Rediscovered Gospel

The Hasidim tell the story of the disciple who said to the teacher, “Teacher, I have gone completely through the Torah. What must I do now? And the teacher said, “Oh, my friend, the question is not, have you gone through the Torah. The question is, has the Torah gone through you?”

Yesterday the pastor of Edmonton’s First Baptist Church named for me the shift that is happening in my life. Pastor Tim Colborne described his journey as focused, for many years, on the liturgical life, and on the spiritual disciplines. But that over the past three years he has been drawn into a rediscovery of the gospel.

His experience parallels my own. For the past decade, my (Benedictine) spiritual journey has been focused on the the ancient disciplines. Even when practised inconsistently, as is my habit, and always imperfectly, which is my inclination, they have nevertheless been a well-spring. But during the past couple of years I have been nudged and redirected toward the gospels.

I’m hardly unique. I think the rediscovery of the gospel is inevitable in any “God-desiring” process. The disciplines are simply a good way of keeping desire alive.

The rediscovered gospel, or, “meeting Jesus again for the first time”, as Marcus Borg would say, are the experiences of seekers uneasy and unimpressed by formulaic Christian faith. Seekers who leave off being tourists and desire some kind of sustained existential immersion in the gospel, which they come to embrace as the crux of everything.

For me the rediscovered gospel is an earthy discovery. It’s a discovery of Jesus, not as propitiatory sacrifice, but as ultimate self-giver, who exposes and forgives my ways of self-security through violence. The gospel rediscovered moves me from tourist to resident. The gospel is no longer read by me. I am read by the gospel. 


  1. This is for readers out there potentially discouraged about their inability to spiritual discipline, their inadequate interest in things spiritual, and in many cases, their powerfully negative emotional reactions to language of the church or of self-sacrifice.

    Steve talks about spiritual disciplines that have been instrumental in his life, and says they are a good way of keeping desire alive and opening the door to rediscovery and new understanding of the gospel. I’d like to propose yet another path by which we can rediscover the gospel.

    I spent so many years, too many, berating myself for my inadequate practice of spiritual disciplines, until I learned from Kathleen Norris that in fact all our actions have holiness potential, and that the quotidian hum of domestic and family life are in fact spiritual acts if we see them as such. And more recently, from Ronald Rolheiser and from my own experience, I’ve discovered that going to work, or reading the newspaper or reading the writings of theologians as they try to put words to the mysteries of God, or reading novelists and poets who try put words to the mysteries of human experience, or listening to a child, or sharing a glass of wine and conversation and laughter with friends, are spiritual acts also. Not spiritual disciplines technically, but serving the same purpose.

    The gospel is about Incarnation, so to take the time to pay attention to the heart-break and joy of the world around me as told in the face of a child or a friend or a spouse or a parent, or in the news, or in a novel is very spiritual, and becomes an avenue for rediscovering the gospel, for allowing it, the message of grace and incarnation, as Steve says, to read me.

  2. Good piece Steve. Mulling a response. But Tim Colborne’s name is spelled wrong. Just so you know. Flossings!

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