Sunday, January 24, 2016

2016.01.24 Shimmers of Stuff

A friend recently asked, “What’s an apostle? We say in the Creed, we believe in 'one, holy and apostolic church.'" He hastened to tell me he understood “one” and “holy” but wondered what apostles were, then added that he didn’t like saying what he didn’t believe in or understand.

I thought, “Well, join the group", but that was quick sarcasm. Still, I wanted a better answer, so I said, with equal haste: “The early followers of Jesus who preached the gospel all over their little world and, thanks to them, it took hold. Apostles."

That was an blah response really. But something else, equally icky but with more pizazz, occurred to me, so I added. “Apostles were first responders.” We laughed. 

Tomorrow is the day we remember the Confession of St. Paul, known as “apostle”—a man accosted by the holy presence of the Risen Christ, a blinding light—glaring enough for him to realize that the one everyone else was calling the Christ was asking him, a non-believer to say the least, to preach the good news of resurrection. Paul didn’t turn into an apostle overnight. He didn’t run off immediately to take on this assignment. His conversion to the ways of Jesus Christ was not magic or easy. Paul spent much time, as the legend goes, in literal blindness, wondering and questioning, and coming to the truth of who he was—really, truly, deeply. All this before he went forth to do the work of an apostle, to become a Christian missionary.

This story is biblically dramatic, but do not we all go through such times when something intersects our lives and we see ourselves anew, perhaps taking new directions?

It’s nearly impossible to describe such soul-collisions, such conversionary experiences. Poetry does it best, or maybe a wise insight of a reverent mind, a bit of amateur prosody, or even a throw-off but passionate line in a TV series. Whatever it is you are, for a second, blinded.

Self Portrait
    It doesn't interest me if there is one God
    or many gods.
    I want to know if you belong or feel
    abandoned.
    If you know despair or can see it in others.
    I want to know
    if you are prepared to live in the world
    with its harsh need
    to change you. If you can look back
    with firm eyes
    saying this is where I stand. I want to know
    if you know
    how to melt into that fierce heat of living
    falling toward
    the center of your longing. I want to know
    if you are willing
    to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
    and the bitter
    unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

    I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
    the gods speak of God.

      -- David Whyte
          from Fire in the Earth
          ©1992 Many Rivers Press

“My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”
― John Dominic Crossan, Who Is Jesus? Answers to Your Questions About the Historical Jesus.

Who Told Me Who I Am?

I was a miracle,
a gift from God.
My mother told me so.
But I demurred
and tripped on all her haloes.
No, not my status, Mom.
But gift from God?—
showed promise.
I looked above and then below
and finally looked within where
Lo! Behold!
I quickly saw that a present
was really a Presence.
    Lyn G. Brakeman, 2016


“Healing is an art. Every person is our Sistine chapel.” (A nurse’s line in the television series, “Mercy Street” )