For a few weeks at Calvary we are discussing how we are called by God to care for the health of our own body, mind and soul. The idea is that our lives are a gift from God, to be used in service to Him and to others. But if I am right, and our own health and well-being do matter, is the church helping to care for each of these parts that make up our whole? I will take them one at a time.
Does church help you care for your mind? Or, another way to think about this, have you ever felt like in coming to church that you put your mind on autopilot, disengage, that it’s not the place for critical thinking? If so, then something is missing. The church ought be the place where the mind can engage the most, where as we explore God’s word and the mysteries of His character and His creation, we are awed by His supremacy and His majesty. If this isn’t the case for you now, or in the past, then why not? It is a worthwhile question to explore, and I would definitely be interested in the conversation.
And I would give one suggestion here as well. Some of us engage the most when in conversation with others. (No matter how profound the Sunday sermon might be). This is the place and benefit of small groups. We have several here at Calvary and I hope more might form. Small group Bible study and discussion can be an invaluable tool for strengthening community, accountability, discipleship and cognitive exploration. It is a place where you can ask the hard questions – not always getting the answer – but growing through the process.
This one probably seems obvious. If there is anywhere our souls are cared for it should be the church, right? Well yes, but I am not so sure that is always the case. Even in my own experience of the church, which has been pretty much every single Sunday for 30 years, there have been times when I felt my soul or spirit wasn’t engaged – times when even in the midst of worship and praise my heart was dull. So what to do about this? One thing that has always helped me is experiencing varied worship. While some, especially Lutherans, have tended to appreciate the structure and predictability of consistent worship each Sunday (page 5 and 15 anybody?) the risk associated is that we just show up and never truly let God’s word, or our own experience of worship, affect the very depths of our being.
Prayer is one aspect of Christian discipleship that is made for training our souls. If you feel your spirit is idle, spend time in personal prayer (silent or out loud). Time spent listening to God through prayer or reading His Word can get you out of your routines and help you truly tap into the goodness that flows from God’s sustainer: the Holy Spirit.
How is church at caring for your physical body? I am not sure we would give very high marks here. I can remember a church person in my past saying, “If it takes free donuts to get them to church, then we will darn well have free donuts at church.” A nice gesture perhaps, and I love hospitality (and truth be told, I kind of like donuts too), but I am not sure we have thought this one all the way through. I don’t think the topic of caring for the body came up on a single one of my seminary classes. So does this mean it doesn’t matter?
Well, it is true that Jesus didn’t spend much time explicitly exercising with His disciples, but I am going to rationalize on this one and say that since they walked from town to town, village to village, and up and down mountainsides, they got a pretty good workout most days. In fact, Jesus was probably in pretty great shape. So, what about church today? We are living in a culture that needs to take caring for the body seriously. We no longer stay in shape just by going from place to place. I think it would be a good challenge to consider how we can encourage good health. Fair Trade coffee over soda is a good start, but a healthy food option at our gatherings is also worth a thought, as is encouraging people to tap into the fruits of the ground, whether a farm-to-table CSA (community supported agriculture), the local farmers market, or educating about caring for the earth. It all helps to encourage a healthier whole.
~Pastor Mike Middaugh