Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oh the joys of sacrifice and suffering . . .

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent within the Anglican (and other) Church's calendar. Lent is traditionally known as the forty-days (excluding Sundays) preceding Easter Sunday, the resurrection of our Lord, and the climactic feast day on the Christian calendar. The Scriptural basis of this season stems from Jesus’ own forty days of wandering in the desert and subsequent temptation by the devil.

Lent has come at a good time for me this year. I feel a greater sense of purpose and timing this year due to the circumstances of my life and my desire to hear God's call for the next phase of ministry. I therefore feel more compelled to observe this time and use it to devote myself to a season of drawing near, questioning and listening. Most of that will probably be directed towards God, some of it to fellow sojourners. I want to let go of some things (alcohol and TV) so as to be able to take hold of other things (listening prayer, Scripture and friendships).

I sense the call to personal examination but also community examination so my hope is that others within my community will join me in different ways. Over the last few weeks, as we have worked with 2 groups of people looking at the process of spiritual formation and the place of spiritual direction to that end, one Scripture has been uppermost in my mind. "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." [Mark 8:34-5] These words were spoken to the disciples and the crowd following, and interestingly come just after Jesus' rebuke of Peter for not having in mind the concerns of God (his own crucifixion). Hence the "joy" of sacrifice and suffering! I sense God wanting to speak more deeply to me through these words.

If you are connected with us and the work here in Austin, TX, then I want to invite you along to use this season in your own way so that we might be led to a deeper trust in the promises of God and a willingness to repent of any self-obsessed self-protection that has put us more in line with Satan's rebellion than the Son's submission to the Father. We have been learning about the cycle of transformation for the Christ-follower that always begins with brokenness leading to repentance and a yielding to the Spirit. This brings new revelation (an unveiling of what already is) bringing confidence and a release of the Spirit's life.

For now though, through a time of renewed consecration, our focus is the first part of the cycle - brokenness, repentance and yielding to God. Hence the desire to be still and to listen ... to God and to one another. Let us invite the Lord to speak into our communal life and to reveal his call upon our lives for his glory. I have been thinking much recently about place, wondering where the 'right' place is for this time. Carol and I are currently living in an inbetween place (or so it seems), but maybe that is always the case when we think geographically. The place God wants us is in His Son, following Jesus on pilgrimage and on mission. There's no other place I'd rather be but sometimes I am distracted by rabbit trails, or just simply fall off the path. Fortunately I can continue to lay hold of another promise of God found in the Psalms;

"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." [Psalm 16:11]

2 comments:

Lyn said...

I like your reference to stillness & waiting before God. I think this aspect of our relationship with God has been lost in some churches or denominations, often replaced with a works orientated approach to seeking God. How freeing it is to sit in God's presence & reflect upon His beauty & His creation & to experience His voice in the everyday.

Dawn Hawkins said...

I agree with Lyn, having a time when waiting and stillness Is the "main" purpose so that you can really get back to hearing God is so important.

Also without the in-between places in out lives we would never be prepared, and ministry would end up being about us and not about want God wants. (Well in my not so great experience anyway)

On a more selfish note Mike I am hoping that God is calling you to write more as I have found your last few blogs really helpful.