Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Monday, May 16, 2011

Frail and Glorious - III

One of my favorite authors,
Victor Hugo 1802-1885

"Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings." ~ Victor Hugo

This morning I am thinking how I fascinated I am with the image of being "Frail" AND "Glorious." The cherry blossoms, a bird...each with a purpose even though both are small and frail.  Both are also glorious in their beauty and in the case of the robin, the song she sings. The blossom, the fruit it produces.  

Being small and frail, the cherry
blossom is glorious in the sunlight.

If this is true of a cherry blossom and a small bird, then how much more so for me?

When I read this chapter, Frail and Glorious a few weeks ago, I mentally cheered. Macrina did such a good job articulating some of the things that have troubled me regarding the Church.  I also felt a slight slap on my wrist because I recognized I had begun to focus more on my "sinfulness" rather than my "gloriousness" and that has been reflected in the prayers of confession I have written, the devotions I have prepared, and the sermons I have preached. 

Do we come to God because
we are afraid not to? Is this "love"?

Where is the "hope" within such judgement?

Macrina shares her breaking point came during the reading of the Evening Office [basically the same as devotions]. 

A tabernacle of the Devil!?
"I was suddenly jolted by a startling heresy. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. The reading was suggesting that a child, before baptism, was a tabernacle of the have we gotten things so backward? My anger turned into a holy sadness as this poem unfolded in my heart." (Macrina Wiederkehr, A Tree Full of Angels, p. 16)
Yes, my grandchild that is due in August, will be born into a sinful world, yet, that child will not be a tabernacle for the Devil.  Macrina is right, how did we get our thinking so backward?  When did we become so focused on the "Law" that we lost the potential of each being?  When did we become so focused on the Law that we lost sight of the Power of God's Love?
"Rather, I choose to see us as God beholds us: blessed, good, holy, noble, full of potential and exciting possibility - saints!" (Ibid) 
Wow...thinking of myself as "Frail" and as "Saintly"!

That might be a stretch, even for me! : )

Yet, how would I live differently if I did view myself as at least "Glorious" if not "Saintly"?

"We have gotten so exclusively hung up on a Fall and Redemption theology that we tend to become obsessed with thoughts of our leanings toward evil...I am disheartened that we keep placing our original union with God and our infinite possibility for holiness in the background. I have come to believe that we fear our virtues farm more than our sinfulness...It is certainly time to call back home the scattered powers of our baptism." (Wiederkehr, p 16-17)

New Age encompasseses
a lot of "out there" 
This past week, while preparing my sermon, I came across a pastor who referred to the thinking of "God within us" as "New Age" theology.  I wanted to object! Have you looked at the New Age section at a bookstore?  It includes God/Goddesses, Witchcraft... I applauded this morning reading Macrina's reflection that she holds as "truth" and not "heresy"...the core of God within us.

After talking about conversion being like fast food, or as Bonhoeffer says, "Cheap Grace" Macrina has a statement I have underlined and highlighted.
Paul was still in the process of conversion,
that is a new insight for me to hold...
"...conversion is ongoing. Conversion is a process in which we are given opportunity upon opportunity to accept the free gift of salvation. Salvation is a free gift, yes, but it's costly. It's "costly grace." It cost us our lives lived passionately...Saul knocked down...was not conversion...conversion came as he groped his way in blindness to Ananias...He was still in the process of conversion when he was on his way to Rome in chains." (Ibid)
On page 18, Macrina continues:
"Conversion is what happens between birth and death...a deep and lasting conversion is a process, an unfolding, a slow turning and turning again."


Coincidence that just yesterday I was holding both birth and death, and pondering the two together or is it one of those God Wink moments?

Honestly, I don't know, but if I lean toward a God Wink, what else might I be opened to seeing or discovering?

I have shared I am a blue-blooded Presby.  I was born and raised in a rural congregation so my "experiences" were limited.  When I went to Purdue I was ripe for some of the more evangelical Christian students.  I will never forget being asked, "Are you saved? Have you been born again?"

My response was something like, "I believe in God and in Jesus. I go to church and I read scripture. I have placed my faith and trust in God, but I can't say I know what God will do."

Oh my..."Sandi, if you step out in the street right this moment and are killed, you are going to hell! Let us help you! Let us save you!"

I was scared to death.  I was scared of their pronouncement, but within a few days, I was just as scared of them.  My roommate found me cowing in a small closet one evening in an attempt to avoid salvation.

I ended up calling home and talking to my Dad for a long time.  I don't remember how I finally escaped the clutches of these individuals, but all these years later, I remember the fear.  Again, if I come to God because I am scared not to come, is that really love?  Is that salvation?
The frailty and the glory of the cross.
"We are saved every day.  We are saved from our self-righteousness, our narrow minds, our own wills, our obstinate changing. We are saved from our blindness. Salvation stands before us at  every moment. It meets us face to face. It asks us to make a choice. Do we have the courage to accept it? ...The dust of our Lenten ashes turns before our very eyes into Easter glory. Our frailty fades into splendor. Our life given becomes life received and renewed." (Wiederkehr, p 18)
In the Church we often speak of "being called" to a particular place or ministry, yet, the most exciting of all calls is to be like God.  To be transformed by the Presence of the Living Christ within me.  Our baptism calls us to be like God in Christ.
"It is time, then, for us to embrace this frail flesh of ours with love. If we want to be disciples and saints, we must claim and cherish our humanness. What was good enough for God to embrace must be good enough for us. Let us try to take seriously the call to divinized and stop hiding behind the mask of our frailty...The ache for God lives on in our depths. It gnaws at us and cries out to be named." (Wiederkehr, p 19)
Wow.  Those two statements hit me right between the eyes!

Macrina next reflects on moments when she has been blessed by the awareness of both her frailty and gloriousness.  Before I go "there", I want to sit "here" for a bit longer.  Reflecting and pondering on what I have written this morning.

 You alone are my heart's desire....
As I think more about being frail and glorious, one of my favorite Psalms comes to mind...Psalm 42. I am growing into being able to say that God alone is my heart's desire, knowing that all the other people I love will be there as well when I put God first.  As the Deer

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

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