March 28, 2013

Part I of the Brendan Liturgy

“…shall I take leave of my friends¬† and my beautiful native land, tears in my eyes as my knees mark my final prayer in the sand? King of the Mysteries will you set watch over me? Christ of the mysteries, can I trust you on the sea?”

Interestingly, Maundy Thursday (today) is also called the “Thursday of Mysteries”…the day when the “mystery” of Communion was established.

Jesus eternally treads the lonely space between two realities. A space that no one else has or will ever tread.¬† He is one with the Father, and resides with us…but he is the only one to move between the two “states” in completeness. He is unique. He is alone in that space.

Mysterious? Yes.

Fully human and fully divine, He is the logical Guide for one who seeks to cast off into unknown waters: Christ of the Mysteries…

The Liturgy poses a painful question: “Can I trust you?” Not, “Should I go?” or “Is this your will?” (a question for which, if I had a nickel for every visit to my office by someone with THAT question…)

No, we are faced with the naked, humiliating reality of the situation. No varnish, no air brushing, photo-shopping, spin-doctoring or weasel-wording:

“Do I trust Jesus enough to take real risks with my comfort and security?”

Let’s be honest: It’s rare. “Rare” might even be a generous characterization. Anomalous might be more accurate.

Now, I think your average pilgrim who earnestly wants to live in a vital, authentic relationship with God will cast-off into those waters when the BIG call comes. When it’s time to give a bunch of money, go on that mission trip, forgo that clearly immoral indulgence or become a foster parent – the best among us answer with a resounding, if trembling, “YES!”

But I’m talking about the day-to-day-lifestyle questions. Do I trust Jesus enough to let go of my “right” to win an argument? Can I trust him on the open sea of letting someone else have the last word, of being late (or showing up on time…whichever one is the the risky option for you) of saying “no” and letting the other person think you’re a jerk…even though you’re not.

I’m becoming convinced that those of us who long for the big adventures like mission trips and risky ministry endeavors, must first learn to excel in the no-less important but much less entertaining risks of daily life; pulling in the gentle yoke.

Just like the Master who walks in the liminal space between the divine and the corporeal, we must learn to walk in the liminal space between outcomes we can control and complete resignation. The “narrow way” where we are not in control, but we are still responsible…

OK all you Reformers…before you swoon over that last statement…hear this:

Today is Thursday of the Mysteries. MIS-TUR-EEZ!

None of us gets off as easy as just pinning it all on predestination. I can tell you that when confronted with the choice of letting someone have the last word or not…there IS a choice. I’ve experimented extensively with both options – and unless God is going to take responsibility for predetermining my stupid sinful desire to win at all cost – then at least half the time, I’M choosing.

No, to give God control means that one possessed it at some point.

THAT, my friends, is the moment of casting out into the deep – into the mystery, where God calls the shots, where it may not “all turn out fine” for me, where my will is being surrendered, and God’s perfect predetermined will is being carried out.

Mysterious? Yes.

For today at least –¬† I will put aside my fantasies of “The Big Adventure” and consider that the native land I must tearfully leave is Self, and that my friends to whom I wave goodbye are truly just my own expectations.

Maybe someday, I will have practiced this enough to become useful in something more.


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