Today I have something very special. Instead of hearing from me, I want you to hear directly from Christiane, my wife.
Most of you know we write a lot of our biblical and theological teaching together, so if you have learned from these sermons and emails, you already have benefitted from some of her insight. This week, after reading a draft of a teaching she wrote, I felt God had spoken through her again, and I wanted you to hear it without me adding a word.
For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Christiane Meyer is the Executive Director of The Tent, a non-profit which promotes sacred space through dinner conversations. The Tent invites participants to be honest, challenged and encouraged as we build together a supportive community over a series of engaging dinners.
I hope you enjoy and are challenged by the words God has given Christiane as much as I am.
Understanding the Times
It is an understatement to say that we are living in some dark times. From the horrifying wars, and its unparalleled on-the-ground graphic reporting, to the news of yet another shooting and the senseless loss of lives, it only takes a quick exposure to the news for one to feel overwhelmed.
Our bodies will either ‘absorb’ all that and feel the sadness, even hopelessness of it all, or will ‘resist’ it and try to ignore it. A lot of times, we will experience both responses.
Is there a better way to deal with all of that? Can we engage in a more proactive response?
In his book The Prophets, the great Rabbi Abraham Heschel says:
“A person’s perception depends upon his experience, upon his assumptions, categories of thinking, degree of sensitivity, environment, and cultural atmosphere. A person will notice what he is conditioned to see.”
That’s a good warning for us. If left alone to react to what we listen to, see, and read, our bodies are conditioned to respond in a way that’s particular to us. I believe the grace of God gives us a higher calling.
The beauty of being One with Him is that when we humble ourselves before the Lord and ask of Him, we are transformed. Rabbi Heschel goes on to talk about how the prophets experienced this.
“The prophet’s perception was conditioned by his experience of inspiration. By contrast of speculative knowledge, the pensive-intuitive attitude of the prophet to God…is to be characterized as understanding.”
This understanding is life-giving. It means that no matter what happens around us, we can always come to God and align ourselves with Him. By the Spirit of God, the prophets were able to feel God’s pain, to give voice to and embody His cry to his people to walk with Him. We may not be doing the same things the prophets did, but I believe there’s a call for all of us to walk closely with God and receive from Him the understanding only He can give us.
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God… The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor 2:12,14
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom… the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:13,17-18
“Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” 1 Chron 12:32
I want to encourage us to not passively react in the way our bodies are conditioned to do, but to actively engage in pursuing God. Instead of being paralyzed by sadness, fear, or indifference, let’s ask Him: How can we help and love those in need?
“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
C.S. Lewis, ‘The Weight of Glory’
Maybe we can start by bringing to mind people who caught our attention or those the Lord has brought to mind in a specific way. Let’s live out our higher calling – the “ministry of reconciliation” entrusted to us (2 Cor 5:16-6:1), and remember:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Eph 6:12
A Collect for Peace.
O God from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed; Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee, we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
May the Peace of Christ be with you all,
Christiane B. Meyer, MD