Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 7
Wednesday 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. (continued)
Our primary aim is therefore to make Christ known. This shapes our lives and attitudes to reflect the obedience of those whom our Lord chose to be with him and sent out as his witnesses. Like them, by word and example, we bear witness to Christ in our own immediate environment and pray and work for the fulfilment of his command to make disciples of all nations.
From St Francis:
How to Endure the Winter Cold
Someone asked St. Francis how he protected himself from the piercing cold of winter when his clothing was so poor, and he answered fervently. ‘If our hearts ore on fire with longing for our heavenly home, we will have no trouble enduring this outer cold.’ (St Bonaventure, Major Life, 5:2)
On market days in Ipswich a group of enthusiastic well-dressed Christians stand on The Cornhill and loudly proclaim the Scriptures at passing shoppers. They seem to be unaffected by those to whom they are ‘preaching’ which is probably just as well as they sometimes attract no little opprobrium from their audience.
On occasion I have tried to engage these preachers in conversation – I have to confess that sometimes I do this to give the ears of the nearby barrow boys a rest from being incessantly force-fed the Scriptures. These Street Preachers are sincere and convinced followers of the way of the Lord; godly folk who are eager for others to follow also. They are certain they are following our Lord’s command to ‘make disciples of all nations’ and cannot see any dissonance between the words they shout at passers-by and the effect they have on the lives of everyday Ipswich folk.
I can understand why they do what they do but I am not sure if it is what Jesus intended when we were given the Great Commission. The question I most often ask myself of these, and other, street preachers, is ‘for whom are you preaching the Gospel, for the benefit of “the lost” or for your own edification?’
I do not want to judge their path of obedience (though by saying that probably means I am..) but I know their way is not for me. For me If I were to engage in this kind of public proclamation it would only be a mirror of those about whom Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. Those who make their prayers and display their generosity on street corners. The last thing I want to hear from my Lord when I come home is that the heavenly pantry is empty as I have already ‘received my reward’.
How then, if proclaiming the words of the Scriptures in the market place is not the most helpful way, are we to make disciples of all nations?
Should we retreat into our churches and simply pray for the conversion of those we feel are without God’s love? Waiting for them to find their own way through our doors so that we might ‘save’ them?
There are churches that do this. One local church refuses to advertise that is a place of worship and does not let the public know what time it meets for worship, believing that the Holy Spirit will draw people into their fellowship. However this has its own pitfalls and leads to an exclusiveness which makes it more difficult for people to enter the Kingdom and to those who are already there believing that they are members of God’s Border Patrol. Which is sad news instead of Good News.
For me, in trying to fulfil the command to make disciples of all nations, I need to remember that God does not need my help in bringing people to faith. The One Who Loves us Best has made all people with the imprint of the divine image. Jesus has already saved the world and it is the supreme work of the Holy Spirit to waken faith in the hearts of God’s people.
In some sense nothing I can do will ’make’ people into disciples. What I do have to do though, is make sure people can follow the road to God with ease and offer them help on the journey. Christ is the one who brings salvation to the world, our task is to bear witness to his work in our lives and not, by a poor example or some dissonance between the profession of our faith and the deeds of our life, hinder others in seeing what a mighty God we serve.
Our task is, if you will, to be cheerleaders for Jesus. So excited by what He has done for us that the deeds of our lives cannot but help point others to Him; making others into his disciples by the example of our own transformed lives.
May we always be people who deeds speak louder than any of our words.
O Lord, you have told us
that you will ask much of those to whom much is given;
may we, who enjoy so rich an inheritance of faith,
work together the more fruitfully,
by our prayers and labours,
to share with those who do not know you
the gifts we so plentifully enjoy;
and, as we have entered in the labours of others,
so may others enter into ours,
through Christ our Lord.
(Anonymous – fifth century)
If you have time re-read some of the biographies of modern ‘saints’ who have made disciples by putting actions before words. Here is a short book list:
The Cross and the Switchblade
The Hiding Place
Chasing the Dragon
Run, Baby, Run
Bury in My Boots
Something Beautiful for God
The Von Trapp Family Singers (the full story behind The Sound of Music)
A London Sparrow
Any of the books about;
Jim Elliot, Amy Carmichael, Dorothy Day,
Mychal Judge, or Mary Slessor.
And something fictional
99 Words to Breathe:
The world is filled with people who do not say what they think, either from politeness, or fear, or hypocrisy, or uncertainty about their beliefs. The search for freedom of speech has barely begun, and we are still surrounded by a great darkness of hidden thoughts. I started the Muse to illustrate that darkness, not just because thoughts become lonely and limp unless fertilized by constant interaction, but also to stimulate ways of working that are less frustrating, and to create a place where men and women can participate in a great adventure, discovering how interesting other people are.
philosopher, historian 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