Three thoughts are swimming around my brain: part one

After getting a LOT of sleep last night, I find that three thoughts about our trip to Istanbul continue to swim around my brain:  1) the story of St. Francis and the Sultan; 2) the meaning of our music in a new environment; and 3) why this matters given the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey. Now let me get this out of the way right at the start - I am not going to pretend to be any kind of expert on anything (with the exception of music and spirituality) and certainly don't want to come off like a 10-day-in-Turkey-know-it-all - ok?  So you are not going to find any pronouncements or even clear conclusions in today's post.  Just some reactions and questions.

At the same time, I have been studying and exploring these three basic concerns in one form or another since I was 16 - that's 43 years of wandering in the peace-making through a spirituality of music territory - and my doctoral dissertation (A Spirituality of Rock) is the mature distillation of both my research and application of these themes in the local church setting.  So let's just say I bring a mixed bag to all of this: like Paul Simon put it,

These are the days of miracle and wonder, this is the long distance callThe way the camera follows us in slo-mo, the way we look to us all
The way we look to a distant constellation that's dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder and don't cry baby, don't cry
Don't cry


So let me try to break it down like this:  I think Bono got it right  in "God Part II" when he wailed his answer to John Lennon:

Don't believe that rock 'n' roll
Can really change the world
As it spins in revolution
It spirals and turns
I...I believe in love

Don't believe in the 60's
The golden age of pop
It glorifies the past
While the future dries up
Heard a singer on the radio late last night
He says he's gonna kick the darkness
'til it bleeds daylight
I...I believe in love

I feel like I'm falling
Like I'm spinning on a wheel
It always stops beside a name
a presence I can feel
I...I believe in love


And, at the same time, in a real paradox I know in my heart and trust by faith that the radical and simple acts of St. Francis make a difference in the world.  On a macro-level, I leave it to the politicians and economists; I neither know that world nor grasp how/why it works.  But on the personal level, where people-to-people connections matter - and where most of us spend most of our time - I know that finding the common ground of the heart interrupts the status quo of fear and suspicion.  Like Bono once said to Bishop Tutu, "Grace trumps karma."  Not that karma isn't real; most of life is filled with the natural consequences of our actions. And not that there isn't a place for these consequences.  St. Paul was spot on writing to the Romans that:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God... and glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because hope is God’s love being poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

So in addition to all the earned and unearned suffering that we know, there is also a love that is greater than sin and ignorance working within and among us simultaneously and IT - grace - trumps karma.  And what I have experienced is that this type of grace is mostly shared and realized through one-to-one encounters - enter the story of St. Francis and the Sultan.

(I am going to bring part one of this reflection to a close now and resume part two later this afternoon.)

Comments

Josh said…
You and the Big HS got a good Blog spot, gonna make you part of my inner reflection as these days seem to rain down their challenges ... so hey, I'm wondering about that word faith that St. Paul uses -- is that just a word to help explain how to make the jump because it appears to me that after the jump it's not really faith anymore -- it becomes kind of empirical -- a certain form of spiritual empiricism that's individually proven ... or did I jump too far? Miss you big guy but you've always been near.
RJ said…
Hey dude: great to hear from you. Hmmm... I don't think you've jumped too far but let's make sure we're using the same terms, ok?

First, the word faith might also becalled "trust" - a trust that in St. Paul's world is founded on: a)the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; b) our encounters with the Sacred; c)a sense that all of life - pain included - can be used for good if we're willing to go deeper.

Second, this trust/faith is not blind; it has a clear foundation. And, even after embracing trust/faith sometimes our experiences suggest an emptiness and/or an absence. That is, there is no experience of consolation. So, can you call those times a faith of spiritual empricism? I don't think so.

Rather, I think those are times when I look backwards to my encounters/experiences of presence and move forward without any feeling or even evidence. And, to date, even moving through the darkness eventually leads to the light a la John 1.

And third, there is a spirituality that suggest even the emptiness is part of the presence a la the poet Rumi and his "Love Dogs" poem. Do you know it? Google the title and see what you think. I happen to cherish it.

Does that make sense? I miss you, too and love that you, too, sense the nearness. Keep me posted, ok?

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