The following is Rector Joe Hensley’s monthly opening message from our weekly e-newsletter the St. Georgian. If you’d like to receive our weekly e-newsletter, sign-up here.
Dear St. Georgians,
As followers of Jesus, we strive to “live the life that really is life” (quoting the end of Paul’s first letter to Timothy). Last year, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry unveiled the “way of love” which summarize such a life for Christians in seven essential actions: turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go, and rest.
Post-sabbatical, I am at a turning point in my ministry. Having had a chance to reflect on my rhythms of life, I no longer want to fit my “life” around my work. I want my work as a priest at St, George’s, which I love, to blend more with the wholeness of my life and the other work that I do as a father, spouse, and as “Joe.” That means being more intentional about what I do, about my time, and about creating ongoing space for reflection and turning to God on a daily basis.
I also want to resist the temptation that our society lures before us to find worth in productivity and how much work we can accomplish. Our work as followers of Jesus is often just as much about “being” as “doing.” Turning to God is about going deeper, not farther.
In that spirit, we are shifting from a weekly to a monthly article in the St. Georgian with more depth. Over the next year, we will feature the seven actions of the Way of Love as well as themes of our liturgical seasons. The article will be printed in the first newsletter of the month with a link to the article in subsequent weeks so that more of our readers will read it or re-read it.
The first action, which I have already alluded to, is “turn.” In order to follow Jesus we have to turn toward him, turn toward God. While on retreat this summer, I observed that there are many levels of turning. At first glance, simply going on retreat was an act of turning. It required a literal turn off the main highway, down a winding wilderness road to a monastery in the desert. It was turning to God by entering a place where the goal is to become closer to God. “Step one, accomplished,” right? Once on retreat, though, there was more turning that needed to happen. In prayer services with the monks, my mind would wander. Over and over I would have to turn my attention back to what was in front of me. I got bored. My internal voice would yell at me like a drill sergeant, “Turn back!” At some point, though, I wondered, “do I have to yell?” The inner voice became more gentle and the turning more subtle. I realized that a person could spend a long time learning to turn toward God with more and more sensitivity. Going deeper, I wonder if it is actually God who turns us once we stop trying so hard.
I wonder how you experience the act of turning. For example, how do we enter a worship service? By coming to church, we have already made a significant turn towards God. Then when we enter the worship space, we have more turns to make. Our inner voice may make a fuss when our mind wanders. Or maybe it grumbles because of external distractions. The act of turning attention back to God is far from simple. I encourage us to take time to observe that inner turning. Take a breath. Turn with sensitivity to the soul within which longs to be turned by God ever so gently.
As the old Shaker song says, “to turn, turn will be our delight, til by turning, turning we come round right.” May God bless us at all the turning points of our lives.
Yours in Christ,