Sunday, November 08, 2009

We are always growing toward who we want to be.

The question I'm interested in us living to answer is not "Who are we?" but "Who do we want to be?" The spiritual journey is the process of maturation, of growing up, so, who do we want to be when we grow up? And, since growing up is never completed—we are always growing up no matter how old we are—we are always growing toward who we want to be.

There are no steady states of being. Being is not static. We do not get it together, or get it right, and freeze ourselves in place. Death is the only static form of existence. Life and being are always moving, changing, shifting, evolving, becoming. We are always reconfiguring ourselves to deal with each situation as it arises, or to put ourselves back together following harsh encounters with hard realities.

We are not who we were yesterday, or who we will be tomorrow. We are certainly not who we were before I left seven weeks ago. To say who we are is to say who we were when we said who we are. Two days, or fewer, after we say it, we have to say it again.

Just as we can not step in the same river twice, not only because the river is flowing, changing, but also because WE are flowing, changing, so we can’t say who we are twice because something changes between the saying. So, since there are no steady states of being, we have to talk about the values, qualities, characteristics we admire and then work to incorporate them into our lives over time. What is the ideal, personal and corporate, that we live toward? Who are we working to become? Who do we wish we were? Who do we want to be when we grow up?

This takes us straight to the heart of the matter, to the Christ, the True Human Being ("Son of Man" was Jesus' term for True Human Being), the Anointed One (what "Messiah," or "Christ," means). Anointed for what? To be who the Holy One is ("The Father and I are one," said Jesus). We are as close to God as some people get. We are working to be so Christ-like, so divine-like, so much a True Human Being, that people see the divine through us, are touched by the holy as they engage us. The qualities of the numinous, of the wonder, of the beauty and truth, of the mysteries of Transcendent Grace and True Human Being-hood, are to shine through us, be exhibited in us, expressed by us, personally and corporately. We are to treat one another and all others as Christ would. We are to treat one another and all others as though the other is divine, holy, is Christ. As though we are divine, holy, are Christ.

The qualities we are working to bring forth in our lives, and in the life of the congregation, and in the world, are the age-old, time-tested expressions of the divine spirit within us and about us: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, goodness, self-discipline, grace, compassion, and the like. How do we bring love (and all the other qualities of holiness) to bear in "each situation as it arises"? We have to be creative and prayerful to answer this question because what is needed in "this situation" will not be needed in the same way in the next situation, though it may be a very similar situation. No policy statements apply. We step into each situation and decide what love (etc) requires here and now. We have to listen, hear, look, see, understand, know, and act in response to this moment as though we were the Christ, the Anointed One, bringing forth the holy into the moment, with no black footprints to follow.

This gets us to the foundational attitude of the spiritual journey: A prayerful countenance. Prayerfulness is a right-brain function. We do not think (left-brain function) our way forward, doing this, then doing that, out of some recipe book, applying someone’s idea of a formula for life, but wait, with eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart that understands, and a will to do what needs to be done, for what needs to happen to be revealed to us. We “wait and watch.” This is prayerful waiting, prayerful watching, prayerful living ("Pray constantly," advises the old Apostle. This doesn't mean to say the Lord's Prayer constantly, but to live prayerfully, to live open to the moment and to be aware of what needs to happen there, not knowing beforehand how we will answer our accusers or what we will do).

This is the solid core of the Biblical witness. None of the main players there do it by the book. No one does what is expected of her, of him. David and Bathsheba certainly don’t, yet, from that union come, according to Matthew, Solomon and Jesus of Nazareth. Abraham leaves the security of home and strikes out on his own, which might be not all that unheard of in his day, but he does not sacrifice Isaac which did stand apart from the customary way of doing things back then. Moses murders an Egyptian, escapes, then returns to Egypt. Mary says sure she will have a child as an unmarried woman. Joseph says sure he will marry Mary nonetheless. Jesus heals on the Sabbath and returns to Jerusalem, tempting fate and daring the authorities to arrest him. From cover to cover in the Good Book, no one does it by the book.

They all live prayerfully open to the situation that is opening before them and respond to that situation, not out of what ought to be done in the mind of the authorities of their day, but out of what truly needs to be done in the situation as it arises. THAT is the Biblical standard. Not keeping the rules. Not doing what is expected. Not stepping in the black footprints. Not reading from the script. Not living like we are supposed to. But prayerfully responding to the need of the moment, in the here and now of our living, exhibiting the divine qualities, and trusting ourselves to Transcendent Grace, as we step into the unknown and do there what needs to be done.

So. Who are we? We are those who are working to develop the divine qualities and bring them forth in all of our interactions, reconfiguring ourselves as needed to live appropriately in each situation as it arises, doing what needs to be done there as Christ would in our place, so that they might say of us as the Centurion said of Jesus, in a manner of speaking, "Surely this person was, these people were, divine!"

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