A Long Obedience

Rev. Cliff WarnerCliffNotes

Dear Christ Church,

“The essential thing in ‘heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction.” You might have heard this phrase before, either in the title of this excellent book by Eugene Peterson, or referencing the quotation’s original author, Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s so simple, essentially saying, “do the same good thing for a long time.” As simple as it sounds, it counters our (especially American) attraction to the “new and improved” options, our tendency to leave something when we aren’t “feeling it” anymore, and pursue perceived greener pastures. This changeability finds expression in our own person/identity, our relationships, our spiritual life, our institutional loyalties, and our vocations.

In every arena of life, fruitfulness is a function of patient endurance. In my twenties I read a biography of an English priest named Charles Simeon, who is one of a handful of people I’ve looked to as a man who lived a long obedience in the same direction. Tomorrow is the Feast Day of Charles Simeon. In 1783 he was appointed Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, England at the age of 23. He served in that same parish for fifty years, investing in students and young clergy. By the time he died, it is estimated that one-third of all Anglican priests in England had sat under his evangelical preaching and formation in his parish.

Any given day or year in his life would have looked quite ordinary, no particular flash or sparkle, just consistent proclamation of the gospel, leadership development, and parish life. How might this example apply to our character formation, our friendships, our families, our vocations, our Christian witness? Christ Church, may we be a people whose lives, like Charles Simeon, are characterized by a long obedience in the same direction.



P.S. Have you ever gone out into the eastside to visit other artists during the East Austin Studio Tour? Here is your chance to go with a group from Christ Church! You’ll get to meet artists, see their work, and get to know some of our eastside neighbors – it’s free to go, and a fantastic way to spend a Saturday afternoon. There will be a group tour at 12pm on Nov 20th – if you’re interested in joining or would like more information, contact Marcus Clarke.