Victorious Brigid did not love the world:
she perched in it like a bird on a cliff.
- Broccàn, Hymn to Brigid, Irish, late 7th century
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that isin the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, along the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
- 1 John 2.15-17
Like Brigid, we should be always ready and poised to launch above – or beyond this world – into the greater glories of Christ and His Kingdom. Whether in our daily circumstances and trials, or at the end of our days, we are a people who inhabit a Kingdom not of this world, and we should be always oriented toward, seeking, and working to advance that realm.
The extent to which we know fullness of joy, pleasure forevermore, unshakeable peace, compelling purpose, increasing righteousness, and reliable guidance in our walk with the Lord comes down to a question of worlds: To which world are we ultimately devoted in all our ways?
One of my favorite paintings by the still-life artist Philip R. Jackson is entitled, “Party’s Over” (you can view this and other paintings by Philip by watching this Conversation).
It features an origami bird perched on the stern of little boat made from a soap dish, a party favor, and what appears to be a straw. The bird has its wings raised, ready to leap into the air, and the straw on which it is perched is bent under the weight of its imminent thrust.
The first time I saw this wonderful piece, I immediately thought of Broccàn’s comment about Brigid.
The great 6th-century Irish saint lived a most disciplined life, devoted to ministry and the pleasure of God. Though she was ever busy in many routine tasks, her orientation was ever toward things that are above, and she was constantly, through prayer and meditation, engaging realities beyond this world to sustain her service in it.
On one occasion, as she was driving her chariot to some ministry opportunity, Broccàn described Brigid as “practicing the life of heaven on earth through meditation and prayer.” I love that idea: practicing heaven on earth, living in the then and there, here and now. Living above and within the world of glory as we make our way through the fallen world of men.
The things of the world are wonderful gifts from God, if we receive them as such, and use them as stewards in His service. The danger is that we too easily come to regard worldly things as ends in themselves – sources of pride or means to happiness, as Solomon feared his son Rehoboam was beginning to do (Eccl. 6). Then the things of the world become idols that can never satisfy. Which then leads to acquiring more of such things to fill the “want-gap.”
Or they become burdens too great for us to bear, and we fall into discouragement, depression, and despair. At such times, we do well to recover our perch and orientation toward the Kingdom not of this world.
Celtic missionaries traveled light. Besides the clothes on their backs and the books in their satchels, they had few, if any worldly possessions. And what they did retain was solely for honoring God by serving others.
But wherever they went, they took the disciplines of prayer, reading, meditation, and singing, allowing them to maintain that heavenly orientation which sustained their lives and work. Like Brigid, they perched lightly in this world, because their joy, purpose, provision, sustenance, and hope were firmly fixed in the world to come.
We give thanks to God that He lavishes us with so many of this world’s goods. But we must not allow our possessions to capture our primary devotion, or to weigh us down with fretting. We must live over and beyond the concerns of this world, and soar within the bright air of the world of glory, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
This is the work of prayer and meditation, which, if we spread these out throughout the day, even creating brief oases for prayer in the course of our regular activities, we may be able to achieve the kind of heavenly orientation that will fit us for service and keep us perched on the brink of eternity at all times.
The world and its goods are passing away. Let us perch here lightly, friends, ever looking up and seeking the things that are above, where Christ is seated in heavenly places.
Question for Reflection
1. How can you tell when this world is beginning to command too much of your focus and energy?
2. What can you do to keep yourself perched “like a bird on a cliff” throughout the day?
Psalm 24.1, 2, 5, 6(Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
The earth is the Lord’s, as is all it contains.
The world and its peoples He daily sustains.
He founded it fast on the seas long ago,
and bid gentle rivers throughout it to flow.
A blessing all they from the Lord shall receive
who seek Him and on His salvation believe.
For these are His people, the children of grace,
who earnestly, eagerly seek for His face.
Lord, help me to live more fully in the world of Your Kingdom and glory, so that I…
Bring the joy of Christ to your world
Our book, Joy to Your World!, is a practical guide for knowing and sharing the love of Christ in your Personal Mission Field. Order a copy for yourself and a friend by clicking here. Read and discuss the book, and encourage one another in showing the love of Christ to your world.
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If Crosfigell is of benefit to you, and you believe in the mission of The Fellowship of Ailbe, please seek the Lord concerning whether He would have you support this work with your financial gifts. You can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction VT 05452.
T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Carey, p. 164.