Waiting

On this first Sunday of Advent, may we be alert while waiting.  Perhaps this meditation, which crossed my desk today from the Center for Action and Contemplation, will be helpful.

Melody

 

Darkness

Waiting and Unknowing
Sunday, December 1, 2019
First Sunday of Advent

Advent [meaning “coming”], to the Church Fathers, was the right naming of the season when light and life are fading. They urged the faithful to set aside four weeks to fast, give, and pray—all ways to strip down, to let the bared soul recall what it knows beneath its fear of the dark, to know what Jesus called “the one thing necessary”: that there is One who is the source of all life, One who comes to be with us and in us, even, especially, in darkness and death. One who brings a new beginning. —Gayle Boss [1]

I hope it isn’t difficult to understand why I’m beginning the Advent season reflecting on darkness. [2] I’m not trying to be a spoilsport, but once Thanksgiving is over, we in the United States are rushed headlong into the Christmas season. Yet Advent was once (and still can be) a time of waiting, a time of hoping without knowing, a time of emptying so that we can be filled by the divine Presence. Though you may be wrapping gifts, planning special meals, and spending time with family and friends, I hope you will also take time to allow the Advent darkness to do its work as well.

Not knowing or uncertainty is a kind of darkness that many people find unbearable. Those who demand certitude out of life will insist on it even if it doesn’t fit the facts. Logic and truth have nothing to do with it. If you require certitude, you will surround yourself with your own conclusions and dismiss or ignore any evidence to the contrary.

The very meaning of faith stands in stark contrast to this mindset. We have to live in exquisite, terrible humility before reality. In this space, God gives us a spirit of questing, a desire for understanding. In some ways it is like learning to “see in the dark.” We can’t be certain of what’s in front of us, but with some time and patience, our eyes adjust, and we can make the next right move.

The Gospel doesn’t promise us complete clarity. If God wanted us to have irrefutable proof, the incarnation of Jesus would have been delayed until technology and science could confirm it.

Scriptures do not offer rational certitude. They offer us something much better, an entirely different way of knowing: an intimate relationship, a dark journey, a path where we must discover for ourselves that grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness are absolutely necessary for survival in an uncertain world. You only need enough clarity to know how to live without certitude! Yes, we really are saved by faith. People who live in this way never stop growing, are not easily defeated, are wise and compassionate, and frankly, are fun to live with. They have a quiet and confident joy. Infantile religion insists on certainty every step of the way and thus is not very happy.

 

 

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation. 

 

[1] Gayle Boss, All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings, illus. by David G. Klein (Paraclete Press: 2016), xi-xii.

[2] For those readers unfamiliar with the Christian liturgical calendar, Advent is the period of four Sundays before Christmas. It is intended to be a time of preparation, through prayer and reflection, on the coming of Christ at the Nativity (Christmas), in worship and community today, and at the end times.

Adapted from Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 100-101; and

Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 120.

Image credit: Helen Keller, no. 8 (detail), 1904, Whitman Studio, The Helen Keller Foundation; colorist, Jared Enos.

 

A Prayer

This past Sunday, I read the following prayer by Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm.  The prayer, called the Prayer of Jesus, touched me.  Perhaps it will touch you.  Many Thanksgiving and holiday blessings just around the corner.

Melody

Holy One, may your name be taken seriously.

May your movement spread.

Sustaining bread, grant us each day.

And free us from our sins, even as we release everyone indebted to us.

And don’t let us get all tangled up.  Amen.

The Importance of Solitude

Recently I read the meditation posted below from the Henri Nouwen Society about the importance of solitude.  The meditation spoke to me.  Perhaps it will to you.  May we all find our own true quiet centers.

Melody

Solitude Creates Space for God
To live a Christian life means to live in the world without being of it. It is in solitude that this inner freedom can grow. Jesus went to a lonely place to pray, that is, to grow in the awareness that all the power he had was given to him; that all the words he spoke came from his Father; and that all the works he did were not really his but the works of the One who had sent him. In the lonely place Jesus was made free to fail.

A life without a lonely place, that is, a life without a quiet center, easily becomes destructive. When we cling to the results of our actions as our only way of self-identification, then we become possessive and defensive and tend to look at our fellow human beings more as enemies to be kept at a distance than as friends with whom we share the gifts of life.

In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us. In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the results of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It’s there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received.

 

 

Labor Day Blessings

One of my amazing pastors growing up in Port Lavaca, Texas was Rev. James L. Mayfield, United Methodist clergy.  Rev. Mayfield continues to influence my life in profound ways.  He recently shared with me and others a Labor Day sermon he  preached years ago.  It ended with this beautiful pastoral prayer that I wanted to pass along.  Blessings on this Labor Day.  Melody

Pastoral Prayer:  God, on this Labor Day weekend, we thank you for those whose labor provides us food and clothing and shelter. For those who labor to provide us not only with the education we need to earn a wage but also with an education that teaches us to think, for all those whose labor expands the boundaries of human knowledge and for those whose labor in the arts expands our sensitivity, we are grateful.

We give you thanks for those whose labor brings us laughter and entertainment, and we thank you for those who labor to keep society safe from harm and for all who work to change what is wrong, to preserve what is right and to make justice possible for all persons. We are grateful for those who work to bring healing to body and mind and for those who labor to bring healing in relationships. We thank you for those who labor to keep garbage from burying us, for those who do the essential work of cleaning that protects us from disease.

For all those who are willing to carry the burdens that come with trying to serve the public and whose labor contributes to our well-being and the well being of our society, we give you thanks. For all those whose labor serves us in some way, we are grateful.

All this we pray in the awareness of Christ and his labor of love on our behalf.  Amen.

Love: all you need is love.

A dear friend of mine recently sent me a posting on Love by the renowned author and priest, Henri Nouwen.  It resonated with me, and continues to be on my mind, especially on this July 4th Eve.  My hope and prayer is that all political leaders around the world will make decisions based on love, tolerance, support for diversity, and compassion.  Certainly we need that in our country, especially as we celebrate freedom and the many men, women and families that have sacrificed in so many ways for our country.  My thinking is that only love will ultimately bring our troops home.

Perhaps you will enjoy the Nouwen piece which is also posted below.

May your 4th of July, and beyond, be full of love.

Melody

from Henri Nouwen:
Without the love of our parents, sisters, brothers, spouses, lovers, and friends, we cannot live. Without love we die. Still, for many people this love comes in a very broken and limited way. It can be tainted by power plays, jealousy, resentment, vindictiveness, and even abuse. No human love is the perfect love our hearts desire, and sometimes human love is so imperfect that we can hardly recognise it as love.

In order not to be destroyed by the wounds inflicted by that imperfect human love, we must trust that the source of all love is God’s unlimited, unconditional, perfect love, and that this love is not far away from us but is the gift of God’s Spirit dwelling within us.

Henri Nouwen