Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 6
Tuesday after 1st Sunday of Lent
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The First Aim of the Order:
To make our Lord known and loved everywhere.
The Order is founded on the conviction that Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of God; that true life has been made available to us through his Incarnation and Ministry, by his Cross and Resurrection, and by the sending of his Holy Spirit. The Order believes that it is the commission of the church to make the gospel known to all and therefore accepts the duty of bringing others to know Christ, and of praying and working for the coming of the Kingdom of God.
From St Francis:
Our Only Delight
Blessed are those religious who have no joy or delight except in the most holy words and works of the Lord, and who use them to lead others to the love of God in joy and gladness. (Admonitions 20)
In the church hall of a previous parish two different diet clubs held their meetings. They meet on separate days at different times of the day and appeal to different groups of people – but that does not stop them competing with each other for clients. Every so often I have to police the notice boards to ensure that one group is not taking up the allocated space of the other and both groups are playing fair. Recently I found that instead of removing a competing group’s notice – a well-worn tactic – a notice had been simply turned over so that it was advertising nothing at all.
Commitment to their personal cause indeed. Would that Christians were as enthusiastic about advertising their faith as my diet warriors! Aggression and putting other people down should have no part in the telling of any faith story but perhaps we should be presenting more than a blank page on the noticeboard of our lives? After all we do want people to join us, don’t we?
Christians should not be in the business of belittling the faith of another – God is big enough to allow everyone to find truth on a journey suited to their own circumstance – but most of the Christians I meet could do with being just a tad more positive about the faith they hold. We should ‘Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in [us]’ (1 Peter 3v15).
This hope must be more than some kind of sanctified wishful thinking, which expects God to sort everything out in the end, but must be an active praying and working for the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom made present and visible and demonstrated by our own transformed lives. It is all very well to go around asking other people to follow Jesus but they will not travel far if we are not walking in the footsteps of Christ alongside them.
In any work of witness for the Kingdom of God the first person who needs to hear the gospel is the preacher. Once we have started to live by the values of the Kingdom then we can be a witness to that Kingdom. To return to my story of the weight loss clubs their members can only start to point fingers at the work of another group once they have lost some weight themselves! Bringing my spiritual body into submission requires the same humility. The most complete way in which we can ‘give account for the hope within us’ and demonstrate the power of the Kingdom of God is by living lives shaped after the values of the Kingdom.
Once we have learnt to live the Gospel then we will have the freedom to proclaim the Gospel. Of course by the time we are doing that the example of our lives will be all the testimony we need….
Jesus, where are you taking me?
I am afraid,
but to do anything other than to go with you
would be to die inwardly;
and to look for wholeness apart from you
would be to lose my true self.
So I come to you,
protesting and confused,
but loving you all the same.
You will have to hold on to me
as we walk together
through this compelling and frightening landscape
of the kingdom of God.
If your life were to be lived completely according to the values of the Kingdom of God what one thing would need changing most….
In your family life
In your place of work or your relationships with your friends
In your place of worship
Write this Kingdom of God ‘To Do’ list down and measure your progress daily during the rest of Lent.
If someone asked you today to explain the faith what would you say? My favourite is ‘the gospel in a book without words’ my favourite. If stuck ask your minister to give you hints and tips on telling the good news
99 Words to Breathe:
NOW AND THEN
May I listen, Beloved,
May I hear
May I feel You-So-Near…
Closer than breath
Or ground beneath
Pulsing red like blood
In dark body of earth,
Blinking like scintillating
Star-eyes in delight …
May I listen, Beloved,
May I hear,
O Invisible One …
Your gentle Breathing
Should mine fail.
(Melanie Reinhart – astrologer and writer)
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged