I know I am irretrievably a "choir nerd," from all those years singing in church choirs, when I drive past the freeway exit for "Duke Street" and find myself launching into the hymn tune by that name (the Episcopal hymnal - and others -- gives names to the tunes of the hymns: this one is known by normal hymn-singers as "O God Beneath thy Guiding Hand" or "Jesus Shall reign, where'e'er the sun" but a choir nerd remembers the tune name. I can't help it.) Anyway, driving by Duke Street I often find myself singing an inner verse of the hymn about the reign of God:
"Blessings abound where e'er he reigns
The prisoner leaps to loose his chains
The weary find eternal rest
And all who suffer want are blessed."
What strikes me in this hymn, always, is that healing and the "reign of God" seem to go together -- there is no "you have to believe this first in order for this to happen." Rather, it happens. It is happening. We know that the reign of God -- the dream of God (see my post in January 07 under "What I Believe") is happening when we see freedom, relief from suffering, blessing. When what is broken is made whole. This hymn goes well with the gospel of Luke, where Jesus sends his disciples "to preach the kingdom and to heal" -- it's not a conditional thing: you have to accept this belief system to be healed. No. It is waking people up to what is always, already happening: The God who made us and loves us is always trying to open up a new way. But first, as people who are coming to believe in the reality of this God, we have to notice what is happening ourselves: that is the first step in faithful "discipleship" -- which is the topic I'm supposed to be teaching about in a lot of places, this Lenten season. And meditating on myself.
So how do we notice the places in the world where God's dream is already being fulfilled? Or the places in need of healing? Three places to start:
1. Practicing the discipline of attentiveness: this is advocated in many religious traditions: Esther de Waal's little book called Lost in Wonder:Recovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness is a lovely invitation to the practice of paying attention to what is around us: when we do, we notice both the beauty of creation, which sustains us, and the brokenness of human relationships and human activity, which will break our hearts.
2. Praying the brokenness: Paying attention, and bringing to prayer, the brokenness we see when we pay attention. This reminds us of our dependence on God, and usually, if we pray sincerely, it also leads us to ways, large or small, that we can be agents of reconciliation, healing, wholeness, starting where we are.
3. Deepening: Learning who we are in relationship to God and to our particular place in the world: our circumstances, makeup, and special gifts. This is the first step toward discerning the "call" to discipleship that is unique to each of us as individuals -- the unique way that we participate in the community of believers, called to be a part of the healing of a broken world. This is God's work, and ours as we grow into relationship with God. It is always a call to return and reconciliation (see "What I Believe" post again)
Reflecting on Healing and proclamation, driving by Duke Street, I try to put together that hymn's vision of the reign of God with a prayer of St. Teresa of Avila. She says
Christ has no body now on earth but yours;
Yours are the only hands with which he can do his work,
Yours are the only feet with which he can go about the world,
Yours are the only eyes through which his compassion canshine forth upon a troubled world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Much to ponder here.
- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.