On the Sunday morning of Hutchmoot, my sister and I went to church with the friends we were staying with at Christ Presbyterian Church of Nashville. The minister, Scott Sauls, spoke from Philippians 2 on “The Humility of God.” In one of those “God-things” everything he said seemed to fit hand in glove with the content of the conference.
He challenged the congregation to look to Christ’s humility as an example and to be imitators of him. He said that humility is the freedom from the need to be thinking of ourselves, that humility liberates us to look toward others. He pointed to Jonathan, the prince of Israel, as an example – Jonathan weakened his own position so that David might become strong. And then he pointed out the irony: the less Jonathan acted like a king, the more kingly he became in character.
We serve a God who likes juxtapositions like that. He requires death for life, losing our lives for finding them. If nothing else this weekend was a reminder of the great juxtaposition that is the Suffering Servant and the Reigning King.
I could tell you the ideas I was presented with this weekend which took my brain out of my head, scrubbed it up and down on a washing board, and stuffed it back in, all freshly laundered and stretched in unfamiliar places. I could tell you about the delightful people I met who were kind, thoughtless of self, and thoughtful of others. I could tell you about the princes and princesses I met who made themselves nothing and thereby became great.
But I seem to be unable to form into typewritten words what I really want to say about this conference. So, instead, I shall lean upon one of my favorite poets, T.S. Eliot, in his master work of juxtaposition, The Four Quartets.
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
-“East Coker” V.123-133
I can’t quite find a way to explain it, but that passage sums up the feelings from this past weekend – the joy, the agony, the stillness, the running, the hoping, the waiting, the loving, the faith…
We’ve all gone our separate ways now, and cries of, “Hutchmoot let down!” are filling my news feed on Facebook. I’m certain we shall soon become wrapped up into the worlds we find ourselves in, but I hope that our hugs at the church or at the airport are not fully goodbyes. Instead, I hope that they are not goodbyes at all. But rather moments when, instead of thinking of ourselves, we were free to look toward others, to give them our kingly robes, and to send them out renewed.
“Not fare well, / But fare forward, voyagers.”
-“The Dry Salvages” III.69-70