Thursday, November 19, 2009

God is Closer Than You Think

In a recent post, I wrote about the wonder of a child in pursuit of God and how God is often closer than we are aware of.

One of my favorite authors Frederick Buechner in his book
Listening to Your Life brilliantly writes,

“There is no event so commonplace
but that God is present within it,
always hiddenly, always leaving you room
to recognize him or not…
because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.”

(Frederick Buechner)

Paul instructed the followers at Philippi to look around them and out of everything that could be observed in the world in which they found themselves to simply, find "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise." Once they were able to begin to see these things, they were to dwell on these things.

For Paul, as Henry David Thoreau penned, "It's not what you look at, but what you see." In this text from Philippians, Paul is simply encouraging us to develop a heart to discern, an eye to see and a mind that cultivates the capacity to "think" upon these things. Unfortunately, more often than not, when we look at the world around us we are more prone to see what's wrong with it, rather than what's right. We see that which is broken, fallen and needs to be fixed, rather than that which God is presently redeeming.

If we posture ourselves as Paul exhorted, we will begin to see “every creature will be to you a mirror of life," as wrote Thomas à Kempis, "and a book of holy doctrine.”

This phrase found in Philippians 4:8 is in the present tense and imperative mood, which notes, in short that it commands a continuous action…

Further, the middle voice is reflexive which means that you yourself are to continually initiate this action and participate in the effects or results thereof.

Biblical scholar Gordon Fee in his volume one Philippians, Paul's Letter to the Philippians, points out that Paul is using language the Philippians would have known from their youth, he singles out values held with the best of Hellenism. He states,

Paul is using language the Philippians would have known from their youth, he singles out values held in common with the best of Hellenism. But as v.9 implies, these must now be understood in light of the cruciform existence that Paul has urged throughout the letter…

Paul is telling them…
to “take into account” the good they have long known from their past, as long as it is conformable to Christ.

Paul is encouraging
the Philippians that even thought they are presently “citizens of heaven,” living out the life of the future as they await its consummation, they do not altogether abandon the world in which they used to, and still do, live. As believers in Christ they will embrace the best of that world as well, as long as it is understood in light of the cross (Fee, 416).

The most common response
to such a culture is not discrimination, but rejection. This text suggests a better way, that one approach the market-place, the arts, the media, the university, looking for what is “true” and “uplifting” and “admirable”; but that one do so with a discriminating eye and heart, for which the Crucified One serves as the template (Fee, 421).

How skilled the Church has become at "rejecting" everything, rather than exercising the discernment of "discrimination." May God help us to engage the world in which we live in with eyes to see it from the vantage point of the Crucified One.

As Jean Pierre de Caussade wrote in his book The Sacrament of the Present Moment, may “each moment is a revelation from God."

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