Worship at Home: May 17 ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’

Welcome to this resource for worship at home. The Bulletin, with other prayers, announcements and information, is also available here on our website. This May we have four weeks of attention to our mental and emotional well-being; today we consider emotionally healthy spirituality.

Worship Welcome John 4:23-24
Jesus said: “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Song Way Maker (sung by a choir in Michigan)

Prayer God, our Way through the wilderness, guide us, heart and mind and body, through this worship time. Some things will keep our attention more than others – a song, a verse, a story. Guide us. Some things will distract us – noises around, aches and pains, wandering thoughts. Guide us. Some things will bring up strong feelings, even emotions we’ve buried for a while. Guide us, we pray, and all who seek You in worship this Sunday. All who sing, and study, and pray. We remember the words we share: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name… AMEN.

Scripture Psalm 119:113-120 – Maggie & Mike Beveridge

[Meditate upon each eight verse section of Psalm 119 each day of this month (May 3-24 for the 22 sections). A plan for this, and some guiding thoughts, are here in this blog, and on our Facebook page.]

Solo: Psalm 23 – Joyce Marshall

Scripture 2 Corinthians 7:2-16 – Dianne Banks

Sermon: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Jeff White

Jessica is a gifted manager in her company. She has been a Christian for fifteen years and loves spending time with God. When the vice president of her company was making schedules for managers to meet with clients out of town, he asked Jessica to pick the weeks she would prefer to travel over the next three months. Within the week Jessica emailed him the dates and eagerly awaited confirmation. None arrived. Jessica called his office the following week.

His administrative assistant answered. “Well, according to the schedule I have in front of me, the next three months are all full,” she said. “I guess this means he doesn’t need you right now. But thanks for calling.” 

Jessica sat stunned in her chair. “Thank you,” she replied robotically and hung up. 

For the next two weeks Jessica wrestled with God and herself. She asked God for forgiveness for the anger she was feeling. She tried to figure out why the vice president had changed his mind. She humbled herself to God. She cried out in prayer for love toward her coworkers. She lost sleep.

Finally, she concluded God was dealing with her stubborn self-will.

Over time Jessica distanced herself from the vice president and other managers, avoiding them whenever possible. During the next two years she worked hard, but she felt like she had hit a ceiling in how far she could go with this company. Eventually, she took a position with another company. 

Jessica is committed to her personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She practices spiritual disciplines. The problem, however, is that her commitment to Jesus Christ does not include relating to people in an emotionally mature way. Instead, she misapplies biblical truth and follows, most probably, the relational skills learned unconsciously in her family growing up. (2014, pp. 166-7)

That’s from Peter Scazzero’s book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. There are a number of books one can read about emotional intelligence and maturity, and Scazzerro’s is one from a thoroughly Christian perspective. Emotionally healthy spirituality is an important facet of the abundant life Christ works to develop in us.

I mention from time to time my pastor friend who gives a mini sermon about being a ‘well-rounded square.’ Are you a well-rounded square? He takes his cue from Luke 2:52 ~ Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in divine and human favour. Growth in these four areas – wisdom: mentally; stature: physically; divine favour: spirituality; human favour: socially. Jesus grew up well-rounded in these four areas… so can you and I.

We still have growth and development to do, even if we are forty or fifty, seventy or ninety. At this point in our pandemic precautions, our mental (and emotional) health may well be a bit strained. We are finding out how resilient we are in our emotional intelligence, our inner self, our mental health and ability. With Christ, in Christ, we can grow in this wisdom. We need this!

To be in touch with our own feelings and inner thoughts is so important. To express ourselves well goes hand in hand with this.

So I chose our main text for today, chapter seven of Second Corinthians. On this page of Paul’s letter to the church in that ancient city, he shares so much emotion; and he proves he is wise. Just listen to the emotional words and phrases in these fifteen verses. (From the translation Dianne read from, the CEV:)

your hearts!
mistreated hurt
proud encouraged
troubled fears
cheers up glad
sorry concerned happier
feel bad harmed
angry shocked eager
care nothing to worry about
disappoint
loves trembled with fear
really glad

Many of these words get repeated, as you noticed. One thing you can be sure of with the holy scriptures, emotions and mental health are right in front of you. From the family dramas of Genesis, to the sagas of the judges and kings, to the powerful words of the prophets, to the emotional expressions of Christ and Paul and the believers – people’s hearts are opened up for us to see. 

One example: our use of Psalm 119 this month may be used of God to train us in emotional health. This longest of the Psalms is all about enjoying ‘the law,’ the holy scriptures. Notice the strong and expressive words about enjoying the Bible, obeying it, and facing those who are opposing this way of life.

I hate the double-minded
but I love your law.
(113)
let me not be put to shame in my hope.
(116)
My flesh trembles for fear of you,
and I am afraid of your judgments.
(120)

Strong language! Some verses are not ones we would compose, today, but others are. It all awakens in us feelings and deep thoughts that we may have kept hidden, even from ourselves. 

We relate to God as an emotional Being, who has feelings, and feels deeply. As Peter Scazzero says in his book, “The journey of genuine transformation to emotionally healthy spirituality beings with a commitment to allow yourself to feel. It is an essential part of our humanity and unique personhood as men and women made in God’s image.” (pp. 44-45)

The Bible shows a God who takes delight in things (including us), gets angry, regrets and repents, rejoices, weeps, is troubled, cries out, rests, and loves with an everlasting love. These are all emotions and responses gifted to us, in creation.

And so we see a saint like the Apostle Paul expressing all these things too. We learn from his example, and his mistakes. 

So, what happened in the Church of Corinth that led to Paul writing this chapter we read today? There must have been some problem!

Yes, there sure was. But we are not told exactly what happened in this or the other letters of the NT. Clearly, someone in the congregation had opposed and had a conflict with another person – probably with Paul himself. “when we came to Macedonia… we were afflicted in every way–disputes without and fears within.” (7:5) 

Paul had written them a letter about the ‘fight’ that happened, a letter which obviously upset them, grieved them, for a while. “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it.” (7:8) Paul rejoices that his friends there regretted what had happened, and ‘repented’ – made a turnaround.

In the end, Paul, as a pastoral mentor of the congregation, was vindicated. “So, although I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong, nor on account of the one who was wronged [me, Paul?], but in order that your zeal for us might be made known to you before God. In this we find comfort.” (7:12-13)

This episode in the early life of this Church, and their leaders, is but one example and inspiration for us to grow into emotional health and spiritual maturity. These people were all on a journey, as we are. Learning to know God, to know ourselves, and to relate beautifully with one another. See, we are becoming ‘well-rounded squares!’

There are many steps and stages we can take on our journey of growing up and growing stronger in Christ. The scriptures and our circumstances are the classroom, the ‘school of life,’ we might say.

Taking some cues from Scazzero’s teaching, let me suggest the following biblical paths we can take. These are but a few of many steps available. 

Know thyself.’ I can’t take it for granted that I know myself really well, deep inside: my heart, soul, mind, psyche, ego, however we label our inner parts. “We are fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Ps 139)  

Back in First Corinthians, Paul beautifully said, “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?” (2:11) Yet even a man or woman may be out of touch with his or her own soul. Psalm 19 prays, “But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.” (19:12)

So, know yourself. This is an ongoing work, sometimes a special project for us, with our Master. Know yourself, that you may know God. In the opening of his Institutes, John Cavin wrote:

Our wisdom… consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.

Peter Scazzero speaks of three temptations toward a false sense of oneself. Temptation 1: to think ‘I am what I do.’ This is all about performance, in family, work, education, community, church, wherever. Temptation 2: to think ‘I am what I have.’ We think of ourselves in terms of our possessions, or what we feel we lack. Temptation 3: to think ‘I am what others think of me.’ Getting in touch with how Christ esteems us is a big remedy for this.

 Four words of guidance in this book are:

One: pay attention to your interior in silence and solitude. We will delve into Christian meditation and mindfulness next Sunday, May 24. 

Two: find trusted companions. Many of us have a few friends, or mentors, whom we can trust greatly and share life. When we do not have such people, we must seek. When we have folks to help us, but don’t speak enough with them, we can make a new start.

Three: move out of your comfort zone. Yes, Scazzero has used a cliche phrase, but his point is good. This takes willingness to be and feel awkward, with courage and trust in Jesus.

Four: pray for courage. Courage to explore who you are in Christ. Courage to take steps deep within. Courage to be. 

Another big part of the journey of emotionally healthy spirituality is Sabbath keeping and daily devotion. Scazzero calls his chapter on this ‘Discover the Sacred Rhythms of the Daily Office and Sabbath.’ 

For a year at least I have really wanted to explore ‘Sabbath keeping,’ and will likely preach about this some time later. Our daily times of special focus upon God are of great importance to our growing up in Christ. Some of you read each day from ‘Tabletalk,’ or ‘The Daily Bread,’ ‘The Upper Room,’ or an email devotion you receive. You may have a Bible reading plan you use. Or a prayer list. 

Lately, this is what I have been doing. (This changes from year to year and season to season.) In a quiet moment at the start of the day, I use an old (1936) book of daily prayers, by John Baillie. Then I read my Bible chapters for the day, Old and New Testaments. Then I read from the in-depth devotional, ‘Tabletalk.’ Then I pray, often using some words from a book of prayers by Walter Brueggeman. 

I find that the scripture passages, and the teaching and prayers of others, prompt my thinking and praying in ways I would never have done on my own. Emotions are suggested that I might have not noticed in myself, or have avoided. 

Yet, the quiet times without words are important too. Feelings don’t need words. As I said, more about this next Sunday.

One last thing from the book, ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,’ among the many things I could mention. Practice the presence of people. We have heard of ‘the practice of the presence of God,’ but how brilliant to make paying attention to other people a spiritual discipline! Jesus grew in favour with people, socially, we are told. So may we. 

M. Scott Peck told a story of meeting a fellow student in highschool one day, at age fifteen. 

I suddenly realized that for the entire ten-minute period from when I had first seen my acquaintance until that very moment, I had been totally self-preoccupied. For the two or three minutes before we met all I was thinking about was the clever things I might say that would impress him.  During our five minutes together I was listening to what he had to say only so that I might turn it into a clever rejoinder. I watched him only so that I might see what effect my remarks were having on him. And for the two or three minutes after we separated my sole thought content was those things I could have said that might have impressed him even more. I had not cared a whit for my classmate. (M. Scott Peck, A World Waiting to Be Reborn, 1993, pp. 112-113)

Peck’s reflection on this, like ours, can be a first step towards ‘practicing the presence of people.’ When Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” it could apply to the life of our mouths & our ears! (Jn 15:13) Doesn’t this take us full circle? Noticing how we listen and speak takes us into knowing ourselves.

May the God of true feelings and deep compassion bless you to feel your own feelings. May the letters and songs and stories of scripture give you courage to be your authentic self, in front of God, in front of others, and in front of your mirror each morning. May the fellowship of the faithful train you and me to be emotionally healthier in spirit. 

“It makes me really glad to know that I can depend on you.” (2 Cor 7:16)

PRAYERS of the People A bidding prayer
Praise God for one thing about God…
Adore God for two beautiful things about Jesus…
Give thanks for three blessings of today…
Give thanks for four blessings of the past week…
Ask for help with these five personal problems…
Ask for help for six others with problems…
Seek a blessing for seven people facing illness…
Seek a blessing for eight families facing tragedy…
Pray for guidance for nine leaders…
Pray for help in ten nations of the world…
Ask the Spirit to refresh these eleven Churches….
Ask the Spirit to teach us all these twelve lessons…
Amen.

OFFERING We have not had an opportunity, since our Annual Meeting, to set some mission goals for the year, 2020. Remember the work of our denomination (CBAC), our Baptist Association, ADC, Crandall University, CBM, our Partners in Mission (the Bustins & Soucys), and so on.

Hymn 519 It Is Well with My Soul

Benediction by William Sloane Coffin

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You;
May the Lord Make His Face to Shine Upon You
And Be Gracious Unto You.
May God Give You the Grace Not to Sell Yourself Short,
Grace to Risk Something Big For Something Good,
Grace to Remember that The World is Now
Too Dangerous for Anything but Truth, and
Too Small for Anything but Love.
So May God Take Your Minds and Think Through Them;
May God Take Your Lips and Speak Through Them; and
May God Take Your Hearts and Set Them On Fire,
Through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Amen.

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