There is in the musing of the scribe in today’s reading from Mark a hint of something different: a perspective that is not ordinary, an understanding that surpasses the usual sense of who God is and who we are in relationship with God. The scribe ponders, “you are right to say that ‘he is one and besides him there is no other.’” We can dismiss this statement as an acknowledgement of the singularity of God: there are no other gods. But Judaism has been monotheistic for centuries at the time this fellow speaks. Could that really be all that he means?
I think of Julian of Norwich writing about her vision in which the small round thing like a hazelnut turned out to represent “all that is made”. She says that she was given to understand in her vision that this little, inconsequential thing lasts, and ever shall last, because God loves it. “All-thing hath the Being by the love of God.”
And she goes on to pray, “God, of thy goodness, give me Thyself; for Thou art enough to me, and I may nothing ask that is less than may be full worship to Thee, and if I ask anything that is less, ever me wanteth, – but only in Thee I have all.” She calls the union with God one-ing, and says that until she is oned to God she will never have full rest or bliss. (Revelations of Divine Love, Ch. 5)
At some important place in the soul there is only one thing, and that is God. There is only one activity, and that is to love God with “all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,” and “to love one’s neighbor as oneself.” Everything else is smoke and mirrors. And this love is not about behaviors like offerings, prayers and good works. Instead it has to do somehow with a shift in understanding, something best described by the verb “one-ing.”
There are bare seconds when I feel a sudden shift of outlook that takes the breath away. Watching the sunrise, listening to wind in trees, pouring a glass of water or writing an icon, I will suddenly feel like I am a part of this overwhelming aliveness, this consciousness that embraces all that is. It loves me not in an “aren’t you the cutest thing” sort of way but rather as a node of its being. We all belong, and everything that happens to anybody else happens to me, and vice versa.
These moments are rare. They’re enough to make me ponder, like the scribe in today’s reading, “you are right to say that ‘he is one,’” but not enough that I could say I ever live in that perspective. So, perhaps Jesus would say to me, too, “you are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado