Friendship, Listening, and Empathy: A Prayer GuideTwo Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeSabbath Keeping FastingA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationPersonality Type in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Holy Spirit disruptions: Choosing disruption through spiritual practices

Lynne Baab • Wednesday August 11 2021

Holy Spirit disruptions: Choosing disruption through spiritual practices

I got to preach ten days ago at our church in Seattle. (The whole service is recorded here.) When the senior minister contacted me about a month ago to ask me to preach, he told me the assigned passage for August 1 was Jesus with the children (Luke 18:15-17). Because I’ve been writing blog posts for two months about Holy Spirit disruptions, I immediately thought about the ways Jesus disrupted things in that incident. The passage is clear that he disrupted the disciples’ priorities on who should be welcomed into Jesus’ presence, but he also gave a fresh, radical, and enigmatic perspective on how to receive God’s kingdom.

Sometimes when I’m asked to preach, the whole sermon appears in my brain within a few days. In this instance, I didn’t know exactly which personal story I would use to illustrate Holy Spirit disruptions in my own life – there are so many examples! – but I knew the outline of the sermon and what I wanted to say to illustrate all of the other main points. I wanted to end with a section on the way spiritual practices function like disruptions.

My impression was that sermons at our church are now 15-20 minutes long, and my sermon would have taken at about 17 minutes to deliver. On Tuesday of the week before the service, I got an outline of the worship service showing my sermon at 10 minutes long. After some discussion with our staff person for worship, we agreed on 12 minutes. So I shortened all the sections and cut out the last section of my planned sermon on the ways that spiritual practices function like Holy Spirit disruptions. That last part of the sermon was very clear in my mind, and I felt sad not to be able to tell it to the congregation. I’m writing it down here so you can “hear” it.

When we engage in spiritual practices, we disrupt the everyday pattern of our lives in order to make space for God. Fasting is a good example. Perhaps you decide to give up food or social media or news for a day or a week. You are changing your normal pattern of life for the purpose of prayer, making space to hear God, and to get a fresh perspective on your life as a Christ follower. You are choosing disruption because you know that the Holy Spirit so often works through disruptions, teaching us, revealing our need for God, helping us to walk with Jesus in new ways.

Keeping a Sabbath works in a similar way. The Sabbath disrupts our work and our feeling that we should be productive all the time. Deep inside, the Sabbath also disrupts our sense that we are indispensable and that our value comes only through what we do. We are competent adults with many skills, but the Sabbath is an invitation from God to rest in God’s presence, like a weaned child on its mother’s lap (Psalm 131). We choose to ignore our competence for a day, so we consciously disrupt our view of ourselves. Only God’s goodness matters.

Consider the spiritual practice of simplicity, which can be defined as clearing away the clutter so we can focus on what really matters. We disrupt our natural tendency to surround ourselves with many things and a full schedule. We clear some things away so that we can be receptive to what God’s Spirit is doing. The spiritual practice of simplicity is deeply rooted in the monastic tradition. Monasteries are places where Christians came, and still come, to disrupt the pattern of daily life we were raised and socialized into.

In one sense, all spiritual practices are a form of disruption. When we stop to read the Bible or pray, we are affirming that something matters in addition to our daily lives. When we go to a worship service on a Sunday morning (“go” can mean going in person or turning on zoom), we are disrupting all the fun things people can do on Sunday mornings like sleeping late or going boating/skiing/biking/etc.

As we choose to engage in spiritual practices, we are affirming that deep inside we know that Holy Spirit disruptions are actually gifts. I encourage you to think about the spiritual practices you engage in. Examine the ways they function like disruptions of your normal daily life and your habitual thought patterns. Ponder the ways the Holy Spirit works through them, speaking to you, transforming you, giving you perspective on what it means to be a Christian every day.

(Next week: Holy Spirit disruptions in the form of closed doors. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love to get new subscribers. Sign up below if you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

I spoke at a conference about bringing spiritual practices to life. I got the recording uploaded to YouTube. It’s 41 minutes long, and I think it’s one of the best talks I’ve ever given.

This is the tenth post in a series on Holy Spirit disruptions. Previous posts:

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