It’s the last week of the Fall semester here at Wartburg Seminary. I likely won’t be able to really reflect on the entire semester until the space of Christmas is between me and my last paper (likely to be finished Friday morning), but I am starting to feel a shift in things as the my first semester ends. I’m connecting lots of dots so to speak, and things are really coming together as many of the classes wrap up.
The last Spiritual Practices lecture was held this past Tuesday (small group finishes tomorrow, Thursday), and we ended as we began with a panel of Professors sharing their thoughts on Spirituality and Spiritual Practices. The intended focus was around the question — Is There a Distinctive Lutheran Spirituality? I am not sure we really answered that question, but the comments were interesting and thought provoking.
The connections for me can be summarized in Spiritual Practices being grounded in the Word of God, and that for Lutherans, Spiritual Practices will look like Jesus Christ. And, I think related to that, Lutheran Spiritual Practices are grace-filled practices (centered on life in Jesus Christ and bringing gratitude) that lead us to our neighbor, and these practices remain a struggle due to the reality of sin (so we shouldn’t expect perfection).
That little summary is really a lot.
During the semester we went through many traditional and untraditional Spiritual Practices (from lectio divina to fasting to deep listening in lecture … to labyrinth “walking” (or tracing) to praying the daily examen to play/laughter/fun as a Spiritual Practice in small groups… and many more introduced in our readings). Although I didn’t enjoy all of the Spiritual Practices we tried, I have enjoyed learning about them.
However, now that can “test” any spiritual practice for myself personally as to if it “looks” like Jesus Christ, it makes it much easier to know if it’s a practice I should spend my time practicing. Does it draw me to my neighbor and make me a gracious presence when with my neighbor (neighbor meaning all others in this context just as it does in the gospels)? Does the practice add to, facilitate or otherwise bring me towards a thankful heart? Do I recognize my own struggle within that practice? Is the practice truly grounded in God’s Word? Is it something that is, for me, truly woven into these distinctive characteristics or can I walk through it on a human level only? — if so, it’s not a true spiritual practice (for me; it might be for another).
Now I have to decide what I am going to do with this information. (Much of which I think I knew on some level before, but now can articulate at least a little bit.) I have struggled this semester with continuing a healthy personal spiritual practice. This is true in part because of having to re-learn my habits, rituals, and how I meditate and pray within my current space and time. But, I think I have also struggled because we have actively been trying so many specific Spiritual Practices, and I genuinely consider each one as something to possibly do.
Now it’s time to step back and appreciate most from a distance while actively doing those that will most allow me to participate in meaningful and tangible ways with Christ.
I cannot just immediately tell you what those will be, but I think it will be some type of centered prayer or possibly a combination of simple centered prayer and a return to the daily examen, and a near daily participation in some type of family Spiritual Practice. Ideally Shawn and I would return to a daily time of prayer and meditation on the Word as well as beginning some type of hands-on Spiritual Practices (or maybe trying a new practice each month until we have enough to just rotate through them with her — fun ones, like praying in color and praying the catechism with prayer beads are where I will begin).
What Spiritual Practices do practice regularly or appreciate?
Does your faith have a distinctive spirituality? If so (or not), please share.
(And if you read my list at all closely, you’ll realize that the actual practices we learned about or participated in are anything but distinctive to the Lutheran faith.