Sunday, May 9, 2010
The Dance of Discipleship
Today's post is from an important EasyYolk sojourner and conversation partner. Rev. Dale Fredrickson (pictured right with daughter Irayna) is the senior pastor at United Methodist-Presbyterian Church in Rifle, CO. He and his wife Stacy have been on a journey of rediscovering God over the past decade since they met during their days at Colorado Christian University. In this post, he describes his experience of God through a variety of "dances" in his life. We are compelled by Fredrickson's holistic conviction that life is a series of dances that we must practice consistently and intentionally in order to experience God's pursuit of us more fully. After all, experiencing God doesn't "just happen."
Throughout my life I’ve experienced God as a dynamic and ever-present force. What’s more, in the midst of life’s ebbs and flows and highs and lows—-God’s presence patiently pursues me and lovingly guides me. God’s lead of love stirs, and at times unnerves, but ultimately transforms me. I came to understand my experience of God through a number of different dances. My dance began and continues to be deeply rooted in the local Church.
I first learned to dance with God through the witness of the Church. The ministry of the Church continually invites me to the adventure of discipleship. This journey is a lifetime apprenticeship in the ‘way of Jesus.’ The church challenges me to embody Jesus’ teachings and pattern of life revealed in the Sermon on the Mount. I strive to embody the Christian virtues of ‘love,’ ‘justice,’ and ‘hope.’ The Church also encourages me to live in relationship to the liturgical seasons of birth, death, and resurrection. It’s through the rhythms of anticipation, joy, self-reflection, and despair that I find new life, hope, and resurrection. It’s by learning Jesus’ moves in community that I experience hope and proclaim “I am a new creation: the old is gone the new has come.”
And, as I learn this dance, I am given a new identity and I place radical relational trust in Jesus and in Jesus’ vision for a new world. I’ve also experienced God, through the Church’s call to repentance. Through the season of lent, I’ve experienced the Spirit penetrating my jadedness and fatigue and birthing new visions within me. Paul’s profession becomes my own. “For I have been crucified with Christ, and no longer live, but Christ lives within me, and the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
The Church has taught me the dance of freedom—-the classic Christian disciplines of silence, solitude, fasting, prayer, service, worship, and scripture. It’s in the silence that the Spirit frees me from the enticements of the American Empire, i.e. “free-market fundamentalism, aggressive militarism, and authoritarianism” (see Cornel West's Democracy Matters). It’s through communal practice that I root myself in a new identity—-an identity rooted in a prophetic vision of Christian witness. It’s through my commitment to these Christian practices that I’m empowered to live a life of generosity, hospitality, non-violent love, and ever widening openness to my neighbors near and far. I’ve experienced hope, deep joy, and abundant life through sharing this dance with brothers and sisters inside and outside the faith community.
Another dance I’m learning is the dance of creation. I dance with God as I bear witness to the creator’s masterpieces: the grandeur and sheer beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the spectacular sunrises at the Grand Canyon, and the calming rhythms of Ocean waves up and down the California Coastlines. In the dance of creation, I’m moved inwardly and proclaim with the psalmists: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” As I observe new growth on pine trees, and the bursting forth of spring’s organic array of colors, I remember Jesus’ use of metaphor. “I am the vine and you are the branches.” And through creation, I heed the call to “abide” in dynamic relational trust with God.
My grounding in the Church opened my eyes to the dance of critical studies. Through a commitment to ever widening, far reaching, and deeply probing critical academic discussions I’m corrected, rebuked, and humbled by God’s beauty revealed in so many ways. And even though, at times, this dance is uncomfortable—I’m strengthened in love for God and become a more faithful witness to the Gospel. So, I experience God through a steady and consistent diet of the New York Times articles and academic essays in religion, psychology, philosophy, theology, literature, and American History.
And, at times, I experience God through a funky dance—-the absolute random beauty of human life. In all these ways and more I see and experience God: through an encouraging email or letter, a handshake or hug, the laughter and imagination of children, random acts of kindness and service, a good joke, and a fragrant and noisy fart in a moment of seriousness.
Through an ongoing dance with God I’m learning several things. First, God is good and a creative creator. Second, God is personal. Relationships are the hummus and falafel of human existence. Learning another person, especially God, demands we cultivate moral and intellectual capacities. Learning another person demands trust, respect, attentiveness, silence, time, suffering, creative fidelity. Third, God is not stagnant but a transformative force of love in the world. God urges human flourishing and growth. God is concerned about holistic personal and global change as the call to the “Kingdom of God” demonstrates. May we learn the dance and dance well.