Saturday, July 26, 2008
Jesus shares with us his experience of God as Abba. This is the Kingdom of God.
"Abba" is how Jesus begins his heartfelt prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene the night before he dies. (Mark 14:36)
"As you are children, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son crying, 'Abba.'" (Galatians 4:6)
"All who are guided by the Spirit of God are children of God....you received the spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, 'Abba!'" (Romans 8:14-15)
The name expresses well the intimacy between Jesus and his Father. Jesus shares that intimacy with us. That's what we pray for when we pray, "Thy Kingdom come."
Friday, July 25, 2008
Sharing in his experience of God as Abba is what Jesus called the Kingdom of God. He experienced God as his dear papa who held him in a warm, loving embrace. Christianity is not so much a series of propositions about God as it is the communication of the intimate knowledge that Jesus had of Who God Is. The Christian religion is the transmission of his experience of Ultimate Reality as Abba or Papa. In his preaching Jesus called this "The Kingdom of God" (in Matthew, "The Kingdom of Heaven.")
By giving God to us as Abba, Jesus teaches us that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves--closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing, closer than consciousness itself. The God preached by Jesus is every human relationship of love that is beautiful, good, and true all rolled into one and multiplied a million times over. A God who is Abba treats us with a tender and loving care that is beyond deserving, beyond imagining. This intimate relationship is what Jesus means by the Kingdom of God. Truly a pearl of great value!
This understanding of the Kingdom as participation in Jesus' experience of God as Abba comes from Thomas Keating's Manifesting God.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Jesus called God "Abba." In the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke "Abba" meant something like "Daddy" or "Papa."
The Jews never said out loud the sacred name of God. This tradition honors the fact that Ultimate Reality cannot be captured adequately in concepts or words.
Jesus not only mentions the name of God out loud but calls the Divine by the intimate and affectionate name of "Abba." By using the endearing name that a child uses for its father Jesus implies that God is always close, leaning over us, pretecting us from without, guiding us from within, holding us in a loving embrace forever. "Abba" adds a tender, nurturing, and compassionate face to our understanding of Ultimate Reality.
A man told me once that he was walking in a crowded market in Israel when a little boy reached up and took his hand. When the boy looked up and found out that it was not his father's hand, he began looking wildly about. Spotting his father up ahead in the crowd, the boy went running after him crying, "Abba! Abba! Abba!" His father turned and swooped his son up into his arms in a warm embrace.
(I'm told that the Swedish singing group, whose music is the basis of the new movie "Mama Mia," chose this as their name for its Aramaic meaning.)
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
A sailboat upset out on the lake late Sunday afternoon in a fierce wind and rain storm. Fortunately there was no thunder and lightning, since it took some motor boats a good while to get the crippled sailboat to the nearest shore.
Early this morning we had a similar storm, this time with lightning and half-hearted thunder. After the storm I went for my walk and saw this milkweed bent over by the wind and rain. Usually a sailboat can use the wind but in this case it's rigidity was its undoing. The milkweed bent with the wind and survives.
All this made me think about the value of bending to life's storms rather than rigidly trying to withstand them. It also got me thinking about Jesus' calming the storm on the sea while his disciples were afraid they would go down. Jesus gives us faith to know that no matter how fierce life's storms, he will see to it that we are not ultimately destroyed.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Jesus preaches frequently about the Kingdom of God. Matthew in his Gospel changes it to the "Kingdom of Heaven" because of the Jewish practice of not saying God's name out loud. It has sometimes been translated from the Greek as the "Reign of God." Through the years I have come to think that what Jesus is talking about is that God lives in us and loves us graciously. The Kingdom is a relationship with God that deepens as each individual becomes more aware of God's loving embrace and surrenders to it in love. As individuals surrender to God's presence and love, God rules over more and more of humankind. In that way the Kingdom comes, God's reign expands.
God is present to me also in these flowers which we called "Mountain Laurel" when I was growing up. Now I am told that mountain laurel blooms in June and that this flower blooming now is rhododendron. We used that name only of the cultivated variety that bloomed in people's yards in June. The morning sun is making these blooms more vivid than I have ever noticed them.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Yesterday was a perfect summer day. Sun all day. In the 80's. As I started my morning walk I was stopped by the beauty of these weeds and bushes and trees catching the morning sun. Shadow as well as light creating the scene.
I walk most mornings right after I do centering prayer. After spending some time letting God make me aware of God's presence within me, I am more mindful of God's presence around me, even in a common roadside scene. And a peace comes over me.
In a thought-provoking column in the current "America" magazine Margaret Silf is writing about the importance of mindfulness. She says, "Every square mile of this planet is holy ground if you walk it gently and mindfully and take the time to let it disclose its secrets. Every mile can be sacramental, waiting to reveal something of who God is, and no two revelations will ever be the same." I would even say it's "holy ground" whether we are aware of it or not. Prayer makes us mindful.
Friday, July 4, 2008
The anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence is a good time to renew our committment to the principles expressed in that document. The essence is that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed." That moral insight was in the air at the time. We were fortunate to have a group of leaders in our colonies who believed that principle strongly enough to risk their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
Many Americans today have a hard time understanding that kind of moral reasoning. They will say "To do what's right you need only obey the law." If our founders had reasoned that way we would still belong to England.
What we said in 1776 was that law was important; but, if it's a bad law, it was up to us to change it. The king is only the king if those he governs consent to his authority. Their judgment and that of the average citizen was that the king had abused his authority and that they would no longer consent to be governed by him.
In our own lives there are times when, to do the right thing, we must go beyond the law and/or work to have the law changed. One of the best examples of this in the lifetime of many of us was the Civil Rights Movement. We disobeyed laws that enshrined racial segregation and managed to get those laws changed.
Ours is a government that derives its just powers "from the consent of the governed."
Thursday, July 3, 2008
"The Father spoke one Word from all eternity
and he spoke it in silence,
and it is in silence that we hear it....
It was said once, and said in absolute silence.
And it is only in silence that we hear it."
-- St. John of the Cross
Sunset and the twilight that follows bring the day into silence. St. John invites us to be silent in prayer, simply listening for God, not telling God what we want nor even praising God, just being silent.