On Monday evening, at our Wine and Wishful Thinking gathering at Oliver’s, a number of us from eleven:eleven gathered to talk about the message Sunday morning. The discussion was rich and supportive and revolved around lots of questions…
What about an afterlife? A heaven or hell? If God is love, is there even a Hell for anyone to go to? Are good and evil really just two qualities of the same reality, the same reality we all live within, all potentially subject to the possible “perfect storm” of events where we would find ourselves inextricably drawn into a behavior or life experience or reality we would never have dreamed we were capable of doing – good or evil?
And what about God’s grace and the presence of Christ in the midst of our lives in those “prefect storm” realities and all situations?
As we were giving flesh and bone to these questions, I shared this story which came to mind.
A Christian monastery fell on hard times. No one came to it any more. There were rumors of in-fighting and bickering and power struggles. The joy that had once inspired so many to join in their work was gone and people found the place tiring and depressing.
Not far from the monastery was a small wooden cabin where an old hermit would retire every fall for respite and prayer. No one spoke to him since they all assumed he chose to be isolated. But early one evening, one of the monks decided o to visit the old man, more as an excuse to get away from the monastery than anything.
He was grateful for the old man’s surprising hospitality. He made him supper and they visited for hours – mostly the old man listening to the monk. Early the next morning, the monk was about to return to the monastery when the old hermit said, “I’m glad you visited because I’ve been waiting for one of you for some time.”
The monk was surprised, “Really, why hadn’t you contacted us?”
The old hermit smiled, “You seemed too preoccupied to truly receive any strangers or words from an old man.”
The monk was deeply embarrassed and knew what the hermit meant. “But why did you wish to see us?”
The hermit leaned in to the monk and whispered, “You have been living all this while without seeing it. I will tell you once, and you may speak it to the others only one time…. One of you is the Messiah.”
The monk was confused, “Excuse me, one of us is who?”
“I can say no more,“ the hermit replied, “God bless you in your living.”
The monk returned to his brothers and sisters and called them all together to share the insight he’d received. “One of us is the Messiah,” he instructed them and then told them to ponder its meaning, go about their days and never speak of it again.
But the words had a strange and profound effect on the monastery as each member took the words to heart. Now each person looked at the other with a deep curiosity and humble spirit. A gentle, warm-hearted, concern began to grow among them which was hard to describe but easy to notice. There was a spirit of a community that had found something deep and yet continued to seek new ways to experience that depth.
Word spread, and before long people were coming from far and wide to be nourished by the joyful life of the monks and to experience the loving reverence in which they held everyone.
Seems like whenever someone tried to test Jesus on his knowledge of what one needed to do in order to experience eternal life, the answer was always less about belief and more about behavior – “love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself” and “whenever you have reached out to the least of these (to all who are in need), you have reached out to me.”
I wonder if this could really work in the office, at home, on the street or highway…
“One of you is the Messiah.”
God bless you in your daily living.