I use a small blue lectionary as part of my sacred reading time in the mornings. It's called A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants and is published by Upper Room. Each week, you read into the coming Sunday's lectionary readings, and the readings for each day follow a liturgy that includes an opening invocation, a psalm, a daily Scripture, the Sunday readings, other devotional readings from various sources, an invitation to prayer, a hymn, and a closing benediction.
I haven't used it faithfully, but I love using it when I do, and part of my sabbatical rhythm has been a return to this practice in the mornings — which, again, has not happened faithfully but is on the track of progress.
One reason I love this lectionary is that it keeps me in tune with the movement of the church year. So, for instance, I was aware this past week that we were reading into Christ the King Sunday, which was yesterday — the final Sunday in the church year, before Advent begins a new church year this coming Sunday.
Christ the King Sunday. I can't say I've ever felt a particular connection to this holy day. I could barely tell you what it signifies, actually, beyond an awareness that it is our herald of Christ as king of the universe. Theologically, in my head, I agree with that. But I've never had an opportunity for the acknowledgment of this day to touch my heart — until this past week, when I was reading into the feast day with my lectionary and noticing its connection points to this new season of sabbatical for me.
Through the week, I found myself stopping to think of the notion of Christ as king. What does it mean for him to be my king? What impact ought that make in my life?
I thought of seemingly small things, like this return to contemplative rhythms in my mornings. It's not been an easy shift, as I've built up pretty strong habits in a different direction for some time now. First thing upon waking, I would do a quick check on my phone of my three email inboxes, my Facebook notifications, and my Instagram notifications. Then I would fill my coffee tumbler and settle in on the couch for a deeper read of my Facebook newsfeed and a full scroll of my Instagram feed.
One of the fruits of my first retreat last month with the Transforming Community was a deep knowing that these habits needed to change. They were fragmenting and distressing my mind, body, and soul. Increasingly, I found stillness difficult. And for someone who is called to a contemplative way of life and to live out her vocation in online spaces, I knew what was happening was not good or in line with my call.
So in the aftermath of that first retreat, I've been seeking to return to contemplative rhythms. In the mornings, this means no phone-checking and instead settling in for a while with my lectionary, the Scriptures, and other sacred reading books.
Like I said, it has been a challenge to change my morning habits. I don't do this other path faithfully every day. Sometimes I still end up on the couch, scrolling my Facebook feed.
So, what does it mean for Christ to be my king? Perhaps it means trusting that this return to a different way of starting my mornings is truly good for my soul, that it is the way he designed my soul to live and flourish, that doing my mornings in that other way only leads to continued fragmentation and disintegration. What would happen to my soul over time if I continued to live that way?
Can I let myself instead live under the headship of a king who designed me to live a different way and may ask me to conform my life to that way of being in the world accordingly — even if it takes me away from what I think will keep me relevant and in the know about what's happening in the world?
This morning, at the start of a new week, I turned in my lectionary to the readings for the week leading into the first Sunday of Advent. And in the Scripture selections, I found two lines from different passages that seemed to speak to one another.
First there was Matthew 3, which spoke of John the Baptist by saying:
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.'"
Then there was Isaiah, who spoke of people saying:
"Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths."
The Lord's way and ways. What are those? The preparing of his path and the walking in it. What might that look like?
These images of God's ways and paths feel connected to my meditation on Christ as king — that there is a way in which God fashioned the world to exist and for us, for me, to live in it.
Will I submit myself to those ways and paths? Will I let him be my king?
One thing I can say is that I am back on the path and finding my way there again, through this sabbatical. I'm grateful for that.