Weakness

As a country we do not like to be weak.  The appeal of Donald Trump’s tough-talking rhetoric and “Make America Great Again” slogan reflects a will for power and disdain for weakness.  Personally we don’t like weakness either.  For example, it’s hard to make plans for the last years of our lives because we don’t want to imagine ourselves as able to do anything less or have anything less than is so right now.

And yet it is often the case that it is in weakness we can find life.  This is the story of Bill Wilson and Alcoholics Anonymous.  Only when alcoholics admit that they are unable to control their use of alcohol, when they recognize this “weakness” and surrender themselves to a higher power whom they trust more than themselves, do they begin to know life again.  When life is good and comfortable, we can assume we are deservedly blessed by God or simply forget God altogether.  But they say there are no atheists in foxholes.  In weakness we know where our true strength lies.

The temptation is to hold onto a false sense of power and a false god.  The man who talks with Jesus about how to inherit eternal life illustrates this tendency.  He has been following the outward commandments from childhood, but something yet seems missing.  Jesus hears his concern and loves him.  Recognizing what blocks the man from life, Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions, give them to the poor, and follow him.  But the man can’t do that and goes away sad.  He has wealth and power, and there is where his trust lies. Wealth and power are his gods.  But they do not give life.

This story is challenging because we have many false gods.  If we can avoid appearing weak in the world’s eyes, we often choose a life-less god.  How wonderful that we have the story of Jesus.  He taught with authority, but his disciples didn’t quite get his message.  He died on a cross as a criminal.  Plenty of weakness.  But through his resurrection, his weakness became strength.  The disciples got the message, and we have a chance at the good news.  God’s grace is sufficient.  No worldly weakness has to have the final word.

Queries:

Where in your life have you experienced weakness?  How have you handled it?

In what or whom do you trust?

Prayer:

God, you choose the weak and lowly to proclaim your strength and glory. Empower us to trust in you and live in your love.

For further reflection:

“Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”  (See 2 Corinthians 11:16 – 12:10.)

“The heart is normally opened through a necessary hole in the soul, a sacred wound. Our wound is the only way, it seems, for us to get out of ourselves and for grace to get in.” –Richard Rohr

Heaven

As someone of a certain age, I find that pondering about what happens when we die is natural. For some the answer is about going to heaven. A widespread belief is that heaven is the place you go after you die if you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Some would add the assumption that it is where you go if you have been good enough. For some, this picture gives life and hope. For others, this understanding seems too pat, simply unbelievable, or meaningless.

I think there are other faithful ways to think about heaven. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6: 9-13). The yearning is for the two realms to be one—one where God’s ways are fully and completely present, where God’s “commandments” are in our hearts so that we choose to live them and live in harmony with all—the beloved community. God reigns–not human rulers, who are caught up in the ways of power and dominance.

Early Friends were among other religious people who were trying to find a way to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. George Fox realized that the peaceable kingdom couldn’t come through violence and war. He came to know experientially that our hearts need to be changed, and that Christ is present and available to teach us– to love, to live in harmony, to follow God’s ways. Heaven is not confined to what happens to us when we die, or where we go after this life. As we come to know that life and power that tenders our hearts and changes our ways (this is different from intellectual assent to a set of beliefs), heaven—eternal and everlasting life—begins now.

When we are “in heaven,” all that is good in us rises up. All that hurts and destroys is ended. There is oneness and unity, creation is sustained. God dwells with us and in us. Because we know it now in moments, and as a promise, we hope that in time we will know it in full. That hope, held deeper and deeper, changes our lives now and forever. Death, then, I think, is a continued moving into love.

Queries:

What do you think about heaven and how does that impact how you live now?

When have you experienced that sense of oneness with all, of being loved completely, of God dwelling within, of being transformed?

Prayer:

In your imagination allow a vision of heaven to rise up. Take that into your heart and dwell there.

For further reflection:

“I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts . . .” (See Jeremiah 31: 31-34).

“Now I was come up in spirit through the flaming sword into the paradise of God. All things were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter.” –George Fox, Journal, 1647