Intention as a Spiritual Practice – Prayerful Tuesday



Matthew 5:13-20: (NRSV) 

 13You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.
   14You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
17Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
   19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

I am preaching on Matthew 5:13-20 next Sunday, February 9th, and as I have read and re-read this scripture I have discovered Jesus is talking about a spiritual practice, the spiritual practice of intention.  Everything Jesus did was intentional. He started every day knowing he was going to do the will of the Father, his Father, his Abba.  In this portion of his Sermon on the Mount he is trying to teach all of us we must be intentional about our actions in the world.  It isn’t good enough to say we believe in justice and kindness, rather we are commanded to actually get up out of our chairs and actively walk with God as God continually creates our world and DO justice and kindness. So my spiritual practice for this week is “Intention as a Spiritual Practice.”

You are probably saying right now “well duh” everyone knows that.  If we all know that we are to do justice, kindness, and mercy then why don’t we?  It is because it is easy to say we are going stand up to injustice but it is much harder to actually get out there and get your hands dirty.  So I am going to give you a few suggestion that are simple everyday things you can do just to get you started and in the habit of living an intentional life.

In his book Everyday Spiritual Practice, Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life Scott Alexander explains why a spiritual practices is different from a casual hobby, and “the answer is intentionality, regularity, and depth . . . what shapes your efforts into an everyday spiritual practice is your commitment to making the activity a regular and significant part of your life.”[1]
In addition an everyday practices doesn’t have to be complicated, take a great deal of time, or be physically or economically challenging, it just has to be done every day.

Alexander’s book offers many different activities from the very simple to the more difficult and I am going to suggest only a couple of the less difficult ones to get you started.  I also suggest you find Alexander’s book and read some of the practices if these do not appeal to you.

Everyday Spiritual Practice number 1 is probably the simplest of all to start but can be a hard one to carry out.  Every morning when you arise from sleep say the following:  “Today I will offer kindness to each person and creature I meet this day.”  Then follow through, no matter how frustrated you become during an event.  My suggestion is to repeat your intention several times during the day until the act of offering kindness becomes second nature to you.

Everyday Spiritual Practice number 2 involves caring for the world we live in.  Begin each day with the following state: “I will conserve energy by turning out the lights when I leave a room.” Or you might use recycling, bicycling and/or use city transportation instead of driving as your goal.  What you do is important but it doesn’t have to be difficult and if your way to care for the earth is to eat more foods from the lower end of the food chain instead of taking a bus to work, good for you.

Ok just one more to begin.  Everyday Spiritual Practice number 3 involves the relationships we have with others.  Repeat throughout your day: “I will treat those I live, work, and play with with the respect and kindness they deserve as family members, co-workers, friends, for all are my brothers and sisters of God.”

You might be saying these don’t feel very spiritual to me.  But, what I am saying is that to BE a spiritual being and the being God desires us to be is to approach everything we do, every moment, every day as if we were doing it for the one we call God because in reality we are.

Jesus tells us “as you do it for the least of these you do it for me.”  So when you offer a heartfelt word of thanks to the harried checkout clerk in Safeway you are behaving as Jesus would want you behave and who knows maybe, just maybe, that was Jesus and you didn’t know it.

You see the Spiritual Practice of Intention is basic to walking in the Way of Jesus. Whether you are preparing dinner for your family, taking a casserole to someone who is ill or grieving, or stopping to help a homeless person by offering them half of the sandwich you are carrying all of those are Spiritual Practices. When we place the love of the Divine in front row of the action we are doing a spiritual practice.  Jesus said “let your light shine before others” and how we do that is by gifting our light to those who are struggling in darkness.  Our light will not diminish by giving it away; it grows brighter because more people are shinning with its glow.

Ruth Jewell, © February 4, 2014

[1] Alexander, Scott W.(editor): Everyday Spiritual Practice, Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life, Skinner House  Books, Boston, MA 1999 Pg. 5

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