As we were unable to gather yesterday I have decided to share some of the material that I was going to offer during the Sunday Gathering. I hope you find it encouraging on this snowing Monday afternoon...
Settle into the embrace of community and might our hearts be softened as we absorb this poem/prayer by Jan Richardson, from her book, Circles of Grace:
Perhaps it does not begin.
Perhaps it is always.
Perhaps it takes
to open our eyes,
to learn to see
what has forever
shimmered in front of us
the luminous line
of the map
in the dark
the vigil flame
in the house
of the heart,
we cannot keep
from crying out
Perhaps this day
will be the mountain
the dawn breaks.
will turn our face
toward what has been
will finally open
in ancient recognition,
illuminated at last.
Perhaps this day
the light begins
The lectionary texts are taken from Isaiah 40:21-31 and Mark 1:29-39.
Oh the urgency… can you feel it. Thirty-nine verses into the story and Jesus and the disciples are moving from one situation to another, responding to one need after another… it is no surprise to me that Jesus got up early in the morning, while it was still dark, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Can you relate? Overwhelmed with the constant needs you are presented with? The demands we place on ourselves? The requests that others put on us… I sure can. Some days I wanted to just run away! Less so now days – but during my service as a Chaplain at Springhill Institution, presented each day by multiple situations with very complicated and sometimes conflicting needs…
It was during these years that I was introduced to the music of Rosie Thomas.
One of the first songs I heard of hers was one called the Kite Song. I invite you to listen it now as you bring to mind all the needs and demands that are placed on your life – maybe no one is looking to you to cast out a demon or heal their sick mother-in-law… but whatever it is that comes to mind for you may be what is drawing on or even draining your energy…
I just want to go away from here…
I love the imagery… passing marigolds that are guiding lights… the wind blowing stronger and the feeling of spirit rising… I just want to go away from here… tie me up and tightly by your side, so I may go with you, where ever you reside…
and notice the change – the one who wants to leave become the guiding light for the other…
Perspective has the capacity to allow that to happen. When we step back and look to the big picture we see as the writer of the book Isaiah proclaims,
GOD sits above the vaulted roof of the world, and its inhabitants look like grasshoppers! God stretches out the skies like a curtain,
and spreads them out like a tent for mortals to live under!
God reduces the privileged to nothing
and throws the rulers of the earth into chaos.*
No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root on earth,
than God blows on them and they wither,
and a storm wind sweeps them away like chaff.
There is so much in life that is beyond our control.
Sure, we can eat well, exercise, visit the dentist regularly, attend to our relationships, work hard, share our resources generously … and still, we can get sick, loose every tooth in our head, find ourselves separated and alone at 55 and be looking for a job as we search for an apartment…
Perspective. Taking time to look to the big picture and both my insignificance and significance in that picture… to draw the lines between that which I know is connected… to rest, to pray.
Following our conversation on Tuesday morning, Ruth, shared with me of a book she read I have a number of years ago by Buddhist teacher, Frank Ostaseski: The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us about Living Fully. The book is based on his experiences at the hospice with people who were dying. Ruth wrote to me, I remember it being a wise and tender book. Among his list of "invitations" one of them is "Find a place of rest in the middle of things." I have a strong memory of him using the example of a woman who was struggling painfully for breath at the end of her life, and the place of rest he helped her find was in between breathing out and breathing in again. A tiny, tiny little space to rest, to lay down the struggle for a moment, but there regularly to hold her. Once she found it, it calmed her struggle. This reminds me that rest need not be big, does not need to be long, it just needs to be chosen and dwelt in, much like you shared today, Janet, about focusing on the out breath and just letting it all go. We don't need a wilderness or a retreat centre or a two-week vacation to find rest. We just need our intention and attention.
Our intention and attention.
And still, yes, before you know it, those with whom your share life, the fellow human beings who depend on you and on whom you depend, they’ll come hunting for you…
And if you’ve gained a healthy perspective, you’ll pick yourself up off of your prayer mat, and like Jesus, say to them, as much your own benefit as theirs, “Let us move on… so I may proclaim the Good News there also. This is what I have come to do: to serve.”
I added that last little bit: to serve – because that’s what I find myself saying to myself each time I gain perspective.
That’s what the story says happened to Simon’s unnamed mother-in-law… let’s call her Grace. Grace’s hands that were once still in illness, once they received the healing touch of God, she used those very hands to serve. She immediately became an agent of what she had just received: grace and mercy and healing. Not as an act of obligation, or law or social expectation but as an act of freedom…
And that is the opportunity afforded each of us, as ones who have been made whole and conscripted into the realm of God – to do likewise – to serve. It’s like a spiritual ponzi scheme.
When Grace sees a whole city’s worth of sick and demon possessed outside her door, I like to imagine her pushing up her sleeves and touching and healing and loving and speaking truth to all of them. She transmits what was given to her. She gets up and serves.”
And yes, the serving is tiring and wearying… and sometimes it is downright soul sucking… but when we gain perspective, when we find that place of wholeness and connection, we realize that in the realm of God there are no personal treasures to be had…there are only gifts to be shared.
God’s desire for the wholeness and healing of all creation continues through me, and through you – through the hands on which rest the waters of baptism and the hands which break the bread of life and share the cup of salvation in communion.
Our hands are what God has to work with here. Hands that, no matter what your story is, have as much to receive as they have to give. And God desire for each of us is healing and perspective, yes, for the sake of your own health and wholeness, but also, because there’s a lot of healing to be done out there.”
I am going to give the last word of this sermon to my friend and colleague Paul, who sings another song that creates space for me to gain perspective when I need it… might it offer the same for you…
It is a strange thing, to be, at once in the same moment, feeling so connected and free… heart open wide and wider still as we face the unknown of tomorrow: living – loving and letting go.
And so, today, let us simply acknowledge that this is the movement of life and love. From fear to wonder, from hope to despair, in ceaseless turning, toward one another and the joys and sorrows of the world… and let us go, arms open wide to embrace all that may be – all that will be – for so much is beyond our control.
On this day, in darkness, shadows, and full-on blinding light, on this day, when we have poured ourselves out, been filled and emptied time and again, may we be aware, more than ever, that we are loved – that we are love… and that our being is a blessing. May it be so.
Blessings on the week!
Today I am working from home today as I wait for a tractor to come and blow out our driveway. The snowblower broke yesterday afternoon and hopefully the folks from the shop will get around tomorrow to take it in for service! Once we get out one of us will have to drive Kate back to university - she surprised us with a visit on Friday evening!
I will be in the office tomorrow for meetings, with one exception, a visit to the dentist at 1PM. On Wednesday I will be doing a few pastoral visits in the afternoon before meeting with the Executive for the monthly Grounding meeting at 6:30PM.
Thursday will be spent getting ready for our All-Ages Event on Sunday which will begin with a Devotional Gathering after which participants will have opportunity to move among stations to explore at least three spiritual practices that they could embrace for the Lenten season.
Friday and Saturday will be days off and on Sunday I look forward to gathering in community for the last Sunday before Lent.
I will be in Halifax on Monday for an appointment at the Cochlear Implant Assessment Clinic at the advice of my ENT Doctor.
And don't forget! Tuesday February 14th is not only Valentines Day - it is also Shrove/Pancake Tuesday! Plan now to come to the Community Pancake Dinner at Sackville United Church between 5 and 6:30PM!