Looking for the Living

Looking for the Living August 29, 2013

I had the pleasure of being a part of an ordination service a few weeks ago at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston.   It was a lovely space and a wonderful service. Walking in, a friend and I commented on how you could smell the history of this place… the beautiful aged wood and generations of incense and prayer. 

Somewhere in the process of the service, I noticed a beautiful stained glass window behind the altar. Though the image I offer you now is not very good (I really need a class in iPhone photography!), perhaps you can make out enough to see the angel in the middle.  Best I can tell, it is a depiction of the resurrection.  The angel is standing in front of the tomb with women to one side… I can’t quite make out who is on the right.  In any event, as I was admiring it, the words that the angel said to the women came to mind and echoed deeply within my soul:

Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Do you hear it?

And then there is also the story of when Mary Magdalene met Jesus in the garden.  He did not allow her to cling to him; but instead, told her to go and use her voice to announce a new reality.

Why do you look for the living among the dead?”  It’s not just a question for the women of old… it’s a question for us today.

Habits and ruts are so powerful.  Our brains are bent toward forming them for efficiency of life. At the same time, they often cause us to unintentionally resist the new work of God. We get stuck looking for the living among the dead because we forget the deep vitality and dynamic nature of life in the Spirit. I love this picture of Blue Hole from Laity Lodge. The ripples tell me that these headwaters of the Frio River have continued to flow even in drought. Why is it that I would ever choose deadness over new life?

As Brian Taylor writes in Becoming Human:

“This is the scary part, and probably why we unintentionally block God’s efforts to renew us.  For God, in making us new, may make us unrecognizable to ourselves as we are today, as Jesus was after his resurrection.  We think we know who we are, and we want to remain recognizable to ourselves.  We think we know what our personality, our gifts, and our limitations are. We think we know who we want to become.  When things get hard and we suffer, we think we know what healing would look like. We imagine a restoration of things back to the way we like them to be, and we even pray for this.” …

“In God we are becoming a new creation, and by faith we cooperate with the Spirit to bring about what is yet unknown to us.  … What is required of us is radical openness.  This is what faith really is, a radical openness to what God might be asking us to become.”  (pg. 207)

So, sitting in the pew of that old, old cathedral, the question deepened for me:

Where am I persisting in trying to find life in places where it has left?

  • In friendships grown distant?
  • In expectations of parents or spouses whose well is dry?
  • In drivenness or accomplishment that leaves me oddly empty?
  • In a stale prayer practice?
  • In trying to resist or deny the reality of aging?

Sometimes looking for the living among the dead looks like banging on a door that will not open.  As Parker Palmer   so eloquently writes in Let Your Life Speak :

“As often happens on the spiritual journey, we have arrived at the heart of a paradox: each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around-which puts the door behind us- and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls. The door that closed kept us from entering a room, but what now lies before us is the rest of reality.” (pg 54)

Clearly, the first step toward finding new life is to choose to leave what is dead.

Lot’s wife had a really hard time with that one.

Jesus’ words said it like this:  “You have to lose your life to save it.” When I was growing up, I was told that those verses mean that we should minister until we are exhausted. Now I hear them as an invitation to transformation.

So, where in your life are you still looking for the living among the dead?

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