Friday, March 2, 2012

Called to be saints

Lenten Meditation 2 March 2012
“Let’s state it clearly: One great idea of the biblical revelation is that God is manifest in the ordinary, in the actual, in the daily, in the now, in the concrete incarnations of life.” (Page 16)

Christ giving the keys to heaven to St. Peter

          One of the themes of Father Rohr’s book Things Hidden, Scripture as Spirituality is completely Anglican at its base:  Anglican theology is thoroughly incarnational.  In other words, we discover God in human encounter, as we look into the face of those about us, family, friend, and stranger.  In reading Scripture, we discover that God offers to become present in manifold ways, but always in a relationship with an individual or group. 

            Perhaps the most startling realization of God’s graciousness for me came when I discovered that the Bible is not filled with “perfect” people, that is to say superciliously pious people who are difficult to be around, but ordinary folk with their own foibles and sins.  My childhood Sunday School teaching had introduced me to biblical characters who were always “good” and never made any mistakes.  I knew from teenage years that I could never be like that; I was far too “earthy” and sinful to ever think God could have anything to do with the likes of me.  The beginning of my maturing faith—moving from a childhood understanding of God as a grandfather sitting on a golden throne perched atop a white cloud to a God who is willing to wrestle with his creatures where they are—came from discovering Simon Peter as a real live human being who more often than not put his foot (or both feet on occasion) in his mouth.  I moved from seeing this fisherman as a plaster-of-Paris saint to one with whom I could identify myself.  (Yes, I have the propensity to plant one foot or both feet firmly between my teeth!)  And James and John began to remind me of my brother and me as we argued almost constantly in our youth.  There are too many possibilities to mention, although I still have difficulty with Mary’s complete submission: “Be it unto me according to your word.”

            A quotation often attributed to Ogden Nash “How odd of God to choose the Jews,” is appropriate when we begin to explore the ongoing relationship between God and a tiny band of nomadic herders.  If we read the stories of the patriarchs we will discover not only fallible human beings, but rascals in every sense.  Just one example will suffice: Abraham, the father of many nations, gives his wife Sarah to the Canaanite King Abimelech, saying she is only his sister.  God prevents the king from committing sin with Sarah, but doesn’t destroy or cut Abraham off from his covenant relationship, a most gracious act.  Nor does God remove the hope when either Abraham or Sarah laughs at God’s promise of a child for an old, old couple. The stories of behavior which are less than pure and perfect are myriad in both the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures.  For me that gives great hope.

            To return to the opening quotation, there is great good news in the realization that God has and continues to become available to ordinary human beings, in ordinary times and places, a process which we call revelation.  God is willing to come into our lives and open our hearts and souls and eyes to see the hand of God at work in our lives and in the lives of those about us.  We do not have to be perfectly behaved all of the time in order for God to bring grace and mercy.  But we are called to repentance when we discover our sinfulness.  We are called to be saints, and St Paul uses that appellation even for the congregation at Corinth whose life and behavior was anything but “saint-ly.”  To be a saint is to be in relationship with the Holy One who calls us and leads us toward holiness.  We are holy (which is what “saint” means) only because God who is holy is with us, not by any merit of our own doing.  Because of our relationship we are called to transformation of life, to move toward seeing the world as God sees it, to seeking and serving Christ in ALL persons.  We respond as we do to the questions of the Baptismal Covenant, “I will with God’s help.”  That is what saints do.

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