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Rule of Life

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Unscripted anecdotal sentences, Have a funny way of becoming the main topic of conversation {Pause} Please be Seated {Pause} ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Such seems to be the case on Sunday When during announcements, I mentioned, that Because of my Rule of Life – I must attend To the Principal Feasts, Holy Days, And Days of Special Devotion, Within the walls of the church, Rather than at home, Doing Morning & Evening Prayer at the church at those times. My anecdotal statement continued That I place these dates on the church calendar, And within the bulletin, not as an expectation That the parish will attend (Though I do hope that you would) But rather as an opportunity for you to gather with me, Since I would be in the church on those days. ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// I am not 100% sure whether the mention of a Rule of Life Prompted the many questions that I received later Or if my comment that Bringing Morning and Evening Prayer Into the church walls during these occasions Was the result of a ‘negotiation’ with the Holy Spirit Regarding my personal prayer life. Perhaps, my admission that, in my heart of hearts, I once felt That my duty—a very dangerous word for me— Was to pray within the walls of the church Every morning and every evening, Was a bit too difficult for people to bear. Or, perhaps, the statement that I negotiated with the Holy Spirit Prompted a level of curiosity. /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// First, I must admit to all of you, that a joke that I have told, Since only months after my ordination to the Deaconate, Has a very high degree of truth. During convention in June of last year, I met the Dean of the Adirondack Deanery, Sort of my ‘boss,’ in a very loose definition, In between the Bishop. His title on the check-in sheet was ‘The Very Reverend’ And chuckling a bit to myself, I introduced myself, in part due to my lack of tenure, As the ‘Barely Reverend Rick’ As is often the case, comedy often resembles reality, And in my joking jibe, I was actually stating how reverent I usually feel in my spiritual life. ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Forgive me, if this seems, misplaced modesty, It is not the intention at all, The simple truth is, That for a person who has a strong sense of duty,  It is extremely difficult to ever feel that one is doing enough. In fact, as the Spiritual Director I visited with during seminary Would frequently relate, attempting to do too much, For some personalities, could actually be sinful, Especially if the Holy Spirit is telling you, Quite emphatically in my specific case BE STILL; AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// None of this is to say that if God is telling you to act, That you should not act. If God is calling you to additional service within the church, If God is calling you to additional service with the community, If God is calling you to fasting, to prayer, to study, or meditation, To simplicity, to solitude, to submission, or service (as already mentioned,) Or if God is calling you to confession, to worship, to guidance, Or even to celebration, It is important to heed God’s Call. ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Incidentally, I must admit that the categories of the spiritual disciplines Which I just mentioned are from Richard J. Foster’s Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth An excellent book about practicing piety. I have actually led a few bible studies from this book, And wrote a study plan from this book, for group use While in a previous diocese, If you are interested in such a study, I would be very interested in leading us in this study, Perhaps in the early fall before Advent So we will have a few opportunities To implement any disciplines people feel Would be of value in their spiritual lives ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Just so you have a bit of the lingo, regarding Spiritual Disciplines, There are (according to Foster, who is widely accepted), Three basic categories of disciplines, And within each of those categories, Are four disciplines. ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// The ‘Major Categories’ are Inward, Outward, & Corporate Disciplines, The Corporate Disciplines (Or disciplines traditionally accomplished within Our Community together, Either individually, as a parish, Or with a priest, or other counselor) Are Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration We Worship, Celebrate, and Confess our sins together Each Sunday, as we hear the Word of God Celebrate Christ’s resurrection in our eucharist, And ask God to forgive our sins. If anyone needs guidance from the ‘barely reverend’ Rick I try to make myself available for this, Sometimes guidance can be provided in the times Immediately preceding or after the service Other times we may need to talk a little longer. There are also opportunities for individual confession If one should one feel the need to do so. Within Episcopal/Anglican Tradition, Unlike other traditions who have their own beliefs We believe ◦ All may receive individual confession. ◦ Some should receive individual confession. ◦ None must receive individual confession. If you feel you need individual confession As you will hear at the beginning of our service this Sunday In the Exhortation, I would encourage you to Go and open your grief to a discreet And understanding priest, And confess your sins, That you may receive the benefit Of absolution, and spiritual council, and advice; To the removal of scruple and doubt The assurance of pardon, And the strengthening of your faith. ///// /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Enough of the discipline of confession! But understand that I am here for you, Or if you are more comfortable with another advisor Please GO and receive appropriate absolution! ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// The Outward Disciplines include Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, and Service. ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Simplicity is keeping things simple… Reflecting from the Sermon on the Mount “Let your ‘Yes,’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ be No.’ “For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” Keeping things simple is hardly simple, It takes practice and discipline, especially after the fall. ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// One way of ‘keeping things simple’ Could actually be to develop a Rule of Life, This might seem counter intuitive, But how many things in Christianity, Seem to defy human logic. //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// A Rule of Life CAN keep things simple (if developed prayerfully) By automating certain parts of our lives. Honestly, whether we care to admit it or not We all have a ‘Rule of Life,’ The question is how deliberate your Rule is. A Rule of Life, (for a person I do not want to emulate), Would be to get up at Five O’Clock in the morning. ////////// There are terrible hazards associated with getting up At so ‘blessed’ early in the morning, Yet. some seem to think such a practice advisable! 😊      Those poor, wretched souls who get up so early in the morning, No doubt might amend their private Rule If they received a call at midnight Because a family member was ill. A Rule of Life is a Tool, A Tool is something one uses, To help someone do something. We are not tools, subject to a Rule of Life, Or even a tool subject to some other spiritual discipline. Making ourselves tools of our spiritual disciplines Subject us to evils exposed By the Parable of the Good Samaritan, //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Almost all of us have established a Rule That we attend service on Sunday Mornings, But if we see someone in dire need, We would, on occasion, be better off, Serving that one in need. I say—on occasion—because, constantly finding some crisis To keep us from the walls of the church Is a game the evil one could try to play, If he felt that he could keep us from worship. For most of us, this is not a problem, An occasional diversion from the church doors, Due to a crisis, is very likely listening carefully to, The whisperings of the Holy Spirit, Just be careful! (Said the Pharisee)… ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Getting briefly to the Inward Disciplines— Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study We come, perhaps, to some tailor-made disciplines for Lent. I will invite you in a few moments, in the name of the Church To the observance of a holy Lent, By self-examination and repentance, By prayer, fasting, and self-denial; And by reading and meditating On God’s Holy Word. /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Most of my invitation addresses internal disciplines Or corporate disciplines of an inward nature. These are the meat and bread of the season of Lent. Yet, man does not live by bread alone. As our Gospel reading tells us, If your inward disciplines make you a terror to live with, Reject them! We have an obligation to Love God with all our heart And with all our soul, and with all our mind. This is the first and greatest commandment And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// If your inward disciplines keep you from loving your neighbor, You need spiritual counsel! //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Before I conclude this sermon, I would like to address one thing: the discipline of fasting. Fasting—a discipline specifically mentioned in our liturgy today— Is badly misunderstood Especially in our modern society, Which is so littered, as Foster says, “With shines to the Golden Arches, “And an assortment of Pizza Temples.” //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// …………………………………………………………………………………………………. Your barely reverend priest does not like to fast! Though particularly on the Wednesdays of Lent, (Yes, that means I had been quite hungry till sun-down today), The Holy Spirit seems to compel me to fast. I did not fast at all, until about seven or eight years ago, When I made the mistake of saying That I did not think it necessary, And that given my position as a warfighter I did not want to deteriorate my body. //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// The lay reverend saint to whom I had made this proclamation, Merely suggested that I listen to the leaning of the Holy Spirit And stated that she fasted on a regular basis, Finding that it did not prevent her From doing the things she needed to do. In a manner that I so despise (ha, ha), She further stated that fasting was perhaps not important To all people’s spirituality. Then I think she went off and prayed to bring the Holy Spirit Upon me, though that is probably my own invention. ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Suffice it to say, a few days or weeks later, On Ash Wednesday, I was fasting. Oh, how I love and hate the blessed Holy Spirit! //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Then within a year, I was thrust to Afghanistan, Where the natural Muslim practice was to fast on Fridays. //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Driven by the Holy Spirit, I fasted for an entire year every Friday, Though this was a solid food fast. I still allowed myself coffee, (Actually Cocoa-Mocha— Coffee with LOTS of heavy chocolate). So, I am not strict with myself when I fast. Though I wrote my sermon on Monday Morning, I would suspect that I have had a few cups of Cocoa-Mocha, Before getting up in this pulpit. My point is, that if you feel the compunction to fast, Take it easy on yourself during the fast, And when you break the fast, take it easy on yourself too I usually eat bread and soup after a fast, Because you need to wake your digestive system back up! ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Understand too that there is no actual requirement to fast, In fact, while I was in seminary, I did not feel the need to fast (Well except that we did not have meat available (On Fridays, so there was sort of a mandatory fast). (Also, since the refectory did not open (Until after morning prayer and mass, (A fast before mass was almost mandatory). (We also had mandatory fasts on some days, (Like Ash Wednesday, (So, I adhered solely to the rhythm of my community (Not inflicting any additional requirements upon myself (During the Lenten Season. (Perhaps my attitude was not entirely pious, (But I genuinely felt that I was in a penitential spirit (Living in the rhythms & practices of my community (So additional piety was not desirable) /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// There are many things—besides food— that you can fast from. You can fast from your iPhone, You can fast from television … You can add scriptural reading or meditation, Or some other activity To your day when you would usually Do what you are fasting from. This helps increase your spiritual discipline And can distract you from what you are trying to avoid. Adding reading or meditation, When trying to avoid temptation, Can also serve well when trying, --With God’s help and Prayer— To combat besetting sins. Such a discussion is probably best for another sermon, But just keep this in mind, if you are having a hard time Keeping to any OPTIONAL Lenten commitments. //// ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// Finally, go lightly, none of us should be fasting for 40 days! And remember, that we are fragile people, Who God genuinely loves, Even when we can’t keep the simplest commitments God understands that the spirit is willing (at times) But the flesh is weak. If you try, a Lenten practice and fail, That is actually an important reminder That we are imperfect And desperately need Jesus to save us! In those moments, the Holy Spirit, may be calling out to you, As he does so often to me, Saying, “Be still and know that I am God.” /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// In the name of the Father And of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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