How far beyond “the practice of the Presence of God” do we think we get? What else do we think there is? Practicing the Presence of God means bringing God to life in our lives. What more could there be? Let’s get that down and see where things are then.
What would it mean, do you think, for us to be Present as God would be Present? What do we need to do to mediate the Presence of God in this world of normal, apparent reality? How do our lives need to change in order to live as Holy Presence, Compassionate Presence, Caring Presence, Attentive Presence, Just Presence in the world? How do we need to see in order to see as God sees? How do we need to hear to hear as God hears? How do we need to be with to be with as God is with? How far from our interest, needs, and agenda can we get in order to be as God in the world? What do we do to move away from us as we are and toward God as God is?
There you are. Answer those questions properly, and you are exactly where you need to be. And, all the angels in heaven will give you a rousing ovation. The world will be transformed. And all will be well. Or, you will be executed, and your followers will forget the answers, and then forget the questions, and we will be back to square one. Again.
But, don’t let that possibility stop you. Bring God to life in your life and see what happens. It beats standing in line at Wal Mart for more glass and plastic.
You take the old, reliable, newspaper report essentials: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and apply them in tracking the moment-to-moment fluxuation of our identity over time, say, over the duration of our lives, and you get, Who are we? What are we? When are we? Where are we? Why are we? How are we? (And the related questions, What are we about? What are we doing here, now? What are we trying to do? What makes us think it should be done? How well is it working? What can we imagine doing instead?). There you are. That should do it. Except, of course, for the missing ingredient. Someone who can talk through these things with you.
Once you have the Attentive Presence in place, then it’s a matter of identifying yourself “in the moment” And, we have to be careful not to think it’s applicable in all moments, in all times and places, as some eternal depiction of our character and style. It isn’t. Identity evolves, flows, develops in response to its context. Who we are, depends on where we are, when we are, how we are, why we are, what we are and what we are after, up to, about. Take us out of our context, and we will be lost for a while, and won’t know “who we are.” We will have to sit still, and wait for something to happen, in order to then begin the process of bringing ourselves into focus and being a self in relationship to our context once more. This lostness, this casting about, this not knowing who we, are happens in the aftermath of traumatic disruptions of life. It takes a while to reform our identity when we are “between lives.” And, it helps dramatically to have the company of Attentive Presence who can help us remember the questions and come up with the answers.
Identity is only part of the work of being human. There is also the matter of Integrity. That is, living in ways that are integral with who we are and with what matters most to us; living in ways that are aligned with that which is deepest, best, and truest about us. And, there are the matters of Vision, Focus, Purpose, Clarity, and Awareness. What is our idea of the future? What are we living toward? What are we striving for? What is the nature of our motivation? For what are we living? What is truly important? What keeps us going?
Are you beginning to see that the work of being human is a very spiritual enterprise? It deals with the “essential abstractions.” What we are about is, in essence, nothing. It cannot be weighed, or measured, or quantified, or dissected, or examined. It can only be imagined. Intuited. “Felt.” Sensed. Experienced. What matters most is a function of heart, and mind, and soul, and spirit. The work of being human is the work of taking spiritual essence and giving it physical form. How does love look, for example. How shall we create a physical environment that nurtures our need for spiritual realization and expression?
We have to do the work of being human within a world, within a physical context, that has its own ideas of what is important, its own agenda, and its own ways of imposing itself upon all comers. Wow. Are you beginning to see how important the church is as a physical place in the physical universe that intentionally creates a safe space in which the work of being human can be done? The work of the church is the work of being human. We do that work by developing the skills of Attentive, Caring, Compassionate Presence.
Mindfulness, Attention, Awareness, Perceptivity. These are the tools of the trade, so to speak. These are the things which enable us to do the work of the church. The work of the church is hearing, seeing, understanding, knowing with a quality of compassion and acceptance that does not leave things as they are. The work of the church is being with the world in a way that changes, transforms, heals, restores, saves the world. The work of the church is being with us, with one another, in a way that changes, transforms, heals, restores, saves us, one another. The work of the church is the work of being with what is in a way that heightens (or deepens) awareness and occasions transformation.
Awareness changes things. Sometimes instantly. Sometimes over time. Knowing how things are changes how things are. The path to transformation is any path walked with awareness over time. If you are going to become anything, become aware. Become mindful. Become awake. Become attentive. Become perceptive.
Things stay as they are through denial, diversion, distraction, dismissal, and defection. When the church exists to take our minds off our lives, with talk of “pie in the sky by and by,” for instance, or with talk of “the rapture,” or “the apocalypse,” the church becomes an extension of the world. Nothing needs to change if we aren’t going to be here to suffer the way things are, of if we can escape in happy fantasies of the world to (soon) come. Awareness of painful realities is so painful, and we cannot bear the pain, so “Come, Lord Jesus!”, and “How long, O Lord?” The church that hides from the world, or denies the world, is no threat to the world, and cannot be the hope of the world.
The church has to tell the world what it is doing, and listen the world to what it needs to do instead. The church has to “bear witness” to the world’s “drift from the truth”; to it’s departure from the way that is good, and bring to awareness the way things are. That is the magic that changes everything.