Tag Archives: armor of God

12 Steps of Christmas | Eve of the Epiphany

Step Twelve – “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Morning Prayer for today can be found here. Since tonight is the Eve of the Epiphany, today is the 12th day of Christmas.

Thank you for joining me in these reflections on praying the Daily Office and practicing recovery; I hope you have found them useful.

Having had an awakening

The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the Pit, O LORD my God. (Jonah 2:5-6)

Step Twelve begins with a recounting of the previous Steps and of our progress to date. It’s a little longer than the previous chapters in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, but I invite you to take a few minutes to read it.

Among other things, you will find that “alcoholics” are mentioned no more than 20 times in 20 short pages. The Twelve Steps are basically human wisdom about living by spiritual principles, though for us the essential starting point was a crisis brought on by our drinking.

It mattered little whether we had sat on the shore of life drinking ourselves into forgetfulness or had plunged in recklessly and willfully beyond our depth and ability. The result was the same—all of us had nearly perished in a sea of alcohol. (123-24)

Today, “we begin to practice all Twelve Steps of the program in our daily lives so that we and those about us may find emotional sobriety” (106).

Carry the message

As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. (Eph. 6:15)

The A.A. meeting that I attend each week opens with the Serenity Prayer and a moment of silence.

Then different people read three key texts: the Preamble, “How It Works” (the chapter from Alcoholics Anonymous that lays out the Twelve Steps), and the Twelve Traditions.

The last reader finishes with a “Responsibility Declaration”:

I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that, I am responsible.

The first part of “Twelve Step work” is to be willing to serve any alcoholic who still suffers. After all, we are people who are in recovery, and we have something that the alcoholic needs, so we must be ready to share that knowledge humbly at any time.

Many of the people I know “in the program” are truly generous with their time and talent in the service of others. My sponsor, for example, attends several meetings a week with the several people he sponsors at any given time. He also brings A.A. literature into the jail and prison system and arranges for newly-released prisoners to find a meeting close to home.

Just so in every church I have served, which is full of people willing and eager to go the extra mile in order to make visitors feel welcome, to reach out into the neighborhood with invitations, to feed the people who come several times a week for a meal, to teach classes, to visit the shut-ins.

The list of ways that we extend our hands to others is nearly endless.

Practice the principles

Now comes the biggest question yet. What about the practice of these principles in all our affairs? Can we love the whole pattern of living as eagerly as we do the small segment of it we discover when we try to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety? Can we bring the same spirit of love and tolerance into our sometimes deranged family lives that we bring to our A.A. group? Can we have the same kind of confidence and faith in these people who have been infected and sometimes crippled by our own illness that we have in our sponsors? Can we actually carry the A.A. spirit into our daily work? (111-12)

In an earlier post, I shared a couple of occasions when I realized that recovery practices — especially admitting fault promptly — were not just about alcoholism but about a new way of living.

Like other membership groups, A.A. and the church alike run the risk of turning inward.

If the church doesn’t connect Sunday with Monday, we go back into our daily lives and act no differently than those around us. If we attend lots of meetings but stay “in the rooms,” we may still be out of control in our daily lives.

Just like the song “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” we might sing that “They’ll know we are recovering by our sobriety.”

Just as the point of the Daily Office is not to check another prayer task off the eternal to-do list, neither does attending meetings alone secure any benefit for us. Both of them are examples of the “maintenance of our spiritual condition” that keeps us on the path of sobriety in our daily lives.

We pray the Daily Office not only to be in relationship with God, but also to equip us to see God at work in the world around us and to see Jesus “hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison” (Matt. 25:31-46).

We attend meetings not only to share the company of those who understand our problems, but also to help us live lives that are “sober and upright” in order to draw into our fellowship those who are still suffering.

A Prayer for Mission

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)

Advertisements

No armor needed on the Way of the Cross

Armor_Small

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
(Isaiah 53:7)

It took less than 50 years after the crucifixion of Jesus — the Prince of Peace, the sacrificial Lamb foretold by Isaiah — for the martial language to creep back into the church’s vocabulary.

By the time of the letter to the Ephesians, written somewhere between 62-95 AD, we have this exhortation to believers to “put on the whole armor of God.” Now granted, this is spiritual armor we’re talking about — the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:14-17). As a metaphor, the image works beautifully to depict discipline and confidence in the spiritual life.

But do you hear the difference?

Jesus went to his death unprotesting, silent before the slaughter. His followers in Ephesus, less than 50 years later, are being urged into an aggressive posture, armed to wage war “not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

How much longer, though, until this spiritual aggression is turned against “enemies of blood and flesh”?

Church history tells the story; just 300 more years. In 385, Priscillian, the bishop of Avila, became the first Christian to be executed for heresy by the (Christian) Roman authorities — the church finally had the power of the state behind it to enforce its will.

By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
(Isaiah 53:8)

I hear such anger in our religious discourse today that it worries me.

Religious leaders and believers alike denounce other Christians with such violence, and are so heated in their demands that society conform to their desires, that I wonder if our lust for the heat and noise of battle has made us lose our taste for “that peace which the world cannot give” (BCP 123).

I wonder if we have become totally deaf to the silent voice of the crucified Christ urging us to follow him in the way of the cross, which is “none other than the way of life and peace” (BCP 99).