I watched as a pigeon in the garden pecked at the seeded end of a piece of grass. It then seemed to suck the raindrops from other parts of the grass. I watched as the muscles in the pigeon’s body raised and lowered the whole head and neck as it pecked. Later it sat on the fence and pulled its head down and in, fluffing its feathers against the cold. In the foreground were beautiful and delicate orchids my father gave us – they have just burst forth in flower. Tiny, delicate flowers with complex patterns displayed on each beautiful flower. In the background a tree, plants and flowers of various colours, bright in the overcast sky.
I wondered in this space at the beauty, the peacefulness, and the mystery of it all. There was curiosity about these living things and how they came to be, in their radiant diversity, and how they happened to be here, now. I thought of the current rise of those who want to resist, deny and explain all the mystery and take wonder and enchantment out of life. They appeal to the sciences and claim that all is explicable, rational and logical – nothing seems sacred or holy in this view of the world. Humans are omnipotent and capable of all understanding, all-knowing. Whilst I appreciate science (after all it is my former career) I also appreciate, more and more, the wonder and mystery of life. There is more to what I see than the rational explanations can provide.
It is in the midst of these ordinary exquisite realities of the world that I also encounter the source of all wonder and mystery in the world, the One we call God. It is in these small moments of wonder that I am filled with the enchantment of living and life in its beauty and mystery – the sun and rain, the night and day, the seasons that come and go and everything that fills the world with joyful diversity.
I realise that I don’t always pause before this beauty nor look through and beyond it to the Mystery at the heart of the universe, the Loving Presence, named God. Prayer is too often full of words and too little filled with silent listening – listening through eyes, ears, touch, smell, taste and to the inner being of intuitive wonder and curiosity. The canvas of the world holds a living art installation always new and changing before me. The tapestry of life is filled with experience and encounter that is rich, deep and meaningful – if I pause long enough to drink in its complex diversity and hold the moments in my being.
I wonder to myself: If all of us stopped and stood in wonder before the world, its diverse beauty and chaos, and beheld the images of people’s faces in all their intense, loving, sad, hopeful being, would we still worship violence and give in to exploitation, destruction and the negative emotions that guide so much of life? Would we not see the possibilities of living joyfully before the world with humility and delight, sharing friendship and love with each other? Would we encounter God in a deeper sense and align our paths with the way of Love, justice and peace?
There are other moments in life that lift us to a higher, deeper, richer more intense place that changes something in our essential being. There are strange moments that are intensely sacred and holy. We want to remove our shoes, hush our speaking (or use whispers) and bow low before the Mystery that presents itself so acutely and wonderfully before us. We may not see anything but only sense and feel it. We may not hear anything except a soft inner voice that compels us towards something. It is a moment of intense emotion and wonder that fills our being and there is a message from beyond everything we know that speaks into our simple being with wisdom and knowing calling us forth into life.
I have had these intense moments in different times and places. Sometimes in the silence of pondering, reflection or meditation when all at once senses are alight with a knowing beyond sensory awareness. Sometimes there is a moment in a movie that touches me deeply in a profound way – a sacred moment! Sometimes it is in the presence of life and death as we share stories in a funeral, stories of life and love before the body of one we will no longer behold physically in our presence. There are special places and times, ‘thin places’ as the Celts called them, where the Sacred Mystery stands before us radiant and intense and fills our being with the most potent reality. In that moment ‘we know’! We know that there is One beyond us and in us and through us who is Mysterious Love, the creative Presence. This One holds all things in delicate gentleness and tender wonder, delighting in the world that is filled with beauty. This One calls us forth from the chaos or confusion, the sadness or ordinariness of lives lived into an experience of wonder and life! This One calls us into places of risk and edginess where our senses blaze and we feel alive and filled with purpose – we have something worth living/dying for! We are called into courageous response to go into places we never imagined, even feared, to step out of our comfort zones with a new strength and hope.
This week we read an archetypal story of this calling and reality – the story of Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15). It is through the ordinary that the extraordinary appears. There is a distortion of reality that becomes the lens through which Moses recognises that he is in the presence of Holy Presence. The story is told in a metaphorical, archetypal manner such that we understand how to read our own stories and lives when in the presence of such intense wonder. It is a holy story where we learn to read, for ourselves, the meaning in our own experiences of mystery and the enchanted intensity of Presence.
Moses heard a call to go and be the physical presence of this Presence before his world. It was scary notion that filled him with fear and pushed him beyond his comfort zone. It was also an extension of his being, his experiences, learning and giftedness in life. He had been prepared for this over many years and it was time to take courage, trust God and fulfil his calling. That is how it is with us. We are invited into the place where our own learning, experience and giftedness can find fulfilment and expression in the profoundness of God’s creative expression in human life! God’s promise was that he would not be named or defined but would be a constant Presence in the experience and life of Moses! So with us!