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Seeing in the Kingdom of heaven

by davesandel on July 28th, 2022

Thursday, July 28, 2022

            (click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Seeing in the Kingdom of heaven

From yesterday’s lectionary:

The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it” (Matthew 13).

Who would not want to live in the Kingdom of heaven? We all want to live there. We all want what we were made to want, to live where we were made to live. No more crying now, I am going to see the king. This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.

But the world as it is presented to us, as total gift, has much to teach us. For one thing, it can help us learn to see. Annie Dillard wrote about “seeing:”

I may analyze and pry, or I may just “let go.” When I see this second way I sway transfixed and emptied. When I see this way I see truly. As Thoreau says, I return to my senses.

But I can’t go out and try to see this way. I’ll fail, I’ll go mad. All I can do is try to gag the commentator, hush the noise of useless interior babble that keeps me from seeing just as surely as a newspaper dangled before my eyes. The effort is really a discipline requiring a lifetime of dedicated struggle; it makes the literature of saints and monks of every order East and West, under every rule and no rule, discalced and shod.

The world’s spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind’s muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness; you raise your sights; you look along it, mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance. “Launch into the deep,” says Jacques Ellul, “and you shall see.”

The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all. But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought. The literature of illumination reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift of total surprise.

Quite often lately, I have been having nightmares. Lost, lost, I can’t find my wallet, I can’t find my friend, I can’t find my way. People are all around me, but there is no help. I wake up too early, sweating and afraid. In the dreams I always forget to pray. St. Anthony, help me! And all saints aside, I wonder why I forget like that to pray.

Margaret gave me a batch of Melaleuca’s RestEZ pills. I took one last night. I think it helped. But still, what is it I think I’ve lost? If this dream is catching on the edges of a barely conscious fear, what am I afraid of?

The Kingdom of heaven is like a net, thrown into the sea and collecting fish of every kind. When the net is full they haul it ashore and sit down to sort what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age.

Am I worthy? Have I done enough of just the right kind of worthy acts? Am I a good fish or a piece of rotten flotsam? Do I belong in the Kingdom of heaven?

I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, working at the wheel.

We sang and sang, “Change my heart O God, make it ever new. You are the potter, I am the clay.”

Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.

I complain to myself about myself more than I should. God’s words and his reshaping of my sordid self get lost in the blather inside me of self-pity and self-condemnation. Does that ever happen to anyone but me? Am I the lost sheep that is never found?

The Shepherd searches for the lost sheep. All of them. Does that mean all of them except me? If I’m not careful I’ll start beating myself up about beating myself up. This is a deep pit. I can’t rescue myself from the pit.

But God can shape me one more time, and then again, and then again, into a new person. He can lift me up, out, and guide me down another street. He teaches me to see, and I begin to see something of the miracle that He has made, in me and all around.

 (Jeremiah 18, Psalm 146, Acts 16, Matthew 13)

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