Saturday, March 09, 2013
With all humility and gentleness, and with patience, support each other in love. Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God.
Paul Tillich and my friend, Lauren, couldn’t be more different. Tillich was one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. His works are still read, especially in seminaries and graduate schools, and will affect the thought of pastors, novelists, poets and scholars for decades to come.
Lauren is a wonderful young woman who has struggled with muscular dystrophy ever since suffering strokes while she was still in her mother’s womb. One of her hands is twisted and crabbed, fingers malformed. The other works slowly, awkwardly. The same is true of her legs and feet.
Her strength is waning these days, but Lauren soldiers on. Last year she graduated from a two-year program at a local community college and now works for an agency that provides resources for people like her. After talking with her last Friday, I want to visit her office.
Lauren tells me everyone who works there has one disability or another. They are all different, she says, and every hour of the day they make allowances for what the people around them cannot do, or need help doing, or what they can do but slowly … with many pauses for rest or to secure their balance.
They all “get it,” Lauren tells me. They know what it is to struggle with one challenge or another, and they extend grace to each other’s needs … and the dignity of allowing each other to do what they can in their own way.
Tears formed as I listened to Lauren and thought how wonderful it must be for her to work in this world where people “get her,” a place of grace and mutual respect. She is seen as the person of care, hope and good humor that she is, as she begins to make a life for herself against odds greater than most of us face.
Listening to her transported me more than 30 years back to a seminary classroom where I first learned to love and (partially) to understand Tillich.
He wrote powerfully of spiritual community near the end of his Systematic Theology, and most students knew, of course, that he was talking about the church as the creation of the Spirit of Christ in the world.
But our thoughts were far too narrow. We did not clearly envision Lauren and her work place. We couldn’t then grasp the sacrament of human community and care in all its beauty, as the Spirit of Christ freely creates the wonder of spiritual community far beyond the boundaries of church buildings.
Tears are an interesting thing. They appear when something deep within us is wounded, touched by love or set free to live and breathe. Lauren’s words do not flow like water in a stream. She stumbles and often works hard to say what is clear in her mind. Her words come out in threes and fours, a pause then several more.
Still, her description of the spiritual community as it exists in her office was as eloquent and powerful as Tillich’s words--and far more concrete. She brought me to tears of joy for her.
She also awakened a desire to live, love and laugh in such a community. My soul longs to breathe freely, revealing its beauty and brokenness among souls who, with all humility, gentleness and patience, support each other in love. Who doesn’t want this grace?
But my tears revealed one more blessed truth. Listening to Lauren, I realized so clearly that I already know and have this grace.
There are many days when I experience this depth of spiritual community among a people who struggle to live the love of Christ. Often, we fail. But there days we succeed almost as well as Lauren and her colleagues.
Thursday, March 07, 2013
The servant told him, "Your brother has come, and your father has killed the calf we had been fattening because he has got him back safe and sound." He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out and began to urge him to come in; but he retorted to his father, "All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property -- he and his loose women -- you kill the calf we had been fattening." 'The father said, "My son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours.Reflection
You are always with me. Don’t you know? Didn’t you realize that all I am and have … is yours? Always was; always will be.
This is the singular reality of your life, but on average days we live the unreality of separateness, not knowing, not feeling, unaware that our souls are always connected with the Soul of the Universe.
But moments come when we feel and know.
Some call it a sense of oceanic awareness. We feel we are part of everything. We belong to everything, intimately connected with all that is. We are engulfed in a sea of love that surrounds all that is.
All that is, all creation and all we are is inside this sea, a part of the sea; yet each thing has distinct identity. Distinct, yes, but nothing is ever separate or apart from this embracing reality. Everything belongs.
This sea is the infinitely Abundant Source of all that is and holds all creation in an embrace of love that knows us entirely and loves us completely.
What words shall I use to capture what I know of you, Holy One, when such moments of blessing wash over me? What can I say? I struggle and strain, casting one metaphor after another to tell what you reveal of yourself.
I know only that peace settles on the soul, the heart slows, breath deepens, stress evaporates, and I find myself in an infinite sea of love.
I know … I am always with you. There is no escaping you, no getting lost; no place I go where you are not, no moment when the sea is unwilling to flood the soul with this sublime awareness that I may always know … you.
Pr. David L. Miller
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
The servant told him, "Your brother has come, and your father has killed the calf we had been fattening because he has got him back safe and sound." He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out and began to urge him to come in; but he retorted to his father, "All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property -- he and his loose women -- you kill the calf we had been fattening." 'The father said, "My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours.
Moments come and go. They arrive and immediately flee, but some leave their mark.
You never know when such moments will appear, whether they will come amid success or stress or when you are taking a brain break over a cup of coffee. Like yesterday.
Nothing was happening. Indiscernible music played in the background. There was no one around the coffee shop to interrupt me. I was as unknown to them as they to me. The top pulled off the cup, dark aroma and steam rise in the late afternoon light.
And it hits me. I have everything I need here. This awareness is not about material needs but fullness of heart, assurance of life, peace.
My in-most heart, the depth of my being reaches out in whispered words and tears to Something so far beyond me I cannot name it, yet which is part of me, deep within.
Awareness of complete oneness with this Mystery floods every sense, and I know … I share in the fullness of this Great Mystery. We are one with no separation, although I know this Great Mystery infinitely transcends everything I know or can know.
There is no need for mind and soul to grasp or possess what comes in this moment. You don’t need to grasp what is freely given, what is already yours.
There is no need for anything, to be or do anything. There is only being, my being dwelling in ecstatic peace with You in this fleeting moment that tells me the truth of every moment.
All you have and are is mine. I know this, although no words are spoken. There is only awareness of this as the first and final truth of my life--and the wordless joy of ecstatic tears.
Now, the morning comes once more. The moment of total awareness has passed, but it has left its mark and lingers in mind and heart.
I know it will come and fill me again, teaching me what I need to live and die in peace. But just for today, don’t let me lose the moment of total knowing what you most want me to know.
Pr. David L. Miller