I met Phyliss Tickle at the Vineyard this morning. My girlfriend Bobbie, moved by my angst, sent me information about what's going on in my own town that I was clueless about (thanks, Bobbie). I went with that familiar blend of hope and wonder, and maybe a little fear. I just knew, like you know the sound of your name when it comes out of the mouth of your true love--I knew it would change my life.
So where was I this morning?
Standing on a precipice hovering above Orthodoxy. I was about ready to surrender everything this Pentecostal wanderer ever thought she knew about the faith, and jump into an ancient path that my only experience with was the summer I gave myself (with many failures) to fixed hour prayers. I prayed the prayers of the Divine Hours until I met God in a new way. And meet God I did. He would not let me forget the experience.
Let me backtrack a bit. I was never one for ritual. I'd been taught to distrust tradition. In my charismatic zeal and arrogance, like many others, I poo pooed away any experiece of God that required actual discipline. These things were dead, and God was alive. He was the Fire of Pentecost blazing through my life. He was New Wine, and the old was to be discarded.
So, I chased anointings, looking for fire in wild Holy Ghost filled preaching. I looked for signs and wonders, healings, growing out legs--I don't know what was with that whole leg growing phenomenen in the eighties. I watched the "faith" ministries I admired on television crumble in a refuse heap of scandal and shame. Many of the miracles I coveted were manufactured, and not by God. I grieved the God I knew could do anything, and the liars that were compelled to help Him out, for profit.
I sought the big, God of wonders in so many places, that I grew weary and distrustful. I grew quiet and sad. I grew older, and more broken. I swept into congregations with the best of intentions, and shrunk away later, feeling like an utter failure. Something was broken, and I didn't know what it was, and certainly not how to fix it.
It was at the mention of a prayer book by Jen Lemen that the concept even came to me. Prayer book? What a strange and wondrous thing. Not long after the idea whetted my appetite, did I discover The Vineyard was following fixed our prayers, and I went, and Pastor Ken gave me the book for free.
In the Divine Hours, I met God in the Lords prayer. I met Him in praying the Psalms, and in Morning Prayers, and Noon Prayers, and Vespers and Compline prayers. God of fire. God of Pentecost, bursting through His Word, meeting me along with millions of others all over the world, one continuous link. Prayers to the Throne without ceasing. Prayers inside of the Beloved Community.
So, where was I this morning, when I walked in the cold to the Vineyard, to hear Phyllis talk about Place? Oh, God. Would she talk about church? Would I crawl away in guilt, feeling the sting of failure and loss again?
But she didn't talk about church. She talked about that place where our story begins. She talked about the moment when Abraham was to sacrifice his son. This was the precusor to our salvation. This was the incredible HINT that would give away the rest of the book. She talked about that holy mountain, that later became home to the Temple, built up, and torn down, again, and again, which is the very place that Abraham's sons of Ishmael have built their temple. She told us how this place, is our place, too. It is not just for Jew, or Moslem, but also for us who have believed on the Son. The Son that was the real sacrifice, which Abraham's offering merely foreshadowed.
Jerusalem is ours.
The old is ours, and the new, and the Beloved Community is to embrace both in a full bodied, faith. Faith of our Fathers, Faith of our own, forged by the Living God, who is still in the bread and the wine of our communion, and still in the Wind of the Spirit, ever new. Then Phyllis gave me something that I will never forget. She gave me Revelation"
"And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the Glory of God."
"But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord god Almighty and the Lamb are it's temple. The city had no need of sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illumined it. The Lamb is it's light."
Where is my place?
It is in the City, and He is the light of the City. He is my Place. My Home and My God. My City. I need never feel homeless again. I am part of the Beloved Community, I am His. He is mine.
And we belong to each other, you and me.
That's what Phyllis taught me this morning, and I had to thank her.
I stood a long time in the line, waiting for her to pray with me. I thought of what I wanted to ask God for. Of wanted I wanted to give to Him. In the end, when I stood before this woman--a wildcat, funny, and vibrant, with glowing skin, and hands gnarled with arthritis. I could only say two things when she smiled at me.
"Thank you for the Divine Hours," I said. "It changed my pentecostal life."
She exploded with a boisterous laugh and held my hands. "What a lovely thing to say."
And then what I wanted from God. "I just want to be the woman He wants me to be."
"You will be. Prayer will take you there. You are very beautiful," she said.
And I didn't know what to say, because I wasn't expecting her to say that. I mumbled thank you. I can't help but think of U2 as I write this. Bono singing "...in the City of Blinding Lights. Oh you look so beautiful tonight." Thank you, Lord, that she said that to me.
Then, she stood close to me. She dipped her fingers in oil, and crossed my forehead. She proclaimed that I had been given the Mark of Christ. She prayed the ancient prayers to grant me Peace. She told me to go, and serve the Lord for the rest of my days.
And I did go in peace, beloved.
And I will serve the Lord for the rest of my days, no longer homeless, but safe in the Holy City that is Him. Part of the Beloved Community.
Even so, come quickly, Lord.
in faith and joy,
with Orthodox Roots,
and Holy Spirit wings,