The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life
Calendar alert: Today, August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration. Read this great story (Luke 9:28-36) and see how the disciples came to see Jesus at the center.
Finding the center
I’ve been praying for healing for Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, who had surgery last week. Understatement alert: I’m not alone in those prayers. I’ve also been praying in thanksgiving for his leadership, and the challenge he recently put to Episcopalians and any others who are interested.
At the convention of the denomination last month, he invited folks to commit to the way of love, the way of Jesus. That way is outlined in seven spiritual practices which you can find at this website: www.episcopalchurch.org/explore-way-love. I’ve also included them above. Their goal? To help people move to a Jesus-centered life.
It’s very much in line with the work we do with RenewalWorks, which begins with an online inventory asking people about their own spiritual life. Based on answers, the research indicates four stages of spiritual growth along a continuum. These four stages are: Exploring, Growing, Deepening and Centered.
More than 2/3 of Episcopalians indicate that they are in the first two stages: exploring or growing. For those who are centered, percentages are in the low single digits. Despite the small numbers, we hold that centeredness as a goal, as we seek a Jesus-centered life.
So what does it mean to be so centered? Eastern religious traditions may have lessons for us. Focus on balance, silence, intention and core strength contribute to centeredness. Contrast that with the distractions we find in our ADD culture. In our context, what would a Jesus-centered life actually look like? Find here a few suggestions. (You may add more):
A Jesus-centered life means listening to Jesus’ teaching, being his student. It’s spelled out, in summary fashion, in the commandment in the Hebrew Scripture. Love God. Love neighbor. Simple, but not easy.
A Jesus-centered life means acting the way he acted. We have a relative who lives in town who regularly calls in the morning and asks “How can I help you today?” That’s a Jesus thing. Service.
A Jesus-centered life means giving the way he gave, with a generosity of spirit extended especially to those who have been excluded or pushed to the margins.
A Jesus-centered life means forgiving the way he forgave. That’s a hard one for me, because I treasure resentments like trophies.
A Jesus-centered life means taking it to the Lord in prayer. I marvel that Jesus repeatedly went off to pray to the one he called his Father. If he could take that time in his limited three year ministry, when he had a world to save, maybe we can do that too.
Summing up, a Jesus-centered life means living in gratitude for the grace of the word made flesh, the God of creation stretching out arms of love on the hard wood of the cross to draw us into saving embrace.
My spiritual advisor (a.k.a., my spouse of 33 years, bless her heart) tells me that the word “ego” is really an acronym which means “edging God out.” Whether we admit it or not, I think much of our striving is motivated in pursuit of a me-centered life. It takes practice to live otherwise. Even the most altruistic has got ego gratification at work, or at least as temptation. (As I have previously noted, one of my mentors confessed: “I never met a motive that wasn’t mixed.”) But that should not keep us from moving along the spiritual continuum toward a more centered life, centered on Jesus.
Think this week about what a Jesus-centered life looks like for you. Along the way, ask yourself whether it is something you wish to pursue.