Reading from "The Seeking Heart - A Journey with Henri Nouwen" by, Charles R. Ringma today.
Where faith and world meet
"God is not a self-evident given, particularly not in a world of hunger, earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes, a world of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. Nor can one simply point to something and say "there is God." This cannot even be done by pointing to a cathedral, synagogue, mosque, or temple.
Within the Christian tradition God and church are not one and the same. Nor is God's reign synonymous with the community of faith. The church at best is a sign, servant, and sacrament of the Kingdom of God.
One of the first things one would have to say is that God is Wholly Other. We are but creatures sculpted by God's hands of love and care.
But in the same breath one may also say that this God has entered the human fray. In word and deed, in priest and prophet, and particularly in Christ, God has come among us. Wholly Other, God is yet also wholly concerned. Transcendent, yet incarnate, God the mysterious One is the God of self-disclosure and welcome.
But this also is not self-evident. The belief that God is with us and among us and that God is at work in our world is always a confession of faith. This confession can come only when by God's Spirit our hearts and minds have been opened to see and hear.
Henri Nouwen writes that the "contemplative life is a human response to the fundamental fact that the central things in life, although spiritually perceptible, remain invisible in large measure and can very easily be overlooked by the inattentive, busy, distracted person that each of us can so readily become."
This need not be the language of an older dualism where heaven and earth, spiritual and material, soul and body were seen in oppositional terms, with the one being greater than the other. Rather, this may be the language that sees creation as God's good gift, the body as habitation for God's Spirit, and the world as charged with the grandeur of God.
This does not mean that the other world is wholly present in this one. If that were the case nature would be fully healed and the evils of humanity would be absorbed and transformed by God's purging love that makes all things new and whole.
The final tension lies neither between heaven and earth, nor between body and soul, nor between the spiritual and the material. It lies between faith and non-faith, between obedience to the ways of God and persistence in our own waywardness.
The tension is not between Spirit and world, it is the worldliness of the world at loggerheads with the gospel of the Kingdom of God, which speaks of forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and peacemaking, and wholeness.
Dancing this gospel into the world means that love not violence, prayer not coercion, forgiveness not retaliation, hospitality not exclusion, healing not harming become the footprints of our daily existence. Thus one may say God is among us. The other world is already present. But the old world persists.
But when we march to a tune that brings fear rather than hope, and death rather than life, then conversion is called for, repentance becomes necessary, and transformation is needed. For then we emulate the old world rather than being the heralds of the new world that God is calling into being."
Our world is not as it was meant to be. There is so much hurt, sadness, wrong, even evil. Changing it requires us as individuals to change. I know from personal experience I do not have what it takes for lasting, real change to take place in my heart. Sheer willpower does not accomplish it.
I am embarrassed, sad, grieved to say that I live far too much of my life trying to get my own way, looking out for number one, focused on my wants, my needs, my desires.
Dying to ones self is so very hard.
God's love transforms, purges, makes all things new. Yes, only through him (thank you Lord) but I cannot just sit and expect him to do the work without any work on my part. Usually it's hard work, it's a struggle, like a tug of war at times. Dying is not easy. But my way of doing life does not work.
Sometimes this splendid adventure is hard, but I get glimpses of his way of life and it's beautiful.