30 mile per hour faithfulness

Faithfulness is consecration in overalls. It is the steady acceptance and performance of the common duty and immediate task without any reference to personal preferences–because it is there to be done, and so is a manifestation of the Will of God…. The fruits of the Spirit get less and less showy as we go on. Faithfulness means continuing quietly with the job we have been given, in the situation where we have been placed; not yielding to the restless desire for change. It means tending the lamp quietly for God without wondering how much longer it has got to go on. Steady, unsensational driving, taking good care of the car. A lot of the road to heaven has to be taken at 30 miles per hour.

Evelyn Underhill, The Fruits of the Spirit

hospitality and freedom

[Our faculty are currently exploring the challenges of interfaith dialogue in the context of an academic and Christian community. At our last faculty meeting, we affirmed the role of hospitality and vulnerability and the next morning I read this passage from Henri Nouwen:]

Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment.

: Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

avoiding futilities

The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance. Thus we demand that the world grant us recognition for qualities which we regard as personal possessions: our talent or our beauty. The more a man lays stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity he has for what is essential, the less satisfying is his life. He feels limited because he has limited aims, and the result is envy and jealousy. If we understand and feel that that here in this life we already have a link to the infinite, desires and attitudes change. In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.

  • Carl Jung, “On Life after Death”

the freedom of god

[excerpts from the final chapter of a book exploring how we respond to the fear of death]

….”God” and the religious institutions can become as enslaved to the fear of death as everything else in the culture….

So how are we to be set free from this idolatry? How are we to proclaim and experience the freedom of God? In the Old Testament, the battle with idolatry was fought by the prophets. And at its heart, the prophetic impulse is to proclaim the emancipation of God, the freedom of God, the liberty of God. The ambition of the prophet is to end the slavery of God….

This capacity for prophetic imagination, that God is free to be against us, is the great weapon against idolatry. Whenever and wherever the people of God lose this capacity, God becomes enslaved. When the prophetic imagination is eclipsed – when God can no longer be imagined as being against us and for those we oppress, exclude, stigmatize, marginalize, ignore, or aggress against – God is no longer free but a slave….

And what might be the sign of this eclipse of the prophetic voice? What are the symptoms of this failure of the prophetic imagination? Simply put, the alignment of, equating of, and identification of our voice and interests with God’s own….

This is how we know that God has been emancipated and set free from our slavery to the fear of death: When we can hear the voice of God crying out against us in the voices we ignore, marginalize, victimize, exclude, ostracize, harm, and kill, we know that God has been set free. The radical, prophetic freedom of God is fully realized when we see the face of God in our victims and our enemies. In that moment our slavery to the fear of death is fully overcome. In that moment the sacrificial love of Christ becomes fully manifest.

In that moment the Kingdom comes, on earth as it is in heaven.

  • Richard Beck, The Slavery of Death (2014)

humanly and carefully and nonviolently – the example of Dan Berrigan

[Rev. Dan Berrigan, hero of the resistance to the Vietnam War, died on April 30, 2016. The following is an excerpt from a tribute by Chris Hedges.]

Dan provided, for me, the most cogent definition of religious faith.

“The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere,” he told me. “I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don’t know where. I don’t think the Bible grants us to know where goodness goes, what direction, what force. I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanly and carefully and nonviolently and let it go.”

A bagpiper played as Dan’s casket was loaded into the back of a silver and black hearse outside the basilica. Hundreds of mourners, their cheeks streaked by rain and tears, filled the street. I stood on the steps.

It was a few blocks from here, at the shrine of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, that Dan baptized my youngest daughter five years ago. He cradled her in his arms and spoke of faith as resistance. He reminisced about marching in Selma with Dr. King. He asked us to each say out loud what qualities we hoped my daughter would possess. Dan said he wished for “a sense of humor.”

The hearse moved slowly down the vacant street. A man held his fist in the air. Some in the crowd sang a hymn. When the hearse reached the end of the street, its luminous red taillight began to blink on and off in the drizzle, signaling a right turn. Then it was gone.

A change is coming. I can feel it.

– Chris Hedges, reflecting on his friendship with Rev. Daniel Berrigan who died on April 30

The following is from the statement Dan Berrigan wrote when a group known as the Catonsville Nine burned 378 draft files with homemade napalm to protest the war:

We could not so help us God do otherwise
For we are sick at heart
Our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children …
We say: Killing is disorder
life and gentleness and community and unselfishness
is the only order we recognize …
How long must the world’s resources
be raped in the service of legalized murder?
When at what point will you say no to this war?
We have chosen to say
with the gift of our liberty
if necessary our lives:
the violence stops here
the death stops here
the suppression of the truth stops here
this war stops here …