October 30, 2011
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
Faithing Our Practices,
Rev. Leanne Walt
Tuesdays in college were marked with the arrival of a letter from home from my father. Even though these lengthy epistles came faithfully each week, they were always greatly anticipated. I’ll share with you now a brief excerpt from a fall 2003 correspondence:
“My dearest Leanne:
Had a whirlwind of a week with preparations for Thanksgiving and all-am glad to report that all survived. Last weekend I went food shopping at Market Basket on Sunday morning when the store opened at 8 a.m. Imagine my surprise when I found 50-60 people lined up who had the same idea. My plan was to get in and out quickly, unpack the groceries and head to church in time for choir rehearsal at 9:30. Well, that’s the last time I shall shop in a market with which I am unfamiliar. Although the savings were fairly substantial, I couldn’t find half of what I was looking for. Naturally when I finished there were only 2 cashiers open who were slow as molasses making me even more impatient than usual. Racing home like a madman, I sped by a patrol car parked across from the diner. There was sufficient reason to stop me, but I caught a break because he didn’t move. Once home I quickly refrigerated cold items and left the remainder for after church.”
I got into the habit of sharing pieces of these letters with a few of my close friends. It became some sort of curiously sacred ritual among us. We would gather in one of our dorm rooms and I would read excerpts from that week’s installment – stories of ordinary events of every day life made somehow wonderfully extraordinary through the intentionality of pen meeting paper.
I recently came across a book called Finding Our Way Again, (by Brian McLaren) about the return of ancient spiritual practices. In this book the author suggests that almost any activity can be a spiritual practice – driving your car, folding laundry, changing a light bulb or fixing a broken door hinge, selecting a perfectly ripe melon at the grocery store, a quiet afternoon spent at home, walking your dog or cuddling with your cat - so that instead of talking about practicing our faith as we tend to do, he recommends that we ought to consider “faithing our practices.” Instead of having a kind of a set of spiritual practices that is only confined to prayer, reading of scripture, or worship we ought to have spiritual practices that infuse our daily lives outside of what we do in here.
This idea got me thinking that this may have been what God had in mind when he chose to infuse this world with his extraordinary presence, born in a tiny manger in the form of flesh and bone, when he chose to dwell among us in the human form of Jesus Christ. For this single act - whether Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Catholic or Congregationalist - encompasses the very foundation of our Christian faith: the incarnation, literally meaning “embodied in flesh” or “taking on flesh.”
The incarnation, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the clearest revelation of God’s presence on earth. In Jesus Christ the Word of God became the deeds of God, living and breathing and walking right in our midst. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory.” (John 1:14)
Last year at Pentecost I worked with a group of people from Wollaston Congregational Church to study and memorize pieces of Scripture so that we could present them to the rest of the congregation in story form during worship. One woman had the story of when Jesus appears to Cleopas and the other disciple on the Road to Emmaus after the resurrection. In practice one evening she was acting out this story of when, out of nowhere, Jesus comes and stands with these two men who are in utter disbelief that Jesus is suddenly there with them – the man who they have just seen die on the cross - and one of the first things that Jesus says to them is, “Hey, do you have anything to eat?” All of us who were there listening to this burst out laughing and we laughed and laughed – it’s just such a mundane thing to say at such an extraordinary time.
Jesus made our ordinary human experience, like eating and drinking, somehow wonderfully extraordinary through God meeting humanity face to face, hand to hand, Word to word. He made our otherwise hollow existence and experience on this earth hallow. Hallowed be thy name indeed, that our lives are given sacred meaning through the extraordinary incarnation of God in Christ.
In his second letter to them, the Apostle Paul reminds the people of the Corinth church of the extraordinary presence of God in their midst:
“For we are the temple of the living God, as God said
I will live in them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.” (2 Cor 6:16)
Faithing your practices is about awakening to the God who lives and walks among us, who asks us, “Hey, do you have anything to eat?.” The God whose spirit is closer than our own breath, nearer than our hands and feet. Whose grace is unexpected and whose redemption is everywhere we look.
On this particular Sunday, we join other Protestant churches around the world in celebrating the day on which our forbearer, Martin Luther nailed his 95 grievances to the door of the Castle Church in Whittenberg, Germany as a result of his awareness of the nearness of God, thus setting the Protestant Reformation in motion. When Luther made this courageous gesture nearly 500 years ago now, he did so in order to break down the barriers that the Church as an institution had placed in the way of people’s ability to live and experience an incarnational faith. The way Luther interpreted Scripture led him to believe that we don’t need to empty our pockets in order to buy our forgiveness from the church or go through a priest in order to talk to God. This gesture was one of reform and transformation, of new awareness and deepening perception of the accessibility of God in the world.
Faithing our practices means looking at the simple things in your life that are enjoyable and asking, “How are they already a part of God forming me spiritually?” Watching a dog running in his sleep, that first look out onto the golf course at the break of dawn, waiting in too long of a line at the grocery store, pouring a cup of coffee, listening to a game on the radio, reading a book, or knitting a prayer shawl. Faithing our practices is about seeing that which we are already doing in a new light, it’s about awakening to the God that is living and walking among us.
One summer letter from home closed with these words,
“I am fortunate to have such a beautiful spot to pen this to you. Overlooking the wetlands in the backyard I can see the sun setting into the late August sky. I will leave you now to grill some steaks and enjoy dinner on the porch with your mother.
It may seem silly or tedious that these handwritten letters held such detailed accounts of the ordinary, particularly in a day and age when a quick email will do, but that they described such simple joys is precisely what made them simply extraordinary.
In her song “Holy as the Day is Spent,” Carrie Newcomer sings about,
“folding sheets like folding hands,”
to pray as only laundry can.”
In many ways we gather here in worship to learn to pray as only laundry can outside of this place - to grow deeper in our awareness of the God who lives and walks among us, to learn how to recognize simple joys and experience the extraordinary presence of God in our ordinary lives.
“For we are the temple of the living God, as God said
I will live in them and walk among them” (2 Cor 6:16).