Becoming Empty

 

God cannot fill what is full. He can fill only emptiness – deep poverty – and your “yes” [to Jesus] is the beginning of being or becoming empty. It is not how much we really “have” to give, but how empty we are, so that we can receive fully in our life and let him live his life in us. In you today he wants to relive his complete submission to his father – allow him to do so. It does not matter what you feel, but what he feels in you. Take away your eyes from yourself and rejoice that you have nothing – that you are nothing – that you can do nothing.

Source: Letter, Feb. 7, 1974, quoted in Albert Huart, S.J., “Mother Teresa: Joy in Darkness,” Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection (Sept. 2000): 658

Life’s Distractions

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

All the periodicals, all the newspapers are saturated with politics, although many of the objects they are discussing are very transient and short term.…In truth, questions of higher spirit cannot even be compared to the sort of blinking frivolity of politics. The ultimate problems of life and death show the colossal nature of this difference even more. Modern humanity is characterized precisely by the loss of the ability to answer the principal problems of life and death. People are prepared to stuff their heads with anything and to talk of any subject, but only to block off contemplation of this subject. This is the reason for the increasing pettiness of our society, the concentration on the small and irrelevant.

Source: A Soul in Exile

Finding Community

 

It is quite easy to found a community. There are always plenty of courageous people who want to be heroes, are ready to sleep on the floor, to work hard hours each day, to live in dilapidated houses. It’s not hard to camp – anyone can rough it for a time. The problem comes in living with brothers and sisters whom we have not chosen but who have been given to us, and in working ever more truthfully towards the goal. A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thankfulness as it sets.

Source: Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

Capacity for Grasping the Universe

The human mind is not capable of grasping the universe. It is like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books…a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects…

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.

Albert Einstein:  www.plough.com

Being Church NOW

There is absolutely nothing new about a new form of church. The church, the Body of Christ, is always changing. We take our form in the local and global environment of our particular period of history. We bring our society, the total global community, to God’s vision of newness, and we ask what Jesus would want his community to look like now, against this global backdrop.

During Jesus’ time he asked what his little band of followers needed to look like and be against the backdrop of Pax Romana, the clever moniker of that period of history. (Every Empire extends its deathly power in the name of peace or some other noble sounding cause, like freedom or democracy.) Jesus said to his little group, “This is how Pax Romana defines peace … and this is how the leaders of our own faith tradition define it in their institutional practices … and over here is how I’M defining it. I’ve summed it up for you in a little talk people are calling the Sermon on the Mount. That’s the only real peace. To believe it in the midst of the pervasive spirit of Empire will get you into trouble, so you must make a choice: do you want a little temporary ‘peace that calls itself peace’ or the real eternal peace that you enter like a narrow gate?”

Jesus had to work out his life in the context of Pax Romana, and also in the context of Jerusalem, his local governing power center. How were he and his followers to embody God’s shalom, not just in rhetoric but in their lives? And how are we who are followers of Jesus going to inwardly, faithfully embody God’s essence in our own Jerusalems? In Washington, D.C., how will we embody God? How will you do it where you live? How will we let the context in which we live impact the way we create community with one another as the Body of Christ?

To neglect context is literally fatal to a living faith. For me, in the context of my own life and era, I am finding that there are two ‘givens’ – necessary components – for a true embodiment of Christ’s community:

First, I will be a member of a small family group of extreme ‘opposites’ – people who represent diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, economics, education, personality and temperament, in all ways – for the express purpose of letting our inner lives be known by one another. This means I will listen to the pain of our unhealed wounds, really taking it in to my own inner being and bearing it with others. This small group becomes for me my primary family. We represent all whom Jesus loves and is seeking to bring together in deep intimacy.

In this small family, we talk about the pain brought on by the disparity in our wealth and privilege and poverty, and the wounds we’ve experienced through racial hatred and our inability to forgive and ask to be forgiven. We not only hear each other’s pain and hurt—we seek to lessen that pain in concrete ways. We share our resources of money and wisdom and time to help ease the pressure we’ve been bearing alone. Together we lift the extreme heaviness of each other’s burdens, and in this way participate in lifting the misery of the ages. As we face ourselves and each other in all our rawness and don’t run away, we go beyond the ‘principle of reconciliation’ and find a way to be family.

Second, I will be a witness of this good news of reconciliation – telling others of Jesus, who IS the good news. I find that most of us talk more freely of justice, peace, righteousness, being enemies of Empire and lovers of the poor than we do of being lovers and followers of Jesus. We easily ask each other, “How are you doing these days?” but the more important question, “How are you and Jesus doing?” goes unsaid. Embodying and talking about Jesus will be our primary work. If we do a number of good works but never learn to introduce someone to a genuine relationship with Jesus and ways to nurture and deepen that relationship, we have failed to witness to the Source of Life itself. Witnessing to the Source is not one of the many things we do while passing through life; it is the main thing.

I know many of us have been offended or amused or even disgusted by the ways some have ‘witnessed’ to us, but why should that be an excuse not to speak of the Love that is our Source? Jesus did not say, “If a few would-be disciples goof it up, then don’t bother to learn another way.” No, he said, This is my commandment: tell others about me. Do it so winsomely that they will want to be my friend and will want to tell others about me themselves until the whole world is smitten by my love.

For me, this is what real church will look like NOW: small family groups of radical diversity, coming together to learn to absorb pain at new depths, where we can be nurtured in and trained to spread Love and be held accountable for our primary life’s work of witnessing to the Source of that Love. I believe it is not only possible to be church in this way – it is absolutely necessary. We might even begin measuring our faithfulness each year not by how many causes we have espoused but by how many hearts we have helped to open. I’m not talking about twisting people’s wills or persuading their minds, but gently picking the locks of their hearts – becoming such well-tuned locksmiths that hearts can be eased open for a mighty in-rushing of Love.

By 

Gordon Cosby was the founding minister of The Church of the Saviour and a member of the Church of Christ, Right Now. “Being Church NOW” is condensed from a sermon preached on August 20, 2006. (MP3 Link)