I woke yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent, to a rose sky from east to west. The color in the east, oddly, was not so strong as this northwest view.
As I have grown more and more aware through the years of the reality of Christ's constant presence within me and surrounding me, I find myself wondering what to make of Christ's Advent and of that prayer the ends the Bible, "Come, Lord Jesus."
It does not help me to pretend that I'm back with Isaiah preparing the way for the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago. I suppose I could think of Christ's "present coming" as a constant, but ever fresh, advent. His "future coming" could be a kind of eternal "now" drawing me into a deeper and deeper relationship with him. Creation, Incarnation, and Resurrection are eternally "now" from God's point of view.
This season might help me see that, even though Jesus is entirely present within and around me, there is still plenty of room for me to grow in my awareness of that constant presence and in my loving surrender to his eternal warm embrace.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
I thank God for views like this in our templed mountains.
Here are some other reasons that I thank God:
For coming to name God "Spirit of Love" and for a deepening relationship.
For being part of Christ's 2,000 year old community.
For the freedom and beauty and plenty with which God has blessed America.
For families and friends and all whom I love.
For for novels and poetry, for movies and music and all that re-creates me.
For our hills and trees and wind and clouds, for the tranquil nights and stars and silence.
For all those dead who lives have enriched mine.
For being able to take part in another Thanksgiving.
As is well known the Pilgrims were close to starving the first winter they were here. What is not well known is that one of them was the daughter of a Dublin merchant who sent a ship, The Lyon, with a cargo of the much needed food which saved the tiny colony. The day after the ship's arrival, February 21, 1621, was designated a Day of Thanksgiving. So, if it hadn't been for an Irishman, there would not have been any Pilgrims left nine months later to celebrate the Day of Thanksgiving that is much better known.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Maybe this is a Thanksgiving cactus or a Veterans' Day cactus or an Advent cactus. It set buds as soon as I brought it in from outside in early October and took its time opening up.
Advent starts with a meditation on the future coming of Jesus into our world. Many of the early Christians expected this to happen in their lifetime and it didn't. It does no good to continue speculating on when this is going to happen. I'm left wondering 2000 years later how to integrate this expectation into my relationship with God.
I share the early Christians' faith in God's victory in Jesus. With the help of Jesus I still have some skirmishes to fight but the final outcome is settled. Advent hope. I find it helpful, then, to think of my own death as the "future coming of Jesus."
I like the thought of the Risen Jesus as a kind of horizon that draws me to him, a kind of magnet attracting me to grow into him.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Some years ago a man, wishing to justify his being concerned only for himself and his family, told me that the Bible says that he is not his brother's keeper.
I said, "That phrase is in the Bible, but it's on the lips of Cain who has just killed his brother Abel. When God comes looking for Abel, he asks Cain where he is. Cain rudely replies, 'Am I my brother's keeper!'"
I wonder how often, by what I do or don't do, I'm telling God that I am not my brother's keeper. It's easier to see it in others. There's certainly a lot of people in our country right now who think that they are not their brother's keeper.
In Matthew 25:31-46, that I've been praying about all week, Jesus says, "Oh yes! you are your brother's keeper." The poor, the sick, the stranger, need me. I'll be judged on whether or not I meet their needs. I think I have an obligation to do this not only on an individual level but on a national and international level.
There are people without food and water and clothing and medical care, strangers here from other countries, people in prison and on death row. There are things I can do to help them, actions I can take, movements I can support. I need faith-filled eyes to recognize Jesus in the needy and a loving heart to meet his needs by meeting theirs.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Here is part of a haunting reflection that an old friend wrote more than fifty years ago:
"In the thinning of the forests,
in the lengthening of shadows,
our life is seen as fleeting,
our end as drawing near."
As we approach the end of the Church year, we turn our thoughts to Jesus' story of judgment(Matthew 25:31-46.) What I find most striking about this picture is that the criteria for judgment is whether I helped those who needed me, not whether I went to church or did any of the things that I think of as religion. Jesus insists that the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison have a claim on me.
The basis of their claim is different from the one that usually motivates my moral behavior. I am aware that Jesus is living in me and reaches out through me to love others. Jesus in me enables me to be good.
Here the motivation is reversed. Jesus lives in others. In helping those who need me, I am helping Jesus.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The cold nights are drawing a lot of heat out of the Lake, so there is often fog in the mornings. As the sun rises it lends the scenery a haunting beauty that invites reflection.
I meditated this morning on the parable of the talents in Matthew's Gospel (25:14-30.) In the parable a "talent" is an amount of money. A talent was worth more than 15 years' wages of a laborer. Jesus wants to highlight the risk involved. The master is giving these slaves enormous amounts of money.
The parable helped me to think about the risk involved in any kind of growth and about God's expectation that I run the risk, even at 75. My thoughts turned particularly to growth in my relationship with God. I have been given some insights recently from books like Johnson's "Quest for the Living God" and a book by Ilia Delio called "The Emerging Christ" which I am just beginning. Other insights have come from my own reflecting and from conversations with friends. The risk involved in pursuing these insights is that I will have to let go of my more familiar notion of God. Hopefully the gain will be a richer understanding of God and a deeper relationship with this Spirit of Love.
I remembered Griffith's image of a child standing at the edge of a deep, dark, well. Out of the darkness he hears a voice, "Jump, my child, I'll catch you."
Friday, November 4, 2011
The oldest Christian writing we have is St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians. It was written only about 17 years after Jesus died and rose, well before the first Gospel. As such, it is a valuable glimpse into the beliefs of the earliest Christians.
Most of them expected Jesus to come back in their own lifetime. By the year 50 some of them are dying and the Thessalonians are wondering what will happen to those who die before Jesus returns. One of the main reasons that Paul writes the letter is to assure them that those still alive will not have an advantage over those who are dead. He says,
"We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that in the same way God will bring with him those who have died in Jesus." (4:14)
I find it heartening that this belief was already so clearly stated so early in Christian history.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Today we honor our parents and many other relatives and friends who are with God in heaven. This is a catch-all feast for all those saints who were not extraordinary enough to get their own feast.
Early on the Romans celebrated a feast of all martyrs on May 15, which became all saints. The Irish had been keeping November 1 as a holy day in honor of the dead long before the time of Jesus. When they became Christians, it was easy to adapt that feast to honor all saints. Interestingly enough, when it came time for the Church to establish a feast of All Saints, the Irish date caught the imagination.
Our dead relatives are still very close to us. We can ask them to pray for us and for our family. We can honor them also as models of how to become a saint. When the famous saints seem so holy and beyond our imitation, we can look to our parents and cousins to show us how to live a holy life and move over into another dimension to be with God forever.