This is Eternal Life
As I was editing my last post on Barclay's Proposition 1 I was struck by a phrase that I had not fully appreciated until then. I thought briefly of trying to include it but I was mostly done and the post was already long enough. I decided to let it season a while.. What struck me was the parenthetical quote in Proposition 1 that is from John 17:3. “This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”
Eternal life is not heaven. It is not the afterlife. It is the knowledge of God. Eternal life is living in the knowledge of God here and now in our present condition and our present confusion and in the midst of the muddle of our lives. This isn't the book knowledge of God. This is not knowledge that comes from the syllogisms of theologians. This is what Barclay refers to as the “saving heart knowledge.”
I had an experience that provided a taste of what this can be. I was attending a weekend retreat sponsored by the FGC traveling ministries program. Both mornings were given over to two and a half hour meetings for worship. On Sunday morning we fell into a very deep and gathered worship. I was wanting to go deeper and deeper but I felt that I was blocked in that by some rocky and dry places in me that still needed to be healed. And at the same time I felt that we had dropped down until we had come into the gathered silence of the Meeting for Worship that has been going on since before the world was formed and which will continue on until after the world has ended. The world is being held, will always be held, has always been held, in this worship. I was blessed to step into this worship briefly but it is still going on. Now, even though I cannot usually feel it, and sometimes I forget, I know that the world is being held in this worship. All of our sorrow, pain, joy and gladness is being held in this silence. The pain of the war in Iraq and the war in Darfur and all of the other wars going on today are being held. All the hunger and disease and injustice and also our ecstasies and joys and celebrations; our weddings, our births, our dancings, our running and our singing, all of it to the heights and depths is being held. Everything that we are and know is only a thin skim on the surface of the earth and it is all being held in such a depth that we cannot comprehend or imagine how deeply and completely we are held.
This deep silence can be seen as the River of Life that flows from the throne of God. It flows deep under everything and nourishes and heals all that is.
The world does not rest on turtles. It rests in the silence of the love of God. That love waits in patience. It is like a gentle rain soaking through the shell of a very hard and very dry seed and nothing seems to be happening until one day the water soaks through the shell and a shoot breaks out. Our world has a very hard shell and it has been soaking for a very long time and it needs to soak longer but one day the silence and the living water will bring forth a shoot from that hard and dry seed and all things will be made new. But even before that day comes, we can come to live in the soaking and patient love of the silence of God.
And now that I have thought more about it I understand that this knowledge of God in the deep and silent places is the foundation which is most necessary to be known and believed in the first place. This is where we have to start. This is where everything starts. This is where the world itself began.