All Things Are There – Br. Keith Nelson

Luke 21:34-36

It’s no secret that we live in a culture driven by obsession with surfaces and exteriors. We are driven constantly to the surface of things, actively discouraged from remembering that we even have depths. Our energies are spread thin across the surface as our will, our imaginations, our sensations, are driven to fixate upon exterior objects.

We have perpetual need of the reminder in 1 Samuel: “The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

God gazes upon your heart – the center of your inmost being – at this very moment. Many of you are here on retreat, a time in which you are invited to rest in God’s presence and let God love you.

When you are still and present to yourself and to this loving God, what does God see in your heart?

To us, today, Jesus says: “Be on guard, so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.”

These are sober words from one who loves us. Jesus is drawing near Jerusalem and the consummation of his ministry. He speaks to what is essential:

Be on guard – attend, take heed, draw the mind toward your inmost experience – and make an honest assessment. Not a performance review or a shaming self-critique. But a thorough search for those patterns of thought, word, and action that weigh us down, yet have made a home in our hearts. It is a home where they do not belong.

At Emery House, a place of retreat surrounded by woods, we have an old beat-up pickup truck. Periodically, squirrels or chipmunks like to make nests or stash nuts under the hood. Periodically, we have to check under the hood, check out the wires, and encourage these stow-aways to find a home somewhere else.

The fourth-century Syrian monk St. Macarius wrote:

“The heart is itself a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. There are also rough and uneven roads; there are precipices. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace – all things are there.”  (Macarius, Spiritual Homilies 43.7)

All things are there.

Yet some of what we find there is extrinsic to our nature. In other words, we carry stow-aways. We are designed and destined to be a home for God – a temple of the Holy Spirit. As we become more and more that home, we have the Word of God as our constant support.

In our Rule, we read:

“These hearts of ours are not empty vessels but inner worlds alive with images, memories, experiences and desires.  It is the Spirit dwelling within us who brings the revelation of Scripture into a vital encounter with our inmost selves, and brings to birth new meaning and life.”

With each of these encounters, a little more dead-weight drops away. We become lighter – more light-hearted – so that we are agile enough to leap into the sudden freedom of the kingdom.

Lectionary Year and Proper: Proper 29, Year A

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