Over the years my understanding of God, the Kingdom and the way to live this life has been deconstructed, rebuilt and refined; all because I’ve been willing to evolve my thinking.
My journey started as a typical American who didn’t attend church yet always believed in the “man upstairs”. For many years that worked, or so I thought, until my teenage years when I consciously became a follower of Jesus. At that time I walked the path that was before me by attending an Assemblies of God (A/G) church. I even went so far as to enroll in Ministerial Studies with an A/G correspondence school and, for a season, became a credentialed minister within the A/G denomination serving in three different A/G churches as a staff pastor.
At the beginning of 2005 while living in Arizona I was introduced to the Jewish roots of our faith predominately by Boaz Michael of the ministry First Fruits of Zion. Needless to say as I began studying the roots my theology was confronted with things I never considered, was never taught and in some cases opposed what I learned. As my understanding evolved to match what I was discovering it caused some to scratch their heads. Now nearly seven years later they realize that Jewish roots weren’t a phase but rather its part of me and my walk with Christ.
Well, it’s time to change things up yet again. If you’re a friend on Facebook then you’ve probably seen my recent status update concerning a new step in my walk. If you aren’t a friend or missed the update here it is:
Exciting news… I recently applied to join the Company of Jesus, which is a third order Franciscan / Benedictine Community. This past weekend Abbot Andrew Counts contacted me to inform me I’ve been accepted into postulancy with the Franciscan chapter. For those of you interested / intrigued hang in there… I’ll post on my blog, eckSermonator, about this journey in the near future.
As a teenager I remember watching PBS, specifically MPT, and there was a program that came on called Cadfael (starring Sir Derek Jacobi). It was about a Benedictine monk who was, in a sense, a detective. Since becoming a believer I’ve always been fascinated by the monastic life; the focus on discipline, simplicity, generosity and fervent dedication to the Gospel message that those who embark on the journey commit themselves to. Of course my childhood love of the Jedi Knight only built on the awesome-ness of those that chose a monastic walk.
In my early days of ministry I was confronted with the anti-Catholic rhetoric that to various degrees still plague the Protestant church. Being a married Protestant, specifically Assemblies of God, minister I just pushed the thought of “monkhood” out of my mind. I believed the monastic life was exclusively the realm of devout celibate Roman Catholic believers; I never knew the option for married non-Catholics existed… until I stumbled upon the Company of Jesus (CoJ).
Earlier this year I had a blog post, The Great Church Search, run on Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Christians (RLC) site it was through RLC that I found Br. Jamie Arpin-Ricci; he’s a married professed Third Order Franciscan with the CoJ.
(The Company of Jesus is a Third Order Franciscan and Benedictine community living out ancient monastic spirituality in the 21st century. CoJ is an ecumenical order anchored in the Anglican. In addition to Anglicans, members come from various Christian backgrounds – mainstream, traditional, charismatic, and independents churches.)
Upon making this discovery my previous fascination with the monastic way came back full force. It was at this time that I realized that it was possible for me to walk a monastic expression of our great faith. When you apply to join an order you don’t automatically become a full-fledged member; there is a process to walk through. I have a journey ahead of me. At this point in the process I’ve entered a period of studying. Since I have chosen to pursue admittance into the Franciscan chapter I will obviously be diving deeply into the life of St. Francis of Assisi.
As a Christian and a minister I’ve always been interested in St. Francis. We’ve all heard many times – Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words –which is ascribed to St. Francis (though he may never have actually said it exactly that way). I’ve used the quote while preaching many times and I’m sure some of you have as well. St. Francis is one of those radical examples that we don’t find within the pages of Scripture yet prove you can truly live out the teachings of Jesus.
Sometimes we see the Apostles as superheroes and therefore people of unparalleled ability; but, people like St. Francis show us that we all can become Christ to our world. We can truly live out the Sermon on the Mount, we can truly embrace the Gospel message that we see demonstrated throughout the Gospels and the book of Acts.
In 1st Corinthians 11:1 the Apostle Paul tells the believers in Corinth to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” There is something about attaching yourself to a great man or woman of God. We don’t do this to be their disciple or to ride into heaven on their coattails. We do this because the Christ in them resonates with the Christ in us. That said I’ve chosen to attach myself to St. Francis and his rule to live a life that is radically devoted to others. While St. Francis had his issues, as did the Apostles and every other great man or woman of God, he’s a great example for us to pattern our own walk after.
St. Francis in his utter devotion to the Kingdom said: We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.
If that quote isn’t the message of Christ and the heartbeat of the Church I don’t know what is.
For my entire Christian walk until recently I didn’t pray the Daily Offices, I barely fasted, I didn’t care for the Church calendar, I ran from anything liturgical thinking it was all vain repetition. But thanks to the discovery of the Jewish roots all those years ago, and most recently the first steps down the Canterbury trail, I’ve started to see the continued validity in the ancient practices and how much these practices are needed in the Protestant side of the Church; specifically the side that has separated itself from the roots that sustained it from the times of the Master until today.
And that my readers is why I have chosen to follow Christ and live His radical message by looking to the example of the little poor man of Assisi.