Works of Piety – Communal

Today, we’ll look at the second part of the Works of Piety, what I might call the “going out to eat with others part.” I would not recommend trying to add all of the Means of Grace into your daily routine at once, pick one or two to work on between now and the start of Lent (March 6).

Communal Practices – regularly share in the sacraments, Christian conferencing (accountability to one another), and Bible study

Communal practices are those that are done with others. Sometimes we prefer to keep our spiritual side personal and not practice with others, the challenge that only practicing individual works presents is that we really miss out on what others can bring to help nurture and challenge us. We also miss the opportunity to be the person someone else needs in their journey.

  1. Regularly Share in the Sacraments. In the United Methodist Church, we recognize two sacraments: baptism and Holy Communion. My first thought was that we can regularly practice the latter, but since we are only baptized once, not the former.

    When we participate in Holy Communion, we accept and receive the Holy Spirit into ourselves, so that we are strengthened to go out into the world as Christ’s representative. We generally practice it on the first Sunday of each month. Next time, listen to the liturgy as we move through it.

    With baptism, we are invited into the journey of each person being baptized. The congregation response is:
    With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ.
    We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust of God, and be found faithful in their service to others.
    We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples
       who walk in the way that leads to life

    Consider all of the people who have been baptized in church and over whom you have made this pledge. Perhaps sharing in the sacrament of baptism over time is practicing that promise.For more info on both, visit http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/sacraments
  2. Christian Conferencing is not something that we typically do much anymore, yet it was the foundation of early Methodism.  John Wesley formed people into groups, called classes, and in them people were expected to share how did over the previous week.  The primary question was, “how is it with your soul?” People were expected to be present every week and essentially go through a list of things, like the means of grace, and share how they did with each. It wasn’t about judgment, rather it was a place to offer encouragement and to help one another grow by sharing how they found ways to succeed. This kind of group is not focused on a curriculum or on learning any material, it’s a group designed to “spur one another on to love and good deeds…” *

    Consider shifting a group you are currently involved with, or forming a new group of just a few people to help hold you accountable to the life of discipleship. Let me know if there’s a way I can help!

Bible Study as a communal work is when we get together with others and discuss passages from the Bible. We often read commentaries on our own or get together to discuss books on Christian living or the commentaries and both of those are beneficial, but there is something that really ignites a spark when people gather and seek to get to the meat of the biblical text itself. Commentaries are helpful to supplement the text and conversation. 

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