Last week at this time, I was attending a conference called “Discipleship Matters.” The Rev. Carol Anderson, one of our speakers, described the opportunities and challenges, hopes and fears, cost and promise of discipleship these days in the Episcopal church. She emphasized the importance of intentionality. She placed a lot of hope in this for the church.
In her travels, her visits to churches, it is often hard to know what a community is about. Often, it seems like churches are all over the place. They are about everything and nothing. The challenge becomes one of getting clear about mission, purpose, goal, identity and to be intentional about living into that. And what is true about faith communities, I believe, is also true about individuals in those communities. It may well be that a community cannot gain clarity if individuals in that community don’t have clarity.
What does intentionality suggest to you? Some may call it mindfulness. Some may call it attentiveness. Some may speak of purpose or mission or goals. My spiritual coach, who happens to be my wife, who happens to be a yoga teacher often begins her classes with a call to set an intention for the time “on the mat”. Pausing to do that can transform the time. It becomes about something. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Blessing. Setting an intention can also be about what we set aside, what we leave outside the room, what we decide to let go. (My professor at Union Seminary, Dr. Christopher Morse proposed that in theological reflection we need to think not only of what we believe, but what we refuse to believe.) The invitation to intention on the yoga mat may be a parable for our call as disciples. What intention might we set for this day?
First of all, what do we need to set aside? What is not serving us? In many cases, this has to do with forgiveness, releasing resentments that distract and restrict us. It may have to do with trust, releasing our anxieties to God’s care.
Then what do we need to embrace with intention? The church talks about it in terms of vocation. (Eastern traditions speak of it as dharma.) What are you being called to do and be? For many of us, the challenge comes in the fact that we have numerous and occasionally competing vocations. Parent. Child. Student. Teacher. Leader. Follower. Boss. Employee. Citizen of this nation. Citizen of the world. Church member. Disciple. Believer. Skeptic.
Jesus’ words to his disciples carried great intention, a command to follow him on the way, to enter the narrow gate, to fulfill commands to love God and neighbor, to be part of his movement. Hear that call this morning, and take some quiet time today to set an intention, to imagine how you will respond with intentionality to the call to share God’s love with those you meet as this Monday unfold.
And if you want an example of a Christian setting an intention, watch Michael Curry’s sermon yesterday at his installation at the National Cathedral. Think this week about his call to be part of the Jesus movement, and the specific intentions that come with that. More about that next time.
Then Jesus said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
– Luke 9:23-25
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
– John 13:34-35
I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 3:14
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.