Tag Archives: via de cristo

Who Follows You?

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Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives ,when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 1 Peter 3:1-2

Maybe you think you are not a leader.  You are not usually the one in charge of a project;  you have never been the president of an organization;  you prefer to work behind the scenes.  However, according to the Via de Cristo talk on leaders, we are all leaders because we all influence somebody.  The people we influence most are those within our own family.

The verses above, from 1 Peter, give us a picture of how this might be done.  It sounds contradictory, doesn’t it?  Lead by submission?  How could that work?  I like to think of the Biblical concept of “submission” as putting another person first. Submission isn’t being a door mat, accepting abuse, or losing every disagreement.  It is about caring for someone deeply enough to put their needs ahead of your own.  The Bible actually tells us to do this, not just with our spouse, but with others in our family, our congregation and even the world. This kind of behavior often makes people sit up and take notice.  It earns their trust.  It makes them willing to listen to what you have to say.  It can make them want to emulate you out of gratitude and respect.

Did you know what the biggest factor in determining whether a child continues to attend to church when they grow up is?   It’s whether their father attended church.  Do you know the most frequently cited influence on a person’s faith life?  The answer is “my mother.”  Do you know why most people attend a church for the first time?  Because a friend invited them. Make no mistake, people are watching you every day–the people at work, your spouse, your children, your friends, your neighbors, even the cashier at the grocery store.  Do you use your influence for good?  Do they see a life of “purity and reverence?”  You are somebody’s leader;  think about that responsibility and take it seriously.

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We (the Laity) Are the Church

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This is a second section from a Via de Cristo talk I gave on Laity in 1998.  When I mention my church, I am speaking of the church I belonged to at that time, not St. Paul’s.

Now God is all powerful and he could have chosen any number of ways to work out His purposes on earth.  Isn’t it amazing that He chose the church, and He chose us to do that.  To fully understand our role in God’s plan, we first need to think about the church– what it is, and what it is not.

The church is not a building.  My congregation, Peace In Christ Lutheran, meets in a little red brick church which is over one hundred years old.  With its’ iron fence and the cemetery out back, it looks like something out of a Norman Rockwell scene.  This building is very dear to my heart.  The men of Peace In Christ spent many, many hours renovating it for our use.  My younger daughter, Kate, was the first Peace In Christ baby baptized there.  Both of my daughters were confirmed there.  When our president called a while back to say we might be selling our building, I cried.  But I know that Peace In Christ is not made up of brick and mortar, it is a people, the living stones that form the body of Christ.  We were the church twenty years ago when we began meeting in a Civic Association with an altar on wheels;  and we will still be the church several years from now when we move to the new, modern, more functional building we have grown to need.

The church is not a kind of religious club.  If you’ve ever served on the church council, as I have, you know how easy it is to start thinking this way.  After all, we have a budget to balance and property to maintain.  Our members pay their dues (which we call pledges or tithes) and in return feel entitled to certain benefits, such as baptism, confirmation and marriage;  also free admission to all educational and social events.  But the church goes beyond the physical and temporal world of daily life.  When we say we are praising God along with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we’re not kidding!  The church is not just the visible, it includes the spiritual and invisible.

My church does all kinds of good works.  Some members serve breakfast at the local mission regularly.  Our AAL (Aid Association for Lutherans) branch delivers food baskets at Christmas.  The Sunday School and Vacation Bible School students collect money for mission projects.  But the church is not a Social Services Agency created to dispense charity to the less fortunate.  In the church we are all equal in our need for God’s grace, we are all seated at His table together, sharing the life He alone offers.  I’ve heard the church described as “one group of beggars telling other beggars where they can find bread.”

In reality the church was created to be the living body of Christ in the world.  The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  And we are His witnesses.  Called forth by the evangelizing activity of Jesus and the disciples 2000 years ago to make His presence living, vibrant and real today.

Imagine yourself taking the hand of the person who first told you about Jesus.  Maybe it was your mother or father, a neighbor or a friend.  And then imagine that person taking hold of the person who told them and so on.  The chain would eventually go all the way back to someone who walked with Christ during His earthly life.  The church is this community of believers.  It is the people of God, the people chosen to be light and salt and leaven to a dark, hurting and hungry world.  We can’t let the chain stop with us.

I am the church, You are the church, We are the Church.  We are the body of our Lord, the restored children of God.

Examination of Conscience

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In a previous post, I talked about the need for each of us to examine ourselves on some regular basis as a practice of piety.  This is not meant as a way to “earn points” with God — it is to help us see and acknowledge areas of weakness and sin so that we can mature as Christians.  This Examination of Conscience is from the Via de Cristo Pilgrim’s Guide, which is given to each participant.  Imagine it as a conversation between you and Jesus.

Think about your interior attitudes and disposition.  Have your thoughts, your aspirations, your words, your actions of this day been worthy of one of my apostles?

Have your problems overcome you again today?  How many times have you fallen?  What was the reason?  Think it over well.

Think about the means available to you that my grace my increase in you:

Morning worship, Holy Communion, altar visits.  Have you neglected to perform one or more of these means of sanctification?  Why?

How long has it been since you visited your spiritual director?  When will you go?

And what about your serving?  Couldn’t you have been more generous– more courageous– more self-sacrificing–more cheerful?

With a little effort couldn’t you have gotten rid of the obstacles which you found along the road?

Haven’t you had the time to be a disciple?  Listen to Me:  isn’t it true that for the things which really interest you, you do find the time?  I wo am your God would almost be satisfied if you would treat me as well as you treat any of your friends.

Are you with me– or against me?  At work–in your profession–at recreation–have you been my disciple?  Would you have been proud to have me accompany you through the day?

Remember that the infidelities of the “faithful’ are the infidelities which wound My heart most.  I COUNT ON YOU!  ON YOU! And you, on whom or what do you count?

What is Via de Cristo?

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de-colores-cursillo-clipart-1I just recently came back from another wonderful Via de Cristo weekend.  Before I left for this weekend I did a little bit of internet research on Via de Cristo and other three-day renewal movement groups like Cursillo (Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian), Tres Dias and Walk to Emmaus just to name a few.  All of these three-day movements are basically the same.  Lay people, just plain, everyday people from the church that are not clergy, run them.  They are not run by a particular church, but follow the doctrines of mainstream churches like Lutheran, Methodist and, as stated above, Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian.  To keep this blog simple, I’m going to be writing about the Lutheran Via de Cristo.

During my research I came across some blogs and forums that really had some awful things to say about these movements.  We’re secretive, we’re a cult, we’re all crazy!! (really???), we’ll try to “convert” you; you can only go if you’re invited (goes with being secretive), we have all these “code” words, and on and on.  Now I have to say here that a three-day weekend isn’t for everyone.  Some stories about people who had a hard time when they attended a weekend really should not have gone in the first place.  Many felt they were pushed to go (some will say coerced).  No one should be forced to go on one of these weekends. In this blog, I’m going to talk about some of these issues.

To go to a Via de Cristo weekend, you have to be asked to go or be “sponsored”.  If you would really like to go and haven’t been asked you could talk with your pastor.  If others in your congregation have gone then he should know about it and someone would be happy to sponsor you.  Before asking anyone to attend a weekend, a sponsor should pray about and for that person.  The person who would get the most out of a Via de Cristo weekend is a person that already attends church regularly and may be searching for a deeper understanding of Christianity.  Perhaps someone who does not completely understand what living the life of a Christian is about. These are examples of the kind of people who may go, maybe with a few reservations, but they would be willing.

The weekend itself is three days of being away from the world.  We ask new participants to shut off their cell phones so they are not distracted.  This bothers some, that there is no contact during the weekend.  We want the new participants to concentrate on their spiritual selves during this time.  It is a retreat, and by the very definition of the term (the act or process of withdrawing…) you withdraw from the world.  If there is something going on and the participant needs to be in touch, then a word to the leader (or Rector/Rectora) will let us know that arrangements need to be made.

I’ll state here that there is a whole new vocabulary you learn when you participate in a weekend.  It is not a secret code.  Via de Cristo started in Spain many years ago and it has many of the Spanish names still in use, Rector/Rectora is only one of many.  The name Via de Cristo is Spanish for “Way of Christ”.  A song called “De Colores” is sung as a theme song of sorts.  This song was written years ago when the movement first started and is still sung today.  The word has also become a signal of sorts.  These movements are all over the world, so if someone who has gone on a weekend sees a “DeColores” sticker on your car, they will know you’ve been on a weekend as well.  De Colores means “in Color” in Spanish and there’s the thing with the Rooster.  You’ll have to hear the song to figure that one out.

During the three days you listen to fifteen talks, lay people give ten and pastors give five.  These talks outline the Christian way of life with an emphasis on Piety, Study, Apostolic Action and God’s Grace.  The pastor or spiritual directors give the talks on God’s Grace.  Surrounding these talks are others titled Ideal, Leaders, Christian Community in Action and others.  It can be very intense.  There is Chapel and communion offered at least once a day.  There is music, singing, food, fellowship and fun.  We do laugh quite a bit.  The cares of the world drop away and then as everyone relaxes the laughter starts.  It’s so healing.

If you’ve already been on a Via de Cristo weekend you then get the privilege of making one of these weekends happen for others.  You serve the participants by giving one of the ten talks, working in the chapel or the kitchen, cleaning up after everyone (we have several people who do this) or serving drinks and snacks in-between talks.

I look forward to serving on these weekends.  It is such a privilege to go and work for the Lord. I get a time to “unplug” from the world, serve the Lord and help others.  I really can’t see anything bad in that.

If you’ve heard anything bad about the Via de Cristo weekends, feel free to comment and we’ll try our best to answer any questions.

Piety Part 2 – by Jim Edgel

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Here is the second installment in the series on Piety from Jim Edgel:

 

Authentic or true piety comes from a dynamic, personal relationship with God that is conscious, growing and shared.  Piety is living a life that responds to God’s amazing gift of grace in His son Jesus.  Conscious of the personal value of God’s grace and consciously choosing a life with Him.  This life in Christ must be continually growing.  We either grow or decline.  We cannot remain still.  As we live this life of grace, we must share it with others and be willing to accept people where they are, listen to them and share our most precious gift – our time.  As we become more self-giving, we grow in our potential as human beings and understand we are God’s channel of grace to others and ourselves…  Christ must remain at the center of all aspects of our life, every action, every decision we make. We can’t say I love Jesus but this is business, work or vacation; or I am having a difficult time right now, I must take care of myself.  God’s word tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” … What is Authentic or true piety? Authentic piety is directing our whole life to God.   When we leave God out of certain areas of our life, we leave a huge space for Satan to slip in.  Directing our whole life to God is not about a long list of things we are forbidden to do.  It is about consciously sharing a growing Christ-centered life, which comes from the response of a grateful heart.  When we give our life over to God and have a willingness to be changed by the Holy Spirit, we begin to discover the true purpose and plan God has created us for.  We start the most amazing adventure we could ever imagine… For our whole life to be directed to God;

The three elements of every act – ones knowing, wanting and doing have to be directed to God.  We should know God and know what He teaches.  When our knowledge centers on God, God directs our knowing.  Wanting is the emotions that drive our actions.  Wanting becomes loving when our love for God drives our actions.  We strive to act according to God’s will.  Piety is directing our whole life to God by knowing who God is and what He taught.  Loving God with our whole heart and striving to carry out His will is the full response to the gift of grace.

Piety is an Ideal.  Living in a relationship with God is the Christian Ideal.  This is a lifelong process that brings us to a personal relationship with God.  And is nurtured in the same way as other intimate relationships we pursue in life.

With God at the center of our life, the Holy Spirit will help us maintain the goal of emulating the character of Jesus and His approach to dealing with people and problems.  All of us, no matter how capable we become in our Christian walk, will make mistakes.  I personally make many mistakes and at times need correction.  None of us ever get it all right … Except for Jesus, of course.  One of the greatest marks of maturity as human beings and to reveal the level of our spiritual maturity is the ability to receive correction.  Other things that reveal our level of spiritual maturity are:

Characteristics of authentic piety.  Courage,  Naturalness, and  Vibrant and joyful life.  Courage is not foolishness; it is the mark of one who will do what is right because it is the right thing to do.  It takes courage to step out of our “comfort zone” and accept new challenges that God may bring into our life.  It also takes courage to forgive someone who has hurt us.  Remember, we can do all things through Him who strengthens us … It is vital that everything we do as Christians be natural.  Our actions should be a natural response to a grateful heart.  People living a life of authentic piety should stand out only because of the love they have for God and others.  Jesus said “By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  An ordinary life lived to the fullest is not dull, it is exciting and rich.  As our faith deepens, we sense a new meaning to each part of life.  We grasp new potential and realize new talents that God has created in us.  As we direct our whole life to God our personal relationship with Him impacts every area of our lives.   The practices of piety are those things we do that nourish our relationship with God.  Practices of piety are not piety in themselves; they are our concrete, visible responses to God’s love for us.  Practices of piety such as worship, prayer and Christian service to others flow out of our relationship with God and nourish it.  Life must be approached from the perspective that all we do is part of our response to God’s call.  Some may only know who God is by being around Christians.  The outcome of authentic piety is the peace of God.  As we are directing our whole life to God, we are conscious of being in a relationship with the Triune God.  We are:  Children of the Father, brothers of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit.

 

To be continued…

Piety Part 1- by Jim Edgel

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The following are excerpts from a talk on Piety given by Jim Edgel – They have been reprinted with his permission:

Piety is a word we rarely use and may think of it in a negative way such as the “pious” ways of the Pharisees.  But authentic Christian piety is a very good thing.  In fact, if we explain the life Jesus led, it was a life of true piety.  Brothers, as we become filled with the Holy Spirit, God calls each one of us to a new life, and this involves a radical change from within.  This change alters our relationship with:  Our self, with God, with other people, and with the world, we live in together.  We see ourselves differently, knowing that no matter how broken we may be, we are forgiven and very valuable to God.  We have a new direction for our lives as children of God, full of marvelous capabilities.  We begin to see other people through God’s eyes, loving them as brothers and sisters who were created with the same potential that God has given to us.  And as we continue to transform; we see our world, as messed up as it may be, as God’s gift to us, given for our enjoyment and care.  When we speak of piety, we are speaking of a full response in all areas of our life to God’s amazing love and grace. We must seek a personal relationship with God, not just knowing about God … But knowing who God is.  Being Christian, not just doing Christian things.  How can we discover our God-given potential and be the complete person that God calls us to be as we live a life of grace?  This consists of balancing three key dimensions of our lives.  All three are equally important and it takes all three, working together, giving equal stability and balance in order to support us as we live in a close relationship with God.  To better understand the importance of Piety in our daily walks as Christians; which includes taking the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for you and me to the world, we must understand the difference between authentic piety and false piety. Authentic piety is an intimate, revitalizing deepening relationship with God. Jesus explains this to us.  You may remember reading in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees gathered to question Jesus and one of the group asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the law.  And Jesus using His words with great precision, as always, not only answers their question, He explains authentic piety and sums up all the commandments in three sentences.  22nd chapter of Matthew verses 37, 38, 39 – And Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”False piety is a superficial, inaccurate or deceptive practice that appears to be Christian.  False piety is destructive.  It distracts and diverts people from seeking and knowing God.  It prevents them from finding and living the fulfilled life God has planned for them.  Friends … any of us can respond to God’s call in either of two ways.  We can follow a path of faith and commitment as Paul described in his letter to the Colossians “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Or we can devote ourselves to religious, regulations and practices that mark us as “A good Christian” who does “Christian” things.  Those who take this path do not understand the role of God’s grace in the lives of those who are in a relationship with Him.

More to follow

 

Group Spiritual Direction

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Those who participate in a Via de Cristo retreat weekend are encouraged to continue growing in faith by forming “reunion groups.”  You may be more familiar with the term “accountability” group.  I’ve been a member of small groups like this on and off for over 25 years.

The group I am in right now meets once a month, at our church.  We begin with prayer.  Each member takes a turn talking about how they are doing in the areas of piety (prayer, worship, confession and other spiritual disciplines), study and action … in other words, how are things between me and God?  Practical suggestions and help are sometimes offered by members of the group, but the intent is not to solve problems.  Instead it is a safe place to share burdens, request prayer support and be held accountable.  We each leave the session with a plan to help us persevere and deepen our faith until we next meet.

Over the years, groups change or end, but the friendships made there last forever.  My reunion group sisters have encouraged me and given me the confidence to do things I would never have attempted on my own (for example, this blog). They have been the voice of Christ to me many, many times.

If you’re not in such a group, start one!  It’s really not rocket science.  Just find a couple of Christian friends who truly want to grow in their faith and knowledge of God;  commit to meeting on a regular basis;  share with one another;  pray together– then sit back and see what God can do!  You won’t be disappointed.

What is Spiritual Direction?

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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 …..

Loving Motivation

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“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  II Timothy 3:14-15

This was the epistle reading in church last Sunday, and the words I highlighted jumped out for me.  It made me think about all the people who’ve taught me about the faith.  What was their motivation to do so?

For many people, learning starts at home at a young age.  Maybe your mother sings hymns, you sit beside your father in the pew, your grandparents give you a Bible or read the Bible to you.  Studies have revealed that when someone is asked this question: “who had the greatest influence on my faith?”, the most frequent answer is “my mother.”  Surely this teaching is motivated by the love called “storge,”  family love, duty, affection.  This love may have its’ ups and downs, but it never stops caring.  Many parents want their children to know about God because they love them in this way. Paul’s acolyte, Timothy, learned in this way because Paul says to him:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”  II Timothy 1:5

Growing in faith can be part of married life also.  “Eros” is a love which desires closeness and union.  How can we be fully one, if we are not both one in Christ?  This kind of love will create a natural desire to share in everything, to teach the other to love Christ as they do.  Peter says:

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives…”  1 Peter 3:1

Then there are our friends.  With them we share “philea” or brotherly love.  In Via de Cristo there is a saying, “make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.”  Most people who are unchurched, come to worship for the first time because a friend invited them.  Because we love our friends, we want them to share in the joy of fellowship with Christ.  We invite them to do the things that have been most meaningful in our own faith walk.

Finally, there are loads of people who share Christ simply because they love everyone as He did.  Dedicated Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, pastors, choir directors and others.  This is agape love, with no motive except to serve and edify others.

So it seems to me that some sort of love is the motive behind all Christian teaching.  No wonder the Bible says “God is love.  How would we learn about His love, how would we begin to experience it, without the love of others who spread it?  Think about the many people from whom you have learned.  Give thanks for their love.

 

 

Spend Your Time on Today

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This is not something I wrote, but something I was given on my original Via de Cristo retreat weekend and kept. It seems appropriate for our theme of “spending time.” The author is unknown:

There are two days in the week upon which and about which I never worry–two carefree days kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension.  One of these days is Yesterday.  Yesterday with its cares and frets and pains and aches, all its faults, its mistakes and blunders, has passed forever beyond my recall.  It was mine:  now it is God’s.

The other day that I do not worry about is Tomorrow.  Tomorrow, with all its possible adversities, its burdens, its perils, its large promise and performance, its failures and mistakes, is as far beyond my mastery as its dead sister, Yesterday.  Tomorrow is God’s day:  it will be mine.

It isn’t the experience of Today that drives us mad.  It is the remorse of what happened Yesterday and fear of what Tomorrow might bring.  These are God’s Days–Leave them to Him.