Before you head off into your weekend, here are a few things that I have read and been thinking about this week. Hope they are as helpful to you as they have been challenging to me!
Spiritual formation prepares us for a life in which we move away from our fears, compulsions, resentments, and sorrows, to serve with joy and courage in the world, even when this leads us to places we would rather not go.Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen
From fear to courage. From resentment to joy. That is what the spiritual disciples do for and to us as God uses them in our lives. Be aware that growth is not linear but moves in fits and starts. If we expect each day that we are a bit more joyful than the next we will surely be disappointed. There may even be seasons where the line moves down! But over time, sometimes imperceptibly and other times very noticeable we are formed which means we are changed. Like a swap meet where the temporal gets exchanged for the eternal.
With Wesley, God is seeking man, creating situations to get his attention, appealing to him, cajoling him, wanting his love, and expecting his freely given fellowship.A Theology of Love by Mildred Bangs Wynkoop
I wish I had this quote a few weeks ago for a sermon! Wynkoop rightly states that God is the divine initiator and we are the people given agency to be in fellowship with God. The fact that the Creator of the universe desires and moves mountains to have a relationship with you and me never gets old.
The cognitive revolution demonstrated that human beings emerge out of relationships. The health of a society is determined by the health of those relationships, not by the extent to which it maximizes individual choice.The Social Animal by David Brooks
I am still processing this quote from David Brooks. That we are formed by relationships makes sense to me. It pairs well with the first quote above. The challenging part of the quote is the second sentence which says that the health of a society is determined by the health of the relationships within the group.
And then he takes a swipe at individual choice by asserting that personal freedom (ie. choice) is not the key to the health of the community but rather how I relate to persons within the group. How willing am I to give up some personal freedom in order to promote health among the community I am part of?
From my standpoint, this has become one of the greatest threats to the church. Worship style, Sunday morning times, carpet texture, and even paint color are but a few personal preference issues that are opportunities to demand that my individual choice trumps the health of the organization. Os Guiness in his book The Call tells of a pastor who once told him, “I’m haunted when I look into the eyes of my congregation and realize they are always only two weeks away from leaving for another church.” While I believe that is a bit of an exaggeration…not by much. When personal preference becomes the primary gospel by which we determine our affiliations we may find comfort but I wonder if we will ever find true personal growth or a healthy community.