I am glad to have followed the advice of the Lutheran scholar Martin Marty, when he said that we should have one foot placed firmly in our own church tradition, and with the other foot be exploring the other churches. I have learned so much from sisters and brothers of backgrounds different than mine who are God’s friends. One such friend of God is Anthony Bloom, or Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. Until his death in 2003, he was one of the leading Russian Orthodox preachers and theologians. I am using one of his texts in a class I will be teaching this summer at Fuller Seminary Southwest on “Christian Traditions and Practices.” I want to pass on to you these words of Anthony that spoke to me about beginning the day:
“Awake in the morning and the first thing you do, thank God for it, even if you don’t feel particularly happy about the day to come. ‘This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ Once you have done this, give yourself time to realize the truth of what you are saying and really mean it – perhaps on the level of deep conviction and not of what one might call exhilaration. And then get up, wash, clean, do whatever else you have got to do, and then come to God again. Come to God again with two convictions. The one is that you are God’s own, and the other is that this day is also God’s own, it is absolutely fresh. It has never existed before. To speak in Russian terms, it is like a vast expanse of unsoiled snow. No one has trodden on it yet. It is all virgin and pure in front of you. And now, what comes next? What comes next is that you ask God to bless this day, that everything in it should be blessed and ruled by him. After that you must take it seriously, because very often one says, ‘O God, bless me,’ and having received the blessing we act like the prodigal son – we collect all our goods, and go to a strange country to lead a riotous life.
This day is blessed by God, it is God’s own, and now let us go into it. You walk in this day as God’s own messenger; whoever you meet, you meet in God’s own way. You are there to be the presence of the Lord God, the presence of Christ, the presence of the Spirit, the presence of the Gospel – this is your function on this particular day…
As to the day, if you accept that this day was blessed of God, chosen by God with his own hand, then every person you meet is a gift of God, every circumstance you will meet is a gift of God, whether it is bitter or sweet, whether you like it or dislike it. It is God’s gift to you and if you take it that way, then you can face any situation. But then you must face it with the readiness that anything can happen, whether you enjoy it or not, and if you walk in the name of the Lord through a day that has come fresh and new out of his own hands and has been blessed for you to live with it, then you can make prayer and life really like the two sides of one coin. You act and pray in one breath, as it were, because all the situations that follow one another require God’s blessings.”
– From Beginning to Pray