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Some Thoughts to Ponder!!

The Episcopal Church Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation offers an alternative model of how the Church transforms all people:

  • By doing the work Jesus Christ calls us to do, living into the reality that we are all created in the image of God and carrying out God’s work of reconciliation, love, forgiveness, healing, justice and peace.
  • By striving to be a loving and witnessing community, which faithfully confronts the tensions in the church and the world as we struggle to live God’s will.
  • By seeking out diverse and expansive ways to empower prophetic action, evangelism, advocacy and collaboration in our contemporary global context.
  • By holding all accountable to lift every voice in order to reconcile oppressed and oppressor to the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The truth of the matter is that only God can satisfy the inner longing for change and inner transformation. The work of transformation is a long haul, more like a life long journey; it is seldom swift or superficial.

The Christian writer Ruth Haley Barton, tells us that we can only be transformed when Christ is formed in us. The goal of this transformation is for our lives to be lived more abundantly.  Abundant lives go on to be lived for the sake of others. (Galatians 4:19; Romans 8:29; Romans 12:1, 2).  So, this invitation, for human beings to be transformed to such an extent that they become the image Christ, is central to the message of the Gospel.  And when we recognize it as the Good News of the Gospel, we see how central it is to the mission of the Church.

Spiritual transformation in the lives of redeemed people, points to the power of the Gospel and leads to an increasing capacity to discern and do the will of God. Ruth Haley Barton writes, “the seed of the Christ life (everything we need for life and godliness) is planted within us at salvation and if the conditions are right, that seed will grow and flourish.  However, the process of transformation is also supernatural in that it is something only God can accomplish in our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit”.[1]

Christian Spirituality, a subject that occupies and transfixes so many including myself, is a journey into the mystery of our Triune God. Many people have their own definitions of spirituality.  One that I particularly like is by Elizabeth Dreyer.   She writes that Christian spirituality is, “the daily, communal, lived expression of one’s ultimate beliefs characterized by openness to the self-transcending love of God, self, neighbor, and world through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Spirit”[2].

My own layman’s definition over the years resonates with Dreyer, ‘being formed and transformed for Christ by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit’. It is important for Christians to understand that, as much as we may wish to, we can’t be transformed by our own efforts.

It may come as a surprise that we can’t do it ourselves when we live in a culture that is obsessed with taking “selfies” and seeking for “self-realization “.  But, mature Christians understand that we can only be made whole by the work of the Spirit that comes from God who is in the business of intentionally pursuing us with unmitigated unconditional love.

God relentlessly pursues us even when we aren’t even paying attention, or are preoccupied with so many convergent issues, and distracted by concerns that compete for our attention. However, in John’s gospel Jesus conveys God’s purpose for coming, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10: 10). Jesus comes to transform the Word into life with God. Through him, the Spirit invites us to seek out a deeper and more intimate relationship with God to the extent of that which existed before the Fall (Genesis 3).

[1]  Ruth Haley Barton: What we Believe About Spiritual Transformation, Article & Reflection.
[2]  Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, s.v. “Christian Spirituality, p. 1216.