Maintaining Spiritual Disciplines

Psalm 88 (verses 1&2) O Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before You. Let my prayer come before You, incline Your ear to my cry!  (8) You have put away my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an abomination to them; I am shut up, and I cannot get out.  (13) But to You I have cried out, O LORD, and in the morning my prayer comes before You.  (18) Loved one and friend You have put far from me, and my acquaintances into darkness.

Being cut off from our closest relationships can be difficult. We live in a fallen world, a world that does not always function the way God created it to function: sin, and disease, and death are our companions in this life, and they were the companions of those who came before us. Psalms 88 is labeled a contemplation of Heman the Ezrahite. Bad stuff is happening to him, far more than isolation. He is struggling not only with what is happening to him, but why it is happening, and how can God let such things happen. But, even in the middle of his suffering, Heman turns to God – and proclaims God as salvation. Instead of using his struggles as an excuse for putting off his personal spiritual disciplines, Heman gets up every morning to cry out to the Lord and lift his prayers before God.

As Christians, we understand the fall and its impact on the world in which we live. Like Heman, we turn to God in our trials and grapple with questions of why is this happening and why is this fallen world (and the evil one) allowed to mess up so many good things God is doing in my life – and in others. What we know (but might have come as quite a surprise to Heman) is that God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, entered this world. He became one of us, and He shared in every way what it means to be a human being – including the pain of being forsaken. He took all of our sin, all of the world’s fallenness, even death into Himself – and in love and obedience He took every bit of it to the cross, where He defeated death and sin and fallenness by dying, rising, ascending, and sending the Holy Spirit. We believe that God is salvation, that He will come again, that the dead in Christ shall rise, and that He will set all that is wrong to right.

We are probably more aware than ever that the world in which we live is, indeed, fallen and far from what God created it to be. Let us also be more aware than ever of the great love with which He love us: 

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)

Let me close with a story the Lord has been reminding me of recently. Many years ago, Deacon Steve Hilker and I went out to lunch with another man – a third order Franciscan. Over lunch, this brother talked about his always looking for ways to personally express the Franciscan mission in his day-to-day life.

 It struck me at that time, and many times since, that this is a word for me – this is a word for us. I believe that God has called us to a particular set of relationships, a particular way of life, and to a particular mission. Like this brother, we should be constantly looking for ways to personally express what it means to be a community of disciples on mission. In one way, we do that by continuing to do what we have always done – especially now being faithful to daily prayer and scripture. But, during this time of separation, we need to look for new ways to express God’s particular call to love, to serve, to reach out. In this very unusual time, let each one of us grapple with the question: what new thing, what imaginative thing can I do at this time to express to others God’s call to me?

Top photo credit: image of hands extended in prayer with open bible,  Copyright© Kalina Vova at Photo ID: 19540097.

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