We have sold our property here at Summerfield and hand over to the new owners next week. We don't know what the next chapter is going to be, decided to sell and then rent for a while. Here are some memories of the years we have spent here.
We are children, perhaps, at the very moment when we know that it is as children that God loves us - not becuase we have deserved his love and not in spite of our undeserving; not because we try and not because we recognize the futility of our trying; but simply because he has chosen to love us. We are children because he is our father; and all our efforts, fruitful and fruitless, to do good, to speak truth, to understand, are the efforts of children who, for all their precocity, are children still in that before we loved him, he loved us, as children, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Whenever we place blame, we are looking for a scapegoat for a real dislocation in which we ourselves are implicated. Blame is a defensive substitute for an honest examination of life that seeks personal growth in failure and self-knowledge in mistakes. Thomas Moore states, "Fundamentally, it is a way of averting consciousness of error."
Pharisaic Judaism comprised a relatively small group of 'separated ones' who almost two centuries before Christ, in order to preserve the Jewish faith from foreign dilution, had given themselves to lives of vigilant observance of the Mosaic Law. "Their lives were one long rehearsal, a symphony orchestra tuning up endlessly by playing tortured variations of the Law."
Before the Jewish exile, when the spirit of the covenant was vibrantly alive, the people felt safe in the shadow of God's love. In the pharisaic period, as the understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures deteriorated, the Jews felt safe in the shadow of the Law. Obviously, the gospel of grace presented by the Nazarene carpenter was an outrage.
The attitude of the pharisee is that keeping the law enamours him to God. Divine acceptance is secondary and is conditioned by the pharisee's behaviour. For Jesus the circumstance is diametrically opposite. Being accepted, enamoured, and loved by God comes first, motivating the disciple to live the law of love.
Suppose a child has never experienced any love from her parents. One day she meets another little girl whose parents shower her with affection. The first says to herself: "I want to be loved like that, too. I have never experienced it, but I'm going to earn the love of my mother and father by my good behaviour." So to gain the affection of her parents, she brushes her teeth, makes her bed, smiles, minds her p's and q's, never pouts or cries, never expresses a need, and conceals negative feelings.
This is the way of pharisees. They follow the law impeccably in order to induce God's love. The initiative is theirs. Their image of God necessarily locks them into a theology of works...the pharisee must pursue a lifestyle that minimizes mistakes. Then, on Judgment Day, he can present God with a perfect slate and the reluctant Deity will have to accept it. The psychology of the pharisee makes a religion of washing cups and dishes, fasting twice a week and paying tithes of mint, dill and cumin very attractive.
What an impossible burden! The struggle to make oneself presentable to a distant and perfectionistic God is exhausting. Legalists can never live up to the expectations they project on God "for there will always be a new law, and with it a new interpretation, a fresh hair to be split by the keenest ecclesiastical razor."
The pharisee within is the religious face of the impostor. The idealistic, perfectionist and neurotic self is oppressed by what Alan Jones calls "a terrorist spirituality." A vague uneasiness about ever being in right relationship with God haunts the pharisee's conscience. The compulstion to feel safe with God fuels this neurotic desire for perfection. This compulsive endless moralistic self-evaluation makes it impossible to feel accepted before God. The perception of personal failure leads to a precipitous loss of self-esteem and triggers anxiety, fear and depression.
...In sharp contract to the Pharisaic perception of God and religion, the biblical perception of the gospel of grace is that of a child who has never experienced anything but love and who tries to do her best because she is loved. When she makes mistakes, she knows they do not jeopardize the love of her parents. The possibility that her parents might stop loving her if she doesn't clean her room never enters her mind. They may disapprove of her behaviour, but their love is not contingent on her performance.
For the pharisee the emphasis is always on personal effort and achievement. The gospel of grace emphasizes the primacy of God's love. The pharisee savours impeccable conduct; the child delights in the relentless tenderness of God.
...Jesus created a scandal for devout, religious Palestinian Jews: the absolutely unpardonable thing was not his concern for the sick, the cripples, the lepers, the possessed...not even his partnership for the poor, humble people. The real trouble was that he got involved with moral failures, with obviously irreligious and immoral people; people morally and politically suspect, so many dubious, obscure, abandoned, hopeless types, existing as an eradicable evil, on the fringe of every society. This was the real scandal. Did he really have to go so far?...What kind of dangerous and naive love is this, which does not know its limits: the frontiers between fellow countrymen and foreigners, party members and non-members, between neighbours and distant people, between honourable and dishonourable callings, between moral and immoral, good and bad people? As if dissociation were not absolutely necessary here. As if we ought not to judge in these cases. As if we could always forgive in these circumstances.
Because the shining sun and the falling rain are given both to those who love God and to those who reject God, the compassion of the Son embraces those who are still living in sin. The Pharisee lurking within all of us shuns sinners. Jesus turns toward them with gracious kindness. He sustains His attention throughout their lives for the sake of their conversion 'which is always possible to the very last moment."
Note on B Metz, Poverty of Spirit - This fifty-three page spiritual classic, in its umpteenth printing, captures in words of compelling beauty and insight the key message of the gospel: our great human possibilities are realized only through our radical dependence on God, our poverty of spirit.
Took this photograph late last year in the koala sanctuary near Brisbane. What do you see here? Peace? Stillness? Trust?
"... the story of the harried executive who went to the desert father and complained about his frustration in prayer, his flawed virtue, and his failed relationships. The hermit listened closely to his visitor's rehearsal of the struggle and disappointments in trying to lead a Christian life. He then went into the dark recesses of his cave and came out with a basin and a pitcher of water. 'Now watch the water as I pour it into the basin,' he said. The water splashed on the bottom and against the sides of the container. It was agitated and turbulent. At first the stirred-up water swirled around the inside of the basin; then it gradually began to settle, until finally the small fast ripples evolved into larger swells that oscillated back and forth. Eventually, the surface became so smooth that the visitor could see his face reflected in the placid water. 'That is the way it is when you live constantly in the midst of others,' said the hermit. 'You do not see yourself as you really are because of all the confusion and disturbance. You fail to recognize the divine presence in your life, and the consciousness of your belovedness slowly fades.' It takes time for the water to settle. Coming to interior stillness requires waiting. Any attempt to hasten the process only stirs up the water anew.
Can't remember where I saw this, but pretty sure it was on the east coast of Scotland. It reminds me of both a Scottish farmhouse and a castle. If anyone out there knows anything about this house, please let me know.
Quote from the day from Abba's Child where the author quotes Mike Yaconelli.
"It took only a few hours of silence before I began to hear my soul speaking. It only took being alone for a short period of time for me to discover I wasn't alone. God had been trying to shout over the noisiness of my life, and I couldn't hear Him. But in the stillness and solitude, his whispers shouted from my soul, "Michael, I am here. I have been calling you, but you haven't been listening. Can you hear me, Michael? I love you. I have always loved you. And I have been waiting for you to hear me say that to you. But you have been so busy trying to prove to yourself that you are loved that you have not heard me."
I heard him, and my slumbering soul was filled with the joy of the prodigal son. My soul was awakened by a loving Father who had been looking and waiting for me. Finally, I accepted my brokenness...I had never come to terms with that. Let me explain. I knew I was broken. I knew I was a sinner. I knew I continually disappointed God, but I could never accept that part of me. It was a part of me that embarrassed me. I continually felt the need to apologize, to run from my weaknesses, to deny who I was and concentrate on what I should be. I was broken, yes, but I was continually trying never to be broken again - or at least to get to the place where I was very seldom broken...
At L'Arche, it became very clear to me that I had totally misunderstood the Christian faith. I came to see that it was in my brokenness, in my powerlessness, in my weakness that Jesus was made strong. It was in the acceptance of my lack of faith that God could give me faith. It was in the embracing of my brokenness that I could identify with others' brokenness. It was my role to identify with others' pain, not relieve it. Ministry was sharing, not dominating, understanding, not theologizing; caring, not fixing.
What does all this mean?
I don't know...and to be quite blunt, that is the wrong question. I only know that at certain times in all of our lives, we make an adjustment in the course of our lives. This was one of those times for me. If you were to look at a map of my life, you would not be aware of any noticeable difference other than a slight change in direction. I can only tell you that it feels very different now. There is an anticipation, an electricity about God's presence in my life that I have never experienced before. I can only tell you that for the first time in my life I can hear Jesus whisper to me every day, "Michael, I love you. You are Beloved." And for some strange reason, that seems to be enough."