As you read this take a moment to notice your breathing. Take a breath in and hold it for a moment. Let it out and rest a moment again. Now repeat the cycle. Notice that there is this basic rhythm that sustains life. In and then out. At times we’re very conscious of this rhythm, particularly when it gets disrupted. At other times we hardly notice that it is happening. There is a rhythm of breathing in and out that makes our daily lives a possibility. In a very similar way there is a rhythm of in and out that make our Christian lives a possibility.
Living a Christian life requires a continual rhythm of moving in an out. It’s a rhythm that we must attend to or else, just as with breathing, we will no longer truly be living a Christian life and may even find ourselves on life support.
In a Christian life there must always be times where we move inward. By this I mean that we must have places and times where we attend to our own personal spirituality. Times where we attend to our relationships with other Christians. Places where we do the work of self-examination and personal growth. These times and places take a variety of forms: personal prayer and Bible study, worship, fellowship meals, small groups, pastoral care by the pastor or other lay leaders, sharing our struggle with a fellow Christian, praying for each other and many other things are all movements inward. They are ways of gaining strength, finding support in difficult times, building hope for the future, and listening carefully for the call of God in our lives.
But just as only breathing in cannot support life, so too only attending to the inward motions of faith will not lead us to experiencing true Christian life.
The Christian life also requires that we move outward as well. Just as Jesus gathered disciples to himself, but then sent them out into the world, so too must we venture out from the walls of comfort and safety within the church. We must venture out into the world to be living witnesses of God’s kingdom. Again, this work takes many different forms: service projects and trips, building relationships with other churches, helping the homeless, sharing our faith with a friend at a coffeeshop, speaking truth to power, welcoming strangers, caring for the sick, using our work lives as an
example of ethics and justice, and many other things are all ways of reaching out into the world.
But just as only breathing out leaves us without the
necessary oxygen for life, so too only pushing out into the world leaves us without the necessary fuel to sustain this witness to the world.
Just as life requires a rhythm of breathing in and breath-ing out, so too the Christian life requires this rhythm of moving in and moving out. Our lives as individual Chris-tians and our lives together as a Christian Community
require this rhythm of in and out for us to fully experience the life that God intends for us. If we reflect on our lives we might find that we often engage in this rhythm without
being conscious of it. However, when we reflect on our lives we might also find that we may be only experiencing one side of this rhythm and we need to attend to what is lacking.
This newsletter article is coming out at the beginning of a new year, a time which is often ripe for looking to the future. As I think about the coming year for our life together as a congregation I think that it is worth being attentive to and intentional about the rhythm of our Christian lives.
When we examine the ways that we are reaching out we might easily look to some of the things that we are engaged in as a whole congregation, things like Family Promise, our partnership with
Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, the Art and Music Fair, involvement with Brethren Disaster Minis-tries, or other means of service. It is also important, however, for each of us to ask ourselves how we are reaching out into the world. In what ways am I serving others? Who am I building a
relationship with in the community? What impact am I making through my job? One critical question is to ask, specifically, how are we reaching out into this world both as individual Christians and as a community of believers?
At the same time, we need to be intentional about moving inward and attending to those needs. Again, it might be easy to look at things like our corporate wor-ship, our small group program, or Sunday school times. But again, it is also important to ask how each of us as individuals are caring for ourselves and for those around us. How am I deepening my prayer life and Biblical understanding? What relationships am I nur-turing within the congregation? How do I/we welcome new people into this community of
believers? Where do I go for comfort and support and who is it that I am comforting and supporting? The other critical question is, how are we caring for each other, building our relationship with Jesus, and forming meaningful relationships both as individual Christians and as a community of believers?
As we look to 2017, let us attend well to the rhythm of our Christian lives. Lets breathe in the Spirit of God deeply so that we might go out into the world boldly. May this rhythm bring us into the life that is truly life.
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Each month for our newsletter Pastor Alan writes a short article on a variety of topics. At times he will also create a video version of the article.