Seven Spiritual Disciplines for Good Friday

good-friday-bible-2By Joe LaGuardia

For many, Good Friday is as much a part of Holy Week as Easter or Palm Sunday.  For others, Good Friday has never been a part of the worship routine.

There is some truth to the notion that Holy Week is not complete without some acknowledgement of Good Friday, for it is the day that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world.

An Easter without a crucifix is like having communion without bread, and resurrection becomes all the more amazing when cast in the shadow of Jesus’ broken body.

For Christians yearning to make Good Friday meaningful, here are seven spiritual disciplines you can try on your own or in a small group:

1.  Get together with an old friend.  Holy Week is a nostalgic time for people of faith.  We remember Easter at our home churches, egg decorating with grandparents, and the child-like joy of receiving chocolate bunnies on Easter morning.

Feed your nostalgia by calling a friend from the distant past.  Enjoy coffee, reminisce of old times, heal any open wounds, and laugh together.

2.  Spend time in silence.  The first discipline promotes connecting with a friend; this discipline promotes a deeper connection with God.

When we pray, we talk or intervene or give thanks.  Spending time in silence is a simple act of spending time with God.  No words or long speeches are necessary.  God wants time with you, and Good Friday is the perfect day to fulfill this long-neglected meeting.

3.  Go for a hike.  Now that the weather is getting nice, its time to get out and meet God in the midst of nature.

There are so many places within driving distance, you can practically hike during your lunch hour.  Give the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Arabia Mountain, or Black Shoals Park a try, and let nature’s voice become God’s voice to you.

4.  Visit a local church you never attended.  Call around to a few  churches close to your home or place of work and see if they are hosting a Good Friday service (if there is no service at your church, of course).

This is a good time to meet neighbors, shake the hand of a pastor reaching out to your community, and get exposed to different styles of worship or preaching.

5.  Exercise longer.  No pain, no gain, the old adage states.  Exercising longer and harder can help us relate to the suffering of Christ.

Although bench pressing can never compare with the torture and execution of Christ, challenging our bodies can help us center our mind towards the cross of Christ.

When we feel our bodies stretch to their limits, then we can appreciate Jesus’ own sacrifice all the more.

6.  Make a spiritual wish list.  So many of us have spiritual aspirations to get closer to God or connect with Jesus in a variety of ways.

Sometimes we need the discipline to sit down, take a few minutes, and write out those spiritual goals we hope to fulfill.

Corporations, executives and managers, sports coaches, and even parents assess where they are and where they want to go in their particular field of interest.  Why not do that in our faith as well?

7.  Volunteer at a non-profit agency.  Take Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday, when Jesus ate his Last Supper with his disciples) to call around to local non-profits and see  how you can volunteer on Friday.

We have plenty of opportunities in Rockdale County.  Family Promise of Newrock, for instance, has a day center that requires volunteers to keep the place clean and tidy.

Rockdale Emergency Relief or the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Pius X might also appreciate a helping hand in stocking shelves or greeting people who benefit from these wonderful service organizations.

Whether you seek intentional community or intentional time with God, I want to encourage you to make your Good Friday one to remember.

If you’re still not sure what to do, you are invited to join us at Trinity Baptist Church at 7 PM for our Good Friday service.  As always, all are welcome.

 

Dr. Al Mohler and the dangers of Yoga

 

Since Yoga is of the devil, try centering prayer

 

In a blog post dated September 20th, Al Mohler contended that yoga was incompatible with Christianity because of yoga’s Hindu, “occult” roots.   He made mention that people who are not of the Christian faith find yoga to be a spiritual alternative; and that secular society has wooed Christians into this practice, which borders on “ritualized sex.”

For the numerous Christians who do engage in one form of yoga or another, however, Al Mohler is silent on an alternative.  Surely, there must be some spiritual practice that can help Christians promote physical and spiritual health without tapping into the “occult.”

But Southern Baptists are not necessarily known for practicing spiritual exercises that come to us from an ancient faith, exercises such as Lectio Divina or Centering Prayer.  These ancient rituals are too “Catholic” or too “ritualistic,” and so Baptists stick with the usual “safe” spiritual growth formulas:  attend church, pay your tithe, and get your Sunday School badge.    If you’re hip, then wear blue jeans and a collared shirt from the GAP.  (And, “Catholic threat” aside, we all know that Baptists will not do anything out of ritual especially–you know, like singing from the same hymn book every week or wearing a suit to church even in the dead-heat of summer.)  Anything less is an affront to Jesus in general and to the Protestant work ethic in particular.

Truth is, the lack of spiritual disciplines in Baptist life has left a vaccuum in people’s faith development.  No wonder they turn to yoga, transcendental meditation, or the like.  Let’s face it:  We Baptists are great when it comes to building community and having a quality-cooked potluck, but we sure aren’t heavy-hitters in the area of spirituality or what some “spiritual formation” authors call the “interior disciplines.”

There is hope yet!  Not all Baptists are so whatever-isn’t-Southern-Baptist-is-of-the-devil as is Dr. Mohler.  Since the 1970s many Baptists have explored the deep,  rich geography of spiritual formation.   Southern Baptist Seminary professor, E. Glenn Hinson, was one such Baptist leader who promoted the spiritual disciplines from a church history point of view.  Thousands of other Baptists have poured over books written by M. Robert Mulholland, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Marjorie Thompson, and Richard Foster.

I recently read Donald Whitney’s 1997 book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, which you know is safe because you can purchase it at Lifeway.  Whitney’s writing is thorough, though over-run by his sensitivity to Baptist skepticism aimed at spirituality.  He makes sure that every practice–from journaling to fasting–is backed up by dozens of Scriptures, lest you doubt whether Whitney was trying to get Catholicism and mysticism in the back door.  The over-the-top apologia makes reading Whitney too cumbersome and too trite; and it didn’t really seem to make a dent into Southern Baptist life, especially when there are so many souls of those yoga-loving WMU gals to save.

The very first blog that I published on Baptist Spirituality was entitled “Baptist + Spirituality = Oxymoron.”  The premise was simple: The two words rarely go together.  I agree with Dr. Mohler that there are many “spiritual” practices that the secular world has sanitized.  There are too many Christians engaging in these secular practices without considering biblical consequences.  Yet, at the same time, I think it is the responsibility of Christian leaders to provide alternatives that speak to the needs of our time as well as borrow from the cache of spiritual disciplines that are rooted in the long, ecumenical heritage of Christianity.

So, if not yoga, then what do we do with ourselves?  Watch more TV?  I think not.

 

The day before I wrote this article, Dr. Al Mohler wrote a blog in response to the critics of his article on yoga.   Since I only caught the article today, a day after I wrote my blog, I thought I’d share the link with you, fellow reader.