A church I pastored some years ago thought I came to fill the shoes of the previous pastor. In an awkward moment the church gathered around our family for prayer. One person, who either represented what Marshall Shelley would have termed a "well-intentioned dragon" or my own perception of an "ill-intentioned ner’ do well", prayed admitting to God I was unable to fill the shoes of the previous pastor. Knowing the proclivity for one to be measured against another we pastor types must reckon with those who went before. For many cads become saints over time. Others forget and saints become cads.
Southern Baptists often find any practice or idea not directly connected to the stream of Baptist history or easily "baptized" suspect. We insinuate by practice and publication spiritual formation habits should only include Scripture reading and prayer. For the really spiritually mature you may find Scripture memorization and fasting helpful. Disciplines suggested by older traditions or encouraged by Quakers, for example, should be considered dabbling in unwarranted and unbiblical mysticism. We are not sure what to make of solitude, simplicity and submission as habits to practice. Even spiritually forming disciplines like worship and study serve different functions for most of us.
Imagine helping good folks overcome "genetic" misgivings to any habit intended to help us focus on following Christ. For many in our fellowship the time we spend in repentance and reflection at our Ash Wednesday service elevates their awareness of the Jesus journey and our need to follow His way. Others remain a bit skeptical or quietly disapprove.
This morning using the Morning Prayer fashioned after the Northumbria Community, and taken from Celtic Daily Prayer, I found the "Daily Reading" especially pertinent to the Season of Lent, and to all of life for those following Jesus.
Seven times a day, as I work upon this hungry farm, I say to Thee, ‘Lord, why am I here? What is there here to stir my gifts to growth? What great things can I do for others – I who am captive to this dreary toil?’
And seven times a day Thou answerest, ‘I cannot do without thee. Once did My Son live thy life, and by His faithfulness did show My mind, My kindness, and My truth to men. But now He is come to My side, and thou must take His place.’ (p.65)
1 comment on “Take His place … An Ash Wednesday Reflection …”
This is similar to what I was thinking about earlier this week. I was talking about holiness with a friend about holiness and bible study. Afterwards I came to the realization that often we strive to the ‘ecstatic’ experience of God, the ‘peace that passes all understanding,’ experiences and lives that mirror the mystic. However, in my particular tradition, we’ve not only been denied the ‘tools’ necessary (they being too ‘mystical’) but are also expected to carry on trying to light a fire with water in our own strength. If we can’t it’s thought that there’s something wrong with us, we’re not ‘spiritual’ enough or whatever. It seems like the result is a hollow pretending and a perpetuation of the ‘system’ as there’s nobody to say it’s not working… or to try something different.
Thanks for the prayer and thoughts!