Rhythms of Grace
Brett kicked off the Sacred Rhythm series on Sunday (7 May) with The Examined Life: Rhythms of Grace. Sacred Rhythms help us to find everyday life "in Christ". They are not themselves the goal of life or a way to keep score with God. They are channels of grace to us as we open ourselves to God.
Our goal in this series is to try to develop a Rule of Life for ourselves. Now don't be put off by the word "rule" - it's not that kind of rule - think about the word that lies behind it: The word comes from the ancient Greek word for “trellis.” A trellis is a tool that enables a grapevine to get off the ground and grow upward, becoming more fruitful and productive. In the same way, a Rule of Life is a trellis that helps us abide in Christ and become more fruitful spiritually.
One of the reasons people struggle with Christianity is because of the many so-called rules that exist. Many of these rules lead to constraint, legalism and squeeze joy out of us. So associating Christian faith with rules seems counter-intuitive. But there’s a spiritual formation practice called “Developing a Rule of Life” within Christian faith that is not meant to constrain us. It actually frees us. It is a “Rule” that has the purpose of infusing joy rather than squeezing it out. I’m referring to a “Rule of Life”.
When most people reflect on their relationship with God, what we see is compartmentalization. That is -- we separate our spiritual life from other parts of our life – like home or work or recreation. Before God, however, every aspect of our lives is equally sacred. What we are missing is an intentional plan to live this out. And powerful, external forces exist in the culture to cut us off from communion/abiding/remaining with Jesus.
A Rule of Life finds its roots in the men and women who withdrew from society as hermits to the deserts of Egypt and Syria during the third to fifth centuries to seek God after the emperor had made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire. They wanted to free themselves from the worldliness found both inside and outside the church. They wanted to truly find God and thus bring Him to both the church and the world. They eventually formed communities and organized their daily life around an agreed up plan consisting of work, prayer, and the study of Scripture. They knew that to grow and mature spiritually, they needed both one another, and a thoughtful, conscious, purposeful plan. They called this plan a Rule of Life.
It’s been said that a rule of life is “‘an exterior framework for an interior journey’: a kind of scaffolding to use to build the spiritual structure of our individual life with God.” It is an intentional, conscious plan to keep God at the center of everything we do. It includes our unique combination of spiritual practices that provide structure and direction for us to intentionally pay attention and remember God in everything we do. The goal - to be with God and to love him in everything we do.
Most Christians are not intentional, but rather function on autopilot. We have an unconscious way that we develop our spiritual lives. That may include reading the Bible in the morning for a few minutes, attending church and small group weekly, giving money, praying at dinner, etc. We come to church and interact with whatever is handed to us. We are, for the most part, passive and not intentional. The invitation of this session is to intentionally take one step to develop your own personal “Rule of Life”. The key word here is INTENTIONALITY. It requires intentionally to anchor us in the hurricane pace of our twenty-first-century world. Swimming against such a strong current, without the anchor of a Rule of Life, is almost impossible. Eventually we find ourselves unfocused, distracted, and adrift spiritually.
The following is a suggested list of twelve elements consider as you begin to develop your personal Rule of Life. The challenge before you is for you to pick one or two and grow in that.
1. Scripture. You may want to begin reading/praying the Psalms. Try reading our gospel for the year (Matthew) in bite sized chunks. Or reading the Bible through in a year (there are thousands of plans available online), or begin meditating on Scripture each day - take a verse into the day with you, literally if that helps - you can stick it on your steering wheel or in your wallet.
2. Silence and Solitude. You may want to grow in taking 2-5 minutes a day to be in stillness with Jesus, or take a 3 hr retreat once a month. Some people love to journal in these spaces.
3. Prayer – Take even just a few minutes for prayer in the morning. You may want to begin a second midday prayer time between 11 and 2 each day over the next few months. You could try a prayer of Examen in the evening.
4. Study – you may want to take a course at our church or Bible College or commit yourself to read a Christian book every two months.
5. Sabbath – You may want to begin setting apart a Sabbath period to the Lord. This may be your year project, staring with a ½ day and then building up.
6. Simplicity – Maybe you wan to remove distractions by downsizing your commitments or giving a percentage of your income - moving to a tithe of 10%.
7. Play and Recreation – This may include finding activities that breathe life in you. Some of you may take up a hobby like tramping, cooking, art, music.
8. Service and Mission – It may be time for you to step out and begin using your time, or talents to serve others.
9. Care for the Physical Body – This could be getting 8 hours sleep or exercising, or shifting your diet.
10. Emotional Health – you may want to find a mentor, or begin journalling around losses you have not grieved well. You may want to find a counselor for a season.
11. Family – This area concerns itself with growing in your marriage, parenting, your relationships with the opposite sex as a single person. Maybe you want to get help so that you begin relating differently to your parents or siblings.
12. Community (companions for the journey). You may want to find a spiritual director, cell group or an accountability group, or again, a mentor.
Some of you will want to add new elements (e.g., hospitality) and/or delete others. The choice is yours. Developing an intentional Rule of Life takes trial and error, and time. You will need to learn a great deal about yourself. For example, what kinds of spiritual practices bring you closer to God? Which drive you away from him? How can you discern the right combination for your particular Rule of Life?
Give yourself lots of time for the slow development of what works best for you. As you examine your life, you may notice many areas that need work. The best approach is to start with only one or two elements for the first few months. Then, after you experience some success with those, you will want to add another building block to your Rule. Or you may want to stay with the same element to work on over a long period of time. Be willing to make mistakes, try again, and learn new things. And be careful to avoid any traces of legalism. You want to be careful that this treasure of a spiritual rhythms, like all that we do, does not became a “Have to” rather than a “want to” out of love for Christ. If it feels like a heavy yoke for you or anyone in the group, throw it off. Jesus’ yoke is easy and light. His yoke and call to us fits our uniqueness, perfectly.
Have a chat with your cell leader or Brett if you'd like to know more.
(Based on Pete Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)