Our society is now moving beyond the era of Christendom, a long period when the church held considerable power and influence over the laws, practices and culture (e.g. calendar, architecture, art) of much of the Western world. Christendom has left an enduring legacy in our societies, but we also need to acknowledge Christendom often displayed little capacity to love ‘the other.’ Consider, for example, the frequent persecution of Jews and Muslims.
Consider habits and reflexes. Habits are things which we do over a sustained period of time, so that eventually they become natural to us. Reflexes tend to be the things we do when we haven’t time to think. Habits are not immutable. They can be formed and broken.
Read Daniel 1-6 – what habits do we see lived out by the Jewish exiles in Babylon?
Consider the remarkable response of forgiveness demonstrated by the Amish community of Nickel Mines, following the shooting of five girls by Charles Roberts in October 2006. The community had been shaped by its regular sharing of the Lord’s Prayer, seven times a day.
In his book Seeking Spirituality, Ronald Rolheiser writes about the following barriers to forming healthy habits:
Naivety about the nature of spiritual energy
Pathological busyness, distraction and restlessness
The problem of balance in life which has led to a separation of things that should belong together:
Religion and eros
Spirituality and church
Private morality and social justice
Rolheiser suggests ‘four pillars’ or responses
Private prayer and personal integrity – wholeness in life
Social justice – standing with the poor
Mellowness of heart and mind – staying grateful
Participating in the community of the people of God
What formational practices can we develop as a community?
Prayer – ways of praying
Scripture – ways of reading
Testimony – ways of speaking of God
Worship – Word, Water, Wheat and Wine
Service – laying down our lives