Tuesday, March 10, 2009
We do this by encouraging one another....
I've been part of a spiritual formation group in my Episcopal parish, in one form or another, for the past 8 years. I say, in one form or another, as I've participated in the same format of study with at least 4 different small groups over the 8 years. One group of us has been meeting together for 6 years. We've survived illness, death, "sudden" death of one of us, marriage, divorce, happiness, sorrow, and God's blessings together. Sometimes we agree on a lot - sometimes on not much!
Here's part of the quote we open our meetings with each week -
"We gather together with one purpose - to become better disciples of Jesus Christ. We do this by encouraging one another to keep Jesus' word, which, as he said, is what we naturally do when we love him (John 14:23-24). Through the grace of mutual accountability, we strive to inspire one another to love and good works."*
We recite vows to seek continual renewal through - spiritual exercises, spiritual gifts, acts of service, by setting aside time regularly for prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading and seeking to practice the presence of God. To strive mightily against sin and to do deeds of love and mercy, as well as to welcome the Holy Spirit, to exercise the gifts and nurture the fruit while living in the joy and power of the Spirit. To serve others everywhere we can and to work for justice in all human relationships and social structures. To share our faith with others as God leads and to study the Scriptures regularly. To joyfully seek to show forth the presence of God in all that we are, in all that we do, and in all that we say.
The spiritual formation groups' vows echoed in my mind on Sunday a.m. while listening to our parish priest remind the congregation of our duties to become better disciples of Jesus. He was inspired in his sermon and wanted, I believe, to catch each of us by our collars and shout in our faces - don't you understand how important these words are to your life as a Christian, to your life as a member of this parish, to your life as one of God's children?! As I said, I believe he was inspired in the words he spoke and they were reminders of how far or not we are willing to go for and with our Creator.
I hear these words in my spiritual formation group every week and yet, hearing them again from the pulpit with sincerity and forcefulness from this earnest young priest, I could have thought, oh yeah, I know all of that and perhaps even felt badgered by God. On the contrary, I knew the words were inspired and were yet one more opportunity for me and for my pew pals to know that being a child of God requires more than sitting in a pew for one hour and a quarter on a Sunday a.m.......when we feel like it!
My way to spiritual connection is not the way for everyone and certainly there are those, if still reading and haven't clicked off already, who are being called into life, love, thanksgiving, and being by another name than that of Jesus'.
But, question - have you made a spiritual connection with God, or with Jesus, or with the Virgin Mary, or with Allah, or the Dalai Lama, or with a famous evangelist, or spiritual author.....do you have a spiritual connection to that which is greater than yourself - that which I call God? Do you exercise that connection? Do you encourage others to exercise their spiritual connections? Has someone encouraged you? I wonder about others in their quests for spirituality and connection......Some days I know that my living is not always in line with the principles that I've outlined in this post and some days I get actually sort of close to the target - not the bullseye - just the target! How about you?
*A Renovare Resource for Spiritual Renewal, Smith/Graybeal p. 99, Order of Meetingj
Photo - SS - Maui Sea and Sky