Associate Rector’s Message
February 8, 2018
In last week’s Thursday Notes, Bishop Lillibridge discussed the topic of friendship.
We were invited to reflect on our friendship with God and our friendship with family and friends. We were encouraged to resolve to reach out to a friend or loved one, knowing and trusting that friendship is a gift from God and a creation of human effort.
I couldn’t help but think about the discipline of friendship. Such a necessary discipline for us, as we live in a world that is hectic and divisive. I don’t think I have ever thought about friendship (I mean really thought about it) as a spiritual discipline until now. I have always seen it as a benefit or bonus of spiritual disciplines but not a spiritual discipline in and of itself.
The discipline of friendship, along with other spiritual disciplines, have in common the necessity of human effort. They are also gifts from God. Which is to say, it is the Holy Spirit that works in us and transforms our lives. Psalm 100:3 states, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” It is God who makes us, who loves us, who transforms us.
This is great news! All we must do is practice and live out our spiritual disciplines. We don’t have to transform ourselves – God will do that for us. I love how author Richard Foster speaks of the work God does through our participation in the disciplines. In his defining book on spiritual disciplines, The Celebration of Discipline, he states “…inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours. The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside. We cannot attain or earn this righteousness of the kingdom of God; it is a grace that is given.” God gives us spiritual disciplines so we can receive his grace. God gives us spiritual disciplines so we can open ourselves up to God and be changed into Christ-likeness.
The Church season of Lent is approaching fast. Shrove Tuesday is February 13th and Ash Wednesday is February 14th. Lent is a period of 40 days and six Sundays leading up to Easter, which has been observed for centuries as a special time of self-examination and acknowledgment of our human sinfulness. Lent is a time in which we commit ourselves to growing in faith, giving up those things that hold us back from God, and intentionally practicing our faith through Bible reading, praying, and commitments to other spiritual disciplines.
We have many offerings here at St. Thomas for you to engage in corporate spiritual practices. We worship together on Sundays and Wednesdays. We pray together on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (8:30am) and on Tuesday evenings (6:00pm). We study scripture through our numerous bible studies during the week. You can find the schedule here. We also serve others together as a spiritual discipline.
In addition to corporate disciplines, you can open yourselves to God’s transforming work through more personal disciplines. There are the tried and true Lenten disciplines like fasting and taking time for solitude and quiet. Spending time in reflection and confession is also a way in which we are reconciled to God and our neighbor.
There are also those really personal disciplines that we don’t realize are spiritual disciplines. When we give of ourselves generously and receive gratefully, we are sharing in the discipline of hospitality. When we tolerate one another’s failures and encourage one another, we are sharing God’s grace with one another. When we listen and talk attentively with one another, and when we are willing to suffer and grieve with one another, we are engaging in spiritual disciplines and God’s reconciliation.
On Ash Wednesday, we will all be invited into a Holy Lent. The following words come from our Ash Wednesday Liturgy: “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.”
This Lent, I pray we will all “kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer” and submit ourselves to live out some of these spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are significant ways in which God brings about change in our lives and in us. When we make these disciplines a habit, we begin to respond to life more like Jesus would. What a gift God gives us. We try a little bit and God works a lot! May you have a blessed and Holy Lent. May God enter into all of us and fill us with Grace and life-changing love.
Yours in Christ,