So when the journey started my slippers
closely resembled the large picture you see.
The thumbnail above is their sad state now.
Mind you, on the way they had to endure a dogs chops...several times
(the guilty party)
So how is your journey going?
What have you seen for the first time
or realized afresh?
Where do you still need to go?
What do you want?
Why do you want that?
What now do you need to relinquish?
Carrying on from yesterday...
Thomas Merton beautifully describes
what God is doing in the constant action
we call creation (note: creation isn't past tense
God is always in the act of creating who we are -
even this breath we are taking).
He alone is the gentlest of loves:whose pure flame respects all things.God, who owns all things, leaves them to themselves.He never takes them for His own,the way we take them for our own and destroy them.He leaves them to themselves.He keeps giving to them, giving them all they are,asking no thanks of themsave that they should receive from Himand be loved and nurtured by Him,and that they should increase and multiply,and so praise him.
The gentleness of God's love hasn't a drop of possessiveness in it.
There's no hint of "that's not yours - that's mine".
There's no-demanding recognition -
" you better be grateful - you'd be nothing without me -
Get worshiping me pronto!"
Instead, the gratitude God seeks
is that creation is nurtured and loved
becoming more and more itself.
That for me is in part what it means
to allow ourselves to be known,
We get to know how God knows us.
That's not easy and can feel like a narrow road:
it can feel like putting something to death in us-
putting to death the self we idolize: our ego self.
Relinquishing our “persona” then
is to do with giving up our attachment to and our investmentin the self that's focused onwhat I've achieved,what I've not been polluted by,
what I've accumulated,how clever I am,
how holy I am,
how successful I am,
the self I'm happy to put on show
and can create some kind of legacy out of.
We take too seriously a self
that is nothing like the God
Merton describes above.
Learning that I am more than my ego self
takes time, effort, discovery, epiphany and grace – it’s a narrow road -
where we get to know our true self
the self God brings us to be,
The self that is pure gift:
my life, my consciousness,
my love, and being loved,
It turns out I'm a beloved creature.
My ego self wants to be the creator.
This breath, and the next one - gift, sheer gift
I am a gift.
Let me say that again,
I am a gift;
loved into existence.
The self we develop in school, work, relationships,
that’s gifted, and stable, isn’t bad - but it isn’t enough.
Deep down we know that.
Don't we recognize our complexity, and contradiction.
The self-that’s the self I want to justify.
The self-that’s in competition for attention.
The self-that’s slighted when not recognized.
The self that wants to be someone,
so others will value who I am – is an idol.
It can't be know by God - because it's not real.
What does a human life look like
when completely inhabited by God?
Listen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
"Jesus is there only for others.
His being there for others
is his experience of transcendence.
It is only his freedom from himself,
this being there for others, even to death,
that is the source of his omnipotence,
and omnipresence. Faith is participation
in this being there for others...our relation to God
is a new life in being there for others."
One of the safest ways human beings avoid the narrow road
and hide themselves from what it's like
to become our true self
is by being "religious."
I think much of the rhetoric from the European
and American (North and South)
proffers a "Christianity"
that's the complete antithesis of Bonhoeffer's words.
Thinking some more
about what it means to be known by God.
Will that not be about shedding our false identity,
the identity that is a persona which we show to the world
that is not bad in itself, but not who we really are either.
To be be known is to experience the excavation
of our true self, to be given who we truly are.
That's not easy, or always comfortable -
because it's also about learning the truth
about who we are, in a negative way,
identifying the shadow self we each have
for what it is, a cuckoo in the souls nest.
What does Jesus have to say about that self?
Then Jesus told his disciples,
“If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves and take up their cross
and follow me.
For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
To travel into God's knowing us
will strip away what isn't really who we are:
we lose that in order to find
who we truly are.
I don't see how it can be any other way
if we are to receive the kind of love
we are loved with.
Thomas Merton gives a brilliant description
of what that love is like,
untainted by the devices and desires
of our shadow selves:
The Lord is present where the new day shines
in the moisture of the young grasses.
The Lord is present where the small wildflowers
are known to him alone.
The Lord God suddenly passes in the wind,
at the moment when night ebbs into the ground.
He who is infinitely great has given His children
a share in His own innocence.
He alone is the gentlest of loves:
whose pure flame respects all things.
God, who owns all things,
leaves them to themselves.
He never takes them for His own,
the way we take them for our own
and destroy them.
He leaves them to themselves.
He keeps giving to them, giving them all they are,
asking no thanks of them
save that they should receive from Him
and be loved and nurtured by Him,
and that they should increase and multiply,
and so praise him.
He saw that all things were beautiful
and he did not want them.
His love is not like ours.
His love is unpossessive.His love is pure because it needs nothing.
So, the entry for tonight
is an old song to a new tune.
It’s a rough sketch of a song,
but the words are known and trusted companions.
Sound quality not great. But enough for tonight...
The king of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his
And he is mine for ever.
Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul he leadeth,
And where the verdant pastures grow
With food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love he sought me,
And on his shoulder gently laid,
And home rejoicing brought me.
In death's dark vale I fear no ill
With thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.
Thou spread'st a table in my sight;
Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And O what transport of delight
From thy pure chalice floweth!
And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never:
Good shepherd, may I sing thy praise
Within thy house for ever.
Apologies for the multi- plex size image.
It should turn around the right way when played.
What is becoming more and more important to me?
Being known by God.
It's not that I have to struggle to discover God,
But that I am invited into his knowing of me.
That's what I hear
in these words of Cistertian Monk, Thomas Merton:
"Our freedom from the prison
of our own illusions
comes in realizing that in the end
everything is gift.
Above all we ourselves are gifts
that we first must accept
before we can become who we are
by returning who we are to the Father."
Isn't that exactly what we see Jesus live out?
God wills us to discover who we are
in his knowing of us -
remembering that in scripture
to know is a shared intimacy.
Who is the God that knows us?
I trust it's the God Rowan Williams describes
that he believes in:
"God is not an item in the universe,
not a being among others.
The energy, action and intelligence of love
that saturates everything,
moment by moment.
Always in the depth of every situation
capable of turning things round
and making a difference -
precisely because God is not
just part of the system,
but the context of it all."
Lets discover the gift of who we are
that is embedded in our being,
uniquely know by God
and therefore not threatened
by anyone else's being.
What does that mean?
Our doing never has to compete -
we are already fully known
by a love that never ends.
What are you doing with your time?
Got a fair bit more on your hands lately?
The first time pieces in Europe were created
to help those following a monastic way,
time would tell them to make a space to meet with God
at different points in the day:
Morning prayer (Lauds)
Evening prayer (Vespers)
night prayer (compline)
time beat a rhythm for prayer, song, work, eating, rest.
Time was in the service of meeting with God.
Then merchants and business took over the clock
and well, we know what time became...
But for who knows how long
many of us have the chance to befriend time in a different way.
From tomorrow morning I will make a space on face book live
for morning and evening prayers,
offering what we are living to the presence of God.
Morning prayers will be @ 9:30 am and evening prayers @ 9:30 pm.
There will be a short meditation then a prayer.
A simple reclamation of time for the company of God.
I went to see Gregory Alan Isakov @ St Luke's last year.
Below is a beautiful song about time.