This is the final post in a series of seven which are based on the Renovare organization’s “best practices” – six Common Disciplines drawn from the six Traditions of Christianity explored in Richard Foster’s book, Streams of Living Water. (Find earlier posts in the Categories list in the right margin menu on the blog home page under Continual Renewal).
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Common Discipline # 6: By God’s grace, I will joyfully seek to show forth the presence of God in all that I am, in all that I do, in all that I say. (The Incarnational Tradition)
The word incarnation comes to us from Latin. It means “in the flesh” (in = in; carnis = flesh). The dictionary definition of incarnation is “person who embodies in the flesh a deity, spirit, or abstract quality.” Jesus is the Incarnation of God (“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us”(John 1: 1, 14). In the words of James Bryan Smith,
“In the person of Jesus Christ, God became human, thereby putting his blessing upon the material, physical world in which we live. God as Spirit created a physical body to inhabit. The Spirit. . . . The Incarnational Tradition forces us to change the interior first; it looks to the source of what we do and say. We first start cooperating with the Holy Spirit rather than resisting. . . . . We start thinking about life as a harmonious unity, abandoning such distinctions as spirit/matter, sacred/secular, faith/work, soul/body”(Spiritual Formation Workbook).
What does this mean for our lives? To me the Incarnational Tradition embodies the other five traditions: I am asked by God to live the life that Jesus lived. We say, often glibly, that Jesus lives in us. But this tradition states that this incarnation is the prime fact of my Christian life. It is possible for me to become like Jesus, which means to embody the spirit of Jesus in everything I think, say, or do. (It’s what we mean when we say that Christians are “Jesus with skin on”). Or I can refuse to become like Jesus. It’s that simple.
This tradition is also often called the Sacramental Tradition, which signifies that in God’s eyes there is no difference between the sacred and the secular. Everything is sacred. How we think, how we imagine, how we create, how we decide – these are all sacred tasks. Keeping harmony in our relationship with our many selves, our relationship with God, our relationships with others, and our relationships with our environment is a sacred task. Choosing to act out of love, being joyful, seeking peace, cultivating patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is our sacred responsibility. And, likewise, our occupations, our driving, our voting, our house-cleaning, our golf or tennis games, our writing or painting or sewing or singing are sacred endeavors.
Common Discipline #6 is probably the most practical of all the disciplines because it infuses everything we do in life. It is fueled by all of the other disciplines – prayer, holy living, being empowered by the Spirit, compassion, reading and speaking scripture. It is also the hardest to fake, although many people try – including some “pew-sitters” in our churches.
James Bryan Smith sums it up beautifully: “The spiritual disciplines put our bodies in a place where God can work his goodness into us and bring harmony into our lives. And when our bodies and spirits start to come back into harmony . . . . we easily move between religious and everyday activities, treating them as of equal value because God is present in both. And all that we say, all that we do, all that we are becomes a means to make God’s presence real to those around us. When our life is a “seamless garment, we are free to reveal God to the world.”
May it be so in my life and yours!!!