Here’s the wisdom that has crossed my path.
This week I am using the Epistle reading:
1 John 3:16-24
3:16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us–and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
3:17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
3:18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
3:19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him
3:20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
3:21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God;
3:22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
3:23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
3:24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
For the longer I live the more I’m persuaded that there are only two things that matter in this world, only these are real—unrelieved suffering and unrelenting compassion. A holy life is one that suspends itself like a brittle bridge between them, willingly between the anguish and the awe, the impermeable shadow and the encompassing light.
The power which I cannot explain or know or name I call God. God is not God’s name. God is my name for the mystery that looms within and arches beyond the limits of my being. When I pray to God, God’s answer comes to me from within, not beyond. God’s answer is yes, not to the specifics of my prayer but in response to my hunger for meaning and peace.
There is room for all of us in the resurrection conspiracy, the company of those who plant seeds of hope in dark times of grief or oppression, going about the living of these years until, no one knows quite how, the tender Easter shoots appear.
I am a reasonably orthodox Methodist, and I go to church on Sunday because fellowship matters, because I find meaning in the history of the Israelites and in the Gospels, and because I love to sing hymns. But it is not in “God’s house” that I feel God’s presence most—it is in his outdoors, on some sun-warmed slope of pine needles or by the surf. It is there that the numbing categories men have devised to contain this mystery—sin and redemption and incarnation and so on—fall away, leaving the overwhelming sense of the goodness and the sweetness at work in the world.
Press, oh press in the day of destruction
The listening ear to the earth,
And you will hear, through your sleep
You will hear,
How in death