Last week I was invited to Messiah College to speak to the 1st Year students at chapel time, and I was asked to do deal with The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others
. While there is only so much room for flexibility in talking about the Jesus Creed, I try to take a different tack every time I speak on it. So, this time I explored the significance of the Jesus Creed for our “image” of spiritual formation. I chose to set it out as two options, knowing of course that it is not so much an either/or but a both/and. The issue, though, is which end will get the emphasis.
I had one shot at this group of young and vibrant students, so I began with the “spiritual formation movement,” a loose coalition of those who are writing and talking and preaching and practicing spiritual formation today — and the spiritual disciplines are often the focus. The impression I get from these folks is an emphasis on the inner life, and an image that might be of use in this focus in the spiritual life is a light bulb. They are white hot in the inner person and this inner devotion and development generates light. I believe in this, but I fear that too many stop right there. So, I suggested that the Jesus Creed leads beyond the light bulb to another image…
I took as my text for that image these verses (and I was running out of time), from Matthew 10:40-42:
40 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41 Anyone
who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s
reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a
righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And
if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones
because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not
lose his reward.”
I suggested that genuine spiritual formation for Jesus does not stop with the light bulb but becomes people who are always ready to respond in grace and love to those in need with a cup of cold water.
The issue here is how far we go in our spiritual formation emphases: do we stop with the light bulb or do we let the light bulb morph into a cup of cold water? For Jesus, spiritual formation does not reach its intended goal until it becomes love of God and love of others, and love of others becomes concrete in the cup of cold water.