Greetings. In a conversation I had about a week ago with a group of catechumens, we addressed the challenge of how one lives one’s faith, day to day. We make vows in our baptism, but how do we live them? How do we incorporate them into how we exist in the world? For me, that question has been answered by some influencers of my spirituality. That is some individuals who live their faith in such a way that they have been an influence and an inspiration to me. And I wanted to share those with you today.

At the top of my list is theologian and religious writer and mystic Howard Thurman. Howard Thurman wrote a number of notable books. My two favorites are Jesus And The Disinherited and Meditations Of The Heart. Perhaps it was in the time that I was coming to own my faith, that I was introduced to Howard Thurman, but there was one quote of his that stuck with me. And that is, “There are two great questions in life. Where are you going? And who are you going with?” And you have to answer the first question before you can really answer the second. So Howard Thurman is on the top of that list.

Second would be Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His work, The Cost Of Discipleship, was really influential in how I understand this calling as Christians and his concept of cheap grace. And I want to read his quote, “Cheap grace is grace that we bestow upon ourselves. Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, the living incarnate one.”

Another spirituality influencer of mine is Joan Chittister. Joan has been a Benedictine nun and theologian, who has modeled for me how you can love the church and still challenge it. Two of my favorite books from her are Called To Question and Hearts Of Flesh. And Joan says things like this. “We have made money our God and called it good. We have trained our children to go for jobs that bring the quickest corporate advancement and the highest financial achievement. And we’ve taught them careerism, but not ministry and wonder. And then we wonder why ministry is going out of fashion. We fear coddling the poor with food stamps while we call tax breaks for the rich business incentives. We make human community the responsibility of government institution while homelessness, hunger, and drugs seep from the center of our cities like poison from open sores, for which we do not seek either the cause or the cure.” Joan Chittister is one of those who hold my spiritual feet to the fire.

And last on my list, but certainly not least is Verna Dozier, episcopal lay woman, writer of The Authority Of The Lady and The Dream Of God. And one of my favorite Verner quote is, “Because the Bible is a theological book, it is a book of wrestling, not a book of answers. In each age, the people have to struggle to hear the word of the Lord in their time. And sometimes their hearing is keener than at other times.”

In my life, when I have struggled with my faith, when I have struggled to discern God’s call in my life, I inevitably turn to those four. Their wisdom and their guidance have encouraged me and inspired me to live this life of faith, to own it, not to pay lip service to it, but to make it manifest in my own life. And I believe we all need those influencers in our life. I encourage you to go and read and find folks who walk in the faith in a way that you admire and learn from them because faith is much easier when we practice it together. And even in these times of physical separation, we can find encouragement. We can find inspiration in those who walk this path with us.