One Book, One Parish

This Lent, join us in reading together one book, Being Disciples by Rowan Williams, to explore how life and faith intersect. Starting on Ash Wednesday, we will post a weekly reflection from our rector, Simon Mainwaring, on each of the book’s six chapters.

 

Chapter Two: Faith, Hope and Love

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What does it mean to say ‘We believe?’ We say it a lot in the Episcopal Church, every time we affirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, an ancient statement of our beliefs dating from the 4th century. Is belief simply a matter of assenting to what we have to say about God, or does belief go deeper than what the head can affirm or deny?

The word, ‘creed’ comes from the Latin, ‘Credo’. Marcus Borg has argued that credo really means to give one’s heart to something. That might not be strictly accurate, but the sentiment certainly speaks to the nature of theological knowledge, which biblically sees the heart as a place of deeper knowledge wherein we come to know God more fully and go further on our journey toward Christian maturity. The heart is where we feel loyalty and faithfulness, where we come to discover the dependability of our words about God through the faithfulness of God to us in relationship with us. The heart is where we learn that God is a hope that will never go away.

All of this implies that faith is less a process of us mastering something but of being mastered. As Williams states, it is about God’s faithfulness not mine. Faith is the inward journey we go on as we become mastered by Truth. As such, the life of faith is a life that can begin to let go of our need to work out our lives. Williams says, we ‘don’t have to settle the absolute truth of [our] history or story’.

And so, as the visible communities in the world that have committed to speak of such a loving truth, churches also need to be places that are dependable, patient, confident in the promises of God to be still long enough for people to discover those promises for themselves. Such faithfulness in community can be hard at times and requires us to trust that in the end we and the Church are God’s work. I invite you to trust in that too, this Lent: trust that you are the subject of Love’s unalterable gaze, God’s sacred gift now and for ever.

 

 

Chapter One: Being Disciples

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Rowan Williams’ Being Disciples is a book, as Lent is a season, less about what we believe and more about how we live and learn to live the Christian life by something as simple as staying, by abiding, by dwelling with one another and with God. To be a disciple, is to be one who stays, who learns by sharing life, with others, who abides in order to be changed. But what are we staying for? How are we seeking to be changed?

At the heart of the life of faith is the desire to grow in our awareness of the divine, of God’s presence in the world, ever-abundant, yet often obscured by the lines of sight along which we see the world. To be a disciple, then, is to be one who is expectant, awaiting the God who will break through the ordinary of our everyday lives, right within our everyday living. Discipleship is the practice of living expectantly for God to happen in our here and now.

Often this awareness of the presence of God is experienced less as a flash of light and more as a gradual dawn, as the slow arrival of the Spirit, which incrementally teaches us to see reality anew, reconstituted around Jesus. Yet the dawn, the first light, requires a spark, and some air. It calls for our attention to how that light might be kindled. The invitation to a holy Lent is our beckoning to step toward a greater intention for how the scriptures, or the sacraments of bread and wine, or the life we share with one another, might help us see what Christ is gifting us with. We might also be invited in our following of this Christ to go where Christ is to be found most especially: among the excluded and the self-hating, the ones who find it hard to find themselves in the disorder and pain of their own lives.

So, this life of being disciples is one that asks us to pay attention, to stay, to abide as God abides among us, often especially in those places we least expected to find ourselves. What is more, these acts of a contemplation become the roots of a transformative life that might not shake up the world, but might help infuse the everyday with a little bit of the eternal love of God, as we allow, as Williams writes, a ‘God-shaped hole to take place around’ us. For this, as he goes on, is ultimately what the disciple seeks: ‘how to be a place in the world where the act of God can come alive.’ May that becoming a place where God comes alive be what your life seeks this season of Lent, and may God bless you as you wait, and watch, and grow in God’s grace.

 

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