Friday, November 24, 2006

The Gift of More

Last Spring when I wrote my two devotionals for the RevGalBlogPal's book Ordinary Time (advertised at right), November seemed so unimaginably far away. But here we are, about to heft the last days of the month onto our backs and carry them into December. I shamelessly invite you over to Ordinary Time to read the devotionals I wrote for yesterday and today. Both of them are based on the same text--David's last words--which are part of the lectionary readings for this coming Sunday when we celebrate Christ the King.

As I recuperated over the past couple weeks during my blogging hiatus, I sadly missed my first blogiversary. I published my first entry here on the Blanket in the Grove on November 14, 2005. If you're disposed to such things, I invite to you to take a step back for a moment and read my debut here. At that time I had just returned from the East Coast (as I have now, as well!); I was preparing with great (and as it turns out, unnecessary) trepidation to propose my comprehensive exams, (I'm now preparing for my final, oral exam next week); and had just been licensed for ministry in my congregation (where my hours expanded considerably for this current year).

Each of these things continue to be the benchmarks that help me know my place in this world. I had titled that first entry "In Between" and in some ways I wonder if this is always my experience. There is an enduring sense of being on a journey (as I know so many of us feel) and that the in-betweenness of that journey is the gift of it. Every arrival eventually becomes an invitation to set out again toward another unknown.

So I am recently returned from the East Coast again--arrived Tuesday night from Washington DC where I attended my first-ever Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society for Biblical Literature. As D pulled the car up at the airport about 8:00 on the night I arrived, Monk spotted me and opened his door before the car had come to a complete stop--so eager was he to greet his ol' Mom. There was no danger, really, the car was going slow enough by that point and he was well-strapped in. But it did give me a bit of a start!

I want to always remember the moment, though--the prodigal son who looks with overflowing eagerness for the return of his mum. In the car as we drove back home, Monk burst over with stories and laughter. When I would turn and look at him, I was amazed at the light in his eyes. I felt it all as gift.

Going to AAR was everything I needed it to be. I am so glad I was there this year. It got me out of the cozy box I'd had to live in over the past year as I answered the questions for my exams. It reminded me of all the amazing questions being asked by academics all over the world. It demystified some of the Big Names I've been reading all these years--I got to see them as people, laugh at their jokes, appreciate their three-dimensional humanness rather than their two-dimensional texts!

I was also able to reconnect with old friends in a way that simply helps me remember who I am.

I also was able to talk with people fruitfully about the next step in front of me--proposing and writing my dissertation. I won't say much about that now, but imagine it will be a subject which accompanies me in this blog for some time to come now.

One of the highlights of the trip, rather unexpectedly, was the opportunity to go to an exhibit at the Sackler Gallery (one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institute) where they featured Bibles (as in codices, scrolls, papyri, and eventually manuscripts) prior to the year 1000. You can read more about it here. What an awesome experience! With all the talk about fragmentation in postmodernity, it was humbling, indeed, to see the fragments out of which we have pieced together our scriptures. There is something fundamentally deceptive about the neatly contained, uninterrupted solidity of our bibles published by major publishing houses today. It was truly humbling to see the fragments of our scriptural origins, their very physical tentativeness seems to stand as a crying plea to careful, gentle, tentative exegesis--rather than the heavy-handed, confident, and stern certainty that all too often is our approach to biblical texts.

Not only that, but the reverent beauty with which many of these pages were created was awe-inspiring. Though I have to say that it occurred to me at one point that these pages were once somebody's deadline. Perhaps merely what had to get done, somebody's work. My sense is that they were not alienated from their work, as we so often are from our own. But I bet there were at least some moments when the monk working on his page felt the pressure to simply get it done. Perhaps he suffered from a sleepless night on occasion, worrying about the page he had yet to finish. This thought pleases me for some reason. To see the page a thousand years later seems to give those moments simultaneously unbearable weight and unbearable lightness. It matters; it matters not.

Well, there still feels like more to say. And for this, in and of itself, I am grateful. Too many weeks of dry silence in my world. So good to wake up to fresh dew on the grass.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As the only other participant in this airport pickup, I love the use of the word "prodigal" to describe Monk's eager exuberance at his mom's return. I remember an old sermon from Monk's grandfather where he pointed out that Jesus' parable was really about the outlandishly prodigal love of the father, who never stopped hoping his wayward son would come home. Guess it works both ways.