Christian Spiritual Formation

by James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

Mysticism, disciplines, holiness, devotion, spiritual warfare, spiritual formation, spiritual direction, penance, confirmation, journaling, silence, fasting, covenant groups, directed retreats, purification, piety… bookstores are brimming with works on spirituality. Many Protestant seminaries hasten to add courses on spiritual formation. Monastic guesthouses welcome thousands of exhausted go-getters every year.

The deep craving for spiritual nurture reminds us of the inability of global capitalism to ultimately satisfy and save. People who struggle to gain footing in a multicultural world desperately grab onto whatever looks like it will provide some stability, some guidance, some map for directing them to a moment of silence among the sound bites. Within the Christian tradition, there is a bewildering abundance of spiritual offerings.

In the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, where the purpose of human life is intimacy with God, redemption and spirituality are closely linked. Deification, or theosis, is returning to a pure state of the soul in union with the Trinity, by a participation made possible through the incarnation. Salvation is a slow process of spiritual maturation in the purification of the soul; and because the process is slow, images, symbols, and sacraments aid illumination and transformation.

In the Roman Catholic Church salvation is associated with avoiding the consequences of God’s wrath. The spiritual life developed from penitential disciplines. People need to do something in order to quell their deep anxiety brought on by their anticipating the wrath of God. During the Middle Ages, the view was that through the sacrament of baptism, Christians regain their freedom to love and serve God, but much to their chagrin, they still fail to do so.

Protestantism views certain devotional practices as suspect and we often turn instead to reclaiming the authority of Scripture for the Christian life, sort of interpreting and devouring the Word of God as Eucharistic food for the soul. The Reformers distinguished justification from sanctification more sharply, with salvation equated with justification and sanctification understood to follow… classic Wesley. In the Calvinist traditions, sanctification became holding fast to the belief that God is merciful though we don’t deserve it. Puritan spirituality was highly activist, focusing on individual integrity and sincerity of purpose and energetic execution of life’s little tasks.

All of us acknowledge the difficulty of cultivating a godly life in our current climate. A godly life requires tempering our appetites and desires, titillated by advertising and consumer overload. Centering at the foot of the cross and then standing at the empty tomb doesn’t happen when 200 images per minute of booming, gyrating music relentlessly numb the soul. Life becomes an on-going music video. It is difficult to discover our desire for God so long as economic system requires that we crave money, sex and power. Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, once warned that spiritual health requires radically redirecting our desires. Perhaps in this light, we can admit that the orthodox East, the orthodox West and the full garden variety of Protestant expressions of faith, all offer us spiritual paths to a deeper relationship with God.

Assuming that most who read this article on Spiritual Formation are United Methodist or some other Protestant expression of Christianity, exercise your devotional life by exploring the writings of East [Origen, Cyril, Ignatius, John Chrysostom] and West [Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Merton] orthodox theologians and enjoy your spiritual travels.

Shalom,

Jim

 

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Spring Cleaning for Those Who Hate to Clean

by Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor
Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

I hate cleaning house. No, seriously. I hate it. Ray will tell you that he knows when I’ve been on a cleaning binge because I’m cranky, to put it both mildly and delicately for a church newsletter. But I clean because I enjoy the results. I also know it’s healthier for our family. (With a perpetually shedding Labrador, we vacuum a lot!) And, I know if I do some cleaning each day, it’s easier to keep it from getting out of hand. I’ve been told (but choose to believe it’s an urban legend) that there are actually people who enjoy cleaning.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God …”

I love this verse written by David. He needed to do more than a little spring cleaning of his soul. David had made some really bad life choices. He knew he had to get back on the right path and believed that started with a clean heart. If you look at different translations of this verse, you’ll see where David asks God to create a pure (instead of clean) heart—both mean one thing, a complete contrast to the dark life he was leading.

“… and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Instead of a steadfast spirit, other translations have David asking God for a resolute spirit, a right spirit or even a loyal spirit. This is a prayer for cleansing and forgiveness. It is also a prayer of humility. This humble plea acknowledges that David alone is unable to fix his heart or his spirit. It will take an act of the Almighty to create and renew.

Maybe we could take a cue from David and try a little spring cleaning of our souls in addition to our homes. Now that I think about it, there are some similarities: results to enjoy, a healthier family life, and a way to keep things from getting out of hand. Now, time to grab that spiritual Dustbuster and get back to work!

 

Feeling Called?

by Amy Crisp, Minister of Education

CRISP-ANDREW-113One of the things I love most about being a Deacon is the ability to help people see God in their everyday lives. Deacons are called to bridge the gap between the church and the world, helping to bring the world into the church, but also helping people to realize where God is in the everyday.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the ways that God calls us to ministry. From the get-go, I should say that “ministry” is not something that only pastors can do. Ministry is the work of the Christian community. And ministry is far bigger than the box that we like to put it in.

Everything that we do can be seen as ministry. The way we raise our children. How we talk and interact with one another. Our secular jobs. Tutoring elementary school children. Feeding the hungry. Mission trips and projects. All of these (and much more!) are ways in which we let the love of God flow through us into the world.

All of us are called to minister to each other and the world around us. And none of our call stories is exactly the same.

I encourage you to think about the ways that God is calling you. How do you do ministry in your everyday life? Are there ways in which you are letting God’s love flow through you?

I would love to hear your stories of call and the ways that God is active in your day-to-day life!

 

Music: May 2014

Wish Upon a Star

by Jerry Rich, Director of Music

RICH-JERRY-9Trinity’s Music Ministry will present its annual concert on Saturday, June 7, at 7 p.m. in the Sanctuary. Soloists Evan Ayars, Philip Keirstead, Doris Page, Catherine Wethington, Nadine Wethington, Kalila Zenk and Michelle Zenk will be joined by the Chancel Choir and Trinity Ringers, all under the direction of Music Director Jerry Rich. The theme is “Wish Upon a Star”, and selections include Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning (Sacred Harp), Lost in the Stars (Kurt Weill), A Lovely Night (Rodgers & Hammerstein), Moonglow (Hudson & Mills), Neverland (Peter Pan), Oh, to Be a Movie Star (Bock & Harnick), Romance from L’Étoile (Emmanuel Chabrier), Sing Out, Earth and Skies (Marty Haugen), Songs of a Disney Princess (selections from Aladdin, Cinderella, Little Mermaid, Mulan, Pocahontas), Stars (Les Misérables), Stars and Stripes Forever (John Philip Sousa), Star Trek Medley (Alexander Courage and Jerry Goldsmith) and When You Wish upon a Star (Pinocchio). Admission is free.

We All Have Dreams

by Ellen LaCroix, Director of Children’s Choir

ellen       The Tale of the Three Trees is an old folk-tale that has been passed down through generations. It tells the story of Jesus’ life from the perspective of three trees with big dreams. The first tree dreamed of becoming a beautiful treasure chest. He wanted to be polished to perfection so that he could hold a beautiful and grand treasure. The second tree wanted to be the mast of a sailing ship at the front of a mighty fleet. He wanted to be a part of such a strong ship that kings and mighty rulers would feel safe on board even during the roughest nights on the sea. The third tree did not want to be cut down at all. The dream of this tree was to grow to be the tallest tree in the forest so that anyone who looked at it would have to look up to God. These trees grew up to be tall and strong until one day when two lumberjacks climbed up to them in the forest. Sadly, they were cut down and built into something different than what they had dreamed of being for so long of becoming.

Now, I can’t tell you what they became because that would ruin the end of the Children’s Choir musical on May 18 during the 10:30 a.m. service. But what I can tell you is that the dreams of the trees came true. God heard the dreams of these trees and met the true desire of their hearts in a way that the trees could not even imagine. What are the dreams in your life you have forgotten about because it seems impossible now for them to come true? I encourage you to return to these dreams and allow God to open your heart and your eyes to see the different ways that God is making these dreams come true, even if it isn’t in the way you imagined.

TToTT2

 

 

 

Transitions

by Chris Abel, Youth Director

ABEL-CHRIS-97If you haven’t heard by now, my last day at Trinity will be May 11. After three years of hard work, I’ll be graduating from seminary and moving to St. Louis to be an associate minister. So as this chapter in my life comes to a close, I thought I would reflect on why I love working with your teenagers.

In a place like McLean there are all sorts of powerful and influential people. And while sometimes we treat these people differently, at the core they’re still just people who had childhoods and insecurities and obstacles to overcome. So when Sunday night comes around and I get to spend 90 minutes playing, eating, and talking with our teens, I like to pretend I’ve gone back in time and I get the chance to nudge future leaders in the right direction. Every single one of these students will continue to age and grow and learn. They’ll become adults and leaders themselves. But for now, they’re still figuring out who they are and who they will become.

This vulnerable stage in life is vital for kids who may have access to this much privilege. They will be tempted and lured in ways that are unique to an area with so much power, influence, and wealth. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, and it means tremendous good can come from these students. But with that potential is equal potential for, well, not-good. Youth Group isn’t just about fun and games. It’s about formation.

So why is this the topic of my last Spire article? Simply put, while youth leaders come and go, you stay. And what you model for our young people will shape their formation. When you give, they’re watching. When you help, they’re watching. When you take your faith seriously, they’re watching. When you show love and kindness, they’re watching; but remember, they’re also watching all the other times, too.

As my time of influence comes to an end, I have no doubts that you will continue to show our students what it means to choose God and others over ourselves. God bless, thank you for all your kindness, and I will miss you! Let me know when you’re in St. Louis. 🙂

 

Does God Pick Sides?

by Biscuit Gilmer, Trinity Church Mascot

Biscuit staff photoHi, kids of Trinity. I hope you’re having a great spring! I really enjoy the warmer weather and spending more time outside. It’s also the time of year when a lot of sports teams gear up. The other day I was watching television with my family. They showed an athlete who thanked God for his team’s win. Hmmm, I thought. Does he think God picks sides?

If you’re on a sports team, you might have prayed before the game. That’s great. But, do you think it’s OK to ask God to help your team win?

The truth is that God doesn’t care who wins or loses. That’s not what’s important to God. When God looks at the game, God doesn’t see teams. God sees people! God’s love is about what’s inside everyone’s heart, not what jersey is on his or her back. God doesn’t care if you are the last person picked for dodge ball, or if you’re a rock star athlete. God loves us all the same.

Is it OK to pray that God will help you with sports? Yes, but make sure that your heart is set on letting God’s love shine through. The Bible tells us, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) That means whether at school, church or playing sports, we should be honest, fair, and respectful to everyone; and, at the same time, give thanks to God for all we have!

Remember my motto: Paws for Jesus!

Biscuitpaws

 

Church & Society, Missions

by Kelly Slone

April Collection Drive

Thanks to everyone who provided donations of clothing for men for Christ House and all the juice boxes, granola bars and coffee for the Carpenter’s Shelter. Christ House, located in D.C., provides medical and hospice care for the homeless. Carpenter’s Shelter, located in Alexandria, is an 80-bed facility that provides food and shelter for homeless men, women and children, along with child care and employment assistance. Both organizations really appreciated your donations.

May Collection Drive

During the month of May, we’re collecting cans of baby formula (with and without iron), jars of baby food (vegetables, fruit and meat), boxes of baby cereal and disposable diapers (any size) to help the families served by Fairfax Area Christian Emergency & Transitional Services. FACETS was created to respond to the many needs of homeless and low-income people living in Fairfax County. Please leave your donations in the collection closet located in the Fellowship Building.

Martha’s Table

Please be a part of this wonderful ministry. On the second Sunday of each month we make sandwiches to feed the hungry in Washington, DC. You can help by buying the bread, by delivering the sandwiches or being a kitchen helper. You’ll find the sign-up sheet in the Fellowship Building.

Interested in Volunteering in Our Community? The Church & Society Committee is seeking new volunteers and ideas on how Trinity can serve the community! Please contact Kelly Slone at kslone@nvca.org and find out how you can help make a difference. There are a variety of projects/organizations the Committee is actively involved in, including: tutoring children at Stanton Elementary; making lunch and visiting the homeless at Christ House; and working with SHARE, Martha’s Table, Habitat for Humanity and ChildHelp.

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