(To read and pray the daily office along with us in its entirety, click here)
I started writing these devotionals, in the spirit of how Frederick Buechner describes preaching as "whistling in the dark"...as a way of keeping my own spirits up. Perhaps also as a way of, as an untethered man living in an untethered time, trying to find something to keep my own feet on the ground. The format thus far, has been intentionally simple--as I read through the Scripture texts for the morning portion of the daily office, I take note of something that strikes me, inwardly, and I document it here. Simple as that. Yesterday, I recalled I have many wonderful commentaries that might enrich these :), but thus far they have been more guttural and reflexive than that, more in the moment--a conscious attempt to keep these simple and human.
So this morning I took a little bit more time than usual to reflect, not wanting to get caught in a cycle of reading too quickly for the sake of strip mining the text for a treasure (a familiar trap for professional Christians), and honestly felt like I stumbled into some kind of wonderland. Some days it can feel hard to find any fruit on the tree at all, perhaps less indicative of what the text is than where I am--but today I felt like fruit was raining out of the sky, assailing me with goodness. Rich fruit, ripe fruit...a garden paradise, vivid with color and sound and texture.
I was struck by the unembarrassed, unself-conscious bodily nature of the words, of all the words. In Psalm 16.9, it's not just my heart and my spirit that are rejoicing but "my body also shall rest in hope." The God who inspired these, is evidently a most sensuous God. Psalm 16.11, "in your presence is there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand pleasures for evermore." I can be much more bashful, about seeking pleasure. But not the Psalms. God is to be tasted; there is wine to drink, and laughter and sorrow so deep that you feel them in your very bones.
In Isaiah 42, God is casting off the old restraint, and constraints, and cutting loose of decorum: "For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant." And in the gospel reading from Mark 2, in language that also strikes me for its sensuous character, Jesus tells us that "no one puts new wine into old wineskins, otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins."
We need new wineskins to be sure, but in the meantime, in the drab and frightening world we live in now, the only thing the wine of God's presence could do in such a place is "burst" it open. Perhaps that is precisely the experience you need today--to burst, to explode, to stop holding in both your inexplicable joy and unexplainable sorrow. Our sensuous God is into fullness and pleasure and gasping and panting; colors that burst and sounds that shatter. Stop holding in, your lament, your melody, your primal beat. Let everything real and alive and tender and scary come bursting out of you, and in doing so--the Spirit of God comes bursting into the world, too. If there's a river in your belly, and you don't know where it's going or where it comes from--what else can you do, but let it out?
Don't be ashamed to be the new thing God is doing, that springs forth into the world, today.