A Healing, Holy Whisper

The story from today’s Gospel, at first glance, feels like a healing story.  It has all the elements of a healing story – a character that is sick or dying, a crowd of people following Jesus, Jesus moving from one place to another, a miraculous achievement at the story’s end.  It feels like, sounds like, moves like a healing story.  And perhaps the absolute best way to understand this particular story from the Gospel according to Luke is as a healing story, but it is not the healing of the centurion’s slave that deserves our greatest attention.  The fact that Jesus heals the centurion’s slave because the centurion (not the slave!) deserves it is evident from our first reading of the text.  We know that the slave is healed before we get to the end of the story.  The real question for us to consider is how does the story that we read in Luke’s account also work to heal us?  How does it challenge us to move forward in our lives with a re-membered reality – a reality that is taken apart and put back together again?  How does the story challenge our own assumptions about the realities of human life, of human tragedy, of human triumph, of human calling?

At a deeper level of is a story of the ways that boundaries are broken, ignored, transgressed, shattered.  It is a story about the courage of two characters doing the unacceptable in order to convey some new truth about the creation in which we live.  It is a story about two characters that enter into a faithfulness that will always batter the walls of the accepted in order to achieve the impossible.  It is a story that pushes us to grapple with what we understand our call to be as disciples of Jesus Christ, which is also a grappling with who we understand Jesus to be.  Today, we are confronted with a story that is begging us to begin tinkering with everything that we know in order that we might begin to hear the whispers of God as they travel across the water of the soul.

whisperListen – closely, carefully, intentionally.  You don’t want to miss those whispers.  They carry a profound and life changing meaning.  They carry the force required to breech the walls of the impossible; they effortlessly invite a harmony unheard on earth.  The susurrations of God echo across the chasm of time and reverberates within the walls of space.  They are holy murmurs gently calling, lapping at the edge of the soul, to sing to a new melody, a new dance.

But of course, it is difficult to hear these murmurs of God’s being in the reality of today.  The booming bass line of the world beats on booming out a message of true reality.  “I’ve have all the answers!”, booms one voice.  “Believe me!” it continues.  And then, quite as loudly, “I am really what you need! I bring experience to this table!” chimes in another.  And yet still there is the loudest voice of them all that says, “Blame that group there, for your tragic downfall!”  Add to the cacophony those voices that exclaim, “Protect what you have, lest it be taken!  Strengthen the walls, let us never be shaken!” and the voices that extol the virtues of the human economy, the human solutions to everything.  Suddenly, it becomes very difficult indeed to hear the whispers of God.   Continue reading

The Action of Words

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

In this short quote from the end of John’s gospel text, Jesus is asking us to become like Christ in the way that we move in this life, and Jesus gives to us the gift of understanding that words are meaningful only when those words are embodied in our lives.  Words, in this sense, have a physicality to them that break the boundaries of the spoken word or of the written word, both of which seem to be locked into a medium of their own – advancing only so far.  The wall, this boundary of physicality, seems to keep the thoughts, the words, the imaginings of humanity bound into a limited sphere in which the word is one thing while action is another.  And then, we encounter Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh.

In the person of Jesus we encounter not just word or just action but the combination of the two into a single entity that is completely divine.  Christ enters into our reality in the Word incarnate and brings with him everything that is God.  Jesus’ entire being is the Divine being that exists outside of our sphere of understanding, yet God is made known within our sphere through the person of Jesus – the divine Word that comes among us and walks along side us.  In Christ, we discover that God’s word is God’s action, and God’s action is God’s Word.  The two things that seem separated by this boundary – word and action – are made a single reality in the person of Jesus.  The second person of the Trinity, then, invites us into that same reality to the extent that we are able to participate in the divine being – to the extent that we are able to match our words to our actions, our faith to our embodiment of it. Continue reading

Leaning into the Uncomfortable

You know, we Episcopalians tend to be a fairly ordered group of people. For example, how many of you sit in, approximately, the same spot week in and week out? I know that I always had “my pew” that I sat in every single Sunday unless I was serving at the altar. It was my place in the congregation, and I expected to sit in that place. I left little to chance when I was going to church. I always got to church early enough to secure my spot and to settle into my pew before worship began. And like many of you, I appreciate being able to go to just about any Episcopal Church in the nation and immediately recognize the form of worship and the prayers being used. I like having the comfort of the prayer book and being able to turn to the well-worn pages towards the center.

Yes, we Episcopalians are ordered people, and we tend to like things in measured ways. We are less likely to shout out an “Amen!” in the middle of a sermon being preached or while a prayer is being offered. Obviously, we will wait for the appropriate time – that is – until the end of the prayer or sermon to utter our “Amens” just barely above a whisper but enough to be heard. It is our way, and if I am being honest, it is something that I absolutely love about our church. It brings me a great sense of comfort to know that I will be able to easily recognize worship no matter what parish I attend – although there are some exceptions to that rule EVEN in The Episcopal Church. Continue reading

The Idol of the Self

The voice of the prophet is rarely is an easy one for us to receive and to heed within our lives.  Prophetic voices have a way of making us look at the self in a way that creates a feeling of discomfort, and it is a voice that pushes us to look deep within the self to recognize the ways in which we need to repent if we are to be in right relationship with God and with each other.  The prophetic voice is the voice of challenge to change our ways, to listen to the call of God, and to recognize the ways in which we fall short of living a Eucharistic life inspired by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

A recent glamour shot from my Facebook profile

In today’s world, perhaps the most ubiquitous image of the self is increasingly going to online platforms that have been grouped into the category of social media.  Through this new medium we have the opportunity to present a particular view of ourselves to the world.  In essence, we are able to present a curated version of who we are as a person, and it is quickly becoming another way of how we define who we are as persons within the broader context of creation.  Through social media, we are able to share the glamour shots of our lives, the new events that are taking place, and the ways in which we are experiencing success.  Like no other time in history, we have the ability to create a public persona that speaks only to our strengths and highlights the very best part of ourselves to the public.  We are encouraged by these outlets to put more and more media of ourselves out for public consumption in order to get the “likes” that we need in order to grow followers on different platforms, to boost our self esteem through those likes, and to establish ourselves as people that are well connected precisely because of the number of friends or followers that we have on the different social media networks.  The pressure to become popular has morphed into something that now reaches across the nation and the world through the ubiquity of social media likes and follows.  Continue reading