems to be more about capturing ratings than providing pertinent information. I have seen countless interviews of people who were in no way related to the incident, but are in some way considered “experts.” This insensitive form of capitalism is not what those who were victimized deserve. This over-sensationalism is desensitizing the American people. The more we are fed this “breaking news” or “exclusive coverage,” the less we are focused on the lives lost and the families hurt. We are becoming too intrigued by the “untold story” and the “never before seen footage.” This happens all too often when America is faced with tragedy. If we continue in this pattern, soon we will be unfazed by stories such as this and that eventuality is frightening.

As a Christian, specifically as a follower of the Christ Principle of unconditional love, I am saddened by the neglect we exhibit to one another. This travesty could have possibly been avoided if we spent more time loving one another and expressing genuine concern for each other. It has become too common for one to respond to another person’s concerns by giving their own problems and concerns, as if theirs are more valid or important. We have this idea that we are the only person in the world with struggle and we ignore the struggle of others. Interestingly enough, we all hate to be ignored. This selfishness is not the example we were called to follow. Never once did Jesus say, “Well, I have my own problems. I’m facing death on a cross, so I don’t know what to tell you, blind man.” He unselfishly looked into the hearts of others and became an exemplary inspiration for the disenfranchised. When we shun the broken-spirited, they will need some way to express their pain. Unfortunately, these expressions are usually hurtful and harmful. It is our responsibility as spreaders of the Good News to live into the example set for us by Christ. We must show compassion and love for one another. We need to be cognizant when one of our fellow humans are in distress and aid them whenever and however we can. When we show compassion to others, they will be inclined to express that same compassion to those that come to them in need. If we continue in this cycle of compassion then we would have far less to fear or worry about.

As you continue on your life journey, remember that you are not alone. There are others here to build you up, and you have the same responsibility to build them up. We must be there for one another and do our best to preserve the safety of our communities. We must be more sympathetic of the grief that comes from tragedy. Prayerfully, there will be a time when we won’t have to suffer these types of losses, but not before we come together in unity with the spirit of love.

God’s Peace…

Br. Ashton J. Reynolds, OPC