Trinity Way Eight Elements

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Most of the time Christians call it discipleship. We prefer the term apprentice. One can become a disciple of almost anyone living or dead. All one needs is the essential teachings of the person in question. On the other hand, one can only be apprenticed to someone alive. Jesus the Christ is Risen, alive and accessible to all who seek Him.

However, apprenticeship is not a solitary practice. We’re in this journey together, sharing a common life and, in the case of apprenticeship, sharing a common discipline. This discipline we call the Trinity Way of Life. In the cause of simplicity and flexibility we keep it to eight elements:

This is about prayer, but not about all kinds of prayer. The term “prayer” covers a number of practices: liturgical prayer, intercessory prayer, petitionary prayer, contemplative prayer and several others. Paying Attention is about taking a moment out of our day, each day, to turn our attention wholly on God, giving God our whole and undivided attention. It starts out small – ten seconds each day. It is like the first step that begins the proverbial journey of 1,000 miles.

One might characterize this as a type of “listening.” But if it is that, what are we listening for? It is not for some grand prophetic word from on high. It is for the still small Voice that murmurs through the earthquake, winds and fire of our surrounding world. That Voice will tell us many things, some of which will be amazingly useful in negotiating our way through the chances of this life. Most of all, it will tell us that we are known, loved and affirmed by the power that creates and sustains the universe. That Voice will tell us to take note of people and situations and be Its agents of blessing and healing in the most commonplace of circumstances.

The 1,000 mile goal of this journey is to attend this Voice in every moment of our day. Rather than removing us from the interactions of our world we’ll find we are able to pay attention to everything that’s important – even things we might not consider important had we not been attending.

When we discover that 10 seconds of attention is far more difficult than it sounds, the goal of total attention to God may seem less a 1,000 mile journey than a 1,000 light year journey. We know of no one who has completed that journey in the span of his or her life, but there are many apprentices of Jesus that have found energy, joy and excitement even in the first few stumbling miles.

Paying Attention is the first element of the Trinity Way of Life. All of the remaining elements gain transformative power through this first practice. And it begins with that simple first step: Pay Attention.

Woody Allen is credited with saying 80% of success is just showing up. However, in the Trinity Way of Life, showing up has much greater significance. Being an apprentice of Jesus is not a solitary journey. Wherever the journey takes us, it takes us in company. That community is expressed in two ways. The closest company are a group with whom we share the learnings, the joys and the frustrations of our apprenticeship. Such groups are generally small, a dozen at the outside. Sometimes they walk together for many years, sometimes for a few months. There is often a common agenda, perhaps a Bible study or study series (such as Just 10 or the talks from the Simply Jesus gathering). Yet beyond the curriculum it is in those groups that we learn to care for each other, to work through disagreement and conflict, to share our faltering stories in a safe place.

The second way in which “Show Up” is expressed is more common. It is when the whole o fthe community gathers weekly to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in the meal He gave us. But when is a meal more than a meal? When it takes people scattered by the diverse activities of their week and reconnects them. The Christian community is described int he Scriptures as the Body of Christ, When the elements of a body are separated we speak of them as being “dis-membered.” The meal is the place where we are re-membered, And that act gives the full meaning of Jesus’ command: Do this in remembrance of me. We Show Up, share a meal and the Body of Christ is Re-membered.

When Jesus washes his disciples feet it is an event of multiple layers of meaning .He performs the work of a household servant and then holds that up as a model for all who follow Him. The washing of feet is a lost custom in our western world. In a world where walking was then normal mode of transportation, in a world before pavement, in a world of sandals or bare feet as the only footwear, the washing of feet was an act of courteous refreshment. Our world is a wearisome place. Walking through the normal encounters of life causes people to carry the dirt of discourtesy, unfairness, self-centeredness and the like. Serving others is the role of Jesus followers in giving refreshment and renewal by acts of courtesy and thoughtfulness in all our encounters.

Of course, Serving Others demands even more. Our world is full of people whose needs far exceed a moment of courtesy and blessing. Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25) sets out principles of serving that we carry out both through the ministries of our parish and through organizations in our community. Caring for the hungry and homeless, the sick and the prisoner, being the advocate for the poor, the powerless and the stranger (immigrant) are all found in the Gospels and the Law and the Prophets. To be an apprentice of Jesus we must imitate His actions, and that means Serve Others.

The stories that Jesus tells, the commands that Jesus gives, the invitations that Jesus offers are found in four books of that odd collection of books known as the Bible. To be an apprentice of Jesus means to know His whole story. And Jesus’ story begins long before the manger and the wise men and the gifts. It is a story of amazing faithfulness and amazing faithlessness, a story of God vindicating His people and a story of His people abandoned by their God. It is a story of the best and worst of human behavior, a story set centuries ago and yet completely contemporary in its presentation of the human capacity for good or ill.

To follow Jesus as an apprentice means we learn the story for ourselves and not throw the responsibility solely on a pastor or religious professional. To learn the story is to be armed against pastors and politicians who sometime say outrageous things and claim the Bible for their support. For the person who continues to learn the story can recognize when text are abused out of not only their context but the context of the whole story from Genesis to Revelation.

The traditional elements of most Christian communities – facilities, programs, staff – exist because of the giving of the members. Unless a church has significant endowments (and those are curses more often than they are blessings) it is the generosity of members that drive the mission Yet our giving, and the general appeal for giving far too often fail the test of Scripture. In the Bible, giving of our wealth (financial or material) is an act of thanksgiving in which we acknowledge that God is the author of all things, up to and including our abilities and opportunities to create wealth. In the Bible, the amount of giving was inextricably tied to the amount of God’s abundance. In years of plenty the offerings reflected that plenty. In years of scarcity, the offerings reflected that scarcity.As the people received from God, so they gave to God through their offerings at the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). These offerings not only supported the communal worship of the God of Israel, and thus also the priests and Levites who were responsible for that worship, the also supported the social safety net for the widowed the poor and the alien (immigrant).

Each act of giving was a reminder that the God of Israel was the source of their land and of the whole of creation that provided food from the earth. Each act of our giving is to follow the same pattern. Giving is not a fund-raising exercise, it is a thanksgiving exercise. Tying it into what we have received turns giving into a spiritual discipline

Gratitude, like graceful, graciousness and gratuity all have their roots in the word and concept of Grace. And grace is a gift freely given. Gratitude acknowledges that so much in our lives is far beyond our ability to create or to earn. Gratitude keeps us mindful of the presence and generosity of God. And there is so much to be grateful for: relationships, the beauty of the created order, the material blessings in our lives and life itself. As a spiritual discipline it can be exercised by looking right in front of us at the things we take for granted. Before you eat, stop and take a look at the food before you. Be grateful for the abundance. Stop and contemplate the presence of friends. Be grateful for companionship. There are innumerable little things that touch our lives each day; and each is a reminder of the presence and graciousness of God.

We’re used to solitary journeys. Oftentimes the most important areas of our lives are shared by no one, not even with those with whom we are closest. This is most true in our spiritual life. We may think that this is because that area of our life is so personal. That’s as it should be, but that’s not the reason. We do not share it because it is private and the life of an apprentice is never private, it is a shared life. Yet moving from the extreme privacy to shared life is no easy step. It’s less threatening to share it with one or two who are on the same journey.

Thus, checking in is a critical practice in getting our spiritual life growing again. It is a simple discipline. It calls for us to find one or two others to meet with regularly over coffee at our favorite coffee bar or over lunch or any other activity where we can meet and talk. Weekly works best, but even monthly will do.

Telling the story is about what we’ve seen and heard. When we talk to others about Jesus Christ, our story is the best way to share.