Christian Spirituality Lecture by Rev. Dr. John Kleinig, Lecture 2
Back in the winter of 2003, I was blessed to take a course at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, in St. Catharines, Ontario, with Rev. Dr. John Kleinig, who was in St. Catharines on faculty exchange from the Lutheran Seminary in Adelaide, Australia. The course was called Christian Spirituality. This is the second in a series of fourteen lectures. I will add each lecture as I recorded them by hand. As I heard Dr. Kleinig teach and then wrote down my notes please understand this is not necessarily what he said word for word but my quick writing of what he said. If you see a phrase and not a full sentence that is because that is what I wrote down before moving on to what he said next. Any theological error should be ascribed to me, not to him. I hope these lectures are a blessing for you as they were for me almost 20 years ago.
Please note: All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version. ESV Text Edition: 2016. Copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Date: January 28, 2003
This course will be of no use if it remains theoretical. It is like marriage. No book deals with your own personal experience of marriage. So we will talk in practical terms about devotional life.
There are three big enemies of devotional life:
- Obligation – you have to do this or if you don’t you are not a Christian. We don’t have to do devotions but we’d be damned fools if we didn’t. The problem is that we go from Gospel to Law and the devil rides us for all its worth.
- Guilt – Closely related to obligation. You are not sinning if you don’t do devotions. But the devil tries to use the law to drive us to obligation and guilt.
- Boredom – Spiritual boredom because I’m the one who is always putting in. You need to keep your devotional life fresh and move from doing too receiving. God’s word is living and active, new and exciting. We’ve only discovered a tiny sliver of God. It’s going to develop, unfold.
These are the three enemies of the spiritual life. The secret is to get a daily routine which is both fixed and open-ended. The first goal is to get set times. Then once in routine you don’t ask yourself, “Am I going to do this, this morning?” You don’t ask yourself if you have to brush your teeth. The best times are the beginning of the day and the end of the day. Dr. Kleinig says that he is the centre of his day. The problem he says is that I am not at the centre of my existence. Other people and Jesus are at the heart of our life. When we are asleep God is at work. He has been talking to you all day but we aren’t listening. The problem is that we are acting like God. We need to get a briefing from God right at the start of the day. The end of the day is good to look back and see what God has been seeing or doing through the day. God has been working to us through others or through us to others. But in our lives, marriages and in each day we usually only see God or our actions in looking back. We leave all of the finished or unfinished business of the day with God. Secondly, don’t only have the same time but the same place. My body is just as important to my spiritual life as my brain. Be physically comfortable and relaxed. Dr. Kleinig sits down and has his devotions after breakfast so he’s not hungry. Thirdly, have a set order. Here the keep it simple stupid principle applies-but have an order that is flexible to let the Holy Spirit surprise you. That routine is best linked to public worship, to the liturgy, because we never pray alone. It is good to connect your readings to last Sunday’s readings. The routine also has to fit your character. Luther was a bit of a manic depressive so his whole devotional life was on his feet. For a mother this would be when her baby is asleep. What will work best for a person in their devotional life depends on your particular character type and place in life. You also want a routine that is theologically and spiritually sound: one that is Gospel and not Law. Prayer is not a matter of doing but gift, receiving. If you don’t receive you will start to play act. As Lutherans, we teach justification by faith through grace but in our prayer life we practise justification by works. In prayer we live by grace, the power of the Holy Spirit. Living by grace is asking for everything you need and receive. Coming with empty hands and receiving what God gives us. Contrary to Pentecostal teaching you don’t receive the Holy Spirit once in baptism and that’s it. We receive Him every day of our life. Indwelling of the Holy Spirit – picture in Scripture is our body as a temple and Christ and the Holy Spirit going…
We receive from God by
*resting from work
*being with God
*listening to God
*responding to God as being led by the Holy Spirit
In practice this means just receiving. What do you have that you have not received. (How do you intercede for others? By praying God casts mercy on them.). The more you receive the more you can give.
The best pattern of devotional life combines disciplined listening to God’s Word and receiving. Listening in order to receive. I can expect that since the Spirit is the power of God that something will happen, not just focus on listening.
listen + receive (then in middle word “God” on top with word “us” below with arrows going vertically up and down between these words) speak —> gives Holy Spirit
Listening is hard because we want to talk. Luther puts this to Peter the barber, you listen to the Word of God until the Word speaks to you. Then you don’t go on to the next verse but stop and listen. These revelations are usually of the mundane form.
Aside: When Dr. Kleinig got married he gave his love to his wife on a particular day. Is that then the end of the story? Love is not something you possess. It is always given and always received. The love is made available at marriage. This is only foundational. [End aside]
The Holy Spirit is not a thing, but a Person. He is always given but not possessed. In Ephesians 5, Paul says let Go fill you with the Spirit. Every day we begin with devotions to receive the Holy Spirit.
What is Luther’s explanation to the petition: Thy kingdom come? Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray for the Holy Spirit.
This course is not about human spirituality but about the Holy Spirit. The big thing about Pentecost is that it is not particular people receive the Holy Spirit like in the Old Testament but that the whole community does. The fact that we receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism is not the end of the story but the start of it. The end of the story is our death and subsequent resurrection in Christ.
Dr. Kleinig suggests a devotional life around 3…
- Recollection/Concentration: a diagram of arrows moving away from a central point and coming back to it.
Becoming still in God’s presence. As the Psalmist says, wait on the Lord. This means doing nothing but expecting God to do things. For Dr. Kleinig this is the invocation or “Dear Father/Jesus, give me your Holy Spirit. Amen.” This is important because when you open yourself up you want to open yourself up only to the Holy Spirit.
For most of us when we wait thoughts come and go. Instead of fighting them just let them come and go wherever they want to. At the beginning of the day usually the schedule for the day pops up. And you’d better get going right away! After this you being to get restless and want to be busy. Then think about people. Then you go next into daydream mode. This is more passive-receptive. The if you sit it through long enough you feel settled and the racing feeling goes.
- Day —> work —> busy [Work]
- People [People]
- Daydream – important because it shows where your heart is. [Me]
- Settledness —> Jesus
Christ is at the bottom of this pyramid. The Holy Spirit is at work here. The Holy Spirit is planning the day for you. These are also the things (not only that you need to do) but to pray for. So that God will work. Without knowing God is giving you meditations: about your work; people who are important to you and about yourself. Take all of this as guidance by the Holy Spirit.
Next, go to your set Scripture reading for the day. Read it out loud. Where something touches you stop. Especially where it touches something that you thought about before. Read slowly and repeat. Don’t just read each verse once.
Finish with prayer. Pray about what you read and thought.
- Quiet time
- Listening to meditating on the word of God
- Pray about 1 and 2
Aside: Pastoral care is particularly listening to people. Asking them questions gets them to reflect on what God has done in their lives. Eugene Peterson has a great chapter on spiritual direction. There is no uniformity in the way God works in people’s lives. For us to see our future we need to walk backwards into the future. [End Aside]
For the rest of today and next week we will look at the connection between spirituality and experience. The most fundamental way people have been shaped in the last 60 years is by the T.V. What effect has T.V. had on life? T.V. has made us switch from living life to observing it. Our basic mode of participation is observing and at second hand. T.V. is very personal. It maximizes emotional impact. It gives you the sense of intimacy. With pornography there is the illusion of this intimacy, but it is fake. T.V. is a more dramatic version of what is really going on. For all things, T.V. gives us a second hand experience of the world. What effect is this having on me and you? People are becoming dissatisfied with ordinary living. We want something extraordinary. We now have a whole new set of industries.
- Primary industries: e.g. grain and timber
- Secondary: products
- Tertiary: services
- Fourth: new experiences
The church has been influenced by these. Coke ads were the first ads who sold not a product but an experience. The church now markets spiritual experiences. What is going on here? If we tie up ourselves in the notion of experiences, then spiritually people will go to a church that is more lively. We are trained that what you cannot see is not real. God is hidden in the Divine service. We can’t see forgiveness or Christ’s real body and blood. There is an impact on our spiritual lives as we seek God. In our society, experiences only count if they are what…?
- Have impact – personal and emotional (big heavy emotions)
- Extraordinary visually
- Appeals to sympathy
This is all carried over into what we all look for in worship. In their own lives they want God coming down in some extraordinary way. In the old days experience was everything that happened in their lives. An intense experience happens only once in a while.
The Holy Spirit is there to help us every moment of our boring lives. But what the world counts as boring is spiritually extraordinary. Ordinary people leading holy lives is the largest factor that will draw non-Christians to Christ. Today this is especially true with regards to sexuality.
Spirituality involves our experience of the Triune God. This is hidden to others when they look at us. To make sense of another’s life you have to know how they experience God. Our experience of God involves our practise of faith through hearing the Word. This invisible side is connected to God, all the angels and even Satan. Through God’s Word we receive the Holy Spirit. This is the objective side. Each of us appropriates the Holy Spirit differently. It is the subjective side.
Dangers to the Faith
- We can know about faith. Intellectual faith.
- We can have faith but in our ordinary life we live as if there is no God, e.g. being married but acting as if we are not married.
Spirituality means what we live and believe and experience come together.
God’s Word creates my faith. It also shapes my experience (especially troubles, sickness, death and the good things in life). Yet my faith helps me understand my experience and my experience helps me to understand the Christin faith.
Our Christian Spirituality involves the interplay of these three things.