Wednesday, September 19, 2018
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The place of knowing
Peace and goodness, joy and love come from within, from the living Spirit who is our inmost nature. There is nothing outside ourselves that can quell the anger or restlessness that agitates and sets us on edge.
We must descend into the depth of our souls, delving beneath the surface noise of stress and ego to find within a quiet center, a place of knowing such Love as no external source, success, respect or victory can give.
For there lives the Spirit within. This is our birthright, a gift given in our very creation. Our minds descending into the depth of our soul, we arrive at a place where Love lives, where Spirit breathes, where burns the flame of deepest hope for union with the Loving Source of all Life
The stresses and promises of life distract, busy our minds with all that doesn’t satisfy, keeping us on the surface of things. Little time is left to grow quiet and attend to the Spirit who dwells at the depth of our spirits. What is leftover we often fill with electronic noise from one device or another.
When all the while the Holy One waits within for us to come home, and know what our hearts most need to know, the Love God is … this Love who is our deepest nature.
Descending into our hearts and finding Love there we come home. Resting there for but a moment, all the goodness of the Spirit of Life flows through our souls with joy—patience, kindness, gentleness, peace.
And we know … with immense gratitude: This is who I am and everything I want to be.
Thank you. Just thank you. That prayer is enough.
Pr. David L. Miller
Friday, September 14, 2018
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Hoping for heaven
Why did they follow Jesus? Why does anyone follow?
If they knew what was coming, they might have taken a pass on the whole discipleship thing. No one willingly chooses hardship or suffering. No one wants to be around when their teacher and friend is brutally executed. No one wants to live under the same threat. Unless....
Unless your heart aches for something more exquisite and beautiful, hope-filled and joyful than everything you’d ever known or imagined could happen to you. Then ... maybe, you would come along, pulled by the engine of hope.
Hope wakes the heart from slumber, stirring that niggling awareness that there is something better, more alive and life-giving than the life you know, something for which you’d lose everything.
Hope is the desire to know the life of heaven ... here and now.
This is exactly what Jesus promises. The kingdom of heaven is near. It is here, he says. As you follow me, you will know the presence of heaven even amid life’s hardships.
Heaven happens every time Immense Love appears in earthy existence and experience.
An act of mercy, a moment of beauty, the healing power of love, the joy of reconciliation, a simple act of understanding and care, the grace of friendship, a loving celebration of another year of life, the struggle for justice or just another day truly lived well—the rule of God, the life of heaven shines through all of this.
We follow Jesus that we may see and know glimmers of heaven shining through the messiness of our lives and world. We follow that the rays of divine light may shine through us and fulfill hope’s fondest desire.
Pr. David L. Miller
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’
God at the center
The temptations of Jesus are not unusual but common. The most basic is this: to put something other than God at the center of your life.
This isn’t one big decision. It happens through a million seemingly insignificant decisions that allow something to occupy the space in your heart that rightly belongs to God, the Source of your life and breath.
It happens slowly as we allow other concerns to replace knowing and loving God at the center of our life. Work or success or our bank account or personal acclaim or looking good or the newest digital gadgets or social acceptance or momentary pleasures or sports or a friendship group or … something eases God to the perimeter of consciousness.
And worship … knowing and loving and serving God … becomes something you do instead of the being the center of the wheel around which everything else turns, the great truth that guides and gives direction everything you do.
Daniel Berrigan, a wiser and (slightly) more profane soul than mine, suggested it is easy to see what you worship. It isn’t where your mind is or where your heart is. It is where your ass is.
Where do you habitually go, what commitments define you and which ones are set aside to service others? That tells you what you worship—the thing on which you place highest worth.
Jesus leads our way. He dismisses this most basic temptation, telling us we are to worship God and serve only him. It sounds like a command, a law we must obey. But that is a surface understanding.
It is actually an invitation to know and turn to the Loving Mystery in everything you do and in every place you go. It is an invitation to enjoy the privilege of being with Jesus, loving him and all he loves.
It is an invitation to be what Love is, go where Love goes and do what Love does, a life with Love at the center.
Pr. David L. Miller
Monday, September 10, 2018
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
With the beloved
I love to be with people who eagerly open their hands to receive the Eucharist. I relish being near those who love to hear and sing songs of grace and love and hope because something in their hearts require it.
I am lifted by those who share the beauty and joy they find in small things, who bubble with enthusiasm and gratitude for what each day brings. My heart warms when I see the sparkle in the eyes of a those who are truly and fully alive.
This why the church has always meant so much to me.
I could always find people of joy there, of sorrow, too, but there was this love and hope even amid the hard times. At church, I was more likely to run into people who felt truly alive, more alive than I felt; who loved more freely and easily than I loved; who touched and welcomed my touch, hand-to-hand or in a hug that told me my life is embraced regardless of how I felt at the moment.
Where else but in the congregation of the Beloved does this happen?
It is hard to say exactly what charisma flowed through Jesus and excited hearts to draw near him. But perhaps it starts here: He heard the voice of God naming him, “Beloved,” and he never doubted or forgot what he heard, not ever.
The belovedness that filled Jesus flows through anyone who gets close enough to feel what is in him. Get close, listen and your soul lights up as if you just discovered the secret which your soul has always longed to know.
There is no shortage of people, gob smacked by celebrity, who want to be near or just like the famous, powerful or wealthy. Not me. I want to stand among the beloved of the Beloved. I want to know what they know. Today and always.
Pr. David L. Miller
Wednesday, September 05, 2018
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
The wonder of it all
What do you do when your reality is better than your dreams? How do you respond when what seems impossible happens … to you … and you know and feel what you thought you would never know?
Tears and laughter.
Tears and laughter mingle in one great expression of joy and praise for the gift of being alive, for feeling what you feel, seeing what you see and knowing the elation of being truly blessed, truly alive.
Tears and laughter, the language of soul, overflow in ecstatic praise to God, prayer beyond the capacity of any words.
Tear and laughter flood your entire being with gratitude and love for life … and for the Loving Mystery who is its ever-abundant Source.
We were not at that stable to see Mary cradle her child or hear the excitement of half-dazed shepherds sputtering a tale of angels on the hillside. But we are as human as they. We know moments when the fullness of Love touches and fills us … when the Love God is becomes flesh and blood for us and in us.
Like Mary, we have held a baby in our arms and traced the unblemished curve of a tender cheek amazed at such beauty and innocence. We have been filled with love for the wonder and mystery of life, moved to tears and laughter at the privilege of being part of it all.
We have known moments when gratitude for the simple privilege of being alive stirs us to fall in love with the very imperfect, incomplete life we’ve been given … and with the Unnamable Giver who is constantly beyond our understanding.
We know the ecstasy awakened when Love fills our being, which is to say when God becomes more real than our breath, incarnate and as undeniable as our own flesh.
We know the wonder Mary knew in her pondering, the joy that made shepherds skip across the field, back to their sheep, the exuberance unleashed when we feel and know God incarnate in the flesh, our flesh touched by Infinite Love.
We were born to know this … and to give thanks, in tears and laughter.
Pr. David L. Miller
Sunday, September 02, 2018
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
How it happens
We live in a society where individualism runs amok. Everyone and anyone, it seems, can be a star on social media, getting thousands or millions of digital ‘hits,’ which, of course, makes them more significant (at least in their own mind) than those with less … or none.
It is important to stand out, be recognized and ‘followed’ more than others. If this sounds narcissistic, well, it is … very. It is all about me, and there is a lot of that going around today.
But our story, the story of Love’s Incarnation, is entirely contrary to the mood of the day.
The Loving Mystery puts on a human face that we may see and know and be transformed into the beauty that God awakens in us. How does it happen?
Quietly, out in a barn, where no one is watching, where no extra hands are available to help with the birth, where two people, exhausted from their journey must do the best they can … alone, strangers in a town where no one knows their name.
There is no one else present to see the birth of wonder. Immanuel, the Holy One, the Love Beyond All Telling appears here, not on Facebook or YouTube or in a place where at least a few important people might notice.
The child is wrapped in bands of cloth, common adornment of the poor and insignificant.
If there were no other reason for me to be Christian, no other reason for me to fall in love with the God it reveres, this story is enough. For it tells me there is no place God will not go, nowhere God refuses to appear, no corner of life that is left out or forgotten in the divine heart.
It tells me I need go nowhere but exactly where I am to know … truly know … the Love who puts on flesh and seeks me. And it challenges me to embrace my own imperfect life, so small in the great scope of the world and history, as an embodiment of the Loving Mystery who is pleased to dwell in my flesh, my mortal being.
The miracle happens in ordinary human lives, like ours. Exactly where we are. Today.
Pr. David L. Miller
Saturday, September 01, 2018
But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus.
Part of the miracle
We are all part of the miracle. Every one of us. We each have a part to play in making Immanuel, God with us. Each of us exercises a role that enables the Incarnation, the enfleshment of the Loving Mystery, to happen and bring the laughter of truest joy to our lips.
Some roles are quiet and small but no less essential to the mystery of God’s dwelling among and in us. Little is said of Joseph, husband of Mary. And he says even less, nothing actually. We never hear his voice.
Believing a nocturnal vision, he takes the risk of becoming the protector and husband of a girl pregnant, under suspicious circumstances, with a child who can never be his. The family will be forced to flee murderous tyranny, becoming refugees in a foreign land soon after the birth of the child, Jesus.
There is nothing flashy about Joseph. He just does his part, brings his wife and child back to his little home town when the threat is past … then disappears. We hear nothing more about him and can only assume he taught young Jesus the tricks and tools of his trade.
He reminds me of so many quiet souls who live and love in their own way. Never calling great (or any) attention to themselves, they live their lives, doing what is needed, giving what is in their mind and heart to their families, towns and neighborhoods, seldom receiving many thanks and never any accolades except when they pass from this life. Then, it seems, we feel the ache of their absence and realize what a difference they have made … and how much love they quietly gave.
They remind me a bit of my father. They are Joseph.
Joseph played his role and because he did we know the saving power of the Love who lived and spoke and touches each of us through Jesus. He helped Immanuel, God with us, to happen.
But he was more. Joseph didn’t only help Immanuel happen. He was Immanuel, too. The Loving Mystery was real and present, speaking in his care and unassuming faithfulness to the task the Lord gave him.
He was part of the miracle. We all are. The miracle happens every time we do our part, living the Love who is in us through the tasks we are given, small and great. Each and every time, Immanuel happens in and through us.
So be as Joseph and let it happen. Today.
Pr. David L. Miller