Ephipany

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Once he came, walking the Judean roads. Over dirt and rocks, along sea shores, across the green hills down from Galilee.  Once he stopped along the road to speak words of comfort to those who were waiting for him. Many were waiting for him.

News spreads fast.

He went to the river just to see what his cousin, the wild man, was up to. But something more happened than just attempting for his family to stop John from his dangerous talk. After John, his own family would come looking for him for the same reasons.

We are told the heavens opened and a voice was heard, as he joined with the others in the water of new life. He went to rescue one but went on to rescue many. From the shores of the Jordan

News spread fast.

Have you ever wished for just one day that you could hear his voice, feel his touch, look into his eyes, hear his words, experience that presence. I have. And yet I also know

Christ comes to us in each moment of our day. His Spirit lives where we are. Rocky roads. I’ve seen a few. Quiet waters. Those too.  I only have to stop along the road, and listen for the footfall of God in my life.  I have only to Be. To Listen. Be still and you will know that I Am.  In every moment of every day, there is this still small voice speaking to us in our hearts. Look at the creature world, the world of nature and you will see not just the magnificence of this world, but feel the heart of this sacred heart, his Spirit, his wondrous wings beating with the rhythm of your heart beat and even in the cadence of your heart break.

 

 

 

 

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The Blooming Season of the Spirit

  Day Lily open

I know that my Savior liveth and he shall stand as the light of day upon the earth, and even though this body be destroyed, I know that I shall see him for myself and not as a stranger.

July is upon us. And my day lilies are in bloom. But they only last a day. That is why they are called day lilies! But while they bloom I want to capture their beauty. I have a lot of watercolor paintings of day lilies, trying to do just that. I have to be quick. As soon as they go into an arrangement I start the drawing. I do take photographs for reference to paint from after they shrivel up and fall off the stem. But when I look at the photographs, it just doesn’t quite capture what I see with my naked eye. And I have a really good camera. But when I look at the flowers directly or anything for that matter, I see things the camera doesn’t. Nuances of color, subtlety of shape, the lines within the petal that seems to be a pathway into the flower and off to its edge. Even the edges are more pronounced. With the actual flowers in front of me I can get a panorama, and a much better sense of the relationship of one flower to the others. And I love the pods. There are so many. Which rather off sets their short flowering, because the next day there will be others popping into view. The trick is devoting a couple of weeks to the adventure and challenge of trying to capture their beauty on paper. I think that’s why artist like to paint flowers. There is a beauty in them that we just have to replicate. Take with us. Make them ours for more than just the blooming season.

I think our soul life, our spiritual life, imitates nature in this way as well. We have ‘blooming’ seasons, when the self seems to open to the Spirit. The light of the Son falls upon us and we reach for its radiance. We bloom. We are in the state of becoming and growth. Open to the greater possibilities life offers, when we take the time to just look. Life in full bloom is a life lived in Christ. Open to his Spirit shining in our lives.

Others may hold pictures or image of the story of Jesus, of the Christ life, up to us, for us to look at. There are so many views; from which angle do we make our approach, to capture or convey something that is so real yet often so elusive? St. Paul tried to do it in his letters. In Philippians he says to put on the mind of Christ. I think it’s in the mind’s eye, in the heart’s eye, our own, that we see for ourselves the truth and the beauty of his flowering in our lives. To look directly and squarely at the gospel stories and let our eyes find what only we might see there. To get a better sense of the relationship from one parable to the next. In this direct gaze, which seems to ever be beholding a blooming season that never ends, we might be able to capture a truer likeness. And in that radiance better see our own flowering there.

 

 

 

 

Under the Rainbow

rainbow over water  I often wish I had the spirit of Georgia O’Keefe, so I could paint beautiful close-up images like hers that take over your entire view when you look at them. Or the spirit of Walt Whitman in order to create a sustained homage to nature. Of course, I can imitate other artists, looking long at an O’Keefe painting or reading Whitman’s poetry hoping to catch the spirit from which their work sprang. Artist and poet look at the world more intensely, with more intentionality, so that every day things like a piece of drift wood or even the tiniest blade of grass come to life in a way that allows us into their singular vision, and enlarges ours. Mary Oliver meanders through the woods early in the mornings with her notepad, watching and waiting for the deer to come down and drink at the pond, or the flower to open at the first light of day. I often read her poems of a morning as I would the psalms, wanting to enter into the spirit of the world that she has been able to capture in well-chosen words. Her poetry also brings with it a sensibility for the sacred and the blessed in our world.  As the artists opens other worlds for us, we glimpse this world with more truth, beauty and grace.

Jesus left his Spirit with us in a very decisive and intentional way. Two thousand years later how do I come upon his Spirit? How does his Spirit enter into you and I so we might see more truth, beauty and grace in the world and in ourselves? Can I look at his life and his ‘work’, what is left to us of him, so I can enter into the Life of his Spirit? Shall I watch and wait for his Spirit to come down from Galilee to the river, or like St. Paul says, ‘walk according to the Spirit’ (Romans 8:4) looking for the day to open its broad petals across the landscape.

We are the people of Pentecost. On that day Jesus poured his Spirit out upon the world, like a rainbow of colors spilling down, transparent, washing over us all, the felt experience of his life. His Spirit is like the rainbow in Genesis that the Lord set in the clouds as a sign of his promise and blessing upon the earth and all the people in it.(Gen.9:13) Christ’s Spirit remains too as both promise and blessing. The promise of our becoming and the blessing by which we are touched by his Life in his Spirit. He is with us too in a reign of words that comes down to us in stories about him. Whatever he did and whatever he said, he was unforgettable. Surely some sacred Spirit created in those whose lives he touched the need to tell others what they knew of him, so that we too might get a glimpse of him from the distance of two thousand years and today enter into his Spirit, and into the timelessness of his presence as it remains with us.  Perhaps all I need do is stand under the rainbow and believe.

The Earthed Spirituality of Christ

 

 footprints    Recently my twelve year old grandson said something rather profound. He wasn’t going for profundity, but rather was instructing his grandmother on the art of football. He said that in football never let your feet leave the ground. That’s when you get hurt. He explained: Don’t jump over people or jump on top of the other guy(s). My grandson knows whereof he speaks.

Seems to me this can apply to life as well. We often associate the spiritual life with living in some airy fairy world that is above or even beyond our all-too-real lives. That it floats above us in some rarified atmosphere that we must jump through hoops to access. That spirituality is something over and above human life, real life.  It seems Pentecost is saying something different. That the Spirit of Christ that comes to us is that of a real person who embodies both the human and sacred. His Spirit endows us with his image and likeness. With his humanity as well as his sacredness. This spirituality is a grounded spirituality. Grounded in Christ. Grounded in our very real and often difficult lives, as it was in his.  It is my experience that unless we have your two feet firmly planted in your life, God cannot put his two foot there either. And when we do and he does, nothing we do can separate us, as Paul says, from the love, the experience, the presence of Christ Jesus.

Paul talks about modeling ourselves on the lived example that Christ embodied. Paul often too refers to the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ seen in his actions. What we observe first and foremost is a man living an authentic life true to who he knew himself to be. He was in solidarity with others; celebrating their marriages, eating and drinking with his friends, for which he was roundly criticized, tending to their physical and spiritual needs, standing between himself and evil spirits, and talking to those who began to follow him, telling them stories about another way of being which he called the kingdom. He sought to give others sight, and new ways of looking at life, and at his Father, whom he said we could see in him. So why is the way we look at God, so very different from how we see Jesus? Or at least how he is represented in the gospel accounts of his life. He wanted others to hear, not the old ways, which obviously were not only not working, but were causing people more difficulties than intended. And what he intended, what he wanted for his followers, was a different kind of peace, a different way of living the faith of Israel, which he now embodies in his Spirit.

It is this Spirit, his Spirit that has been given us. One that gives life. One that is real, earthed, and is an abiding presence, the awareness of which he tried valiantly to bring to our attention by his very life and humanity, a presence that would was not, is not, deterred by those killing his body. The man who walked the Road to Emmaus and sat by the sea shore cooking breakfast for his friends, was again, showing us that the realm of heaven, of the eternal, of the sacred, is one with this world of flesh and blood, earth and sky, road and seashore, which nothing can deter, restrain, contain or destroy. For his Spirit is absolutely the Spirit of freedom. The Spirit of love. The Spirit of an abiding presence that is as close as the wind on our faces, as real as our heart beats and as available to us as our believing it is so.

Imagine the Possibilities

Pentecost red ribbons  Pentecost redeems the Tower of Babel. Many languages were being spoken out there on the streets beneath the upper room on that Pentecost day where a great wind caught twelve plus anxious men and women in the grips of something that changed not only their lives but the way we view the world and mark history.

We are in the season of the Holy Spirit. And in all truth, since the day of that first Pentecost, when the world was lit by the fire and language of the Spirit, Pentecost is the ever-present reality of our lives each and every day, no matter what church or natural season in which we find ourselves.

This Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. St. Paul tells us that it is this Spirit that has come to make its home in us. In his letter to the Romans Paul characterizes the essence of the spirit as freedom.  He interchanges Spirit of Christ and Spirit of God in this letter. But they are one and the same Spirit. The נשימה that breathed over the waters at the creation, the ruach which in the Hebrew Scriptures can be variously translated wind or spirit or breath.

One of the Hebrew names for God is Ruach Elohim. The first impression of those assembled in the upper room was of a wind. A wind that overtook their sensibilities. A wind that brought the fire of the spirit. In that moment we became lit with the Spirit of Christ moving in our lives. In that upper room a window opened to eternity. To divinity. To the sacred possibility within us. Opens us to the Spirit of One made whole, human and sacred showing himself fully alive, alive to the Ruach Elohim and now fully alive in us.

When Jesus showed himself risen he carried the Ruach Elohim to us. In him Spirit and Body became one indivisible reality of the human person. He crushed the head of dualism. And in him the Ruach Elohim came to its fullest expression in the human person. The Word breathed over the waters at Creation became flesh. And when the Word became flesh, as St. Paul would say, we became a new creation.

Like Mary seeded by the Ruach Elohim at Jesus’ conception, we are now in Christ, seeded with the limitless possibilities of his Spirit. Each day is a little pentecost. We are his first-fruits. The bounty of his becoming in us. In his Spirit, in the emerging pentecost of each new day, we rise to a new harvest, a new way of being, which holds the limitless possibilities of our humanity, now in him, made whole. Human. Sacred. Meant.

With One Heart

 Pentecost red ribbons  They weren’t drunk. Although to most it sounded as if they were. They seemed to have been under the influence of some kind of spirits. And they were.

Jesus has appeared to the women, to Peter and the other disciples who came on shore to have breakfast with Peter and Jesus. Along with all the others he has been a presence to all those he loved in the world. Even Thomas who was not with the others, was given a chance to touch him in his wounded place. For like us, it is often in our wounded places that we touch and are touched by the presence of Christ.

It’s this presence that comes breaking through the walled barriers of the upper room on Pentecost. It is one of Jesus’ final manifestations after he came back from death. But it is not his physical presence but his Spirit that comes as fire upon the disciples. No closed doors, no walls, and not even their fears and doubts could keep the promised Spirit of Christ away from them. And it is Peter who realizes what is going on. Peter, who has gone through so much, been tested in his own fire, and the call to care for those he has been given, that is able to see that what has come upon them is the intoxication of the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ. In that same Spirit, the disciple who once ran away, now stands up. Peter has finally got it. He will keep the Lord in his sights for the remainder of his days. He knows now the way of life. Their fear and sorrow has turned to joy in the presence of the living Christ.

Jesus has stood on the hill just outside Bethany, blessing them and then appears to have arisen into the heavens, departing them this one last time.

Everyone in Jerusalem is overtaken by the sending of the Spirit, and they began to hear what the disciples were saying in their native tongues. It is the first convening of the United Nations. No translation or translator was needed. The disciples of Jesus would leave the upper room and the day of Pentecost and go out to live together with one heart. The heart of Christ.

With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the language of the soul was given voice. St. Paul talks about being in Christ. Being in Christ for him is about living in his Spirit. And when we live in the Spirit of Christ, who can come like fire, or like a gentle wind, or tug at your heart, as Paul says in Romans, the Spirit of Christ, has made a home in us. And abides with us in the absolute freedom of the Spirit which knows no barriers, no obstacles, no walls or door, not even death. Paul tells us we no longer live under the shadow of death. We now live in the unending time of Easter and of Pentecost. In the fire of the Spirit, in the heart of Christ.

At the Table of Jesus

 

IMG_0318  Of course, the church’s sin against women is not exclusive to women. Somehow, shortly after St. Paul and the gospels were written came the selective interpretation of the scriptures. A selective interpretation that was nothing more than proof texting for the exclusivity of a  male dominated church. You can selectively sort through St. Paul’s letters and come up with sentences here and there that seem to cast women in lesser roles. But reading the whole of his letters paints a different picture.  To exclude women, or anyone, was not Jesus’ message or how he lived his life; nor was it Paul’s nor is it in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts women are preaching, teaching and are ordained.

The new Jesus movement as we see it in the gospels and in Acts is a Jewish movement whose purpose and identity was grounded in the universal inclusion of all people in the new covenant faith. The gospel message is that there is no barrier of age, race, gender, ethnicity, class or status. All were welcome. As all were welcome at the table of Jesus who even ate with sinner, even with tax collectors!

St. Paul and the other apostles saw their mission to preach Jesus’ death and resurrection as a universal imperative which included pagans and gentiles, and was intended to reach to the ends of the earth.  No one was excluded. What has happened to us? To the church? On religious grounds, false religious grounds I might add, people of different orientations are being excluded. We are suspect of anyone of a different faith. Whose practices are not like ours?

In Acts it becomes clear that ALL barriers are eradicated by the coming of the Holy Spirit. One of the first signs at Pentecost, the sending of the Spirit of Christ into the world, was that people of different tribes, speaking different languages, could understand one another. Being baptized not by apostles but in the name of the Spirit of Jesus, not only erased ethnic diversity which was so strong at the time, but also made it possible to bring everyone to the table. To the table of Jesus. He even sat down and ate with Pharisees, with his enemies.

How outrageous then are those purveyors of Christianity who refuse anyone to come to the table of the Lord. Even to say you need to be free of sin to come to the table seems ludicrous. Who needs Jesus more? And who is to judge the human heart?  When we remember Jesus’ last supper this week, as we participate in the remembrance of Jesus’ last supper, we need to be aware that just as he welcomed everyone to every meal he ate during his public life, we too might work to include rather than exclude. For there are no barriers to love. And it was only the women and a lone Roman soldier who stood with and witnessed the embrace of Jesus for everyone on that Good Friday.

 

The Journey of the Human Heart

 Pentecost red ribbons I’ve been facilitating a bible study in the past few months on Acts of the Apostles. In Acts Luke chronicles the early church grappling with what it means to follow Jesus as the Christ. We get a different look at St. Paul in Acts. We see him traveling around the Mediterranean, going from place to place in order to establish belief in Jesus and set up churches in his name. Even though Luke paints Paul in a favorable light (he was his traveling companion for a while) it becomes clear from the outset that their were many challenges Paul faced and difficulties the first apostles faced after Jesus’ resurrection.

But they were not alone as they began to proclaim the triumph of the human Jesus as the messiah, the Christ, as evidenced by his resurrection. His resurrection had a powerful effect on them. Suddenly the things Jesus said and did made sense. They finally got it. They understood. And at Pentecost it became the Spirit of Christ coming upon them, coming into them, that empowered them to go out and proclaim that this holy man from Galilee, who was their friend and teacher, was also the Christ of God.

Each of us over the course of our lives enacts the journey that we see in the first followers of Jesus trying to become ‘church’. The ecclesia –a gathering of believers who would now try to recreate/to tell Jesus’ life, his words, what he taught and what he believed. Their goal to form their identity based on the life of Jesus.

For us too today it is a matter of forming an identity. An identity we need to form and formulate anew as we grow in knowledge and awareness of our spirits as they join with the deepest God-centered self, which is Christ. We are Spirit led. Our creative spirituality is an incarnate spirituality. It is enfleshed in our bodies as we embody the Spirit of Christ.(1 Cor. 15:45) As we make our final march to Holy Week and to Easter, we embody his Spirit, left as legacy and identity.

He made his journey from the green hills of Galilee to the teeming metropolis of Jerusalem, to the shores of the Jordan, from the Kidron Valley, along with his those who loved him, committed to a journey they had no idea where it would lead them. It was enough to be with him. For us too, it is enough to be with him.

His life was a journey. He continues to journey with us as we make our unique identities in the world.  It is a promise kept. It is the promise of the coming to be of God in the human heart because he was the human heart of Jesus. A human and sacred heart that is enough.

Creative Spirituality

Pentecost red ribbons   In spite of the vast and varied array of interpretations that have been lumbered on St. Paul’s letters, let me suggest that we also see the importance of his letters as they portray the creative process. For it is the cream rising to the top after we sort through the behavioral cautions and his perplexing treaties on the Mosaic law.

From Genesis we know that we are created in image and likeness. Being created human means we are sacred and we are meant. Something within us looks like the God who created us. For Paul living in Christ is the completion of the creation process.

Spirituality is living in the Spirit of Christ where Christ is the epicenter of our spirituality. This spirituality is creative because in it we come to the fullness of life, more truly who we are and are meant to be.  It is the life of Christ that animates our being. It is a new way of being that we can never exhaust. Here we live beyond mere existence. In a creative Christ-centered spirituality we grow and become; we discover that this life is the most real part of who we are, without which we are just walking bodies.

Creative spirituality is living in our depths. And in our depths is the sacred. This is the hidden self we endeavor to bring into awareness. The hidden self as the Christ-self, the realization that within us resides not only the life but the love of Christ. Discovering this and being changed because of this awareness is at the heart and soul of a creative spirituality. This is the discovery that Paul made on the Damascus Road. It would fire his whole life. He set out to share and to create a way of living that not just resembled, but re-assembled us into the person of Christ. This way of living is about transformation. The Way of becoming whole. (I am the Way, to the Truth, that gives Life.) A way of becoming fully human; experiencing the fullness of the God-life within us.

Creative spirituality is also the realization that like Jesus we are human, and like Jesus as the Christ our lives are ever being renewed, resurrected. Creative spirituality, like all creative endeavors, is open, attentive, flexible, alive and the willingness to participate in mystery and be surprised by what is forming in us. In a Christ-centered creative spirituality we are ever in the process of self-becoming. The Christ-self as the coming to be of the sacred in our lives. A transformation that is ever at work within us.

In creative spirituality we are both forming and being formed. Shaping and being shaped.  It is the genesis in solitude of awareness, attention, receptivity and trust, to trust oneself and ones instincts, which are the cornerstones of the creative spirit. Creative spirituality is the expression of one’s own soul as it forms, finds and keeps to the deepest center of one’s life. It is the ability to become whole, to discover and be discovered by a sacred purpose and allow oneself to be led by the creative spirit as one makes one’s way into the heart of divine existence and the sacredness of oneself.

Captivated by Christ – Part I

cropped-pond-at-the-farm-21.jpg        In Romans Paul touches on our next topic for transformation. In Christ, he tells, we are transformed from slavery (slavery to the old ways, to the old Law) to the freedom that is now ours in Christ. Beyond freedom we becomes heirs of the kingdom. (Romans 6:15-23). In the next chapter of Romans he talks about being freed of the written code to a new life in the Spirit. But it is in Romans 8:1 that he sums this up. ..the law of the Spirit of Christ has set you free from the law of sin and death. The Spirit flows like a symphony through Paul’s letters, the repeated refrain of our lives transformed in the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit that remains with us yet today. At Pentecost the resurrected Christ endowed his followers with himself.
Jesus came back to life. He came back to us. He made his return, transformed. And when he had done what he had meant to do, he commissioned his followers to do what he had done in his name. And so before he made his ascent to the Father, another remove from the visible world, he caused his presence to go on. He sent his Spirit, to dwell, strength and guide us.
It is his Spirit that speaks to us today in the mosaics of his life we find in the gospels. This is where we find him. This is where his presence begins to make itself known. And then too, in the community of his followers who gather together in his name. To continue a living relationship by prayer and presence, doing as he did, singing the Psalms and recalling the history of Israel, a history that was his own.
His Spirit remains also with us in the symbols that speak his name, convey his presence and provide for us a means, a way into the reality that is the Christ-life, available to us at each turn of every waking and sleeping (through our dreams and in the peaceful rest that allows the Spirit to take hold of us, to make his unhampered claim upon our lives). To make its imprint upon our souls, so that waking we sense that indeed something, someone has changed our lives.
Like Yahweh of old, his is not found in wood or stone so that he might be found in our hearts.
His Spirit is not all invisible field/meadow/pastureland.

(To be continued)

All the writing, quotes, artwork and photography are the work of the author unless otherwise stated. Scripture readings are from the Jerusalem Bible.

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