Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spiritual Training

Mark 1:9-15 - “how’s your training going?”

This morning’s sermon is about spiritual training....
Turn to your neighbor and ask:
How’s your training going?
[you been working out?]
Until only a few years ago, I’d never really thought much about training.
I never really knew how to train.
Playing soccer and football growing up preparation was always called practice, not training.
Lifting, going to the gym these were workouts, not training.  
Coaches (IMAGE - coach) stood over me and gently pushing me to top performance, so I didn’t have to take a lot of initiative, just show up.   

Then I met Mt. Taylor (IMAGE - Mt Taylor) .
And here on this mountain considered sacred by the
Navajo people,
There is a winter Quadrathlon - Starting at 6500 feet, we bike up, run up, ski up, then snow shoe up to the top, and once at the top, there is little time to enjoy the scenery -- we have to descend into the valley, all four elements in reverse order.

The first year I did it with a friend,
we had barely trained, we showed up with clunky gear and a rookie game plan.  
We both got smoked, finishing the 43 mile race in five hours and thirty minutes...middle of the pack at best.

Second year, with a bit of experience, but still with minimal training, I only did slightly better.

Then, someone suggested I train, and gave me a guide as to how I could train.
And train is what I did.  
I read books on training like:
Marathon – the ultimate training guide
which states: anyone who has decently working joints and a good heart, can run a marathon…because fundamentally, it’s all about Training.
How you train determines how you perform.
how’s your training going?

In the Marathon book, there are nice little training programs; designed for novice, intermediate, and advanced runners,  
the training programs are for about 18 weeks,
IMAGE - spreadsheet
on a grid,
each day you’re told exactly what you are supposed to do.
Monday – Rest (isn’t that great you get to rest before you even get started!)
Tuesday 3 mile run –
Wed – 35 minute run
Thursday – 3 miles run at your best pace
Friday – rest
Saturday – 6 mile run
Sunday – bike for 35 minutes

The idea is to gradually build up your mileage and endurance in order to condition your body appropriately enough to run the entire distance without something going wrong….injury, cramps, seizures, heart attack, dying …

The goal of training: condition consistently to perform consistently, and finish.
So, to prepare for the “quad” I adapted a training program - integrating bike, ski, and snow shoeing with the running, and trained for 18 weeks.
IMAGE - gear
By the time the event came, I was ready,
I performed and I finished.

I beat my personal best record by 54 minutes.
I had previously finished only as high as 27th, but after the training I finished 4th,
first in my age group.
Motivated as I was, I was even able to raise about $2k for a local charity!
IMAGE - ruby daddy
Ruby Gene had no clue what I had accomplished, but she saw that her daddy, who had blood all over his face because he fell off his bicycle
had done something important and she stuck to me like glue the entire rest of the day.
In spite of the fall, I was very pleased with how I’d done,
However, more than pleased with my performance, I was surprised.
I’d finished so much sooner than I ever dreamed.
Trasie and the kids missed me crossing the finish line – and when she saw me with blood all over she said, I’m so sorry you didn’t get to finish…”

All I could conclude is that training can lead to a better performance, more selfassuredness, confidence, competence, effectiveness, readiness,
In preparing for the quad, I was amazed at the ability of my body to physically change in order to meet the challenge.

After the quad, I was perplexed, if I can train in such a way to do so well in some race…
Is there a way for me to train spiritually that I may run a good Christian race?
Is there some kind of training program that can help me grow and mature and develop spiritually, so that I may reflect more authentically God’s nature which abides in me,
that I may grow deeper in my relationship with God?

What kind of training do I need so that I can act lovingly in all situations;
IMAGE - fist face
even when someone does something that is offensive, or cuts me off, or is threatening?
To forgive always?
Image-shalom hall
What kind of training do I need so that I may live with patience and understanding, especially in my home--with a three year old and a six year old...
and a spouse in a doctoral program
so I don’t create anxiety or confusion for them because I’ve let fears and frustrations infiltrate my being;
may there be shalom in my home.
I don’t want Ruby or Zia to do like a little boy Jason who after the christening of his baby brother in church, sobbed all the way home.
His father asked him what was wrong.
Jason replied, 'The preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys.'
And for my poor kids…I am the preacher!
IMAGE - kids pelican
What kind of training do I need so that I may courageously fight against injustices, and not succumb to any powers or principalities which seek to establish systems and policies which lead to oppression and marginalization of those Jesus would call “the least of my brethren..” the vulnerable among all creatures great and small..

IMAGE - t-shirt
Just as I did well in the Quad, can I, as it says in the book of Hebrews, run with perseverance the race marked out..the spiritual race…
fixing my eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Consider him, Hebrews says, who endured the cross, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
So that you won’t let the world get the best of you…and fall into despair, or apathy, or selfish living
How do we train spiritually?
It may not translate exactly like training for the Quadrathalon,
but I can’t let go of the idea..if I can follow some kind of recommended training exercise on a daily basis, I can perform well,
Can I not train spiritually?
so that I can run daily a life that reflects Godly living….

So I’ll ask again: how’s your training going?

For much of history, Christians have attempted to capture in various ways something of the essence of the forty days their master spent in the wilderness as we read in the gospels;

Was this a type of training period for Jesus to prepare him for the prepare him for the cross?  
I would have liked to have asked Jesus at some point while he was in the wilderness - How’s your training going?

For many in the christian faith we observe Lent, forty days to give something up or take something on.  
I asked on facebook what people are doing for lent:
Many observe lent by giving something up…
- Road rage, Sugar, alcohol, starbucks!

Some people take something on…again facebook friends: beginning again, read the bible daily, self love.

It is a wonderful time to act with intention...because it is kind of long,
but not too terribly long where we can give up and take on and it won’t kill us...hopefully.  

Giving up and taking on, can go together very well,
at their core, can lead to growing in deeper relationship with God and one another, which is what the spiritual life is all about.  
So the intention I propose for us for Lent is for it to be a time to focus on training?  
IMAGE -DESERT Mothers and Fathers  
I think the Desert Mothers and Fathers demonstrated essential Christian aspects of effective spiritual training programs:
They dedicated themselves to prayer, meditation on scripture, solitude, labor, poverty, fasting, service.
Which involve both taking on and giving up...
And this Lent, I’d like the congregation to both help me and join with me.
During the days of Lent, help me to develop a training plan…a 40 day training plan,
to prepare disciples to run the race….
And Join with me in engaging in various practices in order to do this
IMAGE - Training Elements
Each week we’re going to focus on a certain spiritual practice that may be incorporated into our training program.  

In the bulletin you’ll see the training exercise for the week.  
We’re going to begin with prayer.
Only we know our own individual prayer practice.
We each have different understandings of prayer.  
Prayer can be silent, praying the scriptures, praying through the prayer list,  intercessory prayer,
meeting with a prayer partner or prayer group,
praying while walking or knitting,

I want those who are willing to commit to at least 10 - 15 minutes of prayer training each day this week…to commit, and  I’m going to ask for a show of hands.  
Not really to create peer pressure - but peer pressure can be effective,
but more to demonstrate solidarity :)


So, if you’re willing to commit to at least 10 - 15 minutes of prayer each day this week, please raise your hand.  
And now, with hands raised, turn to someone with their hand raised, and ask if you can check in with them next week to let them know how it went.
And as we’re going along, if any of you care to share with everyone else some of your experiences, do it on facebook or share on Sunday morning,
please let me know...

Is this training hard?
My training for the quad was sure hard…and I don’t think Jesus’ time with Satan and wild beasts in the wilderness was a stroll in the park. But remember the angels were there with him as well.

Notice that what led Jesus into the wilderness…was the Spirit.  
Our spiritual training is ultimately, led by the spirit,
but just as Jesus was willing to be baptized by John in the Jordan,
we must have a willingness to be open to the spirit’s leading in our lives….
Is the training worth it?
Perhaps we might ask: is it worth it to be in deeper relationship with our dear God?

Affirmation of faith - instead of words, silence being still...silence and stillness are acts of faith. 3 minutes.

Open with prayer...

Let us pray:
Jesus preached,
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; may we change our ways, and believe in the good news.”

Come holy spirit…fill this place. Come holy spirit…lead us where you may…
This we pray…to listen and obey.

3 minutes silence


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