This past week I had more than one conversation with some individuals who were seeking a way to deepen their spiritual lives. As a pastor, these kinds of conversation are what I and other pastors long for–we want to lead our brothers and sisters to a well where they can drink deeply. As it turns out–and it always seems to turn out like this in our spiritual journeys–a serendipitous discovery came across my footpath and is often the case in my life, I was guided to this discovery by my wife who was reading the 2018 updated version of What Color Is Your Parachute? and she offered me a link to a site that the author had mentioned in the book. I went there. I found an ad for another site and it is this site I want to suggest to you as a tool for your daily practice of spirit and spirituality.
The site comes to us via the Jesuits who are trained in the discipline of Ignatius of Loyola. They have created a marvelous site and a very practical and cool app that you can download called “Pray As You Go.” If you are trying to find a way to kindle a spark in your faith or simply add sparkle to your walk in God, then go to the site. You can listen to daily prayers on their web site (you don’t need the app to do that). I have tried it and find it to be soothing, peaceful, and yet willing to confront questions about our spiritual lives that can get us unglued from the traps of a too-busy culture.
Finally, there is one practice you are urged to make part of your life by the scriptures. It is there from the moments of Creation. It is enshrined at Sinai. And the Church insists that this practice is the work of the Church: W O R S H I P. Standing together as those called out by Christ; embracing one another fully as made in God’s Image; Rejoicing and Praying and Loving; this practice every week lends a rhythm and sense to our scattered activities and infuses us with hope. Join us Sundays at 10 a.m. where, in the auditorium of Jefferson Academy Middle School, we become the People of God. Practice makes perfect. ~See you Sunday
Hallowed is your name. Blessed are those places so sacred because we, in our labyrinth wanderings have suddenly encountered you there. We thought we were alone and abandoned, Holy One. We were certain all of this, all of this–was some accident without purpose. And then a bird hidden in a tree sang and the song of other birds, these were twined to stars barely visible in the dawn and somewhere human voices were interchanged within the grand landscape of it all and we awakened. To presence. To the sheer, staggering beauty of it all and the truth that it did not have to be. But it is. And I am.
Guide me through what the world calls Friday. Help me now to be rid of things that have kept me preoccupied and unfocused so that I give up what was vitally important for what was trivial or secondary or even mediocre. I would lay these aside like a swimmer discards the weight of clothes and objects in order to glide through the life world. I can see the sabbath rest breaking over the horizon. Rest, restoration, healing these are near.
For the Day of Rest, Lord God, we are grateful. For the end of the sixth day, its lengthening shadows arrive not as darkness but as measured rest and reprieve. I don’t need to work now. No more delusions about my work saving the world. I will ponder the Creator and Sustainer and the Liberator. To all your creatures, great and small, Lord God, bestow Sabbath rest. An end to work for a while. A reprieve from suffering. A gate opened to candles lit and friendships kindled and family embraced. Let the day begin. Let the sixth day end. Hallowed be your name. Amen.
Midweek. The 4th day. Wednesday. Halfway home to Friday though, Sabbath God, we of the 21st century have lost sight of the star of the Sabbath to guide our paths. Darkness was separated from light on the fourth day, so place in our dimly lit lives a window opened to the light. You, who created suns and stars on the fourth day and separated darkness from light, help us at this midpoint in our week to remain silent at the still point of your rest. We breathe deeply and in silence, whispering your Holy Name. Fountain of light, fill us with light.
We are middling and middled, if that be a word; we are stuck in the in-between and have woven ourselves into plots and schemes; we are twined by events and schedules and we pray and plead on this Wednesday that you would, like a mother, bend near us and untie the knots that have begun to tighten. Reassure of us of your love and that you walk this journey with us. God, come near.
In the midst and middle of our week, in the midst of the crowd, we are raising our hands and saying to you God, here we are! Alas, you know us and are aware of our coordinates. Help us to find you for it is we who are lost to ourselves, tracking the path of this week across the field of Wednesday, the earth resolutely spinning and not consulting us for its journey. We of the midpoint seek you, whose circumference is nowhere, whose center is everywhere. Amen.
For the earth that is round or seems to be and goes round and around so that its rotation is somehow synced to my life in ways that defy complete comprehension but this I do know, that seasons come and go and my life is lived out in days whose completion is the setting of the sun and whose beginning is the rising of the sun—so for these mysteries of interconnection and for life, I give thanks.
For my body and five senses though these are gifts that betray me in the course of a day and a week, I give thanks, Lord God. When I can stand on my two feet and walk, when I can eat from the fruit of the earth and its harvest, when I can feel the healing power of hot water on my face or on my aching and arthritic shoulders, as light enters my eyes and images of the earth are conveyed to my mind via light, I am deeply grateful.
For my mind that is a mysterious gift that defies reductionist science, that cannot be reduced to an analogy with computers, that allows me to critically engage the world around me and most mysteriously, like a three paneled mirror allows me to step out (ex-ist) of my being and behold myself, I give thanks. For minds that communicate with me from centuries and even millennia ago through scriptures and books and now through media of all kinds and above all, Holy One, for this mind that allows me to speak and hear your Mind. Selah.
On this Monday when the wicked swarm the earth and the politicians in high places prepare to cut the cords of covenantal obligations to our fellow citizens thus ratcheting even tighter the barbed springs of suffering, O Just God, empower your people to heal the world and cause princes of terror to stumble so that peace and justice might anoint the low, the humble and the outcast. Have mercy on us, Lord Christ, Good Shepherd, Lamb of God, Child of Mary and Joseph, Light of the world. Have mercy. Amen +
How do I pray? This question is a recurring one in my dialogue with people. It is one thing to believe there is a God who is just and concerned about me and the world, it is quite another to figure out how to speak with and hear God. We’re encouraged to “pray without ceasing” but what in the world can that mean for me and my schedule? And more critically, how do I pray for the world much less myself when things seem so out of kilter? In an effort to help you create a discipline of prayerful contemplation, the Pastor and Deacons have scheduled a Prayer Retreat for all day Saturday, June 3rd at Bon Secouer Retreat Center. The cost is a mere $25 and includes breakfast and lunch. Spaces are limited so be sure to sign up on Sunday where fliers will be available with more information.
Why must we suffer? Right along with the question of prayer, this question is at the top of most people’s list. Some religious folks simply accept suffering as God’s will. Others question how there could even be a God as long as there is suffering in the world. Christianity has at the center of its narrative a story about a suffering servant messiah. First Sunday Bible Study in both May and June will be a read and discussion of the book of Job, led by our Aspirant associate, Tonetta Landis-Aina. The study takes place after worship on those two Sundays and as well, Tonetta will preach on the book of Job in May. Mark your calendar, sign up with Tonetta and prepare to have a rich and meaningful study/discussion about a crucial human experience and question, suffering.
Our choir and music team continues to inspire us and we are grateful, particularly for Easter Sunday’s beautiful worship service. If you have a musical skill, please let Lauren know. As we proceed into the second year of our interim worship at Jefferson Middle School, we are talking about and working on how we might expand to a second service in our community. If you are interested in helping us reach out to young adults especially and provide innovative ways both in schedule and mode of worship, please speak with Pastor Bledsoe.
We are a vibrant community. We are dedicated to loving one another and we have a vision that takes us into the future.
~See you Sunday
When I am mindful as I walk across a small bridge along a bike path flanked by trees and a large creek on one side, then I am mindful that I am suspended but crossing. I am mindful that someone crafted this bridge. I am alert to being a bi-pedal creature, oriented in four directions.
When I am mindful as I count the coins to hand to the cashier, uniformed and standing across from me, a name tag tagged to their chest, then I am mindful that I am part of an exchange today. I am mindful that beyond the coin lie certain tacit covenants between us, that I will hand this coin over and be handed my groceries. I am mindful that we both have names but are separated by a chasm even as we extend hands across that chasm to give and receive.
When I am mindful as I turn out the light and crawl into bed, sheet and blanket to cover me, quiet and silence descended, and sleep covering me quickly then I am mindful of the poverty of my human existence. That I need to be recharged. That my powers are limited to the day that has just spent me. That a descent into twilight and sleep is a resignation of my life over to the world that is greater than my singularity and a commendation of my soul into the boundless care of the Creator. Whether I sing in my head and heart a doxology to paddle into the night of rest that awaits me or pray a thank you, I am mindful until the switch is clicked and my mind rests.
When I am mindful, I wake up.
~See you Sunday. Let us come together and be mindful of mutual presence and the Presence of the Holy One. Perhaps we will step into an Awakening.