Saturday, May 03, 2014
Spirit in the Desert is a retreat center near Phoenix, Ariz. I led regular retreats there about 10 years. I loved the place, … in the sun-burnt Sonoran desert, stark … yet beautiful.
On the edge of the property, there is an outdoor labyrinth for walking meditation. The circles of the labyrinth are divided by rows of stones carving out paths in the sand.
The first time I walked it I needed quiet time. I was tired from being in front of people, speaking all day. Approaching the entrance of the labyrinth, I took a deep breath, ready to sink into the experience and listen to whatever feelings and insights bubbled up in me as I walked.
Kneeling in the sand to pray before I started to walk, I looked to one side of the stones and saw a small sign. It read, “Beware of rattle snakes.”
So much for my peaceful walk. But God spoke, … “Don’t step on the snakes. … I heard and obeyed.
So how do we listen to God so we can hear and follow Jesus? How can we hear when our lives are as full and distracted as I was with my Indiana Jones hatred of all that slithers?
Our lives are driven and distracting with work, schedules, entertainments and challenges of ever sort. Listening to God shows up nowhere on our schedules. We don’t know what we are missing.
For God speaks wherever you are. Wherever you are the risen Christ is present to tell you what you need to hear … and know.
The same retreat when I avoided communing with rattle snakes included a trip through a barrio, a poor, Spanish-speaking neighborhood in Phoenix. We met a doctor, in his late 30s. His full-time practice was providing primary medical care to anyone in need. Some could pay for his services, a rare few had insurance, but most of his work depended on the donations from individuals and churches.
Most people knew and greeted him as he walked us through the barrio and described the needs and what he did. Our group marveled at his generous spirit amid the tough situations into which he threw himself. Back at the retreat center we discussed what we saw. And I asked a question that disturbed some, “What did the doctor get out of it?”
The question was not an insult. But it was clear that he came alive, his heart burned with love, passion and joy at what he was doing.
The Spirit of the Risen Christ spoke to him on those streets. It filled him so that his heart became bigger, more alive with faith, hope and love. His heart burned amid the heartaches of his community. He listened to God speaking through his own heart and followed Jesus into the needs of his community.
What about us? How do we hear amid the noise and constant motion of our lives?
This was also a question for sad disciples after Jesus Crucifixion. They knew they’d forever lost contact with the soul of Christ. They thought he would bring deliverance from their political situation and oppression.
There hopes were shattered. They would never see him again. They would never feel him near or hear his voice. He would never again lift their hearts and hopes. He was gone, lost … and so were they.
But he wasn’t lost to them or to us. This is what resurrection means. We do not need to live without his presence, without his voice speaking the love of God into us so our hearts burn, too.
This week I met with a small group to begin a study of Galatians. We opened the book, read and listened … to our thoughts and questions, to our hopes, to what we understood and did not. Our conversation traveled a path inspired by the squirrels out my window. But as we shared joy and affection, hope, too, passed through and among us. And the story of Emmaus came true again, for us.
We gather as a community of faith at this table every week. We open empty hands among others who hands are as empty as ours and we receive Christ, full of grace and eager to give himself to us. And Emmaus happened again, for us.
The risen Christ is not confined by walls but speaks amid the noise where there seems so little time to listen.
Many inside and outside the church think the language of God is guilt and shame. Some joke about having a bad case of Catholic … or Lutheran guilt. Hmm?
The voices that shut us down, that make us embarrassed, that harp about our smallness, our weakness, our shame or guilt, the voices that close our hearts to goodness and grace … these are not the voice of God.
God’s voice frees from preoccupation with ourselves … from obsession with what we have or don’t have, … from anxiety about what we have done or failed to do.
The risen one speaks in experiences of deep love faith and hope that stir us, that expand our hearts that we may follow Jesus. The voice of God awakens the burning of an inner voice of love that moves us to share the love God is … in the barrios of phoenix or wherever we go.
And wherever we go, he will speak … even in the voices of strangers on the road.
Pr. David L. Miller
Friday, May 02, 2014
So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Jesus is our peace
The center aisle was a moat dividing our congregation. When the peace of the Lord was announced everyone stood shook hands and exchanged polite hugs, a restrained, civilized affair.
No one stepped across the “center moat” that divided us in two parts. Too dangerous apparently, fear of drowning in a sea of peace, no one wanted to dive in.
But one day I said, “You have received the peace of Christ. With great and affection--and lots of noise--jump across the aisle and greet one another with a sign of peace.” It started slowly, but over the weeks laughter and commotion replaced politeness as worshipers jumped the moat and found people they wanted to bless. Physical and emotional unity replaced polite separation.
On good days, I lean against the baptismal font at the center front of the church and savor the site. I want it to go on and on. I want time to stop amid the joy and blessing being shared in not so peaceful ways. It’s a vision of God’s holy kingdom.
There are so many things that separate and divide human souls. In the ancient world Jew and Gentile were worlds apart, one near to God the other thought far off. Today, even our schedules separate us, making us strangers to God and each other as assuredly as our prejudices, politics and mistrust of those we don’t know.
But Jesus is our peace, and with great love he draws us into a great sea of peace and blessing where what is shared is the love he is.
Fills us with the Spirit of your peace that we may bless across the divides of our lives.
Pr. David L. Miller
Thursday, May 01, 2014
And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Filling the reservoir
God is love and creates every person out of love and for love. We each are walking, talking, creative expressions of the Love who is, each of us thirsting to be filled to overflowing with the Love who made us.
Sorrow endures, joy remains incomplete and our souls ache until the reservoir of our hearts is filled and spills over with that love.
It happens, though. There are exquisite moments when the heart is so full all sadness disappears, old hurts and wounds evaporate and joy spills from every pore, watering the earth with divine life.
These are moments of highest joy when we are filled with the Love who made us and know the elation for which are intended. Only then are we truly human, truly ourselves
But too soon, daily frustrations and anxieties cloud our consciousness and the reservoir of our souls leak and drain dry.
So we return to the places of filling. We come to the people, the church, through which the love of Christ flows to be filled again with the substance of his life.
Imperfect as the church is, as frustrating and wounding, it is a place thirsting souls gather to be filled with the fullness of Christ, the Love who is filling all things, lest our reservoirs run dry.
Fill with us with the love you are that our souls may overflow and give life to the world.
Pr. David L. Miller
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.
The light of Christ
The light of God explodes from eternity through the lens of the risen Christ. He shines from the beginning to the out-most corners of the cosmos.
Christ’s light illumines the hearts and lives of every human soul in every place whether his name is known or not. He is the light of God’s own heart who works in all and through all and for all. He may be unknown or rejected in many places, but there is no place where he is not.
The heart of God is love and joy, compassion and wonder, blessing and grace, all that shines in our brother, Jesus, shining on us and in us amid the world’s brokenness and our imperfections.
Wherever grace and compassion touch human flesh, wherever wonder and love, trust and hope, kindness and joy appear he is there, illumining human hearts and drawing them into unity with himself. The light of Christ seeks to permeate all creation and the depth of every human soul until there is nothing that does not shine with the light he is.
His desire is for you to become as he is, sharing total unity with the Loving Mystery who is God that you may know the joy and holy purpose for which God created you.
Our yearning to know and be filled with an infinite love is but a mirror of his hunger for us.
Illumine the dark sadness of every human heart that we shine with the love who doesn’t let go. Amen.
Pr. David L. Miller
Monday, April 28, 2014
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
Revelation among the potholes
There are moments you just know. Driving from Chicago’s loop, the ramp bends right then a broad sweep left, descending into a merge lane on the southbound Dan Ryan expressway.
The city’s jagged northern skyline, alight in late afternoon sun, arrests my plunge into the rush hour grind. Lifting my foot from the accelerator, my eyes caress the city’s peaks, its streets and all who make this crazy place work. And I realize how much I love it all.
This love wasn’t there a moment ago. But a sudden flash of illumination fills me, and I know: I know the Love who fills me and cherishes all that I see, the Love who is drawing the whole mess home into the love Christ is.
In an instant, inner light illumined my mind and heart, revealing the hope to which God’s calls us. It is strange knowledge, not of the mind but of heart and intuition, awareness of an unnameable Love filling one’s being and embracing all that is.
It is knowledge of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, love’s knowledge of the One who is Love, who made us from love and destined to be united in love with all that is.
Revelation among the potholes … who knew?
Surprise us with the light of your love that we may walk with hope.
Pr. David L. Miller