|This Sacred Moment:
Right Where You Are
By Albert Haase, O.F.M.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]
Reviewed by Douglas Connelly.
I’m not a Christian with a particularly strong mystical bent. I easily get lost when people start talking about connecting with God in hours of solitude or after an entire night spent in prayer. I tend to have my feet planted on the solid ground of everyday experience.
I guess that’s why Albert Haase’s new book This Sacred Moment spoke so directly to me. Haase is a spiritual director and retreat leader and he could probably talk a lot about the more mystical aspects of the Christian experience, but his direction in this book is firmly grounded in the present moment. Holiness is not some ethereal goal to be reached in the future. It is obedience and submission to God’s call in the present – in the sacred moment we are in.
Haase does not present a new approach to the pursuit of the holy life. Brother Lawrence advocated practicing the presence of God in each experience and circumstance of life. But Haase explains holiness and a consciousness of God as more reachable possibilities. Holiness “is a selfless openness and response to God’s call in this sacred moment” (15). Haase contends that God’s call to us doesn’t come just when we are in prayer or on a spiritual retreat. It comes at every moment and in every situation. What is God asking of me in this moment? The holy response is to submit to that call and to joyfully obey.
God’s call might be the need of a neighbor; it might be to do our work well and provide for our family; it might be to help alleviate suffering or ignorance by volunteering at a hospice facility or as an after-school tutor. God’s call might be to take time for rest and personal enrichment so we are better equipped to serve others in the future. The kind of holiness God calls us to pursue is not reached by sitting in a white robe waiting for a voice from heaven; it is reached as we enter fully into each moment and listen for God’s call. “Far from a passive receptivity to whatever life throws my way, selfless openness calls for an alert attention to what is going on around me” (17).
Haase is also a Franciscan friar. Some of what he writes has a different slant than most evangelicals may be used to. He writes, for example, about the “ego” as the main obstacle to the pursuit of holy living. The ego is the self-centered, self-protecting, self-promoting part of each one of us. Evangelicals might use the term, “the flesh” – the tattered remnants of the old nature that need to be put aside as we grow in grace.
I appreciated Haase’s helpful direction in methods of praying the Scriptures or engaging in lectio divina, or sacred reading. For those of us who feel a little nervous exploring new devotional methods, his guidance keeps us on track. Some of Haase’s words struck powerful chords: “It is within the heart that the Word of God then roams, searching for the ball and chain of the ego’s agenda” (66), and, “You have not authentically encountered Scripture unless you are moved to prayer” (68).
This is a book worth reading – several times. In fact, I’ve already put it on my calendar to read next year at this time. The chapters are short, thoughtful questions at the end of each chapter help small groups discuss the material profitably, and Haase summarizes and reviews his points without becoming tedious.
Haase’s book challenges the reader to expand the question we’ve heard so often. It’s not just “What would Jesus do?” but also “How can I go about doing it?” The pursuit of holiness becomes a lot simpler – and a lot more difficult.
Douglas Connelly is the pastor of Parkside Community Church in Sterling Heights, MI.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com