Hebrews 5:11-14 NRSV 11 About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
Looking Up By Pastor David
Life as we knew it is probably forever changed after we get beyond this pandemic. It is as if we lived the first part of our lives with a certain trajectory, and now, things will be shaken up and changed. Changed because we learned some lessons, changed because we will operate with a different mind set, and changed as we consider the ramifications of future pandemics.
This reminds me of the book 'Falling Upward; A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life'. We have been living together, and we have all fallen down together, some worse than others. Now it is time to start getting back up. Let me explain.
In Fr. Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward; A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, the main message is that the spiritual life is not static. We come to a point where we realize that it is not all about "me" and "my success." That point is a time where we take a fall. That fall can come in many forms. It is like a "jolt" in life. A job loss, a tragic event, or something monumental that has an impact on life that feels like "falling down."
This is something Jesus teaches us when he talks about being “perfect." This occurs in his encounter with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Here is where Jesus uses the word "perfect," the Greek word "teleios", meaning mature or growth to completion. The rich young ruler took a “fall” during that encounter in the way he thought he was going about “right living.” He left Jesus very sad when he realized the spiritual life was more than just keeping a bunch of rules as he was taught. It was about spiritual growth and maturity; what Jesus meant by being " perfect." The story ends there so we do not know what happens to that young ruler after he walks away. I hope that was his turning point to fall upward.
Fr. Richard Rohr indicates that those who have fallen, failed, or "gone down" are the ones who understand "up." He explains that we will come to a crisis in life, and after the crisis, if we are open to it, we will enter a space of spiritual refreshment, peace and compassion that we could not have imagined before.
My brain tumor in 1993 comes to mind for me right away. It nearly killed me, it distorted my appearance for a period of time, it caused me to contemplate death, it rearranged what was important in life, it made me more vulnerable and it made me understand what it was like to not be able to do anything for myself. I felt like I was living someone else’s life, and I prayed for hours and hours many times a week about what was to come about after all this.
It is easy to think that the ‘second half’ of life is about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life. That is not how Rohr explains it.
Rohr tells us that spiritual growth happens when we fall and deal with the hard times of life, as it helps to bring us more spiritual richness to the second half, after we fall. We see differently, we are impacted differently, and we learn in new and different ways. We even see others differently.
In today’s scripture reading, that solid food is what helps us get to that second half of life. I remember in my early 20’s, I thought I had arrived and I was ready to take over the world. Rohr discusses the ‘first half’ of life as a time where we focus on our career, friends, finding a spouse, success, making a name for ourselves, etc. This is what can make us become “dull in understanding” (verse 11). The focus is on “me”, what “I” think, what “I” want, and “my” opinion counts more than yours. God can become distant by our own doing and we remain an infant (verse 13). Then suddenly – Brain Tumor! Or any other "falling down."
Rohr says that if we are open to the second half of life, we learn to hear a deeper voice of God. “It will sound an awful lot like the voices of risk, of trust, of surrender, of soul, of 'common sense,' of destiny, of love, of an intimate stranger, of your deepest self.” It sounds like he is saying that we focus on God (not ourselves), on God’s leading in our lives, and what it means to treat others with the forgiveness, kindness, mercy, and love that Jesus taught us. How are we transformed by God and God’s Word? How are we using this time to gain a greater foundation built on Jesus' principles in our lives?
This is a continuum. We may have one foot in each half, still learning from falling down, having to survive on baby food, and the other foot taking a step into the other half where we are on solid food and we become spiritually more mature. What solid food are we consuming? Are we spending time with God? Are we feeding our souls? Are we taking a walk with Jesus?
Look at today. When the quarantines are lifted and life gets back to "normal," we will all learn lessons together. Life together will start to look “up.” We will all have a reason to look “up” individually. We will learn some things about ourselves that will serve us well in the time to come. But that also applies to society. Many things won't be the same. It will be different. There will be a new "normal" and some of the old will never return. It will also be different for each one of us. Let's pray that we learn what we need to, both individually and collectively.
Self reflection questions for the Day: Which half of life do I spend my time in? How have I fallen down and what was that impact? What have I learned during this pandemic? What kind of spiritual food am I consuming at this time?
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