Swinging on Rainbows

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The Twelfth Day of Advent

December 13, 2019

WOULDN’T IT BE GRAND TO BE AN ANGEL?

Wouldn’t it be grand to be an angel
and have as your address
“The Realms of the Glory of God”?

And swing on rainbows
and gather stars in your pockets,
winging in and out of earth
in a flurry of moondust
with the messages of God?

Comforting the distressed, warning the righteous
delivering the just, guarding little children?

Of course, we can comfort and warn
and deliver and guard.
Maybe, if we get that right,
we can swing on rainbows later.

— Ann Weems

I have to say that this morning I really feel as if I could swing on rainbows. I was released by Mayo Clinic today after my kidney transplant on November 12th, and I am happy to be going home to Macon. I have missed my friends, my Sunday School class, my family and my church family. And my kitty, of course, who probably wonders where we’ve been for a whole month!

Ann Weems’ poem today speaks of angels swinging on rainbows, gathering stars in their pockets, winging in and out of earth in a flurry of moon dust sharing God’s message. And then there is the work of comforting the distressed, warning the righteous, delivering the just and guarding little children. The poet’s overarching question is this: “Wouldn’t it be grand to be an angel and have as your address ‘The Realms of the Glory of God’”?

Wouldn’t it? The grace-filled truth is that God has gifted each of us with ministries of comforting the distressed, bringing sight to the blind, offering hope to those who have lost hope, guarding little children and hundreds of other works of compassion. We are the hands and feet of God — of Christ — in our world. I am always moved by this quote by Joseph B. Clower from his book, The Church in the Thought of Jesus. This is my imperfect recollection of his words:

If the Living Christ is not confined, then our hearts are moved with his compassion, our hands are coarsened with his labor, our feet are wearied with his walking among humanity.

In some way of holy mystery, when our hands reach out in compassion, we become the incarnation of Christ in the world. Advent is about incarnation, God incarnate in Jesus. In turn, Jesus left us as his embodiment — chosen, ordained, empowered to do the works that he did when he walked among us.

. . . The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (Matthew 14:12 NRSV)

61A24E10-42F0-4043-829B-69B005A420E8And so Advent’s message urges us to do the work of angels and, yes, the works that Jesus did in his years on earth. What a divine and holy calling this is — sharing compassion, giving hope, comforting, caring, giving, working for justice, offering mercy. On top of that, Advent hints that we might also gather a few stars in our pockets, winging in and out of earth in a flurry of moon dust.

Swinging on rainbows is a possibility, too.

That just might be a glorious way
to journey through Advent 2019!

On Being a Mystic

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A breathtaking sunset over Arkansas’ Mount Nebo photographed by Josh McCray.

Some Christians tend to be frightened by the word “mysticism.” The word “mystic” raises irrational fears based on a misunderstanding of mysticism as a part of the Christian’s spiritual experience. So what exactly is a mystic? A mystic is simply one who has moved from mere belief systems to an actual inner experience with God.

That brings us to the sticky concept of belief systems. Christians definitely have belief systems, sometimes rigid and judgmental belief systems. The reality is that there is never a shortage of persons spouting out their beliefs, beliefs that are often based on systems of fake religious piety.

A life lived in the spiritual realm of God is much, much more than a set of rigid beliefs. Spirituality is much more than what we think or what we say. Spirituality is who we are, our inner spirit, our soul that dances to the rhythms of the God who dwells within us.

Richard Rohr understands the inner spiritual experience.

Until people have had some mystical, inner spiritual experience, there is no point in asking them to follow the ethical ideals of Jesus or to really understand religious beliefs beyond the level of formula. At most, such moral ideals and doctrinal affirmations are only a source of deeper anxiety because we don’t have the power to follow any of Jesus’ major teachings about forgiveness, love of enemies, nonviolence, humble use of power, and so on, except in and through radical union with God. Further, doctrines like the Trinity, the Real Presence, and the significance of Incarnation itself have little active power. They are just “believed” at the rational level.

– Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation

Any of us can believe at the rational level. We can easily formulate a set of personal doctrines, doctrines that often hold us captive to self-righteousness and rigid relationships with others. To be truly free is to be open to the winds of the Spirit, to rest in the presence of God, to follow Christ into places of deep need, to give ourselves over to inner spiritual experiences.

When we live in the comforting place of the mysticism of spirituality, we will not find in ourselves a judgmental spirit that uses our beliefs to denigrate those whose beliefs differ from ours. We will not find in ourselves the need for the criticism and condemnation that results in divisions.

What we will find within ourselves is the ability to love as Christ loved, the longing to bury our souls in the gentle grace of God, the deepest desire to transform the world around us and thus create the “beloved community.”

So I, for one, want to be a mystic. I want to live in the very center God’s spiritual realm, to be moved by the Spirit, to scatter the love of Christ in all the places I walk.

May God make it so.

Come! Live in the Light!

 

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“Come! Live in the light!”

So begins a beautiful hymn Entitled “We Are Called,” I discovered only yesterday. A dear friend sent it, describing it as the new theme song for her life.

When I looked up the hymn and listened to it, I was mesmerized by its melody and its message. The people of God, today facing so many challenges of injustice and divisiveness, would do well to adopt this hymn as their theme song. I hope it speaks to you as deeply as it spoke to me.
“We Are Called”
David Haas

Come! Live in the light!
Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord!
We are called to be light for the kingdom,
to live in the freedom of the city of God!

We are called to act with justice.
We are called to love tenderly.
We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.

Come! Open your heart!
Show your mercy to all those in fear!

We are called to be hope for the hopeless,
so all hatred and blindness will be no more!

Sing! Sing a new song!
Sing of that great day when all will be one!
God will reign and we’ll walk with each other as sisters
and brothers united in love!

Protesters cry out on the streets of our cities, but we are called to live in the light. Immigrants are detained in our airports, but we are called to live in the light. Immigrants are refused refuge in our country, but we are called to live in the light. Our leaders make decisions based on divisive ideologies, but we are called to live in the light.

So while protesters call for compassion, immigrants find no refuge among us, and politicians argue about what’s right and wrong, let us make sure we live as God’s people in a broken world.

Come! Live in the light!
Please listen to this beautiful hymn on YouTube at this link:

The Indwelling Christ

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Photo credit & copyright: Michael S. White, NWImages.com

I am thinking today about the second stanza of the great hymn, “All Praise to Thee.” The words remind us of the life and work of Jesus.

Thou camest to us in lowliness of thought;
By Thee the outcast and the poor were sought;
And by The death was God’s salvation wrought;
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Do we seek the outcast and the poor? Do we continue the work of Christ as we walk each day in a broken world? Do we show Christ’s compassion to every person? Do we do these things by the way we live our lives?

I have for many years considered thoughtfully these words written by Joseph Clower in his book, The Church in the Thought of Jesus. Though he speaks of the Church and her ministry, I also hear his words as a compelling personal call to live my life as a follower of Christ in the world.

If the indwelling Christ is not confined, then the Church’s eyes flow with His tears, her heart moved with His compassion, her hands are coarsened with His labor, her feet are wearied with his walking among all people.

May this be said of us.

Love in Action

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A high school teacher battling cancer looked out of his bedroom window and saw 400 students and faculty worshiping outside his window. They surprised their terminally ill teacher by showing up on his street and serenading him with hymns.

Ben Ellis, who taught at the Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville before his illness, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer last December. After a devastating medical report last week, he and his family decided to cease treatment.

Mr Ellis said that what the students did was “beautiful and unforgettable. It overwhelmed me that God would fill that many students with that much love. In that moment I felt that I was not alone.”

The lesson for us is about giving ourselves, selflessly and lavishly, to those who need an act of love. May God enliven us to put our love in action.

How do I tell you?

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How do I introduce you to the amazing God I know, to the Christ who is the Savior of humankind? How do I share with you all the ways that God has graced my life? How do I describe a God who is the Creator of all that exists and yet knows me by name?

I have travelled life’s journey with a God who is my protector. I have known God intimately through the most difficult days, and I have known God through all of life’s joys.

How do I tell you?

These are the words of Madeleine, L’Engle.

We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.

It is true. I cannot describe such a lovely light. I can only live within it and let you see.