(Reprinted from the September 2020 issue of The Oracle.)
Paul says, I beseech you sisters and brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. So how do we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice so that our minds are renewed by God?
A Rule of Life is a set of choices we follow that allow us to focus on what is most important to God and therefore to us; so that we can find what is good and acceptable and perfect to God. If we are to grow in ever deepening faith and love of God, we will have our minds renewed by God so that we might serve God and each other and those whom we encounter on the way. As we follow after God, the Spirit will work out God’s purposes through the ways we live our lives for God. Here follow some essentials for the Spiritual journey:
- Prayer: An ever-deepening understanding of the need to pray and how to pray, individually and corporately. Paul says, “Pray without ceasing . . .” and “. . . for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” God is ever present with us teaching us to pray and answering when we call, transforming our lives and the lives of those around us. When we are overwhelmed God, the Holy Spirit prays in our stead. In contemplative prayer our deep calls out to God’s deep.
- Scripture: We study Scripture, not as tablets of stone, but as the living book that informs me/us about how God has been known in all human experiences since he created us. By knowing what the first readers of Scripture understood, we can then make the leap to the current moment and find how the Scripture and the faithful speak to us today. To understand Scripture, we are attentive to the Holy Spirit who teaches us, drawing from the Biblical record what we most need to hear today and how that knowledge shapes how I/we live today.
- Community: We are learning that Christian faith community is to be a place for all people who “call upon God.” It is the place where we encourage and are encouraged in the work Christ has given us today. We realize with the prophets that this all Christian faith community is to be a house of prayer for all people. Isaiah 56. This means all are welcome “in this place.” Our maturation is formed by the ways we learn to love each other although we may be vastly different from each other.
- Community Responsibility: Christ calls each of us to lay aside our own prerogatives and serve each other as Christ did (Philippians 2). We are called to the imitation of Christ, a life of sacrifice, service to others, encouragement, exhortation, and care for each other and our neighbor.
- Study: Paul advises Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” Daily engagement with Scripture, and study of theology and ethics, and daily prayer prepare us for our mission to each other and the world. We seek truth wherever it leads, whatever it costs, for all truth is God’s truth.
- Listening: I learn to listen to my companions on the journey, as a friend, as one called alongside to help. I am open to all God’s children and I realize that the process of listening takes time, because sometimes trust has to be built where none has existed. I have to hear their stories and they mine. To listen deeply, demands full hearted, unselfish listening that allows the others deep to speak to mine and vice versa.
- Theological Reflection: Informed by our prayer, our study of Scripture, our place in faithful community, we learn to see God’s hand at work in our lives and in the world about us. We learn to trust the Holy Spirit to bring these resources to bear on decisions we must make. We learn that theological reflection is a fluid process of attentiveness to the Holy Spirit in which we allow the Spirit to draw forward in us the proper response to situations. The laws are written on our soft hearts, hearts in love with God (Ezekiel) not on stone tablets we have memorized.
- Missional Action: There is a deep connection between my prayerfulness, the community is which I worship and that calls forth my gifts and skills, and the missional vocation I engage for Christ in my daily life. It is a rich circle of restfulness and intensity of prayer, encouragement, study and support in community. This anchoring prepares us/me to do the work Christ has given us/me to do. After I engage God’s work in the world, I return to prayer and community for encouragement and perhaps healing that the mission may continue.
This then is a possible template for offering ourselves fully to God and to each other, so that we may grasp the full measure (norm or measuring stick) of God’s mercy and thereby test and approve God’s will at work in our lives; in humility and service that we may fulfill his purposes in the world around us.
The Rev. Dr. Peter B. Stube, Interim Rector