Today’s Word from Pastor Tom…
It is often said you can put mystics of varied and diﬀerent religions in the same room and they will instantly bond, or hear one another. Put theologians of diﬀerent religious ilk in the same room and within 10 minutes someone will be yelling, “Medic!” The first group will be intent on listening to one another that they might all better experience God, while the other will be using their non-talking time to better articulate what is the true theology of the nature of God.
Mystics find meaning in the apophatic experience of the mystery of God (think of God as ultimately unknowable) while theologians find their love of God in being able to craft meaningful doctrine seeking the honest illumination of what God is (think of catechism). While both will admit that in the final analysis God is mystery, the former group seeks God in the experience of the mystery, while the latter seeks a clearer relationship with God in the explanation of the mystery.
Okay… as pure as freshly driven slush? (A line borrowed, I think, from St. Betty of White who was seeking to describe the purity of a fellow actress).
In the interest of full disclosure, the before mentioned is a rather broad stroked attempt at what I call the two sides of the life of faith. The heart side and the head side. And lest you misunderstand me I argue for a balance of both sides; both are necessary in a healthy life of faith. What is my experience of faith and how do I understand my experience of faith? What are my core convictions as a Christian and what does that imply for meaningful living? Pretty weighty questions, I believe.
In my pastoral life of faith, I have encountered those whose religion was so lost in their head (mostly men) they were hard pressed to be able to make a personal statement about their life with Jesus. On the other hand, there were those who, to borrow on a prairie pastoral expression, were so heavenly they were of no earthly use. The healthy and productive life of faith calls for both, how do you experience God and how do you explain that experience. Which, dare I say it again, is ultimately a mystery. I know, that word again.
The highlight of this past week was my time with Sister Kathleen, my spiritual director. Call it “direction” or counseling or having coﬀee with a trusted advisor, I believe everyone needs to be in conversation with someone who can hold them accountable for life’s decisions while asking relevant questions of life and faith. I have in the past mentioned this part of my life. Think of it this way, “A brain/mind/head is a way too dangerous place to visit alone.” Mine being the poster child example. So, I talk with Sister Kathleen.
I shared with Sister a profound despair I was feeling awash in. A despair that was sinking into a sadness that was leaving me weepy. I started to weep with the Sister. She generously reminded me “Jesus wept.” I spoke of a world that I felt was rapidly changing for the worse: climate change, a rise in autocracy (or the appeal of it), Russia invading the Ukraine, and a paralysis or an impotence I felt to be able to make one bit of diﬀerence. How do I protest (I am a child of the ’60-70’s)? What can I do?
The good Sister gave me two pieces of illumination, one for my heart and one for my head. First, God finds us in the sad, seldom in the mad. In the darkness of my sad there is room for God to come alongside of me that the light inherent in love wins. My sadness connected me with this inexorable pull in the universe that is God’s love that is always moving us toward God. Jesus cried and lamented over Jerusalem’s lack of faith. There is no room for God in our mad. Second, I was encouraged to believe that every tiny act of good, or every quiet moment of contemplative prayer, is a ripple in the universe that God will bless. This is not without protest.
Okay, that’s enough of my life of faith. How’s yours coming along? Feel free to share your thoughts with me.
Peace and love,