An invitation to practice — Rev. Stacy Swain

Last Sunday after church, those that will be traveling on the February mission and outreach trip to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua met, in order to continue our preparations. We talked through all that needed to be done to ensure the success of the trip. We talked about air and ground travel, lodging assignments, and the schedule for our days. I marveled at all the good thinking and hard work that had been done. But that was not all we did last Sunday. In fact before we jumped into all that good and important work, we took time to also tend to our hearts and spirit. Preparing our hearts and spirit, we know is just as important as everything else (and I may even venture to say more so even, though as you know I am biased!) that goes into making a trip a success. Preparing our hearts and spirit is critical in being able to fully receive that which our encounters with the people in Nicaragua will bring.

Our meeting got me thinking about Advent. We as a church will be heading off together on a trip that will begin on Sunday December 1st. We will be setting off on that first Sunday in Advent into the great unfolding of the story of Jesus as we enter into a new liturgical year. We will be setting off on a journey that will take us to the manger on Christmas Eve, to the Jordan River as Jesus is baptized, all across Galilee and beyond as Jesus disciples, through Holy week and to the cross on Good Friday, to the glow of the empty tomb on Easter morning and out into the world as the body of Christ in the world as the church enlivened by the Spirit on Pentecost.

It is going to be an amazing journey, but in order to ensure the success of our trip, we too must do the good work of preparing our hearts and our spirits so that we too will be able to fully receive that which our encounters with each other and with our God will bring.

And so, I invite you as I did the travelers last Sunday, to take up and make a part of your routine some practice of reflection and preparation. This could be committing to daily time of prayer or meditation. It could be a practice of reviewing the day just before bed, thanking God for all that was good and asking God’s guidance in places where you may have stumbled. It could be a practice of taking time each day to speak five things for which you are deeply grateful. There are many, many ways to practice and it does not matter what you choose (choose what feels right). What matters is that you practice. For it is through practice that we cultivate space in our hearts and spirit to step back from the press of doing and reflect on what is unfolding before us. It is through practice that we develop a way of seeing more clearly, and listening more deeply. It is through practice that we will more fully be able to receive what our encounters with each other and with our living God will bring in our journey head.

May God bless our practice and may God bless our journey. Amen