Listen to Jesus – or why you need a spiritual rule of life

On this, ‘Christ the King Sunday,’ we hear Jesus say: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

But what does that mean to us in 21st century San Francisco? And more important, how do we manage to do that: to live our lives as if we are listening to the voice of Jesus?

It is sometimes hard to know which voice we hear is really the one belonging to Jesus. There are a lot of people who say they are Christians and doesn’t that mean they should be listening to Jesus’s voice and following Jesus in their daily life? But when we watch how they are living their lives we can see they are not following Jesus.

You know who we mean: the television preacher who blames every big storm or wildfire on gay marriage; the preacher who says you won’t go to heaven if you don’t buy his $60 bucket of pancake mix, the self-proclaimed evangelist who claims God will empower the current occupant of the White House to cure cancer; the evangelicals who are sure our current president was elected by God to start the End of Days – you know the end of the world as we know it. And we’re not even talking about those so frightened of losing their status they spew hate on Jews, Muslims, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

These are people are clearly not listening to Jesus: in their lives, Christ is not king. But how do we do better? Well, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has a suggestion, and it is one we will explore together during the four Sundays of Advent.

Remember Bishop Curry? Right before he gave that wonderful talk at the Royal Wedding, Bishop Curry suggested each Episcopalian develop their own ‘rule of life.’ Now I can almost hear some folks thinking: a ‘rule of life’ sounds like a lot of work. And it sounds very spiritual. Way too spiritual for a layperson like me.

Which makes sense – we’ve all heard how St. Francis develop a ‘rule of life’ for the monks and nuns in his order, the Franciscans. And we may also know that St. Benedict also established a ‘rule of life’ for Benedictine monks and nuns. But that doesn’t mean that having a ‘rule of life’ is something restricted to saints or bishops or even deacons and priests.

The good news each of us has a ‘rule of life’ already in place. In fact, we have each set a ‘rule of life’ that manages how we live out each day. Sometimes we go through a conscious effort to make our ‘rule of life.’ Other times it just grows organically from the things we like to do and those things we have to do. Your ‘rule of life’ – like mine – is what you follow every day of your life: it is how you run your life; how you decide what is important and what you are going to do.

You can think of a ‘rule of life’ as the code you use to run your life. Within the code of your life are subroutines – maybe one governs how many times you go to the gym or do the laundry or go to the market or when you go to church. What Bishop Curry is talking about is taking a look at the subroutine you use to guide your spiritual life. Only he calls it a spiritual ‘rule of life.’ And he calls us to revise it so our spiritual ‘rule of life’ reflects where you really want to go – and what you really want to do.

The good news following a spiritual ‘rule of life’ doesn’t mean you have to spend hours on your knees in prayer or fill your house with smoke from incense. All each of us needs to do is to start the process this Advent. Here’s how you can make it work:

First, each Sunday in our worship service we’ll talk about one part of the process of how to make a spiritual ‘rule of life.’ Since it is Advent, we will work our way the first few chapters of the gospel attributed to St. Luke. Each week we’ll have a different part of the process based on part of this Gospel.

Second, after each Sunday’s service, we will continue the discussion over coffee.

Third, each week you can take home a list of ‘1 a day’ steps which may help you through this process.

How easy is that? And if you miss a week – or even two – you can read my part of the conversation online at St. Cyprian’s website – it will be posted under the heading of Progressive Preaching. Plus your Vicar will be available at your request to consult with you on how things are going in building your spiritual ‘rule of life.’

The good news is there’s no one spiritual ‘rule of life’ which is right for everybody. What matters is that you get to consider and then shape your own spiritual journey to go where you want to go.

The idea of a rule of life comes from the Latin word regula. It suggests a way we can self-regulate our lives to stay the spiritual path we intend to take. A spiritual ‘Rule of Life’ is not a rigid set of rules; it is a gentle framework to guide and support us on our spiritual pilgrimage through this life.

We can use our own spiritual ‘Rule of Life’ to our life with intention and purpose and stay in the present moment. A good ‘Rule of Life’ helps us clarify our most important values, relationships, dreams, and work. It should be simple, realistic, flexible, and achievable. Think of it as a new navigation system – more like Google Maps or Waze and less like a rigid set of rules.

The Most Rev Bishop Michael Curry, primate of the Episcopal Church, gives an address during the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle

Bishop Curry suggests that in framing our own spiritual path each of us consider a ‘spiritual ‘rule of life’ that is framed on finding practices that show us how to walk the “Way of Love.” He suggests these seven practices provide a Rule of Life that all Episcopalians are encouraged to adopt.

  1. Turn: Pause, listen and choose to follow Jesus.
  2. Learn: Reflect daily on scripture, especially the life and teachings of Jesus.
  3. Pray: Spend time with God in prayer every day.
  4. Worship: Gather in community for worship every week.
  5. Bless: Share one’s faith and find ways to serve other people.
  6. Go: Move beyond one’s comfort to witness to the love of God with words and actions.
  7. Rest: Dedicate time for restoration and wholeness.

The Way of Love is one type of spiritual rule of life. This is not the only such spiritual rule. There are other ancient spiritual rules of life, such as the Rule of St. Benedict or more contemporary ones like the Rule of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, the Rule of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, or the Restoration Project’s rule for the modern disciple. A spiritual rule of life is a purposeful tool to help us grow into a more meaningful life with God. As such, following the practices in the Way of Love can change one’s relationship with God, ourselves, and others with whom we share the earth.

The Way of Love invites us to a rule of life that leads to incarnating Divine Love in the world, so it is appropriate that we begin this journey on the Way of Love during Advent, the season we slow down to get ready to welcome Jesus, God incarnate. The Way of Love focuses on these seven different spiritual practices. In fact, we’ll give you a Journeying the Way of Love Advent Calendar that follows this seven-step pattern.

Why make a spiritual ‘Rule of Life?’

How else will we hear Jesus every day of our lives? How else will we find our path to walk the pilgrimage of our life as a Christian?

Remember, Jesus said: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Each of us needs our own spiritual ‘Rule of Life’ so we can hear Jesus – hear Jesus and follow him.

Let us pray. Almighty God,

you remembered the oath you swore to David

and so established a glorious realm of salvation

through Jesus of Nazareth, his heir.

Train our eyes to see your righteous rule,

that, standing firmly in hope

before the powers of this world,

we may heed your voice

and be constant in your truth.

May God’s church say: Amen.

We  need

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