9. Our Common Life Together

So, we see that being a practicing Christian takes a lot of practice-that daily attention to the Word of God, the ways of God, and the will of God.  Practice makes us better.  What have you been practicing with and for other believers in your faith life?

Of course, participating in the shared Christian practices is not simply a matter of making them a priority subject to your will. Practices are not something to control.  On the contrary, Christian practices require active submission.  As an example from my own life, once in a while, when it seems that for weeks I have been home only to sleep and shower, I will wake up on a Sunday morning and contemplate the pleasures of staying home from church, “just this once”, drinking coffee, reading, catching my breath, and having the house to myself, maybe taking a long walk.  Over the years I have come to label this misplaced desire for home and solitude as “red flag Sunday” because rather than being at church, actively practicing with my believing family and sharing the Lord’s meal with them at the Communion table, I am being tempted to stay home alone attending to my own leisure while pretending that worship-and my place within it- is inconsequential.  In these instances, I must recognize Satan’s lie; there is nothing corporate or worshipful about staying home alone on Sunday morning.  If you are like me, you dutifully go on to church anyway because this is how you participate in a practice; worship, as a shared Christian practice, means your presence is important.  As a church member, you have made very public promises to this congregation to be there for and with them.  In my experience, sitting in worship and Sunday school on a “red flag Sunday” is always the most wonderful morning in God’s presence, praising him together with my beloved church family, and with absolutely no regrets.  A life of practice, then, gives us the strength to be submissively yet firmly obedient in times of temptation.

As you may have guessed by now, these shared Christian practices are, by nature, meant to infuse, inform, and support life, minute by minute, day by day, and season by season as we yield to their power through Christ and the Holy Spirit to structure and direct our life.  They are the cure for the arrhythmic, time-starved heart threatening to arrest your soul’s health and growth. They are simple.  Curative.  Restful.  Spacious.  Grace-full.  Is it not, after all, a life worth considering, when you are asked each day by the Lord,

          “Where are you?”

And, in face-to-face confrontation,

          “What do you want?” 

The shared Christian practices, therefore, are meant to strengthen us both individually and in our common life together as believers.  They help us think critically together, and to develop healthy responses to cultural temptations and evils we must resist, especially those that threaten our common life together.  Craig Dykstra puts it this way:  Our Christian practices give us abilities for “criticizing and resisting all those powers and patterns…that destroy human beings, corrode human community, and injure God’s creation.”[1]   Not long before losing her earthly life to cancer, Kara Tippets wrote of the importance of showing up for one another,

“Friends. Community.  It is the only way to know and be known.  It’s where we see our own humanity and frailty, our gifts and our weaknesses.  When we show up for one another, we invade each other in love and become witnesses to the truth that trials and sickness and pain are not the whole story.  There’s more, so much more. We can remind one another that our lives are not a mistake.  And, more importantly, that we are loved with and everlasting love.”[2]

So, it is in our shared Christian practices we show up for one another in good times and bad. There are so many things we do today, individually and as a society that foster misguided patterns of thought and behavior.  In essence, we too easily become thoughtless.  We waste natural resources, abdicate care of the poor, and prize our individualism, civil rights, and retirement portfolios.  Sustained participation in the shared Christian practices instead teaches us to sniff out injustice, to discern social patterns which threaten family, to give up our right to self, to learn to serve others wholeheartedly, and to work to redeem and restore our all-too-common human penchant for destroying rather than stewarding Creation.  And it teaches us that there is strength in doing these things together.

To What Have You Become Accustomed?

Of course, not everything we do is a practice, so we must distinguish between practice and custom.  In the United States, it is customary to sing the national anthem before sporting events, to use a knife and fork when eating, to have cake on a birthday, for a man to give a woman a diamond ring for engagement, to hold parades on major holidays, and to follow an agriculturally-based school calendar.  In the same vein, there are many once-common customs we have lost.  Men no longer wear dress hats or women dress gloves.  Generations no longer live together in sprawling family units.  It is no longer customary for children to walk to school.

What customs have led to habits that might need your discernment?  Staying up too late watching television?  Skipping meals?  Skipping church “just this once”?  Non-stop use of your cell phone while in the presence of others?  Dressing provocatively?  Living together outside of marriage?    Yes.  Your customs are visible in your daily actions and decisions.

In the next post, we will look at the common elements of a Christian practice on our way to studying the shared meal in the life of believers.

Please SHARE this with friends!  Thank you for following along.  Wish we could pull up a chair and share a pot of tea!

~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

 

[1] Craig Dykstra, Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices, 2nd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), p. 43.

[2] Kara Tippetts and Jill L. Buteyn, Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together (Colorado Springs, Colorado: David C Cook, 2015), p.11.

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