We live in a world run mostly for the extroverts. They make up about two thirds of the population so maybe that’s inevitable.
Those nearer the introvert end of the personality scale can find so many things noisy, shallow, and unsatisfying.
Churches of all shades try to appeal to our outward senses – from tall, ancient cathedrals, to the rock and roll light shows of the mega-churches.
If you are anything like me, this can leave you feeling empty and at times even irritated.
After more than 40 years of following the teachings of Jesus, I have found him more in silence and solitude than in loud or over-organised meetings.
Throughout the decades of nurturing my own walk of faith, I increasingly hear the call of Jesus to make the inward journey.
There was a moment in the gospels when key leaders asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would show up.
Jesus’ reply is telling. Don’t look for it outwardly but embark on the inward journey, he seems to say.
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
I have been greatly blessed recently by a little book called Finding your hidden treasureby Benignus O’Rourke, an Augustinian friar, formerly of Clare Priory in Suffolk.
The book has short chapters and reflections, which make it ideal for morning reflective reading. It invites us on the inward journey using silent prayer.
Many people avoid silent prayer. Some even mock it. This maybe because, as we begin the inward journey to the inner sanctuary where God dwells, we first encounter our own darkness.
It was said that as people approached St Anthony, the first Desert Father and the father of monasticism, they could hear him driving our his demons. This does not refer to casting out evil spirits but Anthony’s personal demons. We all have them. And the inward journey involves facing them and dealing with them.
This is rarely straightforward. It requires determination, wisdom, persistence, and the gentleness of self-care.
But as we come through those dark trials, new vistas open before us – an inward landscape of beauty we were unaware of. Eventually we find rest for our soul in the inward place.
It seems to me that the early church were far more aware of silent meditation and prayer. They were engaged on the inward journey. That is where they engaged with the living God. That was the place from where they drew their spiritual power. Somehow it seems to have been lost.
But it is being rediscovered in our day.
Paul calls it the mystery of the gospel,
‘...the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.’
Christ – from the Greek ‘Christos’ meaning the Anointed One - the real Jesus, living in us and through us.
In the 2nd century, during the brutal persecution of Christians, the followers of Jesus didn’t have either cathedrals or mega-churches. They had to meet here and there mostly in secret. But as Justin Martyr explained, believers can meet anywhere, anytime, because God is everywhere.
‘Christians assemble wherever it is convenient because God is not inclosed in space, but is invisibly present everywhere’
I’ve been looking at campervans recently. I may get one. It’s like a portable home on wheels. You can travel and wake up anywhere. Everything in the campervan is portable. Somehow this seems to illustrate my point.
Jesus is ‘portable’.
The kingdom of God is within you, Jesus says. We carry him with us wherever we go, whoever we are with.
The kingdom within us seems to grow through nurture, through engaging with the inward journey.
Will you dare to embark on this adventure?