Summary: Ancient spiritual disciplines, when incorporated in to our lives, prepare us for the coming of Jesus and enable us to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus.
Luke 4:16-30 "Behind the Scenes"
There are times when pithy statements stick in my mind, and I keep reflecting on them. One such statement is "If you don't know where you're going, you'll always get there." I see the reality of this statement every day. Most of us, I believe, don't have a much bigger goal in life than to finish the day vertical and above ground. Sometimes we have goals that don't inspire us and do not receive anything more than lip service by us. At other times, we commit ourselves to foolish goals, goals that are empty and unsatisfying.
As we turn our attention to Christmas, I think that it is important for us to ask ourselves why God the Father sent Jesus to take on our form and be born of Mary. Some will quickly say that Jesus came to save us from our sin. But, is this the totality of Jesus' life death and resurrection? If saving us from our sin is God's goal for our lives, then how do we prepare ourselves and the world for the coming of Jesus? What is our goal?
I think there is more to Jesus work on the cross. Jesus never said that he came to save people from their sins. Jesus said that he came to announce that the kingdom of God had come. Jesus talked about restoring a relationship with God; about being one with God. Jesus came that we might have abundant life, and Jesus came to call us as his disciples.
With this in mind, we prepare ourselves for Jesus by nurturing our relationship with God. We prepare the world by proclaiming God's love and grace in our words and deeds, and by announcing to the people around us that God wants them to live in a relationship with him.
In our reading today, we see Jesus both nurturing his relationship with his Father, and also preparing the world by proclaiming God's steadfast love.
We understand that Jesus was God and lived in a relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself stated that no one knew the Father like he knew the Father. In one sense, Jesus' life and ministry was a celebration of his relationship with the Father.
Though Jesus knew the Father and the Holy Spirit in an intimacy that we will never be able to imitate, Jesus still practices spiritual disciplines in order to nurture those relationships. In this passage of Scripture, we read of Jesus attending the synagogue services--just like he always did. Other passages of Scripture tell us of Jesus going away to pray. Thanksgiving was a part of Jesus' life and he had an attitude of gratitude wherever he went.
If Jesus practiced these spiritual disciplines, perhaps we should see to respond to God's love and grace in our lives through the practice of ancient spiritual activities.
There is a long list of things we can do in order to nurture our relationship with God and experience the abundant life that is God's goal for us. Among these disciplines are: prayer, Scripture reading, hymn singing, liturgical services, caring conversations, meditation, traditions and rituals, loving service, and thanksgiving.
None of us will be good at all of the spiritual disciplines, but we are invited to involve ourselves in these disciplines and thus open ourselves up to the movement of the Holy Spirit. The goal of such practices is to be able to "practice God's presence,"
While we are nurturing our relationship with God, we are at the same time preparing ourselves to be lights and salt in the world in which we live.
A WORLD PREPARED
The mission that we have is to share the love that we experience in our relationship with God with the people around us.
Our hope and our prayer--our goal--is that they may experience the love of God that is already present and enter into a relationship with God. A deep, intimate relationship with God is possible because of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.
It is easy to fall into a religious life that is lukewarm and comfortable. Practicing the spiritual disciplines that are proven paths to nurturing faith, deepening commitment and expanding trust, we can experience the life that God desires for us.