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Monday, October 24, 2016

The slow burn of faith

My sermon this week was based on Luke 18:1-8.

To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.

In my sermon last week, I proposed that we should consider gratitude as a spiritual discipline.  Most of us consider prayer, volunteering, giving to charity or church attendance a spiritual discipline.  These are all, it could be argued, external expressions that have very little to do with what is going on inside us.

One could, for example, assume the position of prayer, but be thinking about other things entirely.  One could volunteer or give to charity grudgingly, and we could attend church resentfully.

Being grateful, though...that's hard to get wrong and it's hard to fake.

This week I would like to suggest that perseverance is also a spiritual virtue that we should practice.

So here's the thing: being perseverant is easy when everything is going your way.  It's a lot harder when things go wrong.  Many of us can probably relate to the frustration of trying to learn a new skill, solve a problem, overcome hardship in our relationships or careers, or in just trying to get closer to God an figure out what he is all about.

Jesus tells a story in this week's Gospel passage about perseverance, and I think it is a message we can all learn from: the story of the Unjust Judge.

Personally, I don't think this is a good name for the Gospel passage because the story is not about the judge, but about the widow.  It is pretty obvious the judge in the story is supposed to be God and we are supposed to be the widow, and it must be said that the story does not paint a very appealing picture of God.  It rather makes God sound like a being who only gives us good things simply because we annoy him with our prayers.  I can only speak for myself, but I just don't think that is what God is like and how he works.

But the widow, whose cause is never explained, is said to have presented herself to the judge repeatedly, and eventually she gets what she was asking for.

The thing about faith and spirituality is that it's a slow burn.  It's not a get-rich-quick scheme and it does not provide instant gratification.  That's one of the reasons why fewer and fewer people are into it these days.  It's hard.  It takes perseverance.

What we have to realize is that whatever our spiritual path, whether it is yoga, Christianity, transcendental meditation, etc, we are entering into a relationship.  We are entering into a relationship with the divine.  And like any relationship, like a marriage, like parenthood, like working with colleagues, like even owning a pet, it takes patience, it takes work, it takes persistence.

We need to learn to be persistent because the payoffs of pursuing any of those relationships is well worth it.

Today, I hope we can all have the persistence to be in relationship with the divine, and the patience to stay in that relationship when things don't go exactly as we hope.

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