This past Sunday Dan Johnson helped those of us who were able to attend the Faith Forum explore the spiritual practice of gratitude. This Easter season the people of St. Matthew’s and anyone who wants to join us are focusing on spiritual practices, as we continue to explore what it means to be learners or disciples of the Way of Jesus.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” --Hebrews 12:1-2
The last two Sundays, Dan Johnson has led the Adult Faith Forum in exploring the spiritual practice of Sabbath. The following post contains a few of his reflections on the topic.
For anyone wanting an executive summary of the last two faith forums, here it is:
1. Sabbath is a pause in which to remember and delight in the good gifts of God.
2. In a world that is filled with worry over scarcity, the practice of Sabbath helps us be a people celebrating the abundance in which we actually live.
Every time I pray the Daily Office, something good happens. I know this sounds superstitious, like the Medieval Christian practice of going from church to church to see the elevated host (large wafer representing the body of Christ). At a time when the people were denied communion and hungering for God’s presence and nourishment, glimpsing the elevated host was thought to protect the viewer like an amulet. But I digress . . .
Today at St. Matthews we explored the parable of the rich man who decided to build bigger barns to store his bumper crop, only to be confronted by his own mortality and the reality that "life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." (Luke 12:13-21) (You can listen to the whole sermon here). All of us are confronted, both by our desire for "more"–more money, better grades, a bigger house with bigger closets, more caring, more love—and also by the fact that we also have more than enough in many areas of our lives. In fact sometimes the enormous amount of energy it takes to maintain our stuff seems crazy—is this really the way we were intended to live?
We can all imagine ways in which the world could be a better place. One attractive image is the community formed by the early church: “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul … There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:32a, 34-35). In other words, these followers pursued the way of Jesus through generosity to each other; no one was needy because those who had more shared with those who had less. However, this inspiring story also raises a crucial (and challenging) question: how can we follow such an example?
In her Sunday sermon “Creation,” preacher Blair Pogue made the following points about the first creation story in Genesis (1-2:4a):
The story causes her to picture God as an artist
This passage is not a scientific account, but a story that addresses important theological questions: Who is God? What is God like? What is the nature of the universe? Who are we in relationship to God?
My favorite Episcopal communion liturgy is Eucharistic Prayer C. It not only acknowledges that humans and our earth are but a tiny part of creation, but it also elegantly encapsulates the Biblical story. About the Fall, it says:
“From the primal elements you brought forth the human race and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.”