Big Ideas about Faith Practices

So much of our faith life is often about what we think – and what we think is very important. How we imagine God, talk about God, what we believe God wants of us and for the world – all of this shapes what we do and say. Our beliefs make a difference.

But faith is not just a matter of the head: it’s also embodied within us. Faith is the practical things we do because of the things we think. Dorothy Bass, the author of the book, Practicing Our Faith, says that,

practices are things Christian people do together over time in response to and light of God’s active presence for the life of the world.

This online class is an invitation into practicing your faith. What that will look like is different for you than it is for your neighbor, or for the person sitting next to you in worship. But some common practices over many generations have come to be regarded as helpful, meaningful, and life - giving for Christians. We’ll look at a few of these over this three - session class and invite you to create some faith practices for yourself.

Session 2

This ten-minute video invites us into this week’s faith practice: Sabbath.

The Sabbath pattern – six days of work followed by a day of rest – is woven throughout the bible. Genesis includes sabbath as a creation of God, built into the very fabric of the earth itself. God commands that the Israelites observe the Sabbath and, during their wilderness wanderings, teaches them this pattern with the daily gathering of manna. The Sabbath command also confronts unjust economies and the institution of slavery – every seventh year and then every 49th year (a sabbath of sabbaths), the people are to flip the world upside down by releasing slaves, returning land to its original owners, and forgive all debts. Sabbath is about rest, but also about freedom and justice.

Many of us crave rest, and yet struggle to carve it out. We are weary of overfilled schedules and busy lives, yet when we stop and ‘do nothing,’ we feel useless and ashamed. Sometimes we find ourselves in patterns we can’t get out of. We or our neighbors may be working many hours at jobs we do not enjoy for money we need simply to survive, and ‘taking a break’ is not an option.

Sabbath can take many forms. Some Jewish scholars are now pointing out that God’s creation of Sabbath invites us into creativity of our own as a way of honoring the seventh day: especially if we lack opportunities to be creative in our daily lives. We may adopt habits of true rest even though it requires us to fight feelings of guilt and shame. We may practice ways of interrupting the economy, such as not purchasing anything for a day or advocating for systemic change.

What Sabbath habits might you practice this week? Pick one or two and try them. Keep track of how it goes and adapt along the way. Remember, this is practice, not perfect! If it doesn’t go the way you expect, just try again.

  1. Pick one day of the week in which you will not purchase anything – in a store or online. What preparation does this require? How does it feel?

  2. “To act as if the world cannot get along with our work for one day out of seven is a startling display of pride that denies the sufficiency of our Maker,” writes Dorothy Bass. (Ouch.) For many of us, electronic devices tempt us into work and worry beyond our actual work day. Choose a time of the day to turn off your email or phone or other device and leave it off for at least a few hours. When you start to worry about work piling up, remind yourself of the gift of Sabbath.

  3. Find a sabbath time in your week to be creative: garden, draw, knit, paint, play. How does this help you connect to God and God’s creativity?

  4. For Christians, worship is central to sabbath because it shapes us into God’s patterns of gathering, scripture, meal, and sending into the world. How might you repeat one of those patterns during your week? Gathering with friends? Reading scripture? Sharing a meal? Serving someone else?

  5. Rest from worry. What activities summon worry or anger in you? Paying bills, doing tax returns, making ‘to do’ lists for the coming week, thinking over old grudges or slights? If you knew you could refrain from those activities for 24 hours every week, how might it change you?

  6. Not everyone can keep Sabbath regularly in our economy. Take time to learn about organizations like Faith Action Network, which advocate for systemic changes that can help decrease the burden on many of our neighbors. You’ll find information on their legislative agenda here.

Session 1

This ten-minute video introduces some general thoughts about faith practices and the first practice we will work on: honoring the body.

A few reminders from the video

  1. Practices address fundamental human needs and conditions through concrete human acts. For example, if you are traveling, you don’t need a sermon on hospitality; you need food and water and a safe place to stay.

  2. Practices are done together over time. We keep doing them even though we are not perfect at it.

  3. Practices possess standards of excellence. This doesn’t mean perfection is the goal: it invites us to work toward something; stretching ourselves to be open to change, which is hard and yet beautiful.

  4. Practices help us see how our daily lives are all tangled up with the things God is doing in the world. The things we already do can be re-interpreted and re-understood in light of our faith.

The practice of honoring the body gives us opportunity to embody the core of faith practices; that they are done with and through our flesh and blood. Western Christian theology and teaching has not always honored the body – quite the opposite. Many of us grew up believing that our bodies were, at best, a temporary home for our spirits – or perhaps that our bodies are dirty, dangerous, unholy.

This week, take time to practice honoring your body. For a more full list of ideas, visit the website for Practicing Our Faith Here are some things you can try:

  1. Many of us are self-conscious about the size or shape of our own bodies. Write done your feelings as you pay attention to honoring your body. What do you affirm and celebrate? What are sources of bodily shame? What ‘childhood tapes’ do you hear regarding your body image? As you grow older what are you learning about caring for your body?

  2. As you walk or move during the day, practice giving thanks for a particular part of your body. What does it feel like to be grateful for your hands, feet, ears, nose...or another part of your body?

  3. Our bodies have a variety of capacities, abilities, and disabilities. How could you increase the ways you move your body during the day and approach that as a faith practice? Could you take an extra walk; adopt a practice of stretching or breathing; how could you approach movement and exercise as a faith practice?

  4. We have many good and appropriate boundaries around touch. However, our increasing isolation from one another can prevent even healthy and good touch from happening – hugs, handshakes, etc. How has touch played a good role in your life? How could you approach touch as a faith practice?

Choose one of these or any way of honoring the body and create at least one practical step you will try this week. Take notes on it and see how you change and grow as you try it. Remember, don’t just think: do! And don’t try for perfection. Just try something, and change and learn and grow along the way.