There’s a wonderful Zen story that illustrates this teaching. A young seeker, keen to become the student of a certain master, is invited to an interview at the master’s house.
The student rambles on about all his spiritual experience, his past teachers, his insights and skills, and his pet philosophies. The master listens silently and begins to pour a cup of tea. He pours and pours, and when the cup is overflowing he keeps right on pouring. Eventually the student notices what’s going on and interrupts his monologue to say, “Stop pouring! The cup is full.”
The teacher says, “Yes, and so are you. How can I possibly teach you?”
Dear Lord, your disciple Peter wanted to know who would betray you. You pointed to Judas but a little later also to him. Judas betrayed, Peter denied you. Judas hanged himself, Peter became the apostle whom you made the first among equals. Lord, give me faith, faith in your endless mercy, your boundless forgiveness, your unfathomable goodness. Let me not be tempted to think that my sins are too great to be forgiven, too abominable to be touched by your mercy. Let me never run away from you but return to you again and again, asking you to be my Lord, my Shepherd, my Stronghold, and my Refuge. Take me under your wing, O Lord, and let me know that you do not reject me as long as I keep asking you to forgive me. Perhaps my doubt in your forgiveness is a greater sin than the sins I consider too great to be forgiven. Perhaps I make myself too important, too great when I think that I cannot be embraced by you anymore. Lord, look at me, accept my prayer as you accepted Peter’s prayer, and let me not run away from you in the night as Judas did.
Bless me, Lord, in this Holy Week, and give me the grace to know your loving presence more intimately. Amen.
In Praise of Pot-Lucks
Church is a meal. The question we have to answer together is whether we’re going out to a restaurant or a pot-luck. If it’s a restaurant, our individual taste matter. We can pick and choose from the menu and request our salad dressing be served “on the side.” We can rightly regard the pace, kindness, and delivery of service. If we like it, we can leave a tip befitting what we believe we’ve received. A pot-luck is entirely different. If church is a pot-luck, we know to arrive with an offering and prepared to serve and be served. We demonstrate gratitude to the others who have come equally prepared to provide a feast for all .
Do we consume at pot-lucks? Yes. But we consume in an environment in which we also share and serve.
We’ve caused harm, we’ve made willful decisions that hurt others, we’ve invited shame upon ourselves with our actions and yet in Jesus, we’ve found grace instead of judgment, and so we can offer it to one another.
There is a visible horizon with Jesus, because there are things I can understand and affirm in the creeds and confessions. But there is no actual horizon. His love, grace and majesty are never ending. My theology is a map, not a photograph. A sail, not an anchor. Faith is a mystery, not a certainty, because I can never be certain that my mind has captured more than a glimpse of his glory. A hope, not a possession, because nothing I possess can hold the one who holds me.
It seems to me that the only people who can handle power well are those who don’t need it too much, those who can equally let go of it and share it. The only people who can handle power are those who have made journeys through powerlessness.
In general, the more perfectionistic, legalistic, and ritualistic you are, the less contemplative you are. For the contemplative, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. The Christ is a Living Word long before he was a written or spoken word.
Being in the will of God is very far removed from just doing what God wants us to do, … The serious inquirer after divine guidance still must never forget that we could even do all the particular things God wants and commands us to do and still not be the person he would have us to be.