by Clint Baldwin, Executive Director We had included this reflection in a monthly newsletter to our staff but wanted to make it available to friends of Word Made Flesh as well. Thank you for partnering with WMF and being a part of God’s work to bring healing, hope, and peace to our neighbors in need around the world.
Greetings to all of us who, besides being friends, are also sisters and brothers in this life because of the goodness of the Lord at work in us. The Lord has been so gracious to graft us into the vine of Life — life together and life more abundantly. We are all in this together, journeying together, serving together, hoping together. There is room and need for each one of us.
I have two reflective passages that I recently encountered that I would like to share with you. As with me, I hope that they also might strike a chord within you of sober hope.
The passages that I will share reminded me of 2 Cor. chapter 4 in the sense that often things/events/people that we encounter in the immediacy of everyday life are difficult, but as C.S. Lewis offered on June 8, 1941 at University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford, they all carry a “weight of glory” in them.
Before sharing 2 Cor. 4, allow me to offer an ending portion of Lewis’ sermon [with apologies for not updating his language for our current era] so you can taste its poignancy of explicating who we are in the world and how we are to be in the world:
“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit— immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”
From here, 2 Cor. 4 leads us forward:
2 Corinthians 4 (NIV)
Present Weakness and Resurrection Life
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same Spirit-given faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
So, we are constantly bombarded by the seemingly mundane, by the temporary, by the boorish, by the disappointing and disconcerting, and yet… And yet, there are constant unseen, eternal forces at work; for those with eyes to see, there is the “weight of glory” that is pervasive. In a world that seeks to keep our gaze superficial and materialistic (in the sense of being tied to the material world), we instead need to dive deep, past the surface, to insights and rhythms that await us out beyond the breakers.
As Palmer writes of E.B. White sharing about his wife Katherine, no matter what don’t ever stop “calmly plotting the resurrection!”
Parker J. Palmer
October 8 at 6:00 AM
Almost sixty years ago, in my early twenties, I decided to become a writer. So I began studying the work of writers I admired, and E.B. White was at the top of my list.
I’m still reading him, trying to figure out how he always manages to write from “the simplicity that lies on the other side of complexity.”
Having read White in the springtime of my adult life, it was wonderful to find this piece on the way his wife, Katharine, lived into the late autumn of her life, “calmly plotting the resurrection.”
I love what my old friend Bob Raines wrote in the book where he shared the White quote: “There is room for all of us in the resurrection conspiracy, the company of those who plant seeds of hope in dark times of grief or oppression…”
We live in such times, so let us be grateful for those who spend their days planting seeds of hope. In fact, let us BE such people! Some day, those seeds will flower—may that day come soon.
Below is the second piece that I have recently encountered reminding me of the importance of doing the hard work of moving beyond the shallows to letting “deep meet deep.” The quotation of Jean Vanier on community was shared via the Northumbria Community — a loose-knit, ecumenicist, monastically oriented, intentional community in northern England. The quotation soberingly reminds us that we enter into a fellowship that will never be perfect per se, but that we enter into such fellowship anyhow because beyond the concerns that it authentically reveals; it facilitates deep good and primarily, as Vanier also writes, we do it “because we have somehow been called together by God.”
Encouragingly, as noted above, the revelation of imperfection and limitation is not the end, but the beginning of further health. Jean Vanier, in chapter two of his book Community and Growth, shares about differing stages of communal encounter and navigation.
“Almost everyone finds their early days in a community ideal. It all seems perfect. They seem unable to see the drawbacks; they only see what is good. Everything is marvellous; everything is beautiful; they feel that they are surrounded by saints, heroes or, at least, exceptional people who are everything they want to be themselves. And then comes the period of let-down – generally linked to a time of tiredness, a sense of loneliness or homesickness, some setback, a brush with authority. During this time of ‘depression’, everything becomes dark; people now see only the faults of others and the community; everything gets on their nerves. They feel they are surrounded by hypocrites who either think only of rules, regulations and structures, or who are completely disorganised and incompetent. Life becomes intolerable. The greater their idealisation of the community at the start, the more they put the people at its head on pedestals, the greater the disenchantment. It’s from a height that you fall down into a pit. If people manage to get through this second period, they come to the third phase – that of realism and a true commitment, of covenant. Members of the community are no longer saints or devils, but people – each a mixture of good and bad, each growing and each with their own hope. It is at this time of realism that people put their roots down. The community is neither heaven nor hell, but planted firmly on earth, and they are ready to walk in it and with it. They accept the other members and the community as they are; they are confident that together they can grow towards something more beautiful….
Many people who have lived together for years and whose love for one another has been often tested know that community has not resulted from the fact that they were able to hold together but from the knowledge that they were somehow held together by a greater force. We are a community not because we happen to like each other, or share a common task, but because we have somehow been called together by God.”
We all journey into and traverse community in varied manner (there is space for each of us!); but in one way, shape, or form, we are all on the journey together. I think it is particularly poignant when Vanier writes, “People enter community to be happy. They stay when they find happiness comes in making others happy.”
So, as I mentioned toward the beginning of this reflection, I hope that this all has struck a chord within you of sober hope. Eternal possibilities are all about us! Lord grant us eyes to see!
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed….
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Grace and peace, friends.
Grace and peace, sisters and brothers.
Grace and peace,