Even the break of a few days and less regular office hours last week were a blessing. Enjoying the visit of family and friends made the days fly by with joy. I find that I do enjoy 'work' and although I am busy most of the day, it often doesn't seem like work. How nice to be able to say that! Of course, it's still Monday and by the time Friday rolls around and I've gotten thru the meetings, visits, and planning of the week, I may be saying another thing. I'll be preparing a Memorial Service and a sermon by then. Yet I look forward to celebrating the life of someone I've come to know over the last year and hearing the stories of other aspects of her life. Perhaps I'll get to 'know' her in a deeper way as there are many stories of the work she and her husband did to get this congregation started 50 years ago.
The end of one year and beginning of next is a time for reflection. I wonder what will be remembered from our lives and the year 2009 and 2010? What might we do to follow the Christ that will leave a positive impact on the lives of others in the year ahead.
Last Sunday I spoke of five traditional areas of pilgrimage and asked the congregation to consider their journey for the year ahead. The areas are,
Does your life need greater intimacy with God? Do you need to feel God’s presence closer to you so that you will have the confidence to support others on their journey? Prayer can be in solitude or in a group setting of silence. It takes time to develop this discipline yet the benefits far outweigh the work.
Do you feel tempted by aspects of life that you’d like to change? Will a focus on specific behaviors (taking on or leaving behind) help you find fulfillment in a healthy functional way of living? Often changes of behavior need the support of others and a group setting might be just what is needed to inspire you along the way.
Do you seek a more visible empowerment by God’s Holy Spirit that you might share healing and hope with others? Many who seek this route are found in charismatic churches, but every church needs the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. If this is your call, God may have work for you ahead.
Justice and Compassion
Are you being called to enter or begin a movement that cries out against injustice and seeks to offer equality to all people? There are so many ways to work for justice or every scale imaginable. We have many resources in the Church of the Brethren to help you discern this call to action.
Is the Bible itself the place of your journey, for study, devotion, learning and inspiration? Will you take on a pilgrimage of reading?
I used the following information from James Bryan Smith's work in the Spiritual Formation Workbook:
- In 4th century men and women began monasteries and cloisters, emphasizing the importance of solitude, meditation, and prayer. St. Augustine was an example. The Church universal was strengthened by this renewal of intimacy with God. It was the beginning of the contemplative movement that has seen a renewal in our day.
- In the early 18th century John Wesley (he and friends were in the “HOLY CLUB”) began focusing on moral laxity of the time and the removal of sinful habits from the life of Christians. The METHODIST movement was dramatic and impacted the church in positive ways.
- In the 17th century, the Holy Spirit moved among people called ‘QUAKERS’ led by George Fox. An active spiritual life became the empowering principle at the center of their worship, which led them into many areas of mission, evangelism and social concern.
- Late in the 12th century, Francis of Assisi, left his home and wealth and went into the countryside of Italy caring for the sick, poor and lame. Countless men and women followed Francis’ lead and the Church’s impact on disease and poverty was remarkable.
- IN the 15th century there was a renaissance we know as the protestant reformation that emphasized the importance of scripture, individual reading with interpretation, and a focus on biblical preaching. We have to thank Martin Luther, Zwingli, and others for the access to the BIBLE that we tend to take for granted.[i]
[i] James Bryan Smith, A Spiritual Formation Workbook (San Francisco: Harper, 1993) p. 15-16