A quiet late night meditation on being fed by the Word.

The banner for PRELUDIUM has been for the past while this quote from William Stringfellow:

"The practice of the Christian life consists of the discernment of, and reliance upon, and the celebration of the presence of the Word of God in the common life of the world."

I've been reading a biography of Bede Griffiths today and thinking about the Vedanta understanding and use of holy scripture and the high sense of "the Word" as being both about the Creator, the whole of Creation as a "book" whose story peaks in the coming of the Christ, physical and cosmic, and the Spirit of Truth that flows from the scripture and informs both the understanding of Creator, Christ and Spirit. It was an afternoon with few words and time to listen to them as they worked together for my soul's health.

Later this evening I returned to the blogsphere diet of analysis of Scripture by learned people, good people, both conservative and liberal, but all western, scientific, analytical, and primarily informed by scholarship - which describes my own primary upbringing in Scripture studies.

But William and Bede take Scripture to be quite another thing - an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. It is not enough to study scripture and to be bound to it as a specific source of unchanging doctrine, moral positions, etc. In fact such study is a form of idolatry.

Rather, it is the presence of the Word of God IN Scripture, known by living more and more in Scripture's path (Stringfellow) or the unfolding of cosmic Truth in the incarnational events of God's engagement with humankind (Bede?) that is at the core of what ought to constitute our "method" of engagement with Scripture.

An old friend, Jim Friedrich once sent me a post card. On it were pine trees in a snow, the snow had blown all from one direction and the bark on that side was white on black/brown background, almost like lettering. One could almost read the storm from the tree, even now after the storm was over. On the back side of the card he wrote, "Sushhhhhh.... it comes, it goes." It was a hint, when I remembered it this afternoon. Sometimes we need to let the words of scripture simply wash over us.. it comes, it goes.

All of this was helped by the comments of the Rector of All Lewes in the 10 AM Eucharist, where the sermon is replaced by "Stump the Chump," a short exchange where youth group members and others in the congregation get to ask the preacher anything they want about the lessons read that morning. In his comments the Rector remarked that Jesus raised up the young man as a product of compassion, an inner working of the Spirit, rather than calling on God as an outside force to "turn the light back on."

And I am thinking of Haiti, the Church and so many people I know there. There are many of us who would like to raise Haiti from the dead. But what if our motivation derived not from wanting God to be great, and us to live in the light of that greatness, but rather derived form compassion, and having that compassion itself be the light. Perhaps we can raise Haiti from the dead if we are moved by compassion - for the love of the wounded and suffering people - and not for dead Haiti. Raising dead Haiti is trying to work resuscitation, not resurrection. Compassion for the suffering begins the work of resurrection, whose purpose is not to bring back to life, but to make all things new.

OK, OK, its not well formed. It's just there, the product of an afternoon's delicious engagement with the Word, with the words of Scripture, with the words of the Rector, with the words whispered in my dreams about Haiti, in my memories of old loves and delights in new creations.

The thing is, I always give thanks for my Seminary education. It has been a gift that has served me well through the years and now. But my real education is always a work in progress, and just now I am not so much interested in Scripture as the "word" basis for making sound theological and moral statements as I am in seeing Scripture as a bowl, whose contents give me strength for the journey - a journey more and more guided by The Word that creates, re-creates, and dances in recreation.

Well, perhaps I am just an old dog learning old tricks, but it feels new. And it seems a New Creation, as if I was starting again the exploration of the informing Word.

As the Archbishop seems to say, "there are consequences." One consequence of all this is that I fell less interested in being right, in control, having the right values, and other goals of Christianity, which is itself western (and by this I mean most of Christendom, north and south, in the developed and developing world, etc). Perhaps it is enough to seek the deeper knowing of fewer things and without putting too much into a buy in to successful conclusions.

Perhaps I am practicing a bit of every moment presentness, without reaching.

Who knows? Only friend Jesus, and I am sure he is smiling at these little words.


  1. Wow - this is certainly the direction in which the sermon time at Grace, Norwalk went this morning. Something is moving among us. Awe overtakes me when I find myself within a stream in which others are finding themselves at the same time.

  2. Fascinating. I went to a Presbyterian church on Sunday and came away feeling deeply, profoundly, richly fed by The Word. Indeed, I blogged on it - using Austin Farrer's idea of "Walking Sacrament". Well, this IS the Season of Pentecost, after all.

  3. just now I am not so much interested in Scripture as the "word" basis for making sound theological and moral statements as I am in seeing Scripture as a bowl, whose contents give me strength for the journey - a journey more and more guided by The Word that creates, re-creates, and dances in recreation.

    Beautiful post, Mark--thanks so much.


  4. Mark, your lovely post is just in time for me - balm for the soul on the day of the arrival of THE LETTERS.


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.