Monday mornings are such a funny time for me… after church on Sunday night, I feel like a bomb has exploded in my head, and I spend the next 24 hours picking up the pieces… “Okay, this goes here, and this goes there; and what the heck is this?” Perhaps some of my preacher-friends know what I’m talking about.
In any event, here are some of the things that are rattling around in my skull this Monday morning:
Church last night was ridiculous(ly good). “Good” is a funny quality to apply to a gathering, and can potentially be lethal, unless you understand what your criteria are. For me, the criteria are, “Did it feel like family? Was it honest? Was it human? Was our attention directed to the beautiful divine Presence within, among, above, and beyond us, or was it directed somewhere else?” Last night, by those standards, was “good”, and then some. We’ve been setting our gathering space up “in the round” of late, and last night the “center” of the room was exactly what it needed to be… the Eucharist. We sang, confessed, expressed our joy and pain, prayed for each other, embraced holy silence, took the Sacred Meal together, and then talked honestly about the Scriptures. I left with a full heart. I love my church. With ALL my heart.
After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge: the initially empty-sense impression gather meaningfully around the core of the Thou… God interprets himself to man as love in the same way: he radiates love, which kindles the light of love in the heart of man, and it is precisely this light that allows man to perceive this, the absolute Love… In [his] face, the primal foundation of being smiles at us as a mother and as a father… But just as no child can be awakened to love without being loved, so too no human heart can come to an understanding of God without the free gift of his grace – in the image of his Son.” (p. 76)
Balthasar’s claim is that it is impossible to see and recognize the love of God without that love first being planted in us. From there, human love is merely a response. God’s love shines into the human soul in the face of Jesus, reflecting and refracting in a myriad of ways. And it is the Divine Intention to flood the world with that love, which heals and makes whole. I am thinking this morning that, therefore, the Westminster shorter catechism’s claim that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” is perhaps the most eminently practical advice ever put forth by the church. Let us love him and enjoy him, who is the source of all life and love and beauty. Perhaps then we’ll stand a shot at lively sanely in an insane world.
This prayer by the Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann from his prayer book “Prayers for a Privileged People” summarizes so much of what I long for out of this year. The prayer is called “On Leaving Bondage… Yet Again.” I’ll leave you with a segment:
We pray for good departures, in the way our ancestors left Egypt, that we may leave the grind of productivity and the hunger of craven ambition, that we may leave for a place of wondrous promise, visited en route by bread from heaven and water from rocks.
We pray for big departures, like those of our ancient parents, that we may leave where we have been and how we have been and who we have been, to follow your better lead for us, you who gives new place, new mode, and new self.
We pray each of us, to travel in mercy, that we may be on our way rejoicing… and arriving in wonder, love, and praise.
I want to depart from every “Egypt” this year and leave, overshadowed by mercy, towards better “places”… places filled with Yahweh’s love and goodness and shalom… places where I’ll experience my truest “humanness” and the truest humanness of my family and community… promised places of rest and hope and peace… remember, however, that “Exodus”, wherever and however it happens, is always primarily not the work of a disgruntled people, but the work of a gracious God who blows his people with his Spirit towards newness, causing them to leave behind Pharaoh’s brick-laying machinery. God grant new exoduses…
I’m thinking that this year I want to read more broadly than I ever have before. I want to read theologians from a wide variety of traditions and experiences and historical periods… I think this will save me from limited thinking and liberate me for creative engagement and recognition of what the Spirit is doing in my life, and in our midst. Catholic, Orthodox, Reformation, Pentecostal, Mystical, Liberation, etc… I want to drink deeply of the wide variety of streams of God’s Spirit.
I’m thinking that this year I want to be more generous than I ever have been before. I think I want the world to live and be blessed because resources came into our possession. I think I want to avoid being calculating about all of this (“can we afford it?!!?”) and instead simply give without hesitation and reservation, to the point where it hurts, believing Jesus’ words when he said, “Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom… so sell your possessions and give to the poor, provide purses for yourself that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I think God will be pleased with this, and our lives will be more interesting, full, and free.
Lastly, I’m simply glowing after the Packers’ victory yesterday to advance to the playoffs, and am fairly confident that Green Bay could be this year’s dark horse team that takes everyone by surprise. I love football.
Yes. These are good things 🙂
Happy Monday to you.