Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pentecost 8

Today's readings were Psalm 136, Genesis 9:8-17, Ephesians 3:14-21 (sermon text), and Mark 6:45-56.

The preaching theme for the upcoming church year [at my home church] is spiritual exercises (a.k.a. piety). Today's Epistle reading sums up three components: physical gestures (bowing the knee before God), growing in the knowledge of the love of God, and growing in general spiritual discipline. Start with verse 14: bowing the knees (an example of a physical action accepted during worship) - we sing about it plenty, but tend to practice it only rarely, this expression of the faith. Later we'll learn other Scripture-based, physical gestures of piety.

What sort of piety should we have? Paul explains first the reason behind ours: the infinite nature of the glory of God. We seek to grow in the knowledge of Christ. However, the practice of spiritual exercises is alien or even "wrong" to members of the Baby Boomers. The culture is changing, though - piety is making a comeback. Now to answer the question: There exist good (Biblical) and bad (non-Biblical) forms of piety. Examples of Biblical piety are reading the Bible, growing in the knowledge of God, and expressing and applying that knowledge. The Small Catechism can be a starting point: daily (habitual) prayers, making the sign of the Cross (while kneeling or standing), etc. Get into these habits.

Christian piety always begins with God's glory, for we have been made in His image. All too often, we glory at most in the creation, rarely the Creator. His glory drives us to our knees, for "we daily sin much." So daily kneel before the Lord, whether physically or inwardly. Christian piety continues with growing in the knowledge of the love of Christ. This helps us deal with the tribulations we face daily. Why? Christ is in you! As a result of spiritual growth, grow also in spiritual discipline.

As the pastor told us, today's sermon is only a taste of the year to come. Unfortunately, I'll be gone at the unnamed institution of higher learning for much of it, though practicing these exercises is much more encouraged at that school.

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