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Mysticism is where religions start. Moses with his flocks in Midian, Buddha under the Bo tree, Jesus up to his knees in the waters of Jordan-each of them is responding to Something of which words like Shalom, Nirvana, God even, are only pallid souvenirs. Religion as ethics, institution, dogma, ritual, Scripture, social action – all of this comes later and in the long run maybe counts for less.
Religions start, [Robert Frost said] as poems do, with a lump in the throat – to put it mildly – or with a bush going up in flames, a rain of flowers, a dove coming down out of the sky. “I have seen things,” Aquinas told a friend, “that make all my writings seem like straw.”
Most people have also seen such things. Through some moment of beauty or pain, some sudden turning of their lives, most of them have caught glimmers at least of what the saints are blinded by. Only then, unlike the saints, they tend to go on as though nothing has happened.
We are all more mystics than we choose to let on, even to ourselves. Life is complicated enough as it is.
Written & copyrighted by Frederick Buechner (originally published in Wishful Thinking and again in Beyond Words)
Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.
And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.
When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.
We pray for another way of being: another way of knowing. Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build a highway and in so doing have lost our footpath.
God lead us to our footpath: Lead us there where in simplicity we may move at the speed of natural creatures and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts. And lead us there where side-by-side we may feel the embrace of the common soul. Nothing can be loved at speed.
God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights of the pilgrim; another way of knowing; another way of being.
Amen [So BE it…].
Source: The Prayer Tree
Meister Eckhart once said “theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.” I believe that language to be Divine Love.
I find this quote tantalizing because the early followers of Jesus were known more for their radical love whereas today ‘Christians’ are known more for what we are against than for our expressions of unconditional (i.e. Divine) love. There is much talk amongst theologians and religious people in media about the nature of God and God’s love, but I confess, it all leaves me dry once we start pontificating on God’s ‘unconditional love’.
Because many speak and write of unconditional love in the abstract, but when it comes down to it, we humans interpret and express divine love through the lens of dogma and cultural bias. Do you believe what I believe? Do you subscribe to my particular finite branch on the Tree of Life? If you do, then you are a recipient of the unconditional love of God; if not, then you are danced around with trite phrases like “love the sinner but hate the sin.”
Let me state my ideas unequivocally: it is impossible for fallible humans to separate the “sin” from the sinner and thus we “throw out the baby with the bath water” – meaning when we despise the sin we are despising the very sinner that is loved unconditionally by God. And lest I forget, all have sinned and all are fallible, and all are loved unconditionally.
It would seem that we are quite uncomfortable with unconditional love. We need to codify it, commodify it, qualify it and regulate it. And in so doing, we put a fence around the limitless and all embracing love of God. We find it virtually impossible to just simply, lavishly and indiscriminately share and “throw” around God’s love with reckless abandon. God forbid…even though that is all God asks of us.
If we gave love so freely, without judgment or dogma, our faith would become dangerous like a feral lion but instead we are afraid to truly love and embrace everyone as they are without any reservations and thus our love becomes a domesticated, declawed house cat.
We blatantly disregard the words of Jesus (thereby placing nationalism, patriotism and politics above the love of God): we do not love our enemies (real and/or supposed); we cannot even show unconditional love to Christians of differing denominations; we show no love or compassion to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters; we hate Muslims; we ignore and patronize Buddhist and Hindus; we loathe atheists; we cannot even show love to our red state/blue stated neighbors and family members. ‘Christians’ rage against children coming across borders and even threaten politicians who speak of limiting access to assault weapons. And in all of this, the greatest power ever – the burning love of God – gets swept aside by religion viewed through the lens of whichever flag we hold dear.
In all truth, and this is my truth and experience, we have absolutely no earthly idea just how unconditional God’s love is. If I am honest, it scares me, it scares all of us.
I struggle and stutter, I stammer and falter in truly fleshing out God’s lavish and dangerous Love: a Love that emanates from God’s very Being; a Love that whispers perpetually throughout all of Creation, saying “All are loved. All is forgiven. All are welcome. All are brothers and sisters. All is well. And all the way to heaven is indeed heaven.”
P.S. 12 years ago today, my son Quinn, died. I grieve hard. I celebrate fully. I am grateful to his Mama and to God for the Gift that experience holds for me. I miss you every day and see you in the butterflies and hear your laughter in the breeze…
For Sunday, May 25, 2014 – John 14:15-21
I notice right away the bookends holding up this passage of scripture, the two reminders to love and obey. To love—from beginning to end—to love first, to love last, to love long, and then to love again. And to obey—to listen deep and wide, and to respond, always, from the home base of love. At the beginning is to love and obey, at the end is to love and obey, and in between is Spirit, the place of awe and mystery where we are given what we need, where we are never alone.
This Spirit is our Advocate, our Counselor, our Trusted Advisor and Friend. The Spirit of truth brings insight and wisdom, challenging our worldly ways, our superior opinions and clever strategies. We cannot see or know this Spirit with the mind of logic and reason. The Spirit abides. Only as we, too, learn to abide, only as we notice and heed what lies within us and among us, will we see this one who teaches and guides.
“I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus says, and within us a tiny bird of longing flutters. We do not show up alone for our lives! Sitting in the audience at each little recital, looking in to be sure we are safe in the night, encouraging us and directing us, is one who loves just to be near us, to watch us, to abide. We are captured and held in a solid surround of love. With this awareness, I no longer need to abandon myself, or you. I no longer need to leave myself orphaned, angry and alone. I no longer need to escape disappointment and rationalize hurt. I can bring all of who I am into the family; I can endure the pain of being known. The path need not be littered by the debris of my hasty getaways. The Spirit of truth says, be honest about your life; abide in your life. I am with you. You can trust me to be here for the long haul.
By: Kayla McClurg
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Awe is an intuition for the dignity of all things, a realization that things not only are what they are but also stand, however remotely, for something supreme.
Awe is a sense for the transcendence, for the reverence everywhere to the mystery beyond all things.
[Awe] enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the Divine…to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal.
Source: I Asked for Wonder
I am not only called by and covered in grace,
I am called to something graceful,
something beautiful, something strong and tender.
I am called by a Love so
Strong it surrenders control, but is
Filled with truth and tenderness.
And justice is sweet on her lips,
And fire from her fingertips, and mercy
Wraps her world when all else fails.
I am held by an urgent compassion,
And blessed with a burden. Darkness does not scare me,
And shadows ever shifting are sacred
For this grace is so compelling that in the end
I know all will be enveloped in Love, and all that
Ever was & is & is to come will be set aflame with divinity.
Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for the unknown God. Then if a bird sing among your branches, do not be too eager to tame it.
If you are conscious of something new—thought or feeling, wakening in the depths of your being—do not be in a hurry to let in light upon it, to look at it; let the springing germ have the protection of being forgotten, hedge it round with quiet, and do not break in upon its darkness.
Source: Amiel’s Journal
Why should we exhaust ourselves in an effort to succeed and acquire knowledge? Would not a relaxation of effort still give us enough to do for the moment and enable us to be happy?
The mystic, however, can see the profound and hallowed reason for insatiable activity, for the unswerving impulse towards the elusive Something that shines ahead of him. Throughout time, a task greater than individual lives is being achieved. An interest higher than individual successes is at stake.