Friday, September 28, 2012

Thank you, Benedict...


Way back in the fifth century, a monk named Benedict developed guidelines for his monastic community and The Rule of Benedict has been in use ever since. Benedict offered a way of listening to God in a safe, faith-filled community where like-minded believers may learn to practice the disciplines of prayer, healthy relationships, and good works. Over the years, many have followed Benedict’s suggestions.

Here comes Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen A. Macchia, published by InterVarsity Press (ivpress.com), and offering a contemporary approach, adapting St. Benedict’s Rule to our cultural situations today. This material could be used personally or in a group and it includes workbook pages so readers may begin to compose their own rule as they study how to do it.

Macchia suggests that a rule is like a trellis that supports and guides a plant as it grows. A rule could help us as we grow into the plants/people God wants us to be. Most of us probably don’t realize that we have a rule we live by without knowing it as our rule. It consists of what we do each day—our personal schedule. Maybe it is haphazard, thrown together by the circumstances of our lives. But maybe, suggests Macchia, it is time to give up that circumstantial rule and take time to sit down and prayerfully write a new personal rule, one that "more closely matches the heartbeat of God."

His book has three parts and the key words in the titles are: framing, forming, and fulfilling (Your Personal Rule of Life). In the framing section he looks at roles, gifts, desires, vision, and mission. Each chapter includes a guiding principle, a biblical reflection, historical insight, some questions to answer as we think of what might be a part of our rule, some prayer requests, and ideas for group discussion.

Part Two, Forming...includes chapters on time, trust, temple, treasure, and talent and concludes with a chart for readers to fill in as they are "weaving together" their personal rule of life.

Part Three, Fulfilling Your Personal Rule of Life, considers commitment to the Body of Christ and the context of a spiritual community. Macchia offers resources including information on communities who are using a communal rule of life now, a suggested reading list on some in church history who lived in a communal situation, and the examples of four individuals who have recently been crafting their own rule of life. Among the latter are a college student, a young mom, a ministry leader, and a business person. Here are many ideas to consider as we follow Benedict’s way but with our own Rule of Life.

—Lois Sibley