One of the joys of this past week was me getting to attend Conversations with Martin Smith hosted by Grace Episcopal in Gainesville. His playful encouragement led us to consider a new way to understand the vital intersection or common ground shared by spirituality and mission.
First he helped us to see how we have separated the two interests and made one out of and for extroverts and the other out of and for introverts. He helped us to see how we have suffered a false dichotomy for years in the church. His premise was marvelously presented by introducing a third concept that at the beginning seemed unrelated but very interesting.
He proposed we reconsider our understanding of God's will instead -- or in addition to -- as God's desire. With a twinkle in his eye he encouraged us to consider that we could reclaim a lost tradition in the church; one practiced by the earliest mystics in our tradition. It reminded me of the Richard Rohr quote we used to remember Ginger Kroeber:
Jesus promises that when the hunger arises within you to find your own deepest aliveness within God’s aliveness, it will be satisfied—in fact, the hunger itself is a sign that the bond is already in place. As we enter the path of transformation, the most valuable thing we have working in our favor is our yearning. Some spiritual teachers will even say that the yearning you feel for God is actually coming from the opposite direction; it is in fact God’s yearning for you.
Thinking instead in terms of God's desire, God's yearning is a game changer. Just like the realizations in Emmaus there comes a new way to understand all that we have held differently --perhaps inadequately -- before.
Smith asked us to consider that God's yearning mattered to Jesus -- Smith said aroused -- and that when he was proclaiming the coming of the reign of God -- we can say "kingdom" but we mustn't think only boundaries and locales -- he was allowing God to do just that; to yearn, to desire, to want us to be with him into a future he already inhabits. To discover the way, the truth and the life!
Too often we hear Jesus say "I am the way . . ." and we think exclusivity. We think that we have a golden ticket that no other religion possesses or can offer. What a discovery to think that God is God of all and all futures and that Jesus is the incarnation of God's yearning, of God's desire for us to move into a future with him.