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Sojourners Verse and Voice – 9 April 2021

Verse of the day How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
– Psalm 133:1 (NIV)

Voice of the day
Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another. – Yuri Kochiyama

Prayer of the day
Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our brothers and sisters throughout the world, who live and die in poverty and pain. Give them today, through our hands, their daily bread and through our understanding love, give peace and joy. Amen – From Common Prayer

Everything That Is, Is Holy – Thomas Merton

Flowers for my Mom’s grave… tomorrow would have been her 88th birthday

This has been a good visit with my Dad and with friends we haven’t seen in over a year. There has been much to contemplate, including the doctoral program at my Alma mater that has been a disappointment for me. At the conclusion of this current class, I will be withdrawing from the program. There is so much to be explored via other avenues that will be life-giving. I look forward to those opportunities to learn and to grow!

So at this time, the Spirit seems to be speaking to my heart and guiding my steps. As I spent time with Merton tonight, he spoke to me of hope, guidance, and the presence of God in the midst of the wondering.

These words from New Seeds of Contemplation spoke volumes to me at this point in the journey. Detachment from things does not mean setting up a contradiction between “things and “God” as if God were another “thing” and as if His creatures were his rivals. We do not detach ourselves from things in order to attach ourselves to God, but rather we become detached from ourselves in order to see and use all things in and for God. (p. 21)

As we walk with family and friends through difficult times… as we seek to discern where God is calling us… as we seek to listen to the call of the Spirit and follow Her leading… we seek to authentically be whom God has created us to be.

As this journey continues to unfold, my prayer for family and dear friends is the concluding sentence in Merton’s most famous prayer: I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
(from Thoughts in Solitude)

God is indeed with us and the Spirit is indeed guiding us through the Valley of the Shadows. We are not alone.

Pace e Bene – 8 April 2021

Image and quote courtesy of Pace e Bene

“Our own life is the instrument with which we experiment with Truth.”—Thich Nhat Hanh

Sojourners Verse and Voice – 8 April 2021

Verse of the day What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? – James 2:14

Voice of the day
Action is the antidote to despair. – Joan Baez

Prayer of the day
Lord, you are coming in glory to bring the fullness of peace, healing, and justice. Teach us to wait when you would have us wait. And teach us to act when you would have us act. Fill us up with the expectation of you your coming reign so much that we cannot help but to enact it now. Amen. – Adapted from Common Prayer

Oh Breath of God

A poem inspired by Hildegard of Bingen’s quote—I am a feather on the breath of God. Abbey of the Arts: Sacred Time retreat.

Oh breath of God
Breathe into my spirit
O Spirit of God
Cleanse and renew me
As a mother comforts her child
Oh Spirit, hold me in your arms of love
Oh breath of God
Comfort and renew me
Oh breathe of God
Guide me through the valley
May She always show me the way

Pace e Bene – 7 April 2021

Image and quote courtesy of Pace e Bene

“I believe it’s possible to define what is meaningful for us who live in this crisis in history. The task is to create loving community, and the way to understand and address that task is through nonviolence.”—Michael Nagler

Evening Prayer – 4 April 2021

Easter morning from our deck

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

What a wonderful Lord’s day of worship

He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah ❤️❤️

A special treat to have dear friends from Mobile at worship

The weather was perfect for our outdoor service

The presence of the Spirit was all around us

A long drive today towards Minnesota

Time for sleep before pressing on from Illinois to Austin

Now as my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre…

Evening Prayer – 3 April 2021

The sun has set and the Vesper Lights flicker and glow

A Saturday for reflection, reading, and simply Being Still

Time to study and prepare for tomorrow’s service

Time to enjoy some time in the beauty of God’s creation

Time to snuggle with my sweetheart and our puppy

Now as my eyelids grow heavy

I lift this humble prayer to you

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant Us Peace

A wee prayer from the heart of your Padre…

Where Do We Look For the Lord?

The Easter story is a very familiar story to us. In fact, it is so familiar that we can often miss the subtle nuances of the story and the ways in which the writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell it. In the reading from Mark 16:1-8 Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb to do the final preparation of Jesus’s body. When they got to the grave, the large stone that had sealed the tomb had been rolled away. The grave was empty except for a young man, dressed in a white robe. He told them not to be afraid, that Jesus, who’s body they had expected to find, was not there. The man told them to take this news to Peter and the disciples, telling them that Jesus was going ahead of them to meet them. The women fled the tomb with a combination of fear and amazement.

I can’t say that I blame them for being afraid and amazed at the same time. What had begun as a question—who is going to remove the stone so that we can complete the final preparation of his body turned into an overwhelming surprise. The stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, and some guy in white was sitting next to where the body of Jesus should have been. That was the last thing that they expected to find. In each of the stories of the resurrection, the women and the disciples went expecting to find Jesus’s brutally broken body. Instead, they found an empty tomb. It is hard for us to imagine two thousand years later what it felt like for the women and the disciples to find that empty tomb. However, there are questions that we could and should be asking ourselves on Easter Sunday. The questions for us today might be these: What do we expect to discover on Resurrection morning? Where are we looking for Jesus?

This past year has taught me an awful lot about what is incredibly important and what isn’t. I think that may have something to do with where I look for Jesus as well. When we couldn’t worship in the sanctuary or meet together in-person, I thought that was what was important. What was actually important was the fact that the fellowship was missing. Even though it was a bit weird at first, fellowship over Zoom or phone calls and Facetime helped tremendously with the sense of isolation. I know that for some people, the lost art of letter writing proved to be a way of reaching out to others. Many of my parishioners in Colorado talked about how they met weekly over Zoom with their kids and grandkids from all over the country every week! They delighted in the fact that they actually were seeing more of their family via Zoom than they had before the pandemic. 

What does this have to do with finding Jesus? Well, he isn’t confined to a building or a certain hour of a certain day each week. Worship and prayer can happen outside of a building. When the weather is decent, driveway or front porch visits provide opportunities for fellowship that are actually outside of the church hall. God is also found in Creation itself!

Thomas Merton wrote in his book New Seeds of Contemplation about finding God in creation. A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him…. The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like Him…. This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in a way that no other tree before or after it ever did or will do…. The special clumsy beauty of this particular colt on this April day in this field under these clouds is a holiness consecrated to God by His own creative wisdom and it declares the glory of God. The pale flowers of the dogwood outside this window are saints. The little yellow flowers that nobody notices on the edge of that road are saints looking up into the face of God. This leaf has it own texture and its own pattern of veins and its own holy shape, and the bass and trout hiding in the deep pools of the river are canonized by their beauty and their strength. The lakes hidden among the hills are saints, and the sea too is a saint who praises God without interruption in her majestic dance.

The great, gashed, half-naked mountain is another of God’s saints. There is no other like him. He is alone in his own character; nothing else in the world ever did or ever will imitate God in quite the same way. That is his sanctity…. (from Chapter Five: “Things in Their Identity,” p. 29, 30, 31)

What is Merton saying? I believe that he is inviting us to see God all around us. For our purposes, I believe he is inviting us to see Jesus in the ordinariness of every day and each moment. Jesus isn’t locked in the church, the pages of the Bible or the rituals of the church. Just as Jesus wasn’t found in the tomb on Easter morning; we are called to be surprised by grace and the presence of God in the most surprising places and in the most wonderful ways. He has risen, he has risen indeed! 

A Holy Saturday Reflection

A view from a church ruins in Ireland…

As the sun rose on this holy Saturday, a day of watching and waiting for those of us with 2,000+ years of knowledge, I wonder what the disciples were thinking… I wonder what the women who had stayed to the bitter end at the cross were thinking…. This must have been a day unlike any other day they had experienced during the three years they had been with Jesus.

Today I have been sitting in the sunshine since Pixie wanted to enjoy the sunshine on the deck. I’ll admit that I have also been procrastinating a bit. I have a final paper to write for class that is due on the 21st. The subject, like the class, isn’t exactly appealing to me. A 7,000 word essay on my theology of religions which is supposed to have been inspired by the class readings and discussions. Needless to say, I would rather be sitting in the sunshine with Pixie and Denise, reading Merton and enjoying the peace and quiet of a sunny Saturday afternoon.

The view from our deck…
HRH Pixie soaking up the sun…

Back to my musings about this day from so long ago… This time, this pregnant pause, in the midst of the Triduum is a time of waiting, wondering, and reflecting. It is also a time of last-minute preparations for Easter Sunday if you are a pastor. As I reflect on what may have been going through my mind if I had been with the women or with the disciples a thought came to mind. Remembering the command of Jesus to love your neighbor… every neighbor… yes, even your enemies… to pray for those who persecute you…. It sounded great in theory, but now in the wake of the horrific experience of Friday, love them? Really?

There are days when I sometimes struggle to love myself, Lord; let alone love my enemies. As I continued my journey through Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation (Chapter 10–A Body of Broken Bones) last night, these words stuck with me and I re-read them again today. Hatred tries to cure disunion by annihilating those who are not united with us. It seeks peace by the elimination of everybody else but ourselves… The plainest summary of all the natural law is: to treat other men as if they were men. Not to act as if I alone were a man, and every other human were an animal or a piece of furniture… I cannot treat other men a men unless I have compassion for them… I must learn to share with others their joys, their sufferings, their ideas, their needs, their desires. I must learn to do this not only in cases of those who are of the same class, the same profession, the same race, the same nation as myself, but when men who suffer belong to other groups, even to groups that are regarded as hostile. If I do this, I obey God. If I refuse to do it, I disobey Him. It is not therefore a matter left open to subjective caprice. (pp. 75, 76, 77)

While Merton doesn’t answer my question as I sit with the women and the disciples, it does challenge my predisposition to fear and hatred which is sadly a part of the human condition. One of the many gifts and challenges that rose out of Merton’s prayer and contemplation was to encourage thinking outside of the box. He was adamantly anti-war while many in the church hierarchy supported the bombing of Vietnam and the nuclear arms race, questioning the loyalty of any who did not support those views. I believe that this is the sort of radical love that Jesus is calling us to share with others, enemies included.

So, on this Holy Saturday, a day of waiting I wonder as I sit with the women and the disciples. Love your enemies… pray for those who persecute you… Jesus, your commandment is not always easy… but we must love… as Merton said on page 78-79, …and yet you can be entirely out of the world while remaining in the midst of it, if you let God set you free from your own selfishness and if you live for love alone.