Lent Devotions: Spiritual practice

Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).           

By Rev. Jeffrey Cheifetz            

James 1:22-27

Thank goodness this “right strawy epistle” is in our canon, because James challenges us to actually live out into the world the implications of what we claim to believe.

This is not casual Sunday religion, in which we show up, sing, pray, (lead worship, preach), give some money, smile at our neighbors, and then go home to life as usual, with our habits, prejudices, and life patterns left untouched.

This goes deep — meaning that it is demanding and inconvenient, humbling, and — perhaps the most annoying — time- and energy-consuming. It is about manifesting into the world our professed love for God, neighbor, and self, on behalf of the dispossessed, the powerless, the distressed. It is about the evolution of the soul into usefulness for the sake of the kin-dom that is sensed as possibility within the texture of this life, but that we do not see yet in its fullness. It does not ask, “What you believe?” Rather, it presses us to persevere into freedom in the world so that we do not become of the world.

So we choose to remember what (or Whom) we just saw, heard, felt, confessed, thanked, and praised in worship. We choose to speak less, so that we might listen more deeply. We choose to respond to the real hurts and needs of the world in which we live. We choose to discern and remain true to those things that are central to our Christian ethic, so that our religion is not rendered “worthless” — a sobering thought indeed.

We choose the freedom to practice that which brings light into the world. We choose to look deeply, to live thoughtfully, to remember who we are and to Whom we belong. We choose to live into the divine purpose, that we might become useful within God’s creation. Which, as you know, takes practice. Because transformation requires perseverance. I think St James would approve.

Rev. Jeffrey Cheifetz earned his Master of Divinity at San Francisco Theological Seminary. 

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