Your Spiritual Temperament and Holy Week

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“Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength…”

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There is a really clever posting online making the rounds in recent days called the “Holy Week Myers-Briggs” (March 17, 2015) by Trevor McMaken. Its “home” is an Episcopal Church up in Chicago, Illinois, The Church of the Resurrection to in Wheaton to be exact. It deserves a look.  You will find it at http://www.churchrez.org/news/holy-week-myers-briggs.

Trevor McMaken explains –

Everyone engages with Holy Week—the week leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection—in different ways. Some celebrate. Others contemplate. Some like it loud and laudable, others need things barely audible. And the beauty of Holy Week is that with so many different services, there are opportunities for all of these expressions of worship. You can be stretched in the less comfortable parts and be fully at home in the places where you connect easily, whether that’s with your hands in the air or in your pockets.

MeyerAccording to the Myers-Briggs assessment I am an “I.N.T.J.”  – and decisively so.  This is the supposed spiritual temperament of “St. Thomas Aquinas,” and so the “Holy Week Myers-Briggstells me –

You know exactly what liturgically appropriate clothing you are going to wear to each service.  The most emotional you get during Holy Week is when you feel a “stirring” at Maundy Thursday.  Also, you hate it when people mispronounce “Maundy.”

As they say, “if the shoe fits…”

The 16 Myers-Briggs spiritual types group under four very broad temperaments: The Ignatian “SJ” Temperament, the Augustinian “NF” Temperament, the Franciscan “SP” Temperament and the Thomistic “NT” Temperament.   Without too much squeezing these four spiritual temperaments match up pretty nicely with Corrine Ware’s four Spiritual Types that we’ve been working with this Lent here at Northway – Heart (Franciscan SP – feelings), Soul (Augustinian NF – depth), Mind (Thomistic NT – thinking) and Strength (Ignatian SJ – activist).  These four spiritual types and their “best” practices are what we are exploring in our Wednesday evening Lenten Series gatherings and in our Sunday morning electives classes.  We are thinking and talking together at every opportunity this Lent about what it means to love God with all of our heart, and with all of our soul, and with all of our mind, and with all of our strength.  And the “Holy Week Myers-Briggs” post got me to thinking about what Holy Week would be like if it was approached with all of our heart, and with all of our soul, and with all of our mind, and with all of our strength?

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Holy Week with “all your Heart”

At some point during Holy Week, perhaps more than once, we will sing the old spiritual “Were You There?”

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Holy Week with “all your heart” would, I suspect, involve such “trembling.”

Growing up in California, you don’t hear much about Santa Anna and the Alamo. Who you do hear about is Fr. Junipero Serra and the 21 Franciscan missions stretching from San Diego in the south to Sonoma in the north. Every kid raised in California gets his or her fill of missions before puberty.  I had personally visited 8 of them by the time I was ten, and had made the obligatory model of one of them out of play dough and popsicle sticks when I was in the fourth grade.  And so needless to say, I was less than thrilled when a group from my church insisted on stopping at the Mission San Buenaventura in Ventura, California, on the way home from a weekend retreat in Santa Barbara.

houseI drug myself through the restored buildings and gardens of this historic mission, the ninth and last that Father Serra himself personally founded.  We traipsed as a group through the sanctuary with its adobe walls 6½ feet thick as a precaution against earthquakes as our tour guide rattled on and on about all the historic artifacts and lovely art works that could be found there.  And then as we turned to leave, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a crucifix at the altar on the left side of the church.  I had never seen anything quite like it before.  It was life-sized, anatomically correct crucifixand gruesome in detail.  Where Christ had been pierced there was blood.  Where Christ had been beaten there was gore.  Where Christ had been bruised there was sweat.  I had seen lots of crosses before.  On most of them there was no body, and on those that had a body, the Christ who was nailed there seemed to reign with a look of calm repose on His face.  But on this cross I saw at the mission, Christ’s body was twisted in pain and His face was contorted with anguish.  It was all so realistic that it startled me.  I stopped dead in my tracks and just stared.  And as I gazed on that image of Christ’s suffering, it dawned on me, for the very first time in my life, that this was how much God really loved me.  Jesus Christ was on that cross for me!  I guess I had heard that all of my life.  I probably knew it in an abstract sort of way.  But standing there in front of that life-sized, physically accurate crucifix on the side altar in the sanctuary of the Mission San Buenaventura in 1965, I got it for the first time, and I trembled.  And Holy Week “with all your heart” will take you to that same place.

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Holy Week with “all your Soul”

This past Sunday in the worship rotation it was my turn to pray the Morning Prayer.  Being the last Sunday of Lent on the church calendar, I prayed –

Lord, our journey to Easter has turned the corner and is heading for home.  Today we find ourselves stand on the precipice of Holy Week.  From here we can hear the shouts of “Hosanna!” From here we can taste the bread and cup of the Last Supper, feel the wounds of the cross, see the sealed tomb and smell the fear and despair of shattered expectations.  This is familiar terrain.  We know this story well.  We know how it unfolds and where it winds up. 

Save us, Lord, from familiarity and complacency; from the boredom and inertia of being old hands at all of this.  We’ve sung all of the hymns before.  We’ve heard all of the sermons before.   We’ve gone through all of the rituals before.  We’ve prayed all of the liturgies before.  Our appetites have been honed by a culture that craves the new and improved, so teach us to love the old, old story.  Send your Spirit to close the circuit between the needs of our hearts and world, and the promises of grace that you made for us in Jesus Christ. 

Help us to discover the Gospel again, Lord, not just on the pages of Scripture and in the traditions of the church, but in the twists and turns of our lives and in the hopes and hurts of the world.

  • On Palm Sunday, when we hear about Christ’s triumphal entry, help us to join the shout of the crowd as they cry out for salvation.  Come as Prophet, Priest and King into our hearts and into this church to be our way, our truth and our life. 
  • On Maundy Thursday, when we hear about the Last Supper, make room at that table for us; a place where we can love and be loved; a place where we can belong and believe.
  • On Good Friday, as we hear about the way of the cross, gather up our suffering, and the suffering of the whole world, and carry it to the heart of the Father. 
  • On Holy Saturday, when we hear about Christ in the tomb and the disciples behind closed doors, come and sit with us in our own fears and disappointments.
  • And on Easter Sunday, when we hear about the empty tomb and the Risen Christ, shift our gaze from then to now, giving us hope for the possibilities of the newness of life, both abundant and eternal.

We don’t need another history lesson, Lord.  We need the assurance of your presence in our lives that are filled with struggle, and we need the provision of your grace to continue to live courageously and compassionately in this very scary world of ours.  We need to know where you are and what you are doing, Lord, so bring us to Holy Week where your story and our stories can intersect and intertwine once again, and then anchor us there where we can know that “resurrection is stronger than crucifixion, that forgiveness is stronger than bitterness, that reconciliation is stronger than hatred, and that light is stronger than darkness,” we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

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Holy Week “with all your soul,” while not disregarding the historicity of the events of salvation history, will nevertheless push past what happened to get at why it happened and why it matters.

cross  Holy Week with “all your Mind”

Scott Dawson Gerritt, a Presbyterian minister over in Louisiana, says that he reads lots of theology books.  He says that it’s his job to do so, and that it’s his passion as well.  “But every time I pick one up,” he writes, “I raise a silent challenge – “Make me sing.”  Scott explains –

The knowledge of God and the praise of God, theology and doxology, belong together. They are dance partners in the fulfillment of our chief end as human beings – to glorify and enjoy God forever. Theology that doesn’t make us sing has failed in its mission, no matter how correct it may be.

bookdAnd so, every Holy Week I read a book. That’s not news.  I read books every week.  But during Holy Week each year I choose to read a book that will take me deeper into my understanding of and appreciation for the Passion of Jesus Christ.   Some of the books that I’ve read about the Passion of Christ during Holy Week through the years include Cardinal Basil Hume’s The Mystery of the Cross (Paraclete Press – 1998), Archbishop George Carey’s The Gate of the Cross (Eedrmans – 1993), Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ Death on a Friday Afternoon (Basic Books – 2000), Leon Morris’ The Story of the Cross (Eerdmans – 1957), Jim Bishop’s The Day Christ Died (Harper – 1957),  Stephen Cottrell’s “I Thirst” – The Cross–The Great Triumph of Love (Zondervan – 2003), Alister McGrath’s What Was God Doing on the Cross?  (Zondervan – 1992), Tom Smail’s Windows on the Cross (Cowley – 1996), Geoffrey Rowell and Julien Chilcott-Monk’s Flesh, Bone, Wood: Entering into the Mysteries of the Cross (Canterbury Press – 2001) and Jerome Machar’s Cross of Death, Tree of Life  (Ave Maria Press – 1996).  The intention of this exercise each year is not “informational” but “formational.”  I want to sing.  I think that Holy Week “with all your mind” should help us to do this each year.

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Holy Week with “all your Strength”

fireThe late Calvin Miller in his book The Table of Inwardness (IVP 1984) wrote about a priest he knew who happened upon a terrible accident where a wrecked gasoline transport trapped a family in a small car while the engulfing flames burned them to death. Not knowing what else to do, that priest knelt down on the highway in the intense heat, his small frame silhouetted against the bright flames, and he prayed.  Calvin Miller called this “Christifying” the situation.

Christifying is consciously viewing people and circumstances with the eyes of Christ.   Ordinary events become cosmic when seen this way… In Christifying, the whole world will speak to us and shout to us of the reality of God…  I love sitting in an air terminal and looking at those scurrying by – unaware of the Christ who smiles and waits to show them his gracious love… I generally think of Christifying my world as painting the face of the Savior on the anxious, hurried faces about me.  I write “I.N.R.I.” (Latin: “Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum” ~ English: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews) on the most tangled of circumstances.  As soon as they are autographed with his name, they yield to meaning and to life (75-76).

Dr. Frank Mabee of blessed memory used to tell me when he was my Area Minister in Houston that I should go out and find a good crucifixion when the demands and pressures of institutional church life got to be too much for me.  He said that nothing would restore my passion for Gospel ministry quicker than finding somebody somewhere who was suffering and trying to do something about it.  Holy Week with “all your strength” will get you busy “Christifying” the hopes and hurts of the world.

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So, with Holy Week just around the corner, what are you going to do to enhance your own observance of these defining days of our salvation in Jesus Christ?  This year I encourage you to approach Holy Week with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and with all of your strength.  See what happens when you bring all of yourself to experience of the Gospel.  I don’t think that you will be disappointed. DBS+

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