Sacraments, Spiritual Disciplines & Dirty Dishes
Thanks to everyone who participated in last post’s survey. BTW, the “other” suggestions for evangelical sacraments were “group bible study,” “communion” and “everything we do.” I kind of doubt that the results are very reflective of what evangelical churches actually practice and/or prioritize, but that’s a subject for another post. For now, I want to echo the “God is present in everything we do” comment to the poll. While this can sound simplistic, I think it contains too much needed truth in our day to dismiss it. In fact, all of what various Christian traditions have called sacraments or even spiritual disciplines or practices have availed me much more–and been far lighter in the process–when I have due respect for what many have called the “sacrament of the present moment.”
Recently I heard a description for spiritual disciplines that made me think of this issue of (evangelical) sacraments, which I raised in the last post. Here’s the description:
The spiritual disciplines are like opportunities for grace, opportunities for us to welcome God to work in and through us.
I like that. It reminded me of the definition of sacrament that I mentioned in the last post: “an activity in which God is uniquely active” or present. It also made me think this when I heard it: is there a moment in which there isn’t an opportunity for grace; is there any moment in which God is not uniquely active? I really don’t think so. In fact, I firmly believe that in every moment, God and his grace are ready, willing and able to lead and empower towards good, towards redemption, and not just in a general sense, but in a particular and customized way. Every moment is an opportunity for grace, for cooperation with God. This means, though, that the grace of God will indeed take a variety of forms. All of life, if it is a life led by God, will not be spent in the prayer closet, or reading the bible, or what have you. Certainly we are called to constant communion or prayer with God, and we will read our bibles, go to church, etc., but that doesn’t mean we are to be constantly praying and doing nothing else. It means that sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do in a given moment might be to take a nap, or make love to our spouse, or do the dishes, or get in the pool with our kids–all within an awareness of and responsiveness to the personal, specific and redemptive involvement of God. How’s that for the manifold grace of God? Indeed, cooperating with God in a given moment might take the form of anything: taking a phone call, reading the bible or something else, changing a diaper, maybe even kneeling down to listen and pray (while cleaning a toilet or not). But whatever the form, I am convinced that the grace of God is always ready for us to turn and ask what He is doing and how he is doing it right now, and I suspect strongly that the variety of specific answers to that question are generally outside of what we think of as “spiritual” or “sacramental”, though they are exactly that precisely because of God’s calling and personal involvement.
If you haven’t already checked Christine Sine’s Spiritual Practices Series at her blog, give it a whirl. She’s got folks adding to it regularly. Get a vision for sacraments that are right in front of you. I’ll be talking about some of AA’s and the Vineyard’s “sacraments” in upcoming posts.