Tuesday, July 22, 2008

“A Traveling Mind-set”

Today the conference looked at issues stemming from the Gospel statement: “I am the bread of life.” At the Eucharist, in the small Bible study groups and the larger indaba groups and conference plenary sessions there were references to Christ being the Life of the World: “aliveness” somebody suggested as a good understanding of the phrase. We ended the day listening to a Vatican nuncio talk on ecumenical relations with the Roman Catholic Church.

My current favorite author Alain de Botton would have been a great speaker on the topic of aliveness (the Vatican representative was not). In his book The Art of Travel he talks about “A Travelling mind-set [British spelling].” “Receptivity might be said to be its chief characteristic. Receptive, we approach new places with humility. We carry with us no rigid ideas about what is or is not interesting. We irritate locals because we stand in traffic islands and narrow streets and admire what they take to be unremarkable small details [like flower borders along a river and rabbits on the campus grounds]…home by contrast finds us more settled in our expectations. We feel assured that we have discovered everything interesting about our neighborhood, primarily by virtue of our having lived there a long time. It seems inconceivable that there could anything new to find in a place where we have been living for a decade or more. We have become habituated and therefore blind to it.”

O that we could be receptive to one another! Learning to see beauty in our surroundings and in the people around us, holding all life sacred, respecting the dignity of every human being; these are Baptismal things and they are essential to being fully alive in Christ. Life is an adventure.

Sometimes the adventure feels like a roller coaster ride. One friend today commented he was tired of the roller coaster: up and down, faster and faster: people saying “Although we may never do what you have done in New Hampshire, we would never break communion with you.” Others approach him and say: “Don’t take it personally but there is no way we can stay in communion with a church like yours” (That must be the episcopal version of telling the truth with love).

None of us is really sure where we are going on this trip, and I have decided to stop feeling miserable about what might happen. I keep reminding myself that I can only live in the present moment, the past is passed and the future hasn’t happened. Jesus said consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air…we’ve got English border gardens and rabbits: God’s love is surely sufficient for today.

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