Thursday, August 10, 2006

A TESTAMENT OF DEVOTION

Our small group is beginning to work its way through A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly. It's considered a modern spiritual classic by Richard Foster and others. We know of no study guide, so Karen, our group study leader, is developing one as we go.

NO EASY READ. A Testament of Devotion is heavier fare than our group is used to, so we find ourselves re-reading passages several times to "get it." Also, the book calls for a corresponding response in living practices that do not make it possible to read it casually or like a textbook. This Quaker is not just an engaging writer, he is inviting the reader into a lifestyle from which one will not emerge unchanged.

Here's an excerpt from early in the book that I find poignant:

PRACTICE COMES FIRST. "The Inner Light, the Inward Christ, is no mere doctrine, belonging peculiarly to a small religious fellowship, to be accepted or rejected as a mere belief. It is the living Center of Reference for all Christian souls and Christian groups--yes, and of non-Christian groups as well--who seriously mean to dwell in the secret place of the Most High. He is the center and source of action, not the end-point of thought. He is the locus of commitment, not a problem for debate. Practice comes first in religion, not theory or dogma."

WORLD AND LIGHT, BACK AND FORTH. "And Christian practice is not exhausted in outward deeds. These are the fruits, not the roots. A practicing Christian must above all be one who practices the perpetual return of the soul into the inner sanctuary, who brings the world into its Light and rejudges it, who brings the Light into the world with all its turmoil and its fitfulness and recreates it (after the pattern seen on the Mount)."

A CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE. Imagine that: we are called to bring the world into the Light of God's presence and rejudge it. What all does that mean? And we bring and bear the Light in the tumultuous world and recreate it. What all does that mean? This is the fullness of the contemplative life: Living fully in the world, but not of it. Neither retreating from the world nor succumbing to it. Being transformed and transformational. Incarnating--amid our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world--the presence of Jesus Christ. Who is adequate for such a challenge? "My grace is sufficient for you."

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