Summer has been a great time to practice sabbath, that gift of rest that God built into the very order of creation. Embracing summer as the practice of sabbath allows it to be a time of rejuvenation and renewal. The pace is a bit slower. School is out. Many take vacation. Some travel. I love summer, but there is a downside: I miss everyone! I am gone more, you are gone more.
I have learned so much and I believe that it is making me a better priest, helping me serve you better. I notice
What in your life makes you anxious? Is there a little practice you could adopt to center yourself and recognize that you don’t have to carry all of the burdens of your worries alone? Can you put your trust in God to work with whatever you are able to offer?
Lent isn’t the only time we could adopt practices to deepen our faith. This month, we will also begin the 50-day season of Easter. I have been wondering lately about the idea of taking on a practice for Easter. What would an Easter practice look like? If our Lenten practices reflect time in the desert with Jesus, an Easter practice would somehow reflect the resurrection and post-resurrection life with Jesus. An Easter practice would reflect new life, helping ourselves and others flourish. An Easter practice would bring us closer together to other people, fostering friendship and reconciliation. An Easter practice would help us live into the baptismal covenant.
During Lent, people usually take on special practices to help grow in their faith. Traditionally, these include fasting, prayer, reading Scripture or spiritual books, and giving alms to help those in need. Sometimes people talk about these as practices of “giving up” and “taking on.” We engage in practices of “giving up” to make more room in our life for God; we engage in practices of “taking on” to fill that space with something that draws us closer to God.
I have been thinking a lot about sin and confession lately. No, not because I have done anything particularly wrong recently. I have just been a run-of-the-mill sinner like most of us. Rather, it was on my mind because I was invited to go talk to one of the youth Sunday School classes about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is often colloquially called Confession.
Practices are informed by beliefs, but go deeper. They are a way of understanding faith that is more grounded in action, what we do regularly and intentionally to live our faith. At their best, practices shape our lives and nourish our faith. At their best, practices help humanity and all of creation to flourish. At their best, practices are little inbreakings of the Kingdom of God.
Fellowship isn’t just good because it supports other ministry. Fellowship is good in its own right. We need a Theology of Fellowship that reminds us that Jesus called us into friendship with him and with each other. Friendship entails being together not only while working together, but while celebrating and relaxing. Fellowship is about deepening relationship.
There is a beautiful prayer on page 836 of the Book of Common Prayer that taught me how to recognize and offer gratitude. It starts by reminding us to whom we should be grateful: God. Next, it offers some big picture items for which to be grateful: creation, life, and love, before moving a little closer to home by offering thanks for family and friends, and even the challenges we face that lead to satisfying accomplishments. Then, perhaps the most surprising part of the prayer invites us to offer thanksgiving for our disappointments and failures.
The friendships we form at church are vital. Friendship is not something you can force, but it is something you can foster. There are many techniques, but one of the critical and foundational ones is simply showing up to each other.
Love. Love your God. Love your neighbor. Love as Jesus loved. Love as if the whole world depended on it. Spoiler alert: It does!
As Christians, we have a responsibility to care for God’s creation. At the end of the first chapter of Genesis, we are told that humanity has been given dominion over creation. This has been misunderstood by some to mean that we can use, even abuse, creation however we would like. But Scripture teaches us quite clearly that dominion from a Christian perspective means to be servants, not lords. We were invited to be stewards, not rulers, of creation. We are to appropriately use, not abuse, this gift that God has given us.
In our baptisms, we join Jesus in his baptism. In our baptisms, we join Jesus in his death and resurrection. In our baptisms, we are adopted as Christ’s own forever. And just as a voice spoke from the heavens as Jesus came up from the Jordan, saying, "This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased," we can hear God's voice saying the same about us.