rebirth

Subtitle: on the Tuesday morning following a prayer for a breezy, chilly, bluesy Wednesday*

Some mornings…this morning, I feel…I am born again;
not merely by awaking –
tho’ believing that is not promised, not daring idyllic indifference for this grace –
but rather via sensing, believing, trusting in a renewal,
as Jesus saith, “from above”** and
as Paul saith, “inwardly day by day.”***

I sense, believe, trust
for this morning – when the crow cawed, indeed, when the crows cawed,
welcoming the day (as they do every dawn) with their cacophonous chorus –
I heard not (as I usually do!) discordant noise,
but rather a cry, a call to rise, rejoicing in the gift of sound.

And then, grateful for the gift of sight, I looked, watching
the murderous swarm (this day, numbering four)
take flight to alight (as they do every dawn) on the limbs of the black walnut tree –

Black Walnut tree, Clevedale, 11-12-17at this time of year wholly barren of leaf,
appearing as fleshless, arthritic bones
against the grey autumnal sky –

where they, staggered from branch to branch,
stood on stage, a black-robed quartet to continue their cantata,
the whistling breeze their musical accompaniment…

and I inhaled their melody as Spirit-breath.

 

Footnotes:

*A previous blog post, November 8, 2017

** John 3.3.

***2 Corinthians 4.16

 

renewal (or what I, as a Christian, have learned by honoring my religious Jewish roots)

Yesterday, at sundown, the sounding of the shofar signaled Rosh Hashanah, literally head of the year; to be followed, at sunset on Friday, September 29, by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The central themes of these annual High Holy Days of Judaism are repentance for the sins, personal and communal, of the past year and reconciliation with God, others, and one’s self.

As a Christian, I long have acknowledged my eternal debt to Judaism from whence cometh Jesus of Nazareth.[1] And, o’er the years, reflecting on the High Holy Days, I have become profoundly aware, perhaps even more than through the Christian penitential season of Lent, of my constant need for spiritual and ethical renewal so to love God, others, and myself more faithfully, freely, fully. Moreover, I have come to understand that renewal is elemental to all relationships and chiefly expressed in mutual responsibility, literally the response-ability to act benevolently one with another.

This came to mind during my morning’s Bible study. I’ve been rereading the Book of Exodus; today, one of many encounters between God and Moses.[2]

Moses at Mount Sinai (1655), Jacques de Létin (1597-1661)

For forty days and nights, Moses was on Mount Sinai listening to God and receiving the Commandments. The people, growing anxious in the absence of Moses, appealed to Aaron, Moses’ brother and spokesperson, to make a visible symbol of the divine presence to comfort them. A golden calf was fashioned.

The Adoration of the Golden Calf (1633-1634), Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)

How easily, I believe, humans become confused, attaching their affections to a symbol and not the reality to which it points. And God, in anger, disowned the people, referring to them in speaking to Moses as “your people”, and deciding to destroy them.

In this harrowing moment, the response-ability of God and Moses was mightily manifest. God, the Almighty Judge, didn’t act against the people without first telling Moses. Moses didn’t leave the mountain at God’s command, but remained as an attorney for the defense; yet neither explaining nor excusing the people’s actions, but rather reminding God of who God is: “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…”

Moses reminded God that God, beginning with Abraham, made a people and when that people fell captive in Egypt, God sent Moses to save them and, in saving them, proving that God makes and keeps promises to God’s people. God, being reminded, recanted, revising the divine plan of action.

God and Moses, in their faithful exercise of mutual responsibility, were renewed; each and both. God in remembrance of the divine identity as Liberator and Moses in his re-awareness of his vocation as God’s instrument of liberation.

Taking this personally, I am led to see afresh how I, as human, oft, when anxious and confused, take my thoughts and feelings, my desires and needs and, making them supreme, fashion them into my gods. Not if, but whenever this happens I cannot fail to note how unbenevolent I become toward others, verily, toward my truest self, and, thus, need renewal – always and in all ways.

 

Illustrations:

Moses at Mount Sinai (1655), Jacques de Létin (1597-1661)

The Adoration of the Golden Calf (1633-1634), Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)

Footnotes:

[1] Without Judaism, there is no Christianity. For this reason, I believe that for a Christian to be anti-Semitic is a malevolent expression of self-hatred.

[2] Exodus 32.7-14 (my emphases): The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely. They have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them. They have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

a-Lenten-prayer-a-day, day 32, Thursday, April 6, 2017

my-hands-2-27-17Note: As a personal, spiritual discipline, I write a prayer for each of the forty days of Lent; each petition focusing on a theme, truly, relating to a care or concern weighing on my mind and heart, at times, vexing my soul and spirit…

On daily recreation: O God of Compassion, through Your Spirit, renew, refashion my inner being entire – my mind and heart and soul and spirit[1] – e’er to form an open, upturned hand, ne’er a hardened, fastened fist. So this day, yea, daily remake me that I alway am ready to receive the manifold gifts of Your sustaining grace. Amen.[2]

Footnotes:

[1] Here, I have in mind 2 Corinthians 4.16b (my emphasis): The Apostle Paul writes: Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. While his primary point, as I interpret it, addresses the hardships of his ministry of the gospel and the physical sufferings involved, I rejoice in his discernment of being renewed daily by the Holy Spirit. This, for me, bespeaks the Holy Spirit’s continuous sanctifying work in the life of the follower of Jesus. To put this another way, the Holy Spirit, when serving as God’s indwelling presence and power, is not bestowed (does not come) once upon a time or once within the life of the believer, but rather every day, all day!

[2] Today, after a yesterday and last night and into this early morning of stormy, thunderous,  windswept skies barreling across the Southeast and into South Carolina, I awoke from fitful sleep with these words arising from my depths. Upon my instant reflection, truly, they are a reprise, another facet or expression of a-Lenten-prayer-a-day, day 31, Wednesday, April 5, 2017, On praying without ceasing.