Learning to Reflect

My friend Richard worships at St. John’s Episcopal Church, whose rector, the Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, is also a gifted homilist. I finally had a chance to read a sermon she delivered a couple of weeks ago, which Richard kindly e-mailed to me. Delivered on Ascension Sunday, the sermon focused on theological reflection. Although others may use a different term for the process, she was referring to “a self-conscious effort to discern the presence of God in the events of our lives, to find or discover the deeper meaning of what happens to us and in our world, and to draw upon the rich heritage of our faith tradition in that discovery.”

Although there are many forms of instruction for engaging in this kind of contemplation, Rev. Budde outlines a three step approach that you might like to try. The first step “is to decide to reflect on our lives, which is a far bigger step than it sounds, because there are so many reasons for us not to do it.” She suggests that in choosing to be reflective, we start with something discreet – a particular event, encounter or experience.

The second step is “to go deeper, to allow yourself to feel the full range of emotions that the particular focus of your reflection evokes in you.” In this step she warns against both wallowing endlessly in the quagmire of our feelings and passing too quickly over them.

Finally, the third step is a concious effort to think about God and the spiritual intuitions and stories that have been the repository of meaning for our people.” We allow our imagination and the Spirit to help us see the connections with the events of our own lives.

You can read Rev. Budde’s sermon in its entirety here. In it she expounds on each of the three steps and talks about the value of this type of reflection in our lives.

Try it.