Saturday, December 8, 2018

Advent~Waiting Time!



"We are not restful people who occasionally become restless. But we are restless people who occasionally become restful.” (Henri Nouwen)
Advent is the liturgical season when we pay special attention to the mystery of waiting. In our American culture, we have a real problem because most of us Americans don’t like waiting, and we certainly don’t see waiting as something to celebrate. We live in a culture that cooks its food in microwaves, or we can choose the “drive thru,” ; we measure time in microseconds or even nano-seconds. It’s not that we do not wait.  We may spend hours waiting in lines at airports, at doctor’s offices, on the highway in traffic, at the grocery store checks-outs – we even have to wait in the Self-Serve check-out lane or Express Lane!  Recently, I saw a clip that even bank tellers may be eliminated with some type of digital technology so no waiting would be needed. “Everyone knows that Americans hate to stand in line. It’s contrary to the basic American values of independence and self-determination. While standing in line may   not threaten life, it certainly threatens liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (T. Stawar ~ source unknown)

I invite you to just lean back in your memory of your everyday experiences and recall where you wait: for your medicine, or for it to take effect, for your meals, for a phone call, a visit, or a letter. Or you wait for the result of your tests, or for healing. (Pause) Think of a time you waited and how you felt. Turn and tell someone where you have waited – share how you felt. How did it change you?

We wait because we have to – sometimes we have no choice but to wait. And we may wait impatiently, looking at our clocks, calendars, watches  – or maybe we even find ourselves complaining – if not verbally, then we may hold it in and do some “internal global whining.” Our culture tends to view waiting as an inconvenient necessity or as an outright injustice that stems from a variety of factors, for example:
• We see time as a resource to be controlled and allocated for our own personal gain and convenience.
• We allow time to run our lives, hurrying to and from scheduled appointments and on to the next appointment.
• We see waiting as a certain sign that something is wrong that should have been fixed but was not.
• Our entertainment, from television, to radio talk shows, to movies has created an illusion that all problems are resolvable in something less than two hours or even less than that.
• Our culture tends to prize action more than meditation, speed rather than slow progress and arriving rather than the journey.


So in our culture, waiting sometimes bores and often irritates us however we may find that at every stage of our lives some new forms of waiting are involved. However the Scriptures teach us that if  we approach waiting in the right spirit, waiting is a creative moment when we grow spiritually.  When we wait, we are in touch with an essential aspect of our humanity which is that we are dependent on God and on one another.  It is also an act of love since, by waiting for others; we pay them the respect of letting them be free. Waiting is a mystery – God waits and nature waits – so that when we as individuals wait we go beyond ourselves and enter into sacred life-giving process, experiencing that we are made in the image and likeness of God. This is why Advent is a time of celebration.

Advent is the season when we remember with gratitude creative experiences of waiting in our lives or the lives of people we have known, the people who have waited for us at one time or another.  We also remember the great waiting experiences in human history, in the Scriptures, and especially in the life Jesus. Today, we have come to reflect on faithful waiting.  Henri Nouwen writes that, “Faithful waiting is the antidote to fear and self-doubt.  It is believing God can accomplish in us something greater than our imaginings.”

Waiting teaches us to live life in increments, in small pieces rather than large chunks. Waiting teaches us to measure our progress slowly. It is hard to trust in God’s time - Kyros time – God’s  slow unfolding time.  God’s time is different from our time - Chronos time - time of clocks and calendars.  On God’s time, we are often waiting for the bigger picture but must be content with each small piece.  When we are waiting, we put one foot in front of the other every morning and evening.   Henri Nouwen says that sometimes we have enough light only for the next step.  Faithful waiting teaches us patience. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the fullest in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.  Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere.  The moment is empty.  But patient people dare to stay where they are.  Faithful waiting means nurturing the moment.

So this week, let us ask for the grace to be open to Advent opportunities to practice holy waiting, and to grow in being restful in our restlessness!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

God of the Seasons . . .


O God of all seasons and senses,
grant us the sense
of your timing                                                                  
to submit gracefully and rejoice quietly in the turn of the seasons.


In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of endings;
children growing, friends leaving, loved ones dying,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.


O God, grant us a sense of your timing.
In this season of short days and long nights,
of grey and white and cold,
teach us the lessons of beginnings;
that such waitings and endings may be the starting place,
a planting of seeds which bring to birth what is ready to be born—
something right and just and different,
a new song, a deeper relationship, a fuller love—
in the fullness of your time.
O God, grant us the sense of your timing.


From Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder


https://re-worship.blogspot.com/search/label/Advent%201%20A

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0014ENRR4/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?ie=UTF8&btkr=1



Wednesday, December 5, 2018

For Your Presence, We Give Thanks . . .




Father, Mother, God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.


Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.


And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.


For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.


For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.


Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most—Peace.


prayer - maya angelou

https://www.worldprayers.org/archive/prayers/celebrations/father_mother_god_thank_you.html

https://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/yourdailyspiritualstimulus/2009/09/wednesdays-blessing-maya-angelou.html

Original source unknown

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Advent ~ Welcome, First Sunday!



In late September of 2015, Yogi Berra died at the age of 90. He was a great Major League baseball catcher, manager, and coach.  He was also known to be quite a character.  Besides his baseball competency, Berra was renowned for his impromptu pithy comments, malapropisms, and often unintentional witticisms, known as "Yogi-isms". 

I am sure that we are familiar with some of the quotes attributed to Yogi Berra; even though he says: “I didn’t really say everything I said.” These countless expressions are memorable because most of them didn’t seem to make any sense; yet, at the same time, they contained powerful messages that offered not just humor but wisdom.
I’d like to share a few:
• Never answer an anonymous letter.
• The game isn’t over until it’s over.
• Always go to other people's funerals; otherwise they won't go to yours.
• It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.


It makes us think and sometimes laugh, but I believe there are some witticisms that relate in particular to our Advent readings.  The expressions offer us a unique perspective and “theology” of how to view our liturgical journey over this Church year.

All three of the readings this Sunday are powerful messages of wisdom, as well as pronouncements of encouragement and hope for the future.  The “end time” texts that we have been hearing in the final days of Ordinary Time have now spilled over into today’s readings.  In our Gospel, Jesus proclaims, once again, a message to “stay awake” as he prepares for his next steps toward his Passion.  Here, he is clearly anxious about the future, as he paints a bleak picture of the end of the world. It is a Gospel that is difficult to hear and understand. 

Still, Jesus offers us the encouragement to stand firm against the tribulations which will lead to chaos, disorder, and distraction. We are to be vigilant and pray for the strength to survive all that is to happen. Jesus is always inviting us to be attentive with faith, courage, and resiliency as we face the distractions, denials, and disorders in our culture, in our personal lives, and in the global disturbances around us.

It is challenging to be alert, to be present to the moment with a hopeful heart. It is difficult not to let “the anxieties of daily life” absorb us. It is far too easy to get lost in the particulars of endless tasks, plans, meetings, and so many other interruptions and distracting choices that sometimes whirl us with frenetic energy.

A stance of spiritual watchfulness is what we are invited to cultivate during this period between the first and second comings. As many wisdom figures in our tradition have insisted, God often blesses us with opportunities to know God more intimately, but we can easily miss them by simply not paying attention.
A Yogi Wisdom to ponder from our Gospel: “You can observe a lot by watching.”

The prophet Jeremiah was waiting and hoping for an ideal descendant of King David who might bring security and justice to God’s people. This first reading takes us back to an anguished, dark moment for the Jews when Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem. Their world was falling apart, and their lives were in jeopardy. The enemy was sweeping in from the north; and in those days, it was better not to be taken prisoner, so there is little doubt that many were tempted to despair.

But, in the midst of this chaos, Jeremiah speaks a prophecy - an inspired word about the future: I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David ... Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell in confidence. Jeremiah’s prophesy to Israel and Judah is that God's Chosen One will bring about a reign of justice, righteousness, and safety.

A Yogi Wisdom to ponder from the Jeremiah reading: “It’s hard to make predictions when you don’t know what the future holds.”

Paul is writing to the new Christian community in Thessalonica.  In the first years after the resurrection, the early Christians were preoccupied with awaiting the imminent return of Christ.  Paul was no exception, and he prays they might be strengthened in their faith and abounding in love as they wait patiently for the end time to occur.
A Yogi Wisdom to ponder from Paul’s writing: “It’s like Déjà vu all over again.”

This week, Christians begin a new liturgical year and enter into the rich and ancient four-week season of Advent.  However, perhaps for a number of American Christians, Advent passes virtually unnoticed, as the celebration of "Christmas" as a secular and intensely commercial feast begins the day after Thanksgiving.  Yet, the time of Advent offers us an opportunity to dive deeply into a counter-cultural time of quiet reflection, a space of hopeful and patient waiting and discernment about how God's incarnation has meaning and is at work in our world today.

Our faith tells us that God communicates with us whether we know it or not by continuously creating and redeeming us.  We are being “spoken to” continuously by our God who desires us to notice that life communicates God to us. Advent beckons us to intentionally carve out a sacred space and time for quiet reflection, patient and hopeful waiting while observing, watching, and pondering what the future may hold. As one author counsels,
• ”in an age of speed, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow,
• In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention, and
• In an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” (Iyer)


Before the middle of the fourth century, there were no liturgical seasons, such as Advent or Lent, or any idea of a "liturgical year.” The great feast of Easter was the central focus of the Christian year, along with the Sunday gatherings, considered "little Easters."  Advent is first noted around the year 350, about the same time that Christmas is first mentioned as being celebrated. The date of Christmas might well have been placed near the winter solstice as a replacement to the pagan solstice celebrations of the Roman Empire.


As in the other yearly liturgical cycles, the readings of this Advent season reflect a movement through the four weeks from a cosmic in-breaking of God in the first Sundays to the more intimate stories, including Mary as a central figure, in the fourth Sunday, all of which prepare us for God's incarnation in the most unexpected and unpredictable manner -- as an infant in an occupied country to a poor and unwed teenager.

Advent invites us to set out on a great journey - to follow in the footsteps of Christ in all of his mysteries, so that we can live as he lived and truly be disciples of God’s mercy and compassion. These mysteries are stories to encourage our hearts, their meanings and wisdom are to permeate our being, and their truths are to sustain us through the long haul. 

Advent invites us to do more than simply commemorate Christmas; it invites us to embrace a larger vision. Advent draws us to prepare to live the mystery of the Word made flesh here and now. "Life is Advent."

So perhaps Yogi Berra is a teacher for us in this in-between time, offering an opportunity for us…
• to cultivate a spiritual watchfulness and a patient waiting,
• to stand firm in our faith,
• to be present to the moment with a hopeful heart,
• to reclaim our space and time of quiet refection of the mystery of the Word made flesh here and now,
• to realize that we will truly need courage, compassion, resilience, wit, and wisdom.


A Yogi Wisdom to ponder as we take leave today on this First Sunday of Advent: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might wind up somewhere else.”


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Advent Soup!


Five year old Johnny was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup. But he didn't want to go in alone. “It’s dark in there and I’m scared.” She asked again, and he persisted. Finally she said, “It’s OK — Jesus will be in there with you.” Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark, and started to leave when all at once an idea came, and he said: "Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me that can of tomato soup?” (Original source unknown)

These four weeks of Advent begin as never before, with a time as individuals, as a faith community, as a religious congregation, as a church, a nation, and inhabitants of this planet earth ~we all are faced with standing in liminality – an in-betweenness - hoping against hope that God is in the darkness of it all!  Like Johnny, we, too, need to be courageous and creative and call out to our God to hand us what we need in this time of doubt, confusion, apprehension and fear while walking in this space and time of uncertainty.   

In her book, Journey of the Soul, our own Doris Klein, describes this liminal experience:  She writes:  "When we face those times of uncertainty in our life, the scene is often blurry.  Things we were so sure of suddenly make little sense.  The answers we thought were clear now seem lost in a distant fog, and we wander aimlessly, unable to regain the focus we once believed we had. Our confusion is unsettling.  Doubt, like vertigo, distorts our balance as we fearfully wander in a vast and empty inner wilderness as we wrestle with the darkness, a rush of panic washes into our hearts our breath becomes shallow and, with each question, the judgments seem to escalate.”

We are not to lose heart.  Author Clarissa Pinkola Estes assures us  . . . “We were made for these times,” she writes.  “People everywhere are concerned and deeply bewildered about the state of affairs in our world.  Ours is not a task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.  Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world will help immensely.” Yes, we are made for these times and as a people, a church, a nation, a world, we need generous, creative, imaginative people whose zeal can be ignited by the vision of a daring and not quite rational undertaking.  

In our nation of abundance, let us not forget that over twenty percent of the children in our nation live in poverty.   And in comparison with other industrialized nations, we have more high school drop outs, more violent crime among youth, more poverty among the elderly, more medically uninsured citizens, and the widest gap of income between the rich and the poor.  Again, like Johnny, we need to call out to God and risk entering the darkness of these realities that cause us to ponder the scarcities and the inequities of our social system. 

We are made for these times – and we must dare to become imaginative and creative so as to confront the dark forces that keep our minds and hearts hostage.  When we live in liminality, we need to be able to take risks without worrying about the consequences.  Henri Nouwen once wrote, “Faithful waiting is the antidote to fear and self-doubt.  It is believing God can accomplish in us something greater than our imaginings.”

Now is the time for hope to be born again in the faces and hearts of our children and young adults, and where we all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us as pillars of passion, heralds of hope, and voices with vision where it will spread around the earth, brightening all things. For we have been made for these times and as Paul writes to the Corinthians: That in God we are enriched in every way, and that we are not lacking in any spiritual gifts as we wait for the revelation of Christ Jesus.  

It is here in this time that we are to be watchful, alert and awake so that we will encounter our God in our midst to create from the chaos as in Genesis. Advent is a season that invites us to cross over the threshold from darkness to light, from anxiety to a holy serenity, from emptiness to abundance, and to wholeheartedly turn to seek God who is already in the turning!\

Yes, we are made for these times and called, invited, chosen,  and challenged to be alert, awake, prepared and vigilant.  So when God breaks into our lives in unexpected ways during this Advent season and we feel confused, anxious, frightened, or we find ourselves grasping for hope — let us be ready to ask God to just hand us the tomato soup or whatever we may need to be at ease and to be faith-filled as we live into this liminality – for God is already here among us.  
(previously posted)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

You ~ We Can Make a Difference!

End Time ~ Make a Difference!
If each grain of sand were to say:
One grain does not make a mountain,
There would be no land

If each drop of water were to say:
One drop does not make an ocean
There would be no sea

If each note of music were to say:              
One note does not make a symphony,
There would be no melody

If each word were to say:
One word does not make a library
There would be no book

If each brick were to say:
One brick does not make a wall,
There would be no house

If each seed were to say:
One seed does not make a field
There would be no harvest

You do make the difference
Begin today and make the difference
~ Author Unknown

Earth . . .Teach Us to Live in Gratitude!



If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice. ~ Meister Eckhart

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~ John F. Kennedy


For each new morning with its light, 
For rest and shelter of the night, 
For health and food, 
For love and friends, 
For everything Thy goodness sends.  ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson
 

Creator hear us, for we are your children.
Father we thank you for all that you have given us.
We thank you for the lessons that you have taught us and
for the life that you have allowed us to lead.

We thank you Mother Earth for your beauty and sustenance.
We thank the masters of this universe
for their guidance, protection and direction.

Father we thank you for the white light that surrounds us, and for
that same white light which transmutes all negativity
into love and healing.

We thank you Father, for the healing of our souls,
the healing of the Earth and for the healing of all humankind.
We call upon the power of the universe, to
allow us happiness, prosperity, healing and love.
We call upon the power of the universe for
good relationship to all things.

We call upon the power of the universe, for sacred direction,
sacred protection, sacred correction and sacred connection.
We call upon the power of the universe for magic and miracles.

We honor you Creator, as we honor all things seen and unseen.
We honor you Creator, as we honor our ancestors, 
as we honor ourselves.

~ Grant Redhawk - Two Feathers - Native American
(Original Source Unknown)