I first heard the term “spiritual direction” when I attended a Via de Cristo retreat weekend in 1990. Spiritual direction was mentioned in a list of disciplines that could be helpful in increasing piety, but we received little information to explain what this discipline entailed, or how to go about doing it. Being the curious person I am, I went back to my home congregation and asked my Pastor, “what is spiritual direction and are you my spiritual director?” Turns out he didn’t really know either. That started me on a journey that led to lots of reading and research, 5+ years of being a spiritual directee, and finally a two year program through Oasis Ministries called, “Spiritual Direction for Spiritual Guides” during which I had several directees of my own. After all of this, I still found myself asking, “Exactly what is this thing called spiritual direction?”
Most Lutherans, like me, are unfamiliar with the idea of spiritual direction. The closest concept in our tradition is probably “seelsorge,” or care of souls, which is regarded as part of the pastoral office.
Like other Christians, however, we Lutherans do want to explore and deepen our faith lives and we know that certain relationships with others help us do that. Even those who have not heard of “spiritual direction” are comfortable with the idea of having a spiritual friend or mentor. Luther himself spoke of “the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together, says:
“God has willed that we should seek and find His living word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself …”
Simply put, spiritual direction is pointing another person toward God. I believe the ability to do this is a charism, or spiritual gift and it often occurs naturally in the Christian community, sometimes without the individuals involved being fully aware of it.
Stay tuned for my next post about my own experiences in spiritual direction …..
“My heart which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.”
What about you? Have you ever been comforted by music in a difficult time? We’d like to hear your thoughts.
I borrowed this book from my husband’s office at church because it looked like it fit well with our theme this month and some of the posts I have been doing on the Psalms. The Psalter was Martin Luther’s daily prayer book as a monk and the subject of his initial lectures as a professor. His lectures and commentaries on the Psalms fill five volumes in the American Edition of Luther’s Works
This book combines several resources. The text of each Psalm is included along with the translation of Luther’s Summaries on that Psalm. To maintain the devotional style some things have been omitted, and his shorter summaries supplemented with comments from other writings. Each Psalm is also accompanied by a prayer drawn from Book of Devotion: The Psalms by Rev. F. Kuegle. The Book also includes instructions for singing the Psalms, categories of Psalms, and a schedule of Psalms for daily prayer.
Reading the Psalms With Luther is an excellent resource for individual or family devotions. I hope some of our authors and readers will try it and post their opinion.
“Where does one find finer words of joy than in the psalms of praise and thanksgiving? There you look into the hearts of all saints, as into fair and pleasant gardens, yes as into heaven itself. There you see what fine and pleasant flowers of the heart spring up from all sorts of fair and happy thoughts toward God, because of His blessings.”
The Book of Psalms was the songbook of the Israelites. Many churches still chant or sing the Psalms today. A multitude of hymns and Christian songs are based on a particular psalm. Luther called this book “the Bible in miniature” and took particular comfort in reading the Psalms. His most famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress, is a paraphrase of Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble
Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though the waters roar and foam though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
What’s your favorite Psalm? Is it used in worship or a song that you love? I’m hoping our authors and readers will weigh in on this.
This article, written by my husband, our Pastor was included in the congregation’s December newsletter. If you would like to read more articles he has written, his blog is goodnewsforabadworld.wordpress.com
The Lutheran Church has often been called “the singing church.” Prior to the Reformation there was no congregational singing in most worship services. What singing occurred was done by choirs and specially trained cantors. Martin Luther decided to change that and published the first hymnal in German with a number of hymns written by him and by his colleagues in the reform movement.
Luther was, himself, a talented musician who enjoyed playing and singing. His love of music led him to the belief that lay people, many of whom were illiterate at the time, could learn more about the faith by being taught to sing of the doctrines and truths of the Church during regular worship services. While other reformers encouraged only the singing of the Psalms, Luther’s work was much more expansive.
Over time a great tradition of hymnody developed in the Lutheran Churches and this was copied by others, especially in England and in the United States. Now the Church has thousands of hymns to choose from as part of its function as the teacher of the true faith.
It is important for us to maintain this tradition of hymnody. Without it we would, as a Church, be much the poorer. At St, Paul’s we are trying to expand our repertoire of hymns, searching for ones that, while they might be unfamiliar are, indeed, gems that we have yet to unearth.
Unfortunately, not all hymns in our hymnal are gems. Some of them are difficult to play and sing and a very few others have theological problems. When we try one of those less than stellar hymns and it doesn’t work well we have to decide if we’ll keep working on it or just drop it. But it’s a process. In the last 2 years we’ve used over 200 hymns in our worship. Some we’ll see again, some we won’t. But all singing is for the glory of God.
Luther’s writings contain a multitude of references to Advent and Christmas. The following excerpt comes from a sermon on the Nativity that he preached in 1530:
If Christ had arrived with trumpets and lain in a cradle of gold, his birth would have been a splendid affair. But it would not be a comfort to me. He was rather to lie in the lap of a poor maiden and be thought of little significance in the eyes of the world. Now I can come to him. Now he reveals himself to the miserable in order not to give any impression that he arrives with great power, splendor, wisdom, and aristocratic manners. But upon his return on that Day, when he will oppose the high and the mighty, it will be different. Now he comes to the poor, who need a Savior, but then he will come as a Judge against those who are persecuting him now.