The Christian Way
This week we have a guest post from Mariners’ summer intern, Clinton Collister. Clint is the poetry editor for The North American Anglican, and is beginning doctoral studies in Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at University of St. Andrews in Scotland this fall.
Everyone wakes up in the morning and makes choices. They decide what to eat, where to work, how to treat their family members, roommates, or co-workers. There’s no neutral way to live. We all have priorities, we all make choices, we all follow some way of life. Some people choose to rest rather than work and sleep through their alarm, bouncing from one lost job to another. Some people leave their families and find new lovers, always searching for the perfect erotic match to fulfill them. Even more people wake up in search of pleasure, money, and success. These are their gods, so they swap celebrities on social media for the lives of Saints. Many believe the state can save us, and they follow a political ideology. These strange gods won’t bring true happiness or justice. They break us on the inside, and they break our relationships. They lead us down a dark road.
There is an alternative. By the grace of God, we can wake up in the morning and choose the way of light. We can choose to follow Jesus. Instead of reaching for our smartphones to see our work emails, social media alerts, or the latest meme, we can pray. We can give thanks to God for the gifts of life and love. American schools and television and pop songs and news teach us to follow false gods. To follow the Christian way, we need to become children again and listen to our Father in heaven.
The greatest commandment is to love God and our neighbors. This is hard. Often times, men and women who confessed with their lips and believed in their hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord, men and women strengthened by the grace of God in baptism and confirmation are tempted to fall back into their old ways and follow false gods. St. Paul asked why he did that which he didn’t want to do, and we struggle with the same challenge. God equips us with knowledge and practices to help us stay on the straight and narrow way of Jesus if we are willing to hear his voice and follow where he leads. God’s gifts are innumerable, so let’s consider a few.
The first Christians met together for daily common prayer. As Anglican Christians, we follow in their footsteps as we speak to God in the words of The Book of Common Prayer. We can pray Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer at home with a physical book, online with beautiful audio available at The Cradle of Prayer, or online through CommonPrayer.org, which organizes each day’s prayers for worshipers. Fr. Jeff Hubbard and I regularly say Morning Prayer at Mariners’ Church, and if you want to join Fr. Jeff for Morning Prayer before work, I am confident he would happily worship with you. These prayers strengthen us to follow Jesus and see the world the way that he sees it. They unite us with one another in love and common purpose. God works supernaturally through prayer to renew us and renew the world around us.
Hear the Truth
Many people listen to podcasts or the radio on a regular basis. If nothing is neutral, if everything that we read and hear and see influences us, we should seek out good voices that will draw us closer to God. A few podcasts that helped me on the journey Godward are Alex Wilgus’s Word and Table, Wesley Walker’s Sacramentalists, and Bart Gingrich’s Faith and Honor. Each of these podcasts asks hard questions about what it means to follow Jesus in the Modern world and what habits we should adopt to worship him in spirit and truth.
Read the Truth
Literacy rates are high, but much American reading focuses on entertainment or outrage. Reading can also spiritually nourish us. We suggest reading Bible passages assigned in The Book of Common Prayer. This allows us to follow Jesus’s life as we move through the calendar year, learning from his birth, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and it helps if we read works that remind us of these truths. To this end, we also suggest perusing articles or poems at The North American Anglican, Touchstone, or First Things. These sites help us think more deeply about goodness, truth, and beauty and what it means to see the difference between the way of life and the way of death. And for those who want to go even deeper into Christian teaching, I suggest asking Fr. Jeff to give you a tour around the Mariners’ library.
Every morning, we wake up and choose to follow some way of life. Jesus shows us the only way that gives eternal life. We must consider how we wake, what we hear, and what we read as we walk through our days, our years, and our lives. We are strangers in a strange land, and God wants to guide us into his presence, where we can see him face to face.