17 May 2012

ascending before friends

The Ascension of the Lord (which is commemorated today), is described by Luke’s gospel in a rather wooden, three-dimensional way.  While [Jesus] was blessing [the disciples], he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God” (24:51-53).  Today, instead of saying that he “was carried up into heaven,” we might say that he phased into another dimension.  (I’ll admit that watching Star Trek has affected my theology!)

Jesus’ doing this before his disciples reminds me of the gospel reading from this past Sunday, which was John 15:9-17.  It was my sermon text, and I especially noted verse 15:  I do not call you servants any longer,” Jesus says to his disciples, “because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”  These were some of my thoughts about that:

Jesus takes the initiative and reframes their relationship.  Friends and servants are not the same thing.  Servants do not ask questions; they do what they’re told!  Friends, on the other hand, do not ask us to blindly follow.  They do not ask for blind faith.  Friends want the best for each other.  Friends want eyes and hearts to be opened.

Still, too often, we limit our concern and interest to a tiny circle.  We’re too slow to expand our vision, to broaden our horizon.  Too often, we feel like being friends with Jesus is an uncomfortable, and even dangerous, enterprise.  (No doubt, there are times that it is.)  But what if we encourage each other a little more to accept the friendship of Jesus?  He certainly wants us to. 

We might even see those with broken wings gaining the ability to fly!

08 May 2012

show what you’ve been shown

Today is the feast of Julian of Norwich.  On this night in 1373, she had an intense experience—she was actually close to death.  Her book Showings (or Revelations) of Divine Love is a recounting of the experience, after mulling over it for about twenty years.  What a contrast with us today!  Too often, we feel like we have to go online with whatever random thought occurs to us, and if we’re 30 seconds behind someone else, we feel slighted!

At the same time, we may feel like we have nothing meaningful to share.  Henri Nouwen once wrote, “Often we think that we do not know enough to be able to teach others…  But when we have the courage to share generously with others all that we know, whenever they ask for it, we soon discover that we know a lot more than we thought.  It is only by giving generously from the well of our knowledge that we discover how deep that well is.”

Do we need to reflect on something for two decades before speaking of it?  Probably not!  But we can learn the balancing act that is the discipline of showing what we’ve been shown. 

(The image is from St. Julian’s Church.)