Sunday, September 29, 2019

Remembering

“I miss when I felt that way.” The other day, a young man talked to me and some others about missing the way he used to feel about his faith. He hears other talk of Jesus as a personal friend, seeming to feel Jesus’ presence all the time, a very personal faith. This young man has not lost his faith, but he did seem to feel somehow removed from that personal presence of God. Perhaps he was going through a “dry time,” as I hear it called in Jesuit circles, a time when you feel far from God. You may have doubts, questions, wonder if you can believe any of it. We know now that Mother Teresa herself suffered those dry times. Many of our heroes of faith did, and so, of course, do we. In the conversation, someone brought up Jordan Peterson, who is known for saying he “lives as if God exists” (emphasis mine). 

It reminded me of something my dad said. He had seen me walking with my son, who was around 3 years old at the time. We encountered a dog, and my son was quite afraid of dogs at that time. In spite of that, he tentatively walked up to the dog, held out his hand, let the dog sniff it, and he lightly pet the dog. I said to my dad that my son had pretended he was not afraid. Dad said what I and probably you have heard from others, “That’s what courage is, right? Doing something in spite of your fear.” Or, in other words, acting as if you are not afraid.

For me, in a dry time, the way I can continue to live and act as if God is walking with me is to remember. When I don’t feel it, I remember the times I did feel God’s closeness. I remember the times during meditation when I saw Jesus reach out his hand to me as I, imagining myself as Peter, began to sink in the water; I remember Jesus’ arms around my shoulder as I pictured walking and talking with him during my prayers. I remember the many, many verses where God talked about remembering -- both his own remembering and when he reminded us to remember. (I did a search for “remember” in the Bible Gateway site. Wow!)

When I talked about this deep remembering with another friend, she expanded it even more.

What if our deep remembering went deeper than our lives and our parents' lives?  What if it went all the way back to Genesis? I think if we "remembered" Abraham and Sarah, Job, Jacob, Rachel, Leah, Joseph, David, Ruth and the rest as we do our own experiences, if we read those stories with empathetic hearts, like those people are family members, it might lead to comfort and trust. 

C.S. Lewis wrote about a type of remembering or nostalgia for the future -- remembering and longing for something that hasn’t happened yet and does not exist in this world. He wrote of “‘sennsucht,’ a German word meaning ‘longing’ or ‘desire’” (from “C.S. Lewis’ Ingenious Apologetic of Longing” by Daniel Motley, in LogosTalk). When the children in Narnia travel to Aslan’s land, they look around at the mountains, sky, water, and all the landscape and remark that it looks familiar, wondering if they could have been there before. But yet they know such a place could never have existed in our world.

Lucy said, “They’re different. They have more colors on them and they look further away than I remembered and they’re more … more … oh, I don’t know.…”
“More like the real thing,” said the Lord Digory softly.

And one of the first things I thought of as I pondered “remembering” was our communion service. Each time we celebrate communion (or Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper), the pastor speaks before we eat the bread, “Take, eat, remember and believe that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ was given for the complete forgiveness of all our sins,” and the same with the juice, to “take, drink, remember and believe…” As we munch that bread and swallow that juice, we remember Jesus’ great love for us.

Thank God for his love that we remember from all he did and was in the past, all he does and is now, and all he will be and do in the future.


What about you? What are some times in your life where remembering helps? Or hurts? What do you think of the idea of “remembering”/feeling nostalgia for something that doesn’t exist, or something in the future? What about living or acting as if?

What can I pray about for you?


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What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
    Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry..
.     If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Two songs from Broken

From the BBC show, "Broken."






Wednesday, September 18, 2019

There is a balm in Gilead

Today I read the article below. I love the words, "There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul." Hearing them, thinking of them, I get this kind of warm, sort of lovingly-squeezed feeling of being hugged, and at the same time I get a lump in my throat, sometimes I tear up. "Balm in Gilead" deeply touches my heart and soul.

I thought the article was very interesting and I liked the painting the author chose. I am glad to learn more about the words and the Negro spiritual inspired by them. I appreciated the music in the video the author linked to, but it is not my favorite arrangement of the song. I am including a rendition I like better.

I like the observation that the writer of the spiritual "taps into Jeremiah’s poetic grief, extracting the 'balm in Gilead' expression but bending it toward hope." Bending toward hope. Yes.

Joseph Hirsch (American, 1910–1981), Lynch Family, 1946. Oil on canvas, 35 × 33 in. (88.9 × 83.8 cm). Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. [zoom in]

Balm in Gilead (Artful Devotion)

In this coming Sunday’s lectionary reading from the Prophets, Jeremiah grieves over the suffering of his people. “Is there no balm in Gilead?” he cries. Gilead was a region in ancient Palestine, east of the Jordan River. Now it is known primarily as the fictional locale of two famous contemporary novels, but back then it was known for the soothing, aromatic plant resins produced there, which were used medicinally. In Israel’s desolation, though, they could feel no balm—not even in the place where it was said to abound.
 


The anonymous writer(s) of the slave song featured above knew communal suffering well. He or she taps into Jeremiah’s poetic grief, extracting the “balm in Gilead” expression but bending it toward hope. There is a balm, the song attests, albeit wearily, through tears. And this balm makes the wounded whole. Archie Shepp’s soulful arrangement, with vocals by Jeanne Lee, express that woundedness and yearning for deliverance so poignantly.
As a visual point of focus, I’ve chosen Joseph Hirsch’s Lynch Family, a forward extension of the history of African American oppression. The gallery label for the painting reads,
Joseph Hirsch painted Lynch Family as a response to racial disturbances in the South in 1946. That year the number of lynchings rose from an all-time low in January to a fevered pitch by August. Citizens across the country urged President Truman and Congress to end the horrors. To capture the tragedy of Lynch Family, Hirsch presented a mother with her baby, presumably survivors of a lynching victim, in abstracted surroundings. The painting focuses on the mother’s intense yet restrained hold on her defiant child while she turns to hide her anguish. The blue background floats around the figures. It both highlights their pain and contrasts with the sheer beauty of Hirsch’s painterly technique.
Though painted in the 1940s, this work bears strong relevance for today. The figures could be any black mother and child left to grieve the loss of husband and father—to prison, or to death by shooting.
For another painting by Hirsch from the blog, see “Stations of the Cross at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.”

This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.
To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for Proper 20, cycle C, click here.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Anaphora

Sometimes we give our 2-year-old granddaughter a treat, like a cookie, and then we tease her by saying, “Can I have your cookie?” She is such a sweetie she always says, “Yes. Here,” and holds the cookie out to us. She is giving back to us what we already own and gave to her.


Anaphora. Ever heard of it? I had not. I heard a poet, Scott Cairns, on a podcast explaining what it means, “Anaphora is a formal (rhetorical device) representation having to do with repetition - lines that begin in the same way and build out.” Once I heard of it, I thought of many instances of anaphora: Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, a benediction (blessing at the end of a service) I often hear, “May the Lord bless you and keep you | May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you,..” for example. Scott Cairns read his poem. repeating and building on “To behold the sublime.”

Anaphora

by Scott Cairns

To behold the sublime, one must first
accede that one is also held, beheld,
beholden to. One must first agree.


To behold the sublime, one must first
forgo all hope of standing clear,
of standing far apart. One must see.


To behold the sublime, one must first
suspend long habits of self-
sufficiency, accept the pulse. The sky
held close to all that lay in view,
with mist and wood smoke mingling
low amid the deep expanse of green,
availed a glimpse, if momentary,
of what one's hunger must occasion
shy of satisfaction, even so.


Cairns also talked about a prayer used in Catholic worship services during the Eucharist (Communion / Lord’s Supper) called the Anaphora of St. Basil. He said in the sacrament of communion, we celebrate the gift of Jesus’ presence as we eat the bread and wine and we offer that gift of his presence back to God. We are giving to God what is already his. 


Because we love God and are grateful to him, we give things to him. It might be money that we give to our church or to charities that help others. It might be work we do for others as a way of honoring God. It might be songs or prayers. When we offer to God what he, in the first place, gave to us, it is a kind of anaphora. God says, “Here you go,” as he gives us everything and we say, “Here you go,” as we give it back to him. Like my granddaughter with her cookie.


Do you think that means our giving is meaningless, or may less meaningful? I don’t. We can take the story of my granddaughter further. Yes, she’s giving me back what I gave her in the first place, but her act of giving fills me with joy. 


Praise God that he gives us everything -- every square inch. And praise God he fills our hearts with love and gratitude enabling us to give back.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Jesus is like a fish.

Several things have come to mind that make me think: Jesus is like a fish.

I wrote recently about Jesus being like cellophane, and now like a fish. :) I guess that’s finding God in everything!

1.


I heard an interview with Fabien Cousteau. He is Jacque Cousteau’s grandson. Jacque Cousteau was famous as I was growing up. He led ocean expeditions. He had several documentaries and TV specials and astounded people around the world with his discoveries underwater. Many of his descendants carried on the tradition and Fabien Cousteau is one of them.
In the interview, Fabien told the reporter about his plan to build a submarine that looked like a great white shark. He had seen that people thought of sharks as mindless killing machines. We only saw them attacking divers in observation cages. He built this lifelike shark submarine so he would be a shark. As the reporter wrote, “The grandson of famous oceanographer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau believes the best way to learn about sharks is to become one.” (Wired, “Cousteau Sub Mimics Great White,” Alison Strahan, April 2, 2005.)

2.

This story of becoming a shark reminded me of an old Don Knotts live action animated movie, “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.” Don Knotts’ character, Henry Limpet, loves fish and longs to become one. Mysteriously, one day when he falls into the ocean he turns into a fish. He goes on to help the Navy locate German subs and ships during World War II. By becoming a fish, Limpet becomes a true member of their community. He takes on a partner, Ladyfish, and lives out his life as a fish, eventually training other fish to help humans as he had.


3.

I thought, too, of a passage in The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancey. He wrote of keeping a salt-water aquarium, “no easy task,” monitoring chemical levels, pumping in nutrients, maintaining filters, controlling light, and so on.

You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf, that my fish would at least be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they dove for cover into the nearest shell. They showed me one "emotion" only: fear. Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my designs to torture them. I could not convince them of my true concern.

Yancey realized that he would have to become a fish for them to know him.

To my fish I was deity. I was too large for them, my actions too incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction. To change their perceptions, I began to see, would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and "speak" to them in a language they could understand. (The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey, Zondervan, 1999)

4.

In The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr, Rohr writes “God loves things by becoming them” and that statement is so striking, one famous reader, Bono, called and told him, “Richard, you’ve got to name the book God Loves Things by Becoming Them.” Rohr says since God created ALL things, everyone has to carry the “divine DNA,” and to truly connect with his creation, to show his deep love, God becomes one of his creations -- a human.

----

So, that’s how God is like a fish! To show his love, to connect to us humans in a way we can understand, he became one of us.

I especially like the illustration from Philip Yancey realizing that the only way the fish in that aquarium would understand his acts of mercy would be to become a fish. I don’t know about you, but the thought of becoming a fish is not a pleasant one to me. Fish are slimy, they have bulgy eyes, they eat yucky stuff, they are constantly threatened by bigger, scary fish. Is that repugnant reaction similar to what becoming a human could feel like when you are God? Imagine deciding to give up your human body, your current life, and take on the body and life of a fish. Ew. No thanks.

Praise God that he loves us so much, he became one of us.

What can I pray about for you?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
    Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry..
.     If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you. Email me at mavis at moonfamily.cc. I'll keep all communication confidential.