Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rabbouni



This word rabbouni seized my thoughts a few days ago while reading John’s account of Mary Magdalene being the first to encounter the risen Christ. Troubled and confused, her mind wouldn’t allow her to recognize him at first. Her intellectual knowledge of Jesus’ gruesome death couldn’t accept that he was alive again. Flesh and blood standing right there with her in her doubts and despair. Then the resurrected Lord simply spoke her name and through his speaking revealed himself as her rabbouni—her personal, intimate teacher. I’ve mentally ruminated this word rabbouni since then.

The first word we hear spoken to Jesus in John’s Gospel is rabbi—which means teacher. For three years Jesus was their teacher, their rabbi. He taught them the ways of God. How to pray. How to be a neighbor. How to love. Like many present-day Christians, the disciples had intellectual knowledge about God but couldn’t quite grasp the full meaning of this head knowledge. Occasionally one or two of them would get a glimmer of the deeper truth but then the phantasm would slip away. They couldn’t comprehend how you can gain your life by losing it. How you could really love your neighbor as yourself. How you can be born a second time.

As I prayed the Psalms this morning the Spirit brought this cud ‘rabbouni’ back up for me to chew again. In Psalm 143 David cries out to God, Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. But David isn’t satisfied with just head knowledge about God. He groans, Let me experience your faithful love…  He longed to go beyond intellectual knowledge about God to personal, experiential knowledge of God’s love. Experiential love is what taught David to be ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ Experiential love transformed Christ from the early disciples’ rabbi into their rabbouni—their personal, intimate teacher.

I, like the disciples, had head knowledge of Christ. I knew the stories and the facts. Then, one evening in the summer of ’78, Jesus spoke my name and my heart opened to the experiential love of Christ. In the words of second century Bishop Melito of Sardis, Nature trembled and said with astonishment: What new mystery is this? …the Invisible One is seen …the Incomprehensible One is comprehended. 

Just as he did with Mary, Christ revealed himself by calling my name.  He became my rabbouni—my personal, intimate teacher. He revealed to me the mystery of life in him. And he continues to instruct me in this mysterious way. For I am but a beginner in this walk of faith, a small child toddling among Saints. I’m at my best when, like the psalmist, I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wine Not Pressed From Grapes



I taste a wine not pressed from grapes.
               -Rumi

This morning, while foraging for breakfast under the pecan trees out front and thanking the Lord for sending this slow, soaking rain to break the drought, my peripatetic mind wandered through a few random quotes on idleness, solitude, and prayer which I have etched into my vade mecum and my mind.  It all began with an adumbral image of God devoting a year to make each of these pecans I’m now savoring.  If he thinks it fit to make the extravagant investment of a year in something as transient as a pecan perhaps we should be more intentional toward the slow work of maturing our eternal souls.

It is the silent, empty, and apparently ‘useless’ element in the life of prayer which makes it truly a life.
              -Thomas Merton

Friday, October 23, 2015

Communion on the Bridge



The house is cold, dark, and quiet as I awaken. The fire in the rusty metal woodstove died down hours ago along with the evening’s after dinner chatter. Reaching from under the down comforter I pull back the heavy window curtain to reveal a bright crescent moon and an infinite field of stars. The Spirit is calling me to come away, alone into the night, just as he did my Lord so many times.

Donning the wool beanie my daughter knit for me and a puffy jacket for warmth I slip downstairs into the night. In the yard a billion points of light pierce the veil of darkness over this Himalayan Buddhist kingdom as the nearby water-powered prayerwheel, persistent but futile, chimes with each revolution.

Holding the clapper in the bell hanging over the gate so I don’t awaken the dogs I slip out into the village. Moving by moonlight clockwise around the chorten and down the rough worn steps onto the cobblestone path. Faint images of prayer flags fluttering in the cold mountain winds everywhere I turn. Whitewater sounds call me down the trail and out onto the ancient, heavy timber footbridge. Thunderous snowmelt from the mountain above drowns out the incessant voices in my head leaving the peaceful solitude for which I thirst.

I ponder the symbolism of the bridge as a portal from one world to the next, a threshold from one reality to another. Pausing in the middle as if halfway between worlds I lift my eyes in prayer to the Creator of heaven and earth, praising God for each star, for each person sleeping in the darkened homes around me, for the opportunity to be a small light here in their dark world, for God’s call on my life to be a bridge between this pervasive darkness and the light of God’s love for each of us. Quietly, thankfully, prayerfully I lay the elements out on the bridge railing altar and celebrate the Lord’s Supper in the midst of this engulfing darkness.

I may well be the first person to worship the true and living God in this remote valley, the first to celebrate communion in this place. Psalms 69:30-31 tells us that God desires our praise and thanksgiving more than our offerings. Jesus taught Martha and Mary that God longs for our presence to him much more than our works for him.  The unum necessarium, the one thing necessary is for us to sit at Jesus’ feet listening to what he says.  

It’s incomprehensible how my being here can possibly make a difference. How my prayers and my praise bring light into darkness. But I rest in personal, experiential knowledge that God works in mysterious, ineffable ways. He made his mystery known to me through the prayers of others. I trust that he has called me here to pray his peace into these people and that somehow he will open their hearts and minds to receive his Word which we have shared.