Morning by Morning

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward." Isaiah 50:4-5

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wandering in the Desert

There is a true story of a man who wanders into the desert in Arizona and dies of thirst.  When he is found he is still clutching an unopened gallon jug of water that he has been hoarding to drink at the right moment, but in his disorientation the right moment never comes.

Our society is in many ways a spiritual desert.  Many people wander its trackless wastes only a short walk from well of the Water of Life.  The poet T. S. Eliot said: “The desert is not remote in southern tropics, /The desert is not only around the corner, /The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you, /The desert is in the heart of your brother.”[i]

We were born wanderers.  G. K. Chesterton says, “according to Christianity, we were indeed survivors of a wreck, the crew of a golden ship that had gone down before the beginning of the world”[ii] (Orthodoxy, Ch. 5).  Like the Wanderer of old we roam the turbulent seas seeking a lost band of brothers, and a home to call our own. [iii]   No place quite fits. I felt like a lost child of king that was somehow stranded in a peasant’s hovel amid the dank and gloaming hollows of druid wood.   Again Chesterton says of this discovery, “I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in the spring” (Ibid).    

To the wanderer in a spiritual desert a drink of cool clear water is a delight, and we are drawn by delight.  That cool clear draft of water is promised by Jesus who says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”[iv]

“What does it mean, to be drawn by delight? ‘Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ . . .  Show me a lover and he will understand what I am saying. Show me someone who wants something, someone hungry, someone wandering in this wilderness, thirsting and longing for the fountains of his eternal home, show me such a one and he will know what I mean. But if I am talking to someone without any feeling, he will not know what I am talking about.”[v]

In looking for those who are wandering, the Church seeks those that thirst, and offers them the living water of the Spirit of God.  There is a deep well of clear cool water in the liturgy and life of the Church.  There will come a time when, “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age.  And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.  Thus says the LORD of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, declares the LORD of hosts?”[vi]

[i] T. S. Eliot, Choruses from the Rock
[ii] G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (London: Image Books, 1959), p. 80
[iii] Burton Raffel, “The Wanderer,” Poems and Prose from the Old English, (New Haven: Yale, 1998), p. 7-14
[iv] John 7:37-38  ESV
[v] St. Augustine, from A Homily on the Gospel of St. John, Tract. 26: CCL 36, p. 261-263
[vi] Zechariah 8:4-6   ESV

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Walled Garden

One of the gifts on our Anglican tradition is an appreciation of the beauty of God’s creation.  We pray for Joy in God's Creation:

O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We believe that God’s creation is good and that He intended that we enjoy the wonderful things that He has made.  On the Seventh Day of Creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).  At the center was the Garden of Eden traditionally understood as a walled garden.  The word “Paradise” actually refers to a “walled garden.”  It is a place of the generous grace and goodness of God, a place where he seeks to walk with us in the cool of the evening.  History and experience testify that we have lost the way to that earthly garden, but art and the pursuit of beauty tell us that we long for it still.  Written in the aspirations of our hearts is an eternal longing for Paradise; a longing that acknowledges both the sense of paradise lost and the hope of paradise regained. 

Every lovely garden is an echo of the walled garden which is Paradise, and with yearning and faith we reach out to that walled garden, which is not only in the past, but also future.  The very purpose of the Incarnation teaches us that God became flesh in Christ Jesus, to dwell with us, to suffer; we must not forget that Gethsemane is a garden.  In his incarnation he came to die, to be buried, to rise again from the dead, and in that rising to take us with him to the true garden, Paradise, eternal in the heavens.

We live lives of longing and that longing in in itself is a declaration that there is a reality beyond this present realm.  Our hope is a Resurrection hope.. We actually believe that we will walk in the flesh in that walled garden, and we pray with faith and joy;

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Saviour Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (BCP, p. 226)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mortality and Time

The first thing to say about mortality and time is that I'm going to live forever. No kidding! I'm going to live forever! That obviously skews my understanding of mortality and time.

The second thing to know is that my time's are in God's hands. James is very realistic when he says, “You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that” (James 4:14-14). Only God knows when I'm going to get the final curtain call and so far He isn't telling. That's probably a blessing; at least it's not something I should be worrying about.

Third, our life span is “threescore years and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore;” (Psalm 90:10) that is 70 or 80 years, at least at the time when the Psalmist was writing. Now I'm already in my seniority and time's a wasting! One of the things that many of us in our seniority notice is the illusion that the older you get, the faster time seems to move. “Oh no! It's almost Advent again,” but that only a matter of perspective. If you view time from Eternity it flashes by faster that the flash of a firecracker. One of the great miracles was that the King of Forever humbled Himself to enter into the millisecond of time.

Having said all that, time is precious and needs to be spent wisely and in acknowledgement that there is “a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted: a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing (that one will get you in trouble with an airline if you fail to recognize it); a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away, a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate, a time for war, and a time for peace (Ecc. 3:1-8).

There is a time for everything from working to relaxation, but I suspect that there isn't much time for just mindlessly staring at a wall. How do you spend your time? Time is always spent, deliberately or carelessly, it doesn't just drift away like sand in an hourglass; even not deciding how we spend time is a decision. When you think about time always remember that “He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man's mind” (Ecc. 4:11).