Means of Grace

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“Discipline” can be a scary word. Even when we hear it in churches, as in “spiritual disciplines,” our first instinct might be that it’s punishment or obligation. When that unconscious reaction happens, it’s hard to respond out of a place of gratitude and joy.

So maybe it’s better to say “framework” or means of grace. John Wesley refers to a whole group of “spiritual disciplines:” prayer, baptism, fasting, Holy Communion, daily Bible reading, even something called holy conversations. When I first heard about these as a group, I was doing some of them individually but hadn’t put them together in my mind. What a relief and release it was to experience them as a framework for daily life. They can be a kind of anchor on the stormy seas of our sometimes-chaotic living. I began to sense them not as that old-fashioned ‘discipline’ word, but rather as a way to remember God’s generous grace in the midst of over-busy life. Together they can express God’s reality and love despite the disappointment or uncertainty, the sorrow or fear or anything that can assault us.

It’s surprising how some of the ancient practices of the Church can actually be a comfort and a reminder or God’s grace: the colorful seasons of the Church Year, for example, or daily canonical hours that trace Jesus’ life and ministry. It’s not that these actions are magic rituals or divinely-given obligations, but rather that they can free us up, so we know every day of our living is framed by God’s love. Whatever you choose to do, may you live to the fullest and give glory to God!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

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