Over the course of the last 10 years, several books have had a tremendous impact on my throughts and feelings about the ideals that surround (at least, for me) discipleship and the Gospel and Church life. (See related blog posting, October 18.) Two of these books will be the bases of what I consider to be among the most important discussions of our life together… and our entering into a new chapter in our personal and corporate lives at Strawbridge.
The first of these books, The Sacred Romance (by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge), will be the basis of a sermon series by the same name (to be presented between January 4 and February 22). While there’s a need to be critical of aspects of its discussion (as I believe there is with any and all books and discussions and teachings), “Sacred Romance” has done more than any other book I have read to assist the Gospel in making that “longest journey” which is the “18 inches from head to heart.” I’ll share this coming Sunday, for example, about how the book was part of a bigger move of the Holy Spirit to convert my relationship with the Gospel and Jesus Christ from a mostly academic/intellectual one to a more holistic (and balanced, I believe) engagement of mind and heart and soul and being. Breathtaking it is (or should be) for us to consider that we – you, I – are His cherished beloved… at the heart of Jesus’ Passion!
The second of these books (which will inform our focus during Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday) is Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Church. (A companion, follow-up, well worth reading, has a more personal, less corporate focus and is entitled Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.) I first heard Scazzero at a Beeson event in Nashville. I found his testimony compelling and his work more than refreshing. (A video of this testimony as well as a pdf version of this testimony are available by clicking either word, underlined above.) Here was a life experience and a perspective on ministry which brought together so many of the scattered (and seemingly disparate) threads of my own experience and ponderings about ministry: contemplative spirituality, family systems theory, the importance of a “rule” for spiritual formation,… And at the heart of it all? Something I believe to be crucial, not just to Strawbridge at this time in our history, but to every disciple and community of disciples who would seek to get “below the surface” of real and full and “deep” discipleship.
[I’m already anticipating the ways this Lenten series will synergize with a 40-Day prayer vigil focused on the principles of being emotionally healthy disciples and an emotionally healthy congregation – a vigil which will lead us to some kind of “sacred assembly” whereat we’ll all have a chance to leave baggage behind and begin a new and fuller chapter in our lives. Don’t worry: more details coming!]
Enough for now… It’s sufficient, though:
to give you some sense of the “lay of the land” immediately before us (in our ongoing “journey of clarification”),
to give you some recommendations for reading (to compliment your Sunday morning experience through the course of the months ahead), and
to declare my intentions and hopes that we can be about a conversation on these series/messages/topics (through this and other forums) over the course of these coming month!
Yes, “heart matters” in discipleship: it matters that our hearts are engaged by the Gospel… and it matters that our hearts are on the way to becoming pure and whole. Yes, the “clarification of our hearts” is very much a focus of the first third of the coming year!
I pray that you are looking forward to it all as much as I am!