Rainbows and Wilderness

  rainbow over water  This first Sunday of Lent was about rainbows and wilderness. The God pledging fidelity to a boat maker who would cast his fidelity, trust and life out upon  the waters and await the world to be made a second time. The human and the god to begin again. The wilderness where one searches out the pledge of that fidelity in one’s life. While angels and beasts attend, one gentle, one fierce, one winged, one earth bound, a sacred and human nature, the light and the shadow, at play as the god and the daemon square off for the soul of a man. Is he still in that wilderness, in the remembering rainbow, by the river?

Perhaps as one who sought him concluded, he come to us as one unknown, across the lakeside, down the green hill, in the warm dough kneaded by human hands, in fields, carrying rocks, making baskets, in silent moments, in the children’s laughter, in the book that opens just so and the song playing on the radio just when you needed to hear it, in jails and in churches, where the bread is broken, and hearts also, coming and going, men bowing, women rising, on a dusty road wars raging, two people, one people, three faiths, tearing at the heart of the gypsy-god with a human face; there, just on the horizon, as if on a cloud.

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The Birth of the Word in the Soul – Part VII

The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us. The Word is one of the metaphors in St. John’s gospel that speaks to Jesus’ identity. The Word was in the beginning of the unfolding universe. For King Solomon, Wisdom, the divine Sophia, danced with the Creator as he spoke the world into existence. In the unfolding drama of Jesus’ birth, the Word become flesh is once more empowered by a woman, amidst the ordinariness of life, to a struggling nation, in an obscure town, where those to whom he first comes impart to Jesus his heritage, his longing and his mission to Israel, soon to become captive to another empire that would take his message and put its stamp upon it, for better or for worse.

The sword that would pierce Mary’s heart is the sword that would pierce her son’s side, their hearts the saving symbol of the heart of God intent upon loving the world from the manger to the altar of the cross, where worship is no longer a mother’s song but the very body and being of her son. Mary’s first prayer will be Jesus’ last. As he prays to his heavenly Father in the garden at Gethsemane before his death, Jesus utters let it be as you would have it. As Mary accepted his life, he too will accept his death, from mother to son, the faithful surrender to God’s design for their lives. As Jesus takes his last breath, a lone centurion stands beneath him, recognizing his true identity, his first Roman follower, worshiping him in the place where a voice has gone silent. No ideology can embrace this moment.

            This is the moment that brings us to true compassion, a compassion that continues to transform the world today. From the heart of the manger in Bethlehem we are fed; our hearts filled with praise springing forth in song, where the worship of God becomes the artistry of our lives just as it did in the people of Luke’s narrative. There it is real, human, enfleshed, ordinary, giving birth and giving witness to Jesus in the world. In this we are with them, with him, in the purpose and passion of his life, to his God and Father, our God and Father as well.

            A whole nation stands in an old couple and one young girl who said let it be. It is Luke’s way of saying what was will be saved, transformed by what is to come. For Luke, it is the good news placed in the story of the improbable advent of a savior. The old embracing the new, rejoicing, blessing Yahweh with their lives. The Lucan Jesus is welcomed into the world by devout people, whose lives of adoration became the manger in which he is set. His beginnings are humble. His end seemingly a humiliation. Though dedicated to the simple habit of their ritual, waiting for the promise to be kept, the story of Jesus’ beginning, like his life, is clearly a narrative of paradox and reversal. For those who first touch Jesus, the very ordinariness into which he comes admits Yahweh’s extraordinary new deed into their midst; into a world waiting for Yahweh to take them in his arms once more and keep his promise to them.

            They hoped for what they could not see, what they could only envision: the restoration of Israel. They stand in the empty Temple of Yahweh, in the gracious space of his presence, his promise to them their only adornment, age-weary prayers an incense rising, carrying their hopes to the unseen God. Silent for generations, now abandoning the laws of nature to grace, giving the world his only begotten, a small hope vested with great promise.

This promise is God’s spirit moving upon the body of the earth, bringing substance from the void, a child from the womb of a virgin, life from the tomb, the cross an empty manger once more. A soldier stands beneath the cross looking up. He blesses the son of God and another advent begins. A small hope grown in a lifetime, experienced, followed, loved, blessed with a woman’s life, a life of joy and a life of sorrow. A life that followed him from the moment of his conception until he stood in another garden, another Mary searches now not for knowledge but for love. He stands beside her and beckons her to rise. Just as Mary rose up to greet Elizabeth−women bearing Christ to one another, he bears himself to this other Mary, who will bear witness to his return−come back to a woman, as he once originated by the power of the spirit from his mother’s womb, then leaving the world an empty manger once more, where with each season we await the improbably advent of his return.

©2014 Cathie Horrell.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

The Sign of the Cross

Original water color by Cathie Horrell

Original watercolor by Cathie Horrell

If a picture speaks louder than word, the  image above says it all on the subject of rejection.

This is the sign of some people’s ‘no’ – their rejection of Jesus. It is also a sign of God’s ‘yes’ – his acceptance of Jesus, and not only of Jesus, but of us. God’s yes as we see at Easter, is greater than any ‘no’.

 

The Christ-self

This, then, is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name:

Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and that, planted on love and built on love, you will with all the saints have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depths, until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.                                                                                                                            Ephesians 4:14-19

 The hidden self that Paul prays will grow strong within us is the Christ-life as the center, source and sustenance of our lives. Paul sees it as hidden, as something that we come to realize the more we come to know the meaning of Christ’s love for us. To know its breadth and length within us. To experience the height and depths of its presence in our lives, in our very beings. It is the hidden life of Christ that is waiting to enter into the garden of our lives so that we might know the extent of his love for us. The love he demonstrates now for all time from the once and for all fall into the incomprehensible abyss of God’s absence, the long day’s journey into a night in which God is sequestered in the hearts of humanity waiting to be called forth from the tomb, from exile into the abundance of the hidden self that now awaits the fullness of his life within. Known in the love of Christ as it shines forth from his final meal with his friends until his love’s triumph over darkness and death.

It is ours to become more aware of his life within us, as this awareness becomes stronger, more present to us, the gracious and freely given gift of the love of Christ that is planted deep within us from the beginning, that brings us to the fullness of knowledge and awareness of his love as the most encompassing realization in our hidden depths. Our hidden self that is the sacred self. The embrace encompasses not only the kingdom of all that is sacred and whole but along with it, all that is dark and broken, limited and wanting as Good Friday reveals. It is this inclusiveness of the sacred self that is its healing embrace of the totality of who we are, where we find the unconditional embrace of the sacred incarnate there.

What we come to know are the gifts and abilities to heal and to become whole, to not just survive but to thrive, to achieve and live beyond betrayals into the eternally renewing creative spirit that is our never-ending hope. The never-ending hope that is rooted in our attention to the presence and love of Christ which Paul says is beyond all knowing. The eternal round of growth and decay is the province of the sacred and hidden self as well, it’s enduring rhizome sustained beneath the flux and final flower of each season. In Christ Jesus the sacred and human have become indistinguishable. It is the love of Christ, the fullness of the God-life within us that is our ever-present horizon of being waiting to be discovered, grow strong, within the precincts of the hidden self.

Love is all you need

I keep going back to the end of Chapter 5 in 2nd Corinthians and the beginning of Chapter 6.3-10. The love of Christ overwhelms us, Paul says. If we had a sensibility of this love today we would be overwhelmed as well. It is this overwhelming love that Paul encountered on the Damascus road. It is a love that Paul will later say in Ephesians is the love of Christ which is beyond all knowing, that comes to us as the freely extended invitation of God. Grace. Aka God’s love. A redeeming love, which means it is a changing love, a love that changes us and has already changed the world.

Here is what is remarkable that this all encapsulating love is given to us so that we might become the goodness of God. Paul has been writing to his converts admonishing and cajoling them into acting according to the Christ they have received. Unlike the Pharisees, both ancient and contemporary, its finally refreshing to read Paul himself, rather than through an interpreter, with fresh eyes, and come to the realization, if not the experience, that it is God who initiates this relationship. What would it mean if we saw ourselves not as sinners but as the goodness of God. I don’t find Paul using that negative connotation to embroil and entangle us in, but rather imparts a sense of self that God made as good and continues to sustain in his own goodness.

What does it mean to be the goodness of God? How differently would we carry ourselves? What burden would lift? How more open to the message of Paul and the gospel love of Jesus would we be? How much more attentive to the way we act and interact with the world, with ourselves? As Pau says, this is the freedom of the holy spirit. We have no ideas what can be accomplished in it. Paul is trying mightily with word upon word to give us some sense what this means.

For us it means a transformation is taking place. God has accomplished this new way of being in and through Christ. We die with Christ in order that we may rise with him. We ‘die’ to the old way of living, which is subsumed in the death of Jesus, and we in fact through faith in Jesus Christ are renewed, we achieve the sacred reality that is activated if you will, becomes known, lived, realized, as we live in and into the promise which has been fulfilled not only in a place but now in a person. It is the promise of our becoming; becoming the unique sacred identity that was first given as a promise to Abraham and now becomes in Christ is reiterated to us

Not only are we renewed, but the way we view the world and even the events of our lives are seen in a new light. Through the prism of this saving love. Salvation, our saving understood as not being saved from something but saved for God, saved in order to serve and to worship and live our lives according to the Christ we have received in the goodness that is God’s. The things that seem to deprive us or are objectionable to others, are in fact, with God’s grace, the very things that we now, like Paul, are not just changed but become the tenor of grace.

It is a gathering grace. The God-life that now reconciles us to God. We are God’s as from the genesis of our humanity. Created sacred and meant. This reconciling power is God in Christ as Paul says that gathers all things to himself. It is the giant embrace of the Creator for his world, for his people, for us. Bolstered by the spirit of holiness, a love that is free of affectation, sentimentality, by the word of truth and the power of God Paul marches confidently in his work as the Ambassador for Christ and is able to make known that his work serves God’s cause in the world. He says more specifically that we are all Ambassadors for Christ. Meant as the loving response to God’s love to incarnate this love in the world.

The Gypsy-God

Have you ever spoken to someone who thought it was incomprehensible that someone would die as Jesus did for others? We, who have been born into the Christian faith, take this, I think, as a given, for granted, without question. But there are times when I myself look at this wonder did it have to be that way? Surely, God being God, what God did in Jesus could have been accomplished without Jesus having to die, and die as he did?

It goes back to the image of tent that was yesterday’s topic. It’s about the God who pitches his tent among us. The God who signifies himself as a tent-dweller, journeying with his people as they made their trek through the wilderness. The Son too, who St. John says is the Word become flesh, the still living God, pitches his tent among us. In Jesus God continues to dwell in a tent, to journey, to suffer and die AND bring us back to life.

God is saying to us in Jesus, in the Word that become flesh, Jesus shows us the way. The way in this too; because it is the way of all flesh. Jesus’ way of dying precedes his rising, his coming back to us. The living God’s Yes in the face of humanities worst, in the face of death’s no.

He is the God of All Things, good and bad. And the badest is death. In Jesus’ death God is saying “I got this.”

Death changes everything. Jesus’ death was very human, very public and got a lot of people’s attention. But his reappearance in three days got even more. In fact his reappearance, changed the way people thought of his death. It changed the way they thought of life and living. It changes us. It changed the Western world.

Jesus’s death then was the beginning. Not the beginning of the end. But the beginning of a new way of life. Life reinstated. Life rethought. Life relived. A new way of being. A new way of becoming.

God is saying Stay tuned. This is only the beginning, the beginning of the next stage of a journey that began long ago, when I too was a wandering, tent-dweller. I made my home with you then, saved and kept you for myself. In Yeshua I continue to love, to care, to save, to go with you. He too saved you from death, saved you for life. I have saved you for myself. He changed water into wine. I change death into life. Because I not only got this, I got you.