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Near the Cross: Prayer and Formation

Each week Pastor Sarah blogs on the Scripture for Sunday's upcoming sermon. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Philippians 2:12-30.

Spiritual Discipline ~ Study

Discipline Scripture ~ Luke 2:41-51.

During the Season of Lent, Christians through the ages ‘try on’ different spiritual disciplines as a way to lean into their life of faith in a new, deeper, or fresh way. Each week during Lent, I will offer a reflection – including thoughts by the renowned Richard Foster – on a different spiritual discipline as modeled for us by Jesus.

In our Discipline Scripture this week, we read of Jesus in the Temple as a child. He and his family travelled – as was the custom – annually to the Temple to worship, to repent, and to give their offering. His parents started their journey home, but Jesus was not with them. He stayed behind in the Temple, listening to the scribes and asking his questions. Jesus took that opportunity to study, and he availed himself to that opportunity throughout his life. Luke 2:52 says, “Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.”

Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). Foster says, “The mind is renewed by applying it to those things that will transform it.”* There is no greater transformation in this world than the one that comes through a relationship with Jesus. Knowing Jesus exposes us to the truth, and as we grow in that truth, we gain knowledge of the love of God, and that knowledge will set us free.

Foster observes that study involves four steps:

  1. Repetition – regularly channeling the mind in specific directions in order to ingrain habits of thought.

  2. Concentration – the centering of the mind on what is being studied.

  3. Comprehension – understanding what is being studied.

  4. Reflection – defines the significance of what we are studying, and specifically, to see things from God’s perspective.

That turn – to see things from God’s perspective – alerts us that study demands humility. Foster writes, “Study simply cannot happen until we are willing to be subject to the subject matter. We must submit to the system. We must come as student, not teacher. Not only is study directly dependent upon humility, but it is conducive to it. Arrogance and a teachable spirit are mutually exclusive.”**

I had a teacher in undergrad that every student called Dr. B. He taught business classes; we have him to thank for much of my church finance savvy. One of Dr. B’s most important lessons was wait to I-ize – meaning do not move too quickly from interpretation of what is being studied to application of what is studied. Foster agrees with Dr. B. We must first interpret – know what a lesson means – so that we can discernably apply what the lesson means for you (for me).

This week select a text and explore it through the four steps Foster identifies. Seek an interpretation of the text before an application. Share your insights with a friend. In this way, we try on the example set for us by Jesus – of listening, of asking questions, of living a life set towards holiness.

For further reading, see Celebration of Discipline pages 62-76.

Prayer: “As thou with Satan didst contend, and didst the victory win, O give us strength in thee to fight, in thee to conquer sin.”*** Amen.

*Celebration of Discipline 62.

**Celebration of Discipline 66.

***“Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days,” The United Methodist Hymnal 269.

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