Sometimes I have a hard time slowing down. I am usually a very enthusiastic person who delights in new experiences and information. As such, I am often busy buzzing around from one thing or place to the next, absorbing. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as I have a discovered so much about myself and others and have learned a type of focus all the while moving along; sort of like bees over a bed of flowers– always moving but purposeful. However, sometimes it is important to just sit… still. We all know how challenging that is in this ever quickening world with deadlines and responsibilities, but how can we hear God’s call through the den unless we pause and listen. As I sat in church this morning just before we began the rosary, I was struck by the power of the silence. And yet, as I left to walk home my mind began racing again with the business of the day. I wanted to get home to write a post for this blog, figure out daily plans, etc. Even with good intentions I wasn’t allowing myself to stay in the sacred space I had created inside me just before praying. No small wonder that when I sat down to start typing the post my mind was blank. I started flipping through books and scripture searching for something tangible to connect to any one of the million threads in my mind, but it wasn’t until I stopped that I started to feel the presence of God again, just as I had in church. Silence in powerful, but for most of us it does not come naturally. It must be intentionally created, sought and given space.
May you create silence in your day, drawing strength and peace from it and perhaps hearing the voice of God.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)
In ancient Israel, vineyards ranked second in agricultural importance, just behind wheat. As Jesus often does he is using a common everyday image to springboard into his theology. There are seven I AM statements found in the gospel of John and in each case Jesus shows the disciples something which is right in front of them to see something hidden. This is one of the divine paradoxes, that the hidden nature of God is revealed in things already in front of us, therefore not really hidden at all.
There are two things that stand out to me in this section of John. First, Christ defines our purpose as Christians. Just like the vine, we are to bear fruit. In this context, the vine branches that do not bear fruit are useless and take valuable nutrients from the vine itself. They are therefore cut off and thrown away. So, we must stay true to our calling and work in all things to the glory of God.
Secondly, and perhaps obviously, a vine branch cannot exist alone. It must remain attached to the vine to live. There is great theological importance to this understanding because Christ did not leave the role of the vine ambiguous, but places himself as the vine. We, the branches, cannot live unless we remain connected to Christ, not to kingdoms, nations or institutions, but Christ. And, we find our connection to one another not through ourselves but through Christ. Jesus defines the type of interdependence that God instills in all of creation, that through God we live, and move and have our being.
We encounter God in gathered community, in Word proclaimed, in Bread broken and in Wine poured. We encounter God in Peace and Blessing and Sending. We encounter God in prayer and praise.
– Br. James Koester, Society of St. John the Evangelist and shared with me by Sophia Twaddell.
I was asked to serve at a posh dinner in the role of butler. This is not an uncommon request for me, as I regard etiquette and traditional table service as a passion of mine, as my good friends know well. It is true that hospitality is a ministry of the Spirit and the body of Christ. As one church put it, “one must always extend a sense of welcome to others and make them feel at home. Such qualities are a blessing, especially to the stranger in our midst.” So then, by extension I would say that manners carry equal weight in good spirituality. Manner and etiquette are not a means to separate class or qualify who is in and out; for regardless of the rules, the primary purpose of manners is the same… graciousness. Emily Post so eloquently states that, “manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.” I would agree, and further that by saying that this awareness is what allows us to reach out to others, a sort of empathy of the spirit. And sincere “gracious living” becomes the very model of Christ’s love. So remember that kind manners really can provide a space for compassion and grace… no matter which fork you use.
Prayer – Lord, let me be mindful of the feelings of others and, wherever possible, help others feel comfortable, at ease and loved in your name. Amen
My meditations last week centered on grace and one in particular stayed with me. Richard Rohr so eloquently said, “we must not be afraid of falling, failing, going “down.” It is at the bottom where we find grace; for like water, grace seeks the lowest place and there it pools up.” What a wonderful and powerful image — pools of grace that settle in the lowest places of our lives. Knowing that we cannot escape the pain and challenge of this world, but that God has provided a lifeline in those places is so awesome.
Prayer – Lord who provides our every need, may I seek grace when I find myself stifled in the darkness.
“Lord if it is you… tell me to come to you on the water”
“Come,” he said.
This is the fundamental truth of Christ in Jesus’ teachings, we are called into the seemingly impossible.