Category Archives: Ancient-Future Faith

‘Housekeeping’ as a spiritual discipline?

housekeeping1I actually enjoy some parts of “keeping” the house. I’ve always shared the tasks whether growing up, or in a house of guys or with my own family. (I have a running joke with a friend of mine who consistently stops by when I’m cleaning or vacuuming, troubled that I’m making him look bad!)

Haven’t you noticed a measure of satisfaction – or even a “smile” from God when the house (or car) is shining, or your office desktop becomes visible, or you just clean up your own mess? There is something about housekeeping chores that “keeps” US grounded and helps push back laziness, apathy, and self-indulgence.

This all became more alive for me as I was reading a chapter in a book on early Christian spiritual life by a local Brown professor, Susan Ashbrook Harvey. (It’s called To Train His Soul in Books: Syriac Asceticism in Early ChristianityHarvey is an Orthodox Christian and scholar in the exploding field of Early Christian Studies. I met with her a few years back, so when I spotted it in the new books section of the URI library, I checked it out. The title of her chapter is Housekeeping: An Ascetic Theme in Late Antiquity. Here are just a few excerpts:

“My purpose is to ask how housekeeping as opposed to housebuilding – contributed (to) … sustained self-maintenance (in the Christian life.)

The Scriptures frequently use household imagery (e.g. 1 Cor. 3 & 6.) The human body is spoken of as the Temple of God – “a holy place in which the Holy Spirit should dwell, and which ought accordingly to be kept clean of defilement and worthy of its purpose.” Jewish writers spoke of adorning and preparing our “house” for God in greater ways than we would for the entertainment of Kings!

The texts of the early Church Fathers and Mothers stressed continual discipline often using the household images: “The housekeeping cited in these texts is not the light maintenance work of daily dusting and sweeping, but rather the hard drudgery of a thorough spring cleaning. It represents the periodic effort to take serious stock of one’s condition: to take everthing apart in the cleaning process in order to put it back together again with shining freshness. The ascetic self, engaged in a daily discipline, could yet acquire the buildup of unwanted sentiments or emotions or passions. A thorough, harsh cleaning scrubbed the ascetic back to a fine and proper dwelling for divine habitation. (p.152)

One comment noted in the essay: John Chrysostom (4th cent.) challenges male monks and celibate households to do their own hard work of housekeeping rather than hire women to do it for them!

[NOTE: A somewhat more accessible and similar read is by Kathleen Norris – The Quotidian Mysteries. It’s short and is also included as a chapter in her larger book, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life.

Q – How may God want to use the daily, ‘housekeeping’ activities in  your life to draw attention to the disciplines of discipleship?

Prayers I Go To Constantly

prayerI find my prayer life becoming more simple.  I didn’t say simplistic.

Quite the opposite, I find that I am drawn to the Biblical prayers; the Ancient words that quickly “put me in my place” as the beloved forgiven sinner who belongs to the Mighty and Good God! I mentioned this idea in last week’s teaching on The Battle with Anxiety

Here are three of my “Go-To Prayers.”  

The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
There are variations based on the biblical references (e.g. Luke 18:13, 38 and historical usage.) See this previous post on the use of the Jesus Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: the pattern given to Jesus’ disciples when asked, “Teach us to pray!” All true prayer is contained here.  Let’s use it as both a prayer and a frame upon which to hang our every petition. Look at this article about how Martin Luther practiced and taught using this prayer and other scriptures.

The Lenten Prayer of Ephrem the Syrian:   Read a great commentary on this 4th cent. prayer.
O Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of
apathy, despondency, ambition, and empty talk.

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But give rather the spirit of
purity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant.
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Yes, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother or sister;
For You are blessed forever, to ages of ages.  Amen!
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Do you have prayers or scriptures that you GO TO that help you “Pray without ceasing?”   Leave a comment.

The Spiritual Homelessness of Young Adults

spirtually-homelessMuch has been written about the so called “Nones” – the seemingly growing number of those in America marking “none” as to their religious affiliation.

An article from David Kinnaman is the Barna Research organization’s more detailed take on the spiritual journeys of young adults, or millennials,  and how older Christian leaders can best ‘mentor’ them and learn from them. The study is called: Three Spiritual Journeys of Millennials.  Read it here.

Q – If you are in the 18-30 age – do you see similar trends in yourself and others?

What’s our excuse?

Icon of John Chrysostom,
Community of Jesus, Orleans MA

Much has been said in recent years about Church worship attendance being less consistant among today’s Christians. It’s not an entirely new phenomenon. I came across these words from John Chrysostom, the greatest preacher among he church fathers, who pastored in the large city of Antioch in the 4th century:

“Still, such is the wretched disposition of the many, that after so much reading, they do not even know the names of the Books, and are not ashamed nor tremble at entering so carelessly into a place where they may hear God’s word. Yet if a harper, or dancer, or stage-player call at the city, they all run eagerly, and feel obliged to him for the call, and spend the half of an entire day attending to him alone; but when God speaks to us by the prophets and apostles, we yawn, we scratch ourselves, we are drowsy.

“And in summer, the heat seems too great, and we take ourselves to the marketplace; and again, in winter, the rain and the mire are a hindrance, and we sit at home; yet at the horse races, though there is no roof over them to keep off the wet, the greater number, while heavy rains are falling, and the wind is dashing the water into their faces, stand like madmen, caring not for the cold, and wet, and mud, and length of the way, and nothing keeps them at home, and prevents their going out.

“But here, where there are roofs over head, and where the warmth is admirable, they hold back instead of running together; and this, too, when the gain is that of their own souls. How is this tolerable, tell me?”

—John Chrysostom, On St. John, Homily LVIII, ca. A.D. 390

QUESTION: How seriously do you approach the privilege and priority of Christian worship?

sabbath reflection on the paradox of prayer

Sea Gull Monastery  (3-19-12)

Sabbath time at Jamestown dock
void of boats
just lonely posts;

Seagull sentinels
perch like stylite
desert monks

Doing nothing apparent.
What purpose, this unnoticed sitting
so still and tranquil

Alive to no one
but themselves and their Maker
and me?

What difference do they make?
What difference
does prayer make?

A caring, Christ-centered response to same-sex attraction

I commend to your listening – a podcast by Orthodox writer, Frederica Mathewes-Green who podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio – an internet site I value.  This is part 2 of 2 on the subject of ‘Gay Rights.’  It is one of the most pastorally sensitive and Christ-centered presentations I’ve come across.  Increasingly it is the way I go in explaining that all Christian disciples are called to chastity.  It is not a matter of ‘suffer’ or ‘be promiscuous,’ when engaging a Christian who is honest about same-sex attraction.

Here is the link – I urge you to take the time to listen to it.

What is Your Game Plan?

This is our major teaching series at Christ Church this winter and spring.  It’s about creating what Christians for centuries have called a “Rule of Life.”  Click here for the sermon downloads.  The first two are, I trust, helpful introductions. Read on to better understand how to  prayerfully work through a personal plan for more intentional discipleship. At the end are numerous linked resources to help you.

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What is a RULE OF LIFE?
Serious Christ-followers have always sought to become “Spiritual Athletes” who, like the Apostle Paul, seek to ‘train themselves in godliness.”

We don’t want to confuse Rule with rules!  ‘Rule’ comes from the root word, Regula, which meant a measuring stick or signpost.  A rule of life lays out spiritual expectations which give structure and form to our spiritual lives, identifies our successes and failures, and provides us with goals to attain, not on our own but with God’s power and the support of the community.

Think of “rule” as a plan for discipline; a “rhythm of life;” a “Curriculum in Christlikeness” (Dallas Willard); or as John Ortberg calls it, a “Game Plan for Morphing” or being transformed!   Continue reading What is Your Game Plan?

Adam and Christmas Eve

Christ Church in winter

The Story of God and Man begins with the creation of Adam – the first icon, made in the image and likeness of God. Though designed to walk with God and rule the earth with him, Adam (whose name means ‘humanity’) falls and God immediately begins the great cracked-icon-restoration project with the promise of the serpent’s ‘crushing’ defeat. (Genesis 3:15) The Bible puts great emphasis on Jesus as the Second Adam. Replacing Adam One – the New Humanity has begun!

Patrick Reardon puts it this way, as seen not just from the birth, but from the death and resurrection of Christ.

(Christ) stands in defiance of Adam’s Fall…Adam no longer had the final word about the human expectation. On the contrary, a new order had been introduced; an order in which death was no longer the last chapter of history. Jesus…radically remodeled human iconography and changed the content of man’s inheritance. With respect to our ultimate destiny, Christ replaced Adam. Paul elaborates: “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam, a life-giving spirit.”
(1 Corinthians 15:45). 

Christmas Eve will mark again, the glorious coming of the Second Adam – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
With the 5th  century hymn writer, we can sing:

Bethlehem has opened Eden, come, let us see;
There a virgin has borne a babe
and has quenched at once Adam’s and David’s thirst.
For this, let us hasten to this place where there has been born
a little Child, God before the ages.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!
Let us Glorify Him!

Lyle

Christmas Eve Preparation – an early Christian ‘sermon hymn’ on the Nativity

If you want a deeply spiritual treat this Christmas season, let me urge you to listen to or read one of the best loved ‘hymns’ of Eastern Church music called the Kontakion of the Nativity.  listen to Frederica Mathewes-Green reading the full Kontakion with background music.

The written version can be downloaded and read.

This Kontakion is the work of the 6th century poet and singer Romanos and is in dialog form involving Mary and the Magi. This text document has all the biblical references and background to the work.

I love this sermonic and poetic hymn because it is filled with rich biblical imagery and ties the themes of the whole Bible together, especially Christ as the ‘Second Adam,’ which is the theme of my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day sermons.

EnJOY!