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A pilgrim’s progress: seeking to understand Mom’s communion verse

by davesandel on November 23rd, 2021

Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time,

November 23, 2021                                                                 (today’s lectionary)

A pilgrim’s progress: seeking to understand Mom’s communion verse

I awaken from my nap, “By the Seaside” crashes through my dream. Shocked, bursting off the couch, sure the world is ending, whoosh, the words that carried me through the day fall away like feathers off a dying bird. Then there is nothing, just the sound of silence.

Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections do not be terrified. Such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.

I don’t turn on CNN, I don’t turn on Fox News. I don’t look at my phone quite yet. I have miles to go, and promises to keep. The world turns, and disasters loom aside parades and celebrations, but in just a little while we’ll have supper, sit around a small table, eat our food, and stop asking questions.

There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, plagues from place to place. Awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

Just now the sun is setting, and its red orange yellow purple beauty pours through our Urbana office window. Yes! I woke up in time for this awesome sight and mighty sign, which augers evening. In this precious moment I breathe once and then again. I am alive, and magic is afoot. There’s a Tuesday on the horizon, just waiting to be welcomed and appreciated. Today to live again, that’s the ticket.

See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, “I am he,” and “The time has come.” Do not follow them!

Pastor Clarence read Mom’s communion verse, Revelation 2:10, during his funeral sermon last week. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Now, remembering morning conversation, listening in this sudden silence, I know a little of what Mom knows.

My strong stubborn self begins by being faithful to itself. I matter. But I shudder then, so soon after journey’s start, under blows and tears and doubt. Who am I anyway? What right have I? Through fog and hallucination, I might see a glimpse of God, and wonder what to do. Despair? Faith in myself eventually becomes inadequate and finally … OK, say it: Die.

Because beyond self-actualization lies obedience. Maslow’s hierarchy might not reach up high enough. Knowing a little of my thoughts, emotions and desires soon beckons me into a forbidding forest of unknowing.

He has blocked my way so I cannot pass, he shrouds my path in darkness. He tears me down on every side till I am gone, I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth.

Faithful unto death, and then? This awful obedience guides my steps through green pastures into emerald-hard, black jungle depths. Screams of monkeys and a distant throaty roar echo in the air. Who am I listening to? How do I know where my obedience leads? THIS is not the Garden of Eden. In short, I am afraid.

In time I realize there is something to be said about NOT knowing. My ears retune in the deeper silence. Alongside those words of Jesus to John, I hear Jesus assuring his friends, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

And I rest. For a moment. Paul soon disturbs the peaceful silence. My eardrums nearly burst. He shouts, right into my quiet place, “David! You were buried with Jesus into death so that you too may live a new life. Listen! You are united with Christ in death, and you will be united with him in resurrection. So then, David! Offer your whole self to God as one who has been brought from death to life. You now live ONLY under the law of grace.” (cf. Rev 2, Job 19, John 14, Romans 6)

OK, Paul, stop shouting! But … thank you for your clarifying comments. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Starting to make sense.

The kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. The great stone that strikes the statue will become a great mountain and fill the whole earth. For the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up, and will break into pieces all these previous kingdoms and put an end to them. This kingdom shall stand forever.

My life is a journey of a thousand deaths, and I barely escape each time, and that’s enough.

Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, inscribed with an iron tool upon lead or engraved in rock forever: I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.  And after my own skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.

Daniel knew something Nebuchadnezzar did not. He knew THIS:

I myself will see him with my own eyes – I and not another.

Previously perhaps, we climbed a ladder into heaven to receive our crown of life. Then Jesus helped us see that it’s our Father that’s climbing … down! Into our midst, into our catastrophe, and he carries with him those several custom crowns for us to wear, as he invites us into the Kingdom of heaven, and we walk in. Right here, right now.

How my heart yearns within me!

(Daniel 2, Daniel 3, Revelation 2, Luke 21)

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