There are many spiritual practices at which I am absolutely rotten. I actually didn’t know that I was so bad until I spent a year or so between when I stopped having any pastoral responsibilities at the Cathedral of Hope and started pastoring at Virginia-Highland Church.
People often ask how it feels to go from preaching to hundreds of people each Sunday to preaching to a hundred on a good Sunday. I can say honestly that I am as passionate about one as I was about the other. That doesn’t seem to make sense to people, and I’ve pondered why it is I honestly feel this way. My only insight is that the spiritual discipline that is required is exactly the same. It is like an athlete running a race or playing a match with thousands in the stands or inside an empty stadium. The preparation for the race or the match is the same.
What I have discovered, after doing ministry for so long, is the requirements for the job that frames my personal spiritual practices. Pastoring a congregation and preaching to them each week gives me context for the prayers I pray every day as I awaken and as I fall asleep. The bible study I do is almost always an exercise for engaging the scriptures I will have to preach on this Sunday. The prophetic work of peace and justice is done with a keen awareness of trying to motivate others to “do justice, love mercifully, and walk humbly with God.”
Actually, you are my heroes. I do it because every week I must stand before a congregation, large or small, and bear witness to what I think the Spirit is saying or doing. To do that with integrity requires me to be authentically spiritually alive. My life and vocation requires that. In truth, I think yours does, too. What I want to know is how you do it faithfully? It determines if this day is a holy adventure or just another day at the mill.
By Michael Piazza
The Center for Progressive Renewal