Scattering seeds of peace...

We have started - and I mean just started - to cull our belongings and start a process of discarding, selecting and simplifying. In truth, we've only done a little bit - coats and jackets - but that produced a garbage of gifts for someone who might use them better than we. Still, it is a start. So for the next few months we'll be gradually whittling our way through financial debts, clothes, dishes, furniture, records, CD's and... books. While on sabbatical, we not only had to limit our wardrobe to one suitcase a piece, but we made a serious effort to pay down most our maxed-out credit cards. The result being a new found desire to let go of a variety of things that weigh us down and keep us from living more freely.

In that spirit, I have been rummaging through books I have owned for years but have never read. Last night, a slim volume by Parker Palmer called Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation caught my eye. Like the sage once said, "When the student is ready, the Buddha will appear," right? Chapter One opens with a poem by William Stafford: "Ask Me."

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden: and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say. 

Palmer then goes on to note that the very question, "ask me what I have done with my life" is nonsense to some people. We are whatever has happened to us; whatever choices, mistakes, sins and blessings we have encountered and endured. "But for others," he continues, "and I am one, the poet's words will be precise, piercing and disquieting."

They remind me of moments when it is clear - if I have eyes to see - that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like the river beneath the ices. And in the spirit of the poet, I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?

Today is the autumnal equinox. It is also Yom Kippur as well as the start of Pope Francis' visit to the United States.  We hosted a small, ecumenical prayer vigil and Eucharist at noon today to stand in solidarity with the Pope's call for action, repentance, hope and renewal. What we do to Mother Earth wounds the poor of the world profoundly. And what we do to the least of these, our sisters and brothers, we do unto the Lord. About 20-25 people gathered in our Sanctuary. Carlton and I played some contemplative jazz - he is a master of arranging hymns like "All Creatures of Our God and King" in new and creative ways - and we mixed musical meditations like Bill Evans' "Peace Piece" with silent and spoken prayer.Then we gathered around the communion table and shared the Eucharistic Prayer from Iona. 

            Leader: The Lord is with you.
Unison: And also with you.
Leader: Lift up your hearts.
Unison: We lift them to the Lord.
Leader: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
Unison: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Leader: It is indeed right, for you made us, O Lord, and before us you made the world we inhabit, and before the world, you made the eternal home in which through Christ we have a place.  All that is spectacular, all the is plain have their origin in you; all that is lovely, all who are loving point to you as their fulfillment. And grateful as we are for the world we know and the universe beyond our comprehension, we particularly praise you, whom eternity cannot contain, for coming to earth and entering time in Jesus.
Unison: For his life which informs our living, for his compassion which changes our hearts, for his clear speaking which contradicts our harmless generalities, for his disturbing presence, his innocent suffering, his fearless dying and his rising to life breathing forgiveness, we praise you and worship him.
Leader: Here, too, gratitude rises for the promise of the Holy Spirit, who even yet – even now – confronts us with your claims and attracts us with your goodness. Therefore, we join our voices with angels and archangels, who forever sing this hymn to your glory.

Holy, Holy, Holy God ruler almighty
Heaven and earth are full of your glory, glory be to you, O God.
Blessed is the one who comes, who comes in the name of God.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!

The people may be seated

Leader: Merciful God, send now in your kindness, your Holy Spirit upon this bread and wine and all of us that together we might be filled with the goodness of Christ Jesus. For now we remember that as Jesus gathered around a table among friends, he took bread and broke it saying:
Unison: This is my body, broken for you.
Leader: Later he took a cup of wine and after offering the blessing said: 
Unison: This cup is the new covenant with God in my blood. Take it and drink to remember me.
Leader: In Christ’s presence we pray as he taught us.
Unison: Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

Quiet prayers for reflection

Leader:  In one voice we pray together:
Unison: Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace.
Leader:  Beloved, these are the gifts of God for the whole people of God, so come for all things are ready.

The sweet and sacred irony of this gathering was clearly one of the silent guests at our table as a Protestant pastor and a Roman Catholic lay woman served the elements to a variety of people of varying spiritualities. "THIS" I thought to my self, "this is my life. This is pure grace - sharing prayer and community quietly, humbly, honestly - no bullshit and all in solidarity with the work of justice and compassion."  I had a similar epiphany yesterday while discussing and planning liturgies with my colleague who shared with me a Psalm response he had written based on Psalm 131. Not only is the music stunning in a holy and tender way, but it captures the heart of God's love in an accessible albeit unexpected style. I went home and wept tears of gratitude.

In another writing, Parker Palmer suggests that one of the best metaphors for our unfolding spiritual life is "seasons." 

Seasons is a wise metaphor for the movement of life, I think. It suggests that life is neither a battlefield nor a game of chance but something infinitely richer, more promising, more real. The notion that our lives are like the eternal cycle of the seasons does not deny the struggle or the joy, the loss or the gain, the darkness or the light, but encourages us to embrace it all – and to find in all of it opportunities for growth... Autumn is a a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? She scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring – and she scatters them with amazing abandon

And so our discarding, sorting, scattering and reclaiming continues...

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