Good morning, all! A blessed Lord’s Day to each of you. Get some rest today, and enjoy the presence of the Lord!
This is today’s sermon, more or less, from Peace Mennonite Church in Columbia, MO
Pray for peace
Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
1 Tim. 4:7-8
Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Imitation of Christ 011512
This morning I want to continue the general theme we have undertaken, and that is the general theme of spiritual formation and almost as generally Christian spiritual formation.
Janet preached last week on the subject of prayer, and that is always our beginning, once we have realized there is a God, and that God is one who wishes continued or continual relationship with each of us individually. The ultimate goal of Christianity is therefore ‘unity with God’. This is not the usual theme of salvation, which many people believe is the end of Christian belief. Instead, salvation is seen as the beginning of spiritual formation, and the ultimate goal is one of unity with God, which we may never reach in our own lifetime even—we may have to die to reach this level of spiritual formation, I don’t know.
If we look at Christianity this way, I’m sure you recognize that we are looking back quite a ways in Christian history to much earlier periods of Christian belief and practice. In pursuing spiritual formation, we are delving I believe into the area of Christian belief that is called Christian mysticism. Christian mysticism, some say, is the very foundation of all Christianity. It is said that Christianity now believes it is not important that you and I have varying degrees of experience of unity with God. It is enough instead to only be aware that someone had experienced such unity. With Anabaptism and Mennonites it became again a personal matter. We did not accept the proxy relationship of the priest with God for us. Instead, we seek a personal, individual relationship with God.
A second important point to remember is that we are to help each other in this process of seeking a personal relationship with God. It is not the case that Janet and I as pastors are to help you in your search for unity with God. Instead we all should help each other in our individual seeking of God. The community of Christ functions sort of like a priest used to function; now God speaks through a community of Christ with the Holy Spirit instead of the prior reliance on a prophet or a special priest.
Now, when we begin to see our journey this way, the whole range of possibilities for Christian disciples changes. People are often pretty small and limited in their idea anyway of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and few Christians have much of an ongoing idea of what it means to be a disciple, and the things we’re talking about this morning make discipleship even more amazing and surprising. Listen to this diary entry by Frank Laubach, Letters by a Modern Mystic:
April 22, 1930 This morning I started out fresh, by finding a rich experience of God in the sunrise. Then I tried to let Him control my hands while I was shaving and dressing and eating breakfast. Now I am trying to let God control my hands as I pound the typewriter keys…..There is nothing we can do excepting to throw ourselves open to God. There is, there must be, so much more in Him than he can give us…..It ought to be tremendously helpful to be able to acquire the habit of reaching out strongly after God’s thoughts and to ask, “ God, what have you to put into my mind now if only I can be large enough?” That waiting eager attitude ought to give God the chance he needs.
May 14, 1930 Oh, this thing of keeping in constant touch with God, of making him the object of my thought and the companion of my conversations, is the most amazing thing I ever ran across. It is working. I cannot do it even half a day —not yet, but I believe I shall be doing it some day for the entire day. It is a matter of acquiring a new habit of thought. Now I like God’s presence so much that when for a half hour or so he slips out of mind—as he does many times a day—I feel as though I had deserted him, and as though I had lost something very precious in my life.
Now from this quote we realize that this is a much different approach to Christ and to God than we normally find, but this is the material of spiritual formation and of Christian mysticism. It is exciting and it is very, very personal. One of the printed resources for spiritual formation we should look at is Connecting with God, A Spiritual Formation Guide from the Renovare group, including Richard Foster. I’ll hand this around so we can look at it, but the Table of Contents reads like this:
- Living With God
- Talking With God
- Meeting God In Scripture
- Listening To God Through The Creation
- Hearing God Through Other People
- Perceiving God In Circumstances
- Seeking God In Silence
- Seeing God In Dreams And Visions
- Sensing God’s Presence
- Encountering God’s Messengers
- Wresting With God
- Walking With God
So, the traditions of Christian discipleship are more diverse and more amazing than ‘Pray’. Jesus practiced more disciplines than prayer and we’re being invited to share in all this.
A recommended start to the development of Christian disciples has been a straightforward and simple study of a book titled ‘The Imitation of Christ’ by Thomas a Kempis.
`a Kempis was born Thomas Hammerlein, from the town of Kempen, about 40 miles north of Cologne, Germany. He was born about 1380 and spent the last 70 years of his life as a monk, copying manuscripts, reading and composing. The Imitation of Christ has become a book almost as popular as the Bible, and is sometimes analyzed as a carpet of phrases and ideas from the Bible and also from early church Fathers (and Mothers!).
It is a short, short book but when you read it, you are somehow changed forever, and we hope for the better. It describes the personality of Jesus better than any other source. I do question, as the eternal skeptic how anyone knew the persona of Christ as well as this book describes. This book is very specific and descriptive about the personality of Jesus. How did Thomas a Kempis or anyone know the actual personality of Christ with such specificity. It seems to me to be somewhat more specific than the Bible, so where did they get it?
Another reason for the popularity –the shortness of the book—is also an advantage for us. We can find the book for free online, and print it out or read it online for free or cheap (the cost of paper).
The Seventh Chapter, Book One
Avoiding False Hope and Pride
VAIN is the man who puts his trust in men, in created things.
Do not be ashamed to serve others for the love of Jesus Christ and to seem poor in this world. Do not be self-sufficient but place your trust in God. Do what lies in your power and God will aid your good will. Put no trust in your own learning nor in the cunning of any man, but rather in the grace of God Who helps the humble and humbles the proud.
If you have wealth, do not glory in it, nor in friends because they are powerful, but in God Who gives all things and Who desires above all to give Himself. Do not boast of personal stature or of physical beauty, qualities which are marred and destroyed by a little sickness. Do not take pride in your talent or ability, lest you displease God to Whom belongs all the natural gifts that you have.
Do not think yourself better than others lest, perhaps, you be accounted worse before God Who knows what is in man. Do not take pride in your good deeds, for God’s judgments differ from those of men and what pleases them often displeases Him. If there is good in you, see more good in others, so that you may remain humble. It does no harm to esteem yourself less than anyone else, but it is very harmful to think yourself better than even one. The humble live in continuous peace, while in the hearts of the proud are envy and frequent anger.
We’ve spoken before of how it is difficult for us to become Christian disciples in one hour or so per, and we’ve also talked of how time-consuming to be a Christian, We have to have time to read, to pray, to meditate and to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Our purpose in discussing these facets of Christian spiritual formation is not to do the whole practice for us—it needs to take more time than we have and to be spread across more days, but our discussions of spiritual formation give us directions and alternatives for spiritual practice. I pray for us all, that God provides the direction for our discipleship.
Related articles are presented without endorsement
- Quotes from Thomas a’ Kempis’ ‘The Imitation of Christ’ (keatho.com)
- Daily Disciples Devotional Lindarose’s Journal (momsfirstscreenn.wordpress.com)
- Re-Education (kingdaughter.wordpress.com)
- 011512: Viva Sto. Niño! (windupchronicles.wordpress.com)
- The Grand Centre of Unity (justificationbygrace.com)
- New Title Explores Christianity Before Denominations Existed (prweb.com)
- Imitation Jesus Extract for Your Christmas Cookies (markingtime4now.wordpress.com)
- Masters & their Sermons (hiddenlighthouse.wordpress.com)
- Christianity Is Best by Anthony Keith Whitehead (epages.wordpress.com)
- I Quit! (kingdaughter.wordpress.com)