Scripture – Matthew 4:19 – Come, Follow me...
Quote – Psalm 119:32 I run in the path of your commands,
for you have broadened my understanding.
Reflection – Walter Brueggemann writes about Obedience as described and practiced in the First Testament, '... obedience is not simply slavish, fearful conformity to rules and laws... Obedience... entails the imaginative capacity to take positive initiatives for the enhancement of creation.' I can understand if Brueggemann's presentation of obedience sounds foreign and difficult to believe. Even though I have been trying to reform what I assume to be a general misunderstanding of what obedience to God actually is, I will admit, this weeks first three reflections could still be perceived as largely negative. Which is why I wanted to bring I this affirming and encouraging story about obedience as we come to the close of the week.
So I would suggest for today's moment of meditation on obedience in terms of exploration and discovery. A great deal of my time in prayer over Sabbatical was an inquiry on how it is that I will be obedient to God's call in the years ahead. I would not have enjoyed this inquiry or found it as enlivening and encouraging, I suspect, If I had entered it, as Brueggemann says, as 'slavish, fearful conformity.' Instead, I focused on the many places where, both in First and New Testament, humans are called to go on a journey with God and toward God. Whether that be God's call to Abraham, Elijah's flight into the desert, the Hebrew's sojourn in the wilderness, or Jesus' many calls to 'follow me,' potential partners in God's mission are invited to go on a journey. This journey is challenging and sometimes costly, but I found that a spirit of discovery and exploration, in my own Spiritual Life, greatly encouraged and strengthen me. Especially when practicing some of the more exacting facets of obedience, such as discerning my failure to be obedient, letting go of that which diminishes my capacity to participate in God's mission or listening carefully to the way culture and society is the serpent's whisper enticing to dismiss God's will and go a different way.
The fruit of the Spirit, Paul will tell the church in Galatia, is 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Paul's understanding of the fruit or gifts of the Holy Spirit is often misunderstood in current Christianity. Paul isn't referring to the prowess we already possess. Paul is referring to virtuosity and artistry that we discover as a gfit that we previously did not possess, but which we find ourselves surprised to now not only to have received, but also to share. Thinking about obedience as the discernment of the spirit's gifts, the practice of developing and strengthening them, as well as watching intently for the path that God is leading me toward and on, made obedience much less a chore and much more an adventure. It was no longer an oppressive task, but a creative endeavor which afforded an opportunity to explore and discover previously unknown dimensions of myself, a self, which is a gift of the Spirit.
Prayer – Remind us Lord, today, of the depth of potential that abides in us all, as bearers of your Divine image. Encourage us with the promise of the Holy Spirit's gifts which enrich and empower us to discover a richer understanding of ourselves and our relationship to you. Teach us to make a practice of obedience that excites our desire to learn and grown, develop and change, so that we can be creative participants in your Divine mission.