Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I practice yoga…well, sort of. In truth, I move through the various poses I’ve picked up along the way at lightning speed, eager to move on to the next one so as to get on with my day. I’ve gone to yoga classes before, but not with any regularity. I went today at the invitation of a friend and realized just how much the way I dabble in yoga completely misses the point. I was struck by the way the teacher gently coached us, not only in the physical aspects of breathing and positioning, but even more assisted us through practices of mind and spirit—both concrete and healing. I think churches have a lot to learn from yoga studios about how to nurture and support people to develop practices that move us more fully into what it means to be a human being.
Jesus would have appreciated yoga—it’s all about breathing and being fully present in the moment, not allowing your mind to chase after the myriad ideas that tug at us. It’s about releasing the stress, fear and tension that build up like so much plaque in our system, both physically and spiritually. It’s also about letting go of outcomes, of the need to have things look and feel the way we are convinced we need them to be for us to be happy. Jesus taught his disciples in this same way, at times encouraging and at other times challenging them about the very different way to experience the reign of God in our lives, weaving examples found in the world around him.
Sometimes I think we in the church expect people to know what it means to live an engaged life of faith simply by osmosis at our baptism or, even worse, through a process of saturation by living in a Christian society – never mind that ours is post-Christian and that Jesus was deeply suspicious of and challenging to society’s norms. I wonder what has helped to form you in your faith life? Perhaps it’s a family member who most influenced you, or perhaps an author or teacher. Perhaps you’ve not given much thought to the learning side of being a disciple of Jesus—one who learns and is committed to an ongoing learning process so that we might move more and more into that new creation Paul speaks about.
If we look to Jesus to see what it means to be rooted and grounded in being human, we see that he spent time alone, withdrawing to pray by himself. And he spent time with large groups of people teaching, healing, feeding and celebrating. Finally, Jesus had small circles of people with whom he shared the journey more intimately—the 12 disciples, but also Mary, Martha and Lazarus, as well the women who were at the foot of the cross in the gospel of John. It is these smaller groupings that remind me how important it is to have friends with whom to share the journey—not just to have fun with, although that is certainly a valuable and important part—but also with whom you can be real, sharing what matters most.
While we may have small circles of friends in any area of life, many find intentional small groups through church to be a meaningful way to develop and nurture the spiritual journey we are on as we follow Jesus in becoming a new creation. What does that even mean, we may wonder? Although we may not know, what is clear is that Jesus invites us into a new life, one that has an entirely different frame and leads to a life-changing shift in the quality of our day-to-day experience. That cannot help but ripple out into the world around us. If you, or someone you know, is interested in learning more about this shift and developing supportive practices within a small group circle, please let me know. We’ll host two informational sessions on Wednesday, August 16 at 7pm during Growing Together and also during Making Connections at 9am on Sunday, August 20. Bring your questions and curiosity, along with your hopes. No mats—as in yoga mats—are required.
Hope to see you Sunday,