From the rule of St. Benedict, Sixth Century A.D. “If any pilgrim monk come from distant parts, with wish as a guest to dwell in the monastery, and will be content with the customs which he finds in the place, and do not perchance by his lavishness disturb the monastery, but is simply content with what he finds, he shall be received, for as long a time as he desires. If, indeed, he find fault with anything, or expose it, reasonably, and with the humility of charity, the Abbot shall discuss it prudently, lest perchance God has sent him for this very thing. But if he have been found gossipy and contumacious in the time of his sojourn as guest, not only ought he not to be joined to the body of the monastery, but also it shall be said to him, honestly, that he must depart. If he does not go, let two stout monks, in the name of God, explain the matter to him.
True hospitality to the pilgrim is difficult enough, but dealing with someone that disrupts the community is even harder. The solution proposed by Benedict is quite radical by our standards. Perhaps the 21st century could learn from him. Who knows?
- The Rule of St. Benedict (knowltonss.wordpress.com)
This past weekend I had the pleasure of sitting under the teaching of Dr. Elaine Heath, who is Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology. Her topic was “New Monasticism.” She shared ways that people can band together in intentional communities, and what it would take for that to be successful. Elaine, with a group of others, has formed the institute for Missional Wisdom. This institute has proposed a “Rule of Life” for those who want to commit to living in community. I would like to set forth this rule as not only a way to live in community, but also a way for individuals to live a Christ centered life. I want to share it with you today.
RULE OF LIFE
Our Rule of Life is based Wesley’s General Rules, the membership vows of the United Methodist Church and St. Benedict’s Rule. We believe this rule opens our eyes to God’s grace, balances life and enables us to pursue holiness in all aspects of daily living.
OUR RULE OF LIFE
- We will pray daily
- We will use a variety of forms of prayer such as the reflective reading of Scripture and other spiritual texts, confession, the prayer of Examen, intercession, journaling, and contemplation.
- We will fast from food once a week (either a full or partial fast)
- We will practice a contemplative stance in order to be present to God, the world, and ourselves
- We will be hospitable to our neighbors in our families, neighborhoods and workplaces
- We will be hospitable to our faith community through participation in our worship, fellowship and mission
- We will honor and care for the gift of the earth and its resources, practicing ecologically responsible living, striving for simplicity rather than excessive consumption
- We will practice generosity in sharing our material resources, including money, within and beyond this community
- We will serve God and neighbor out of gratitude for the love of God
- We will practice mutual accountability with a covenant group within the community, for how we serve God and neighbor
- We will practice regular Sabbath as a means of renewal so that we can lovingly serve God and neighbor
- We will practice racial and gender reconciliation
- We will resist evil and injustice
- We will pursue peace with justice
- We will share the redeeming, healing, creative love of God in word, deed and presence as an invitation to others to experience the transforming love of God.
I commit to this rule of life and to the well-being of this community, out of gratitude to God who forgives, heals, and makes all things new. May my life be a blessing within and beyond God’s church, for the transformation of the world.
Benedict delivers his rule to the Monks
To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.
——Rule of St. Benedict
Perhaps it is not too popular these days to speak of our Christian journey as a battle complete with weapons, however, we are called to be witnesses to our faith in the Christ. In his Rule, Benedict gives us guidance and advice that facilitates our journey. Remember, the primary purpose of the Rule was to adjust to living in community. Interestingly enough, the biggest challenge in Christianity today is inner conflict. For that reason, I would suggest that Benedict’s words are very timely.
Today’s advice is to set aside your will, and pride I might add, to do battle under the Christ. For under Him we find peace, strength, harmony and the partnership we need to live our days in this world – to live them as not a mere existence of futility, but with a sense of vitality and vigor that pleases God and man. For us to surrender to the Messiah and let him guide us gives us a fuller and more satisfying life.