Category Archives: spiritual practices

Wholeheartedness

Richard Rohr has written a new book called On The Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men. I’ve ordered my copy, but excerpts are appearing in his Daily Meditations. (You can subscribe here.) I found today’s excerpt particularly helpful:

Much of a man’s life is spent going to work, running errands, cleaning house, mowing the lawn, waiting in lines, attending meetings, and tending to the necessary but endless minutia that make up life.  We know that we can’t live as if we’re in the middle of an Indiana Jones adventure.  We know that much of life is rather dull and repetitive.  That’s why it’s so important to be fully present to the ordinary things that keep us going: a movie, a concert, dinner with a friend.  Anything you do fully gives you joy.  Anything done halfheartedly will bore you.  People do not tire from overwork nearly as much as from halfheartedness.  Wholeheartedness requires that a person be fully present.  And people who are present are most ready to experience the Presence.

In the middle of the ordinary, in the midst of the tedium, if we pay attention to the Presence, we will be blessed by joy, grace, and simple, sustaining pleasures.  We no longer need religious highs to know God; the lows and mediums are more than high enough.

Wholeheartedly living in the ‘now’ is for me a great stress buster. If I am present to what I am doing—to the person I am with at the moment—I can attend with all I’ve got. I can then turn to something or someone else and give my attention where it now belongs. When I am able to do this, I am not preoccupied with what’s going to happen/what should have happened/what did happen. I am present to the Now.

It reminds me of a quotation from George MacDonald, a great source of inspiration for CS Lewis: he spoke of “living in the eternal carelessness of the eternal Now”. Isn’t that a great aim for life?

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17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 25 July 2010

Rooted in Christ


Readings
Colossians 2.6-19
Luke 11.1-13

I remember when I was a first year medical student. It was back when crinoline dresses were all the fashion and horseless carriages had just begun to make an appearance. I was at a meeting of the Christian cell group in our year, and another student spoke of some research he’d come across. It was that most of us in that group, most of us—who were keen enough to spend a lunch hour studying the bible (ok, and looking at the girls…)—most of us would have stopped being part of the life of the church by the time we were thirty. Thirty seemed a long way off at eighteen, but it was a frightening thought nonetheless.

Ironically, the lad who quoted that research had stopped attending church by the time he was thirty.

There may be all sorts of reasons why people drop out of church. Some of them make sense. Congregations can be dysfunctional. I think though that many people leave because they haven’t allowed Paul’s words in Colossians 2.6-7 to dwell deeply in their hearts:

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Today I want to look at some of these words, and put alongside them Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Luke 11. Continue reading

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Fifth Sunday of Easter (Easter 5)

Love one another

Reading
John 13.31-35

In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus says,

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

The ‘new commandment’ is ‘Love one another.’ That’s nice, isn’t it? That’s really lovely.

But let’s set the scene. Jesus and the disciples are gathered together, but not at any old time; it’s the night before the crucifixion. I say, ‘Jesus and the disciples’ are there, but there is one who is missing. Judas. He has gone out. What we read is this:

Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor.

We know why Judas has gone out. But let’s imagine we’re hearing this story for the first time. Sometimes, we can learn new things that way. Continue reading

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Spiritual Practices 7 — Confession

If we confess our sins…

As we listen for the Word of God,
let us pray:
Loving Christ,
you bring your people into the community of faith,
a community forgiven yet broken.
You are in the midst
as we seek to be reconciled;
give us courage,
that we may take the first step;
in your reconciling name we pray. Amen.

Readings
1 John 1.5-10
Matthew 18.21-35

We’ve come to the last week of our Lenten series on spiritual practices. We’re going to look at Confession as a spiritual practice that makes a space to keep company with Jesus and learn to know him better. You may remember that Richard Foster called Confession a ‘Corporate Discipline’ in his book Celebration of Discipline. Corporate disciplines are things we do together. Worship is a corporate discipline; that’s pretty easy to see. And last week we looked at Guidance as a practice of discerning God’s guidance in relationship with one another.

What about confession as a corporate spiritual practice? This is a little more tricky for many of us I’m sure. We’ve all been taught to look aslant at the way Catholics go to the confessional. (Or at least, the way they once went to the confessional.) We know we can just confess our sins to God. Yet Richard Foster really emphasises confessing our sins to one another. Not necessarily to me as the minister, but to someone who is mature in the faith and able to convey God’s forgiveness and love. Continue reading

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Spiritual Practices 6 — Guidance

Guidance and Grace

Acts 15.1-21
John 15.26 – 16.4a; 12-15

We’ve been talking about spiritual practices for a few weeks now as a series for Lent. A spiritual practice is something we do intentionally to make space to keep company with Jesus and learn to know him better. Today, we’re talking about guidance or discernment as a spiritual practice. If you look at Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, you’ll see he has grouped some spiritual practices or disciplines as ‘Corporate Disciplines’.

Corporate disciplines are things we do together. Worship is a corporate discipline; that’s pretty easy to see. But Foster labels the last two spiritual practices that we’ll look at as ‘corporate’. They are guidance and confession.

How are they corporate? Let’s look at that as we come to them. Today, it’s the corporate spiritual practice of seeking God’s guidance.

We need God’s guidance. Sometimes the direction we should take in life just isn’t clear. Perhaps you think of seeking God’s guidance as more of an individual thing. I’d invite you to consider what Foster says: we need to have more direction on searching for God’s guidance in partnership with one another.

We’ve done this already, when we discerned he way forward for our strategic plan, and our vision statement. We sought God’s guidance to come up with priorities for our life, things like increasing a sense of community with the fellowship and reaching out to the neighbourhood outside our walls. We formed our Vision Statement:

Living God’s mission
as disciples of Jesus
united in the Spirit

There’s another obvious case in point for us right now. Is worshipping in the round a good thing or not? Should we continue with it beyond the six month mark?

How do we determine that? Do we listen to the most deafening supporters, or to the loudest complaints? Do we end up doing what we’ve always done? This is often how decisions are made by congregations.

My genuine hope is that whatever we decide about worship in the round, we’ll have learned a great deal about discerning God’s will together through this exercise.

You know, if the people of the early Church had decided on controversial things the way we often do it today, the Christian faith may not have lasted.

We read Acts 15 today. It’s a pivotal New Testament passage which—amazingly—is not in the Revised Common Lectionary. Let’s set the scene. Five chapters earlier, in Acts 10, poor unsuspecting Peter has a vision from God. Oh oh… Three times, a sheet comes down from heaven with all sorts of unclean animals on it. Things like pigs and prawns and oysters. ‘Arise Peter, kill and eat!’ comes the voice from heaven. Peter wouldn’t. He’d never eaten those things before, they were unclean. Then the punch line came: ‘You must not call unclean what God has called clean.’

Then three Gentiles came, people who Peter had always considered unclean. Coincidence? I think not. Peter goes with them to the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius. The Holy Spirit doesn’t even have the manners to wait until Peter has finished proclaiming the good news about Jesus before it falls upon the Gentiles and they speak in tongues and praise God. There’s nothing for it but to baptise them and welcome them into the family, just as we welcomed L and R today.

It was never a foregone conclusion that Gentiles like us would be admitted into the Church of Jesus Christ without first becoming Jews. People were going about saying just that:

Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.

If these people had had their way, the Gospel would never have got to Britain, let alone Australia and Samoa! It wouldn’t have gone there because this was not the Gospel.

Continue reading

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Why not take a seat… somewhere different

We’re in the early weeks of a six-month trial of worshipping in the round. It’s not a radical change; it’s mainly meant bringing the Table forward and moving the side seats around so they face inwards. And rather than being on the platform, the musicians and singers are on the same level, completing the circle. (Why worship in the round? See here.)

Some people have changed where they sit as part of the trial, or are sitting in a variety of places. Genikwa Williams has written about changing where you sit in church; she found it one of those ‘breakthrough’ times. Such a simple thing to do, yet one we resist so often!

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Spiritual Practices 5 — Study

Studying the Scriptures

Acts 17.1-3; 10-12
Luke 10.25-28

I’ve been introducing the sermons in this lenten series on spiritual practices in a similar way for the past few weeks. I told my family I was milking the introduction for all it’s worth. Their feedback suggests I’ve been milking it for more than it’s worth! So all I’ll say by way of introduction is that if you’re putting the spiritual disciplines into practice, and you’re still succumbing to crippling cynicism or to terminal grumpiness, we may need to talk.

Today, we’re talking about study as a spiritual practice. In particular, we’re talking about making room for Jesus as we study the scriptures. We’re talking about our minds and our very selves being remade in the image of Jesus Christ. Continue reading

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