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True Prayer Leads to Compassion

Image: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Compassion

True Prayer Leads to Compassion

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Although the universally available paths to unitive consciousness are great love and great suffering, conscious inner prayer will deepen and maintain what we momentarily learn in love and suffering. But the mere reciting of prayers can also be, as St. John Cassian (360-435) called it, a pax perniciosa, or a “dangerous peace.” This early Christian monk, who brought the ideas and practices of Egyptian monasticism to the early medieval West, saw that even the way of prayer can be dangerous if it never leads you to great love and allows you to avoid necessary suffering in the name of religion.

Those who fall into the safety net of silence find that it is not at all a fall into individualism. True prayer or contemplation is instead a leap into commonality and community. You know that what you are experiencing is held by the whole and that you are not alone anymore. You are a part, and now a forever-grateful part.

Real silence moves you from knowing things to perceiving a Presence that has a reality in itself. Could that be God? There is then a mutuality between you and all things. There is an I-thou relationship. Martin Buber said an I-it relationship is when we experience everything as commodity, useful, utilitarian. But the I-thou relationship is when you can simply respect a thing as it is without adjusting it, naming it, changing it, fixing it, controlling it, or trying to explain it. Is that the mind that can know God? I really think so.

Adapted from Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation, pp. 15, 26‑27

Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 2, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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The False Self


Richard Rohrer’s Meditations:
The False Self

Your False Self is your necessary warm-up act, the ego part of you that establishes your separate identity, especially in the first half of life. (Sunday)

Your False Self is what changes, passes, and dies when you die. Only your True Self lives forever. (Monday)

Your False Self is who you think you are. Your thinking does not make it true. (Tuesday)

Thomas Merton rightly recognized that it was not the body that had to “die” but the “false self” that we do not need anyway, precisely because it is only a part of us, but trying to pass for the Whole. (Wednesday)

All mature religion must and will talk about the death of any notion of a separate, and therefore false, self. (Thursday)

Most souls are initially “unsaved” in the sense that they cannot dare to imagine they could be one with God/Reality/the universe. This is the lie of the False Self that dies slowly.
(Friday)

Rest: Drawing Empty Space

It’s difficult to see what is not manifest, what is intangible and yet the most objective of all reality. Yet we can learn to see differently, to be present to Being. This simple practice shifts our usual way of literal seeing and invites an inner change in how we see ourselves, the world, and the Divine.

Sitting at a table or desk with a pencil and a piece of blank, unlined paper, look at a nearby object. Turn your attention to the empty or “negative” space surrounding the object. Rather than focus on the object’s contours, look at the lines and curves of the space butting up against the object, the places in between and around the object itself. Breathe deeply and begin to draw these nooks and crannies of air and emptiness. Keep your focus on the negative space as you draw.

You might draw all of the spaces around the object or spend just a few moments drawing. When your pencil comes to a stop, observe the form and detail of the “nothingness” you’ve drawn. Know that your True Self, though perhaps less visible than ego and persona, is spacious and objective. Let your inner witness quietly observe the “negative space” within yourself. Rest in this abundant emptiness, full of Presence.


For further study:

Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (book)
True Self/False Self (CD)

Gateway to Silence:
I am who I am in the eyes of God—
nothing more and nothing less.

 

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Hearing from God

tardis_xmasWhen I was a child, I remember my mother and her mother exchanging letters each week. My grandparents lived in Hawaii, and my family in New York. On holidays… Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthdays, we would all gather around the telephone and actually TALK to one another, for just a scant few moments… but it was so tremendous to actually hear my grandmother’s voice, or Grandpa’s… it was like magic!

My biological father did business all over the world, 6 continents. And at least once a week, he “phoned home” as he traveled… sometimes for weeks at a time. As years progressed (and phone service improved), that became daily calls, I got to talk to him every day. It was like magic!

A few years ago, my son-in-law’s army unit deployed to Afghanistan. His daughter was two, and his wife (my daughter) was expecting their second child. Alongside all reasonable concern for his wellness and safety, I thought about the impact this separation would have on his family. I thought of the numbers of times I’ve seen returning service personnel run to their children to hug them, and seen that child pull away in fear at this “charging stranger”. I shuddered to think of my granddaughter doing this.

But my fears were ill founded. We have progressed to the age of “Skype”. My granddaughter and daughter talked, laughed, waved, with their beloved EVERY EVENING… FACE TO FACE! He saw her walk that first day, he heard many of her first words, and he laughed and giggled with her “Goo’ Nye, Daddy” over and over. It was like magic!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yesterday, Don Merritt wrote a great post, “Anybody Listening?” on his Life Reference blog, discussing the importance of prayer. He highlighted the reality that most of us are busy people, hard pressed to find the time to spend with God, and that often those of us who DO take time to pray, spend most of that time “talking”, and maybe not so much “listening”.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I may have mentioned that I grew up in a home that “officially/parentally” hated God. I was not permitted to speak of, hear, discuss God, pray, or have or talk about the Bible. He was just “not allowed in our house”. Equally, I was not allowed to attend church or Sunday School, and managed to go to about 5 services (when I stayed overnight with some other family who went, and took me along).

At 7 years old, moving across country, I encountered a Gideon Bible in a motel drawer that said (effectively), “If you don’t have one, and you want one, take this one.” (I didn’t, and I did, so I did… and hid it under my mattress to read behind my locked bedroom door or under blankets by flashlight.) So, until I was 18 years old and began college, all I knew about God was what He Himself could teach me, primarily from the Bible, especially the Gospels, and through prayer.

Now, Jesus “spoke to me” through the wee small voice of conscience, quite clearly, since I was three… and once I had a Bible, He would “take me there”, using what I later learned were “meditation” and “application of the senses”, making scenes clearly play out before my mind’s eye. He would “invite me along” and let me “participate” as we walked together end to end through the Gospels… Him, me, and “the guys”.

By the way, pastors and Sunday School teachers, I only got to “hear” about 5 sermons before the age of 18, and I still remember 3 of them. One of them I’m going to mention here, was an “anchor” in my whole formation and spiritual life. But believe me when I say… you will NEVER KNOW when you plant seeds of truth and grace in the heart of a one-time visitor, perhaps a child, and have an impact that persists for the rest of their life.

One of those sermons, I will ALWAYS remember, I was about 11 years old. And this preacher was talking about “the Voice of God”. He said he had always noticed that God spoke clearly to small children in a “wee small voice” of conscience. But that as we get older, start to get to our teens and such, we have a choice whether to heed that voice, mind that voice of conscience telling us right from wrong, or not. That, the more we heed right, the louder and clearer this voice became. But when we ignore it, turn from it, choose to do wrong, that voice becomes more and more faint… until eventually, we may no longer hear it at all. It was our choice. That almost all children had and heard it, over our teen years fewer heard it, and that, frankly, few adults heard it at all.

I recall praying, right there and then, in great anxiety… “Lord, is this true? Can I lose this voice of Yours?” And Him responding that, at least for me, this was true. Very fervently I prayed right there, that He never EVER allow me that. Whatever He had to do, whatever it took, that He never allow me to ignore or miss His voice guiding me. I begged that He promise me that, and He did, provided I would listen and heed Him. I was at peace with that, and have been for the ensuing 5 decades.

There are lots of excellent resources on prayer, on experiencing God, on meditation and contemplation. These are good things. It is difficult, nigh unto impossible, for anyone truly to “communicate” an experience directly from one person to another. Do you disagree? Well, imagine smelling jasmine perfume, or tasting a fabulous slice of chocolate cake. Now, try communicating that EXPERIENCE to someone else who has never done so.

It was not until I entered a parochial Christian college, and entered into discussion of such things with faculty trained to help others develop prayer skills, that I came to realize that my own “experience” of God through prayer was not “typical and common”. (At least among “Christians”.) I clearly remember being shocked, utterly gobsmacked, in a discussion with my Theology professor, to find that my “wee small voice” had a “technical name”. It was a “sensible grace” called “Prayer of Locution”, and that according to best estimates, it is experienced by about 3% of Christians.

Unfortunately, given my youthful omniscience and arrogance, (once I got past the shock of realizing that not everyone could hear the clear voice of God… *honest, I thought this was “normal”*) I took this information in the best traditions of my pride, considering others… “normal” people… as “deaf-mutes”. (If you find such arrogance and attitude shocking and offensive, you are right, and I apologize… it was unconscionable, indefensible, and quite out of order. “Spiritual elitism” of the worst kind, and it shames me (now) to admit how solidly I believed it (then).)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But here, with nearly a shuddering halt, is the entire point of this post.

Ten years later, as I began public ministry and my world view expanded exponentially, I learned that I was totally, completely, and utterly wrong on a critical truth. What truth?

God “speaks” to those willing to “hear” Him, in a multitude of ways. This issue of discernment does not depend on “modality”, it depends on “willingness to obey”.

Experientially… I have learned that a multitude of deeply God-led Spirit-filled people, do not have Prayer of Locution. Some have “direct impression”, or “insight”, a straightforward understanding of the will and leadership of God in their lives. Others derive very specific inspiration through their studies of scripture and text. Others have totally other means for perceiving God’s leadership and guidance.

I was blessed even to have mentors, of tremendous value in my life, who initially I radically underestimated because they did not “hear” God in prayer the way I did. Nonetheless, their discernment, guidance, and mentoring in my development was a laser-sharp and on point as anyone who experienced two-way vocal prayer.

Scripturally… God “speaks” to man in a variety of ways, from thunder on the mountainside, to a wee small whisper of a breeze. When the Holy Spirit speaks, some people heard words, others heard a rushing wind. Prayer experiences differ… throughout the Bible, and even within a single small prayer group.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bottom Line Here: This is not a post about “devotion”, or “teaching”, or “exposition”. I suppose it is just a reflection, a bit of confession. Don Merritt wrote a terrific post, encouraging all of us to allow God to speak to us, commune with us, communicate with us, in prayer.

It made me reflect on my own short-sightedness in years past, believing that My OWN experience of prayer and communion with God, could somehow define and constrain the “right way” for OTHER people to experience God. It has been a very long and humbling trek to realize how much bigger than me, bigger than my imagination, bigger than my own comprehension is God’s grace and determination to be intimate and clear with His children.

This is a note of Encouragement, beyond all else. When you grow in your sense of the greatness and glory of God, and your own humility in face of that… When you grow in your love of others, and sense of service to God… When you grow in your awareness of Jesus’ heart and mind, and how He walked lovingly among people… those are “influence of the Holy Spirit”, and whatever means the Lord uses to do that, is pure Gift. Don’t let anyone else “judge” or “evaluate” the modality God uses to speak to your heart, as better or worse than theirs. And don’t think your own is better or more valid than anyone else’s.

It’s not HOW God speaks to you that is important, what matters is how you respond to Him when He does.

(* Took me a while to learn that! *)

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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No Thorns at All

shekinah“Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] [Matthew 6:9-13]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’” [Luke 11:2b-4]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We are exploring the unfurling of a wondrous Rose, in our gardens of spirit, considering the Lord’s gift to our lives of the Lord’s Prayer. We have acknowledged that there are two iterations of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave an “amplified version” to the Multitudes in Sermon on the Mount, and a much leaner version in the Gospel of Luke to the Disciples. We have noted that “thee, thou, thy” is a more familiar form in older English, than “you, your” as we use the words today.

As we look at the Lord’s Prayer, one phrase per post, today we will consider:

[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] [Multitude’s Version]

This phrase is unique, in that it appears only in the Multitude’s Version. Not going to make much comment on this but to ask, doesn’t this make sense to you? When you walk, day after day… 1000 days plus, alongside Jesus Himself… do you need to be taught this phrase as part of your instruction in prayer? ‘Nuff said.

Second, there are “brackets” around this phrase because it serves as a “doxology”, a statement of dogma, an affirmation common to congregate prayer. Some manuscripts include these verses, and some do not. The discussions and debate among experts on the “historicity” of these words, for me, is not a strong enough reason to omit them here. I have no doubt whatever, that Jesus intends this truth to be affirmed to those who pray. So… working under the assumption that this is the right place for these words… that Jesus truly intends the Multitudes to conclude their prayer experience with this Truth, this awareness.

Now, as we watch The Father “pull this Kingdom over”, (* for once, WITHOUT any of us in the back being in trouble *) and our vehicle pulls over into the car park, we all disembark to stretch our legs and seat ourselves at a lovely little Tea Garden. The air is calm and quiet, the service prompt and courteous, the company congenial, and the surroundings are a delight.

Each of us, silently, draw forth our Roses and just gaze at their splendor. As servers bring coffeepots, teapots, cups, saucers and spoons, they also bring along bud vases, placing one before each of us. We place our Roses there, as yet we feel no pressure to speak. We just enjoy the moment, enjoy one another’s company, sip, sniff, savor, gaze, and Adore.

A breeze seems to spring up from nowhere and everywhere at once… not disturbing, not disruptive, but fresh and powerful, lifting all the Roses up at the same moment, assembling all of them in our midst as a giant Bouquet. The Bouquet turns gently, slowly, levitated above our heads in the center of our group, and all we can do is stare in rapt awe at the Beauty of it.

We know Who is holding our flowers, our Roses… and the Bouquet begins to glow with their own inner beauty, brighter and brighter until we are amazed that we can even bear to look upon these blooms. We hear, as from within the Bouquet, and yet in our own minds and hearts…

“Thine is the Kingdom…

“Thine is the Power…

“Thine is the Glory…

“Always…

“Amen”

The Bouquet, glowing with the radiance of the sun, seems to replicate and separate, dimming once again to manageable levels, and each of us watch as a bouquet drifts down before us. All the roses of each person’s bouquet, then merge back into the singular Rose each of us held, as that Rose rests again, back in its bud vase, even more beautiful than it began.

We each realize, the Kingdom is His, not ours, and that is good. The Power is His, not ours, and that is very good. And glory… glory isn’t an attainment, or heroism, or even recognition… “Glory” is Light. Pure Light. We each realize that all that Glory is His, and He has invested it in this Rose, in Our Rose… “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”

There is nothing more to say, as we each look about and smile. Almost in unison, we simply and quietly say, “Amen”… and continue to sip our cuppas.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This concludes our mini-journey tour of “The Lord’s Prayer”. Thank you for traveling with us. Please continue to enjoy your Roses.

 
 

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“Don’t TEST Us!”

Immersion“When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’” [Luke 11]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] [Matthew 6:9-13]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We are exploring the unfurling of a wondrous Rose, in our gardens of spirit, considering the Lord’s gift to our lives of the Lord’s Prayer. We have acknowledged that there are two iterations of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave an “amplified version” to the Multitudes in Sermon on the Mount, and a much leaner version in the Gospel of Luke to the Disciples. We have noted that “thee, thou, thy” is a more familiar form in older English, than “you, your” as we use the words today.

As we look at the Lord’s Prayer, one phrase per post, today we will consider:

“‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” [Multitude’s Version]

“And lead us not into temptation, (but deliver us from evil.)” [Disciples’ Version]

* The Parenthetic “but deliver us from evil” shown in the Disciples’ (Luke) version, appears in the King James’ Version, while most modern translations omit it right here, noting that the phrase appears there in later manuscripts of this gospel, but not the earliest. I am including it because its inclusion takes nothing from the meaning or significance of these verses, while those who are deeply attached to King James’ rendering may find their absence distracting. *

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We are drawing near to the completion of this mini-journey in time, looking at this incredible gift, this Rose the Lord granted to us, teaching us “how to pray”.  As ever, I am going to make every effort NOT to interpret or comment or read into the verses beyond some very basic observations… just to shine a highlight on the Rose in YOUR hands, so that you yourself can examine, twirl, ponder, and watch it unfurl as the Lord opens it before you.

As to the quick notes here, all the verbs are in that “magic Greek super” form. These are not “commands” or even just “petitions”, but in this form that both makes a statement and an affirmation, covering a wide span of time and circumstance. One interesting thing is that the word “temptation” more refers to a “test, or trial”. I was struck by that, because of how many people I know who think (and preach) that God is doing JUST that all the time… that His commands to us, His recommendations, are PRECISELY “tests”…. lines drawn in the sand to see if we have the “will” and “obedience” to “do what we are told”. (Ask a random Sunday School teacher why God told Adam and Eve to leave the Good/Evil Fruit alone… and see how many tell you He did it “to see what they would do, whether they would obey.” You’ll be amazed.) But here is Jesus saying that to pray properly is to affirm that that is NOT what God does… that in fact He “delivers”… “rescues”… not from “evil” (as some “ethereal mist of badness”)… but the word there is “the evil ONE”… an entity of evil. Jesus doesn’t specify further, or name… but the word isn’t for a “concept”, but for an “entity”.

OK, that’s it for me messing with your Rose. But this is a good point… a good point to pause… Look at this line, look at this layer of petals on your Rose, and keep twirling it for a few moments. Let the Whole Rose speak to you. Let the Whole Rose, all the lines, spiral outwards from the center to this outer layer. When you let it build, one line first, then two lines, then start again — first, second, third lines, then start again — first, second, third, and fourth… the Rose looks different every time.

Isn’t that amazing?

One Rose! The Word doesn’t change. God doesn’t change. He didn’t “tell anything different” to the Multitudes than He did to the Disciples! He speaks the Father’s words… He tells One Truth! But.. but… that Truth can resonate so richly and differently in and with us depending on which way we look, on what we are dealing with, on how long we’ve seen Him…

This Rose NEVER fades, Gentle Reader. It never wilts, dries up, goes stagnant. This will never ever be a “Wood Rose”. This will never be pressed in the pages of The Book, to freeze in time, looking the same in a shadow box on the wall. No… this Rose grows more lovely every day, and wafts that incredible fragrance afresh every time we pick it up.

Enjoy your Rose, Gentle Reader. It cost the life, and death, and Life of God Himself to place it in your hands. How awesome is that?

 
9 Comments

Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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When One plus One equals One

Human Torch1“The journey continues. Another blackboard. Another piece of chalk. And the thought that Love is not enough. My biggest hugest bestest Love will always be too small for God. The Love of God is just way too big for my little brain.” [Paulfg, “Shouldn’t discipling be beautiful?“]

Paul put his finger on a spot that “itched” my whole life long. One of those things you want to scratch, you want to satisfy, for years and years and seem like you can never quite reach.

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” [John 17]

But HOW? How do *I*… little, finite, human, not-too-bright… *I*… ever expect or hope to KNOW GOD? Are we KIDDING? And yet, this is “eternal life”, that we know is what Jesus came to bring us. Jesus is not a liar. He is not crazy. He does not “wax poetic” or exaggerate in an excess of hyperbole and passion. He means, and meant, what He said.

So… this bothered me… a lot… for a really long time… like 50 years or so.

But then, one day, Jesus fixed this. Well, Jesus, and Our Father, and the Holy Spirit fixed this. So I thought I may as well put it down here, that perhaps others draw something from this. Also, to thank Paul for effectively expressing the “question” well enough to allow me to pose one expression of an “answer”.

28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire. [Hebrews 12]

Imagine, for just one moment, that you stood in front of God, and everything was fine, friendly, loving, relaxed… just fine. But, for some reason, He appears in the form of a vast, incredible Fire! Not just physically large, but magnificent. Now, suppose you stood before Him, in His image, your own childlike size, but you were also fire. The Holy Spirit not only blazed IN you, but THROUGH you, such that (if you can imagine this), you yourself were a “person of fire” (maybe picture Johnny Storm of the Fantastic 4, if this helps?)

And all you can see… all around you… is just the Void… and you… and Magnificent God. And He is HUGE. Beyond huge, He is infinite… and you… are NOT. You, are just, you.

Now, suppose He stretches forth His hand, His finger, towards you… and says, in His gentlest voice, “Touch Me!”

And you don’t really know what to do. This is confusing. But He is quiet, He is smiling. He encourages you, saying, “Just stretch out your finger, and touch it to My finger.”

So you do that, you stretch out your finger towards Him and His. And you can feel the warmth of Him, the love of Him, and they are overwhelming. But you feel the warmth of you, the love of you, and you know this will not be painful, but you can’t conceive of what it WILL be. Nonetheless, you stretch forth your finger, watching as they slowly come together.

And then, there is but One. One fire. Like a match flame touched to a bonfire… where does the match flame go? The two are merged into One, but where does one begin and the Other end? Where are the boundaries when two flames merge?

There are no thoughts anymore, no boundaries, no questions, no answers, no ideas, no fears. There is only… the One… as the two have become One. You in Him, Him in you, no lines, no boundaries.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Later, can you describe that? Did you “contain” that? Did you “comprehend” that? Can you even meaningfully EXPRESS that? Um… no.

And yet, there it was. It happened. And you will never be the same. And you will never again worry about “containing” the Infinite. Because you will realize, when you ENTER the infinite… “containment” no longer has any meaning at all.

Yes, you always take that Flame back with you… and you will never worry about “how will this fit?” again.

Grace to thee — Little Monk

 
7 Comments

Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Who, Then, is Sacred?

Good Sam GlassIf you have read much of this blog, you know that I have come to the conviction that for me, in my conscience, “sin” has acquired a fairly simple definition. It could best be expressed as, “I ‘sin’ when I treat any sacred person or object, as less than sacred.”

Well, today I was riding down the road alongside a colleague, and shared a “strange thing” God showed me yesterday, that I had never noticed before. While reading through the tale of Paul/Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, God stopped me dead in my tracks at the words, “a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ (Acts 22:6b-8)

And I tried to move on, and the Lord stopped me time and again… “No, Little Monk, you missed it… look again.” And so I did, over and over. Until finally the words began to light up for me… “persecuting ME“… I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.”

It struck me how very strange… how wrong… this seemed. Wait… Jesus was already ascended. Saul never saw Him. Never spoke with Him. Never persecuted Him. Saul was persecuting FOLLOWERS, BELIEVERS… Saul was persecuting what we like to think of as “The Church”, an institution… a corporate entity…

“No,” Jesus replied. He WASN’T… He was persecuting PEOPLE. He THOUGHT he was attacking an institution, a corporation, a movement… he called it ‘The Way’… but he was helping arrest, try, convict, condemn, and execute PEOPLE. He killed them, trying time and time again, to kill ME.”

That was the breathtaking, heart stopping, realization here. “Me”… Jesus… King… Lord… not THEM… not Church… not movement… not follower… not even “precious child”… but “Me”.

If that were true…

If that’s what Jesus really meant in His cry to Saul…

If Jesus meant… JESUS… in Saul’s attacks…

Then… then…

Did that mean that when I offend another… when I attack them… when I injure them… when I belittle, or demean, or judge them… that it is not only THEM I hurt, but JESUS?

This was not a happy thought. I did not like this thought. I sought to push away this thought… and rather than help me with this, Jesus instead just “piled on,” reminding me of Matthew 25:31-46… that whole “Sheep-Goats-Judgment” thing, reminding me, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

Do you see it? Do you see it too?

Now, Jesus never EVER whines to or at me. But sometimes, not often, but sometimes from time to rare time, His voice will tend rather to ‘yodel’ with excitement or frustration, when He says something like, “WHY, Little Monk! Why don’t they see, why won’t they hear? I am PERFECTLY clear here… but even YOU are only now starting to see My words, that are and were perfectly clear for centuries. I am NOT being ‘figurative’ or ‘poetic’! I am not exaggerating… I am THERE… IN THEM… and yes, when you wound any, with your actions, attitudes, or words… yes, you wound ME! Any questions?”

“Nossir. No questions. I need to process this for a bit, though, if that’s ok.”

“Sure thing, Little Monk. You process away!”

And so I did. And so I have. It has really brought me to slow up a bit, and consider things with a much more wary eye. It’s rather like being in midst of a trip to the local five and dime soft-goods store, and suddenly finding yourself in the centre of a fine china, porcelain and crystal shoppe. Like suddenly everything around me carried “Fragile, Handle with Care” stickers on them.

So, in part of this processing, I shared today with my friend, my colleague. He immediately got the significance of “Me”, and himself mentioned the parallel of Matthew 25. I felt encouraged. He’s a great man, educated theologian, advanced degrees, senior pastor… deep and beloved brother to me. All that. I told him I was yet sort of “letting this soak”, recovering, letting all the pieces of my “deconstructed theology” and personal ethics, and he was kind, and supportive, and helpful… right up until he said…

“Of course, Little Monk, you realize… the Lord wasn’t saying that about EVERYBODY…”

*THUD*

“What? What do you mean?”

“Well,” he went on, “The Lord doesn’t mean that everybody is sacred… that He is in everybody that way… so it’s not like that offending everybody is always offending Him.”

And he started to discuss the theology of the “saved” versus the “lost”, the Children of God versus others, and so on and so on. I didn’t argue with him… dispute or debate. It is far too old an argument. I’ve been through it too many times. I could say only what Jesus allows me to say on all this…

“I know that John and Paul speak of these things in church composition and leadership and such, but I never see Jesus separate people this way as He walked, lived, served, ministered or socialized. I never see Him treat some people as ‘saved’, others as ‘lost’ (except sometimes when His patience wore too thin at the self-righteous, ultra-religious, and theologians)… I just see Him love, everyone, all the time, and serve them. I don’t see Him treat some people as “saved” or “good” (Nicodemus, the Disciples, small children, Zaccheus, the Centurion, Jairus)… and others as “lost” or “bad” (woman at the well, woman caught in adultery, Gadarene demoniac, 10 Lepers, Man Blind from Birth, man lowered through His roof). I just don’t see it. Nor do I see HIM ever suggesting such divisions in our relationships with people. He loves without boundaries. He seems to command us to love the same way.”

Beyond that, even if such divisions somehow EXIST in Him, *I*… not being the Holy Spirit… do not have privy access to that sacred space between a man and God… I cannot see the secret things of he heart… to know “who is who”.

Therefore, rather than “run the risk of wounding Jesus” in my carelessness or misjudgment… it seems my more prudent path is to treat ALL people as “Sacred”, and let God sort it out. Besides the fact that God fashions all as work of His hands, and upholds all things in and through Himself, by the word of His power… and that strikes me as “fairly sacred” on its own… so… yeah.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway, that’s how we left that discussion (yesterday, now… I began this post last night, but I wearied, and went to sleep).

At 2:30 this morning, Jesus shook me awake, with a great sense of “having missed the point”, and brought this post to its rightful close. I was still sleepy, fairly groggy, and He woke me stark, cold, up… with the words:

“Who, then, is Sacred?”

I’d sat up, heard this… blinked a bit to figure out what planet I was on, what timezone, what day… “Huh?” I mumbled, articulately…

“Who, then is SACRED?” He repeated, even more firmly.

I groped for my eyeglasses, looked at my empty coffee cup, realizing my rest had ended for now. And said, as respectfully as I could under the circumstances, “What are You talking about, Lord?”

“That is the question you and your friend got to yesterday. And you didn’t answer it. You SORT OF answered it, but you didn’t get to MY answer of it. It is an Old, old question. It is the defense of all pharisees for treating some people as ‘sacred’ and others as ‘profane’. It is the same as Jews versus Gentiles, free versus slave, man versus woman. It is an OLD question, and has no place in Me. Paul dealt with it… I dealt with it… and now, when you were called to deal with it, you missed the ace… you swung but whiffed. You KNEW, you KNOW, but you didn’t SAY… not cleanly, not clearly…”

(* Well at least I now knew what we were TALKING about, as I made a fresh pot of coffee and stood there with my empty cup looking like Oliver Twist at the gruel pot. “Please, sir… may I have….?” *)

“OK, Lord. I hear you. I’m sorry. Now, what do I need to know. What ought I have said?”

And without further ado, He led me clearly first to articulate the question:

“Who, then, is Sacred?” and He left this echoing and repeating in my mind…

As He transformed it, transmuted it, into: “Who, then, is my Neighbor?”

And brought me HERE:

25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” [Luke 10]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And there ended the lesson, with these words:

“Little Monk, the pharisee, lawyer and scribe, who do not comprehend grace, will always seek to excuse their own judgment of others through trying to draw the fine distinction between who are SUBJECT to their judgment, and who is immune. It is a ‘loophole nicety’ that this lawyer tried to ensnare ME with, and you’ve allowed yourself to be tangled by. The answer, as you intuited, but did not see these verses as addressing is simply… ‘looking upon the needy with eyes to judge whether they are worthy of love’ is WRONG. To ASK the question is wrong… far before attempting to answer it. Sacredness… neighborliness… does not lie in the OBJECT of grace, it lies in the SUBJECT.

“The lawyer of Luke’s Gospel thought I would define whether the beaten up man was a neighbor or not. He was utterly shocked to find that God defines “neighbor” in terms of the GIVER of grace, not its recipient. The same holds true for Sacredness. YOU.. You choose… by how you treat others… ALL others… ALL the time… whether sacredness is your priority. You are the neighbor… You are the conduit of grace… You are the holy royal priest of the sacred. The person you serve, is what defines YOU as neighbor, or worshiper in/of the sacred… not the other way around.

“I… Myself… am ALWAYS there in and with them. Even to ask the question, is to have mistaken the answer. Just as for neighbor, so it is for Sacred. Never mistake this any more, OK?”

“Right, Lord. Got it. Sorry, won’t do that again. My bad,”  and I sat drinking my coffee as I let this sink in, and prepared to meet my friend again today.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Pray for me, Gentle Reader. Still so much to learn. Still making such simple mistakes! Lol. Our Father is so very patient with this frail and slow-witted child! Thanks for walking with me!

Blessings and Grace to thee — Little Monk

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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