Monday, August 1, 2016

Resting in the Arms of the Great Wide Open

When I am driving and I want to listen to music, my tendency is to put a CD in and leave it there. Several years ago, a friend gave me a recording of a Bob Dylan concert at URI and I listened to it from East Greenwich to Georgetown, Maine. 

Over and over for four hours. 

Needless to say, I was making that trip alone.

When my daughter gave me a CD of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, I listened to it for weeks (around town). The music is brilliant and ultimately life-affirming, but there is a deep melancholy.

Not long ago I was listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the song that most caught my attention is called “Almost Home.” It’s about looking at your life, seeing the things you have saved and wondering why you find it so hard to let go of the past. In the chorus she sings:

I'm not running
I'm not hiding
I'm not reaching
I'm just resting in the arms 
of the great wide open
Gonna pull my soul in
And I'm almost home

At a very basic level, faith is about “resting in the arms of the great wide open.” It is about trusting enough so that we don’t have to be running or hiding or reaching. A lot of ministry is about running and reaching. 

Our church, especially our leadership, has done a lot of running and reaching over the past few years. And in the process we probably have not taken enough time for faithful Sabbath rest.

In the song, she sings about being lost “in the ache of old goodbyes.” Over the recent months and years, we have gone through many of those painful times. We have said “goodbye” to many friends. Some have moved and others have passed on. And we have grieved with friends who have lost parents and grandparents and loved ones.

It is painful to leave the past and difficult to trust the future. And sometimes our reaching and running are little more than an ultimately unsuccessful effort to escape the inescapable.

In the twelfth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, a man asks Jesus what is the most important thing that he should do. Jesus answers by quoting from Deuteronomy and Leviticus: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” After the man agrees and affirms the wisdom of his response, Jesus says, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

Not far. Almost home. It’s not about reaching or running or hiding. It’s about loving God and neighbor. 

Resting in the arms of the great wide open.

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