Several weeks ago I went to hear Darryl Denis, Secwepemc author, actor and comedian. Yes, he made us laugh, but there was much difficult truth to hear behind his humour. He talked about the legacy of residential schools where indigenous children were told that their stories of creation were just myths and lies and they needed to believe the real logical truth about God making a man out of dirt, and then making him fall asleep and taking a rib from his side and making that into a woman. And then there was this story of everybody living in one place and speaking the same language, deciding to build a tower up to heaven, and God coming along and knocking the building down and mixing up their languages so they wouldn’t understand one another… Genesis 11:1-9 Yup, we’ve got some weird stories…
Theologian John Dominic Crossan said: “My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically; but that they told them symbolic and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”
Today, the Christian church celebrates the Holy Spirit filling the disciples and empowering them to speak and be understood by a very diverse crowd of people. `Rushing wind, tongues of flame’ – limited language to express the inexpressible. Whatever was experienced, Pentecost in contrast to the tower of Babel, says, `We can’t do it all on our own – without missing a connection far greater than all our wisdom, all our technology etc. The gift of the Spirit is that we can better understand the Divine and recognize the divine spark in one another.
Step 6 recognizes that there is something bigger than us that can help get our self-destructive ego out of the way. Step 6, on the road to recovery, says, after admitting the exact nature of our wrongs to God, our self and another human being (last week), that we “Were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character. “ So which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Which comes first – taking responsibility for our faults or trusting God to remove them? Which is it – grace or responsibility? Richard Rohr says they both come first.
Step 6 recognized that we have to work to see our many resistances, excuses, and blockages, but then we have to fully acknowledge that God alone can do the “removing.” p52
Rohr suggests that the Protestant reformation came about in part because of trying to divide the chicken and the egg… At the time of Reformation, about 500 years ago, Pope Leo X, favoured the epistle to the Philippians, which says we are to `work for our salvation with fear and trembling.’ Phil. 2:12 (you can guess how that’s been misused over the years to excuse many atrocities.)
Martin Luther, guilt- ridden for never feeling he was good enough, was smitten by reading Romans 11:6, “We are saved through grace, not through works.” Same Bible – but they sure weren’t going to agree on anything. It was one or the other, never `both and.’
If you should happen to walk into a fast food restaurant, they are always offering you `combos’. Soup, bun, coffer and a donut. If you say, ‘Well, I don’t’ really want a donut’, they point out that it’s cheaper to get the donut, than to pay for the stuff you do want separately. I tell you that just to point out that Step 6 is like ordering the Combo. `Yes, I’ll have the combo, please.’ And the combo is this:
“The waiting, the preparing of the mind for `chance’, the softening of the heart, the deepening of expectation and desire, the `readiness’ to really let go, the recognition that I really do not want to let go, the actual willingness to change, is the work of weeks, months, and years…
Ansel Adams, the famed photographer would waits hours or days for the perfect circumstances and ideal light to take his iconic photos. He said “Chance favours the prepared mind.” p54
Transformation favours the prepared heart – and this is why we sing all these variations of `Come, Holy Spirit’- we’re trying to keep ourselves open, we’re trying to woo God. We are trying to have the courage to let God remove the defects of character.
I have to admit, I struggle with the whole language of `defects of character.’ It makes me thing of a manufacturing defect in car. “Yes, we are recalling the 1958 Austin. It needs an attitude adjustment!”
It’s there, in the gospels, if we want to look. And yes, it is an attitude adjustment. It’s Mary, at the beginning of her pregnancy, saying, `Let it be done to me, according to Your will.’ It’s there at the end of Jesus’ ministry, in the garden of Gethsemane, `Let it be done to me, according to Your will.’ It’s there in the Lord’s prayer, “… Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”
May we strive to be open to the change the Divine will call us to, readying our hearts for God’s visitation. Rohr says, “God is humble and never comes if not first invited, but God will find some clever way to get invited.”
May we have the courage to leave our hearts open. Amen.