An open lecture by Lynne Baab, this was attended by a small audience of supporters and interested people.  It is a response to an essay by Bishop William Willimon of the United Methodist Church.    At one point I wondered if Bishop Willimon is an activist Methodist who has become an Augustinian or Calvinist with emphasis on the sovereignty of god.

I felt it was a lecture addressed towards realists rather than non-realists.  I waver between the two schools of thought.  I wonder what the non-realist response would have been.

Lynne placed the modern discovery of spiritual practice, at least among Protestant Christians beginning with Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.  This book has gone into four editions.  She gave three definitions of spiritual practice or discipline:

  1. training in faithfulness
  2. keeping company with Jesus
  3. creating space

Anything can be a spiritual practice if it is done intentionally.  The practice can be done alone or with others.  It is a repeated activity, not a once in a lifetime event.  She used the image of receiving water in cupped hands as the attitude in spiritual practice.  It is a focused activity, not an activity in the midst of being busy.

Bishop Willimon’s criticism of spiritual practice is the latest phase in functional atheism, trying to fill the absence of god.  I wondered how the new Christian atheism would respond to this.  If the cry on the cross is the death of god, a final Is that it!? then we live in an age where the absence of god cannot be filled, a truly broken people.  I wonder what is the response of spiritual practitioners to such a position?

Lynne then gave a list of responses to advocate for spiritual practice.  Some of these are paired together.

  1. People who engage in spiritual practice meet the wild and untamable god.  This is Bishop Willimon’s first criticism: Aslan is not a tame lion!
  2. We spend time with those we love.  The whole relationship thingy with Thou.
  3. Jesus engaged in spiritual practice.  He prayed and fasted.
  4. After we have received grace spiritual practice lets grace shape us.
  5. It is a gift.  Lynne observed it is unusual to stop one day out of seven—put away the tools, even though the work is not finished.
  6. It helps us experience a glimpse of heaven, sometimes.  If I do practice as recreational, then it becomes re-creating.
  7. It helps us to listen and be receptive to god’s will and the spirit’s teaching.  Just turning up on a Sunday morning is a spiritual practice.
  8. It helps us to follow and serve the triune god.  The world is overwhelming, resist burnout.

We are living in two-four time in response to god.  God is on the downbeat, we are on the upbeat.

  • Focus on god’s wild and untamable nature.

Our practice must be commensurate to our worship and service to our god:

Let praise be heard.

Let prayer be spoken.

Let silence fall.

Let god be god.