Todd Outcalt is senior pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church in Brownsburg, Indiana. He is the author of more than 30 books.
Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) exemplified mystical life committed to care for God’s creation. One day as Francis passed by a dilapidated church, he was drawn to enter the ruins. Confronted by a crucifix mounted above the altar, he fell to his knees, begging God to tell him what he was to do with his life and what kind of person he was to become. A voice spoke from the crucifix, “Francis, repair my church, which is falling down.” So he rebuilt churches, brick by brick. Later, he realized that God had a bigger vision than he could ever imagine: spiritually and morally repairing the Western church and ultimately healing the world. Francis’s vision led to a journey of personal and ecclesiastical transformation.
Although he sought the solitude of monasticism, Benedict of Nursia (480-543) was inspired to pen what has become the most significant Western spiritual text on communal faith formation. Writing in a time of cultural and religious uncertainty, in which Christianity rose as the Roman empire disintegrated, Benedict saw the need for fiery spiritual lifestyle at the heart of Christianity. Benedict saw communal living as the crucible for Christian maturity. He envisioned a holistic spirituality that joins work and prayer, activism and contemplation, and ground itself in the experience of God’s ever-present activity and guidance.
From her early life, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was sensitive to God’s illuminating presence. Before she turned five years old, she began to experience God’s presence enlivening and enlightening her. She experienced divine energy permeating her mind, body, and spirit, and revelations coming to her through sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. In her forties, Hildegard experienced a profound vision that joined theology and spirituality with God’s command to write down what she experienced. Hildegard heard God tell her to “transmit for the benefit of humanity an accurate account of what you see with your inner eye and what you hear with the inner ear of your soul…” For the rest of her life, Hildegard inscribed her experiences in texts such as Scivias, “know the way,” and De operatione Dei, “the book of divine works.” Hildegard’s multifaceted spirituality speaks to twenty-first-century seekers in her affirmation of God’s intimate and enlivening presence in our lives and the world.
Brother Lawrence (1614-91) spent a lifetime opening to God’s presence in the ordinary and transitory moments of life. This seventeenth century French mystic encountered God at eighteen years of age while gazing at a barren tree on a winter day. Young Nicholas Herman, who changed his name to Brother Lawrence upon entering the Carmelite Order as a lay-brother, noticed that while the tree’s leaves had fallen, eventually they would reappear, followed by blossoms and fruit. From this observation, Nicholas experienced the power and providence of God and began a spiritual journey of practicing the presence of God amid the most ordinary and unremarkable moments of daily life. He asserted that if God is omnipresent, then every moment can reveal God every workplace, holy ground.
25 “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. 29 But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. 30 If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? 31 Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
35 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They said, “Allow one of us to sit on your right and the other on your left when you enter your glory.”
38 Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you’re asking! Can you drink the cup I drink or receive the baptism I receive?”
39 “We can,” they answered.
Jesus said, “You will drink the cup I drink and receive the baptism I receive, 40 but to sit at my right or left hand isn’t mine to give. It belongs to those for whom it has been prepared.”
41 Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with James and John. 42 Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the ones who are considered the rulers by the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. 43 But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. 44 Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, 45 for the Human One[a] didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”
1 Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
11 Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.
53 Jesus said to them, “I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Human One[a] and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me lives because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. It isn’t like the bread your ancestors ate, and then they died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
60 Many of his disciples who heard this said, “This message is harsh. Who can hear it?”
61 Jesus knew that the disciples were grumbling about this and he said to them, “Does this offend you?