Holy Love: Fresh Wind Blowing #2

​As far as I know, no one who reads my posts is a monk.  And I am guessing those who do would not hesitate to say, I am not a monk.”  But the fact is, surprising as it is, we are all monks.  We are all monastic, and the new pentecost God is effecting today calls us to recognize and respond to this call.

The word ‘monk’ does not mean a person who lives a cloistered life, but one who lives a singular life.  Monk means “monos”—singular.  It means devotion to God alone and the offering of ourselves to God as living sacrifices. The fresh wind of the Spirit is creating a new monasticism. [1]  But what does that mean, particularly for those of us who will never live in monasteries, convents, or other cloistered communities but rather as disciples of Jesus in the world?

We begin our response to that question by turning to Jesus and his call of the twelve apostles (Mark 3:13-19).  The first thing we see is that they shared a common twofold calling: to be with Jesus and to be sent out in his name.  Our singularity is first found in commonality—in community.  The earliest monks found this out when their attempts to be isolated hermits gave way to their need to be in fellowship with other monks.  Cenobitic monasticism (life together), not hermetical monasticism (life apart) became the model.  Similarly, we share a common vocation, no matter where we live or what we do: to be with Jesus and to go into the world in his name.

In Christian history this is the singular Rule of Life for every disciple: worship (oratio) and work (labora). [2]  We live this out through spiritual practices called works of piety and works of mercy.  In the Wesleyan tradition we call these the instituted and prudential means of grace. [3] They form us inwardly and outwardly in our singular devotion to Christ.  This life together is genuinely monastic—singular in intent and expression, the common way we fulfill the two great love commandments and manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

From this foundational unity, God moves us into necessary diversity.  We see it in three ways in Scripture.  First, tradition teaches that each of the twelve apostles eventually fanned out into different parts of the world, either on a part-time or full-time basis.  For example, Thomas went to India and likely died there. [4]  Others of the twelve are said to have gone to Rome, Ephesus, Greece, Asia Minor, Russia, the Ukraine, Armenia, Persia, Macedonua, Syria, Parthia, Media, and Ethiopia.  Their common commissioning sent them into a variety of places.

The second evidence of diversity comes through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, given differently to different people, expressed through a variety of ministries, and with a multitude of outcomes (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).  No one has all the gifts.  But each of us has one or more spiritual gifts—some are abiding and some are temporary.  All are given to glorify God.

The third sign of diversity comes through the list of ministries: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).  The word ‘some’ is added to each of the four ministries as a way of indicating a sacred allotment of these ministries to certain people.  Through discernment we locate ourselves in a particular ministry area and find it to be a means to serve Christ in the world. [5]

The point here is that we devote singular (monastic) and concentrated (focused) attention in a diversity of locations, differing giftedness, and specific ministries.  The essential oneness is not broken by this diversity, but rather expressed through it.  The New Monasticism is reviving this vision, and God is using it to simultaneously bond us together in Christian unity and send us out for a singular devotion to many specific things.

Applying this personally enables me to recognize that I am one with everyone in a common humanity and one with all Christians in a common faith, while at the same time being called to a current prophetic ministry that particularly emphasizes being an ally with LGBTQ+ people. It explains how ‘Holy Love’ came to be a book, and how these posts expand on it.

The same unity/diversity singularity is given to you as a means of strengthening your bond of love with everyone and revealing the particular ways God is calling you to love.  And it is precisely here that we see and celebrate the fact that we are indeed, monks—privileged to live in a time when God’s fresh wind is blowing!


So…..

     (1) How did this post help you understand yourself as monk?

    (2) Does any characteristic of the monastic (singular) life invite you into a deeper discipleship?


[1]  This is the focus of chapter two of my book, ‘ Fresh Wind Blowing.’  For more, see Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, ‘The New Monasticism’ (Brazos Press, 2008) and John Michael Talbot, ‘The Universal Monk: The Way of the New Monastics’ (Liturgical Press, 2011).

[2] The Rule of St. Benedict is the best-known expression of the worship/work life together.  The Rule is easily accessible in traditional and ebook formats, as well as online.  I have written an extended series of meditations on the Rule here at Oboedire.  Go to the righthand sidebar of the home page and click the “Benedict’s Rule” category to see it.

[3] Elaine Heath has written an excellent book on the Wesleyan instituted means of grace (works of piety), ‘ The Means of Grace’ (Abingdon Press, 2017).  I also have a book about the instituted means, ‘ Devotional Life in the Wesleyan Tradition: A Workbook (Upper Room Books,1995).  I also have a chapter, “Works of Piety as Spiritual Formation” in Paul Chilcote’s book, ‘The Wesleyan Tradition: A Paradigm for Renewal (Abingdon Press, 2002).  Rebekah Miles has a chapter in the same book, exploring the Wesleyan prudential means of grace, “Works of Mercy as Spiritual Formation.”

[4] I had the opportunity to visit St. Thomas’ tomb in Hyderabad, India in 1973.  It was a moving and memorable experience.

[5] Daryl and Andrew Smith have written a book to assist people in finding and expressing their ministry focus, ‘Discovering Your Missional Potential’ (100 Movements, 2019).

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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