Re-Orienting

It must be readily apparent to everyone that I have been either incredibly busy or incredibly lazy for the past month. I wrote daily through all of Lent and Holy Week, and you read and commented and encouraged and (I hope) were encouraged as we followed Jesus to the cross through the book of John. I then tried to write regularly through Eastertide, reading John’s epistles and reflecting on his pastoral instruction to his churches in light of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

And then, as April drew to a close and May swept in, I did get really busy finishing up my spring semester. I want to blame my crumbling discipline on homework, classes, work, and last-minute projects, but I was as busy throughout my semester. It was a hectic and harrying spring, but I made time in my schedule for reading God’s Word and blogging my reflections, because I wanted to. But as April ended, my desire ebbed. My regular rhythms evaporated. I filled my appetite for the Word with lesser things that were “easier” to reach (movies, mostly), just like I filled my appetite for food with “easier” meals (junk food, snacks, “comfort food”).

May was not a barren month, though. I have much to reflect on, much that I want to share (I may yet write those blogs, and back-date them. Look for them). I drafted a personal “rule of faith” using Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms and James Bryan Smith’s Good and Beautiful Community. But the practice of drafting a “rule of faith” (or “sacred rhythms”) of spiritual disciplines must become a spiritual discipline in itself, re-written and updated with each new season. I didn’t re-write my rule of faith each time my schedule changed, so regular rhythms disappeared.

And my schedule did change, violently! Finals week (the “old things” have passed away), a “dead” week (which was much livelier than I expected), a “cultural immersion” trip to Brazil (I will definitely retro-blog this experience for you all!), and now beginning a full-time pastoral internship at a different local church (the “new” has come). I need to re-draft my rule of faith if I am to successfully maintain any semblance of spiritual health.

This blog is a central and structural component of my rule of faith. I discovered as I wrote my “rough draft” that I am attracted to and proficient in spiritual disciplines that are inward and alone. I love to do anything that is “for” me and by myself; I do very little for or with others eagerly. Except this blog! Yes, this blog is for and about myself, but this has become more and more a space where I am vitally aware of others (you, the readers!) participating in this faith journey with me, and where I mindfully work on behalf of others (you, the readers!). Thank you for joining me.

So, for this summer, I will continue to blog. After all, we are in “Ordinary” or “Growing Time,” when we press on in the name of our risen Lord Jesus Christ, with the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and for the glory of God our Father. Amen.

“Always”

GOSPEL | JOHN 6:27-35

27 “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”  28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?  31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”  32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

“Give us this bread always” (v.34)

This semester has been one of deep personal reflection (to anyone who follows this blog, this will have become redundantly obvious). How all this reflection began, however, is with this question: “What do you want?” Ruth Haley Barton’s book Sacred Rhythms asked me in the first chapter to begin the work of crafting my own personal spiritual rule, or “sacred rhythms,” by first examining my desires.

After taking a bleak January morning to listen deeply to what I really wanted, I discovered a few illuminating points:

  • I want to “be” more than to “do,” but I also want to understand better what I want to “do.”
  • I want more space to be creative, but the space I have I waste on distraction or self-gratification.
  • I want intimacy, fellowship, and love, but I am afraid of offering those gestures to others.

I saw in all of this work that I do not go to the right meal to nourish my deepest hungers. Paul encounters this same dynamic in his own life:

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

This passage from John has recalled all of this examining of my desires to the surface again. The Jews listening to Jesus cry out like nest-bound hatchlings, mouths agape, crying: “Give us this bread always!” (v.34). They have a real spiritual hunger, and they smell a pleasing aroma, and their spirits ache to be satisfied. Jesus sees and hears and understands, and ultimately offers himself: “I am the bread of life.” (v.35).

What I want most can only ever be found in Jesus Christ. He is the answer to all of my questions, he is the meal for all of my appetites, he is the source and end of my pilgrimage. I understand this well, and I understand this not at all. I am able to write this with conviction. But I have yet to really train my appetites to crave the right food: “the food that endures for eternal life” (v. 27), “the true bread from heaven” (v.32), “the Bread of Life” (v.35). I cry out with those listening: “Give [me] this Bread always!”