Sunday, May 28, 2017

today was trusting that God's peace changes the world...

Today was Ascension Sunday in the Western Christian world (actually this past Thursday but most of us do not celebrate Holy Days of Obligation in the 21st century - especially Prods!) My message was simple: our confusion can become a doorway into the light of clarity IF we wait and listen for God with our hearts. We are no different from Christ's first disciples who also lived with confusion. Obscurity is not the problem, impatience is, for the promise of Jesus for power from on high is given only to those who wait. And I don't mean idle waiting, but nourishing a grounded discipline of meditative prayer.

Learning to wait and be centered is the best way to live as an ally of the Spirit. We don't need more spontaneity, but consistency in compassion. So I invited the congregation to join me in learning to pray the Anglican Prayer Bead cycle. It is different from the Rosary and the Orthodox Prayer Rope. It is different, too, from the prayer beads of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Yet they are ALL related and help us recenter ourselves in God's peace...

... and in this day and age, learning to rest, live and trust from the center
of God's peace is the most revolutionary act of resistance I can imagine. I know far too many "politically correct" good people who are mostly a pain in the ass. Whether of Left or Right, they know too much of shame and judgment and not enough of trust in a love that is greater than ourselves. I know, too, what an asshole I can be when I am stressed and ungrounded. My offer to the church was (and is) simple: I will make and give to you a set of prayer beads - and share a simple centering liturgy, too - if you will take the time to talk with me about this discipline. Three people made that commitment today. Others said they wanted beads but wouldn't come to our small conversation, so I said, "Nope. Not going to happen. We don't need more liturgical consumers collecting more holy junk." We need real women and men willing to be transformed by patience, love and prayer. I gave away two of my recent creations and will make up one more in time for Tuesday's choir practice. Then we napped and worked in the yard for a few hours. Yesterday, after an important hospital call, we hiked for a short time in the woods, too.

It has been attributed to Gandhi but probably comes from elsewhere: BE the peace you long to know. We can't give away what we don't have. So, if you are truly concerned about the state of our world - and you damn well should be - take some time every day to get centered any way that takes you deep. We need more women and men in this land who are ready, willing and able to share compassion with consistency rather than the fad of "random acts of kindness." 

BTW, my offer stands for any of you reading this: if YOU want a set of prayer bead, write to me and I will send you some IF you are committed to working with the, ok?  Here's the simple liturgy I use.

The Cross
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

The Invitatory
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the time of our death. Amen.

The Cruciforms
Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon me.

The Weeks
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

In a portion of this morning's message that I didn't say out loud, Eugene Peterson cuts to the chase re: why learning the RIGHT way of waiting (read: contemplative way) is so vital in times of fear and loathing.

In every era, but especially in one like our own where fear is rampant and mistrust of those who are different embedded in our political culture, listening with our heart can easily be dismissed as na├»ve, idealistic or even foolhardy. Whenever fear drives our decisions – personally or politically – we shut ourselves off to God’s Holy Spirit. To which our tradition says: the entirety of God’s grace doesn’t matter if we willfully ignore it. The story of Jesus opening the minds of his disciples only happened because he had trained them in the discipline of the heart for years. They were willing, even in their darkness, to listen to the Master’s instruction about Moses, the prophets and the psalms; they knew that this was short hand for Torah – the embodied practice of justice and compassion and accountability to the community – as honored in ancient Israel. Without loving action and accountability, the way of the Lord remained closed. Biblical scholar and pastor, Eugene Peterson, who reworked the Scriptures into “The Message,” offers a brilliant insight into what Jesus did for his friends in his commentary on Psalm 40. He writes:

There is a brilliant metaphor in vs. 6 of Psalm 40 that literally reads: ears
thou hast dug for me. It is puzzling that no translator has yet rendered that sentence into English just that way. They all prefer to paraphrase at this point, presenting the meaning adequately but losing the metaphor: thou hast given me an open ear… but this loses the power of the Hebrew verb “to dig.” Imagine, a human head with no ears. A blockhead. Eyes, nose and mouth but no ears. Where ears are usually found there is only a smooth, impenetrable surface, granitic bone. God speaks. No response. The metaphor here occurs in the context of a bustling religious activity that is deaf to the voice of God: sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire… burnt offering and sin offering you do not want.

Peterson continues: the people knew some of God’s ways – rituals and sacrifices – but the implication is that something more was required – something that comes from listening and hearing God’s voice with our hearts… “So the Lord gets a pick and shovel and digs through the cranial granite, opening a passage that will give access to the interior depths of the mind and heart… so that we can throw away everything that has stopped-up our hearing with refuse: cultural noise, throw-away gossip, garbage, bitterness, chatter that clog us up so that we cannot hear the compassion the Lord requires. (Peterson, Working the Angles)

On Ascension Sunday Jesus opens the ears of his friends and unclogs their hearts so that they can grasp what the Lord requires beyond ritual, fear and habit. And what does the Lord require? The prophet Micah said: to love mercy, to do justice and to walk with God in humility. Jesus was singing this old song in a new key: in a time of fear, you are to proclaim the forgiveness of sins and the eternal bounty of God’s grace – and not just with words - but with your very essence.

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