Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:7-10)
“How is it with your soul?” was always the first question my spiritual director would ask as we met together. Some days I’d be excited, feeling as if I was swimming in the abundance of God’s love and grace. Other days I was more frustrated. The answer to that question determined the course of our conversation at each meeting. And I noticed that the state of my soul depended on what preoccupied my mind. When I was drawing near to God, God was right there. But when I was distracted by conflicts, or worried about the opinion of others, the state of my soul suffered.
During the season of Lent, we are invited on a spiritual adventure of drawing near to God. Spiritual disciplines, often referred to as “means of grace,” are ways of drawing near to God. God works within us strengthening and confirming our faith so that God’s grace flows in and through us. We often think of these means of grace in terms of acts of piety and acts of mercy.
Acts of piety are practices which strengthen our love for God. These include reading, meditating and studying the Scriptures; prayers; fasting or self-denial; regular attendance at worship and sharing in the sacraments; healthy living; accountability to one another; and sharing our faith with others.
Acts of mercy are practices which strengthen our love for our neighbor. These include doing good works; visiting the sick and those in prison; feeding the hungry; giving generously; and working together to seek justice, end oppression and discrimination, and address the needs of the poor.
We are a church on a mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Engaging in the means of grace empowers the church as we are guided by the Holy Spirit to accomplish our mission.