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“Fallout!”: A Tale of Two Friends

Please take a moment to read through John 17:6-23. See how these words are nested within an incredible benediction:

And please have a look at this as well:

Have you ever been “UnFriended?” Like, on Facebook? It’s happened to me. Only once, granted… but still, it’s happened. Ever been in a place of greatest trial in your life, say… where symptoms have appeared of some dreadful disease, but tests have not yet begun, and all there is is that raw terror of mental and physical decline? Imagine being in the darkest hour of your existence, trusting only the smallest handful of friends with the transparency of your anguish in this moment… and having one of them turn their back, call you names, accuse you of some horrendous sin you cannot even comprehend, let alone commit. Imagine having one you have served, always treated as sacred, trusted as “treasured friend”… utterly turn on you and abandon you… not even willing to stand where you stand, even upon your death. Imagine such a thing.

How do you deal with that?

Well, there’s a “wrong” way, and a “right” way.

The wrong way is to yield to all the temptation that says, “Well, they simply lied for all that time. They never esteemed or treasured me or my friendship. They are not worth my time or trouble. If they cannot stand alongside me in my need, in this darkness, in this trial… then who needs such “fair weather friends”. They want to “UnFriend” me? Fine, then! Forget about it! I don’t need their shadow to darken the door of my Temple ever again! They lied before, they could lie now or at any time. They have betrayed my trust, and never again will I risk that!”

The “wrong way” is to declare the sacred relationship “dead”, rend one’s clothes, knock the dust from one’s shoes, turn them over to God… and let Him sort them out without any further love on our part.

Jesus taught against this in no uncertain terms, both as to “forgiveness” and “kindness even to enemies”, and as to “if you remember your brother holds something against you”. Jesus EVER moves towards reconciliation and restoration of sacred relationships! ALWAYS!

But HOW? How does He do that? How do WE do that, in Him?

Well, let’s take a brief look at: “A Tale of Two Betraying Friends”

Of course, we speak of comparing Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter. I’ve always been struck by the comparisons and contrasts of these two crucial characters of the Gospel drama. I’ve written about this before… but never with the personal application we are looking at here. There is pivotal application here to my own life, and perhaps, Gentle Reader, to yours as well.

It astonishes me to realize that Judas did not betray Jesus until AFTER: Jesus had eaten the Passover meal with him, washed his feet, spoken of the end of things… even called them “friends”.

Hold right there a moment… Judas Iscariot is among the disciple group, when Jesus declares that, because He has revealed the fullness of the Father’s love to all of them, they are now “friend” to Him, no longer merely subordinate “disciples”. Jesus has now utterly “revealed Himself” transparently, to the entire group.

But then, Jesus is again troubled by a bout of distress. He sits at the table, and anguish overtakes Him as He tells them He will be betrayed. Various disciples ask if it is they… Imagine that! Imagine “not knowing” if we would, ourselves, betray Jesus to death? “Is it I?”… Then Jesus hands the sop to Judas, and instructs that he do what must be done quickly, and Judas exits. Jesus then shares the Bread and the Cup, they all exit to the Garden, Jesus reveals that all will abandon Him before the end, and Peter vehemently denies the very possibility.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And so the stage is set…

Two “friends”…

Two friends who betray, and abandon, Him…

Two relationships with Him, sundered denial and abnegation…

Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss and receives his payment. Peter denies even knowing Jesus with vehement curses, then abandons Him to His fate with bitter tears. Both sin, both deny, both betray, and… eventually… both know remorse for their deeds. Another post, from another time, looks at how these two (Judas and Peter) dealt differently with their remorse. “Gone Fishin'”

But now, let’s look at this from Jesus’ side of the relationship. Informed by all we know as Christians, all we learn from the Gospels and from Jesus’ teaching and requirements of us, all we experience at the prompting of the Holy Spirit within… let us look at how, if we are obedient to love as Jesus loves, how we are to deal with someone who betrays, lies about, or abandons US!

How did Jesus “get back” at Judas? How did He “discipline” him? How did He “church” him? How did He “cast Judas out?”

Sobering, isn’t it? Knowing what He knew, Jesus did nothing but continually bless Judas. He never “threw him out”, or did other than warn him of the consequences of his decisions. I’ve often thought Judas was still capable of derailing the entire Crucifixion thing right up to the point where he utterly resolved and decided to “do it”. At THAT moment, receiving a morsel from the very hand of Jesus, he gives the will wholly up to the evil of betraying Jesus, Judas “opens the door of his heart and stands fully aside” for the moment John narrates as “Satan entered into him”.

The last words Jesus speaks to Judas are simply, “What you must do, do quickly.”

As discussed in the earlier post, Judas eventually experiences remorse, but tries to make things right on his own, without ever daring to face the disciples or Jesus Resurrected. Nothing he tries works, and Judas dies by his own hand.

Now let us consider how Jesus deals with His betrayal and abandonment by Peter.

Again, Jesus does nothing but deal “normally” with Peter after telling Him of his coming betrayal. Jesus teaches him, blesses him, shares bread and cup with him, brings him to the Garden and asks him to stand watch, rebukes him for his sleep, and ultimately rebukes him for injuring Malchus with that sword as He heals the injured man. No further words pass between them until Peter’s betrayal and abandonment in the courtyard of Pilate.

Now… here’s the really hard lesson here.

Peter denies Jesus. Peter curses in the vehemence of his denial. Peter abandons Jesus.

How does Jesus “react” to all this?

Jesus makes NO CHANGE in their relationship and friendship.

It’s that simple. Peter runs to the tomb at the report of the women of the Resurrection. He sees nothing, as don’t any of the other men.

Jesus enters the room and speaks to the disciples as a group, including Peter, though they exchange no private or personal words. Jesus appears at various times, Peter experiences these apparitions.

As to the appearance of Jesus on the beach cooking breakfast, when from the boat John recognizes that the man is Jesus and Peter jumps out of the boat half dressed (stripped down for fishing) and wades to shore…

Who can imagine what words were on the tip of Peter’s tongue as he fought the lapping surf for a “private word” with the Lord? But none of it came out… no apology, no self flagellation, no confession, no worthless worm, no contrition… nothing came out.

Jesus did not rebuke, correct, accuse, or even make reference to the event. Jesus met Peter’s need for “refocus”, “repurposing”, by simply asking three times if he loved Him, and instructing Him to perform the task he was appointed to for the rest of his life. To feed and tend Jesus sheep and lambs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bottom line? Jesus treated Peter just as He always had. Jesus treated Peter just as He treated all other Disciple/Friends. He appeared, He spoke, He loved, He touched, He fed, and ultimately He sent the Holy Spirit to penetrate and enter into to Peter, just as all the others.

In other words, Jesus did exactly as He commands us to do… bless, love, do good, and embrace ALL… whether they love us or hate us. No difference. Forgive, from the heart, not because of anything the “other” the “forgiven” bring to the moment, but simply because so the Father does with us. We are to enter back into the sacredness of the relationship, restoring trust and love.

Easy? No. Simple? Yes. Been abandoned, betrayed, lied about, or “UnFriended”? What to do? Do nothing. Bless them, speak truth with grace, live (as far as depends on you) in peace with the other, and continue to treat them sacredly as though they had never tried to wound or do you ill. As we continue to provide a conduit for grace to reach through us to them, it is to be hoped that sacredness, peace, joy, and light will restore love and light into whatever shadows and dark corners still try to impede grace in sacred spaces of relationship!

We thus honor Him, and we thus know peace.

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Posted by on April 1, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Entry Six: “Who Could Believe This?!!”

Journal Entry:

I still can scarcely believe this day myself, but I have to get something down about all this. It all began so bleakly…

The vulgarity… the violence… the contempt… I cannot even write down my thoughts or feelings about what happened between The Master’s betrayal by Judas, and His final breath on the Cross. Perhaps later, but not now, not yet.

And then… He died.

He really, totally, died. Just like most every other man born of woman. He died. The groan throughout heaven was nearly palpable. The higher ups looked grave, but unsurprised. Even *I* realize that He had spoken clearly that He was going to die, but still… I mean… how could this be? So often, He spoke “figuratively”. I guess I had hoped this was one of those kinds of thing. But it wasn’t. He died.

His Body was taken down, laid in a borrowed tomb, and he was hurriedly washed and anointed, as even His friends had to get home before the sun fully set.

But then… then… the strangest thing(s) happened! (For one thing, “time” got really muddled between the celestial and the material. Because He remained fully Him, and yet His natures… Well, I don’t really understand HOW this all happened, but I’ll just note down what DID happen!)

Anyway, He was washed, anointed, wrapped, and left in that tomb. The Temple officials (not caring about their OWN people getting home for the Passover night), posted guards and rolled this megalith in front of the entrance so that no one could get to Him. (Ha! Little did THEY know. But I get ahead of myself…)

Anyway, no sooner had the tomb been sealed, than a little messenger sprite pops in front of me with a sealed scroll with gilt edges. I open it, and find I am summoned to the commissioning desk… I have an assignment. I shook my head… “REALLY?” I thought… “in the midst of all THIS, now it’s ‘business as usual’, and I have an assignment?” But it was better than doing nothing, I figured, so I zipped to the desk to serve as I was called.

Never did I imagine!

Twelve of us had been summoned, and the task director was just beaming all over as he congratulated us, and said if he were capable of envy he would envy us. He seemed to take delight in our puzzled expressions, and said very little as reverently he handed each of us various garments of exquisite crafting. Sandals, undergarments, finest linen tunic, sash… it wasn’t until he got to the final garments, a magnificent Robe and covering cloak that we realized Whose these were. This clothing was woven of spirit and truth, had indefinable texture as fine as spidersilk, and shone with colors no human eye has ever seen.

These… were The Master’s robes… His Kingly Robes… His Priestly Robes. These were the garments He would wear upon His return to Earth at the end of man time… and they were here… HERE… in OUR HANDS!

Our assignment was simple. We were to proceed, the dozen of us, to and into the tomb, and await The Master’s need for His clothing.

We were stunned… but delighted.

With the speed of thought, we entered the Tomb. It was large enough, with a stone niche in which The Master’s body, wound with His gravesclothes, lay. We arrived, each bearing our items, and waited.

It was not but moments before we… er… “felt”, more than “heard”, the melodious voice of The Father, His Majesty, entone with the greatest love…

“Awaken now, My Son. Well, well done, My good and faithful Beloved. Come, now, as We complete Our tasks!”

The Master arose, in the fullness of His Glorious Body, as His flesh remained within the winding sheet. Confused though we were, we knelt and sang in joy and wonder at His return. Our presence had already brought light into the space, but His arising prompted a golden glowing brilliance never seen since the Shekinah.

Always knowing the thoughts of those about Him, He smiled as He donned each garment in order, answering the confusions in myself.

I have already said, the whole “time” thing got a bit muddled in this space between sundown Friday and sunrise of Sunday (as men name these days).

“You wonder why my flesh remains here for the moment… Well, I have said My body must remain in the earth for these three days, as Jonah was in the whale. I will not appear to any on earth, until that flesh arises and the stone is rolled away. But, in this meantime, I have things to accomplish… and a dinner date at home this night with a thief.” And He smiled at us, touched us all, and allowed us to serve Him as we fitted His garments to Him.

“You may remain with Me for this time, if you wish…” He said.

We wished.

Together, He and we twelve singing praises to Him, His Majesty, and The Radiance… sped towards heaven. We thought He would return to His Throne first and foremost, to see The Father. But we were wrong…

Instead, He headed first to the Temple Not Made With Hands… the one foreshadowed and copied by the Tabernacle and Temple of Jerusalem. We stood, six to a side, as He made the Once For All Offering of His own Life, His Own Blood, in total and utter satisfaction of all debt owed by the sin of Creation. It was amazing.

Having thus completed Reconciliation, He THEN went to The Father’s Throne, to bring “closure” to His offering. They only spoke a few moments, as His Majesty raised His hands and blessed both The Master and all of Creation, in the completion of this Sacrifice of and by The Lamb of God. They embraced, The Master bowed (as did we all), and strode from the Great Hall.

Each of us were very silent, wondering how long we could tag along before being dismissed, as we fanned out from Him something like an Honor Guard. All around us cheered and bowed, as The Master passed… and He seemed vibrant with joy and celebration as He touched as many as reached out to Him.

We got to the boundary of paradise, the threshold between our dimension and others, as He said, “I have one more task to complete for the moment. Would you care to come along?” We all eagerly assented. “Very well,” He continued. “You’re about to go somewhere you have never been, and may well never go again. We depart.”

Following Him, we were shocked to find ourselves at… the Gates of Hell. More precisely, we were at the veil of the underworld, the land of shades of those passed on. Great symbolic chains, locks, bars, and barriers kept the living, the ever living, and the dead apart and separated. With no more than a mighty sweep of His arm, and a cry of, “People of faith! Walk free into the Light! Welcome to My Kingdom, ye Saints!”… all the obstructions vanished, and those whose hopes had ever been in the Lord, were now able to come to Him, touch Him, kiss Him, hug Him.

Being Who, and what, and how, He is… He could (and did) greet and embrace them each by name. Together, we all made our way home to Paradise.

When we had returned, all tasks done, The Master passed through His quarters and emerged dressed once again in His typical simple style.

He called ten of us to be privileged to care for His things for a time, and serve at a banquet being held for Him, the Father, the Radiance, the returning saints, and one recently deceased thief. Two of us (myself, disappointedly) were not among the chosen. I tried not to show my disappointment… but you can’t “hide thoughts” around Him.

“Don’t be dejected,” He said as He smiled. “I have a different task for you and Heracles, if you don’t mind.” (We smiled broadly, nodding our assent.) “I would like you to return to My Tomb, and stand vigil over My Body. In ‘our time’ here, it will only be a few moments from now. But in ‘man time’ it will be about 36 hours, and I will return. You will then break open the Tomb as I exit, and remain behind to explain what has happened. Will you deliver these messages for Me?”

We could scarcely contain our glee!

And so it came to pass. On the Third Day, Heracles and I participated in a great earthquake and rolled away the stone, watched The Master rise in His Resurrected Body of Flesh, saw Him disappear, folded His graveclothes, and awaited the women who came to anoint His corpse properly.

Should I live forever (which of course, I shall… but still…)… Should I live forever, I shall NEVER forget the privilege…

I got to sit atop a great heavy sealing stone and say to some of The Master’s very Best Friends…

“Why do you seek the Living among the Dead? He is Risen, just as He said He would…”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Who could ever believe such a thing?

No… wait… apparently THAT is now a very important question. One of those “choice” things I spoke of before…

Oh well. Enough for now. A bit more, later. Allelujah! He is Risen!

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

P.S. I know this entry is a little longer than normal… But… well… the day was a bit unusual, too! MN

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Angel’s Journal, Second Entry: “Maybe they’re getting it?”

Journal Entry:

I want to get this down, now, while things are still so up in the air.

Clearly, His Majesty’s warning informs us that bad things are yet to happen, and there’s a whole lot of plotting and planning going on behind closed doors. (Of course, no doors are really “closed” to us, so we just have to bear with all the deceit, motionless.)

But a couple “days” ago, The Master entered Jerusalem, earth’s Holy City, where once He resided with them at the Ark of the Covenant and where He instructed (in great detail) how His temple was to be built. (Of course, that has seen better days, since that whole Babylonian debacle… still, the Temple is quite a monument to Him… and The Master always pays a great deal of attention to its goings on… But I get ahead of myself.)

Anyway, like I was saying, The Master rode into Jerusalem. Darius and Erich, on the message delivery rota for that day, were THRILLED when tasked to go to a nondescript farmer in a village near Bethpage outside the city (not the Bethpage on Long Island, but the other one outside Jerusalem), and visit his dreams with the message that The Master would need his small white colt that day, and would send a disciple to pick it up. We angels have been bound to watch these events unfold in something very close to man-time, rather than our own eternal time. But still, at least we sometimes get to participate in LITTLE ways, even if not in the “big stuff”.

Anyhow, The Master mounted the cute little colt and entered Jerusalem, packed with people, visitors there from all over the known world. As he entered, his vehicle striding relaxedly down the main road, a current seemed to move from the outskirts into the metro centre. At first just a few, the young and the quick, dashed off to inform the crowds…

“He is COMING! He’s HERE! Jesus! Jesus! He’s riding into town! He’s Here!”

It reminded me of so long before, the message some of us got to deliver… shepherds, kings, a blind man, an old woman, a priest… of course, Gabriel got to do THE Message. But still, lots and lots of us got to sing with that heavenly host as the Star shone above the Stable. It was magnificent!

And here now, these kids got to do the same. They dashed into the City, telling everyone who would listen… He’s HERE!

Ah… yes… my point. Sorry, I keep forgetting. Anyway… it was just so AMAZING! Makes me wonder if maybe this week stuff won’t be so bad. I mean, you’d swear they GET IT! The people, and I mean just about EVERYBODY, cheered Him! They cried out “Hosanna”, just as we do! They proclaimed Him “Blessed!”, just as we do! They called Him “Son of David”, and “He who comes in the name of the Lord!”, just as we do!

Could it be? Is it possible? Do they really see?

They cheered, bowed, and threw their cloaks and fronds down in front of Him. They greeted Him as the King He truly is!

Those who track the Dark Ones and monitor the conspirators against Him did not seem terribly encouraged, but *I* certainly was. Who knows, maybe this will all work out after all! I can live in hope, no?

Maybe… just maybe… they really ARE getting it?

More later, as things unfold!

Journal Entry by — Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2016 in Lenten Journey, Uncategorized

 

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Great Questions — The Littlest Question

©1982KatherineBrown

©1982KatherineBrown

“How do I LIVE in Christ, right here, right now, day to day?”

THAT, I call “the littlest question”. That is a question of “how?”, not of “Who?” or of “What?”. That is a question of “little me”, not “All Mighty God”, or “The Mighty Counselor”, or “The Messiah”, or “The Savior”. That is a question of right here, right now, not “In Eternity”, “In the Cosmos”, or “From the Beginning of Time”.

As Christian bloggers, as ministers of the gospel, as church people, as teachers/preachers, we spend much of our time dealing with “The Great Questions!” “Who/What is God and His Nature?”, “What is Truth?”, “What is Forgiveness and how Often?”, “How Should the Bride of Christ, The Church, Run?“, and so on. Those are decidedly GOOD questions. They explore our relationship with God as we seek to know Him intimately and thus experience eternal life. Nothing wrong with such questions. I spend much time in them, as do others.

But, once in a while I am reminded of the fundamental simplicity of Christ. Recently I was reminded, by someone INSISTING that I address a single, very simple question. It shames me to confess, their question was so fundamental and so simple, and I spend so much time “in my head” with the great and mighty questions, that for far too long… I couldn’t even HEAR their question properly.

What was the question?

“HOW… in practical terms… How am I supposed to LIVE, as a Christian?”

Every time I answered, the person shook their head and said, “I HEAR that, but I don’t know how to DO that! I hear that from you, I see that in Scripture, I hear that in Church… but when it comes right down to it, I don’t know what that all MEANS outside of church, prayer and religion. HOW do I DO that?”

I realized that THEY were not the one “not getting it”. THEY weren’t “dense”. *I* was. *I* wasn’t getting it, *I* was being slow on the uptake. I didn’t know why communication wasn’t happening, so I backed up a moment to take my confusion to Jesus, and He showed me the problem. It made me blush then, and it makes me blush now.

I kept giving them “Great Question” answers. You know… “Love God with all your…”, “Love as Jesus loves…”, “Forgive always…” so on and so on. I kept answering the “What?”‘s of Christian living. They weren’t ASKING me about “What?” or “Why?” or “Who?”… they got all that. They knew all that. They were asking “HOW?”, and I was utterly failing to respond. What’s more, truthfully, I didn’t KNOW. I hadn’t “thought about it”. It all seems so complicated… “How do you live a perfect (as Jesus commanded at the end of Sermon on the Mount) Christian life?” So many rules. So many opinions. So many interpretations. So many traditions. What was I to say?

So, as I stopped my speaking, closed my eyes, backed up… and “punted”… I prayed, then shut up and listened. “Lord? What’s wrong here? Why are we not connecting? I’m missing something critical here.”

And, at first, all I could hear was Jesus’ laughter. Rather like we laugh when watching a kitten tie themselves up in a big ball of yarn. Not “making fun” so much as “recognizing the absurdity of the moment”. His laughter calmed me in the sense that I knew I wasn’t “misleading” or “speaking less than Truth” here, but I remained confused for the moment.

“You’re just making things all too complicated,” He said. “HOW do you live out love? If you want to focus on one, single, behavior that will have the greatest impact on letting Me be Me in you… ‘be KIND’! The closest human label and emotion to ‘agape’ in behavior, is ‘kindness’. Tell him to go out tomorrow, and every day, in every encounter, making every decision, in the kindest way and being kind to everyone. He will know, as do you and everyone else, when he is being ‘unkind’ and ‘selfish’. Tell him, simply to ‘be kind’, and then follow up from there with him later.”

And so I did.

That has affected me since. I’ve looked at that aspect of my Crystal Rose now from many angles. It’s true. “Kindness” in the way we mean that, is central to all of the Old Law. Central to the Gospels. If we were to line up all the encounters of Jesus, and ask what central characteristic they hold in common, His kindness would be atop the list.

Kindness… to be consistently Kind… is very very simple.

It is also very very hard!

Want the Scriptural take on all this?

Read over the entirety of 1 Corinthians 13 for a moment. (It’s a comparatively short chapter. Go ahead and look at it… I’ll wait here.)

<<     Hums the Final Jeopardy theme music tune here, waiting patiently….  >>

Finished? Good. Now watch this…

In all that chapter, Paul deals with “love”, and simple behaviors, after opening with matters of Great Questions. After all, Paul’s epistles constantly deal with Great Questions and Weighty Matters… the nature of God, the nature of the Church, the nature of Salvation, discipline in the church, the nature of ministry, the qualifications of ministers… and on… and on… and on. We base much of our Great Question dialogue grounded in the writings of Paul. As I said, nothing wrong with that.

But! We can lose sight of the simple fact that over and over and over, Paul is ALSO “making new believers”! He is evangelizing. He is sharing the SIMPLE Good News of the arrival of Jesus, His Kingdom, and the freedom in our lives of our redemption. Paul doesn’t plunge new believers into heady debate about “to meat or not to meat”, or lots of other things. He speaks of Christ, of His love, of Christ come, and crucified, and risen.

The KEY verse, in all of 1 Corinthians 13, I believe to be Verse Four:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant…”

As I’ve looked and pondered these things, the opening verses deal with the Great Questions! You can have all the “Great Answers”, and do all the “Great Things”… but without this bedrock, this “love” thing… that’s all meaningless. Everything before verse four, seems to lead up to verse four. Everything after verse four, seems only to expand on and refine it.

“Patient, kind, no jealousy or ego…”

To brag and be arrogant are based in pride, and pride (wounded) is part and parcel of jealousy.

So… right here, in front of man and God and everybody, I say openly… “If you want to live out the perfect Christian life, and have the love of Christ flow through you to others, focus behaviors on ‘patient, kind, not ego-bound'”.

There’s HOW!

One last note. Think about, in your own life, those persons… those (usually) handful of persons… who have really “shone Christ” in your own life to you. You know who I mean, the one’s who, when you spend time with them, leave you sensing the nearness and presence of Christ more strongly than you did before. Those ones that just ‘cover you up in’ the Father’s love, the Son’s Forgiveness, the Holy Spirit’s presence. The ones you reach towards when you feel that need for the tangible presence of Jesus.

Now, ask yourself,  “is that person patient? kind? and humble (ego-free)” in their dealings with me?

Let us, then, go and do likewise.

Grace to you, Gentle Reader — The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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God Is Eternally Giving Away God

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Grace: Week 1

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National September 11 South pool, New York, New York, April 2012. Photograph by NormanB.

Monday, January 25, 2016 – (Feast of St. Paul, the Apostle of Grace)

It is by grace that you are saved, through faith, not by anything of your own, but by a pure gift from God, and not by anything you have achieved. Nobody can claim the credit. You are God’s work of art. –Ephesians 2:8

By grace you notice, nothing to do with good deeds, or grace would not be grace at all. –Romans 11:6

Happy are those servants whom the master finds awake. I tell you he will put on an apron, sit them down at table, and wait on them. –Luke 12:37

I think grace, arising from God’s limitless love, is the central theme of the entire Bible. It is the divine Unmerited Generosity that is everywhere available, totally given, usually undetected as such, and often even undesired. This grace was defined even in the old Baltimore Catechism as “that which confers on our souls a new life, that is, a sharing in the life of God himself [sic].” [1] We always knew it on paper, but much less in experience and conviction.

In the parable of the watchful servants (Luke 12:35-40), God is actually presented as waiting on us–in the middle of the night! In fact, we see God as both our personal servant inside our house and the divine burglar who has to “break through the walls of [our] house.” That’s really quite extraordinary and not our usual image of God. It shows how much God–the “Hound of Heaven,” as Francis Thompson says–wants to get to us and how unrelenting is the work of grace.

Unless and until you understand the biblical concept of God’s unmerited favor, God’s unaccountable love, most of the biblical text cannot be interpreted or tied together in any positive way. It is, without doubt, the key and the code to everything transformative in the Bible. People who have not experienced the radical character of grace will always misinterpret the meanings and major direction of the Bible. The Bible will become a burden, obligation, and weapon more than a gift.

Grace cannot be understood by any ledger of merits and demerits. It cannot be held to patterns of buying, losing, earning, achieving, or manipulating, which is where, unfortunately, most of us live our lives. Grace is, quite literally, “for the taking.” It is God eternally giving away God–for nothing–except the giving itself. I believe grace is the life energy that makes flowers bloom, animals lovingly raise their young, babies smile, and the planets remain in their orbits–for no good reason whatsoever–except love alone.


Gateway to Silence
Open me to grace upon grace upon grace.


References:
[1] The New Baltimore Catechism of yesteryear; the more recent catechisms say essentially the same thing.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2007), 155-156.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Interspace, Inner Space, The Place Between

“And what did you learn in school this year, Little Monk?”

“Oh, LOTS of cool stuff, Father!” I responded, as we sat relaxed in the great Hall of Fire at His House. We stared into the flames, feet toasting comfortably on little footstools near the andirons, sipping mulled cider. It was a quiet evening, a “waiting” evening, a “restful” evening between the ending of one year and the beginning of the next. For the moment… for THIS moment… all felt well with the worlds.

“Good!” He smiled. “Like what? Tell Me of something.”

“Well, I learned Your Name… again.” (I sorta mumbled that last bit, because over time, it seems I get new understandings of His Name.)

“Ah,” His eyebrows raised as diplomatically He looked back towards the hearth, prompting me to continue with a slight nod. “And what word is that for you now?”

“Well I saw You at IT one night. I saw You doing IT. Jesus walked up on me as I marvelled. I asked Him what I should do… whether I should join in with You… and He said no, that I should just settle back and enjoy the beauty of IT. Leave You be.”

“And what did you see, Little Monk?”

“Well… um… I saw You…” I sort of hesitated and coughed a bit, looking down. “I saw You… well… Dancing. You know, You were dancing and singing with the Heavenly Host. The music was breathtaking. You just swirled, and reached, and leapt. And everywhere You reached, or looked, or sang, or as Your robes swirled… that, that STUFF came off and spewed out in every direction. You know what I saw! I saw you doing IT!”

“Ah, I see…” He mused. And I knew He COULD see. As I recaptured what I saw Him doing in the limited nature of my own little mind and image/symbols, He could then recapture that experience, even in His Own Unlimited mind and Realities.

And…” He prompted, gently. “What is IT? What was I doing? And what have you learned now as My Name?”

In those moments, You were Joy! Boundless, rapturous, passionate, profligate, Utter Joy! You danced in Joy! You danced without restraint of passion, movement, or being. To behold You was Joy. Around You was Joy. Within You was Joy! One could barely breathe for the density of it…

And as You spun, reached, gazed, sang… from You came beams, streams, great currents of Light… and the Light was Love… but not ‘love’ like a feeling or a sentiment. But LOVE like a force! Like a nuclear explosion! Like a stream of plasma from the face of the sun! Love burst forth from you, impelled by the passion of Your Joy! And I could follow those streams with my gaze, and all that they touched became Alive! Motion, energy, relationships, stuff and matter through atoms and molecules, and cells and little beings, and people and families and babies… EVERYTHING became Real when touched by those streams!

It was amazing, Father. It was wondrous and beautiful. It was awesome and terrifying. It was… Glorious… to watch You do IT!” my voice drifted off as I stared into the fire, reliving in memory those moments of watching Him dance.

And what was I doing, Little Monk? What is or was ‘IT’ in your perception?”

You were dancing and singing Your Love, Father. And everywhere Your gaze, Your streams, Your voice touched, came Alive. You were, as Jesus said, ‘Doing what You do.’ You were just fulfilling Your Name, Father.”

Ah, so We come to the conclusion. What, Little Monk, have you learned My Name to be, in this year?”

Father…” I looked up from the fire to adore Him for a moment, quietly sitting in that other chair, “You are the Joy Who Gives Life Through Love.”

Ah…” He thought for a moment as He took another sip of mulled cider before turning His head to meet my gaze. He smiled as our eyes met, and said, “I like that. Not bad, Little Monk. Carry on.”

And we turned back to the fire, holding our warm cups.

 
 

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Worship without but within words…

earth beautifulFrom some years ago…

Sleeping… waken… open eyes… beautiful… lights dancing, but small lights. Seemingly in random motion, yet not… as I rest, relax, cease striving, I see pattern, beauty, praise. This is life itself… rather, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. Somehow, I have wakened inside worship.  How amazing.

“Lord?” I whisper, reverently, sacredly… awed.

And there is caress, a tender hug and enfolding… no words… direct impression of idea… He unspeaks… “Hush… be… I AM… you… be.” Can’t really translate the impression into words. That is as close as I can come. I was simply to exist in Him, and hush. So I did.

And then… I was inside of Someone with no boundaries or limits. Strange, to be inside One Who has no “outside”. But then He spoke, He uttered, and I flowed with that tide, that current from within Him to “other”, to “beyond” Him… He had spoken The Word.

And now, with infinite others, I was inside that Other… Holy Other… spoken forth from the First, from the Prime Mover… still dancing lights, all the same, identical pattern, Life Himself. Truth, beauty, goodness, love, peace, joy, music, praise, thanks… worship. No different, yet different, for now all this worship and praise had an Object, a Focus, the Other, the Prime Mover.

And This One, This Holy One, spoken forth from the Object of His Love, now spoke forth His Own First Word… it was, “Father”, as He wholly and entirely adored the Prime Mover. And again there was movement, the lights, we, flowed from Him, outwards, back to the Father. Amazing.

And then, between them, forevermore, remained that “word” that “bridge” the relationship between Them. And it grew, expanded, encompassing all and everything, in its own light, as This Too became Alive and Whole in and of Himself… the Relationship Between Them, as the Prime Mover spoke again… the word “Son.”

There was nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to think, but to flow with this Life, this Love, these Words… There was no awareness of anything beyond the moment… the “I”… the “Now”… the “Here”… and Here, was, distinctly, worship.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Oh, sweet irony. I do not wish to speak. I am yet There… and when I “hush”, when I now “relax” and allow Him to draw me into Him with “no distance”, “no apartness”, then my mind stops thinking, there is no more I/Thou, and I am there! Such… no, no words. The sweetness, the joy and light of that, is so immediate, so poignant, that it pierces the heart and soul. Seems strange to say… joy so great it is nearly painful in its intensity. A moment more… then work… then obedience…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There are some who pray, who have discovered God in Silence. I never understood before. Trappists, Carthusians… My Jesuit father frequently said, if God did not command his obedience and service as a Jesuit, or if the Order ever chose to release him (as he had a request before them to do for years)… he sought to join a Carthusian monastery he knew. I asked why, and he said, “They are forever silent. They live ever in His immediate presence, and hear only Him. God grants me that only when I contemplate… but then commands me to teach. So I obey. But someday, if He grants my wish and reward, I shall be a Carthusian.”

I did not understand. I do now.

The Music! The Harmonies of the Silence! Would that I never again spoke or uttered a sound. The irony. It seems I very much am “my father’s child”. Now, that finally I desire no speech… now I am properly prepared to craft words. Now, it is time… to teach. Though all I would seek is solitude and silence.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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