Saint Patrick's Church Schola

Lenten 2006 Class -- Classical Spiritual Disciplines

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Last Sunday's sermon was the first in a seven part series entitled "7 Character Traits of a Disciple." During the series we will look at the seven character traits that stand in contrast to the 7 Deadly Sins. Here are the topics:

Humility vs. Pride
Contentment vs. Envy
Self-Control vs. Gluttony
Chastity vs. Lust
Patience vs. Anger
Generosity vs. Greed
Diligence vs. Sloth

The series is meant to act as a "pre-Advent". Advent is a time of spiritual preparation -- a time to break up the fallow ground so we can receive the word of God, so it can take root and bear fruit in our lives. The actual Advent season is in December -- the Christmas season according to our cultural calendar. (In the church's calendar Christmas begins December 25 and continues for 12 days through January 5.) This makes it difficult to do much preparation -- we are busy with lots of activities and lots of shopping. Instead of being frustrated during Advent, I decided we would spend the next two months doing heart work -- breaking up the fallow ground -- so when Advent arrives we can enter fully and freely into it.

Enough introduction -- onto Sunday's sermon.

Topic: Humility
Texts: Daniel 4:28-37/Psalm 37:1-12/1 Peter 5:5-11/Matthew 23:1-12

A. This is important because God is opposed (to he stiff arms) the proud but gives grace to the humble
B. Matthew 23:12 and 1 Peter 5:6 appeal to our desire to be exalted. We are told we should be humble so we may be properly exalted. What are the texts getting at?
1. pride = exalting myself
2. humility = allowing God to exalt me in his time

A. GRACE: sink my roots deeply into God's unmerited favor. This can be part of the cure of my tendency to try to earn or merit favor with God and others
B. THANKS: Practice giving thanks to God for specific things. This puts everything in its proper perspective.
C. SECRET SERVICE: Serve someone and never tell them or anyone else. This forces us put our exaltation in God's hands.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I'm sorry that that the Community Blog has been out of commission for the last month. This week we are back online. I am posting the handout that Lester Ruth handed out during his Sunday sermon. Let's get the discussion going.


Pondering the Commitments in Baptism

Ponder the questions asked of candidates in baptism and the desired responses in the baptism service. Included also are the confessions to be made by the candidates jointly with the whole church.

Question: Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer: I renounce them.
Question: Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer: I renounce them.
Question: Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
Answer: I renounce them.
Question: Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
Answer: I do.
Question: Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Answer: I do.
Question: Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
Answer: I do.
I confess my belief in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I confess my belief in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I confess my belief in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
I will continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.
I will persevere in resisting evil, and whenever I fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.
I will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.
I will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself.
I will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

How critical are these questions and confessions?
What is really being asked for in these questions and confessions?
What all is involved in these questions and confessions?
What are the major assumptions behind the questions and confessions?

Consider each of the following people. For each ponder the following questions:

What kind of journey would be involved for our church to lead this non-Christian to answer these questions and make these confessions fully, truthfully, and with integrity? What would it take from our church? What ought to be done?
What changes in behavior, belief, and a sense of belonging would be involved for a non-Christian to answer these questions and make these confessions fully, truthfully, and with integrity?
What resources and gifts has God given our church to lead non-Christians to be able to answer these questions and make these confessions with integrity? What roles and ministries would be involved?

Jeremy grew up in a home that was overtly and unapologetically atheist. In adult life, Jeremy became a broadcast journalist. He was thoughtful, urbane, and skeptical.
At forty-something, in a second marriage and settling in Southern California, he attended a service of Christian worship for the first time in his life. He had come because of his teenage son who was visiting for the summer. The son, who lived across the country with his mother during the school year, had become an active participant in a church there. Jeremy’s June visit to the church was an accommodation to the son’s desire to be in worship and in a youth group during the summer he was to spend with his dad.
During the service one of the parishioners spoke about her faith in an engaging way and Jeremy found himself strangely drawn to the reality of her witness. He heard something that he did not understand, but it stirred his mind and heart.

Laura was born to a family that had rejected God. Her father grew up in a Roman Catholic family, but he had rejected the church in adult life. Her mother was born in an Episcopalian home, but had left the church in the eighth grade. The particularity of Jesus had been scandalous in her youth and in her family’s philosophical discussions. While overtly rejecting Christianity in the context of her parent’s rejection, Laura recalls having a spiritual sense in her love of art, music, and nature. She experienced awe in the world of sensing.
In adult life, she was in and out of counseling. During two years of intensive psychotherapy because of severe anxiety, Laura began, in her words, to learn faith in herself. The word faith in her working vocabulary led her to consider the possibility of faith in something greater. She said that she found herself having a sense of overwhelming, undefinable gratitude.

Tony is a high school teacher in his late 20s. He has no church background. A year or two ago his older brother, whom he loved deeply, was killed instantly in a car accident. The brother’s death came as a real shock to Tony. He confesses that he had no answers to cope. He was very angry with God, whom he had heard was supposed to be loving, kind, and powerful. He has spent much time alone, contemplating his brother’s death and talking to him.
Recently Tony proposed to a young woman, who has a Christian background. She accepted but has insisted that they find a church where they could both feel at home. Tony has agreed although his inner turmoil from his brother’s death continues.

Katie grew up in a small town in Appalachia. There the presence of Baptist and Pentecostal churches was part of the cultural fabric. Katie remembers hearing strong messages about her guilt and wretchedness before God and the need to trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Somehow this message never rang true for her. She never bought into the sense of wretchedness and depravity. The image of God as forgiving judge did not ring true in her either.
Growing into adulthood, she moved away from that town. She also began to explore thoroughly and consistently over many years books on alternative (non-Christian) spiritualities. Much of it came after she had lost a daughter to death. In these alternative spiritualities she found a home and is quite satisfied. She is well-real in this type literature. She has cultivated her intuitive skills to be able to discern (what in her mind are) exciting spiritual realities.