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Sunday, October 8, 2017

How does faith grow?

Over the past six months I have been working with those who are preparing for the Sacramental Rite of Confirmation. Recently we entertained the question: “How does a person grow in faith?” This seems simple enough on the face of it. But those who have been on the Christian journey for a long time, know that faith does not grow or strengthen without practice.

It seems that the journey of faith is one in which God’s will is not forced upon us. Instead grace is available to us at all times. We participate in this grace when we turn our attention to and engage in Christian practices.

What are Christian practices? Prayer, of course, is one essential Christian practice. There are many forms and types of prayer. But the simplest way to think of prayer is a conversation with God to whom we are in relationship. Relationships can stagnate or die off completely if there is no communication.

The second Christian practice is reading, studying, and meditating on scripture. Again there are many ways to do this. The scriptures are our best guide to the spiritual life. There may be some things in the Bible that you do not understand. Don’t be intimidated. You are not alone. Understanding the scriptures is a journey from depth to greater depth. If you would like some guidance about where to start, set up a time to meet with your Rector, and talk it over. Together we can create an individualized plan that works for you.

A third spiritual practice, which is many practices all under one term, is to do acts sometimes called “works of mercy”. The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are actions we can perform that extend God’s compassion and mercy to those in need. In this way we imitate Christ and also make his love known in a broken world.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are these kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their material and physical needs.
feed the hungry
shelter the homeless
clothe the naked
visit the sick and imprisoned
bury the dead
give alms to the poor

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are acts of compassion, as listed below, by which we help our neighbors with their emotional and spiritual needs.
bear wrongs patiently
Finally, it is an important practice to join other Christians in regular worship. Christianity is not a solo enterprise. We believe that together we make up the body of Christ. When, at communion we say the words, “the body of Christ”, we are not only referring to the communion wafer, but indeed the whole community of Christians gathered; including those who have gone before us, themselves living lives of faith. In this communion we are strengthened, and inspired to love God and one another. Our presence also strengthens those who share in Christian community with us. When you are absent, a part of the body is missing. See, 1 Corinthians12:12; Romans 12:4-5

None of these spiritual practices are easy.
Human beings tend toward self absorption. All of the spiritual practices, even including pray-er, are outward focused. In all of these practices we suspend our own desires in favor of a higher purpose and calling, By following Christ in this way, faith grows.