Doctrine, Mission and the Experience of God

Biblical Text: Luke 5:1-11

Those first two points have unfortunately become a polarity in the church. Yet they go together. One grows out of the other. The life of faith finds its start and its proof in obedience to the Word. The text is the amazing catch of fish, but you never get to the catch if Peter is not obedient twice to the Word of Jesus. But both the faith and the mission rest on the experience of God. This sermon attempts to experience along with Peter that presence of God through obedience to the faith and the call to mission.

Spiritual Practices

I want to link to a couple of posts, Dr. Frederick Schmidt (Director of Spiritual Formation at SMU) and Dr. Zemke (a friends mom).

And then pick out a couple of paragraphs, first from Dr. Schmidt…

Doing theology can also be jeopardized by the absence of an encounter with God. After all, those who live theology are the ones who do the best theology. The one question that seminaries and churches don’t ask often enough is, “What is your experience of God?”

From Dr. Zemke…

Evangelicals, as a group, have a rich experience of praying for daily needs, devotional Bible reading, a relational approach to God, and a high level of lay participation. As a group, they tend to score higher on passionate spirituality tests. So, it seems like a good idea to bring those practices into mainline congregations to leverage transformation.

Lutherans often have serious troubles with spiritual practices. For a few reasons: 1) Luther himself was always hesitant to write anything because he was afraid it would become a law, 2) lingering worries about works-righteousness, 3) a heavy emphasis on sacramental life and 4) we often are just more structured personalities and anything that seems too pentecostal gives us the shakes. Those are a few, I’m sure there are more. The problem is that this is killing us…really. I’ve put Luther’s letter to his barber in this link. Here is an example of a spiritual practice that Luther assumed every lay person should have: A Simple Way to Pray.

It is in your Spiritual practices that you are able to answer or talk about Dr. Schmidts question – “What is you experience of God?” The mission of the church is to create disciples, not just to inspire belief. And here is the thing, you can’t be a disciple without belief, but the modern world creates plenty of people who confess belief, but who never seem to walk the discipleship road.

All of spirituality starts with the encounter with the living God. Abram living happily in UR being called out. Moses herding sheep when he saw a bush burning. Paul chasing the church on a road to Damascus. Peter casting a net by a lake. Luther in the forest or later his Anfechtung. Wesley’s Aldersgate experience. We are not all called to such dramatic encounters. But we are called to followed…sometimes to wrestle. The spiritual life cannot be sustained without that connection with the living God. The sacramental life of the church is God coming to us. Prayer and other spiritual practice – like the practices of lent of fasting and almsgiving – are our invited response.

So, alongside the series on the place of the law. I’m going to start a series looking at spiritual practices within the life of the church.