Monday, October 29, 2012

A Vision of Inner Reality

Monday, October 29, 2012 -- Week of Proper 25, Year 2
James Hannington and his Companions, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, Martyrs, 1885

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
     (Book of Common Prayer, p. 991)
Psalms 41, 52 (morning)        44 (evening)  
Ecclesiasticus 19:4-17 (found in the Apocrypha; also called Sirach)
Revelation 11:1-14
Luke 11:14-26

There is an inner reality that is safe, at peace, and always one with God, regardless of the outer circumstances. 

When speaking of our personal lives, we describe this as our inner union with God, which is our true self, the person God has created us to be.  At the core of our being, we are always and have always been one with God -- that is our true self.  Because we experience ourselves as being  threatened, we become fearful and reactive.  We create an adaptive self, a false self.  The false self is attached to our exaggerated needs for security, affection/esteem, and power/control.  Most of us get pretty dysfunctional trying to secure on our own terms what God gives us at our deepest being -- perfect security, unqualified love, divine power. 

John writes of this symbolic territory in his Revelation.  He is speaking to a community rather than to an individual.  At the core of the community, the church, there is the temple and the altar -- the union between God and God's people.  At that center, we are always one with God and the heavenly hosts who worship and praise God continually.  The core is always connected and secure.  Though the outer realities of political, social and economic well-being may be attacked, crumbling and chaotic, the center holds forever.  The reign of evil and destruction -- the reign of empire -- is merely temporary, it is passing away.

Our call is to stand as witnesses during the passing period.  John gives us a symbolic picture of that, using numbers.  The period of evil is always incomplete and broken -- forty-two months = 1,260 days = three and one-half years = half of seven.  Seven is the symbol of perfection -- the sum of three [the spiritual order] and four [the created order].  So half of seven, the period of evil, is incomplete and broken.  Six is one less than seven -- imperfection, incompleteness.  The symbolic numbers associated with evil and empire are always incomplete, imperfect and broken.

John gives us the image of two witnesses, who like Jesus (and like the community) are both conquered and victorious.  We are God's witnesses.  We are a community of priests and kings, two olive trees.  As part of our memory and heritage, we know the two great prophet-witnesses Moses (who commanded the plagues) and Elijah (who shut up the sky).  We join their struggle against the empire.

We are in conflict with the values of the empire -- the lure of wealth and luxury and greed, the abuse of power and its inevitable violence.  But our weapons are always the weapons of the Word.  Our weapon, John says, is the "testimony."  (In Greek the word "witness/testimony" is "martus" -- the same root as "martyr.") 

So we live in the conflict between empire and community.  The witnesses may appear to be defeated, but their apparent defeat is only temporary.  God always intervenes on behalf of truth.  Resurrection happens.  "The breath of life from God" reanimates; the Spirit breathes new life. 

John is setting the scene for the announcement of God's reign.  God reigns now.  The internal victory is ever present.  Yet in the conflict of our world, the victory is anticipatory, partial, and surely coming.  We are victorious now, at one with God; we are struggling now, giving witness to the evil of this passing oppression.  Like Jesus the Lamb, we are both conquered and victorious. 

John is describing every person, every community, every age.  Here is the key to this part of his message:  The experience of being conquered or assaulted by evil is always temporary and passing.  The triumph of the Lamb is eternal and eternally present.  Hold fast.  Do not fear.  The empire always crumbles and decays.  True community, grounded in divine love, eternally triumphs.  Embrace the triumphant vision and live by its light.  Be compassion, love and justice in a world of greed, pride and injustice.  The center holds forever.


Lowell
____________


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to: http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id244.html

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

3 Comments:

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Yeats' poem The Second Coming, - "Things fall apart the center cannot hold, Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world." And then the last lines: "And what rough beast,its hour come at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born ?"

 
At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I too think of poetry when reading this reflection, and am moved to pray through the Lord's prayer as translated from the Aramaic.

THE ARAMAIC PRAYER OF JESUS
as translated from Aramaic in 'Prayers of the Cosmos' by Saadi Neil Douglas-Klotz

O, Birther of the Cosmos, focus your light within us -- make it useful
Create your reign of unity now
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light,
So in all forms,
Grant us what we need each day in bread and insight:
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
As we release the strands we hold of other's guilt.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
The power and the life to do,
The song that beautifies all,
From age to age it renews.
I affirm this with my whole being.

Gorgeous reflection and vision!

Amen.

Peace,
Janet

 
At 7:31 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for both poems.

Yeats poem has been a beacon of interpretation for a century of apocalyptic signs.

I wasn't familiar with "The Aramaic Prayer of Jesus." Thanks for posting it, Janet. Beautiful. I think my subsequent Morning Reflection picks up on some of this poem's intent.

Lowell

 

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