A Rule of Life

Although I ended up missing 3/5 of the week’s lectures because I left early, one of the topics for this final week of The Academy was discerning a “Rule of Life” to sustain the spiritual life and growth we have explored/experienced over the last two years. Although I haven’t yet given much time to discern this, I want to share two resources that may influence what I do develop…

I attended this year’s Ordination service, back in June, as I worked in the background with the worship team to support the experience. As the service went on, I was struck by the questions and vows of those being ordained. These are the foundational commitments we make as elders, and it occurred to me at the time how far we move apart from them to meet the perceived needs and expectations of our churches and their leadership. I often find myself working on things that may be important, but are not as central as the commitments that serve as our “marching orders.” So I reprint here, with added (numbers), the questions/vows that the ordinands made that night, as I continue to reflect on how they do, or should, be the foundation for my ministry:

Will you be (1) faithful in prayer,
(2) in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures,
and with the help of he Holy Spirit,
(3) continually rekindle the gift of God that is in you?

Will you do your best to
(4) pattern your life in accordance with the teachings of Christ?

Will you, in the exercise of your ministry,
(5) lead the people of God (5a) to faith in Jesus Christ,
(5b) to participate in the life and work of the community,
(5c) and to seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people?

Those commissioned are commissioned thus:
We send you now (1) to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, (2) to announce the reign of God, and (3) to equip the church for ministry in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Those ordained are commissioned thus:
Take authority as an elder to (1) preach the Word of God, and (2) administer the holy sacraments…

Our central call as members of the order of elder – and I am indebted to my colleague Mike for sharing that more and more he thinks of our being part of an “order” makes us more similar to members of other religious orders, like the Jesuits, than to business persons – is to follow, grow in, and bring others to Christ. The description in the larger liturgy shares that the elder leads and administers the life of the church, but all toward the goal of growing in Christ…

I’m not sure why these vows struck me in June, but they’ve remained on the shelf of my office facing me when I sit at my desk since that time, handwritten out on a sheet of notebook paper, a reminder and, perhaps, a challenge to reclaim the centrality of my calling.

 

The second resource that is (or may be) influencing my reflection on a workable “rule of life” comes from one of my devotional resources. During one of our silent hours, our teacher – a Quaker named Kathryn – asked us all to return to the room together, in silence, with something “worshipful” to do. Members of the community read, prayed, knitted, colored, and even slept. I read through one of the later readings in my Renovaré Devotional Classics reader, a selection of excerpts from evangelist E. Stanley Jones’ book Conversion, on the daily and regular disciplines he encourages one to pursue to feed the spirit. Again, at this time I’m not sure how these are influencing my decision to continue to nurture the spiritual life in the context of my daily life, but even I’m not blind to the providence that this was the reading on a day we were encouraged to think about such:

You cannot attain salvation by disciplines – it is the gift of God. But you cannot retain it without disciplines…
[Jesus] did three things by habit:

  1. “He stood up to read as was his custom” – he read the Word of God by habit.
  2. “He went out into the mountain to pray as was his custom” – he prayed by habit.
  3. “He taught them again as was his custom” – he passed on to others by habit what he had and what he found…

First, the habit of reading the Word of God daily, preferably in the morning…

Second, pray in private by habit. When we read the Scripture, God speaks to us. In prayer we speak to God. Then God speaks to us, no longer through the Word only, but directly in words to us… When prayer fades out, power fades out. We are as spiritual as we are prayerful; no more, no less.

Third, pass on to others what you have found. The third habit is the habit of passing on to others what has been given to us in the reading of the Word and prayer. It is a law of the mind that that which is not expressed dies. If you don’t share it, you won’t have it…

In addition to [these], certain auxiliary suggestions must be made…
First, cultivate the new life by daily disciplines…
Second, keep honest at any cost…
Third, keep confessing your sins after conversion…
Fourth, pray for those who have wronged you. That will be an antidote for resentment and bitterness…
Fifth, constantly enlarge the area of your conversion. Make your conversion take in more and more areas of your life…
Sixth, give up the habits that cannot be Christianized…

After partaking of the divine nature add these things: …supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge; and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness; and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Pet. 1:5b-7).
Sit down every day and go over these seven things and ask yourself if you are adding them to your basic faith – virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. Check up to see whether you are going up or down in each of these qualities – especially the last one. All growth in Christian living is a growth in love. You may add the other six to your faith, but if you don’t add love, then you are going down as a Christian.

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One response to “A Rule of Life

  1. Thanks for the reminder to be “ordered”. I too have found that some well-worn vows, prayers, and liturgies can strike me in a deep, very relevant way even when I don’t expect it.

    I am a certified candidate in Ohio and have experienced this several times during the candidacy process. Thanks for your post.

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