When I go on vacation I often take a book I've been meaing to read for a while but just haven't gotten around to it. This last vacation I brought a book of daily refelctions called To Live In God: Daily reflections With Walter Rauschenbusch. Rauschenbusch was a Northern (now American) Baptist (1861–1918) who pastored a Baptist church in Hell's Kitchen and also taught at the Rochester Theological Seminary. He is considered the "father" of the Social Gospel movement.
I selected this book expecting to have it give focus for my days as I hiked in the desert of Arizona. What I didn't expect to discover was the powerful reminder about Rauschenbusch's inner life as the engine for his outer actions. Dennis Johnson, in his introduction, reminds the reader that Rauschenbusch's "passion for social transformation was the imperative of his deep spiritual life with God. His social activism arose from his inner life." Ah... the reminder that Jesus went off by himself to pray many times.
It is not frivolous or self absorbed to need to nurture a personal relationship with the Divine. It is actually the fuel that makes our ability to enact a mission and vision based in our understanding of the Gospel message, to "love your neighbor as yourself," possible. To Seek Justice and Love Kindness requires us to Walk Humbly WITH God as often as possible.
Perhaps, you are like me. You know when it is easier to walk with God. For me, that has usually been when things are hard. I need the daily practice of study, prayer and meditation to keep steady in the storms. But when things are good? It is just too easy to be grateful and complacent. What reading this book is opening for me is the space to know that I need a daily practice, regardless of how well my life is going. A daily practice of walking humbly with God is the fuel that will keep me on the path of justice and mercy. It is the food that my soul needs to remain fed. It is the light that will illuminate the world around me so I don't get lost.
Rauschenbusch wrote in 1900. "With many, I fear, the religious habits and the intercourse with God have waned as the social interest grew... The souls filled with the life of God are the fountains from which all life-giving impulses flow out into the life of society." He was reflecting on those who became obsessed with the outer life and forgot to feed their inner lives, subsequently loosing their faith in God and humanity.
I am grateful for my time away and the reminder that a daily practice is necessary in a world of such great "social interest." I am grateful to be in this company of "saints" and remind you to take the time to study, pray and meditate daily so you can be filled as well. The mission and vision for this congregation depend upon our commitment to these things.
Let us keep walking humbly together,