There was a Young Monk, Middle-Aged Monk and an Old Monk…

Which one are you?

A few of us attended parts of Holy Trinity Brompton’s Leadership Conference at the start of the week; a great opportunity to worship, be exposed to great teaching and get to talk to Christians from all over the place. It was another reminder about the blessing and privilege of being part of such a large worldwide family. In fact, one of the things we were reminded by Rick Warren (some of you might remember when we did his ‘Purpose Driven Life’ course as a church a few years back) was that Christianity is the world’s largest religion with 2.3 billion adherents!

My favourite speaker was Fr Luigi Gioia, an Italian Benedictine monk, with a wonderfully dry sense of humour and an infectious grin that beamed continuously from his face! His faith, enthusiasm and spirituality were quite inspiring – I’m sure you can think of other like him who exude the Spirit. In conversation with Nicky Gumbel he reflected on his experiences as a monk and talked about what it was like to live in his order and the different personalities and people he found there. One anecdote he shared was that of the difference between young monks, middle-aged monks and old monks. Young monks, he said, look holy, but aren’t holy. Middle-aged monks don’t look holy, and aren’t holy. Elderly monks, however, don’t look holy, but are holy! You might find this something worth reflecting on. What did he mean? It’s all about our security in our friendship with God and each other. To begin with, new monks are keen to be as good as they can, and so although they have a long way to go on their journey with God, they present a holy front to the world. I wonder how many of us do this in our services and around other church folk, feeling that we need to prove ourselves in some way. Middle-aged monks have begun to learn to trust each other and God and be secure in letting others see who they really are, good and bad. Perhaps they have also learnt that it is better to trust God to change us, that to try and do it in our own strength. Finally, elderly monks also feel no need to put on a mask, and have opened themselves to God’s Spirit who over time has worked his transformative work in them.

I am sure I will continue mulling over this anecdote this week as I am sure it has a lot to say to all of us in how we see ourselves and live out our faith, and also how we see and judge each other. One big question arising from it is that of how as a community we can foster such relationships with each other that we can trust each other with our weaknesses and learn to be ourselves, confident that God will continue that good work which he has started in us.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:3-6)

Church Newsletter article 11th May 2014

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