Sunday, 21 February 2016

A discipline worth continuing

We are now well into our Lenten journey.  Most of us have a book or a course we are attending.  Many of us have denied ourselves or taken up something that will, one hopes, change our lives and not just be a simple thing that is of no consequence.

This Sunday (Lent 2) is often used to celebrate the Transfiguration as the Philippians reading talks about the 'transfiguration of our bodies' (Phil 3.21).  I have written previously how transfiguration leads and indeed pushes us to transformation (Transfiguration pushing us to transformation). But as we move on into our Lenten disciplines we need to take cognisance of our determination and ability to continue on in discipline.  How good are we about being disciplined?

Today's world is about instantaneity and taking our kicks in the instant.  Like butterflies we flit from one thing to another because we are seduced into thinking that the next buzz, high or ecstatic experience is found in this or that new trend. Yet, each new delight is as fleeting as the last and grants us a momentary experience that has no long lasting effect on our lives.  We are continuously searching for the next 'thing' even before the last has faded away into the paltriness of everyday anonymity.   God's promise to Abram (Genesis 15) is not something that is here, now and over.  It is the source of a generational striving towards God.  It is a promise that is not to be hurried but rather to be lived into.  The experience is in the transformative power that the promise holds over the descendants rather than in instant gratification of the present generation.  In reality, God promises enslavement and hardship (Genesis 15.13-16) on the journey before fulfillment can be achieved.  Our eyes are opened from the start as to the hardships ahead.

Paul's lamentation in his letter to the Philippians (3.18-19) is perhaps a commentary on this butterfly effect he sees in those that proclaim themselves whilst referring to themselves as being of the Christian faith  without actually undergoing the discipline of a faith journey.  There is a searching for an instant gratification within our spiritual lives which no drug or flip flop between 'ways' can ever satisfy.  The journey of personal transformation is one that is long and arduous.  There are no short cuts that others forge for us through their branding, their experiences, there own transformation.  We can no more tread another's journey as we can live another's life.  Each of us makes the journey for ourselves but for this to occur we need the discipline to mature and develop along the meandering paths that we forge for ourselves.  We may travel alongside another and share their path but it is a sharing not a forging of ourselves.  Transformation of this type is associated with the intensive discipline of Lent that prepares us for an ongoing discipline within our own lives.  It is not meant to be an instant thing that produces an immediate effect like some drug.  It is rather an ongoing commitment towards not only a changed life but also a changed perspective.

So are you prepared to take the discipline (hardship) of the road less traveled?

The Christ in the reading from Luke (13.1-9), rather than the Transfiguration reading, makes an effort to point out the preconceptions and views of the people at the time on how God interacts with people.  If something goes wrong then it must be that the people involved in the tragedy are sinners.  Somewhat along the lines that some have suggested towards the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Tsunamis and other natural or unnatural disasters.  In following others we are likely to open ourselves up to just this simplistic easy thinking to assuage our consciences and lack of effort, especially when it involves tragedy in our own lives.  Without taking the time and effort to determine the true source of catastrophe in our lives and those around us.

 It is rather the discipline and perseverance of the gardener, the farmer and others that is needed in the development of our own faith as we journey towards and in understanding God in our lives.  Only in persistence and discipline do we achieve the results that are both life saving and life changing.  We cannot turn aside at the first hurdle, the covenant with Abram was one that would be long lasting and developed over time.  Our journey in Lent can neither be superficial nor be but a short instant in time.  Rather it is to set ourselves up for a transformed life in Christ that matures and changes with time and in time.  The choice is ours to make a momentary high or a journey that will develop and change us over the long haul.

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