The Glory of Thisness

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:  they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith (Mt 6:28b-30, ESV)?

I have no deep or well-developed theology of holy places; I know only that they exist.  There is one in Conyers, Georgia at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit.  I meet God there as often as I can — not in the earthquake or the wind or the fire — but in the silence of prayer-hallowed space and heavenly light that defies description or photograph.  There is another in Maggie Valley, NC at the Living Waters Catholic Reflection Center.  You wouldn’t imagine God there, in a converted strip motel from the 60s, but he is.  And in that holy place he has shaken me to the core.  It is a place of glory and of burden.

I have recently discovered another holy place just outside my office window at church.  Weather permitting each morning around seven o’clock, I take a chair and a prayer book and a cup of coffee to this little, fenced in side lot and meet God there for Morning Prayer.  The lot is tidy and cared for, but just beyond the fence is a wild area:  overgrown and teeming with birds, squirrels, rabbits, and things I only hear rustling but never glimpse.  Angels dance in the tops of the trees there; some say it’s just the wind, but I say angels.  The birds sing their praise and even the crows join in; some say it’s just mating calls and territorial disputes, but I say praise.  The lilies of the field (clover) grow and remind me of the providential care of God; some say weeds, but I say lilies.

One particular lily (clover) beckoned for my attention this morning, swaying this way and that in the breeze (or was it the angels again?).  And I was caught up in the mystery and glory of thisness.  God created this flower for purposes known only to him.  God created this tiny bee, giving and receiving pollen from this clover, on this morning in this side lot at this church for this priest saying this morning office at this moment.  There is always a theological danger of making God too small.  But there is the equal and opposite danger of making God too big, too distant, too uninvolved.  From time to time we must be re-awakened to the scandal of particularity, to the glory and mystery of thisness.  The God who called the universe into being, also called this clover into being.  The God who in the beginning said, “Let there be light,” said it again this morning.  The God who so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, also so loved (and so loves) this  person staring back at you from the mirror and this person sharing breakfast and life with you and this person sleeping under the overpass and this colleague and this student and this waitress, and this and this and this:  the mystery and glory of thisness.  If God is not in this holy place — wherever you happen to be right now — then he is, I think, nowhere.  If God is not in this very moment — whenever you happen to read this — then he is, I think, nowhen.  But he is:  everywhere present and filling all things, treasury of good things and giver of life — omnipresent and yet particular.  This place is holy.  This moment is sacred.  This breath is gift.  This life is grace.  This is the glory and mystery of thisness.



About johnaroop

I am a husband, father, retired teacher, lover of books and music and coffee and, as of 17 May 2015, by the grace of God and the will of his Church, an Anglican priest in the Anglican Church in North America, Anglican Diocese of the South. I serve as assisting priest at Apostles Anglican Church in Knoxville, TN, and as Canon Theologian for the Anglican Diocese of the South.
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