the unforced rhythm of grace...

I guess the timing is about right - nearly two years of sharing ministry - for I am starting to see more clearly where God is at work within and among us. We began by exploring Christ's open table - feasting to be exact - and what it might mean to turn our gaze towards joy and celebration. From the feast we were led into three commitments: building deeper community, focusing our mission activities and practicing faithful stewardship of our resources. (This tune by Jefferson Airplane says it all...)

+ Building community: using some of the wisdom of Graham Standish, our organizational structure is moving towards small group ministries of prayer, study, action and accountability. We spend time talking about our lives - and reflecting on scripture - every time we gather both so that we know and love one another as well as become living parts of Christ's body.

+ Focusing our mission: rather than trying to do everything, we have become focused; and rather than state our goals in abstract or overly theological terms, we have moved towards simplicity. We gather together with God and one another to worship, to reflect on our Christian faith, to do justice and to share compassion. Worship, reflection, justice and compassion now help us choose how to use our time, energy and resources.

+ Faithful stewardship: we have been called together by God for ministry not to be a club. We have been given resources - time, insight and money - that are a sacred trust - so we must use them in ways that advance the compassion and justice of Christ rather than simply maintain our building.

I am VERY clear that we are just scratching the surface of this work together - it is exciting and spirit-filled - but still just the beginning. And now another dimension is being revealed: how to live into the blessings of Christ. Doctrine alone has never empowered God's people to become living, breathing and loving men, women and children grounded in the kingdom of God. And what has long been missing in many local churches is training in spiritual discipline -practicing in the spirituality of Jesus - so that folks don't dismiss the promises of Christ as either fantasy or lies. Or worse, consider themselves at fault when they've never had a chance to learn!

It took me about three years of work in Tucson to figure out what God was saying to us re: spirituality - and I hope I am listening better here. What is coming into focus and will probably shape my preaching and teaching throughout the season of Pentecost has to do with learning the unforced rhythm of grace. Without any illusion that this is complete - or even completely right - I have started to think of the peace that Jesus aches to share like this:

Ours is an upside down kingdom that honors the wisdom of our wounds, lives from the inside out and refuses to separate the secular from the sacred. We cultivate quiet humility, a generous imagination and seek always to integrate our head with our heart. We practice radical hospitality born of gratitude rather than obligation for these are the spiritual disciplines that help us embody the unforced rhythm of grace.

Now as I see it, there are seven spiritual components to this spirituality:

+ learning the wisdom of our wounds
+ acting from our deepest values rather than reacting to the pain of living
+ searching for God's presence in all of life
+ nourishing our inner lives
+ connecting our imagination with God's creativity
+ sharing radical hospitality with everything that is alive
+ expressing our faith as an act of gratitude

Now, there are clear ways of going deeper into each of this spiritual commitments - practices, habits and even disciplines that will help train us in the counter-cultural vision of Jesus and his grace - and I guess now is the time to start making this clear. What a blessing - and just in time for Pentecost! (Kinda feels like this song by Rob Schneider to me...)


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