Reflections on questions & doubt: Thomas as a model of curiosity, questioning, and courage

Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving. 
– Frederick Buechner


I talk to God but the sky is empty. ― Sylvia Plath

I think the trouble with me is lack of faith… often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. – C.S. Lewis

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty! ― Douglas Adams

Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one. ― Voltaire

Who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith?… We’ve all experienced this, me too. – Pope Francis

… the Old Testament, which is where many of the questions (and questioners) are. The Old Testament proves that God honors questioners. Remember, grumpy Job emerges as the hero of that book, not his theologically defensive friends. — Philip Yancey

Songs about DOUBTS & QUESTIONS:

A Sonnet for St. Thomas the Apostle
Malcolm Guite

“We do not know… how can we know the way?”
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
Oh doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after Him and find Him in the flesh.
Because He loved your awkward counter-point
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
Oh place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.
 

QUESTIONING: An Act of Faith

When I speak to college students, I challenge them to find a single argument against God in the older agnostics (Bertrand Russell, Voltaire, David Hume) or the newer ones (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) that is not already included in books like Psalms, Job, Habakkuk, and Lamentations.  I have respect for a God who not only gives us the freedom to reject him, but also includes the arguments we can use in the Bible.  God seems rather doubt-tolerant, actually. — Philip Yancey

In other words, no matter how strong our faith is, at some point we may experience doubt. But instead of being a sign of weakness, doubt can actually be something that causes us to dig deeper into our relationship with God, and can even make our faith stronger. — Jesse Carey

Certainty is so often overrated. This is especially the case when it comes to faith, or other imponderables. — Julia Baird

Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith… Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful. – Paul Tillich

Belief in God does not exempt us from feelings of abandonment by God. Praising God does not inoculate us from doubts about God. – Eugene Peterson

Surely… we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. – John Calvin

I do not believe there ever existed a Christian yet, who did not now and then doubt his interest in Jesus. I think, when a man says, “I never doubt,” it is quite time for us to doubt him.  – Charles Spurgeon

The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions, and we become smug like the Pharisee who listed all his considerable virtues, and thanked God that he was not like other men… Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”– Madeleine L’Engle

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate… I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer. – Brennan Manning

We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can almost be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt. – Dallas Willard

All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it, tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.‘  — C. S. Lewis

I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me—that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. — Anne Lamott

Who among us—everybody, everybody!—who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts on their journey of faith? Everyone! We’ve all experienced this, me too. It is part of the journey of faith, it is part of our lives. This should not surprise us, because we are human beings, marked by fragility and limitations. We are all weak, we all have limits: do not panic. We all have them … If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. — Pope Francis

Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason—the place of God in my soul is blank—There is no God in me—when the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God … The torture and pain I can’t explain. — St. Mother Teresa

For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell. I trembled in all my members. Christ was wholly lost. I was shaken by desperation and blasphemy of God. — Martin Luther

The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble … Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise amid overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. — Charles Spurgeon

If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. ― Yann Martel

COMMENTARY on THOMAS as a DOUBTER

Here’s my simple contention about this passage: Thomas is not so much a doubter as he is a realist. Think about it. Everything we know about Thomas up to this point suggests that he is forthright, genuine, and even courageous …
      Thomas, I would contend, is at heart a pragmatist, one who likes his truth straight up and who relentlessly takes stock of the situation before making a decision.
     
Which leads me to believe that what changes when Thomas is confronted by the risen Lord is not that he is no longer a doubter – he never really was – and certainly not his realism. No, what changes is his perception of reality itself. Of what is possible. Of what God can do. Even of what God can do through him….
     Jesus comes and takes his mocking words and turns them back on him, not to humiliate or scold him, but simply to confront him with the possibility that his reality was too small, his vision of what is possible too limited. And when Jesus calls him to faith, he’s actually inviting him to enter into a whole new world. …
      And this issue of having too small a vision of reality is what I find interesting. Because I also fall into a worldview governed by limitations and am tempted to call that “realism.” Which is when I need to have the community remind me of a grander vision. A vision not defined by failure but possibility, not governed by scarcity but by abundance, not ruled by remembered offenses but set free by forgiveness and reconciliation …
    There are, I suspect, a lot of Thomases in our congregations…. who should not have to surrender their sense of realism, but instead be invited to a whole new reality that God created  — David Lose

So, two things I noticed and wondered about when reading this passage.
     First, Thomas only asks to see what the other disciples have already seen. … Thomas asks for no extraordinary proof to move his extraordinary doubt, but only requests what the others had already been given.
    Second, is Thomas’ reaction one of doubt or realism? Might it be that Thomas was, above all else, a realist? And that reality had come as never before ….— David Lose

This week’s gospel lection offers us a secret room, and, with it, an invitation to touch, to cross more deeply into Jesus’ story and our own… History has labeled this disciple Doubting Thomas, as if his uncertainty were the most memorable thing about this follower of Jesus who, elsewhere, is the first to step up and say he is willing to die with him Yet Jesus, as is his way, gives Thomas what he needs  — Jan Richardson

I was reminded that in the story of the raising of Lazarus, Thomas is the one—the only one—who steps forward and expresses his willingness to die with Jesus. In this week’s reading, Thomas once again crosses into a place where others have not ventured: into the very flesh of the risen Christ… The wounds of the risen Christ are not a prison; they are a passage. Thomas’s hand in Christ’s side is not some bizarre, morbid probe: it is a union, and a reminder that in taking flesh, Christ wed himself to us.— Jan Richardson

Inventory ― Dorothy Parker
Four be the things
I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow,
a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things
I’d been better without:
Love, curiosity,
freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things
I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and
sufficient champagne.
Three be the things
I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope
and a sock in the eye.

ON DOUBT

We learn from failure, not from success! ― Bram Stoker

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. ― René Descartes

Doubt everything. Find your own light. ― Gautama Buddha

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.― William Shakespeare

To deny, to believe, and to doubt absolutely — this is for man what running is for a horse. – Blaise Pascal

Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.
― George Carlin

Doubt as sin. — Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned. ― Friedrich Nietzsche

I like the scientific spirit—the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them: this is ultimately fine—it always keeps the way beyond open—always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake—after a wrong guess. ― Walt Whitman

And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrased, perhaps also protesting. But don’t give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when, instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers–perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life. ― Rainer Maria Rilke

THE GIFT of DOUBT —from Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister (Penguin Random House)

As Voltaire remarked, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”
      The problem is that certitude seduces us. It enables us to believe that what was said to be true is true because someone else said so. It simply cuts off thought. It arrests discussion in midflight. And yet we yearn for it with a passion. We spend endless, sleepless nights grappling with intellectual options in order to wiggle them into a satisfying kind of certainty without so much as a scintilla of evidence.
     Rulers of all stripe and type dispense certainties—theirs—with great abandon. They do whatever it takes—define cultural dogmas, assert organizational doctrines, impose decrees, and use power, force and penal systems—to suppress the ideas of anyone who dares to question them. Ideas, after all, are dangerous things. Ideas have brought down as many myths and mysteries as they have toppled kingdoms.
     But there is another way to live that runs hot and bright through darkness. There are always some in every population who know that life is not meant to be about certainty. Life, they realize, is about possibility. They see certitude as a direction but not an end.
     Doubt is what shakes our arrogance and makes us look again at what we have never really looked at before. Without doubt there is little room for faith in anything. What we accept without question we will live without morality. It is in populations like this that monarchs become dictators and spiritual leaders become charlatans and knowledge becomes myth.
     An ancient people tell the story of sending out two shamans to study their holy mountain so that they could know what their gods expected of them. The first shaman came back from the north side of the mountain to tell them that it was covered with fruit trees, a sign that their god would always bless them abundantly. The second shaman came back from the south side of the mountain to tell the people that it was barren and covered with rock, a sign that their god would always be with them but intended them to take care of themselves. So, which shaman was right? If both, then it is dangerous to dogmatize either position.
     It is doubt, not certitude, that enables us to believe, because it requires us to think deeply about an entire subject, and not simply depend on the side of reality that is on our side of the mountain. Only when we look beyond absolutes to understand every level of life can we possibly live life to the fullest, with the deepest kind of insight, with the greatest degree of compassion for others.
     Voltaire was right, of course. Certainty is comfortable but always unlikely and forever disruptive. As life changes so must our explanation and response to it.

The Blessing of Thomas
— Maren Tirabassi

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” — John 20:29b

Blessed are the ones, says Thomas,
to those who listen to him, this eastertide,
who don’t need a sanctuary to worship God.
Blessed are those who don’t need a choir to hear holy music,
and who don’t need to sit in a pew
to open their hearts in prayer,
and who don’t need a stained glass window,
or a preacher or even bread and cup
to find the good news.
Blessed are those who really touch
even with gloves on,
who really smile with a mask,
who can be kind on Facetime or Zoom,
who follow a livestream to find Jesus alive.
But also blessed is the Thomas in every one of us
who acknowledges our longing
to hold someone’s real warm hand
not just the story of a hand
that reaches out to someone else, and who wants to feel
not Jesus’ long-ago bleeding side
(we congratulate ourselves about that)
but at least to feel side by side
with other Christians
in order to be side by side with Christ.
Blessed is the Thomas in all of us, who lives with doubts and hopes,
and learns to let go of all expectations
when waiting to meet God.

Reflections on being seen and supported (or not) by family and community as you come home changed, or as you embark on a journey, a mission, a life’s adventure

And this is it. This is the life we get here on earth. We get to give away what we receive. We get to believe in each other. We get to forgive and be forgiven. We get to love imperfectly. And we never know what effect it will have for years to come. And all of  it…all of  it is completely worth it. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

The prophet is the eye of the people. ― Lailah Gifty Akita 

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. — Matsuo Basho 

What is a Man / Woman who does not try and make the World Better? ― ‘Kingdom of Heaven ‘ the movie 

Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin,
and in their own house. — Gospels of Mark & Luke, Bible

It’s kind of spooky when you are caught talking to God everybody thinks you’re nuts. They used to call you a prophet. ― Paul Zindel

SONGS about COMING HOME:

So where are you from? What are the places, the people, the experiences that formed your path? What holds your roots? How does where you’re from help you understand who you are? How does it enable you to make a way for the one who comes in this and every season? — Jan Richardson

Where to Go with “Where I’m From” — George Ella Lyon (more info: http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html)

… you can also see it as a corridor of doors opening onto further knowledge and other kinds of writing. The key is to let yourself explore these rooms. Don’t rush to decide what kind of writing you’re going to do or to revise or finish a piece. Let your goal be the writing itself. Learn to let it lead you. … Look for these elements … and see where else they might take you:

  • a place could open into a piece of descriptive writing or a scene from memory.
  • your parents’ work could open into a memory of going with them, helping, being in the way. Could be a remembered dialogue between your parents about work. Could be a poem made from a litany of tools they used.
  • an important event could open into freewriting all the memories of that experience, then writing it as a scene, with description and dialogue. It’s also possible to let the description become setting and directions and let the dialogue turn into a play.
  • food could open into a scene at the table, a character sketch of the person who prepared the food, a litany of different experiences with it, a process essay of how to make it.
  • music could take you to a scene where the music is playing; could provide you the chance to interleave the words of the song and words you might have said (or a narrative of what you were thinking and feeling at the time the song was first important to you (“Where I’m Singing From”).
  • something someone said to you could open into a scene or a poem which captures that moment; could be what you wanted to say back but never did.
  • a significant object could open into a sensory exploration of the object-what it felt, sounded, smelled, looked, and tasted like; then where it came from, what happened to it, a memory of your connection with it. Is there a secret or a longing connected with this object? A message? If you could go back to yourself when this object was important to you, what would you ask, tell, or give yourself?

Remember, you are the expert on you. No one else sees the world as you do; no one else has your material to draw on. You don’t have to know where to begin. Just start. Let it flow. Trust the work to find its own form.

Where I’m From  George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
          from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
          and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
          with a cottonball lamb
          and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
          to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.
 


Where I’m From — Jan Richardson

I am from orange groves
and old Florida,
from a house my parents built
in a field my grandfather gave them.
Black-eyed Susans grew there in the spring,
so thick we played hide and seek
simply by kneeling among them.

I am from a town
with more cows than people,
from Judy and from Joe,
from generations that have grown up
in one place.

I am from peanut butter and
honey sandwiches every morning,
from my grandmothers’ kitchens,
from Thanksgiving feasts in the
community park,
from Christmas Eves in the
white painted church
among the pine trees.

I am from the dictionary we kept
by the dinner table
where we ate words like food,
from hours and days in libraries,
from miles of books.
I am from the path they have made.

I am from solitude and silence,
from the monks and mystics who lived
between the choir and the cell,
from the scribes bent over their books,
from parchment and paint,
from ancient ink and from gold
that turned pages into lamps,
into light.

I am from women less quiet,
women of the shout and the stomp,
testifying wherever they could make
their voices heard.
I am from Miriam and Mary and Magdalena
and from women unknown and unnamed,
women who carried their prayers
not in books
but in their blood
and in their bones,
women who passed down the sacred stories
from body to body.

I am from them,
listening for their voices,
aching to hear,
to tell, to cry out,
to make a way for those
yet to come.

Longing for Prophets — Shirley Kaufman
Not for their ice-pick eyes,
their weeping willow hair,
and their clenched fists beating at heaven.
Not for their warnings, predictions
of doom. But what they promised.
I don’t care if their beards
are mildewed, and the ladders
are broken. Let them go on
picking the wormy fruit. Let the one
with the yoke around his neck
climb out of the cistern.
Let them come down from the heights
in their radiant despair
like the Sankei Juko dancers descending
on ropes, down from these hills
to the earth of their first existence.
Let them follow the track
we’ve cut on the sides of mountains
into the desert, and stumble again
through the great rift, littered
with bones and the walls of cities.
Let them sift through the ashes
with their burned hands. Let them
tell us what will come after.

How do you make room for those who challenge you to remember who God created you to be? What kind of holy space might God be wanting to create in your life? In you? Blessings to you as you discern where to extend a welcome, and where to receive one. — Jan Richardson

Advice to a Prophet — Richard Wilbur
When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,   Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,Not proclaiming our fall but begging usIn God’s name to have self-pity, Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,   The long numbers that rocket the mind;Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,   Unable to fear what is too strange. Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.   How should we dream of this place without us?—The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,   A stone look on the stone’s face? Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive   Of an undreamt thing, we know to our costHow the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,   How the view alters. We could believe, If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip   Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip On the cold ledge, and every torrent burnAs Xanthus once, its gliding troutStunned in a twinkling. What should we be without   The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return, These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?   Ask us, prophet, how we shall callOur natures forth when that live tongue is allDispelled, that glass obscured or broken In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean   Horse of our courage, in which beheldThe singing locust of the soul unshelled,And all we mean or wish to mean. Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose   Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding   Whether there shall be lofty or long standing   When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.

@@@

Three Travellers Tell Their Dreams — Rumi

Three devout men of different religions fall in together
by chance traveling. They stop

at a caravanserai* where the host brings as a gift a sweet
dessert, some taste of God’s

nearness. This is how people out in the country serve
strangers. The Jew and

the Christian are full, but the Muslim has been fasting all
day. The two say, “Lets

save it for tomorrow.” The one, “No. Let’s save self-denial
for tomorrow!” “You want it

all for yourself!” “Divide it into three parts, and each can
do as he wants.” “Ah,

but Mohammad said not to share.” “That was about dividing
yourself between sensuality

and soul. You must belong to the one or the other.” But finally
for some reason, he gives in,

“I’ll do it your way.” They refrain from tasting. They sleep,
and then wake and dress themselves

to begin morning devotions. Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman,
Zoroastrian, stone, ground,

mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the
mystery, unique and not to be

judged. This subject never ends! Three friends in a grand
morning mood. “Let us tell

what dreams we had last night; whoever has had the deepest
dreams, gets the halvah**.”

Agreed. The Jewish man begins the wanderings of his soul.
“Moses met me on the road;

I followed him to Sinai: an opening door, light within
light. Mount Sinai and Moses and

I merged in an exploding splendor, the unity of the prophets!”
This is a true dream. Many

Jews have such. Then the Christian sighs, “Christ took me
in his arms to the fourth

heaven, a pure vast region… I cannot say…” His also
deep. The Muslim, “Muhammad came

and told me where you two had gone. ‘You wretch!’ he said,
‘You’ve been left behind! You

may as well get up and eat something.'” “Noooo!” laugh the
Christian and the Jew. “How

could I disobey such glory? Would you not do as Moses and
Jesus suggest?” “You’re right,”

they say. “Yours is the truest dream, because it had immediate
effect in your waking life.”

What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* caravanserai: an inn surrounding a court in eastern countries where caravans rest at night

** halvah: a flaky confection of crushed sesame seeds in a base of syrup (as of honey)

Silent Prophet — Carl Dennis
It’s the last day, but I’m keeping the news to myself.If yesterday it made sense for letter carriersTo carry letters from door to door,The job still ought to be worth doing.Why tell what I know and risk a walkout?Let firefighters race to the last fire.Let platoons of police set up their last linesSo the factions that come to the demonstrationDo battle only in words and gestures. The day is different, but only for me,Knowing as I do that it offers the last chanceFor a cautious investor to resist his nature enoughTo back a grocery in a battered district,And the last chance for the would-be grocersTo open a bottle of good champagneIn the kitchen of the friend who’s led themThrough the small-print maze of the application.And now they’re toasting the months to comeScheduled to move the project alongFrom drawing blueprints to cutting ribbons.Shall I tell them their expectations are dreamsIf the dreams impart to the day contour and substance? Though silent, I’m rooting for them to let the dayExpand to include the days to be denied them.And I hope that the friend who’s pouringA final round in his kitchen isn’t disturbedAs his small apartment fills with the soundOf squeaking from across the hall, though yesterdayHe banged on his neighbor’s door for quiet.It’s his last chance to endorse a womanBent on learning from scratch to play the viola,To respect her for finding an hour a day for practice,As if raising two sons aloneAnd teaching civics at a high schoolNot renowned for civility weren’t enough. Should I sit on a stone and lamentThat the day is her last if it still contains,Scrolled up within it, the years she’ll needTo master the art of voicing feelingsNot now expressed, at home or in class,About the distance between the worldShe’d like to inhabit and the world she does? Some other prophet, convinced the futureDepends on the flow of time to give it substance,May decide to speak out. I’m keeping silentAs one of her sons sits at his deskDividing a page into reasons for leaving homeAnd reasons for staying. Now on this last dayIt seems that home is best defined as any regionOn earth that has much to teach him,And now as the region fit to receive the mostOf whatever he’ll have to offerAfter he learns where his talents lie.

There is a Zen story about a student who felt he hadn’t really received the deepest essence of his master’s teaching, and so he went to question him. His master replied, “On your way here, did you see the cypress in the courtyard?” Perhaps the student was not yet very mindful. The master was saying that if, on the way to see our teacher, we go past a cypress tree or a beautiful plum tree in blossom and we don’t really see it, then when we arrive in front of our teacher, we won’t see our teacher either. We shouldn’t miss any opportunity to really see our cypress tree. There are wonders of life we walk past every day, and yet we haven’t truly seen them. What is the cypress tree on the path you take to work every day? If you cannot even see the tree, how can you see your loved ones? How can you see God”? — Thich Nhat Hanh

WHO ARE PROPHETS? 

I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people. — Nelson Mandela

My religion is kindness. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. — Dalai Lama

I’m a storyteller, not a prophet. I’m just interested in a good story. —David Eddings

Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of  holy living and send that person out to tell others about him. He always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

A writer is not a prophet, is not a philosopher; he’s just someone who is witness to what is around him. And so writing is a way to… it’s the best way to testify, to be a witness. — J. M. G. Le Clezio 

I think that modern medicine has become like a prophet offering a life free of pain. It is nonsense. The only thing I know that truly heals people is unconditional love. ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 

The poor are always prophetic. As true prophets always point out, they reveal God’s design. That is why we should take time to listen to them. And that means staying near them, because they speak quietly and infrequently; they are afraid to speak out, they lack confidence in themselves because they have been broken and oppressed. But if we listen to them, they will bring us back to the essential.  ― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

God takes away the minds of poets, and uses them as his ministers, as he also uses diviners and holy prophets, in order that we who hear them may know them to be speaking not of themselves who utter these priceless words in a state of unconsciousness, but that God himself is the speaker, and that through them he is conversing with us. ― Socrates 

Holiness is the union we experience with one another and with God. Holiness is when more than one become one, when what is fractured is made whole. Singing in harmony. Breastfeeding a baby. Collective bargaining. Dancing. Admitting our pain to someone, and hearing them say, “Me too.” Holiness happens when we are integrated as physical, spiritual, sexual, emotional, and political beings. Holiness is the song that has always been sung, perhaps even the sound that was first spoken when God said, “Let there be light. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

Being the soothsayer of the tribe is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. ― Anthon St. Maarten 

You do not need any preacher or prophet to learn about God. The teaching is spread on the trees and the mountains, on the stars and the river, on the Sun and the moon. The ultimate teaching is written in your heart. You just need to wake up and see. ― Banani Ray

In solitude and when fatigued, one is after all inclined to take oneself for a prophet. ― Albert Camus

In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams. — Book of Joel & Book of Acts, Bible

 Maybe I am a prophet. I really hope one day there will come Confucius, Muhammad, Buddha and Christ to see me. And we will sit at a table, taking tea and eating some brownies. — Alejandro Jodorowsky

Maybe that’s the way to tell the dangerous men from the good ones. A dreamer of the day is dangerous when he believes that others are less: less than their own best selves and certainly less than he is. They exist to follow and flatter him, and to serve his purposes.
     A true prophet, I suppose, is like a good parent. A true prophet sees others, not himself. He helps them define their own half-formed dreams, and puts himself at their service. He is not diminished as they become more. He offers courage in one hand and generosity in the other. ― Mary Doria Russell

The word “preacher” comes from an old French word, predicateur, which means prophet. And what is the purpose of a prophet except to find meaning in trouble? ― Marilynne Robinson

 If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. — Pope Francis

Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you want is not a sceptre, but a hoe. The prophet does not rise to reign, but to root out the weeds. — St Bernard

It is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than to make it in punishing. ― Joel Hayward

God is in every particle in the Universe. No religion, no prophet can make division on it. ― Amit Ray

Prophets will say things others will not say. God touches the prophet’s mouth. When God touches a person’s mouth, He puts power and authority in their words. ― John Eckhardt

… is the writer a prophet or priest – does he show the truth or serve the truth?…― John Geddes

Another way of judging the value of a prophet’s religious experience, therefore, would be to examine the type of manhood that he has created, and the cultural world that has sprung out of the spirit of his message. —  Muhammad Iqbal

Prophets do not bring new truth. Revelation is simply a revealing of what is already true and bringing it to bear upon our heart and soul. Revelation is based upon insight into the written Word of God, not into visions and dreams and prophecies. These other things are simply tools for expressing the Word, they are not the Word; no more than the water hose is water, it simply delivers the water. ― Chip Brogden

Our Prophet was a radical too- he fought against the injustices of his community and challenged the feudal order of his society, so they called him a radical. So what? We should be proud of that! — Abu Bakar Bashir

The Prophet Muhammad himself sought to erase any distinctions between the message he taught and that taught by Jesus, who he called God’s ‘spirit and word.’ — Ibrahim Hooper

How many more Christs, Buddhas, Tolstoys, Kings, Naskars have to rise, for humanity to have the revelation that, humanism is the greatest form of religiousness that any conscientious being can ever have! ― Abhijit Naskar

On my journey from the fantastical to the practical, spirituality has gone from being a mystical experience to something very ordinary and a daily experience. Many don’t want this, instead they prefer spiritual grandeur, and I believe that is what keeps enlightenment at bay. We want big revelations of complexity that validates our perceptions of the divine. What a let down it was to Moses when God spoke through a burning bush! But that is exactly the simplicity of it all. Our spiritual life is our ordinary life and it is very grounded in every day experience. For me, it is the daily practice of kindness, mindfulness, happiness, and peace. ― Alaric Hutchinson 

If Prophets and Messengers are the closest to godliness as any human is capable of being, and yet even they fail, how the f*ck can anyone, less than perfect, be so arrogant as to expect they will do better than a Prophet, or Messenger of G-D. ― Alejandro Carbajal Estrada 

I don’t want to pretend to be a prophet or a saint. I’m very conscious of my limitations. I know my flaws. — Norman Finkelstein

Between the scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the sea. We are today overrun with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but the Church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with inward eye upon the Wonder that is God. And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.― A.W. Tozer

COMMENTARY about JESUS PREACHING in SYNAGOGUE & BEING REJECTED in HOMETOWN

Prophets are not “guided and limited by in-group loyalties.” — Robert Tannehill

Preachers beware. This is what happens when you get the gospel right. — Will Willimon

After Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 he declares that they are fulfilled “today.” This is a remarkable claim since the passage in Isaiah is associated with the year of Jubilee – the time when the slaves would be set free and land returned to the original owner. N. T. Wright regularly points out that this prophetic text alludes to Lev. 25:8-12 and would have been understood as a reference to a new age of release and forgiveness for the nation (Simply Jesus, 75, for example). — Phillips Long

[Year of the Lord’s Favor]: This phrase is clearly reflective of the year of Jubilee, the year when all debts were to be forgiven, slaves were to be emancipated (Lev. 25:8-17), and the oppressed captives were to be given their freedom.This year was to occur once every fifty years, but it was seldom honored. Jesus proclaimed that this year was symbolic of Him because He is the one who forgives debts and gives freedom to humanity. That was absolutely stunning! It is noteworthy that the English words sins and debts are both translated from the Aramaic word hoba. Therefore, when Jesus speaks of sinners He is also speaks of debtors; when He speaks of the forgiveness of sins He also speaks of speaks of the forgiveness of moral and spiritual debts. — Bill Heinrich

Luke takes notice of Jewish practices, as when Jesus stood to read the Scriptures and the audience always stood to listen. This tradition is still practiced today. Following the reading from the Torah was a reading from the Prophets, which, in this case, was from the Book of Isaiah.  It was the cultural norm that, after He finished reading, He sat down to preach a sermon. What has been preserved by Luke most certainly is only a small segment of a much larger sermon presented by Jesus.
       … The tradition was that men of the congregation would take turns reading Scripture in the worship serviceunless there was a visiting guest, then he was given the honor to lead the service. The readings from the scrolls were continued from week to week and, in any three year cycle the entire Hebrew Bible was read.  That, in itself, was a difficult task to accomplish since there were no chapter and verse divisions.  Furthermore, there were no vowels and all the letters were run together.It is normally assumed that Jesus simply selected a text from Isaiah, read it, and applied it to Himself. Clearly, this was not the case. At the point where the reader of the previous Sabbath ended, that was the beginning point for the reader the following week.  The miracle lies in the fact that Jesus did not select the text, but His reading was the continuation from the reading of the previous Sabbath.  This was hardly a coincidence, but a miracle by a divine appointment.  One would hardly notice a miracle had occurred unless the order of synagogue worship was known. The custom of the day was as follows:

  1. The congregation would recite the Shema (Deut. 6:4), which was a short prayer. At the end, there was a moment of thoughtful silence which was when the worshipers “folded up the Shema.”
  2. A prayer followed.
  3. There was a reading from the Law (Parashah),
  4. There was a reading from the Prophets (Haphtarah).
  5. The reader would then give an explanation and life application to each reading.

— Bill Heinrich

Jesus didn’t come to bring vengeance, he came to close the book on vengeance. Jesus announced the Jubilee good news of pardon, amnesty, liberation, and restoration…but not vengeance. Jesus doesn’t bless revenge, he blesses mercy, and teaches that the mercy we show to our enemies is the mercy that will be shown to us… Does this mean there’s no divine judgment? Of course not. Certainly there is divine judgment, but it is a judgment based in God’s love and commitment to restoration. The restorative judgment of God gives no warrant to a schadenfreudeyearning to see harm inflicted on others. Jesus has closed the book on that kind of lust for vengeance. — Brian Zahnd

Even though we remember that Jubilee never fully reasserts the complete fairness and equality God desires, we look for places where justice is lacking, and places where efforts are underway to create more equity. When we see those efforts, we celebrate them. When we are able, we emulate them. When is it Jubilee? We’ll never see it. But we can access the ideal, just as the ancients did, by celebrating it, moving toward it, and dreaming of justice. — Melissa Bane Sevier

Jesus then provides two examples, well-known in Israel, of the prophet coming to the aid of outsiders:  the Zarephath widow and Elijah, and Elisha and Namaan the Syrian (1 Kgs 17:8-24, 2 Kings 5: 1-19).  In both cases, a prophet came to the aid of a gentile when there were people similarly in need in Israel. Luke probably means us to see an additional contrast:  The widow was on the margins of society and undoubtedly poor.  Naaman, on the other hand, was powerful–the commander of Syria’s army–but suffered from leprosy. In citing these two examples, not only is Jesus further identifying with the role of prophet–indeed, two of Israel’s greatest, Elijah and Elisha–but also telling his hometown people that they don’t get special treatment.  — John Petty

Jesus edited out vengeance, and this gives us a key to how Jesus read the Old Testament. And lest we think that Jesus’ omission of “the day of vengeance” was simply an oversight or meaningless, consider what Jesus says to the hometown crowd in the synagogue following his edited reading of Isaiah. Jesus recalls the stories of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the leper — Gentiles who instead of receiving vengeance from God, received provision and healing. Jesus is announcing the arrival of the Lord’s favor, but he is emphasizing that it is for everybody…even for Sidonians and Syrians, even for Israel’s enemies! Jesus is making clear that in bringing the Jubilee of God he is bringing it for everybody! — Brian Zahnd

Ramsay MacMullen has noted that one’s social pedigree would easily be known in the Greco-Roman world and that a description such as “carpenter” indicated lower class status [Roman Social Relations: 50 B.C. to A.D. 384]. At the back of his book he gives a “Lexicon of Snobbery” filled with terms used by literate and therefore upper-class Greco-Roman authors to indicate their prejudice against illiterate and therefore lower-class individuals. Among those terms is tekton, or “carpenter,” the same term used for Jesus in Mark 6:3 and for Joseph in Matthew 13:55. One should not, of course, ever presume that upper-class sneers dictated how the lower classes actually felt about themselves. But, in general, the great divide in the Greco-Roman world was between those who had to work with their hands and those who did not… If Jesus was a carpenter, therefore, he belonged to the Artisan class, that group pushed into the dangerous space between Peasants and Degradeds or Expendables… — John Dominic Crossan

Notice that they neither dispute that he has wisdom or that he performs mighty works; they are just dumbfounded that it comes from a hometown boy like Jesus. More than just a matter of familiarity breeding contempt, this comes from the ancient mentality that geographical and heredity origins determine who a person is and what his capacities will always be. They see Jesus as someone who is not merely exceeding expectations but rather is overreaching. — Juel

The refusal — or inability — of Jesus’ neighbors to accept his status confirms what the story has suggested thus far: the world’s standards of judgment appear to run headlong into God’s ways. Jesus does not measure up. The circumstances of his origin allow no way of accounting for the stories about him. His common beginnings do not fit the assessment that he is a prophet. The result is scandal and fear. The reaction of the people from his hometown also suggests that real insiders are not necessarily those who by birth or circumstance are closest to Jesus. In fact, those who ought to know best turn out to be the most incapable of insight.— Witherington

Meditations on love for the fourth Sunday of Advent

Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Love is the bridge between you and everything. ~ Rumi

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return. – Natalie Cole

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. – C.S. Lewis

SONGS about LOVE:

PRAYER
Be for them, Lord, a defense in emergency, a harbor in shipwreck, a refuge in the journey, shade in the heat, light in the darkness, as staff on the slippery slope, joy amidst suffering, consolation in sadness, safety in adversity, caution in prosperity, so that these your servants, under your leadership, may arrive unharmed … — Christian prayer from a liturgy for those setting off on pilgrimage, — The Missal of Vich, A.D. 1038


BLESSING Kundalini Yoga farewell blessing  
May the long time sun
Shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.


FIVE PRECEPTS (Reiki principles)

  1. Just for today, I will not be angry.
  2. Just for today, I will not worry.
  3. Just for today, I will be grateful.
  4. Just for today, I will do my work honestly.
  5. Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing.

INVITATION— Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

COMMENTARY ABOUT LOVE

Where there is love there is life. – Mahatma Gandhi

The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. – Dalai Lama

Love is more than a noun – it is a verb; it is more than a feeling – it is caring, sharing, helping, sacrificing. – William Arthur Ward

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ~ Rumi

… But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it! ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Nothing God ever does, or ever did, or ever will do, is separate from the love of God. — A.W.Tozer

… the action and behavior produced by love is distinctly countercultural. In a society where so much is presented in terms of “self”—self-awareness, self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-image, self-realization—to present a way of existence in which a person lives for the other in a life of loving self-sacrifice will be highly provocative. Following the one who gave his life as a sacrifice for us will be humbling and undoubtedly costly in terms of human recognition and progress in life as secular society defines it.— zondervanacademic.com

DANCE— Wendell Berry
… And I love you
as I love the dance that brings you
out of the multitude
in which you come and go.
Love changes, and in change is true.


I Did Think,
Let’s Go About This Slowly

— Mary Oliver
I did think, let’s go about this slowly.
This is important. This should take
some really deep thought.
We should take
small thoughtful steps.
But, bless us, we didn’t.

OF LOVE

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out.  – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In the end we discover that to love and let go can be the same thing.— Jack Kornfield

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do. – Rumi


You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth. – William W. Purkey


Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. – Martin Luther King Jr.


Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.  – Washington Irving


Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third. – Marge Piercy

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. – Zora Neale Hurston

The chance to love and be loved exists no matter where you are. – Oprah Winfrey

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. – Charles Dickens, Dr. Marigold

Asking, seeking, knocking … beyond binaries and either/or scenarios … the door, the gate, the Way, the narrow path is love. Themes from Matthew 7.

This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not “what does it say?” but “what am I looking for?” I suspect Jesus knew this when he said, “ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” — Rachel Held Evans

Why are you knocking at every door? Go, knock at the door of your own heart. — Rumi

On the other hand, ‘Knock and it shall be opened.’ But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac? — C.S. Lewis

The moment we begin to seek out love, love begins to seek us out. And to save us. — Paulo Coelho

Always the beautiful answer / who asks a more beautiful question. —e.e. Cummings

Contextually speaking, love is the narrow gate. — Jayson Bradley

We often remain exiles, left outside the rich world of the soul, simply because we are not ready. Our task is to refine our hearts and minds. There is so much blessing and beauty near us that is destined for us, and yet it cannot enter our lives because we are not ready to receive it. The handle is on the inside of the door; only we can open it. Our lack of readiness is often caused by blindness, fear, and lack of self-appreciation. When we are ready, we will be blessed. — John O’Donohue

SONGS about KNOCKING & ASKING:

Resource for more listening and studying: Podcast about Ask and You Will Receive (from BibleProject)


Blessing the Door — Jan Richardson (link to poem)

First let us say / a blessing
upon all who have / entered here before / us.

You can see the sign / of their passage / by the worn place
where their hand rested / on the doorframe
as they walked through, / the smooth sill
of the threshold / where they crossed.

Press your ear / to the door
for a moment before / you enter

and you will hear / their voices murmuring
words you cannot / quite make out
but know / are full of welcome.

On the other side / these ones who wait—
for you, / if you do not / know by now—
understand what / a blessing can do

how it appears like / nothing you expected

how it arrives as / visitor,
outrageous invitation, / child;

how it takes the form / of angel / or dream

how it comes / in words like
How can this be? / and lifted up the lowly;

how it sounds like / in the wilderness / prepare the way.

Those who wait / for you know
how the mark of / a true blessing
is that it will take you / where you did not / think to go.

Once through this door / there will be more:
more doors / more blessings
more who watch and / wait for you

but here / at this door of / beginning
the blessing cannot / be said without you.

So lay your palm / against the frame
that those before you / touched

place your feet / where others paused / in this entryway.

Say the thing that / you most need
and the door will / open wide

and by this word / the door is blessed
and by this word / the blessing is begun
from which / door by door
all the rest / will come.

Text from which we’re drawing this week’s themes: MATTHEW 7: 7-14

Ask, Seek, Knock
– ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’

‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’

The Golden Rule – In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.’

The Narrow Gate –  ‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’

REVELATION 3:20
 
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

COMMENTARY on ENTERING through the NARROW GATE

It’s a life long “finding,” of surrendering to the process of God at work in us. But WE choose that posture of surrender. We choose to open the gate and walk upon the narrow road. And really, what other choice is there to make? —Elisabeth Elliott (full article)

Do for others what you wish others would do for you. Do you want to be treated with respect? Respect others. Do you expect compassion and the benefit of the doubt? Extend it to others. Do you want to be served? Serve others. He then tells us this one principle sums up the entire Old Testament. … Contextually speaking, love is the narrow gate ... All the destruction, pain and turmoil in life comes from our inability to put others first. Love leads to life, both here and in the world to come. —Jayson Bradley, Patheos (full article)

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation, the mystery we’re examining, more often happens not when something new begins, but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites, and sometimes forces, the soul to go to a new place because the old place is falling apart. Most of us would never go to new places in any other way…. This is when you need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening your controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” … In moments of insecurity and crisis, shoulds and oughts don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep yesses that carry us through. It’s that deeper something we are strongly for that allows us to wait it out. — Richard Rohr (full article)

Contemplation is meeting as much reality as we can handle in its most simple and immediate form, without filters, judgments, and commentaries. Now you see why it is so rare and, in fact, “the narrow road that few walk on” … The only way you can contemplate is by recognizing and relativizing your own compulsive mental grids—your practiced ways of judging, critiquing, blocking, and computing everything… When your mental judgmental grid and all its commentaries are placed aside, God finally has a chance to get through to you, because your pettiness is at last out of the way. Then Truth stands revealed! You will begin to recognize that we all carry the Divine Indwelling within us and we all carry it equally. That will change your theology, your politics, and your entire worldview. In fact, it is the very birth of the soul. — Richard Rohr (full article)

I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I’ve been knocking from the inside. — Rumi

ON KNOCKING at DOORS
 
If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you’re sure to wake someone up. — Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Go to your bosom: Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know. — William Shakespeare

Even when opportunity knocks, a man still has to get up off his seat and open the door. — Douglas MacArthur

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. — Proverb (attributed to Milton Berle)

A pessimist is somebody who complains about the noise when opportunity knocks. — Oscar Wilde

The most sacred invitation that a person can extend to us is to invite us into their pain. But that means that we have to choose to knock on a door that we often prefer to pretend is not there. ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Rain puts a hole in stone because of its constancy, not its force. Just keep knocking on doors until the right one opens — Joseph Gerber

Opportunity may knock only once but temptation leans on the door bell — Oprah Winfrey

The first time when I was organizing, I went out and started knocking on doors to see if people were registered to vote. I was a door knocker. I didn’t even have the confidence that I could register people, so I just was out there door knocking. That was my first experience. — Dolores Huerta

Guest House — Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

SEEKING

Love seeks only one thing: the good of the loved. It leaves all other secondary effects to take care of themselves. There, love is its own reward. — Thomas Merton

There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself. ― Lemony Snicket

I go to seek a Great Perhaps. That’s why I’m going. So I don’t have to wait until I die to start seeking a Great Perhaps.― John Green

And I shall seek you endlessly, for
I am a moth, and you’re my flame
Knowing that I’ll burn at your touch
I return, for you’re a fire; untamed …
― Zubair Ahsan

…there was no point in sighing after what I could not have. It only distracted me from what I did have. ― Robin Hobb

Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable. ― Albert Camus

Very few beings really seek knowledge in this world. Mortal or immortal, few really ask. On the contrary, they try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds — justifications, confirmations, forms of consolation without which they can’t go on. To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind. The answer may annihilate the question and the questioner. ― Anne Rice

Thus Gotama [Buddha] walked toward the town to gather alms, and the two samanas recognized him solely by the perfection of his repose, by the calmness of his figure, in which there was no trace of seeking, desiring, imitating, or striving, only light and peace. ― Hermann Hesse

WHEN TRUTH KNOCKS: Buddhist Story

A young widower was devoted to his little son. But while he was away on business, the whole village was burned to the ground by bandits, who also kidnapped the little boy. When the father returned and found only ruins, he was utterly heartbroken. He thought that the charred remains of a little child were of his son, so he organized a full cremation, collected the ashes, and carried them with him always in a special bag.
     One day, his son managed to escape from the bandit kidnappers and made his way back to his home. In the meantime, his father had rebuilt the house. When the little boy arrived late one night, he knocked on the door. His father, kneeling at the altar he had made to memorialize his son called out, “Who’s there?”
     “It’s me, your son; please papa, let me in!”
     The father, still burdened by his grief thought this must be some wretched boy making fun of his grieving and shouted out, “Go away! Leave me alone! My son is dead!”
     The boy knocked again and again, calling for his father to open the door and let him in. The father, refusing to answer the door kept calling out, “Go away! Leave me alone!” And at last, the boy gave up and went away, never to return again.
     After he had told this story, the Buddha added: “If you cling to an idea as the unalterable truth, then when the truth comes and knocks on your door, you will not be able to open the door and accept it.”
Udana Sutta

COMMENTARY on KNOCKING & ASKING

The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It seems to me that Jesus’ words are a clear directive. Ask, Jesus says. Seek. Knock.
     And then, if I’ve got this right, Jesus follows up a few verses later by saying that God will actually respond … To me. To you. To, oh, anyone who asks. And God will do it without discretion or conditions. Without caution or prudence. Without making a list first of who has a right to which truth or who will handle the answers the best.
     The revolutionary, almost subversive, thing about asking is that it goes beyond making it OK to have secret questions and inner doubts and gives us permission to raise our hands in God’s classroom with a “Pardon me, but I don’t get it.” Or “Really, God? Can you explain further?” Or “I just can’t bring myself to believe what the rest of your class is telling me.”
     I suspect … that we’re somehow expected to keep asking. Out loud. And to keep seeking. And to keep knocking …
     … questions fall out all over the place, raw and beautiful in their authenticity … making people uncomfortable – or giddy … the way we engage our conversations may be more important than our conclusions, for if we abandon love, kindness, forbearance and gentleness in favor of fear, self-righteousness and anger, what have we gained with a mere conclusion? And the second thing she said is I wonder if we trust Jesus to be enough?
     …. “What if the root word of aspiration isn’t only to aspire to? What if the root word of aspiration is also to aspirate? To expel or dislodge the things that make people choke? To tell a truth that is so wild and so free that it helps people learn to breathe? What if you’re called to be that kind of aspiration?” And I thought, by God, if this life is about helping people breathe, I can do that.
     Ask. Seek. Knock. Breathe.
     I used to prefer for God to live in a box. Neat and tidy. Quiet and nice. Now my life is full of questions. It’s messier and louder, more disruptive and fulfilling, than I imagined. And I? I can finally breathe. — Betth Woolsey (full article)

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?
     … He reminded me that the same thing seems to have happened to Christ: ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ I know. Does that make it easier to understand?    
     … Of course it’s easy enough to say that God seems absent at our greatest need because He is absent — non-existent. But then why does He seem so present when, to put it frankly, we don’t ask for Him?
     … And so, perhaps, with God. I have gradually come to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help … Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear. — C.S. Lewis (article)

Mystery is what happens to us when we allow life to evolve rather than having to make it happen all the time. It is the strange knock at the door, the sudden sight of an unceremoniously blooming flower, an afternoon in the yard, a day of riding the midtown bus. Just to see. Just to notice. Just to be there. There is something holy-making about simply presuming that what happens to us in any given day is sent to awaken our souls to something new: another smell, a different taste, a moment when we allow ourselves to lock eyes with a stranger, to smile a bit, to nod our heads in greeting. Who knows? Maybe one of those things will open us to the refreshing memory of pain, a poignant reminder of glory, a breathless moment of astonishment, a sense of the presence of God in life. — Sr Joan Chittister (full article)

ASKING

Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. — Brene Brown

Ask for help. Not because you are weak. But because you want to remain strong. — Les Brown

I was looking for myself and asking everyone but myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. — Ralph Ellison

A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change. — Warren Berger

Don’t be afraid to look again at everything you’ve ever believed … I believe the more we search, the more we delve into the human teachings about the nature and God of life, which are in fact are the teachings of all the great religions traditions, the closer we come to a mature understanding of the Godself … In other words, doubt, questions, drive us to look at how we ourselves need to grow in wisdom, age and grace.  The courage to face questions is the first step in that process. — Joan Chittister

Instead of anxiety about chasing a passion that you’re not even feeling, do something a lot simpler: Just follow your curiosity. — Elizabeth Gilbert

A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of idea. — John Anthony Ciardi

We live in the world our questions create. — David Cooperrider

Ask me not what I have, but what I am. — Heirnrich Heine

… Ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now? — James Allen

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for. — Oprah Winfrey

Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future. — Deepak Chopra

To ask the right question is harder than to answer it. — Georg Cantor

Contrary to some common assumptions, Jesus is not the ultimate Answer Man, but more like the Great Questioner. In the Gospels Jesus asks many more questions than he answers. To be precise, Jesus asks 307 questions. He is asked 183 of which he only answers 3. Asking questions was central to Jesus’ life and teachings. In fact, for every question he answers directly he asks—literally—a hundred. Jesus is the Question considers the questions Jesus asks—what they tell us about Jesus and, more important, what our responses might say about what it means to follow Him. Through Jesus’ questions, he modeled the struggle, the wondering, the thinking it through that helps us draw closer to God and better understand, not just the answer, but ourselves, our process and ultimately why questions are among Jesus’ most profound gifts for a life of faith. — Martin Copenhaver

Between miracles of feeding 5,000 people and walking on water: spiritual self-care and care for others, responding to need, addressing fear, refusing to be someone you’re not ..

You have been walking the water’s edge, holding up your robes to keep them dry. You must dive naked under, deeper, under a thousand times deeper. Love flows down. — Rumi

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle. — Thich Nhat Hanh

See if you recognize yourself in this story: Because maybe some of us are like the ones in the boat who are afraid. Maybe you are so caught up in the fear of making the wrong decision that you can’t make any decision at all. Or maybe you are like the one experiencing the thrill of stepping into the unknown … and maybe the first few steps are ok but then it gets scary. Or maybe you or the person next to you is the one who is sinking … or maybe you feel like you’re sinking because what you could handle last month you just can’t handle now. Or maybe you’re the one who knows you’re doomed, knows that all your own efforts have failed and you are crying out to God to save you and you’re the ones who Jesus has reached down to catch and you’re clinging on to the sweet hand of Jesus with all you’ve got. or maybe you’re the one in the boat looking in wonder all you’ve just seen… you’re the one who bears witness to the miracle and danger of it all and how the hand of God reaches down and pulls us up and you see it and can’t help but say “truly this is God.” At some point or other I know I have been all of the above. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. — Bruce Lee

Don’t you realize that the sea is the home of water? All water is off on a journey unless it’s in the sea, and it’s homesick, and bound to make its way home someday. — Zora Neale Hurston

Songs about ‘Walking on Water’:

Contemplative Water Audio Tracks:

Songs about ‘Needing You’:


Maybe Mary Oliver

Sweet Jesus, talking
his melancholy madness,
   stood up in the boat
      and the sea lay down,

silky and sorry.
So everybody was saved
   that night.
      But you know how it is

when something
different crosses
   the threshold—the uncles
      mutter together,

the women walk away,
the young brother begins
   to sharpen his knife.
      Nobody knows what the soul is.

It comes and goes
like the wind over the water—
   sometimes, for days,
      you don’t think of it.

Maybe, after the sermon,
after the multitude was fed,
   one or two of them felt
      the soul slip forth

like a tremor of pure sunlight
before exhaustion,
   that wants to swallow everything,
      gripped their bones and left them

miserable and sleepy,
as they are now, forgetting
   how the wind tore at the sails
      before he rose and talked to it—

tender and luminous and demanding
as he always was—
     a thousand times more frightening
         than the killer storm.


The spirit is so near
that you can’t see it!
But reach for it…
don’t be a jar, full of water,
whose rim is always dry.
Don’t be the rider who gallops all night
and never sees the horse
that is beneath him.
— Rumi


Walking Water — Wyatt Townley

Inside us the ocean
sways like a cradle
in which we rock     rock  

and are drawn like the tide
to the moon twice a day
we carry our water and it carries us

we are a good pail with legs
foot by foot on the turning
mountain of the world

water walking on the prairie
walking water on the road
up the stairs through a door

where the view rushes out of us
through the window to the woods
rushing water in the desert

rushing water in this chair
and that one you’re in
water walking

and what is solid is not at all
what we thought     the rock
worn away by the rocking


Resources to understand the setting of the Gospel of John:

WATER MEDITATIONS

…water is one of those symbols that shows up over and over again in the Bible. Richard Rohr says it’s a bookmark: that whenever you see the word “water”, you know that it signals an invitation from God, a sign of an opening into a spiritual experience. Baptism, the Israelites crossing through the Red Sea into freedom. — Kathleen McShane (full article)

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity.
We are pain and what cures pain both.
We are the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.
— Rumi

To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. — Alan Watts  

The water is your friend. You don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move. — Aleksandr Popov

Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water. — Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

WALKING on WATER REFLECTIONS

We didn’t build our bridges simply to avoid walking on water. Nothing so obvious. A bridge is a meeting place. A neutral place. A casual place. Enemies will choose to meet on a bridge and end their quarrel in that void… For lovers, a bridge is a possibility, a metaphor of their chances. And for the traffic in whispered goods, where else but a bridge in the night? — Jeanette Winterson

To walk on water, we need reliable guides. — Robert Vande Kappelle

In God’s eyes, walking on water is no more miraculous than the ability of hemoglobin to bond with oxygen inside a red blood corpuscle. — Deepak Chopra

You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help? — Mark Twain

Walking on water wasn’t built in a day. — Jack Kerouac

For as the heavens reach beyond earth and time, we swim in mercy as in an endless sea. — Psalms

Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend. — Albert Camus

There’s high, and there’s high, and to get really high–I mean so high that you can walk on the water, that high–that’s where I’m goin’. — George Harrison

A Word from Jesus calms the sea,
The stormy wind controls;
And gives repose and liberty
To tempest-tossed souls.

To Peter on the waves he came,
And gave him instant peace;
Thus he to me revealed his name,
And bid my sorrows cease. Then filled with wonder, joy and love,
Peter’s request was mine;
Lord, call me down, I long to prove
That I am wholly thine.

Unmoved at all I have to meet
On life’s tempestuous sea;
Hard, shall be easy; bitter, sweet,
So I may follow thee. He heard and smiled, and bid me try,
I eagerly obeyed;
But when from him I turned my eye,
How was my soul dismayed!

The storm increased on every side,
I felt my spirit shrink;
And soon, with Peter, loud I cried,
Lord, save me, or I sink.

Kindly he caught me by the hand,
And said, Why dost thou fear?
Since thou art come at my command,
And I am always near.

Upon my promise rest thy hope,
And keep my love in view;
I stand engaged to hold thee up,
And guide thee safely through.

— John Newton

COMMENTARY on WALKING on WATER (referring to multiple Gospel versions of this story)

It’s been said that if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. Sometimes getting out of the boat looks like showing up for another recovery meeting. Sometimes it looks like filling out hospital paperwork for an elderly neighbor. Sometimes it looks like making a casserole for the family down with the flu or offering free babysitting for the friend with a job interview. Sometimes it looks like jumping when it matters. What does “getting out of the boat” look like for you? What does it mean to “jump when it matters”? — Rachel Held-Evans

But all these characters in the walking on water story – the cautious ones in the boat, the brave one who walked for a time on water, the same one who is afraid and sinks and calls for help, and the ones who saw it all and confessed that Jesus is the son of God they are all actually equal in their relationship to
God because…all of these and you have one thing in common: they are those whom Jesus draws near saying “it is I, do not be afraid”. … But what happens on either side of his short little water walk? … In the storm Jesus is walking toward the boat … Jesus is reaching … he comes so much toward them all that finally he just gets in the damn boat. That’s about as with them as he can be. … the whole story is about how much Jesus walks toward them, reaches toward them, and then even gets in the boat with them. — Nadia Bolz-Weber (full sermon)

God is always calling on us to do the impossible. It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during his life here on earth is something we should be able to do, too. … Sometimes I will sit on a sun-warmed rock to dry, and think of Peter walking across the water to meet Jesus. As long as he didn’t remember that we human beings have forgotten how to walk on water, he was able to do it. — Madeline L’Engle

This is not what I bargained for, not the way I pictured it all in my head as I prepared to step out of the boat … The waves no longer seem inviting — they are a bit scary and unwelcoming. The boat seems much warmer, stable, secure, and yes — safe. Faith in me reminds me that it’s all an illusion — all the trappings and walls and safeguards we wrap around ourselves are really just as flimsy as a wooden boat on a stormy sea and that walking on water with Jesus is — in a reality that I can’t fully see yet — actually safer… Now is not the time for me to make the pro/con list — in fact, that list may never work for a life of faith. Now is the time for me to keep my eyes on Jesus and refuse to look down. My feet are wet and cold and I keep glancing back to a boat I can no longer return to but I don’t know what lies ahead… When we obey in faith, there is often an in-between space called liminal space. This is the space after we take our big step of faith out of the boat and come ahead with Jesus and before He shows us what’s next. It’s the time between what was and the next chapter of our journey. It’s a transition phase where we no longer fit where we were but don’t yet fit where we’re going. It can feel barren or we can choose to harness that time. It’s a waiting room, a threshold as we embark on something new... This liminal space feels like I’m trying to walk on water in the middle of the night. It’s dark. There are no road signs or directions — only the faint persistent memory of how certain I was when I stepped out. I am aware that God is near but the wobbliness of the water beneath my feet feels so foreign that I wonder how this can be a safe place in God’s will.— Mary Gallagher (full article)

It is true that Jesus was already walking on water when Peter got out of the boat. But I am not that impressed by Jesus walking on water.  I mean, he was God, after all. Of course, he could walk on water. But for Peter, it is different. He was a human being, like me. And I identify with Peter. He made a lot of mistakes. He sometimes misunderstood Jesus’ teachings. He argued with the other disciples about which one was the greatest. He wanted to build housing for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on the sacred ground of the Mount of Transfiguration, completely misunderstanding the message that Moses and Elijah had brought. He tried to talk Jesus out of sacrificing his life and balked at Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. He fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus as about to be crucified and, when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied him three times. And when Jesus ordered him to walk on water, he did it trustingly for a while, then he became fearful and went under. Jesus had to “save” him. Yet Peter was the first disciple to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and the first to realize that the man walking on water through the storm that day was Jesus. He was the only disciple to get out of the boat and he did walk on water, even if he eventually succumbed to his doubts and started to sink. As a disciple, Peter followed Jesus wholeheartedly and was dismayed by the dumb things he sometimes did. I believe it was both because of his mistakes and his faithfulness that Jesus designated him as the Rock on which he would build his church… I love the story of Peter walking on water because it is about taking spiritual risks and about faith and hope and trust. I feel as if I have spent a lot of my life walking on water, spiritually, psychologically, and materially. Sometimes I have felt as if I was sinking, too.
     I also love the story because it so dramatically captures the concept of liminal space. The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word for “threshold” and liminal space refers to an in-between or transitional condition in which one is “neither here nor there,” or, sometimes, both here and there. Peter has left the boat but has not arrived anywhere yet. He is in transition. He is in a liminal space. — Jacqueline Wallen (full article)

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