May 27, 2020

Prayer for Presence

Let us be present to the now. It’s all we have and it’s where God will always speak to us. The now holds everything, rejects nothing and, therefore, can receive God too. Help us, God, to be present to the place we most fear, because it always feels empty, it always feels boring, it always feels like it’s not enough. Help us find some space within that we don’t try to fill with ideas or opinions. Help us find space so you, loving God, can show yourself in that place where we are hungry and empty. Keep us out of the way, so there is always room enough for you.

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A Sense of Community

The hunger for meaning and the need for hope in this deconstructed society cannot be satisfied by merely private choices. Corporate evil can only be overcome by corporate good. For this reason, and many others, I’m very happy to see the growth of small groups in church and in society. As I have said since the early days of the New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati, we cannot think ourselves into a new way of living; we must live ourselves into a new way of thinking. It is lifestyle choices that finally change us and allow us to see in new ways.

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Live Outside the Systems of Power

Jesus does not directly take on social reform. Instead, he preaches a life of simplicity and nonviolence that is simply outside the system of power, money, and control. More than directly fighting the system, he ignores it and builds an alternative worldview where power, prestige, and possessions are not sought or even admired. Such withdrawal of allegiance is finally the most subversive act possible because the powers that be can no longer control us, either positively or negatively (by getting us to react against them). We are no longer inside their reward-and-punishment system.

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Tradition Is about Community

To live with healthy Tradition is not an individual experience—it is a communal one. Perhaps this is why Catholicism emphasizes liturgy so much. It is the one thing that pulls us into a communal space where we can ask different questions, look at reality from a different perspective, and be told different truths, beyond the small truths of the private “I.” The endless telling of “this is me” stories eventually becomes self-validating, self-imprisoning, and, frankly, boring. Personal anecdotes become too small and aimless, unless they are a part of some larger life narratives.

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Hope Is Participation in God's Life

Most of us are not free to say “yes” before we say “no.” Our first response is normally “no”: “I don’t trust that. I don’t like that. I don’t agree with that.” The word enthusiasm (en-theos in Greek) means “filled with God.” I’m not encouraging mindless enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm that is based on intelligence, wisdom, and the great gift of hope. Hope is a participation in the very life of God. This hope has nothing to do with circumstances or events going well. It can even thrive in adversity and trial.

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Transformation Is a Process

Change happens, but transformation is always a process of letting go, living in the confusing, shadowy space for a while, and eventually being spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians. In moments of insecurity and crisis, shoulds and oughts don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep yeses that carry us through. It’s that deeper something we are strongly for that allows us to wait it out.

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