Two weeks have passed since I left California. And I’ve been striving to re-adjust to daily life with intention and mindfulness. My California adventure may have come to a close, but my postured heart of a pilgrim remains. “Establish your Heart” has been my mantra the last two weeks. Establish my heart upon the forgiveness and restoration and love that was my West Coast Pilgrimage.
And on this eve of Christmas the message of forgiveness, restoration, and love is all the more palpable. Because of what the Spirit did throughout my pilgrimage I find that my heart is softer and more tender toward the simple yet scandalous good news of great joy. Kingdom forgiveness IS scandalous.
How unfortunate the hindering reality that, as finite humans, we are so conditioned to the patterns of this world that we still think sin (both systemic and individual) requires punishment or justice; a justice that so often reflects our worldly system of power rather than the grace of the Kingdom. But that’s not the good news of great joy, is it? Rather, unconditional love through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is the good news. Amen! The prodigal need not finish her prepared speech before the Father lavishes the her with royal gifts, love, and a re-established identity. That, my friends, is scandalous. Amen! An adulterous, murderous king need not perfect his character before God can establish his eternal throne through the blood of this fallen king. O the scandal. Amen! The biblical narrative is a collection of scandalous stories telling of God’s crazy love. A love I can hardly begin comprehend.
And because words so frequently fall short, I use images to help me grow in an intimate understanding of this love. Yesterday my dear friend Amy Lee shared with me an image of Mother Mary and Sister Eve. This image brought me to tears more than once (Hey, I told you my heart is softer and more tender than ever… Tears seem to stream a little easier these days. And I’m cool with that.). With the tools of pen and a few Crayola crayons the artist, Sister Grace Remington, colors the unfathomable beauty of Emmanuel – God with Us.
Sister Grace Remington partnered with a fellow sister of the Order of the Mississippi Abbey who wrote the following poetic response:
My mother, my daughter, life-giving Eve,
Do not be ashamed, do not grieve.
The former things have passed away,
Our God has brought us to a New Day.
See, I am with Child,
Through whom all will be reconciled.
O Eve! My sister, my friend,
We will rejoice together
Life without end.
I am tempted to express my theological interpretation of this image. But I’ll refrain. Instead I only wish to gift it to you, free of my personal hermeneutic. This image spoke to me in a very intimate way. And it will be different for you. That’s the great thing about art. And that’s the great thing about the Spirit. My hope is simply this: that you may experience the forgiveness, restoration, and love according to the Kingdom. Come. Let us adore and rejoice. Together. Forever. You are forgiven. I am forgiven. The world is forgiven. Merry Christmas.