Why start a new blog?
In the spirit of Advices & Queries I recently wrote:
Be aware that there are tides in silence, an ebb and flow of our hearts’ openness to the Spirit. Know that your heart, as all our hearts, is uncertain, and in need of love. Be open to these tides as to the Spirit; let your attention rise to the Light that is in each of us, and not to what sets us apart.
Are you defenceless enough to do this? Do you trust that in the silence, in the friendship of the meeting, our worship is indeed in the Spirit and in truth?
If I’m to be true to these leadings, I think I need to start with a clean page, as it were. I haven’t the slightest intention of taking down The Mercy Blog, and all that I have written there I would stand by, in the context of the time in which it was written. But this must be an altogether more experimental blog.
During the early years of World War II, Thomas R Kelly wrote:
The light for which the world longs is already shining. It is shining into the darkness, but the darkness does not apprehend it. It is shining into the darkness, but the darkness is not overcoming it. It is shining in many a soul, and already the new order has begun within the kingdom of the heart. It is shining in many a small group and creating a heavenly-earthly fellowship of children of the light. It will always shine and lead many into the world of need, that they may bear it up into the heart of God.
(Quaker Faith & Practice 26.62)
This is a world of need. There is no getting away from it. We may speak as we like about the need for food, for housing, even for justice; but in the end what it comes down to is the need for love, even when this love is expressed in the most practical and concrete of ways. This I think is why Jesus did not do more miracles. His incarnation was not about the provision of a Palestinian Health Service, nor the inauguration of a new Meals in the Desert initiative. It was about the personal, immediate invasion of God’s love into this world, with its contradictions, its beauty, its cruelty and its wonder. I think this is what Jesus was getting at when he told the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21.28ff) and reminded his audience of chief priests and elders that “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” (v.31) They knew their need of love, and they saw, and believed in, its breaking-in. The religious professionals, on the other hand, did not. They were either so sure of God’s regard for them that they never thought of needing his love, or they were so concerned with doing their job well that the memory of their own fragility had slipped out of sight.
In Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 18, Jesus tells the parable of the tax collector, who, recognising his own isolation, his own need of God, prayed “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” Later on in this same chapter, Luke records the healing of the blind man who cried out continually, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” These people knew their need of God.
Pema Chödrön writes, in Taking the Leap:
The sad part is that all we’re trying to do is not feel that underlying uneasiness. The sadder part is that we proceed in such a way that the uneasiness only gets worse. The message here is that the only way to ease our pain is to experience it fully. Learn to stay. Learn to stay with uneasiness, learn to stay with the tightening, learn to stay with the itch and urge of [attachment], so that the habitual chain reaction doesn’t continue to rule our lives, and the patterns that we consider unhelpful don’t keep getting stronger as the days and months and years go by.
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Once you see what you do, how you get hooked, and how you get swept away, it’s hard to be arrogant. This honest recognition softens you up, humbles you in the best sense…
This is what the tax collectors and the blind man, the prostitutes, could not help but see. Oh, it is hard to stay with the pain, with the longing for it to go away, with the awareness of my own emptiness. But it is only the empty that can be filled, and it is only those who know that our own pain is not different from those whose pain becomes our own as we open our hearts in love to them who can “bear it up into the heart of God.”