Could it already be almost... ADVENT?

So I sat down this afternoon - after worship and some errands - and outlined a few thoughts about the next few weeks of worship and before I knew it... I was up to Advent I 2010! Apparently its only 11 weeks away- and 14+ weeks till Christmas Eve! Figures - the floor was freezing this morning when I got up for prayers. Before you know it, there will be snow...

+ For the next five weeks I'll be writing and teaching about "the feast" - an experiential way of becoming a disciple of Christ - that is all about joy and creativity. For most of my life, the way of spiritual discipline has been more about giving up than being filled. One of my favorite resources comes from Holly Whitcomb: Feasting with God. It is really worth looking over - God knows I hope to use it as a foundation for intergenerational spirituality classes next year. Imagine: a full year of feasting - various themes, prayer, songs and meals - shared cooperatively with beauty and grace.

+ This coming Saturday, September 11th we'll be holding a justice/mission retreat at a local camp and retreat center. Some Christian fundamentalists are threatening to burn copies of the Qu'ran on the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attack. What incredible stupidity and arrogance to my way of being faithful. To be sure, I still go to Ground Zero every time I am in Manhattan - spend some time in quiet prayer and drop into Trinity Church, too - because part of my heart is still wounded.

But hatred and fear begets violence and those who claim to follow the Prince of Peace have a calling higher than fanning the flames of bigotry and fear. There is always a time to grieve and a time to weep but now it is a time for peace and peace-making. In my heart, September 11th has become greater than any ideology or religion and just comes down to this...

+ Feasting in the Sufi tradition offers another insight into this essential but counter-intuitive spirituality: The month of fasting, Ramadan, is often greeted by the Sufis as a good friend and as a welcome and honoured guest. They love to see this guest come, but also to see him go. The implication of the first is clear, but perhaps not of the second. The end of the month of fasting is followed by a feast. In ordinary terms this means that you can eat and drink. But in Sufi terms the feast implies the meeting with the Beloved - and the Beloved is then the cup bearer who pours out the wine of gnosis (wisdom and truth) and love. (
After our feasting series - which includes a look at the feast as a way of prayer, a path into creativity, a tender school of hospitality as well as something of God's vision for creation - it is on to our annual stewardship drive. This year we have banished ALL talk of guilt and obligation: our goal is to live into the promise that those who give gifts from their hearts will be filled with joy.

And then it will be Thanksgiving - and our annual American Music Festival to raise funds for those with emergency fuel needs in the Berkshires - which is one of the highlights of my year: great musicians gather and share their gifts and music in ways that gets the crowd singing and sharing. Group singing is a lost art in the United States - except in certain rock concerts - but then the volume is usually too loud to sing in harmony. There is something ecstatic about Springsteen or U2 - and I cherish those times - but there is something holy, too, about ordinary people getting together to sing and create a little beauty and a bit of hope.

And no sooner is that feast over then it will be Advent. Hard to believe but... true.


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