Faces on Faith: Practice makes perfect
Growing up, I never enjoyed practice. Whether it was homework, playing the trombone or participating in sports, I never understood the concept that practice makes you better. That all changed when I became a teacher and coach, then a husband and father. Within these roles I wanted to be a good role model for my family and the people with whom I was connected.
Soon, we in the Christian community will be invited to practice what is traditionally called the Lenten Discipline. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends just before Easter. During this time, the challenge is to renew our devotion to God and practice what we preach. John Wesley, considered to be the founder of Methodism, encouraged people to follow three simple rules: Do no harm, do good and stay in love with God. Sounds simple, but not always easy to practice. This is similar to the great commandment recorded in the book of Deuteronomy; “Hear O Israel, the Lord is one, and you shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.”
Jesus quoted the same text to a teacher of the law who asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life, and then added we should also love our neighbor as ourselves. Again, it sounds simple but living it out can be difficult. There was a time in my life when after a number of years away from the faith, I experienced a new desire to follow God and live the Christian life. My renewed devotion was inspiring but I was far from perfect. What made a difference for me was the people who God sent my way. They loved me unconditionally, encouraged me when I failed and taught me insights on how to grow closer to God.
The season of Lent is often thought of as an individual journey. We sometimes give something up for Lent or skip a meal each day. That is fine, but we must also understand that there is a corporate component to the Lenten Discipline. Imagine when a community of believers journey together, all desiring to love God and their neighbor. That community develops what I call a spiritual flow, where the living and loving God changes lives.
So let us embark on our new journey together and experience the life changing presence of Christ. Yes, it is difficult, but practicing will make a difference.
The Rev. Larry L. Marshall is the pastor at the Captiva Chapel by the Sea.