Ephesians 4: 1-16
Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.
If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.
I always rush wedding talks. It’s down to the awareness that I’m holding people back from a Champagne reception. Yet, despite my quickened cadence, I try to make one thing clear: the best kind of love burns slowly – a love that endures.
I look at the happy couple, and nick the wise words of David Brooks as he describes couples who have reached a harmony of contentment and catharsis through their marriage.
“Catharsis comes after the long ups and downs. It comes when you look back and realise that it’s more accurate to say that you’ve really had five or six different marriages, that you were married to five or six different people who happened to inhabit, over the years, the same body. In catharsis, needy love has morphed into giving love. Each partner has leapt into the absurd for the other, made sacrifices that made no earthly sense. We applaud people for having a fiftieth wedding anniversary because we know it is an achievement, even though to them it just feels like a delight. They are not done living, but they can pause on a winter’s evening, lean their heads together and stare into the fire.”
An enduring love requires us to change and grow in our natures, as our characters are formed by the one we love.
While Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever, the truth is that the outworking of our devotion will mean that we will pass through different stages in our relationship with Him. There will be a point when we will look back and see that while Christ has remained consistent, we have changed in Him, like five or six different people, all maturing within our same body. Discipleship is a journey marked by various stages and there are many ways to describe such steps of maturity. For Ronald Rolheiser, there are three distinct phases of our lives with Christ:
Firstly, Essential Discipleship fuelled by the passionate pursuit of adventure with Christ as we long to find our home in Him.
Secondly, Mature Discipleship, sustained with the priority of giving our lives away in persistent prayer, generosity and blessing for, “the mark of a deeply mature man or woman, the mark of a very mature disciple of Jesus, and the mark of someone truly giving his or her life away is this: he or she is a person who blesses others and blesses the world, just as God does and just as Jesus did.”
Rolheiser concludes with the third phase of Radical Discipleship, with its desire to live now in such a way today that our deaths, just like Christ’s can be a blessing to our family, our friends and our communities.
While our culture idolises the pointless pursuit of staying young, through the writings of the New Testament, we see our purpose lies in growing up and maturing into Christ, becoming more like Him in every which way through a love that burns long and slow. The invitation of formation requires us to change.
While it’s never comfortable, it is often moments of crisis, suffering and testing that create the conditions for us to make the transition from one stage of maturity to another. Jesus’ ministry began in the wilderness. As we learn to journey through liminal desert spaces and not just avoid them, we can walk through the permeable membranes of one stage and into the next. If life is good, you’re happy to stay put. Yet in the stillness of the desert air, you hear the call of a new land.
It is those who are kept awake by dark nights of the soul who crave the dawning of a new day.
In changing, we see that our story stacks, layered like chapters in a novel. We don’t need to disregard our past, taking on a brand new entity in our maturity. No, we can include and incorporate where we have been into where we are headed. For the crisis presents an opportunity not to go back to the way things were but to further embody the nature of Christ as our love for Him burns.
And as we take our first steps through the terrain of new territory, we learn that there is simplicity to be found on the other side of complexity.
A simplicity found in trust.
Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.’
Methodist Covenant Prayer
If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.
Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.
Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.
“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.
The Second Mountain by David Brooks
Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser
Falling Upward by Richard Rohr