Jesus’ Seven Last Words, sayings offered from the cross, may serve as guidance for the spiritual life. You are invited to contemplate each saying during the seven Wednesdays of Lent and Holy Week.
Not to demean the abject nature of Jesus’ final words, according to John—but how nice to be able to say, “It is finished.”
I have often written that, in the spiritual life, there is no finish line. And that believing you’re done or that you’ve arrived is spiritually dangerous. Lillian Hellman’s memoir title, An Unfinished Woman, is more realistic. (Though given the way Hellman apparently tended to fictionalize her own life, she may have been referring to a future version of her life events!)
Personally I fantasize about being able to say “I’m done” and go off to lie on a beach of a tropical island with a full library and an open bar.
You might say, “in your dreams!” but even my dreams will not let me rest in peace. In one speech I gave during what author and friend Mary Ann Woodruff has humorously christened my “legacy tour,” I said:
If my dreams are any indication, I have much unfinished business with the church as well as with my colleagues in the LGBT movement; also with the organizations and congregations I have served. I’m hoping this opportunity to talk about the meaning of the movement might be an occasion to exorcise some of the demons and heal some of the wounds inflicted by the friction between what I consider a movement of the Holy Spirit—perhaps even an uprising of the Holy Spirit—and the inertia inherent in any longstanding institution, such as the church.
More than sixty longtime Presbyterian catalysts of change on LGBT inclusion will gather next month at Stony Point, New York, to compare such notes at “Rock Stars and Prophets” following the recent denominational approval of same-gender marriage.
In recent months I have revisited almost every significant venue of my “uncommon calling” in my dreams. Sometimes I am welcomed back with grace and gratitude, more often with reservations and resistance. I’ve also revisited every place I’ve lived and all my significant relationships with people, partners, and relatives—again, with mixed results. It reminds me of those cartoon images of a character’s life passing before his/her eyes while falling off a cliff. I’m not dying, at least not in any way we aren’t all “dying.” I’m aging, and looking back on a life sometimes well-lived and sometimes not so well-lived. Many of you either share that experience or will share that experience.
If we can claim Jesus as a “Christian,” which may be a stretch, he was the first Christian interim or transitional minister. In three short years he revolutionized the way we view power, privilege, tradition, government, religion, spirituality, ourselves, and God. In the Gospels’ telling of the story, he lived and breathed and taught the common spiritual wealth we have from God. But he also sacrificed for it: he risked his well-being, his family, his religion, his very life, and he did so with grace, forgiveness, generosity, resistance, and love—above all else, love.
And that love has never finished.
For those who would like daily readings for this week of Lent, click here and scroll down to the end of “The Double Feature.”
My book, The Final Deadline: What Death Has Taught Me about Life was mentioned in a current column by Kay Campbell.
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