Here and Now: Engagement

​When we are  present to life here and now, we become engaged with life itself.  Communion, celebration, and compassion connect us to life in the present moment in ways that are life-giving to us and to others.  We see this in the life and ministry of Jesus.

Communion.  Out of his ongoing communion with God (Luke 5:16),  Jesus made the astounding claim that his every word and deed was in response to what the Father told him to say and do.  There is no closer connection between heaven and earth than this.

Jesus also communed with nature, “the first Bible.”  I believe this is why he could so easily connect us with life through his parables, many of which were drawn from nature.  He taught against the backdrop of a firmament that showed God’s handiwork (Psalm 19:1), and his insights help us to see it too.

Celebration.  Jesus lived with the note of joy as his keynote.  Sometimes it was the joy of  pleasurable moments and people.  He seems to have been a regular party goer. But he also found joy in the challenging moments of life through offering others hope and healing.  And in his own experience, he could see joy in his endurance of suffering on the cross (Hebrews 13:2).

Compassion.  The first two elements illustrate compassion, but we speak of it in order to remind ourselves that there is no authentic spirituality apart from compassion.  Jesus “went about doung good.”. This was the disposition of his heart and the expression of his will. Several times we read that his first response to others was to have compassion on them.

In these ways and more, he exemplified engagement and told us to “go and do likewise.”  As the Father sent him, he sends us.

This kind of spirituality is not a separate entity, a compartment, or a day of the week. It is the essence of life as God intends for us to live it–to live it engaged, which means to live it in love.  Mirabai Starr describes it this way, “love—active, engaged, fearless love—is the only way to save ourselves and each other from the firestorm of war that rages around us. There is a renewed urgency to this task now. We are asked not only to tolerate the other, but also to actively engage the love that transmutes the lead of ignorance and hatred into the gold of authentic connection. This is the “narrow gate” Christ speaks of in the Gospels.” [1]  This kind of here-and-now engagement is the sign of genuine spirituality.

[1] Mirabai Starr, ‘God of Love’ (Monkfish, 2012), loc 153.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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