This is a new podcast interview with about PraXis: Christian Wellness, spiritual athletes, the oneness of the body/soul, health as a process, and prayer as mental silence. Big thanks to Moses Rhys Pasimio for approaching us and asking Cornelius to participate in his series on mental health, addiction recovery and ancient Christian spirituality.
This is a long-form, in-depth discussion. It will lay out, in fairly easy to chew soundbites, underlying theology behind PraXis and how fitness, diet, and mindfulness fit together in the great arch of the ancient and endure spirit of the Eastern Church.
Great work by Moses and his Outer Circle Inner Stillness podcast. Moses is a member of the parish that I was baptized into back in Portland, Ore. Jamie and I were married in this church and we both miss this community, our friends and all the kind and wise people in this parish who bring God to life in our midst.
“Suddenly, a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Acts 2:2 NIV
The Spirit comes like a violent wind, that blows where it wills (John 3:8). But it also dwells in silent pauses that come to us amid the clamor of our stormy lives.
Pentecost is always an invitation to meditate upon the nature of the Holy Spirit. In the ancient prayers of the Eastern Church, the Holy Spirit is prayed to directly and invoked thusly in the Epiclesis: “O Heavenly King, The Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere and fillest all things: Treasury of blessings and Giver of life- come and abide in us…” (Trisagion). But what is the Holy Spirit, and what is the work of the Spirit in us? One view I recommend is that of Kyle Hughes, author of the book How the Spirit Became God. In his recent piece in the Anglican Compass, Hughes discusses the conflicting views of the Spirit as either a person or an impersonal “force.” He writes:
“Through the centuries, the experience of the Holy Spirit has been a central feature of the Christian life. While different traditions have at times emphasized different aspects of this experience, the church has always maintained that it is the Spirit who is the “giver of life,” who leads us into becoming ever more like Christ.
The Spirit, though, will not transform us into Christ’s likeness against our will… For the early Christians, cultivating this relationship meant intentionally engaging with spiritual disciplines such as silence and solitude, allowing ourselves to create spaces in which we can hear the still, small voice of the Spirit.”
Here is the rundown for our last two Lenten PraXis session for the March 16 and 23 held at Brookside UCC in Mendham and St Peter’s Episcopal in Morristown. Participants were asked to bring a blanket to place under the knees. These session involve a lot of kneeling postures. One needs to be aware of balance in these poses as well.
Psalm 103: Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Orientation for those who are early
Any injuries we should be aware of?
In the Divine Liturgy of St Johns Chrysostom, we are told lay aside all earthly cares, as we prepare to encounter God in the flesh and blood of the Messiah
It is not easy to lay aside one’s Earthly or fleshly care, as we’ve said before. But Paul tells us this is what is needed in order to be present to the Spirit of the Messiah that dwell within us. Lent is such a time. It is a time for the imitation of Christ as we enter mysteriously into the story of the Gospels. It’s time for the challenge of letting go—letting go of distractions, attachments, habits and compulsions, as we strive in our askesis and prepare for the Feast of the Resurrection
What Earthly care do you lay aside for Great Lent? What part of your past are you letting go of, rejecting, or laying to rest? What things lay ahead that you must avoid, decline or ignore, in order to live a more like the Messiah.
Philippians 3: 7b-15a [Targum paraphrase by Cornelius Swart] Paul states to the Church in Philippi
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him,[a] not having [good standing with God]1 that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in the Messiah, [approval]2 from God that depends on faith– that I may know him [Christ] and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that, by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to [grasp this perfection]3, because [The Anointed]4 Jesus has [grasped ahold of me]5. [Brothers and sisters]6, I do not consider that I have made it [on my own]7. But one thing I do [know]8: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way…
Sitting comfortably Neck roll Shoulder Roll Arms out wrist twist 3 dynamic- Arms up, grab right wrist and lean left, reverse
Cactus Up – inhale Down- exhale Back -inhale Forward- exhale
Table 3 dynamic- Cat- cow 3 dynamic- Tiger Pose, back leg up, left then right (Vyaghrasana) 3 dynamic- Balancing Tabletop Pose- left arm and right leg extended, reverse (Bharmanasana)
Table, Down Dog, Step left foot forward and right knee down to Low Warrior I Series (Ardha Vibabhadrasana I)
3 dynamic — Arms to knee then above the head 3 dynamic — Arms behind the back- lean forward 3 static — Leg forward, bend forward, arms behind the back 3 dynamic — Half circle pose, extend leg to the side, lengthen over the opposite side, arm down to the ground (Ardha mansalasana)
Legs together 3 dynamic — Chair 3 dynamic –to Revolved chair pose, (Parivrita utkatasana)
Mountain Forward fold – Plank- Down Dog 3 dynamic- Three-Legged dog
Spin to sit 3 dynamic – Bridge 3 static – One-legged Bridge 3 dynamic — Hug legs 1 static each side, Belly Twist, Jathara Parivartanasana A 3 static — Happy Baby
Resting pose 12 breathes
Return the mind to the breath
Turn music off
Lectio Divina [paraphrase]- Read, Reflect, Respond and Rest
Not that I …. am already perfect, but I press on to [grasp perfection]3, because [The Anointed]4 Jesus has [taken grasp of me]5. …. forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Rest in silence
Return the mind to the breath, then the body working up from the feet
Reread Philippians 3: 7b-15a
Sit up, silence or quiet sharing
Prayers offered up to others
Benediction and depart
Psalm 104 – O Lord My God, You are Very Great
Philippians 3: 7b-15a – Variations derived from The Step Bible Translation [a] the mutual in-dwelling of God and humans. See post here. 1&2 dikaiosumē – state of being in proper relationship with God 3 &5 katalambanō- to grasp, attain, understand, realize, 5, take hold of, seize, overtake 4. christos- anointed, appointed*, one rubbed with oil to indicate their appointment to a high purpose 6. adelfos, brother but often inclusive of gender, referring to brothers and sisters in the plural 7. emautou, myself, my own, of my own accord 8. implied** *appointed-anointed simile is my editorializing ** my editorializing
[Video of the presentation, and the full interfaith service below. My presentation starts at minute 33. There is also a lovely Ukrainian version of the Jesus Prayer at minute 27.]
Join me online on Saturday, March 5, at 10 am Pacific, 1 pm EST as a speechify about my spiritual journey, Orthodox spiritually and the meaning of Great Lent, for the Living Interfaith Sanctuary, in Vancouver BC. The LIS is a great interfaith church run by a Buddhist and dear friend Cathy Merchant. We both graduate from VST this spring. The group has guest speakers from all sorts of backgrounds and this week it will be me and my background that will be…speaking (uh?).
Here is a preview of what I might talk about [I never know what will come out of my mouth. It’s exciting].
What is the meaning of Great Lent?
Well, I don’t know. But I can tell you a few things that the Eastern Church tradition has maintained. Great Lent has been, for over a thousand years, the most intense period of training for new Christians, the catechumenate, before the initiation of baptism at the end of Holy Week. But more broadly, this is a time of purification, introspection, and preparation for the Feast of Feast, the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. It is a time of silent prayer, intense church services (sometimes daily), and yes, fasting.
Before a feast can come, there must be a fast. Before resurrection, a death. Before a promise can be fulfilled, there is preparation. So, we prepare by going gradually deeper and deeper into our spiritual practice. How do we do this? By “laying aside all earthly cares.”** We lay aside distractions, rich foods, and vain pursuits, just for a while, to focus more on God.
As we say in PraXis a lot, this is asceticism. Some would say this word means self-denial. But the word comes from askesis — training or striving. We get the word athlete from askesis as well. For many Christians, Great Lent is the only time of year when they encounter the practice of Christian spiritual striving. But asceticism is an almost daily part of Orthodox spiritual life.
More importantly, Great Lent is about pushing the body, mind, and spirit to that place where the narrative world of Good News of Christ intersects with the objective world of our own sensory experience. This intense striving for a moment when the story of God breaks into the story of our own personal experience is what asceticism is often about. And in Great Lent profound spiritual insight, experiences, and intimacy with God may also be afforded to you, in grace.
The point is, set a goal and prepare. Prepare for when we celebrate the raising up of Christ out of Earth. For the essence of God has come to dwell among us, first in the flesh and now in the Spirit.
Isaiah 61:1-3a The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of [repayment]* from our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
** Cherubic Hymn, Divine Liturgy [Work of the People] of St John Chrysostom * antapodosis is the Greek translation of (vengeance) in the LXX version of Isaiah, often means repayment and reward, not vengeance per se. The historical Jesus and his students (disciples) would have known the LXX, not the Hebrew text.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday for the West and marks the beginning of Great Lent. The ritual harkens back as far as the 9th Century and is popular among both Roman Catholics and increasingly among Protestants.
The Catholic Courier states the spreading of ashes on one’s forehead is a ritualized theme found in the Hebrew Bible, in which sackcloth and ashes often represent “humility and mortality and suffering and penance over sin.”
Great Lent begins next Sunday in the West and the following week in the East. This means fasting: one of our favorite things to talk about (and one of your least favorite things to practice, I bet.). Next week I’ll dedicate a big post next week to fasting and Great Lent. But for this week it is enough to say– now is the time to prepare for the Feast of Feasts. This is a time of purification, of introspection, and a setting aside of the “all Earthly cares,” as we enter a season of great closeness to God, in Christ.
This Wednesday’s PraXis will follow a lovely Αsh Wednesday offering at the sanctuary at Brookside Community Church. The sanctuary will be open between 3:00 pm and 6:30 pm, including several interactive stations that invite participants to center and reflect. Each station will have a tactile focus (such as clay, oil, water, paper) a reading, a reflection, and an action for you to take.
Here is one example:
THE STUMBLING BLOCK Matthew 18:6-7
‘If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened aroundyour neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks!”
Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!
Reflection Jesus recognizes that along our journey, we are bound to stumble – living faithfully is hard. However, he also says that there is a difference between stumbling, and causing someone else to stumble. We are meant to help one another on our faith journeys, to be a companion on the road, to encourage and support.
Action Take a marker and write on the rock – what makes you stumble on your faith journey? What obstacles block your way or make it difficult to follow Jesus?
Pastors Nicolette Siragusa and Betsy Broome will be available to offer ashes to anyone who would like to receive them. We think this is a lovely offering and a perfect way to prepare yourself for the PraXis session that will follow, 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm in the parish hall across in the next room.
As always, our sessions will include some prayers, light yoga-style fitness and centering prayer. We’ll be in the sanctuary shortly before PraXis begins, and we’d love to see you there.
Our current season of PraXis run through July. We have a free session offered each Wednesday.
1st and 3rd Wednesday, 6:30 pm, session, 6:15 pm, orientation Brookside Community Church, Mendham 8 East Main, St., Mendham, NJ 07926
Good news for those in the Morristown, NJ area: Jamie and I ware holding PraXis sessions every Wednesday at 6:30 pm EST, from Feb 2nd till the end of July. Sessions will last one hour and include scripture, somatic (sanctified yoga), and silent prayer (Centering Prayer).
I am also very excited to announce a new church partner, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. St. Peter’s is a wonderful community in the center of Morristown. I tried to partner with St Peter’s AND Brookside during the Capstone phase of PraXis. But I couldn’t get the timing to work out. So, I’m pleased to now offer the program to a second parish.
Sessions will be every 1st and 3rd Wednesday at Brookside Community Church, our usual location. And every 2nd and 4th Wednesday at St. Peter’s Parish Hall.
The sessions will be similar to those we did during the 8-week challenge. For the time being, sessions will not include communal meals. We won’t have any themes or little sermons like we did during the challenge. And the sessions will not be on Zoom. We might reconsider Zoom if there is a significant interest. Also, if our partner churches feel that they want to include meals, that might change that too.
I had the unique pleasure of giving a guest sermon at Brookside Community Church last Sunday, Jan. 23, 2021. Brookside was our partner for the PraXis wellness challenge last fall. [Sessions are due to return to Brookside as well as to St. Peter’s Church in Morristown next month. More news on that soon.]
I was very blessed to have been able to speak to the congregation at Brookside over Zoom. This sermon was my first time speaking to a congregation outside of school. I’ve excerpted some of the service below, including some of the introductions, the musical cues, and my sermon and benediction.
This was a lovely opportunity to speak to others. The style of this sermon was inspired by Tim Mackey, the pastor who baptized me and one of the two producers of the biblical explainer series, the Bible Project. I love Mackey’s very rigorous exegetic style of sermons when he was a pastor at Door of Hope in Portland [where my wife and I met]. I was also able to blend in theme of both Orthodoxy and Reformation theology. I was even able to include a little engagement with “New Age” spiritual themes as well. I hope you enjoy.
Order of Service, Brookside Community Church, UCC, 9:30 am, 1.23.22
Introduction to guest- (Betsy, interning pastor)
I’d also like to welcome Cornelius Swart as our guest preacher today. Pastor Nicolette is taking some well-deserved time off. She’ll be back with us next Sunday for worship. Cornelius is a lay Christian and recent graduate from the Masters in Public and Pastoral Leadership program at the Vancouver School of Theology at the University of British Columbia. As part of Cornelius’s grad school thesis, Brookside partnered with Cornelius for a 9-week Christian Wellness program during the fall. The program included fitness, mindfulness, and diet classes in the Christian spiritual tradition. This program returns to Brookside next month. Cornelius is originally from Mahwah, NJ, but has lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last 25 years. He’s a member of the Orthodox Church in America and splits his time between Holy Trinity, in Randolph and attending services here with his wife Jamie, who grew up in the UCC.
Blessing Song – “There is a Name I Love to Hear” verse 1
Introduction to Scripture – (Deacon Paul)
Today’s scripture reading marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
Jesus has just been baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit as “my Son, with whom I’m well pleased.” The Spirit leads him into the wilderness, where he fasts and spends 40 days in prayer and meditation. Here he is tempted by the devil, who repeatedly challenges his identity as the Son of God. In today’s reading, Jesus returns to his childhood synagogue in Nazareth as the newly appointedSon of God. This doesn’t go well. This event is also in Matthew and in Mark, but only in Luke do we get such a detailed and dramatic account.
Scripture – Luke 4: 14 – 30 – (Deacon Paul)
14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Musical Response “Arise, Your Light has Come” NCH 164 vs 1, 4
Reflection – (Cornelius)
Thank you so much for letting me speak today as a guest. This passage represents the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in Luke, and it also happens to be my first public sermon. So I hope I can say something interesting. That should not be hard with a passage that includes “let’s throw Jesus off a cliff!” So, that’s pretty dramatic.
Usually, when people look at this passage, they talk about it in terms of the people of Nazareth questioning Jesus’s authority, his signs, and wonders, or they lack faith in him. But, I want to look at this in a different way. I want to talk about this in terms of God’s message and Christ’s mission of redemption from sin. And, sin is such a morally charged word in the West. I want to look at it a little differently and look at it in terms of a kind of spiritual debt. So, let’s look at this passage a little closer, keeping in mind that Luke has layers of meanings.
Let’s look at the whole cliff thing first. The parishioners in the synagogue get very mad at Jesus. Jesus proclaims that he has fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy– that God has anointted him. Which everyone actually seems to be ok with this. Then he quotes two situations from the lives of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. In these stories, the prophets didn’t help locals but instead went and helped foreigners. And it’s at this point that people get mad. And it’s the message that Jesus has come to help foreigners and not his hometown that sparks the anger.
This universal quality is very consistent in the gospel of Luke. Jesus often aims his message, not just at kith and kin, but to the foreigner. This means, not just people of other nations, but social outcasts, ethnic outcasts, immigrants— all types of foreigners. So right away, in this passage, we get the idea that Jesus’s mission is for all people and all nations.
Now his mission is about the redemption of sin. That’s central. But, this passage from Isaiah says, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he has been “anointed,” to “bring good news for the poor,” and “to proclaim release of the captives,” healing of the blind. There’s no mention of sin. But remember, Luke has layers.
Isaiah’s passage ends with “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Many commenters would say Jesus is talking about the year of Jubilee. Does anyone know what that is? Just put yes or no in the chat box. Let’s just see if we are on the same page.
The Jubilee is mentioned in Lev. 25. It’s an event that is supposed to happen every 49 years. It begins after the day of Atonement. On this day of the Lord’s favor, all debts are forgiven, land is returned to its original owner, and indentured servants, slaves, and prisoners are freed. In the ancient world, much of this would have revolved around debt and poverty. At this time, debt was a huge problem. It’s not like today, when debts can be manageable, such as a home loan. Back then, people sold their land because they were in debt. They became servants to pay off debt. They went to prison for debt. The term redeemer means someone in your family who frees you from your debt. They pay your debt and free you from prison or get your land back for you. This promise of the Jubilee was a powerful hope. People wanted an individual redeemer to save them from their debts and a political redeemer who would reclaim their land, Judea, back from the Romans.
Does anyone here owe anyone money? Go ahead put it in the chat box! This is NJ we talk about money, right? Just put a round number in, you don’t need to do cents or anything. No. Joking. I have three mortgages. It’s true. You can just put in yes or no.
How about other kinds of debt? Do you owe anyone an apology? Think about it. Did you owe someone an explanation? Have you said anything to anyone recently that sort of got taken the wrong way or created an awkward moment?Do you owe anyone a favor? Has someone ever done you a favor that is so great, you could never repay it?
I think you see where I’m going with this. The idea of debt isn’t just about money. And in that space, God comes in.
In the rabbinical tradition, sin is often seen as a debt to God. Aramaic was the language that Jesus spoke. Do we know that? So, yes. The Aramaic word, hov, means two things. It means sin, and it can also mean debt.
And we see a back and forth between the messages of the forgiveness of sin and debt play out throughout Luke’s Gospel [Lk 6:34-36, Lk.16:1-9]. In Luke’s Our Father prayer, Jesus says, “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” [Lk.11.4]
In Lk 11, the woman who baths the feet of Jesus with her tears is decried as a sinner by a Pharisee. Jesus immediately compares the two of them to people who have debts that have been forgiven. The Pharisee, presumably, lives fairly sinlessly and owes little to God. At the same time, the woman has a great spiritual debt to pay. But BOTH are forgiven. The greater the debt that is forgiven, the greater the gratitude, he says. For “the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” [Lk. 747]
It’s funny idea, spiritual debt. We do yoga at PraXis, and in yoga, there is the concept of karma, a kind of spiritual credit and debit system. You work off your spiritual debts via good deeds, which takes many incarnations to work through. But, in Christianity, you do not work off your spiritual debts. They are just forgiven, in their entirety, through the love of God.
I still have to pay my mortgages. And I still commit sins. I still rack up new debt to my neighbor, my family, the foreigner, and the outcast, and yes to God. You can really never keep track of all your debts. As the ancient Christian prayers say, forgive me for my sins, “voluntary and involuntary, in ignorance and in knowledge.”
We can never know how much our actions impact the lives of others. For good, yes. But also for ill. We can’t keep our own scorecard. We do not know the end to all events in our lives. And this is why we must live like Christ and forgive others their debts. As Luke’s gospel says, we too must “love our enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.” [Lk 6:35].
This is how a life in Christ is a spiritual Jubilee, Atoned for on the cross, in which all debts are cleared, and where this forgiveness of debt is passed along to our neighbors by us, the little anointed ones (Christians). And this is all being teased, being foreshadowed here, in very subtle terms, at the very beginning of Jesus’s ministry, with his reading in Nazareth.
In PraXis, we practice mindfulness prayers. St. Ignatius gave the world one such prayer called the Examen. Each night, Ignatius asks us to quietly review your day. Is there someone who owes us a debt that we haven’t yet forgiven? Do we still owe someone an apology, an explanation, a favor? The Examen is a practice of “renewing of the mind,” [Romans 12:2] so that we can repent and change our hearts and pay our debts and forgive others as best we can.
In the end, forgiveness is a free gift from God. But our kind actions towards others is what God asks of us. Perhaps due it out of the fear of Lord, or out of love for God– out of faith, or perhaps, like the woman who anoints the feet of Jesus— out of a profound sense of gratitude.
For as it says at the end of Luke’s Gospel, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sin is to be proclaimed in his name to ALL nations…”
Breathing Life, your Name shines everywhere! Release a space to plant your Presence here. Imagine your possibilities now. Embody your desire in every light and form. Grow through us this moment’s bread and wisdom. Untie the knots of failure binding us, as we release the strands we hold of others’ faults. Help us not forget our Source, Yet free us from not being in the Present. From you arises every Vision, Power and Song from gathering to gathering.
Receive now this benediction:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, we give glory, thanksgiving, and worship to you.
Help us, today, to contemplate what we owe to you and to one another— in the full knowledge that we been forgiven by beyond any measure, merit, or understanding. For “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights” (Jas 1.17). Such is your love.
So, in faith, charity, rational worship, and honest work, let us go forth and live as a blessing to our neighbors and to all we encounter. “Blessed be the Name of the Lord, from henceforth and forevermore.”
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Congratulations to all those in Group 2 for completing the PraXis Wellness Challenge. Your race is run. PraXis has been a small dose of the askesis, the training of body, mind, and soul, which was once common for the Ancient Church. We’ve updated it, of course. But the spirit continues. And I hope that it was an opportunity for growth and communion for you all.
The community at Brookside Church where many of the little praxercises in Group 2 came from, has embraced my wife Jamie and me. It has been such a blessing to get to know some of the good folks there. I look forward to continuing to see you on alternate Sundays. My wife Jamie grew up in the UCC world. She likes Brookside, and it is a joy for me that she feels so comfortable there. And I will split my time between Brookside and my usual haunt for the Holy Ghost, Trinity Randolph.
This week’s final Zoom session will be the Tuesday evening, 6:30 pm time. Jamie and I will be in Los Angeles. We hope to Zoom with you from the beach at Playa Del Rey. Won’t that be fancy? Fingers crossed.
The theme for our final outing will be the New Creation. You can find the prayers and flow on the blog under week 1.
We will tentatively have a little graduation meal on Zoom and at Brookside on Dec. 8, at 6:30 pm. I hope we can see you there.
As for what is in the future for PraXis, we would love to “plant” a praxis at Brookside. I am looking at what might work in terms of continuing the program in a way that would enable us to hand it off to someone.
If we do this, look to Wed at 6:30 pm as an ongoing timeslot. But we will regroup in the new year and have more for you think.
It is appropriate to end this program at Thanksgiving and during the blessed Fast of the Nativity (I can hear your eyes rolling :). We are so grateful to all and primed for the coming of Advent. It makes my spirit sore.
Glory to God, in all forms.
Love to you all on this blessed season. Feast and be merry.
It’s an exciting time here at the PraXis Challenge as we wrap up before the holidays. Here is what is going on this week.
Group 2, folks connected with Brookside Church, have two more weeks. Group 1, you are done with the Challenge! Alleliuah-High-Five!
This Wednesday, we will meet at Brookside Church in person and on Zoom. If you want to bring some food for the table, please let us know. Otherwise I think Jamie and I will be making some kind of salad. Next week, our final Challenge session will be on Tuesday, over Zoom, only.
Group 2: This week’s theme is The Heart. You can see the prayers and theme for this week’s session here. In terms of your fast, you should be either expanding your 16/8 fast, or trying a one-to-three day fast this week. Resources on that are at the bottom of this post.
Group 1: Do you feel any more well? We hope so. We we hope you will continue to attend sessions, until Nov 23, when Group 2 is finished. We will have some kind of graduation ceremony for all the little praxicimos after Thanksgiving. So, stay tuned.
Everyone, please sign the attached waiver below. It is required by the Vancouver School of Theology. Next week you will be getting the exit survey. This is crucial for the project’s research.
Despite the obvious challenges of COVID, and our move from one coast to the other, Jamie and I really feel this project has been a great success.
The Capstone’s goal is to produce an organizational plan that will propose an answer to the question, what’s next? What does God want for this project? Should it be a free curriculum? A Christian Yoga studio? A book or podcast? We will be working on that question in the coming weeks. I have a Capstone presentation before a committee over Zoom in December. If you would like to sit in on it, let me know. We have a few “seats” available if you want to see all the details first hand.
I will also be speaking with Pastor Nicollette at Brookside Community Church to see what opportunities might be present in a continued partnership. So, long story short. Stay tuned. We will have something for you before Nov 23. I will also include a blog post about what I learned during the challenge. I’ll tell you one take away right now, the 16-hour fast was a game changer for me. (I know. Not what most people want to hear). It yielded the most benefits in the shortest time. I was completely surprised. But, each body is different.
Until then, if you want to pursue a praxis (practice) of your own, here are some resources we recommend.
Fastic app The free level of this app is just a timer, but I find it helpful in keeping motivated to do short-term fasting. It shows you the different phases your body goes through during the different hours of your fast. It also awards you little prizes for continued practice, which does provide a slight motivational incentive for me.
The Daniel Fast, books, and app. As we’ve mentioned, the Daniel fast is a plant-based diet challenge. It is the most popular ascetic practice among mainstream Christians. Susan Gregory’s books are easy to read and filled with useful recipes, and resources. The Daniel Fast app is a paid service. I haven’t used it yet but I plan to.
Mindfulness is everywhere on the internet but you really don’t need to know a lot, you just need to practice it. Mindfulness apps tend to be timers but also include podcasts and other inspiration and motivational content.
Centering Prayer App. This app produced by Contemplative Outreach, the world’s leading Centering Prayer promoter, is a simple timer. Useful if that’s all you really want.
Insight timer app. The free level of this app is fairly robust and offers content, podcasts, live teachers sessions as well as a timer that tracks your practice. You will find a wide range of spiritual philosophies and traditions discussed here.
Headspace app. This app is not free, but it is an excellent “set it and forget it” guide to entering into a mindfulness practice. This is a completely non-spiritual approach to mindfulness. It uses entertaining cartoons and recent science to walk you through the ideas and practices that make up wellness-driven mindfulness practices.
BetterMe app. There are so many fitness resources out there, obviously. I will only recommend BetterMe, because the free level of this app allows for a wide range of customization for fitness goals, based on body type and other factors. It also provides tracking for fasting and makes a number of other wellness recommendations as well as providing you with a guided daily fitness routine customized to your settings.
RuahSpace – holy yoga and spiritual practices. Our friends Pastor Phil Vestal and his wife Erin offer a membership-based online ministry that includes resources and guidance on sanctified yoga and contemplative practices. He and his wife do podcasts and spiritual direction services. Ruah Space really covers much of what we went over in PraXis. You can get a sample of what they do by visiting their free YouTube Channel.
Hope to see you at one of this week’s sessions.
So excited to see where God will lead us all next!
Zoom links below. Please note have a new link for Thursday sessions.
WORKOUT OF THE PEOPLE
Breast Plate of St. Patrick
Intro, reflect on the theme, offer a prayer or intention. – 5 minutes
“Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty.” [Psalm 104:1]
In the bible, white clothing represent purity, and clothing made of light represents divinity or divine transformation.
We see it in Daniel [7:9] where the mythic vision of the enthroned God, the Ancient of Days, is clothed in white. The angels come dressed in white in Mark [16:5], Luke [24:4], Matthew [28:3], John [20:12], Acts [1:10,10:30] and Revelations [19:14]. As do the Saints, those who have labored in grace, and now sit in the Lord’s throne room, as we see in Revelation. [Rev 4:4, Rev 3:18, Rev 3:5, Rev 17:4, Rev 3:5, Rev 6:11, Rev 7:13.]
In the transfiguration, Matt , Mark , and Luke , Jesus climbs atop a mountain (Mount Tabor according to tradition) and “… he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” Then Peter, James and John, “ fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” [Matthew 17:2, and 6b].
The ancients believed that seeing the divine light transforms the witness. So the transfiguration is also about Peter, James, and John and all who strived for the Saintly pinnacle of our journey as disciples. Describing Jesus’s shining face on Mount Tabor, and that of Moses on Sinai before him, Paul says that “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…” [2 Corin. 3:18].
First reading – a reader will be selected
Romans 13:12-14 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then, let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in [lewd feasting]* and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev. 3:5-6 “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot their** name out of the book of life. I will confess their name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says…“
Blessings to you all who have completed this 8-week challenge. You have, in a small way, labored up the mountain of askesis, the training of the body, mind, and spirit. With faith, hard work, and grace, I hope we all will reach the summit and receive the loving vision of God’s light as we continue in the shining raiments that is our life in Christ.
Galatians 3:26 … in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
κῶμος (kōmos) Meaning: “orgy, revelry, carousing primarily a festive procession, a merry-making; in NT a revel, lewd, immoral feasting, Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21; 1Pet. 4:3” Stepbible. This word is sometimes rendered as orgy, but because sexual immorality is mentioned in the same passage, revelry or immoral feasting may be the better translation.