Thursday, August 21, 2008

Principles and Practices for Discipleship

Fully formed disciples of Jesus are committed to…

an active and growing relationship with the risen Christ.

Our relationship with Christ is the means by which we grow in our understanding of God’s freely-given, unmerited grace. The spiritual discipline of practicing the presence of Christ helps nurture this relationship through the developing a continual openness and awareness of Christ’s presence in our life

openness to God’s healing, transforming and life-giving grace.

God’s grace comes to us to bring the healing of our hurts and brokenness even before we know God. Practicing a radical openness to that grace brings the healing that enables us to live the new life promised in Christ. The spiritual practice of inner healing prayer opens us to the stream of God’s healing grace.

living incarnationally according to the example of Christ.

The Incarnation is the foundation of how God reveals God’s self in Jesus. Incarnation is the principle by which we embody God’s love to others. The spiritual discipline of examen opens us to the deeper awareness of how Christ is at work in our life. It helps us reflect on and grow beyond the practices that are obstacles to a fuller life with Christ.

the disciplined practice of spiritual formation.

By engaging in spiritual practices (prayer, study, worship, fasting, service, etc.) as a means of grace, the Holy Spirit heightens our sensitivity to experiencing God’s grace. The spiritual practice of contemplation wakes us up to the presence of Christ and the movement of the Holy Spirit that is continually at work in our life.

living a shared commitment to a life of discipleship within the Body of Christ.

The life of the Christian is not simply to be a disciple but to be committed to making disciples within the context of relationship and mutual journey. More than simply hanging out with a group of people, the spiritual discipline of community is the expression and reflection of our experience of Christ’s self giving presence invested in the common journey with other Christians.

share the story of God’s grace as we experience it in our relationship with Christ.

As we experience more deeply the power of God’s gift of new life in Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers us to share that grace through our life. The spiritual discipline that supports this sharing is witness. This means modeling and telling others of the difference that our relationship with Christ has made in our life.

living Christ’s incarnational love in the world.

Our commitment to Christ compels us to follow Christ’s example of incarnational and unconditional love lived with all persons, especially the poor, the broken and the marginalized. The spiritual practice of stewardship is the voluntary and generous offering of God’s gifts given to us for the benefit of others. Stewardship is the holistic sharing of our prayers, presence gifts and service for the sake of the Kingdom.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Going a Little Deeper

It would seem that I’m still caught up in the image of Jacob wrestling with God. The image is compelling. The image of the creature struggling with the Creator is the stuff of Greek tragedy and modern cinema. There is something very primal about it. Perhaps this is why we aren’t really that good at wrestling with God for any great length of time. It’s a struggle that we can’t win. It will take us to places that are totally beyond ourselves. It will take us to depths of self that we simply aren’t comfortable plumbing. At the risk of sounding indelicate…oh well…

To be faithful in our calling in Christ, the wrestling is not only inevitable it is essential. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve conceived of this necessity in the context of dealing with those things in our life, in our choices, in our attitudes and perspectives that run contrary to the Reign of God as revealed in Christ. If there are things that we harbor that run in opposition to God’s purpose of compassion, mercy, reconciliation, redemption and justice then we need to remove these from our life. If we are to say yes to God we must say no to our jealous, arrogant, self-seeking, self-preserving, fence building, and violent ways. These habits and choices simply can not coexist with God in our life of faith.

I’ve been thinking and reflecting on these truths at greater depth in the last few weeks. To say that we must work to remove those things we harbor and protect but are obstacles to a deeper life with God is clear and straightforward. Yet, to simply label them as cancerous tumors that must be poisoned, zapped or cut out because they are “evil” leaves us in a very precarious position. If our focus becomes singularly directed toward “rubbing out the spot” we can find ourselves caught in an endless loop. Think of the image of a dog chasing its tail. Round and round you go…pursuing an illusive target and yet never quite catching it. If you do manage to catch it, it isn’t quite as satisfying as you thought it would be.

If our focus is only turned inward, that is, on what is wrong with us and what our deficiencies are, we loose two pieces of the puzzle that are vital. First, our choices can’t be looked as inherently evil (even though that is an easy argument to make for some of them); they are not problematic because of some deficiency on our part. They are problematic because they are in opposition to God and it is on this basis alone that they are judged. Therefore, it is only as we wrestle with these things in relation to God’s purpose revealed in Christ that we are able to move beyond merely cutting out a cancer and move toward experiencing the healing and wholeness that only God can bring. This brings us to the second piece of the puzzle. God’s purpose is not simply the eradication of sin and the things that would stand between us and God. God seeks restoration and redemption. Get rid of the obstacles, yes; but also experience the promise and power of a new life together with God for all eternity.

This new life is marked by who we are in the essence of our identity and association and what we do and how we live as a consequence of that identity. This is the epic struggle. It is the stuff of legend and myth. It is a wrestling match of cosmic proportions. But if we let that get in the way of going the distance with God the fullness of God’s grace, healing and new life will elude us. I know, it doesn’t seem like much of a choice…but I can say from personal experience that when the dawn breaks after one of these all night matches, God does bless us with a deeper experience of life and grace. Even if the next round in the match turns out to be right around the corner, God will go the distance with us if we are willing to go the distance with God.