I'VE WALKED A LEARNING CURVE again this summer. Unexpected illness and ensuing weakness begets a strength all of its own. Weakness is a gift. An education. And I've been blessed by both weakness and the strength that flows into and out of it.
I'm an optimist. I believe in God and I believe in people so I generally default to “the upbeat” rather than “the downside”. But eternal optimism can be exhausting in the face of all-too-human earthy reality. Christians and many other women and men of goodwill can be tackled to the ground by the very Church or institution they seek to love and serve.
The Church is not exempt from the selfish gene, or the self-satisfied one either. Indeed there are certain religious “types” that at times appear more selfish and self-important than most; certain religious types who seem to have forgotten the Divine call and imperative to compassion and all encompassing embrace, much more concerned with personal tastes and pick 'n' mix preferences (the ones they call “biblical” usually being the most distasteful) than with the challenge to a different kind of “choice” flagged up, even unto death, by the hunted and haunted Jesus. Some of the inconsequential tripe that people argue about in and around my parish beggars belief – whilst issues of real consequence like war, greed, racism, selfishness and vanity appear almost entirely to escape their attention.
I remember a similar “churchy” conversation-going-nowhere the night before 9/11.
So I have a huge appetite for the loving offerings of any and all who, recognising the desperate need for a deeper compassion in the heart of humanity – in Syria, for example, or in the suffering and despair of an impossibly huge raft of outcasts and the shunned – call humankind to pay attention to its actions and allegiances, offering the loving hand of companionship and goodwill for the journey.
And tonight I want to name three wonderful people (amongst the very many others that all of us, if we put our minds to it, could name) who have a gift for affirmation and embrace, and for pointing us to the gifts in others. Not all of them would think of themselves as acting in the name of “Gospel” in any religious sense, but each is an agent of “Good News” – which is what “Gospel” is supposed to be all about. I'm heartened and encouraged by these recent offerings:
Richard Rohr who offers Daily Meditations here
It seems to me that it is a minority that ever gets the true and full Gospel. We just keep worshiping Jesus and arguing over the exact right way to do it. The amazing thing is that Jesus never once says, “worship me!”, but he often says, “follow me” (e.g., Matthew 4:19).
Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, inclusive, and loving. We made it, however, into a formal established religion, in order to avoid the demanding lifestyle itself. One could then be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain at the highest levels of the church, and still easily believe that Jesus is “my personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.
Compassionate Action Fr Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation, 8 September 2012
David Herbert who blogs at The Jog here
“So, as a woman of faith, as a monastic, how do you see your role and the role of other people of faith in the world?”
Sister Joan's reply:
It's a simple one: To see injustice and say so, to find the truth and proclaim it, to allow no stone to be unturned when it is a stone that will be cast at anyone else. It's just that simple. There is nothing institutional, organizational, political about it. It says: “Where I am, you may not harm these people. You may not deride them; you may not reject them; you may not sneer at them, and you certainly cannot blame them for their own existence.” 10 September 2012
Mimi at Waiting for the Karma Truck here (who today offered me this encouragement)
I delight in this young woman’s talents, but honestly find cause for celebration in seeing your post and feeling your strength returning. Can that be celebrated next Sunday?
Affirm God in one another. That's the call of Jesus of Nazareth. You may not harm these people. Being warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain at the highest levels of the church, [whilst still easily believing] that Jesus is “my personal Lord and Savior.” – The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.
Heaven on Earth is delivered by the hands and hearts of those who minister affirmation, compassion, grace and hope to others – whatsoever the human detail of their religious faith (or lack of it) and wheresoever they may be. “You may not harm”. I thank God for any and all who, hearing that yearning call, seek instead to upbuild and to affirm. That's the brightest and best “religion”, the brightest and best kind of “drawing, or binding together, and making whole”. Wholeness and holiness amount to the same thing.