Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Paradox of Praise and Mourning

My wife and I watched a French film last night (Clara et Moi), and I was struck once again by the writing of Rilke as an extended quote of his was central to the movie. In Letters to a Young Poet, he articulates the great value of living life fully, absorbing both the glory and the suffering, the beauty and the ugliness, the tears and the laughter. I find this to be an important words because it seems that we are increasingly pushed in our lives towards one dimensional living – whereby the mourners are blind to glory, and vice versa.

I love that the scriptures are raw in these things, with their authors expressing the full range of emotions, sometimes all present in one poem or prayer. It seems that those who have lived most fully have lived with eyes wide open to the world God created, and as a result they know both mourning and celebration.

I weary of faith paradigms that are always ‘on top of the world’, but I’m equally sickened by the endless negativism that dwells at the other end of the spectrum. We mourn because we know sin – we feel the effects of it (if we’re willing to feel at all) in our bodies, in the air we breathe and water we drink, in the poverty, war, and disease that mark the landscape and in so much more. Rilke (and Jesus) would invite us to enter into that suffering fully. And to do so, all we need do is open our eyes; stop living in denial, stop numbing our minds. Enter into the reality of suffering and mourning.

But we can lay on the ground at night and look into infinity, or ponder the fact that water’s density is just right: tweak it just a little bit and life on earth stops. We can see the glory of selfless service, whether in Mother Teresa, or the neighbors who care for someone on the block battling cancer. We can celebrate the intimacy and health we’re privileged to enjoy, and celebrate the vision God has caste for a world void of heartache, knowing that we are invited to be bearers of that hope, both with our lives and our words.

We should be people willing to ascend and descend, willing to receive and give, willing to mourn and rejoice. Knowing the full spectrum seems to be the stuff of real living.


At 18/7/06 14:28, Blogger Tom said...

Rilke, and Francis Thompson, are two of my favorite poets. I wonder how you would respond to some of the questions my sister asks on her blog here. Her daughter, Hannah, died in her sleep last year at the age of 1 1/2 years. I asked my sister what she would say to you about this post...

At 20/7/06 15:23, Blogger Josiah said...

For a long time I had a heart of stone to protect myself from grief and suffering. But when I let down my shields and softened my heart I found great pain and great joy.

The twist is this: pain leads to hope (if you remember the apostle James), and joy is the enjoyment of Christ. Both lead to Christ, if we keep focused on God.

So as a Christian we suffer and mourn. We laugh and rejoice. But both lead us closer to God. That's a deal I'll take.

At 1/8/06 19:23, Blogger tina said...

To echo your post Richard I share here a quote of Buechner's I have on my desk, "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."


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