Sermon Scripture… Mark 1:
Commit to relationship: 29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
Serve Others: 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Pray: 35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”
Discern and Act: 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
So how do we sort all this out? How do we understand who we are, and What God has called us to be and become and do?
- Accept the idea that God has called you. Or perhaps you begin by entertaining, considering, the idea. You say to yourself, “Well, maybe there is a God. And maybe that God has made me. And maybe the way I am made, together with all I have experienced, suits me for certain things. And maybe God wants me to participate in answering that prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And maybe I want to find out more. Maybe. That’s a great place to start.
The next steps can vary in their order, but all are important for the process to move along toward clarity and meaning.
- Commit. Find a community to which you will commit. Committing to a community is important in our process of formation because it represents our commitment to God. You may recall that John said, “How can you claim you love God whom you have not seen, when you don’t love your neighbor whom you do see?” The same can be said of commitment. “How can you say you are committed to God (to love and serve God in relationship) whom you do not see when you will not commit to your neighbor (to love and serve your neighbor in community?)
- Pray. Develop disciplines of prayer that challenge you beyond your present self. Perhaps it will be the discipline of getting up early and ‘going out to a deserted place’. Perhaps it will be learning to pray the scriptures and commit them to memory. Perhaps it will be joining a prayer group, or praying the traditional prayer of the church, or writing your own prayers, or praying the psalms. Perhaps it will be walking prayer, or meditation, or contemplation, or body prayer, or praying with icons, or beads, or a labyrinth, or other aids to prayer. Perhaps you will add fasting to your prayer as a discipline that challenges you to focus and not ‘feed your impulses’. Perhaps you will seek some help by going on a retreat, talking with a spiritual guide, reading a book. Perhaps.
- Study. Study the bible. Study the classic interpretation and teaching of the church. Study the new theologies that seek to bring the bible into conversation with our modern and postmodern understandings of ourselves and our world. Read the bible. Read the work of others. Be in conversation with those who can challenge your thinking and not just confirm everything you think you know. Listen to the wisdom of other traditions and seek to hear God’s voice in them as well.
- Practice. Practice the fruits of the spirit (Gal 5): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Practice faith by putting faith in others and by being faithful to them. Practice the virtues of the beatitudes (Mt 5 & Lk 6): Poverty, Poverty of Spirit, mourning, weeping, meekness, hungry, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, purity of heart, merciful. Practice loving your neighbor as yourself, and even loving your enemy by praying for and blessing your enemy. Do not demand your right to be right in every situation. Be humble. Pursue perfection (i.e wholeness and completeness). (Mt 5:38-47)
- Serve. Find a way to serve others. Jesus washed the Apostles’ feet at the Last Supper and then said, “As I have done for you, so you should do for one another.” (John 13) Serving others deepens our humility and communicates it to others. Serving others honors and extends Christ’s service to the world. Service to others is, in mystical reality, service to Jesus himself, an act of worship. (Matthew 25:33-43)