Saturday, June 20, 2020

The blessing of fear

Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.’
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,

to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’
(Jeremiah 1:8-10)

The blessing of fear

These are the Lord’s words to his young prophet, Jeremiah, who lived in tumultuous times. His unfortunate task was proclaiming destruction to the great city of Jerusalem at the hands of a neighboring nation boiling hot for conquest.

It was a job no one should want, and all it ever got him was a boatload of trouble from fellow citizens who variously cursed and imprisoned him. Eventually, they threw him in a cistern where, fortunately, there was no water. He probably died in Egypt where his countrymen drug him as they escaped the carnage of their own country.

It’s the kind of story that makes for good cinema, but no one would want to live it.

What must it feel like to have a message written so deeply in your heart that you had to share it, even though you knew people would hate you for it? This was Jeremiah’s fate and the great pain he suffered for knowing God in the depth of his heart.

That should make us second guess our desire to get really close to this Holy Mystery, who might require a courage and conviction of us that we know we don’t have.

Still, the desire to feel God close stirs within. We long to hear that Voice whisper within, “Do not be afraid for I am with you.”

I suppose that’s the great thing about fear, the blessing of challenges that are too big for us. It is exactly then, exactly there that we are most likely to hear that Voice that quiets everything else.

Pr. David L. Miller

Friday, June 19, 2020

Freely and fully

There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led [Jesus] to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. (Luke 4:27-29)

Freely and fully

Only a free God is worth having; anything less is just a reflection of ourselves.

Trouble is, a free God can’t be tied to a particular place or people, to a preferred culture or way of operating. Divine freedom means we are not in control of much of anything. God can and will do crazy things, scary things, showing up in ungodlike  places, loving the wrong people, challenging our cherished opinions and pet theories about how God acts … or should.

Jesus offends his neighbors, telling them they have no particular claim on the attention and goodness of God. Furthermore, they never did, which was quite contrary to popular opinion.

God is free to be God for everyone, everywhere, which means the reach of the divine heart stretches beyond any and every horizon we can see.

That’s bad news for those who like to draw lines and exclude people, claiming some imagined superiority. But it is good news for every humble heart eager to receive what God in utter freedom lavishes upon every soul.

The first blessing is life itself, breath, the gift of waking under an expansive blue sky on a summer day, golden light filtering through the blinds, bidding the heart to live, one more day, knowing that this precious green planet and one’s own miniscule life are an incalculable miracle, an immense mystery, for there is no reason that they should be.

Except, they are. We are. Here. Existing. And every moment of this day is a holy gift, every breath, too, from a Living Source, who creates and blesses in infinite freedom, pouring out goodness that every people in every place might see and smile, knowing that nothing and no one can stem the generosity of the divine heart.

Jesus’ whole life is a parable of God’s freedom to give life and love beyond every human expectation.

Freely this great Love gives, so freely receive, then smile … and share the joy of God.

Pr. David L. Miller

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Live, love, trust

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)

Live, love, trust

A mallard sits in the middle of the street on our little cul-de-sac. Today, he sits alone. Other days his mate sits beside him. After a rain, they waddle down the street amid the puddles.

They are unconcerned with we, who call this street home. Apparently, it is their home, too, although their home is larger than the meager square feet of the townhouses that line Old George Way.

Their home includes the bushes where they shelter from the sun and the tiny pond where they shower beneath the spray shooting skyward. They also claim the sidewalk and the day lilies in back of the house.

Occasionally, our movements stir them, but they have no problem staring down cars forced to divert around them on the street. We pay our taxes and mortgages, but they own the place.

That’s fine with me; I suspect with the neighbors, too. We live together in harmony, although the mallards appear to have fewer worries. They live in the moment, inviting us to watch and learn, although I wonder how many human hearts are capable of such.

More than one spiritual writer suggests that anything that invites you to trust love is, for all practical purposes, Christ for you, at least in that moment. If so, then my mallard neighbor is the voice of the Love, who says, ‘Do not be afraid, you are of more value than the sparrows.’ I assume Jesus would include ducks in this, too.

My mallard neighbor has little idea that he is my teacher, the voice of Love who says, “Live, love, trust. You have no idea how precious you are.”

I just hope he returns often to sit outside my window. I can always use a reminder.

Pr. David L. Miller

Friday, June 12, 2020

Only you

When Jesus he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

Only you

Our hearts ache for healing in these days. For me, healing is to be with you, here, apart from the noise of the world, where I can hear the voice of my longing and feel the smile of your love upon this soul, so needy in this turbulent time.

But even here, in this new place, this room I consecrate for the meeting of our hearts, I cannot escape the cries of our streets.

They echo in my heart and awaken longing for a world beyond the one we have, a world where all are one and you reign, your love shining in the eyes of every beloved soul, each one knowing their worth and honoring that of others.

Every soul alight, basking in glow of your delight flowing from the grace of your smile, healing the wounds of the past, banishing the shadows of race and hate and fear of our lost and confused human race.

This is my prayer, no, it is your prayer within this soul you claimed so long ago and refuse to release. Thank you for that and for this prayer that unites our hearts as one, one sorrow, one hope, one love for every wounded soul and broken society.

We need the healing that only you can give. Only a truly great love can assure us that we are welcome, accepted and treasured. Only this melts the hardness and fear that erects walls around our hearts.

Only your smile warming and awakening us to the delight you take in every human soul can set us free to be truly human, blessing each other across the boundaries that divide, even as we have been blessed.

Heal us, O Lord. Look with compassion on our lost and wandering hearts. Gather us into the warmth of your presence that we may learn to love each other as you love us.

Pr. David L. Miller

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Ever here

John 16:5-7

But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate [Paraclete] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Ever here

No one who has ever known you, Jesus, can imagine it is advantageous that you go away. For having known you, having felt your presence, we know this is our highest good and our most profound desire.

But it is for this that you go away. You, Jesus, warm sun of God’s own face, leave this physical sphere that the mystery you bear may be everywhere and everywhere with us, stilling the sad fear of separation.

You go that we may know this mysterious Presence you call Spirit, Advocate, Paraclete. And this name tells us what we most need to hear in these days.

Paraclete … one who answers the call. So answer our call in these days, separated, as we are, from many bearers of divine presence and love.

Answer the silent cry of our souls for which we lack words adequate to express the depth of our desire to feel your presence, the warmth within, the blessed knowing that you are not near but ever here.

Every ‘good bye’ I have ever felt—some that still bring tears for hearts and faces long ago—reveals the pain of those with whom you walked as they imagined losing you, having known you in the flesh, as we do not.

Or, do we?

Those whom I miss this day, are they not you, their flesh an incarnation of some facet of the immensity of Love you are?

In missing them, I miss you; so come. Answer the cry of our hearts that we may find your dwelling place deep within, that place where the warm sun of your divine heart quiets our own and awakens that smile … that knows: All is well, for Love is here. Always.

Pr. David L. Miller

Friday, May 08, 2020

Knowing peace

John 14:17

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

Knowing peace

To know has less to do with the mind that we normally expect. Knowing is a full body and soul experience, an inner awareness that overrides everything else happening in our lives at the moment, whether sadness, fear or this confounded isolation cutting us off from things we want and the people we love.

The Spirit of truth, an abiding presence, invites us to descend beneath the surface of life where nothing feels right to that place where everything is right. The Spirit draws us to that place within where you know as you are known … by a Knower, a Presence who is Love, uncreated, real, there ... and totally undefinable.

This is the Spirit of truth, a truth that is a Presence, a person, not a statement or idea. To know this One, to feel this Presence for even a moment, stills our anxieties and quiets the unruly waves that toss us about. In that moment, you know, with body and soul, that this Love holds you, and there is nothing on the surface of life that can ever change that.  

Now and forever, you are held in the all-encompassing Love that you know at the quiet center of your soul, the center point where all the noise fades away and there is just you and this Love you will never understand.

My peace I leave you, Jesus said. Millions have known this peace, which is his presence within them calming their fears and giving strength amid even the most difficult circumstances.

This peace passes all understanding, according to St. Paul. Of course it does. The busy mind likes to understand, manage and control things. But peace comes only in the presence of a Love no one can control.

Rest there and know.

Pr. David L. Miller

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Always more

John 19:38-42

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus -- though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews -- asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. … Nicodemus came as well … and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Always more

Well, that is that. Close the book. The most remarkable life ever lived is finished. Over. Done. Time to go home and forget it ever happened.

Caiaphas returns home to celebrate Passover. Pilate stretches out on his couch and drinks more than usual, knowing he has executed an innocent man. But it wasn’t the first time. It needed to done, he tells himself.

Joseph of Arimathea and friends go to prepare the tomb, brush away the dust and lay out the spices and linens.

Fumbling with the dead weight of Jesus’ body, they wrap him in strips of cloth—his feet and legs, hands and side, chest and shoulders, until, finally, his face … the face they loved even if they seldom understood him.

They carry out their heartbreaking work and lay their hopes to rest, burying the yearning they felt whenever they heard his voice.

All is quiet now. The crowds have dispersed. Public order is restored. The ancient lust for the blood has been satisfied.

Now is the hour of regret and sorrow, of whispers in the silence and echoes of what might have been. That’s all we have.

But that is not all God has. God has more. God is always more, more love, more life. Jesus trusted that more all the way to the cross.

And so we wait, trusting the One who is all life and all love because Sunday’s coming. The gloom of despair will be lit with the light of everlasting morning. The garden of sorrow will bloom with the fragrance of eternity.

Because God is more. Always.

Pr. David L. Miller