One Corner Ma
One of traditional China's most famous painters was named Ma Yuan, but he was jokingly nicknamed "One Corner Ma" by his thirteenth-century contemporaries.
You can imagine what his typical paintings are like. In one bottom corner is a lovely scene-a lush cliff or waterfall or mountain edge, trees, rocks, and birds. The middle of the painting is bounded by dim silhouettes of leafy trees, and beyond that-a limitless void. Our eyes are led back into the foggy distance, and we move from the material world through the mist into one without substance, into a mystical space that we cannot see. I wonder whether Ma's real corner was not the corner filled with trees, but the corner that led into infinity. That's where he really wanted to take us.
In a way, a good transition period is like Ma's corner. From here, we can't see clearly where God is taking us, and we may feel during this transition as if we are moving through mystery, or at least uncertainty. But you are starting to have your sights on what lies ahead for you, as in that foggy mist where a new rector stands, waiting to be your leader. But as you strain to see ahead into that mist, I urge you not to lose sight of what lies right in front of you, the little corner where the activity is-right here at Calvary Church.
Because to me, what lies beyond for Calvary is the same as what lies here-you, the congregation. Calvary is less a pastoral or program or whatever model you might name, as it is a "people's church."
And Calvary is a Spirit-led church. The little corner of Cincinnati called Calvary leads me to look outward and ahead-to the future, to the reign of God, to the spirit in the community.
In this corner, I see a group making worship of God a joyful experience for children. I see volunteers lovingly bringing food to the residents at Tender Mercies. I see volunteers singing, cooking food for stranger and friends, staffing the office, and, yes, cleaning out the cat's litter box. And I see people keeping touch with, and checking on, your larger church family, those who are ill, for whom you so obviously care so deeply.
In other words, life at Calvary is a little like One Corner Ma. Our congregational life is a visible piece of our divine life. Like the foggy mist in Ma's paintings, the divine realm is usually hidden from us. But sometimes, I think, the mist rolls away just a bit, and we can see snatches of what lies beyond. That snatch may come during a moving hymn or inspiring worship, or an unexpected act of caring, or a deep sense of fulfillment when your ministry lights up somebody's eyes.
When that happens, we're in Ma's corner-and beyond.