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Near the Cross: Prayer and Sacrifice

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 3:1-11.

Spiritual Discipline ~ Solitude

Discipline Scripture ~ Luke 5:16.

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.

Our Discipline Scripture for this week is one of many texts that describes Jesus practicing outward solitude. Jesus spent forty days alone in the desert before starting his professional ministry. Before selecting the disciples he spent time alone. Upon learning of John the Baptist’s death he drew away by himself. After feedings and healings and teachings he sought time alone. Seeking outward solitude was a regular practice for Jesus; so should it be for us.

Inner solitude is also to our benefit. Foster says that inner solitude is what sets us free from loneliness and fear. Inner solitude is not just a time of being alone and being quiet; it is a time where we have a develop a heart that is keenly listening for God’s voice. Listening for God’s voice leads us in when to speak and when to keep silent; without God’s voice guiding us, we will miss the mark every time. Foster writes, “We must seek out the recreating stillness of solitude if we want to be with others meaningfully. We must seek the fellowship and accountability of others if we want to be alone safely. We must cultivate both if we are to live in obedience.”*

It is true that silence can make us feel helpless. But rather than feeling helpless, I like to think of silence as an invitation to trust – for God to speak for us, for God to speak into us. Rather than fill the world with words that grasp at straws or that do not truly reflect our heart, through solitude and silence, we welcome God to be our justifier rather than alone having to explain ourselves.

To practice solitude, Foster recommends identifying and observing the moments of solitude already present in your day – like the quiet moments in the morning when you just wake up or when you are stuck in traffic – let’s face it! – anywhere in South Hillsborough County! You can also seek to create moments of solitude by completing an assignment and then pausing in reflection or taking a walk outside.

The fruit of this work is increased sensitivity and compassion, towards ourselves and towards our neighbors. And I think we would all agree that our world could definitely benefit from increased sensitivity and compassion. Solitude is the threshold to cross to lead us there.

For further reading, see Celebration of Discipline pages 96-109.

Prayer: “As thou didst hunger bear, and thirst, so teach us, gracious Lord, to die to self, and chiefly live by thy most holy word.”** Amen.

*Celebration of Discipline 97-98.

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

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