Spiritual Formation and Liturgy as Ministry

Spiritual formation into Christlikeness is by its very nature others-oriented. As we increasingly unite our life with Jesus, we don’t just take on his moral viewpoints—we experience his heart. We come to share God’s immensely compassionate love and his constant solidarity with his broken, wandering and lost creation.

Matthew’s classic summary of Jesus’ work gets right at this: When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest

Spiritual formation does not drive us inward in a negative way. On the contrary, as our inner life is transformed our hearts are filled with love for others. This transformed heart—now aching and praying and desiring the good of others—transforms the practical deeds of our body. This is seen in empathy for the poor, in compassion for the marginalized and in a cry for justice for victims of all kinds.

This twin journey of inward and outward growth is not merely the vision of Holy Trinity Church—it emerges from the life and teachings of Jesus and Jesus’ first followers:

Mt 23:11—(MSG) Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant…your life will count for plenty.

Luke 6:38 — Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way.

Paul wrote to the church is Galatia: (MSG) It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that…you use your freedom to serve one another in love…For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself.

Our Liturgy weekly guides our hearts to this way of being in the world, the way of active compassion and mission as we regularly say prayers such as:

O God, guide the nations of the
world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among
us peace, that we may honor one another and serve the common good…help us to love
our enemies: lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge…that a spirit of respect and forbearance may grow among nations and peoples…

The prayers of the people common to our worship teach us to intercede for the poor and the oppressed, for the unemployed and the destitute, for prisoners, those persecuted, refugees and captives…and for the well-being of all people who are in danger that they may be relieved and protected…

In addition, every person seeking baptism as a follower of Jesus, at the time of being sworn-in, so to speak, answers this question with the whole church listening:

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I know the common criticism: These prayers could be said in dry, rote or insincere ways. Of course. Songs can be sung that way too. Sermons can be “listened to” while nodding off, tweeting, texting, checking Facebook

But these scriptures, these prayers and our baptismal vows have nurtured the faith of millions of Christ-followers over the millennia—with a little focused participation on our part they can be the genuine cry of our heart; they can be means of grace that we employ truthfully and earnestly as one’s who intend to be the cooperative friends of Jesus, seeking, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live constant lives of creative goodness for the sake of others.

– Todd Hunter