the beautiful fantastic 65th birthday...

Yesterday was my birthday: 65. Marking this date was an important mile stone for me. For, like our Montreal sabbatical two years ago, it too is helping me honor who I have been called to be at this moment in time by God's grace. Mostly the day was chill - quiet and grounded - and for this I give thanks. Nothing much happened except eating pizza, drinking beer and watching "The Beautiful Fantastic" (and then "Grantchester" on PBS.) 

Rotten Tomatoes calls "The Beautiful Fantastic" a charming, beautifully photographed modern fairy tale about love and gardening." I enjoyed it. It wasn't earth-shattering. Nor was it completely original. And most of the film critics didn't rate it as significant. But I don't need some movies to re-invent the cinematic or dramatic wheel for me. There are times when I want beauty and hope to touch that part of me that can become cynical and cleanse it. In that regard, this small film reminded me of both "Across the Universe" and "Stardust" and accomplished my refreshment. 

In Reformed Spirituality by Howard Rice, a survey of the way Protestant piety has ebbed and flowed with the hope for renewal, Rice writes:

Any asserted experience of God that demands nothing and only confirms the person's present life is certainly very different from biblical experiences. Emily Herman describes the aftereffects of what she calls "baptismal moments." They are "always followed by a temptation in the wilderness; the unveiling of beauty always involves a stern ethical choice. Upon the seer rests the special obligation to be obedient to the heavenly vision, and obedience is not a natural instinct; it is a matter of long training, of continuous
moral discipline." God's love reaches out to us, but not just for our sakes alone. It is a love that would shape us as instruments of God's wider concern for other people for the key to understanding all spiritual experience is our obedience.

Movies that are simply loving and beautifully presented almost always open my heart.  And that, at this stage of living, is how I understand what is to unfold next: now is the time to live in open-hearted tenderness and solidarity with sisters and brothers who are afraid and vulnerable. Today I studied Scripture and crafted Sunday's message based upon the text:  "Come unto me all ye who are tired and heavy laden and I will give ye rest." (Matthew 11) Tomorrow I will lead songs of solidarity and resistance at our local Fourth of July parade (rated THE best in the nation!) Later in the week I will meet with colleagues about ways our white congregations can intentionally be in solidarity with immigrants and congregations of color. I will bring Eucharist to some who are homebound. And I will work out details for visiting L'Arche Ottawa as summer comes to a close.

The unveiling of beauty always involves a stern ethical choice - and in my case another step on the road of tenderness is required.


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