Maybe it was the vehemence of St. Paul’s conversion event that made him so vociferous about his convictions when he preached. We may all have those days when certainty is the order of the day. (See my post of yesterday.) Most of us, however, have a smaller sphere of influence than Paul and are not in danger of death because of what we say. I often wonder if I would be so willing to speak about my faith if I lived in a place that was inimical to my way of speaking or if my beliefs were the same were I to be living at the same era as Paul. Would I be so moved if I stood with the Romans and heard him say, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (ROM 8)
I am going to be away from home this week and am unsure now of internet availability as well as scheduled events. I will return home next Sunday hoping to resume this daily practice on Monday. I leave with hope of a peaceful week for us all and a prayer of J. Philip Newell to accompany our days.
You speak to us in all things, O God, in the rising of the sun and its setting, in dreams of the night and the encounters of day. Let us know you in the whole of life, in both the blessings and the betrayals of our lives. Heal our hurts and open our hearts that as families and nations we may be faithful to one another. (Celtic Treasures, p. 50)
Last Sunday, as I listened to a dramatic reading of the entire gospel of Mark, I was struck by the number of exorcisms Jesus performed. In the different ways that “evil spirits” manifested in people, Jesus commanded those “spirits” to “come out!” and the people were healed. I’m wondering this morning if all the synoptics were similarly engaged in reporting such events. My attention was a caught because today’s gospel from Luke (11:14-23) begins with Jesus “driving out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.”
That makes me think that the gospel writers use the term “demon” as we might not only when speaking about any sort sinful habit, as in “the demon rum,” but also with some physical conditions that are not easily dealt with. There are examples of physical cures in the gospels, as in “the man with the withered hand” but I wonder what I would learn by re-reading the texts with the intent to identify “demons,” how Jesus dealt with them, and what was the transformation that occurred upon the release.
As is often the case, a paper protruding from among my side-table books this morning gave me a clue to my wondering expressed above. We would do well, I think, to ponder moments in our lives when a light appeared in some way and see if it deepens our understanding of something heretofore inexplicable.
The Opening of Eyes
by David White
That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water,
and I heard the voice of the world
aaaaaa speak out,
I knew then as I had before
Life is no passing memory of what
aaaaaa has been,
Nor the remaining pages in a great book
aaaaaa waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes, long closed.
It is the vision of far off things,
aaaaaa seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years of secret conversing,
aaaaaa speaking out loud in a clear air.
It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees
aaaaaa before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
aaaaaa as if to enter heaven,
And finding himself, astonished,
Opened, at last, to falling in love
aaaaaa with solid ground.
There are many beautiful lines in Psalm 16 and many songs written from its contents. It speaks of a poet who finds confidence in relationship with God, regardless of outer circumstances. Here are a few lines from the translation by Lynn Bauman:
I am here to listen to your counsel, Lord, your inner teachings of the heart. Day after day, night after night, you speak through everything. You are the prize of life, the goal, the hidden good. You take my hand in yours and hold me up, and fill my heart to overflowing. This body-mind, this spirit, all are yours and each part finds a place to rest in you…From birth to death you are the path I walk upon, and you’re the guide who leads me through and far beyond, into your Presence, Lord, right next to you, which fills me full, my highest joy, my purest good.
Bauman’s commentary on the psalm offers an interesting challenge. In part, he says, “In this psalm the poet is living life to the full and has a deep sense of optimism. It is God’s presence, filling the cup of life, that makes reality like it is for the psalmist…What moments of your life have been like this for you? If, in this moment you are not experiencing this same kind of deep, satisfying delight, then express the reality of your heart to God as honestly and as beautifully as you possibly can. Does telling God this make a difference?” (Ancient Songs Sung Anew, p.36)
Let us think on these things…
This morning’s gospel (LK 12:1-7) is a good reminder of the power of speech. Jesus is speaking to a large crowd about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and warns the people by saying: “Whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the rooftops.”
In the age of the internet, the “rumor mill” is more dangerous than ever. We know so much instantly about events and situations and people all over the world and much of it is swallowed before it is even confirmed to be true. And then there is the person to person gossip that we pass on only to our “trusted friends who would never repeat it.” It is important, certainly, for us to be able to share private information with those we trust, but it behooves us to remember that such information should not be private information about someone else…especially if we heard it from another someone else. A good rule of thumb, it seems to me, is Speak only love. That way no one ever gets hurt because of our indiscretion.
This morning’s text in Mark’s gospel (Ch 7) of the cure of the man with hearing loss and a speech impediment is one of my favorites for two reasons. First, Jesus uses very human methods to accomplish the healing. “He put his finger into the man’s ears, and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned…” (as if it took some effort, some energy moving through him to the man to effect the healing). I can hear teenagers (and maybe “other-agers” too) reacting to those methods with “oohh! gross!!” I think, though, that Jesus was trying to make a point about faith and the ability to heal. Secondly, I hold this text dear because of the command of Jesus directly to the man’s ears and mouth. He says, “Be opened!” We use this in the baptismal rite where the celebrant blesses the ears and mouth of the one to be baptized saying, “May your ears be open to hear the word of God and your mouth speak this word always.” (a paraphrase)
Today I will listen carefully to the word of God spoken in my encounters with others as well as within my heart and I will attempt to speak God’s word with my lips and in my life.