Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A Prayer for Notre Dame

A Prayer for Notre Dame

Loving God, in every age you have moved your people to acts of great reverence and devotion, stirring the hearts of the faithful to create music, art and symbols of beauty that have stirred the longings and prayers of countless millions. 

Look with mercy on the burnt embers of Notre Dame Cathedral where countless souls have been moved to prayer, praise and to seek you whom no human walls can contain. Console the people of France and Paris for whom the cathedral's beauty and noble spires have been a symbol of faith, pride and national identity. 

Send the Spirit of your love to all who mourn the immensity of this loss, and unite the hearts of all the faithful on this holiest of weeks that knowing your love we may trust ever-more greatly in you, who bring life from death and hope from the flames of destruction, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Pr David L. Miller

Friday, April 12, 2019

Tragedy to triumph

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
   and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.
(Isaiah 53:12)

Tragedy to triumph

We stand on the brink of Holy Week when unholy things will occur. They occur every week, but this is the week when we consider the great tragedy of the human heart and history.

The gift of God’s own presence is refused and killed, hung on a cross. This is the rejection of the Love the human heart most needs, but most fears.

Fears? Yes, because receiving the Love who is our Source not only gives joy but moves us beyond ourselves in acts of great care. Knowing the Love Who Is carries us beyond our comfort zone. It asks us transform the world by caring for those who are difficult for us, forgiving what we don’t want to forgive and loving this world even when it is most unlovely.  

It coaxes us to release our delusional grasp on our futures and trust that Love, after all, is enough to hold and give us what we need in the great unknown that stretches before us.

This week, we watch Jesus pour himself out to death, receiving the brutality of those who do not want the world or themselves to be transformed by Love. He bears their abuse, refusing to pay back evil for evil, even praying for those who do not understand that they are trying to kill the very Love they most need.

But they cannot, of course. For the week that witnesses the great folly of the human race ends in startled wonder, as we see once more that Love, indeed, is stronger than every death that has ever been. 

Seeing this, our hearts will fill with life once more.

Pr. David L. Miller

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Gentle Rider

Then they brought [the colt] to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! (Luke 19:35-38)

Gentle rider

Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he mounted the colt and rode it into the Kidron Valley on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He was fulfilling God’s promise of the Messiah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

He looked gentle, but his act was a threat to the Romans who occupied the city and to the authorities who ran the temple.

For the gentle rider on his colt was claiming to be the Messiah, which means “Anointed One,” who judges and shepherds the nations, brings light to those in darkness and mercy to the poor and oppressed.

The Messiah would command peace to the nations and break the instruments of battle into pieces.

Of course, this king will be rejected. We know how he was arrested, condemned and brutally executed. But we also know that the life that was in him could not be killed but rose again. The peace he proclaimed, the mercy he poured out, the care and justice he embodied has ruled the hearts of those who name him Lord and changed the entire course of history.

All the armies that have marched and navies that have sailed don’t begin to match the power of this Jesus, who still commands and makes peace flow from the hearts of those who know him.

And he will, until the day his peace covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Pr. David L. Miller

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

In your hands

But I trust in you, O Lord;
   I say, ‘You are my God.’ 
My times are in your hand;

 deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. 
Let your face shine upon your servant;

   save me in your steadfast love.
 (Psalm 31:14-16)

In your hands

To know salvation is to know a great and enveloping love surrounding, holding and filling you. It is to such everlasting love that the heart cries out and confidently declares, “My times are in your hand.”

Every hour of every day, past, present and future … “in your hands.”

I wrote a sermon using this phrase years ago when studying for pastoral ministry. Our professor assigned the task of writing a funeral sermon. I chose this text and wrote a funeral sermon … for my father, who was still alive at that time.

But he was failing. His health failed for years as post-polio syndrome wore him down to a crumpled, frail shadow of a man, whom I still love greatly as my tears attest. A small photo of the two of us is on my desk, right in front of me as I write.

I thought of my father’s days as I wrote that sermon years ago, a few lines of which I used when Dad finally passed. His days were bright until 29 when polio struck him down in a single day. All the days that followed, until we laid him to rest on a hillside outside our little town, were marked with more struggle than most ever endure.

At the end, when all strength had failed and the loneliness of dying weighed heavily on his heart, I marked his head with the sign of the cross and assured him that he rested in the arms of an everlasting mercy … who held every moment of every day he’d ever lived.

I wanted for him what I want for myself and every soul I have ever counseled, consoled or comforted: Know this, precious heart, everything you are, everything you lost along the way, everything you suffered and every joy that sparkled in your eyes—all of it—rests in the hands of an everlasting love. Now and forever.

Pr. David L. Miller

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Great souls & rainbows

But while [the prodigal] was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

Great souls & rainbows 

We are called to greatness, everyone one of us, and every one of us can be great regardless of status or station, age or health, learning or lack.

True human greatness has nothing to do with how much money you make, how large your house is or how important others think you are. In fact, health and wealth can be the greatest obstacles.

The Spirit within our spirit draws us toward becoming magnanimous … great souls, which is the most literal sense of the word.

Great souls are large and embracing. They welcome life in its fullness, eager to love every moment, to see good and grace, beauty and wonder on days others merely slog through. They receive each day, however mundane, as a gift of grace in which something special will happen, something that will touch and fill your heart.

Great souls are expansive, with room for others to be themselves, and they are full of blessing. Having savored much of life’s fullness, they have much to give. They are rainbows in the gray skies of other lives, finding joy in every act and word of blessing they share.

The father of the prodigal son runs to greet his wayward child when he returns home from wasting his life. The old man enfolds him in his arms and holds him near.

This is a great soul, an embracing heart who has long ached for the moment of return when sadness becomes ecstasy to be shared in exultation with everyone near. The beloved has come home where he can touch and bless and let him know how precious he is … and always will be.

The father is the image of who God is … and of what we are to become. Becoming like the father, a great soul, is the final stage of spiritual growth. It takes a lifetime of love and longing, giving and receiving, enduring pain and disappointment … and believing that love never ends and is all that truly matters.

Pr. David L. Miller

Friday, April 05, 2019

Coming home

But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father … (Luke 15:17-18a)

Coming home

It is to myself that you call me, dear Friend. And I return, home.

It is not a place, although this place of quiet is especially blessed to me, and I pray it will always be: a desk littered with papers, books partially read, notes for articles yet to be written, a red candle (of course), and the chant of gentle voices across the room.

This is the place of retreat where I come to find you … or shall I say where you find me … and take me home?

Love … is my home, which is to say you, my Lord, for what are you if not this Love that aches in me until I come here to be with you, alone?

You call me to come back to myself, to release all pretension, all effort, all striving and know one thing … this Love, you, who dwell within.

Life is a prodigal journey where we get lost. We lose ourselves, wasting ourselves, our years and talents, expending vast amounts of energy trying (much too hard) to be something other than what we are, something we imagine others require or demand or expect of us.

Being what we are not, we live far from the center of our souls, far from the deep, inner connection with the mystery of our own identity and the mystery of your indwelling. These two are one and the same. For what are we if not expressions of you who are Love, each so unique and precious?

To find love within is to find you. To feel the ache of love and the ache for love is to know you. To discover something that gives joy and frees you to give a piece of your heart back to this world … this is what it means to come to yourself, to remember and feel who you truly are and know: Love, this Holy Mystery living through the particular shape of your life.

Find what fills your heart and frees you to touch the world with grace. Let go of the delusion that you need to do or be anything else. You will know yourself … and the Love who lives in you … in the very same moment.

Love will take you home.

Pr. David L. Miller

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Who you are

The father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (Luke 15:22-24)

Who you are

Anyone who has ever lost a child in a shopping mall understands the heart of God.

Sorting through a rack of clothes, you look down, and a cold, hollow chill twists your stomach. Turning one way, then another, she is not there. Feverish, you rush down one aisle and up another. Where did she go? She was here a moment ago. Is she still in the store? Did she run into the mall?

Dark fears race through the mind and a wave of nausea sickens, as you turn wildly about, looking. Until. Until you hear the sing-song of a tiny voice and see the curve of a familiar cheek, or perhaps you hear her tearful lament as she cannot find you, and you fly to enfold her in your arms, a tear of relief in your eye because the lost is found. 

Fear evaporates … for both of you … as you stroke her hair and cradle her close. “Where were you? I didn’t know where you were. You scared me.”

The words are not spoken in anger but in love, joy and relief, and you return to your shopping but shaken, promising yourself you will never turn away again.

Hold this moment. Listen to everything it has to teach. For in this moment, you know who God is; you know the Love you are created to enjoy, the Love to whom you can return every time you feel lost or alone, empty or afraid.

You are a child of a Great Love who longs for your nearness. This Love is your home, a home from which we wander like the prodigal son, creating pain in our hearts and in the heart of God.

Every day should end with a few quiet moments alone with God, reconnecting with your home that you may remember who you are … and rest in the Love who hungers for you.

Pr. David L. Miller