Tag Archives: Rule

Harden not your hearts

Let us then rise at length, since the Scripture arouseth us, saying: “It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Rom. 13:11); and having opened our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with awestruck ears what the divine voice, crying out daily, doth admonish us, saying: “Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps. 95:8).    -Rule of Benedict, Prologue

St. Benedict begins his Rule by inviting his monks to listen for the voice of God and not to harden their hearts to what God is doing in their lives.

His wise advice has endured for the last 1500 years.

Our own Anglican/Episcopal spirituality has roots in the orderliness and balance of Benedict’s Rule, in the notion of a way of life that prescribes “nothing harsh, nothing burdensome” but which is also pursued as “a school of the Lord’s service.”

The pattern of our Daily Office definitely bears traces of Benedict’s hand, especially visible in our saying the Venite (Ps. 95:1-7) as an Invitatory Psalm nearly every day.

That’s just as Benedict prescribed in the way he laid out the 150 Psalms to be recited by his monks during the Daily Office every week.

Our Old Testament reading today tells the backstory to Psalm 95. The Israelites are groaning that Moses has brought them into the desert to die. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” (Exod. 17:3).

After God has him strike the rock and causes water to flow, Moses calls the place Massah and Meribah (Test and Quarrel) because of the Israelites’ complaining.

The full text of Psalm 95, including the last few verses, is appointed to be read on Friday mornings during Lent as a special reminder of our tendency to grumble that the Lord is not giving us what we want — a complaint that flies in the face of the water flowing from the rock right in front of us.

“Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

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Beloved, we are God’s children now

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See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure …. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
(1 John 3:1-3; 16-18)

I taught sexual misconduct prevention in the Dioceses of Chicago and Milwaukee from the beginning of the Church Insurance Company’s mandates about 20 years ago. This passage from the First Letter of John formed part of the prayer I used to open training sessions for more than a dozen years.

The first year of training was really tough and stressful — the sexual abuse of children is a subject no one wants to talk about, but clergy and vestry and lay leaders were required to attend training, and (frankly) the training was pretty awful. It was heavy on statistics and risk and insurance riders and mandated reporting and penalties. Every time I taught, the tension in the room was so palpable that I ended up with a crippling headache.

Sometime in that first year of trainings, though, I came across the new Rule of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastic order in Cambridge, MA. It was (at the time) a fresh, new rewriting of the Society’s original Rule. As I read it more deeply, I came to understand that the SSJE Rule is really an extended meditation on right relationship.

That understanding transformed the way I taught. Rather than teaching about our failures (or potential failures), my colleagues and I began to articulate a vision for what right relationship with young people and adults might look like. “If we do ministry in the light,” one priest observed, “then attempts at secrecy or abuse stand out by contrast.”

“Beloved, we are now God’s children.” As God’s children, how should we live with one another?

Aiming for right relationship doesn’t mean that we are already perfect, but it does mean that when we fail, we recommit ourselves to the high standard. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God … and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

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Gracious God, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may guard them from harm, and teach them to love whatever is just, and true, and good; following the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.