Chapter 22, Page 175 – Forward in Faith
“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner
“… and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23
“While they were talking, Jesus stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” The appearance of Jesus after his resurrection must have been an awesome moment for those frightened, depressed, and hopeless followers in that upper room. Yet I suspect the one thing they felt was not necessarily peace at his presence. I guessing there was still a pretty hefty supply of fear, amazement, guilt by those who fled from his trial and crucifixion, and yes, even doubt. Remember our namesake Thomas was “out and about” when Jesus appeared. When later told of Jesus’ visitation, he would not believe anything solely on the word of his companions UNLESS he saw Jesus for himself. Eight days later he was with them. Jesus returned, sauntered up to Thomas, and offered his wounded hands and side. The rest becomes our faith history to this day, including Jesus’ evangelistic response to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
This year, and particularly November, has felt just about as fear-filling, confusing, angering, hopeless, and anything but peaceful for many I have been present in these days. Like our namesake, we want to grab hold of something we can believe and trust for our days ahead. So we flock to the information sources that surround us at every moment, every turn, and every swipe of our thumb or the click of a mouse. We seek the proof we feel we need, and it rises tantamount over trust and faith, seeking information right now to be the best and most truthful, unable to sit and be in discernment to what is, and what can be, with others, in peace. We read books, seek out innumerable articles, attend real and virtual lectures, and conversation groups seeking, seeking, and seeking HOW we can find peace in this time. For me, my “peace seeking missile” self joins with other seekers and discerners, in prayer, together. We do this by abiding in a peace that we bring and that we share to each other. We gather in waiting, around a table like ours, to be fed and to feed each other, and our world, with peace.
Fr. Richard Rohr offers wisdom to me in our times from daily meditations Yes, And …
“T.S. Eliot said in the Four Quartets ‘[Human]kind cannot bear very much reality.’ What we often prefer is highly contrived and costumed ways of avoiding the real, the concrete. So Jesus brought all of our fancy thinking down to earth, to one concrete place of ordinary incarnation – one loaf of bread and cup of wine. ‘Eat it here, and then see it everywhere’ he seems to be saying. As St. Augustine essentially said in an Easter sermon, ‘You are what you eat.’”
He continues reminding me that the incarnated moment we share is bread for the world and not just a select few …
“The standing, structural proof that Christianity was intended to be an inclusive religion is that two-thirds of our Christian Bible is, in fact, the Jewish Bible! Further, our entire Bible is filled with stories, metaphors, images, and even names for God that were taken from pre-Jewish religions, pagan sources, secular history, and Greek philosophy. We [have become] more exclusionary that the authors of our Bible were … When we are true to our Jewish sources, Jesus is easily seen as the INCLUSIVE Son of God, inviting us to join him there. It seems we found it much easier to worship him than to imitate him … The Eucharist is telling us that God is the food and all we have to do is provide the hunger. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for one another – not even a baby in a manger. Despite all our attempts to define who is worthy and who is not worthy to receive communion, our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to the communion is HUNGER. And, most often, sinners are much hungrier than the so-called saints.”
Like flickering luminaries, Advent points us along a pathway to finding peace. A peace come to earth, Love divine all love excelling, in the Christmas truth. We come to that peace for a day in time, around a table with bread and wine, together. We come to be fed, and then to be and see it everywhere.
Many will come to worship on Christmas. Some will come as a long standing tradition for the family, gathered in the darkened church to hear the story of shepherds and angels, Mary and Joseph, and this baby Jesus. Some will come to be embraced by flickering candles, transported by the smell of wafting incense, singing “Silent Night” with others we may or may not see again. Some come to be in a place and with people they know will provide sanctuary, hope, and peace for the soul in this precarious and unsafe world. Some will come because they are hungry for hope, hungry for truth, hungry for something.
So, come and be fed. Come and abide, together. Come for sanctuary and story long told. Come and be fed, then feed the world in peace. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ