Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Extreme Makeover: Heaven & Earth


And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, 'Look, God's home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them.'" (Revelation 21:2-3)


I read and greatly enjoyed Jon Meacham’s The Hope of Glory during Lent, especially a few pages (p 87-88) on the meaning of “life after death” that resonate with me. 

He quotes Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright:
Heaven, in the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other hidden dimension of our ordinary life - God’s dimension, if you like. God made heaven and earth; at the last he will remake both and join them together forever. 

And from Meacham:
The earth is not a temporary place that will disappear on the last day. It will, rather, merge with heaven, which means “God’s space.” Therefore, one should neither need nor want a ticket out of the created order into an ethereal realm. One should instead be hard at work making the world godly and just.

My prayer:

Lord Christ,
Give me appreciation
for the mystery...

I have this notion
of two realms,
the world we perceive:
our concept of time and space,
what our senses reveal.

And the Kingdom of God:
the garden, perfection,
God’ presence manifest,
100%, 24x7.
Heaven!?!

Occasionally,
these realms overlap.
It’s a grace
of your spirit. 
Liminal things.

Most often,
they are separated 
by a thick concrete wall.
The Kingdom of God
can seem
impenetrable. 

But truly,
the barrier 
is merely a veil, 
a mist. 

I have another notion,
both theological 
and practical,
that your resurrection 
set in motion the joining 
of these two realms,
of heaven and earth.

While we wait
for the consummation,
I would prefer
to spend more time 
in the Kingdom of God,
reaching for it,
working for it.

So...what small part 
can I play this day
in uniting heaven 
and earth?

Amen. 


A relevant sermon from Day1:
The Rev. Dr. R. Leigh Spruill
St. George's Episcopal Church, Nashville, TN

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Emmaus Mash-up


Here’s a prayer mash-up from two of my Sunday morning readings, and St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ post resurrection appearance along the road to Emmaus.



Join me, Jesus,
on my road to Emmaus.
I want to tell others about you,
the resurrection story
and resurrection living.

Walk with me, Jesus.
I need your support,
your inspiration.
Our fellow travelers
don’t look like me,
live like me,
believe like me,
vote like me.

And then you shout to them:
Come to me all you who want to belong, and I will give you a table to sit around. Come to me all you who feel disconnected. Come to me all you who are lonely, cut off, rejected, and marginalized. Come to me. Come home. Come be part of the family that I want to share with you.

Open my eyes, Jesus,
to the scriptures,
to your spirit,
to open my arms, 
my heart.

Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Falling...UP!


As I ease into retirement, I am reading Fr. Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward

Per Rohr (and Carl Jung), there are two halves to a lifetime. Most of our concern in the first half of life is about rising, achieving, accomplishing, performing.*
And in the second half there’s is a shift to spiritual development. Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as "falling upward." In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness.*

You can recognize a second half of life person is by a kind of inner outpouring, a kind of inner generativity. They're not guarded. They're not overly self-protected. They're looking for ways to give themselves away, because they're now living out of their abundance, and they find that it's an overflowing wealth.*

That’s aspirational for me. I have much inner work to do! A recent funeral inspired some hope-full thoughts about the seasons of life.

(*) Italicized excerpts from amazon.com, Q&A with the Author


lord of life’s seasons

at a funeral
in my hometown
with friends 
from thirty-five years ago

recalling propitious times
the launching pad 
for family and career
and a wonderful church family

my self-diagnosis
acute nostalgia
if only I could rewind time

those memories
i’m reminded
were from the first act
the curtain now rises on a second

and the funeral scripture
a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time to mourn and a time to dance
(ecclesiastes 3:4)

surely there will be weeping 
and mourning
but there is more laughter 
and dancing to come

meanwhile
in the sunlit church courtyard
a cohort of grandchildren
chasing and racing 
toward a bright future 

to every thing there is a season
and a time to every purpose 
under heaven
(ecclesiastes 3:1)

amen

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Elijah’s Blessing


Pandemic fears realized, a severe stock market plunge, family travails. It has been a faith-challenging week. 

Studying 1 Kings, I find comfort today in the chapter nineteen story of Elijah’s flight from Queen Jezebel. In fear, Elijah is running for his life, but I hear a blessing in this drama.


For those in a gale or earthquake or fire,
For the fearful and exhausted and despairing,

Hear God’s gentle whisper. 

Notice the angels, 
Discover friends, 
Accept their help.

Find support and comfort and restoration.

May this blessing become your truth. Amen. 

Graphic credit

Friday, February 21, 2020

Vision in the Haze


Some people are so clear on their communication with God. I used to feel inadequate. Now I’m wary. Revelation should be the result of discernment...and downright wrestlin’. 

For example, the current intersection of politics and faith in America is choking on certitude but totally lacking discernment. 

In reading about Moses theophanies in Exodus - the burning bush, the Ten Commandments - I realized that when Moses talked with God there was smoke and fog. Even though he heard the voice of God, I’m thinking there was greater discernment required than the Bible stories suggest. After all, Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai (and Jesus was forty days in the wilderness.)

Biblical imagery for our cloudy vision varies. There’s a veil, mist, smoke, clouds, sometimes fire. Discernment requires cogitation. (I really like that word.) And while we cogitate our foremost prayer isn’t necessarily for answers. It’s for God’s illuminating, reassuring presence. 

Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:8)



Creator God,

I want guidance,
a clear path.
You beckon from the mist.
Ambiguity persists.
Yet your presence 
is more than sufficient.

I want answers,
vision in this haze.
But you ask me to wait,
to cultivate patience 
and trust.
And your presence  
is more than sufficient.

I want a mountaintop high,
exhilarating, joyous.
But you come in a cloud
with calm and peace.
Your presence 
is more than sufficient.

Amen!


My prayer was inspired by a Steve Garnaas-Holmes (unfoldinglight.net) devotion in Disciplines:

Sometimes the clearest revelation we receive is that God walks with us in the dark, and we hear God breathing next to us. God offers no words, no thoughts, no stone tablets. Just a loving presence. And even in the dark that is enough.

Even as I seek God’s light to guide me, I pray for the faith to trust the mystery of God’s presence when the way is clouded and when the revelation itself is a mystery...


Photo: Clouds over the Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock NC

Friday, January 24, 2020

Lead Us Not Into Temptation



Five-minute Bible Study | Luke 4 
Commentary (Scripture Union)  


Lord Christ,

The things I chase 
You rejected 

Tempted with wealth
Influence and renown 
You chose a simple 
Itinerate life 
Teaching and healing 

That proved powerful 
Celebrity followed 
You didn’t monetize 
You didn’t mobilize 

Isaiah’s scroll 
Revealed your call 
The poor, oppressed 
Imprisoned and blind 
Figuratively or literally 
No matter 

I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God... 
Luke 4:43 

Will I embrace your call? 
It matters
Amen

Another prayer about the Temptation story.

Artwork credit

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Abba


Abba,

A confluence of Christmas themes:

Top of mind, the Nativity, a tender scene. And today, the lectionary speaks of love - a father’s love, THE Father’s love.

And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
(Galatians 4:6)

You call your Father Abba, translated Daddy. Not “Glorious and Holy Creator of the Universe,” just Daddy, evoking intimacy, family. (From Mark 14:36)

My weekend reading reinforces this:

God does indeed have for us perfect parental love - that unconditional, heart-bursting-out-of-your-chest love, a love that is deeply personal, bottomless, and abundantly flowing. Jesus’ word for “Daddy” is “Abba.”

You are mine. I delight in you. I will restore you. I will not let you go. I will write your name upon my hand. You are mine. What I have begun in you, I will complete. I will be with you in times of trouble. You are mine. I am the Good Shepherd.
(Disciplines, 12/28/19, Ray Buckley)

Amen ...to Abba!