Trusting into Trust

Life arises within a restlessness—
     each moment a brush with eternity—
     as I pursue dreams and visions
     of an impossible world
     filled with peace and tender justice.

Life arises within a momentum—
     sometimes named God
     that softens my rationality
     with the tears (sobs) and tears (wounds)
     that echo in the spaces between us.

Life arises within a question—
     will I align myself
     with the normalcy of civilization
     or with the abnormal (impossible)
     wisdom of a simple teacher from Nazareth?

Faith is a way to embrace
     the restlessness, momentum, and questioning
     that arise within each eternal moment.
     within a passion for the
     impossible possibility.

Faith is a dawning awareness that,
     casting my blindness toward God,
     I can only see the impossible possibility
     of justice and the well-being
     of all in society.

Faith is the prayers and tears
     that water soil where
     the flower of justice
     has been planted
     in the desert of humankind

Trusting into trust
     I open myself anew
     in each moment
     to the fiery, wild ruach
     I know as God.

Running Away / Running Towards

“What is hateful to you; don’t do that to others.”  (Hillel the Elder0
“What you desire; do that for others.”  (Yeshua et al)
“Be all that you can be.”   (US Army recruiting slogan)
“Do your best.”  (Mom)

Many voices—persistent, challenging, expectant—calling for me to be a righteous person, trusting in life, and faithful. Of course, there are other voices calling me to a life of ease, a gospel of prosperity, and a home filled with possessions. If only I had the right dietary supplement I would be slim; the right exercise DVD, sexy abs; the right clothes, business success; the right God, wealthy; and so much more.

I run from the voices, but they are too insistent. The radio station in my head won’t turn off. Then I remind myself that I am on a spiritual journey—exciting, exhilarating, edifying. Journey images tend to suggest steady progress—some set-backs, of course—but steady progress. Sometimes the journey takes me into the wild and untamed wilderness where my faith and expectations are tested. But I always have maps that take me through the wilderness to “milk and honey.” That’s the story I keep telling myself, hopeful for some measure of continuing progress and spiritual growth.

If I were more insightful (maybe even more honest), I might suggest another image, an alternate story—sometimes running toward God; but more often running away. Like Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven”

I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

But, no matter how fast I run… no matter how far I’ve run… no matter what direction I am running… there is one factor, one reality, one sense nagging the very core of my being:

I thought, I’ll forget him;
I’ll no longer speak in his name.
But there’s an intense fire in my heart,
trapped in my bones.
I’m drained trying to contain it;
I’m unable to do it.
Jeremiah 20:9 (CEB)

There is an intense insistence trapped in the marrow of my bones that I can’t escape. It is like the sharp elbow to my ribs, delivered by my wife when I am dangerously close to a major social gaffe. It is the song that haunts my day by repeatedly singing itself inside my head. It is the unsigned invitation to meet a friend at a favored hang-out. And, when I pay close attention, it is an inner call from somewhere deep within the mystery of the divine to live beyond—beyond the conventional rules and regulations of social propriety; beyond the aphorisms of Sunday’s sermon; beyond the strict moral code of my upbringing; and sometimes even beyond the simple dictates of scripture.

The intense fire (passion) calls me to a creative non-indifference. When the fire burns I cannot walk by a person in need without becoming involved. I cannot turn my back on a neighbor who is the victim of hatred because they are black, LGBT, Muslim, or have some condition that others consider as a weakness. I cannot be indifferent to a political structure that prioritizes the strong over the weak, the rich over the poor, the healthy over the sick, the powerful over the weak. I wish I could, but I can’t!

I try to run in the other direction, but I am pursued and contained by that which rages within me, drawing me beyond myself. When I try to throw water on the raging fire to dowse it or contain it, it rages on. When I try not to listen, a voice echoes through the cavernous emptiness that is within me. When I find myself running away, something keeps trying to nudge me back on the rightful path. And the blaze of insistence is intensified.

The more I run, the more my heart yearns, the more my bones ache. But, when I slow down and pay attention… when I align my actions with the passions of my heart… when I become my calling… when my non-indifferent listening to the faint whispers of the needs of people around me allows me to hear their cries of woundedness… Only then can I be in touch with the embarrassed tears of my own indifference… only then am I ready to stand with those whom Yeshua called the poor… only then does the fire within shed light and heat, instead of destruction and devastation.

That is how it is with the insistence that comes in the name of God. Perhaps. It is always there—nudging, hinting, inviting, challenging, prodding, urging, calling; but never commanding or forcing. The decision, the response, and the shaping of my action is left to me. Will I follow my own self-interests? Or, will I be a responsible citizen, a trusting follower, and/or a faithful agent of the mystery of divine presence?

My prayer: O, fire raging within, fueled from the depths of mystery and fanned by a divine spirit, disturb my resistance and help me lighten that paths of those whose woundedness has robbed them of the fullness of life. May it be so!

Theological Virtues

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

“The theological virtues are the virtues of people who are held captive by the spell of the unconditional, by the magic of the impossible.”(Caputo, The Folly of God, 36)

Maybe, it is just the reverse: the theological virtues are the virtues of those of us who have been released from captivity to the conditional. We have been set free for whatever comes—whether as an insistent projectile or as a quotidian opportunity to show concern for self, others, and the creation.

Maybe theology tries to make too much out of impressive formulations about living life. One of the reasons I appreciate the Celts and their “theology” is that they really don’t worry about theology, they just express a passion for life. Life was tough, and they found the soft underbelly through appreciation. They lived by living and they knew that their living was connected to something beyond themselves. They often called that something “Christ,” not a theological concept, instead a sense of the dynamic depth and meaning of life itself.

Compassionate Commonwealth of Peace and Tender Justice

This is the last in a series of posts—reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

Listen to the whispers of the prophets
      Down through the ages
           Isaiah, Amos, and Micah

. . . learn to do good. Seek justice: help the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.      

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.”

Hearken to the Way of Yeshua of Nazareth

“Here is my chosen servant! . . . he will bring justice to the nations.”

He won’t break off a bent reed or put out a dying flame, but he will make sure that justice is done.

. . . you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done . . .

Remember the call of our ancestors
     That great cloud of witnesses
           Paul, James, John

. . . clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.

Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.

All nations will come and fall down in worship before you, for your acts of justice have been revealed.

          Maya, Martin, Alexander

. . . equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.

The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.

I think the first duty of society is justice.

Those whispers, echoes, calls
      Seep into my bones
          Disturbing me, awakening me
          Setting my teeth on edge

“Bart, do you hear?
         “Can you not stay alert with me for one hour?”

“When you brought food to the homeless family, when you cared for the grieving widow, and when you marched with your grandchildren against gun violence
     you cared for me,
          and with me,
               and through me.”

O, Commonwealth of Peace and Justice
          Yes, Yes, Come!

You come, not in some future generation
     At a time that will end all time
You come now
     At a time that encompasses all time
          The time when the hungry are fed
               the naked clothed
               the bullied affirmed
               the left out embraced
                    in community
You come without
     Social fanfare
     Political credibility
     Theological say-so

You come simply
     In the hearts and minds
     In the prayers
     In the actions
          Of the peacemakers
                the care-givers
                the hope-filled
                those who embody trusting into trust
     In the suffering and anguish
     Of those Yeshua called
          the poor
          the least, the lost
          the last, the left out
          the left behind

     Yes, Yes, Come!