We are Safe

I am hearing parishioners asking about security in our churches–in white churches.

If you have seen my Facebook posts, you know that I am heartbroken by the assassination of Pr. Clementa Pinckney and the murder of 8 people during a bible study. I need to say something that will be difficult for you to hear.

We are safe. What happened in Charleston was racial terrorism. We need to see that we are safe from this kind of terror being directed at us–we will not be targeted because we are not black.

Let us pray to be open to what we might hear and see through this horrifying event, asking how we can respond to our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in fact targets of racial terror, and confessing how through silence or passivity we have permitted this terror to live in American soil.

Burnout

“Though usually regarded as a result of trying to give too much, burnout…results from trying to give what I do not possess–the ultimate in giving too little.  Burnout is the state of emptiness to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have; it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place”

–Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, 49

Archbishop Oscar Romero

Quote

Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador asked, “A church that doesn’t provoke any crisis, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed–what gospel is that?”

Book of Common Prayer; A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  Page 333.

Nouwen: Building a Home

Wednesday Second Week of Lent

Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever… 2 Samuel 7:16

“Community is not loneliness grabbing onto loneliness….  No, community is solitude greeting solitude: ‘I am the beloved; you are the beloved. Together we can build a home.'”

Nouwen refers to community not as a family but as a home, “We can build a home together and create space for  God and for the children of God.”   Our communities need to offer space for others to rest, a place where they experience the welcome of God’s love.  We make room for others through the inner journey, remembering during lent that God has made room for us through Jesus Christ; we in turn seek be joined with God in making room in Christ for others.

“Dear Jesus, Take me into your home.”

God’s Abiding Love, p. 11. 

Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386)

Cyril lived in the fourth century.  His gift to the church was his refusal to separate good doctrine from good living, insisting that orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxis (right living) must be married.  He was accused of selling some gifts from the emperor and giving the money to the poor. Cyril was condemned and forced into exile.  He died in 386 at the age of seventy.  Of his thirty-five years as bishop, nearly sixteen were spent in exile.

Cyril of Jerusalem said, “The way to godliness consists of these two parts, pious doctrines and good works.  Neither are the doctrines acceptable to God without good works, nor does God accept works accomplished otherwise than as linked with pious doctrines.”

Book of Common Prayer; A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  Page 187.

Sometimes, You Can Hear

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2

On October 20th, as I stood behind the communion table with Pr. Todd, I heard something for the first time.

It was Children’s Sabbath that Sunday.  In the children’s moment we talked about fairness and gave the children fair trade chocolate, much to their delight.  The sermon and our prayers were focused on the lives of children, and our communion liturgy spoke to our belief that we are all children of God.

I stood there with Pr. Todd realizing that we would serve communion together one more time before he leaves to serve as Senior Pastor at St. John’s, Monroe.

As communion ended, we stood together and prayed our prayer of thanksgiving–it was then that I heard it.

In a single, familiar movement, worshippers put their communion cups in the pews and reached for their hymnals.  As each cup was placed in the pew, it made a single sound, a tinkling sound, and all the sounds together was music.

There are moments of grace when the soul senses what otherwise cannot be perceived–a sound, a vision, a feeling.  The perception alters the way we experience ourselves in the world.  Our spiritual practice is to open ourselves to these moments, to be shaped by them, formed and transformed by our willingness to respond to that which is given rather than to resist that which cannot be changed.

That moment of music still resonates.  It lasted for only a second or two, but in those few seconds were contained over a century of worship and thousands of people who have fed and nourished by the Lord’s Supper.

I close my eyes and imagine the seconds of each month and and all the years combined, and in this moment my prayers  for the coming year are answered.

May God grant us openness in the coming year; may we be transformed by our willingness to respond to what we are given; and may we experience moments of grace that renew our souls and minds.

Conclusions: Starting With Now

A book by Anthony de Mello, Wellsprings (Doubleday: New York.  1986) begins with a spiritual exercise called “Conclusions” (14-15).

The spiritual life requires courageous ventures into what is new, unknown, and uncomfortable.  There, in the process of discovery, meaning is to be found–or rather, created.
Conclusions
I imagine that today I am to die.
I ask for some time alone and write down for my friends a sort of testament for which the points that follow could serve as chapter titles.
1.  These things I have loved in life:
Things I tasted,
looked at,
smelled,
heard,
touched.
2.  These experiences I have cherished:3. These ideas have brought me liberation:

4.  These beliefs I have outgrown:

5.  These convictions I have lived by:

6.  These are the things I have lived for:

7.  These insights I have gained in the school of life:

Insights into God,
the world,
human nature,
Jesus Christ,
love,
religion,
prayer.
8.  These risks I took,
these dangers I have courted:9.  These sufferings have seasoned me:

10.  These lessons life has taught me:

11.  These influences have shaped my life (persons, occupations, books, events):

12.  These scripture texts have lit my path:

13.  These things I regret about my life;

14.  These things are my life’s achievements:

15.  These persons are enshrined within my heart:

16.  These are my unfulfilled desires:

I choose an ending for this document:
a poem–my own or someone else’s;
or a prayer;
a sketch
or a picture from a magazine;
a scripture text;
or anything that I judge would be
an apt conclusion to my testament.