O, to Abide with Christ!
My family and I are between homes. We are moving from Washington to Tenth Street, all of a mile. But we have stuff boxed in one place and still boxing in another. We are half here and half there. The last time we moved was when Amy and our girls moved into my condo in Phoenix.
I lived in the condo like it was a hotel. I didn't paint the walls. I barely cleaned. It was a place to store my things out of the sun and a place to lay my head. That was really it. Amy though wanted it to look like someone lived there. When she moved in we painted and tore the old mauve carpet out to replace with laminate floors. She cleaned things I didn't even know were there. She wanted to abide there.
Abide. I love that word. It is underused these days. In fact, it is a word that has been used exclusively within the Western Christian tradition. No one talks about abiding outside the church. But it is a wonderful word. It means roughly in Greek, to pitch one's tent or to live into. I like think of it as "letting one's soul rest in a place."
We have been living in someone else's home, and we want a place for our family to abide.
My love of the word comes from the Gospel of John's use of it, primarily in the Last Supper Discourse, where Jesus tells the disciples, "Abide in me as I abide in my father and my father abides in me. And I will abide in you." We are to abide in Christ.
This morning's gospel and even the Psalm are about abiding. We often put them in the context of calling or vocation. Especially we priests think of these texts as being called to go somewhere and do something. But the reality is that both of these texts are about being with not doing.
The Good Shepherd. I once had the chance to ask a shepherd what makes a good shepherd, and he said, "Good sheep." And I thought, "Jesus is screwed." So I followed up, "What makes good sheep?" And he said, "Time with a good shepherd." We are to abide with Christ.
Even our Psalm, number 23, often sadly relegated to the dead, is really about abiding with God while alive. "You lead me beside the still waters." Rest with God protection and grace.
Abiding is not what we are good at, is it? I am not good at abiding, and I should be. I am a beer as opposed to a doer. I like to just be, but I rarely make the time to be with Christ. I have things to accomplish. As Americans we love efficiency.
Abiding takes presence and practice. Presence is that quality of being where you are. Not on the cell phone, which is being somewhere else or worrying or planning which is being sometime else. But rather we are to be present to the right here right nowness of God.
I went through a horrible time in my life when I wanted something I simply wasn't ever going to get. And a mentor in Christ said, "Where is Christ? Is Christ in getting what you want? Is Christ in the future?" And I said "No, here." Rebecca said, "You have to be here, present to your life now. Christ is here."
Abide with Christ, she could have said. So practice being present to your rightnowness and where God is right now.
Second, get an egg timer. Now this is Crayola crayon practice. If you already have a more subtle practice then fill in with colored pencil or oil paints, but for the rest of us, get an egg timer and set it for a time that doesn't scare you, a minute or three or five. And practice being present and silent before God, abide with Christ, for a few minutes twice a day. And then add a little time until you get to five or ten minutes twice a day.
Exercise physiologists tell us that when we lift weights for just a few minutes a day our heart rate and metabolism goes up and stays up 3 to 5%. I am going to go out on a limb and say that if you will practice being present to Christ a few minutes twice a day, you will be more effective more spiritually aware. Maybe just 3 to 5%, but think about how much of a difference it would be to be 3 to 5% more present with the God of all Creation! You might experience wisdom and love.
And then when as the Letter of John says, you see the brother or sister in need, you will know from the heart what to do.
Abide with Christ.
There is a silence at the heart of all creation that waits for the silent singing of the saints of God.