Encouragement for a Holy Lifestyle – that’s how the English Standard Version titles the passage of scripture that we just read. Encouragement for a Holy Lifestyle.
At first, I was a little put off by how they characterized this section of scripture but then I realized that really this is exactly what last week’s pastoral prayer, that resonated with so many of you, was all about.
Here’s the prayer again, in case you missed it, it’s adapted from a prayer written by the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber:
We do not know when we can gather together again in worship, Lord.
So, for now I just ask that:
When I sing along in my kitchen to each song on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in The Key of Life Album, that it be counted as praise.
And that when I read the news and my heart tightens in my chest, may it be counted as a prayer for mercy.
And that when my eyes brighten in a smile behind my mask as I thank the cashier may it be counted as passing the peace.
And that when I water my plants and wash my dishes and take a shower may it be counted as remembering my baptism.
And that when the tears come and my shoulders shake and my breathing falters, may it be counted as prayer.
And that when I stumble upon a Tabitha Brown video and hear her grace and love of you may it be counted as a hearing a homily.
And that as I sit at that table in my apartment, and eat one more homemade meal, slowly, joyfully, with nothing else demanding my time or attention, may it be counted as communion.
Covid 19 has forced us out of our buildings and out of our comfortable “Christian” routines. But the truth is, our faith was never about the building. And this is a time where we have the opportunity to discover and name the holy in our everyday lives. The building where we worship at 116 Main Street may be a sacred space in your life and we must also identify the many different sacred spaces and moments in our lives. That is what it means to live a holy lifestyle. Our orientation must be to recognize and name the holy and divine that is all around us.
And that’s exactly what the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber does so well. She reminds us that we can understand and give voice to everyday experiences in ways that not only honor our understanding of the divine but also articulate our connection to God in ways that allow us to share it with people who might never step foot in our building at 116 Main Street.
When the pandemic first became a reality, we thought we would just wait it out. We would put our lives on pause for a few weeks and let the storm pass over. Now it’s clear that this is not something we wait out – this is something that has the power and potential to transform us and how we understand and express our faith if we let it. And, it’s on us to take the initiative and frame the divine for ourselves and the world around us in this new reality.
And so this morning I have an invitation for you – unlike last week, there are no wrong answers - instead this is an opportunity to reflect and live into the answers that resonate with you.
What is your holy lifestyle? How are you going to seek out God and let God’s presence inform your life?
One way to think about this is to take a cue from Nadia’s prayer. She uses the wording may it be counted, I’m going to make a slight change and say may I recognize this (as I don’t believe God is keeping score). So here we go – thinking about a holy lifestyle via Nadia Bolz-Weber:
May I recognize praise - When are you praising God? What inspires thanksgiving? And how can you celebrate God’s love and the hope that God offers each of us?
May I recognize prayers for mercy - What hurts your heart? When you choose to see and acknowledge pain instead of turning away you are praying for God’s mercy, for God’s strength and comfort to intervene.
May I recognize passing the peace - How are you passing peace to others? How do you connect? How are you showing that you care? How are you sharing God’s love with the world around you?
May I recognize remembering my baptism – Are there times when water washes over you that you can choose to think of God’s spirit? When you can choose to think of God’s unending love?
May I recognize prayer – All those times when you are without words, remember that God still knows. You are praying.
May I recognize listening to God’s word – What feeds your soul? What reminds you of God’s love? What buoys your spirit? Seek out those things – recognize God in their midst.
May I recognize communion – Every time you sit and eat – remember the nourishment that God offers us.
God, we know that you surround us – open our awareness such that we can’t help but name the practices of our holy lifestyle and share the good news of your love, mercy, and hope with all whom we encounter. Amen.