Some days it’s harder to be holy than others. Some days it’s harder to feel close to God. On days like this, like the psalmists did so long ago, I lean into the Scripture stories of my spiritual ancestors to remind me that God is always near. “The word is very close to you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart, waiting for you to do it.” Deuteronomy 30:14 The faith experiences of others brings me comfort, inspiration, and peace on those days when I don’t feel the closeness.
I’ve been reading Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg’s book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith. I have found it so compelling that I started it in audio book and then went and got a paper copy, too. Spangler and Tverberg speak of the how important community was to Jesus and is to disciples of every age. Early rabbis said, “When two sit together and exchange words of Torah (Teaching), then the Divine Presence dwells among them.” That sounds very much like Jesus’ own words to his disciples in Matthew 18: 19-20 “Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” It was common for disciples to study Scripture with one or two partners who could study, discuss, debate, and learn right alongside them. These faith friends were called haverim in Hebrew. Who are your haverim? Who are your faith friends that walk alongside you as you follow Jesus? When you are seeking to understand Scripture, who wrestles through it with you? You don’t have to agree all the time, in fact you’ll learn more if you have differing interpretations and understandings. If you don’t have haverim or faith friends, I encourage you to seek them out. Our churches have Bible study and book study groups, support groups, Walk to Emmaus 3rd Day groups, mission groups, and a million ways to connect with people. Jesus spent most of his time surrounded by his disciples. Community is essential to our growth in Christ and to experiencing God.
Another way I am learning the stories of my spiritual ancestors is by learning the stories of “saints of the church.” People of faith have been seeking God and experiencing the presence of God for thousands of years. When I say “saints” I mean more than the official ones approved by the Roman Catholic church. I mean anyone who has earnestly and devotedly sought to follow Christ. This includes Biblical people, people from the past like John Wesley or Julian of Norwich, and saints I meet in so many of our churches today. There is a fun way to learn the stories of spiritual ancestors during Lent called Lent Madness. Its modeled after basketball’s March Madness but shares the stories of saints instead of basketball teams. Over the course of Lent, I am learning about the lives of 36 “saints” from across time and geography. I find some of their stories inspiring and it fills me with hope that God moved in the lives of people of such diverse experiences. You can learn more about Lent Madness at https://www.lentmadness.org/. This week I was moved by the faith stories of Margery Kempe and Herman of Alaska.
I am so grateful to God for caring about each of us, for continually reaching out to God’s human creatures. Even when we turn away from God, our faith stories show us a God who continues to reach for us. I am so grateful to God for coming as Jesus to connect with us so intimately and concretely. As John said, “The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. There are days when its hard to feel close to God, fortunately we have each other and those who have gone before us to remind us who and whose we are and inspire us to keep on the journey of faith. I pray you find yourself in the midst of this community this Lent.
United in Christ,