Life is a Sacrament (3 of 5)

We engage the world with our five senses, they are our window of perception on reality, so we rely on them to interpret our everyday experience. These senses don’t function because we’ve turned them on – they’re up and running, collecting data at all times, whether we’re aware of them or not. When we make them our focus, we tune into what they’re offering us – because we’ve learned to trust them. But what of our sixth sense – do we relate to it in the very same way?

The oft apocryphally referred to sixth sense, is the notion that somethings exist beyond the parameters of our five senses. So, for instance, when we’re moved by the beauty of a sunset, our response isn’t merely about the spectrum of light defuse in earth’s atmosphere; or when we are emotionally transported by a Mozart concerto, it isn’t simply because the notes have been arranged in a certain order, along a certain meter. That in fact such evocative experiences aren’t about the visual/ auditory physical properties of these events, but rather it’s part of a hardwired design within us to recognize that events like these are more than the sum of their parts – that reality has other layers of perception . . . that our five senses alone aren’t calibrated to detect – but our hearts are.

This is our Father’s world, embedded with the meaning, purpose, and significance that he intends. It is God’s intention that we be in relationship with him – that we would know him. This isn’t merely a cognitive knowing, like one may know history or algebra. Think about it – our being a repository of facts and formulas about our loved ones isn’t what drives our relationship with them. A relational knowing of someone is far more intimate and intuitive, and is as much about the intangible as the tangible – in this way relational knowing has more in common with our sixth sense than it does the other five.

122435003It is an invisible God who has designed us to be in relationship – so all of creation points back to him. Everywhere we go, everything we do, by design our senses are meant to detect and entreat his presence. Being omnipresent isn’t just a clever trick God can do – it’s how he abides with us . . . and we abide with him. So the whole of our lives is an invitation to partake of the sacrament of God’s presence – an intimate relational knowing of him.

A 17th century Carmelite monk, engaged in the monotony of his scullery duties, becomes aware of God’s presence in the midst of his extraordinarily unremarkable life. So Brother Lawrence begins to write letters to his brother, which are later compiled into the Christian classic “Practicing the Presence of God”. It is a thin volume employing a simple eloquence, reminding us of the accessibility of our relationship with God. When our hearts are tuned and focused on God we can trust that he is present, we can truly know him as our Abba Father, and he can make our lives a sacred place where others might come to know him . . . as they come to know us.

Here’s a song from a CD I produced for my brother Jeff years ago – it never fails to move me in the way it so beautifully reminds me of how life is a sacrament.



Life is a Catechism (2 of 5)

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that life is a test, a test of character and integrity, of mental and emotional toughness, of grace under pressure. But to what end — to measure us comparatively with one another—comparative to a given standard? Who’s actually conducting this test – us; God . . . if we pass or fail, what then? The whole idea strikes me as insufferably meritorious, or like some academic experiment, as if we were nothing more than laboratory mice. Is this really what you think life is about?

Yet life does seem to have an endless supply of questions it incessantly proffers – questions spanning every scale and scope, leaving no area of our lives untouched. On one level these questions are just as random as the circumstances that seem to be serving them up, but on another level, as each question is boiled down to why that question even matters – we discover the unifying question of: Why does any of it matter? Which in turn, drills down to the ultimate question of: What do you really believe is the point to life?

So if every question life throws at us is ultimately the same question about what we believe, then it only stands to reason that every answer should find its mooring in how we’ve chosen to answer that ultimate question. This is why I say life is a catechism, a pedagogy of Q & A, an open book test, as it were – because for the person of faith, discovering the answer is inextricably tied to remembering the answer. As a Christian, I have chosen to believe in the supremacy of all of who God is and what he is doing in the midst of his creation.

controlBut remember this very question is hardly ever asked in a statically academic form. It takes on the dynamic of circumstance, in its various permutations. It may sneak into your life as it takes on the shape of betrayal. It might hit you like the freight train with an unexpected death of a loved one. Or it may just be the slow and steady drip of a life that seems to be going nowhere. You’ll find it in the anthropological/ sociological shifts in cultural mores. And it’s decidedly woven into every relationship with which we engage. When you think about it, there literally are thousands of ways with which we are being asked the one question . . . a question we often aren’t even aware is being asked.

We best prepare ourselves for life, not by trying to anticipate every disparate question, but rather by immersing ourselves in the one answer we believe to be true. This isn’t so much about resisting intellectual honesty, as it is about becoming epistemologically self-aware . . . which is actually a higher form of intellectual honesty. It is to allow the meditation of our faith to frame our context, that we would recite the question until the answer sinks in deeper, to recite the question until the answer is given the preeminence it deserves . . . until we are completely remade by the answer.

I think this Buddy Miller song poses the question
most relevant to this season of Lent . . .