This blog, e-piphanies.com, is devoted to glimpses of God at work in our lives. That is another way of speaking about recognition of signs of the Kingdom of God – God’s Reign in our midst. It is my small effort to shine a light, so to speak, on places where I believe God is active and God's reign is intersecting with the world.
The heart of the message of Jesus Christ was the Kingdom of God. It is supposed to be the heart of the message of those who follow him in every age. When we read the Gospels, we see that sometimes Jesus used the terms Kingdom of Heaven, Abundant Life, or Eternal Life to refer to the same reality - God's life and intersecting with the created world. That intersection, for Jesus, had the purpose of transforming the reality of those who experienced it.
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori writes about the Kingdom of God in this way, "The physicists may call it a parallel universe; we call it the dream of God. Pull it out, polish it up, and put it to work because that vision can change the world" (from A Wing and a Prayer: A Message of Faith and Hope).
We who are called out and entrusted with the message of the Kingdom need to be sure we order our lives in ways that make it possible for us to experience the reality of the Kingdom so that our message is authentic and effective. Now just what do I mean by that?
On Wednesday of this week, I heard The Rev’d Chris Webb, an Anglican Benedictine, speak about how the Kingdom of God breaks into our life in the world and confronts us with another set of realities. He said, “The world around us needs the confrontation of the Kingdom of God because it is a broken, wounded, hurting world.”
He went on to point out the irony that we who are called to be bearers of the good news of God’s reign are a part of the world to which we bring that news. It is inevitable that we “minister our brokenness into the brokenness of the world” even as we deliver the news.
An example of this inclination is seen in the life of Moses. When Moses realized how the Hebrew people were being mistreated by their Egyptian masters, he reacted in anger and killed an Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew. He fled the scene and went to Midian where he met and married Miriam, the daughter of a priest named Jethro. It was there when he was herding his father-in-law’s sheep, that he had the remarkable encounter with the burning bush through which God confronted him. Later, he encountered God on the holy mountain and God delivered the Law to Moses. Then he had the tabernacle built as a place of corporate encounter with God. Still later, he would set up a tent apart from the camp where he would meet privately with God. When that happened, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. (Exodus 33) Imagine that!
The trajectory of Moses’ experience of God matures from an impulsive activism, to an accidental encounter, to an intentional encounter, to an habitual one. At each step of the journey, Moses takes the fruit of his experience of God and shares it with others. And, at each step of the journey, the fruit appears to be more fully ripened and, as a result, makes a greater impact upon those with whom he shares it.
St. Thomas Aquinas, in trying to describe a healthy relationship between contemplativeness and activism, used the phrase contemplata alliis tradare, which Thomas Merton translated to mean “passing on the fruits of contemplation to others.” Like Moses, our active work of delivering the good news of the in-breaking reign of God requires the contemplative work of experiencing God first-hand in order for their to be good fruit.
Worship, both private and corporate, provides God with opportuities to give us glimpses of the Divine Life in the midst of our own lives and the life of the world. Our witness has to be more than talking about God; it must be a witness to our first-hand experience of God. We can’t give to the world something we don’t have in the first place.
So, this weekend, when you are planning your activities, remember that an encounter with the Living God awaits you. Come to worship expecting to be encountered in unexpected ways by the Creator of the Universe. Prepare to be changed. And don't be surprised if your experience of God extends into your daily life in equally unexpected ways. Life may never be the same. At least, that is the way it is supppoed to work. Our participation in worship opens our eyes to see God's hand at work and transforms our hearts to share what we see with others in words and actions.
Our witness requires worship. Share the fruits of your contemplation with others.