Monday, October 27, 2008

The Mount

I know this is long, but it's great--Quentin wrote this for yesterday's worship, part of our Sermon on the Mount series:

MAN: I get up early to go fishing

READER:  “Fishing?  You don’t go fishing.” 

WRITER: I didn’t go fishing, he went fishing.  It has to be something.  What did I get up early for then? 

READER: “I don’t know why you ever get up early, you just always do.” 

WRITER: Oh, sure, that’s a great way to get the story started: I got up early, ‘cause, well, I don’t know why, I just always do – what’s that emblematic of? And how’s that going to get me to the stream? 

READER: “The stream?” 

WRITER: Yeah, I need to get to the stream almost immediately, I think I need that image to set this up. 

READER: “Well, then, maybe you got up early to go,… fishing?  I’m not getting up early to go fishing though.” 

WRITER: In that case, maybe there’s a chance for a moment of quiet contemplation, so…

MAN: I got up early to go fishing.  I’d gotten everything out and ready the night before, and I had a picture in my head of where I’d go, but that was as far as my plans went.  The stream is not that far of a walk, it’s just over a hill.  I don’t even know if it has a name, but it’s about like every stream you think of.  Its bed is wide – it’s been running here for a long time.  Tall old shade trees shelter the wide spot here, and there’s a rock made just right for sitting, placed as if according to a plan.  The stream widens and gets quiet here in the hollow.  The sounds of my footfalls and the shifting of the stepping stones echoes among the trees, and for a moment I get the sensation that I’m following myself.  Walking along the edge of the embankment trying to get to the sitting place, the sandbar shifts under me and I make a misstep, soaking my foot in the stream.

READER: “This part drags on too long.” 

WRITER: What do you mean? 

READER: “I mean this ‘quiet contemplation’; it’s too solitary, too overwrought, plus I never like the prolonged inner monologue.” 

WRITER: Hah!  You’re just pushing for her to show up. 

READER: “She always makes it more interesting – maybe he was being watched instead of followed.” 

WRITER: You mean they’re always more interesting together, ‘art imitates’ and all that. 

READER: “Yeah,… or that.” 

WRITER: Okay,… here you go…

MAN: There’s a splish, could be a fish

READER: “You’re a poet, and you don’t know it.” 

WRITER: Shhh!!

MAN:  Look for the ripples, try to figure out where they come from.  Another splash,… and another.  What’s that fish doing all over the place? 

READER: “The fish?  What are you thinking?  Look up.”

WOMAN:  “What do I have to do?  Hit you in the head with one of these pebbles?”  

MAN: I thought it was the fish I was trying to catch. 

WOMAN: “Oh, sorry, if it’s only fish for you, I won’t interrupt.” 

MAN: No wait, I can get back to the fish later.  What brings you here? 

WOMAN: “Feet.  I’m taking a walk, you wanna come along?”  

MAN: Where? 

WOMAN: “Wherever I’m led,  does it make a difference to you?” 

READER: “See, that’s why it’s better when she shows up – you’re not stuck in one place just thinking about it.”

WRITER:  She doesn’t think about it, is that what you’re saying? 

READER: “No, she doesn’t just think about it.” 


MAN: I’d be glad to go wherever you’re going. 

WOMAN: “Since when are you a fisherman?” 

MAN: Um,… trying something new? 

WOMAN: “Interesting.  Nice day.” 

MAN; For?... nice day for? 

WOMAN: “I’m not sure exactly, just that it has promise.” 

MAN; Like the company. 

WOMAN: “Agreed.”

MAN: The path runs along the stream for a while, then rises away out of the woods to the edge of a large clearing.  We’re not the only ones arriving at the clearing.  From all sides, people are happening to gather on it, filling it.  They’re arriving from work in the fields, from home with their children, out of the town, making a detour from their travel.  All taking a seat at the foot of the rise. 

WOMAN: “Let’s go up and find a place to sit.” 

MAN: Uhh, group activity is not my favorite. 

READER: “We should talk about that sometime.” 

WRITER: Talk about what? 

READER: “Wow.  You get defensive about it fast.  What is it about groups?” 

WRITER: Almost nothing can be as de-personalizing as groups – like each person’s assumptions and prejudice takes a little away until there’s nothing left of me to act.

READER: “I still see you in groups a lot,… I’ve seen you light up in a group…” 

WRITER: Well, if it’s a group that takes me as I am, let’s me be myself, that’s when I can give myself away.  When it comes from inside me, it’s uplifting; when it’s imposed from the outside, it’s disheartening. 

READER: “What about me?  Do I free you?” 

WRITER: Don’t you see how I light up?

WOMAN: “Hey, isn’t that Dawson?” 

MAN: Yeah, that’s him.  Let’s not sit over there. 

WOMAN: “Oh, right, still controversy about the fence.” 

MAN: Yeah, that was a disappointment, especially after all that time he strung it along. 

WOMAN: “So we’re going to sit way back here?  Even in this large of a crowd?” 

MAN: We can try to move up, but it’s already crowded up close, we’re going to have to make do with sitting towards the back.  We find a small rise that works as a bench to sit on.  One of the girls from Capernaum recognizes you and runs up to you to show you her dog.  She’s just about to tell you something when everyone’s attention is drawn up.

MAN: When He begins to speak, even though He seems to be far away, I can hear him as clear as if He were close at hand.  His voice is compelling, and the crowd goes silent with attention.  I lean my head in my hand and focus.  There’s no irony in his voice as he proclaims favor and satisfaction on those usually afforded only shame.  I struggle with trying to feel the triumph in the feelings I associate with defeat in the world.  Humbled, mourning, unambitious, these are not the qualities of the world’s heroes.  These are feelings I try to hide, bluff my way past, or deny.  

READER: “But, you also felt the nearness of God at those moments?” 

WRITER: In the best of them, when my denial didn’t run that far, when my frustration didn’t drive me further into my self. 

READER: “Even then, wasn’t that evidence of your ‘thirst for righteousness’?” 

WRITER: Wait, that’s next.

MAN: You glance back over your shoulder at me as He continues, and whisper back the lawgiver’s words from the edge of the wilderness,

WOMAN: “‘for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.’” 

MAN: And it’s true that difficult times do drive me to seek the right way more directly and more critically, to reevaluate my heart and soul, struggle to find where I am empty, trust in the anonymous psalmist’s promise that ‘He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.’ 

READER: “That seems pretty sincere.” 

WRITER: It’s good to have it recognized – too much I get suspicion and doubt. 

READER: “You really don’t like getting underestimated.  Maybe you could use a little more meekness?” 

WRITER: Maybe I should speak better with my actions.  I’m too good at overlooking controversy, more concerned with eliminating the argument than eliminating the cause of it, content to be right and stopping short of struggling to make it right.

MAN:  At the end of His opening, I bring my hands down in front of me, and count off on the fingers.  Left thumb, left index, left ring, left pinky, right pinky, maybe right thumb?  Looks like at my best moments I’m only meeting a single handful.  Think what I could do if I ever used both hands. 

WRITER: I didn’t want to leave this point without mentioning how I’ve always like the way you look wearing your pearls. 

READER: “Then for the next section, I should be sure to tell you how your light can dispel the darkness.” 

WRITER: And that sparkle in your eye, is that the salt of your tears? 

READER: “Perhaps, they’re both there, and both indicate my heart’s true purposes.” 

WRITER: Oh, that’s good, and right on time, they have to struggle with that right now…

MAN: He’s speaking to us now about the law, but in a new way.  It is not meant as a limitation on our behavior, but as a guide for our hearts.  Not to restrict our actions, but to expand our compassion.  Not to make ourselves better actors, but to let God work on our hearts.  The fence comes immediately back to mind when He speaks of reconciliation.  I have to face that I made the mistake of assuming I was in the right just because I did nothing wrong outwardly.  Inwardly, I’m still angry, and still feel like something is owed me, that I was justified in my hard feelings.  I’ve got a lot of work to do.  I’ve been looking outside for affirmation, worried about not getting caught tripping up, worried about keeping up appearances under the eye of the in crowd.  I need to look inward more, open myself up to possibility rather than trying to manage every threat. 

READER: “What’re you going to do about verses 27-30?” 

WRITER: I don’t know.  Accept my guilt and my limitations?  Offer it up and trust that there’s a plan for me?  Try to end up a better man?  Accept that it may make me among the least in the kingdom of heaven, but knowing even the least still gets to participate in the kingdom.

MAN:  In a moment, I grasp the full meaning of David’s words, ‘I desire to do your will O my God, your law is within my heart.’

READER: “We’re back talking about what’s ‘underneath’.”

WRITER: Yeah, and I think that’s a part of what’s meant in having a pure heart – eliminating deception, even self-deception, maybe especially self-deception:  to reject your own rationalizations and excuses and to allow yourself the freedom to be inspired, to act honestly.

READER: “To let your underneath come to the surface.”

WRITER: Yeah, or to let go of the false dichotomy of surface and underneath, to let the two be one.

WOMAN: “Could we get back to the story?   I haven’t had anything to do but react for almost a whole page.”

WRITER: Does she remind you of anyone?

WOMAN:  “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.  May your Kingdom come soon.  May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our sustenance, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.  And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

MAN: Amen.

WOMAN: “It’s all in there.  We should be sure to include all those pieces in our prayer.”

MAN: And again, it is also a guide for our actions.  But how?  How can I be sure that what I do today will prepare me for tomorrow?

WOMAN: “As He says, ‘Today’s trouble is enough for today.’  Focus on your steps, the path is there already.  The right way is always in front of us, we only have to choose to follow it.”

MAN: And the consequences for taking the wrong path are already included in that choice.  I should be more careful in allowing myself to forgive as freely as I accept forgiveness.

READER: “I wasn’t aware that you even accept forgiveness that freely.”

WRITER: I do want there to be consequences, which means there have to be some even for me.  And I don’t want to move on from anything until I’ve given myself a chance to learn from it.  The second lesson has a tendency to be stricter than the first.

MAN: By now, I should have learned to allow enough room for others to make mistakes, to hold people responsible while still maintaining a relationship.

WOMAN: “For some things, that seems humanly impossible.”

MAN: Which is why we should entrust justice to the heart and hand of God.

WRITER: But even still, how do I look to find His justice, His peace?  How do I find my way?

READER: “Go back to the story, I think it comes up next.”

MAN: Then He promised, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,’ and I realized I was not separated in any true way from God, that any separation came from me.

When He finished speaking, we sat still and quiet.  Everything felt different, for we had been changed for having been given the chance to share in the truth directly.  It never occurred to anyone to applaud or cheer, in the same way it never occurs when you see the sun rise, or the full moon appear from behind a curtain of clouds.

WOMAN:  “I’m glad our walk brought us here.”

MAN: Thank you for inviting me along.

WOMAN: “Shall we head home?”

MAN: Give me just a minute.  I wonder if I can still find…

WOMAN: “Dawson? He’s heading out just over there.”

MAN: I’ll be right back.

WOMAN: “What did you say?”

MAN: I just told him it was good to see him today.  Shook his hand.

WOMAN: “Did he say anything about the fence?”

MAN: No, but it wasn’t important anymore.

READER: “Isn’t it?  I thought that was a big deal.  He kind of used you, and he didn’t have anything to say about it?”

WRITER: Nope.  It’s cool, I just wanted to say hey all the same.

READER: “You haven’t got anything else written.  How’s the rest of it go?”

WRITER:  Well, the two of them head back to the stream, sit on the rock, talk about what they might seek, what they might ask for.  Maybe he even tells her a story.

READER:  “I’d like to hear that one too.”


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