19 November 2009

Eternal now

Elektrostal in crisis times
This unfinished building
is behind ours; no
progress for months.
But this new Dixie grocery
store across the street
from us just opened a
couple of weeks ago.
This week brought two distressing news items, both concerning deaths. Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer and 37-year-old father of two children, died in Moscow, in detention. And a 26-year-old antifascist campaigner, Ivan Khutorskoi, was shot outside his apartment on Tuesday, according to the New York Times.

Both Magnitsky and Khutorskoi had high-stakes involvements, although in very different spheres. The lawyer was caught up in charges and countercharges concerning William Browder and Hermitage Capital Management. The activist was reputedly part of the increasingly violent racist/extremist-vs-antifascist scene in Russia, and was himself no apostle of nonviolence. Both believed that their lives counted for something, and both lives are now over.

These were some of my thoughts yesterday morning as I picked up Thomas Kelly's Testament of Devotion again and began reading his essay on "The Eternal Now and Social Concern." Kelly wants neither the escapism of other-worldly piety nor the obsession with here-and-now effectiveness of church-as-social-agency. It is the constant awareness (fading inevitably from foreground to background, and back again) of Divine Presence that gives us both endurance and perspective. As I contemplate how life is not a chess game where we have unlimited time to construct a perfect strategy, it's a great comfort to me to consider that my only real task at any given moment is to remain in that Presence.

Do you, like me, sometimes wonder what your "score" would be if you were taken from this life right now? Here's a bit more from Kelly (back-translated from Olga Dolgina's translation; background here) on how Quaker spirituality speaks to me and maybe to you, too:
... I am convinced that in the Quaker experience of the Divine Presence, there is a serious combining of temporal and timeless, with the main emphasis on the Eternal, which is the creative basis of time itself. "I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness."

That we can experience this Divine Presence as a constantly perceivable and true fact, that changes and transforms everything in life--this is Friends' main message to the world.
So the most important thing I can do at this moment can in fact be accomplished now--not in some indefinite point in the (uncertain) future. That is to say "yes" to God's Divine presence in my life.
Having once discovered this wonderful secret, this new dimension of life, we don't live any longer simply in time, we also live in Eternity. The temporal world is no longer the only reality we're aware of. A new Reality arises that enlivens and excites us, that moves us toward action, fills us with energy, breaks into our souls and with love embraces us--along with all those who find themselves in the Presence.
We can see the importance of George Fox's classic statement that "Jesus Christ has come to teach his people himself." As the Russian Orthodox martyr Alexander Men', said, the history of religion is the honorable struggle of human beings to reach the Divine; but Jesus is the opposite--the Divine reaching to us, giving us access to the Eternal in this very moment.

The more time I have, the more ways I might be able to tell others about what God is doing through Jesus; and the more I might be able to remind Friends that this is our main task, directly and indirectly, in whatever ways we're gifted and led, instead of trying to figure out ever new ways to tell people how wonderful or modest or subtle Friends are. But who knows how much time that will be? To live this reality myself--that I can do right now. And for right now, that is enough.

PhotobucketAlexander Markovich Poroshin is a friend of ours here in Elektrostal; he is an artist and his studio is about a block away from where we live. We can't usually afford to buy art, but there are occasions when we simply can't resist. This painting of the Charles Bridge in Prague is now part of our microscopic collection. Here are some more of his works: Fall 2007 exhibition; December 2007 visit to his studio (starting with second row of photos.) We already have his "Birth of Faith" crucifixion picture, shown in the December 2007 page.

Righteous links:

Another very untimely death that I do not understand.

Serbia grieves Patriarch Pavle. Video tribute.

Russia's Interfax news agency reprints a Guardian column: "Christianity ended the Cold War peacefully." Looking back on 1989,the 24/7 Prayer movement's Peter Greig refers to "Revolutionary Prayers."

In the USA, Thanksgiving is coming in a week--and here's how our Yearly Meeting plans to use the 2009 Thanksgiving Offering.

Reminder: Os Guinness comes to Reedwood Friends Church tomorrow (Friday) evening.

Texas comes to Denmark: A nice slice of blues by Guy Forsyth and a wonderful band:

1 comment:

Robin M. said...

Thank you, Johan, this is a helpful reminder.