Practicing the Way of Jesus
Beloved in Christ,
Monday night I gathered on Zoom for the first time with the School for Formation's Practicing the Way of Jesus class. The group consists of men and women, lay and ordained, from many different places and walks of life. All of them want to deepen their practice of following Jesus; many want to learn how to apprentice others into his loving, liberating way of life.
Ever since I was introduced to Jesus as a fourteen-year-old, I’ve wanted to learn more about him and the Christian life. I went to every Bible study and church class, hungry for more information. And yet during all those years, and even during my seminary education, rarely was I or anyone else apprenticed into the many ancient and rich practices of the Christian faith. Most of my formation was intellectual, “sanctification by information,” rather than something that drew upon not only my mind, but also my heart and senses.
In his important book You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, James K. A. Smith observes, “We learn to love . . . not primarily by acquiring information about what we should love but rather through practices that form the habits of how we love” (p. 21). We may say we love Jesus, but our daily actions and choices may say something completely different. If we make time each day for prayer and reflection, and if we make intentional commitments to listen to others deeply, be generous, live simply, offer and receive forgiveness, and to receive and serve each person we encounter as Christ (among other Christian practices), we will be shaped by them more than by the cultural practices (what Smith calls “secular liturgies”) like consumerism that compete for our time and attention.
If you haven’t yet found spiritual practices that speak to you, I encourage you to order Adele Ahlberg Calhoon’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, or Richard Foster’s classic book Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home. I also love Margaret Silf’s Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality, a treasure trove of Ignatian insights and practices for those who love visual and imaginative ways of praying.
Jesus’ way is a life of practice that immerses us in ancient spiritual practices that form us and enable us to participate in God’s life more fully each day. It’s a way worth staking your life on.
The Rev. Blair Pogue
Canon for Vitality & Innovation