by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
“In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, for I live and you will live” — Alleluia!
I listened to the monks of Conception Abbey chant these words of Jesus. I felt a peace settle within me: it’s the end of Easter – seven weeks after the Resurrection, then the next day is Pentecost (this year, May 31st).
“Go and make disciples…” says Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel. We call this The Great Commission, but I think it should be called The Great Permission. Jump to Acts chapter 1 (verse six) and we find the disciples asking Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
The disciples wanted the kingdom to come, on earth as in heaven. They wanted Permission to GO – to make it so. The disciples were still, even at this last moment before Jesus’ ascension, still thinking of “empire and conquest” – “Now Jesus, will you kick out the Romans and restore King David’s reign when we were top nation?”
“Yes, the kingdom is come,” Jesus replies. “But not how you think.” The telling TURN comes next. Jesus ascends. Two men dressed in white stand there beside them. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky…?” The two men say Jesus is coming back. But you’ve got work to do: GO! The disciples don’t need to be told – like a shot, they are off to Jerusalem, the political, social and religious capital.
Fifty days after the Passover comes Pentecost and the Holy Spirit comes with tongues of fire. The church explodes.
Much of the time I feel like we are standing staring at the sky. We seem to be confused about “what time it is.” Like the disciples, we ask “Is this the time…?” Then we fill in some lame self-conscious answers like… “fix my life, grow our church, straighten out my kid, end my addiction…” I suppose these are legitimate prayers. But they do not answer the question “What time is it?”
What time is it? It is time to collect the building materials for the kingdom of heaven on earth. What are these materials? Beyond redeemed souls, the kingdom of g-d according to Jesus is made up of energetic “greedy” children, the rich who share lavishly and live like everyone else, those who pray for peace, work for justice, take massive risks to life and comforts. Like King David, we are to be stockpiling materials so the next King (Solomon) can actually build the temple. David made plans and drawings, gathered the money and materials, but he never actually saw the temple built in his lifetime.
I believe Jesus comes back (we don’t go away – we go to meet him and bring him here). When Jesus arrives what he should find are faithful obedience vineyard workers; investors who can say ‘see Master, your one asset (talent) has increased tenfold!’ I believe we should be fluent in the language of the kingdom of heaven BEFORE the kingdom comes in full.
Get on with the work. Beyond just a “commission,” we have Permission. It is time to fight the right fight for justice and love, and walk away from materialism and consumer comforts.
You kingdom come, your will be done on earth during our lifetime with our lives as though heaven is realized for what it really is: heaven is all around us NOW.
by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
“My God, it is that gap and that distance which kill me.”
— Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain, p421
I just came back from retreat. Three days at Conception Abbey. It wasn’t that great. I was befuddled, anxious, distracted. I hadn’t been on retreat since the end of March. See, this is what happens. I lost my rhythm. And to boot, preaching, two funerals, and going to China in a couple of weeks. Merton felt a gap between g-d and him. He craved constant connection with g-d – constant Presence.
Truthfully, all I live in is gap. It is the all-too-infrequent spark of the divine that snaps me to attention. But the sparks are few and far between… too far between.
The answer: flee, flee, flee. Flee to silence. Flee productivity. Flee. My hands got ahead of my heart and my mind. I stopped taking every thought captive to g-d. I settled in for Control of my universe. And I do so naturally – control is my default setting.
Flee inward to solitude. Stare down the false self. Cut deep. Go to the dark night and wrestle all night and walk away limping. But – also – get a new name: one who wrestles with g-d. Yes. Flee and wrestle. There is no other way. All else is just self-made sin management, meant to put me in control.
Close the gap. Flee. What other choice do we have?
by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
Parents spend much of their time raising children from the Expert perspective. While this is reasonable, it doesn’t convey Wisdom. I suggest we think of ourselves more as Poets, Priests/Priestesses and Prophets/Prophetesses.
Poet Emily Dickinson said, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.” The parent doesn’t have to know poetry to act as poet. Poets interpret culture and the world around them for others. A parent must make a turn toward god – gain the eyesight to view all as god’s. The sounds in the woods are god’s; the sky and stars, lightning and thunder are god’s artwork. The Expert explains such natural theology as Science. But the Poet interprets them as belonging to god.
The Priest ushers the child into the Divine Presence. Priestess intermediates the reality of god in our world. So to teach children how to pray is primary. By prayer I certainly do not mean just asking god for stuff and goodness. By prayer I mean listening for god’s voice. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “prayer must be a response to something god has said.” Centering Prayer is a practice of taking every thought captive to god… of echoing Jesus’ prayer, “not my will but your will Father.” Frank X. Jelenek wrote “Journey to the Heart: Centering Prayer for Children.” His children’s book describes and walks a child through this deeper relationship with god. The parent as priest takes the child through the gospel, makes it real, reads the scriptures to their child. An easy way to do this is follow the liturgical calendar year, celebrating the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and so on. Lakeland provides family guides for these seasons, guides to be used around the kitchen table with candles and stories and prayers.
Parent as Prophet means we declare the truth of god to our children. We sift through the advertisement during a sports game on television. Wisdom is not just guarding children from the world, but teaching them how to be in the world without being seduced by the world – not escapism, determinism and protectionism.
More than just teaching children The Golden Rule, we help them (and ourselves) understand the context around Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-36… that we do not live in a fair and just world but a merciful grace-filled world, a mercy from the Father. We should not seek justice before we seek mercy so says Jesus.
Parenting is more art than information-download. In short, parents MUST sit at the feet of Jesus first. Every parent is pouring something into the empty cup of a child. May it be the heart of god, the life of Jesus, the real presence of the Spirit. May our children walk their days under the sun of god, the light of uniqueness and never lose their wonderment at the beauty of god. And may we parents prepare them for Wisdom and not just Expert.