Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of humankind. If holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there too. And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in two and recreate the human heart, because it is just where he seems most helpless that he is most strong, and just where we least expect him that he comes most fully.
Today, December 10, is the anniversary of the death of Thomas Merton. Merton has been a leading voice on spirituality, contemplation and our encounter with the world since at least 1948 with the publication of his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain.
Perhaps the following quote from Merton offers something to hear during this season of giving and receiving of gifts, food, and “best wishes.”
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world.
One of the email Advent devotionals I received this week instead of focusing on the usual Advent theme of “coming” had a thought on “construction.”
I received this from Franciscan Media –
Your Daily Minute Meditation – Advent Is Construction Season The call of Advent is clear. From both the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist, we hear, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah was writing to the people exiled far from their homeland. John the Baptist was talking to people who had lost their way in a tangle of politics and religion. In our own lives, we hear this call as well. We all have some roadwork to do in our souls. We might say Advent is construction season.
What will the days between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day be like for you?
Will there be shopping to do? parties to prepare for? family meals to prepare? decorations to get out of the storage boxes and arrange on a tree, in the house, in the yard, and/or on the house? It could almost make one tired just thinking about what can go on during these next weeks.
On the church calendar we call most of these days Advent. The first Sunday of Advent this year comes in a few days on December 1, 2019.
So during these busy days of November and December how will you nourish your spirit? What will Advent be for you?
This past Lent I passed on a few resources for Lenten readings and practices and I wondered if it might be worthwhile to share a couple of items as we move into Advent.
First, A few days ago I learned that Renovaré is offering a free download of a short book of meditations for Advent. What is interesting to me is that writers offer not only words for us but also images. Each of the four meditations includes a classical work of art for our reflection and meditation – visio divina – divine or sacred seeing.
Finally, do you like poetry? Then you should see what poems the Englewood Review of Books is offering each week that connect with the lectionary readings. The page got my full attention by posting the following quote from Walter Brueggemann –
“Freedom, justice, peace, and abiding joy [emerge] when the poet comes, when the poet speaks, when the preacher comes as poet.”
If you don’t think you like poetry, why not visit the page anyway. You might discover a new way of hearing the truths of Advent and the Gospel.
Take some time and see if any of these practices might nourish you this Advent.
A very good and most excellent friend has often reminded me of the distinction between “chronos” and “kairos”. I invite you to read these words from Henri Nouwen to begin the catch the difference and perhaps get a glimpse of “kairos.”
What We’re Looking for is Already Here
To start seeing that the many events of our day, week, or year are not in the way of our search for a full life but are rather the way to it is a real experience of conversion. We discover that cleaning and cooking, writing letters and doing professional work, visiting people and caring for others, are not a series of random events that prevent us from realizing our deepest self. These natural, daily activities contain within them some transforming power that changes how we live. We make hidden passage from time lived as chronos to time lived as kairos. Kairos is a Greek word meaning “the opportunity.” It is the right time, the real moment, the chance of our lives. When our time becomes kairos, it frees us and opens us to endless new possibilities. Living kairos offers us an opportunity for a profound change of heart.
Yesterday I came across a new devotional book (on sale at $2.99 for a couple of days) with readings from “classic” Christian writers. It includes writings from Frederick Buechner, Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, James Bryan Smith, A.W. Tozer, Dallas Willard, and N.T. Wright. Maybe some of those you have not heard of and maybe some you don’t think of as “classic” Christian writers but in my estimation they all have something to say to us.
The title of the book is Faith That Matters: 365 Devotions from Classic Christian Leaders.
For example the reading for February 2 from Frederick Buechner is –
PAUL’S PIVOT from Frederick Buechner As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice. ACTS 9:3–4 I t was about noon when he was knocked flat by a blaze of light that made the sun look like a forty-watt bulb, and out of the light came a voice that called him by his Hebrew name. “Saul. Why are you out to get me?” And when he pulled himself together enough to ask who it was he had the honor of addressing, what he heard to his horror was, “I’m Jesus of Nazareth, the one you’re out to get.” If Jesus of Nazareth had what it took to burst out of the grave like a guided missile, he thought, then he could polish off one bowlegged Christian-baiter without even noticing it, and Paul waited for the ax to fall. Only it wasn’t an ax that fell. “Those boys in Damascus,” Jesus said. “Don’t fight them. Join them. I want you on my side,” and Paul never in his life forgot the sheer lunatic joy and astonishment of that moment. He was blind as a bat for three days afterward, but he made it to Damascus anyway and was baptized on the spot. He was never the same again, and neither, in in your way. Amen.
When has God knocked you flat, figuratively speaking? What was the result in your life? Father, use light, wind, confrontation—whatever you have to—to keep me walking in your way. Amen.
You might want to check out the book while it is on sale at Amazon, Google Play Store books and Faithlife ebooks.
On Saturday morning after Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples wake after not having slept for two days. The city that was screaming for blood the day before is quiet. Crowds have disbanded. Jesus is dead.
This isn’t Sunday. This isn’t Friday. This is Saturday. The day after this but the day before that. The day after a prayer gets prayed but there is no answer on the way. The day after a soul gets crushed way down but there’s no promise of ever getting up off the mat.
Everybody knows Saturday
Saturday is the day your dream died. You wake up and you’re still alive. You have to go on, but you don’t know how. Worse, you don’t know why.
Today is called by some “Holy Saturday,” and if “holy” means set apart, I guess it really is. The ultimate “day-in-between.” The day that stands after, and maybe before, but do we know before what?
I have felt for a while that as a group those of us who claim to fellow Jesus, have failed to live with his disciples on this Saturday. And if don’t live this day, we not only fail to be with his followers, we fail to understand his absence, and we fail to have something to say to anyone else.
Let’s give it try today to live in the silence of “Silent Saturday.”
This post started with a quote from John Ortberg. You can find more of his thoughts on “In Between Joy and Despair” here. Please give it a slow, careful read. From there, maybe seek out some others’ thought on “silent Saturday.” But most of all, for at least a while today, be in the silence of the day.
We are in Holy Week, the end of another Lenten season, another time of “prayer, almsgiving and fasting,” and/or what other Lenten practices we have seen fit to take up. So, we are “in the home stretch,” heading to Good Friday and Easter Morning.
Is the home stretch where we pick up speed , bear down on doing/completing our Lenten practices right? Maybe we experienced a mid-Lenten slump (as many of us did) and see these last few days of Lent when we catch-up and finish well, maybe at the head of the pack. We’ll go all in on our spirituality, put out the extra effort and all will be well for another Lent. Maybe many of us at times feel this sort of pressure?
But is that what our Lenten practices are about, or for that matter any spiritual practice or discipline?
Rather, is it a matter of focusing on how we make room for God in our lives, how we not only carve out a space in our soul but how we give that space fully over to God to empty and fill as we need?
The prayer of Richard of Chichester is a good refrain to bear in mind during Lent, the Easter season and during each day. Maybe what this prayer and Lenten practices offer is a reminder that we are called to focus on the essentials of a life in which we walk with Jesus.
Day by day Oh, Dear Lord Three things I pray To see thee more clearly Love thee more dearly Follow thee more nearly Day by day
Last week in several posts, in several ways, I wondered with you if Lent might be a time to practice opening our eyes to what is around. I don’t claim I am open to my surroundings all the times I should be and I know that often it is only later that I get a hint of what I might have missed. We can be encouraged by the experience of others, such as Thomas Merton who did catch a glimpse of who was around him as he stood on a busy corner in Louisville, Kentucky. March 18th is marked as day Merton had his “4th and Walnut Epiphany.” As you read over his words do they connect for you with the first feast mentioned in our Lenten prayer.
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .
This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. . . . But this cannot be seen, only believed and ‘understood’ by a peculiar gift.