Sunday, October 17, 2004

Created Unique; Called to Faithfulness

Archbishop Tutu's first meditation on Monday emphasized that each one of us is a unique creation, and that the act of creating each one of us is an ongoing project. It might be wonderful if each of us was created complete in an instant, but this is simply not the case. The Archbishop quoted that well-known line; "God writes straight with crooked lines." In this instance, we were to understand this to mean that when things don't quite work out, God changes the plan. God waits until conditions are just right for the emergence of you.

This approach, that our creation is ongoing, is quite similar to Irenaeus' view of human progress. Our destiny is not carved in stone; we are given room to evolve into the unique creation we were always intended to be. Sometimes this emergence is accomplished through a series of stumbles and even falls, especially for those of us who prefer the school of hard knocks.

The Archbishop commented that his favorite prophet was Jeremiah. Why? Because he is such a crybaby. "Oh no, I'm not doing that...try next door!" Not only crybabies, but even folks we might think of as monsters are still children of God, as they still have the capacity for change, and their creation is still in process. "God expands to include what we call rubbish," the Archbishop told us.

He suggested to us that we have attempted to domesticate the Gospel; to make it respectable and beautiful. The truth of the matter, as he sees it, is that God has very low standards. A man spends his entire life as a thief, and that is all changed in a moment; "...remember me?" "Today you will be with me..." The Archbishop assured us that we will all be surprised by those we meet in heaven, and those we don't!

God wants everyone. He quoted Origen; "Even the devil cannot resist the love of the divine!" Why does God embrace such a radical inclusiveness? He used the example of an orchestra, which ebbs and flows through a complex piece, only to pause for the player of the triangle to contribute; "Ding!"

Our response to God is the new thing; without it, like the sound of the triangle, something would be lost. He concluded this first segment by calling us to remember that each one of us is a beautiful and unique creation. He did suggest that we might take liberties in how we use these adjectives; "I'm beautiful, but you're unique!"

We had a few hours of "free time" before Evensong, dinner and the next meditation. Some chose to pray, read, hike or nap. I chose to get in my car and go to town in search for the nearest camera store to pick up some accessories. I met a fascinating salesperson, who immigrated from Greece just a few years ago, but I digress.

During the evening meditation, the Archbishop reminded all of us to be faithful to our ordination vow to be a person of prayer. As an example, he recalled the story of Moses and the burning bush. Then he asked us, "What if Moses would have decided to sleep in a bit longer that day? He would have missed that transformative event." As the Archbishop put it, "God expects us to be there, and wants to bless us as he did Moses."

He recommended to us the discipline used throughout the Anglican Communion of praying the Daily Office, Morning and Evening Prayer, as a part of our spiritual discipline. The Archbishop told us, "I don't know how to pray, so I throw myself into the stream of those who do." When we don't know how to pray, we can also throw ourselves into the stream of worship offered by the Church.

He quoted from the South African ordinal, which calls the priest to "bear the people on your hearts, as Aaron..." This is a reference to the breastplate Aaron wore when entering the Holy of Holies. It is the duty of a priest to stand before God and God's people, as a bridge between these two worlds.

This is very similar to what Michael Ramsey said in his little book The Christian Priest Today; "Be a person of prayer, with the people of God on your heart."

The final quote, which may be the one thing Archbishop Tutu said that hit me right between the eyes, was the following;

God doesn't look to us to be successful. God wants us to be faithful.
I'll be repeating that one to myself for quite some time.

Next; Down from the Mountain


St. Joseph's in the Hills, The Malvern Retreat House

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