Monday, September 9, 2013

Finding a home and saying no to cynicism...

A new week of mission and ministry is dawning in the Berkshires:  it is a
perfect sunny and cool morning.  One of the ancient prayers for the morning says:

Let the earth glorify the Lord,
   praise God and highly exalt him for ever.
Glorify the Lord, o mountains and hills,
  and all that grows upon the earth,
   praise God and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, o springs of water, seas and streams,
   o whales and all that move in the waters.
All birds of the air, glorify the Lord,
   praise God and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, o beasts of the wild,
   and all you flocks and herds.
O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord,
   praise God and highly exalt him for ever.

Who knows what this day shall bring?  There are a few scheduled meetings but most of my time today is open to the mystery.  Two thoughts are wandering around within my heart as things get rolling:

+ The first comes from Henri Nouwen who once wrote that when Jean Vanier invited him to spend time at L'Arche, Vanier said, "Henri, maybe L'Arche can offer you a home, a place where you are really safe, where you can meet God in a whole new way."  Nouwen goes on to observe that Vanier "didn't ask me to be useful he didn't ask me to work for handicapped people; and he didn't say he needed another priest.  He simply said, 'Maybe we can offer you a home...' and in time I realized I had to take that call seriously."

My experience with church is that it became my home - a place of physical safety for me during my agonizing adolescence as well as a place that gave me space to become my best self - and it grieves me when this isn't a shared experience.  Too many people have known the church as an oppressive father or mother - a judgmental institution dedicated to preserving the status quo - not a place of hope, safety and beauty.  One of the themes I am going to explore this Sunday in our reflection on "storms" has to do with seeking shelter from the storm.  That is, creating a space that both anticipates the hard and frightening reality of storms, and, offers people shelter from the inevitable pain. It is clear to me that this is part of what Jesus desired as he helped bring a community of radical trust to birth:  come unto me all ye who are tired and weary and I will give you rest.  Shelter from the storm is a deep calling that aches for renewal.
+ The second has to do with cynicism - and its oppressive taint.  Short version: being cynical and crass wastes my time and offends Christ's spirit.  It doesn't make suffering better, it doesn't strengthen compassion and it doesn't lift up a broken heart.  It just makes the ugliness and pain feel worse.  So I have come to think of cynics as those so wounded by their own sorrow - good people who have become so addicted to their agony - that they refuse to let the light in.  What's more, they often seem intent on soiling and spoiling the beauty that others are trying to strengthen.  It happens with a rude comment or a callous reply on Facebook, it takes shape in throw away lines that dismiss rather than nourish and almost always passes for humor.  "I was only joking. What's the matter, can't you take a joke?"

I know a lot about cynicism - and cutting and biting retorts - I've dealt my share of ugly comments and having been on the receiving end of a lot of them, too. I know they are intended to hurt - not be funny - and I've come to sense that life is just too short to be about adding more pain to human suffering. So I've quit listening to so-called comedians who are more cruel than entertaining - and cynical music - and mean-spirited politicians. (This old tune by Joni Mitchell gets it right...)
Not that I've joined the Rod McKuen fan club - I'm not interested in sentimental pastel living - I simply know that what I need the most is love and encouragement. And as other artists have said, what is most personal is usually most universal.  I like the way Vanier put it:

Humanity needs to return to this humble, loving God who is all heart. It needs to rediscover the message of gentleness, tenderness, nonviolence and forgiveness to rediscover the beauty of our universe, of matter, of our own bodies and of all life. This path of rediscovery will be a struggle, but a worthwhile one. 

I pray that this day might be one of sharing trust and forgiveness to the glory of God.

No comments:

trusting the sacramental wisdom of the seasons: the autumnal equinox

Yesterday a little package arrived: my used copy of Christopher Hill's 2003 book Holidays and Holy Nights - Celebrating Twelve Seasonal ...