Friday, 21 September 2012

Four glimpses...

Peter Lockhart

The four readings today challenge us as people who seek to follow God as to what it means to proclaim a faith and to hold on to that faith. I am going to do something which sometimes can be annoying by taking one phrase from each of our four readings and giving a short meditation for you to reflect on. As we listen for God speaking to each one of us, I am also going to encourage you to do some further reflection on each of the four topics. You might choose to do this alone or with others.

The four topics are:

From Psalm 1: On his law they meditate day and night.

From Proverbs 31: A capable wife who can find?

From James 3: Who is wise and understanding among you?

And from Mark 9: They did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

The idea of meditating on God’s law day and night may bring a range of responses. Maybe it is something you already do: thinking about God in moment of your life and how God’s love is found within that moment? Maybe, thinking on all the rules that are found in the Bible and making judgements about others or yourself constantly? Or maybe God’s law doesn’t consume you and maybe you don’t even know what God’s law really means to you?

The Psalm goes on to suggest that to meditate on God’s law in this way is like a healthy tree whose roots go deep and who bear good fruit. This view of God’s law as providing the very sustenance of our existence and leading to a well lived life is profound but could also be misinterpreted as limiting.

For me the idea of meditating on God’s law day and night is really very much about contemplating the idea that God became one of us in Jesus and shared our life and our death and gives us a promise of a future, a future that we can experience though maybe not fully yet. It is the hope that I find in this story of grace of willingness to be alongside us that gives life to me – in other words it is not about reading the concept of “law” as legalism but rather reading more as revelation, as grace.

Yes this involves dealing with difficult aspects of scripture, interpreting them anew and listening for the wisdom of teachers and mystics who may more fully help me understand God’s love for all people in this way.

I know personally I often have theological and spiritual and scriptural issues constantly buzzing around my brain. Take some time to reflect on the question “What does it mean for me to meditate on the law of God? And do I do so day and night?”

At the beginning of Proverbs 31 we are hit with the words, “A capable wife who can find?”

As a married man I could glibly say I already have but then when I read the passage and remember we don’t have servants in our house and Shelley doesn’t collect the flax maybe I have missed out. The description of the good wife has some helpful things to say. For instance, the idea that “charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” is pertinent in a world where some much emphasis and energy is focussed on beauty.

However, I was blessed on Thursday morning at the prayer group when we were talking about this passage and Beth shared a comment that maybe it was not so much about the finding as the searching.

This could turn into a fruitless search for perfection in another person, which would I think be wrongheaded. Alternatively, the encouragement to search and seek for what is good in others may be more pertinent. To discern what is of true value in people and not take them for face value. Maybe if we search the good in one another a bit more deeply we would find pathways into greater peace and respect for one another.

I wonder when you look others what you are looking for and whether beyond first impressions you can see image of God in which all people were created. Consider that yardstick that you use to judge others, for we all do this, does it conform with God’s view of loving even those who do not reciprocate that love and so may in our opinion be unlovable.

Jumping now to the letter to James we continue on a theme of seeking as we hear James’ words: Who is wise and understanding among you?

This week I finished reading 2 more books. Biblical Prophets and Contemporary Environmental Ethics and Without a vision my people prosper. I don’t think I am perceptibly any wiser.

We live in a very complex world and as much as I would like to encourage you to the principle KISS (Keep it simple stupid) the more I encounter, the more I see, the more complex things seem.

What does wisdom look like to you? The church has a history of counting people in or out based on what they believe – is this really wisdom?

So often we relate knowledge to power, but as Paul writes at the heart of our faith is the foolishness of the cross. If we think that knowledge and wisdom is a tool for our own ends then maybe we have missed the point.

James describes true wisdom with these words: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”

I hear nothing in here that justifies hatred or war mongering or hurtful words or spiteful actions. These are words of peace and of love – by actions wisdom, true wisdom is known. Meditating on this as God’s law, with our roots going deep, should lead us not to value our belief and our knowing above our generosity and our peace-making.

What acts of wisdom do you see occurring around you each day? Who is it that is wise?

Finally, I jump to the gospel reading and the disciple’s reticence to ask Jesus a question when they are obviously bamboozled. “They did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.”

So often we wear masks in our lives. We keep silent because we do not know or understand. We present an image of ourselves and not the turmoil that often lies beneath. There are times I have encountered people in my pastoral care unwilling to ask me a question because they are worried they will be wrong and I know that I too find it hard to ask questions that for others may seem somewhat silly.

Jesus response to the disciples confusion which is expressed in their argument about is greatest is to draw a child into the disciples midst and to compare himself with that child and speak of the welcoming of that child.

In my experience, children especially younger ones are very trusting and very eager to learn. They ask questions silly and wise, the share their love openly and gently, and they seek to be part of their families.

We should not be afraid to ask each other questions nor help each other understand as we continue on our journey of faith.

I wonder what are the questions that you have and want to explore and whether meditating day and night on the scriptures in not solo event but a communal journey.

Meditating, searching, being wise in our actions and asking. Are these not the attributes of a faithful people? It’s not about what we have already as if it is ours alone it is about whose we are and where we are going that shapes us.

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