What are Spiritual Practices for anyway?
Jesus: “Change your way of thinking, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” In the Sermon on the Mount he focuses that repentance/change of thinking. He talks about very basic challenges: anger, desire, truthfulness, enemies, anxiety, judging others, etc.
He focuses regular religious practices: alms, prayer, fasting. We often think of spiritual disciplines as a way of self-control, finding centering, peace, authentic self, etc.
Jesus always focuses on a living, vibrant dialogue with God. God who is intimate, hidden, knowing. The Abba who is life-giving creator, who is reality itself. The perennial dangers are self-centered distortion and the temptation to use piety as performance. Jesus’ concern is not my sense of authenticity, often distorted, but reality in relation to a God who knows me, who is and gives life. I save my life only by losing/giving it.
Real Prayer and Fasting and Dialogue with God
We begin this afternoon a period of Shared Prayer. Our community prayers flow from experience of personal dialogue with God. Very practical. Not new rules but focus on real relationship. Fathers in ancient world were often controlling, public-oriented. Jesus remakes “Father” as shared image for creative, intimate, challenging God.