8 Habits of Evangelism author: Sacraments are grace on display

The Rev. Aisha Brooks-Johnson says sacramental living requires a rhythm of rest, reflection, rediscovery — and then resistance

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Aisha Brooks-Johnson

LOUISVILLE — During this time of pandemic, the Rev. Aisha Brooks-Johnson, executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, reminds herself how beautiful the rich language and imagery in the Reformed tradition is around the sacraments.

She realized how much she missed the sacraments during an in-person worship service held last month, in which a two-year-old was baptized. The little girl was all over the place, first by the font, then on the steps, putting one hand up to the Lord.

“She was all in,” Brooks-Johnson said. “It was so exciting. I thought, ‘Wow! I get to see this in person.’”

Baptism is among the most celebrated of sacraments. (Contributed photo)

It’s that kind of inspiration that caused Books-Johnson to write about Sacraments as one of the 8 Habits of Evangelism, a new resource produced by Theology, Formation & Evangelism.

Brooks-Johnson told an online audience Wednesday that witnessing that baptism was like “seeing, feeling, and touching grace on display.”

One of the challenges in thinking about grace during the pandemic, Brooks-Johnson said, was reimagining what that grace on display experienced during the sacraments might look like.

“Breaking the bread and lifting the cup was left behind for a two-dimensional screen,” she said.

Which is why Brooks-Johnson believes it is so important today for disciples of Christ to practice living sacramentally. Here’s part of what she wrote (click here, then click on “The Practice of Sacraments”) in her lesson on Sacraments:

“We are invited to be present in the mystery of the moment when the ordinary become extraordinary during the sacraments. It is in the sending that we have a chance to depart from the extraordinary experience of worship and enter into our ordinary days with hope, wonder, strength, power and peace. We depart the service with an invitation to be present in our daily living and to live sacramentally in our waking and sleeping, in our working and eating, in our resting and in our moments of unrest, in our joys and in our sorrow, and in all the ways we find ourselves in relationship with God, others and ourselves.”

 Brook-Johnson said her thinking about the practice of living sacramentally has been influenced by Pete Scazzero’s work in “The Emotionally Healthy Leader” and “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.”

When Scazzero talks about emotional and spiritual health, he says one has to be in a rhythm. For Brooks-Johnson that rhythm includes rest, reflection, and rediscovery — and then resistance.

“The resistance I’m talking about as it relates to this practice of sacramental living is not being numb, not simply going through the motions,” she said, “but really, really being present.”

In her writing on Sacraments, Brooks-Johnson said being present, or mindfulness, is wonderful. But it doesn’t come easy for her. While she may be a slightly reluctant practitioner of mindfulness, she is learning not to shy away from things just because they’re difficult.

“Living sacramentally takes an intentional approach to daily practices of living and moves through them with prayer, thoughtfulness and eyes wide open,” she writes, “to the miracle-working power of God in small and subtle movements.”

Brooks-Johnson hopes what people discover in the practice is a spirit-filled rhythm that allows them to be present and in tune to see grace on display — and articulate it even when things are really, really hard.

“It’s easy to get numb, to hunker down in your way of seeing the world,” she said, “living in an us-versus-them, polarized reality. We can’t do that if we’re going to proclaim the gospel in its fullest.”

The rest of the weekly webinars will be broadcast live here. Recordings of each will be available soon on the 8 Habits of Evangelism website, where you can also view each of the writings of the diverse authors on each habit, along with scriptural references, illustrations and questions about each practice. 

The next webinar will be at 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, Oct. 6, with Dr. Tom Bagley, who will talk about the habit of Prayer.

Each of the 8 Habits authors will be featured at the REvangelism Conference from Montreat Conference Center Nov. 1-3. The first 200 to register for this digital conference can save up to 40%. Individuals receive $30 off the $100 registration fee; those who register in a group of up to five get $40 off.

 Register by October 7 for your REvangelism Conference Box to arrive at your door.

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