the charism of tenderness...

Two treats took place today amidst the usual work of office hours and pastoral visits. The first was a visit from a local non-profit administrator who wanted to see what our building looked like. After a walk through, she was stunned by the beauty of our Sanctuary: "Coming to work in here each day would be a total blessing." She's right: our worship space is moving in all the right ways.

The other took place during midday Eucharist. I had considered shutting this small 45 minute event down when I moved to part-time hours. But those who attend regularly asked to try to keep it going. There are usually only 5-7 of us - and it doesn't take much time - so for the sake of keeping our doors open in the wider community and ministering to this small group I've been giving it a shot. Today five new friends joined us - four under the age of seven!  Their presence changed everything in a joyful way and I kept hearing the words of Jesus in my heart:  let the little children come unto me! It was a gas.

Too many people are so addicted to the bottom-line edicts of business models that they miss the charism of tenderness God offers to those ready for the "downward mobility" of the Gospel.  In church, everything is about relationships not efficiency or even obvious productivity.  Brother Henri Nouwen put it like this earlier this week in a Lenten meditation: On the first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel text shows Satan taunting Jesus with three demands that are all too common place. 

Be relevant: do something the world will praise you for like making bread out of stones. Be spectacular: jump from the tower so that everybody can see you as someone so influential, so important. Be powerful: kneel before me and I will give you dominion over everyone and everything.

But Jesus said, "No." Because he knew that God's way is not to be relevant, or spectacular, or powerful. God's way is downward. "Blessed are the humble. Blessed are the poor of heart. Blessed are the peacemakers." Here is a self-portrait of Jesus who is also a reflection of God. In traditional language, Nouwen speaks of God as the Father and quotes Jesus saying: "Who sees me, sees the Father." When we read the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, we are given an image of the face of Jesus, a face that reflects the love of the Lord. Humble. Poor. Meek. Peacemaker. Thirsting for justice and peace. Full of mercy. In this Jesus invites us into the down-ward mobility of God’s grace that sacred love might become flesh within and among us. Jesus, let me abandon my fear, embrace your love and be transformed by your grace. Amen.

My experience with this is that it happens quietly and in the most humble settings. Lord, may we each have the wisdom to watch and wait rather than rush to accomplish one more task!  Let the little children come to me, indeed!


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