Categories
Story

The Considerations of Chloe the Camel

Image of Rachael Keefe with two small camels in the foreground, a Christmas tree in the background, and a star in the upper right.

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Bidding Prayer liturgy

Bidding Prayer for the Second Sunday of Advent

Image of a white dove in a glass ball, held in a hand. Background is red with faint stars and an outline of a Christmas tree.
Come, let us pray for the people of God here and everywhere.
 (People silently or out loud offer their prayers.)
Bringer of peace and hope, we turn our hearts and minds to you. We see your people in need all around us, all around the world. You frequently remind us that all people are your people, especially when we would separate one from another. Forgive us when we fail to treat any of our neighbors as your beloved children. Show us the way to comfort your people.
 May our voices join the one in the wilderness
 as we prepare the way of the Lord.
 
Come, let us pray for the United Church of Christ and our sister churches.
 (People silently or out loud offer their prayers.)
God of patience and grace, today we pray for our denomination and all those who lead it. Be with John Dorhauer and all the others who work in the national setting. Guide them with your wisdom and strengthen them with the power of the Holy Spirit. Be with Shari Prestemon and the other Minnesota Conference staff, as well as those who lead other conferences. May your renewing Spirit be with all those who lead the UCC, clergy and laity alike. May we be leaders in the way of unity and healing, offering hope in the midst of pandemic and all the injustices it has highlighted.
 May our voices join the one in the wilderness
 as we prepare the way of the Lord.
  
Come, let us pray for all the nations of the world.
 (People silently or out loud offer their prayers.)
Loving God, we long for a world in which “steadfast love and faithfulness meet; and righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” Yet, we often desire only that which will keep those we know and love safe and healthy, forgetting the needs of our neighbors near and far. We thank you for your patience with us and with the whole of humanity. Forgive our reluctance to repent of our self-protective ways and turn our hearts toward your vision of peace and justice.
 May our voices join the one in the wilderness
 as we prepare the way of the Lord.
  
Come, let us pray for all those in need of healing.
 (People silently or out loud offer their prayers.)
God of the past, present, and future, you have witnessed all that has brought us to this moment. You have seen humanity at its best and you have seen us at our worst, and you continue to name us beloved. We know that we are like the grass that withers, and only you last forever. Yet, we are in need of your healing love. We pray for those who have COVID and those who care for them. We also pray for those whose lives have been disrupted by pandemic – those without homes, those without work, those without access to mental health care, those without access to medicine… Shepherd us to new ways of being that allow us to care for the most vulnerable among us.
 May our voices join the one in the wilderness
 as we prepare the way of the Lord.
  
Come, let us pray for all who are grieving.
 (People silently or out loud offer their prayers.)
God of goodness and life, our hearts are breaking as we see the numbers of lives COVID has claimed. While we anxiously wait for a vaccine, keep us mindful of those who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Help us also to remember those who have few resources, those for whom pandemic has created unbearable suffering. As we pray for those in the midst of grief, we also pray for those who struggle with depression and other mental health conditions that can lead to suicidality. Enable us to raise up the valleys and level the mountains to reveal your way of peace and love, inviting all into communities of grace and radical welcome.
 May our voices join the one in the wilderness
 as we prepare the way of the Lord.
  
Come, let us give thanks for God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.
 (People silently or out loud offer their prayers.)
Amazing God, you have been with your people through plagues and pandemics, through oppression and captivity. Your faithfulness has not wavered, and we are grateful. We thank you for the moments of joy, for the reflections of your majesty, for the touch of loving-kindness… and all the ways you reveal your love for us. May our gratitude make us generous and compassionate with all our neighbors as we wait for and prepare for Love to break into the world once again.
 May our voices join the one in the wilderness
 as we prepare the way of the Lord.
 Amen. 

For sermon help, try here.

RCL: Year B Second Sunday of Advent December 6, 2020 Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

Photo: CC0image by Gerd Altmann

Categories
liturgy

Advent Calendar for 2020

An Advent Calendar with suggested activities for each day. The activities emphasize bring hope, peace, joy, or love through caring for self and/or neighbors.
download 2020 Advent Calendar for Care of Self and Neighbor

Download here!

You can download my Advent Calendar for Care of Self and Neighbor from archive.org as a full-page PDF file here.

Licensing

This Advent Calendar, shared in image and pdf formats, is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License. What does this mean? You are free to share it, print it, put it in your newsletter, link to it, post it on social media, download and then email it to people, re-use it as you wish, at no cost to you, for non-commercial use, with attribution, and without changing anything.

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

A Change of Clothing

Image of a hiker overlooking a mountain trail

I’m taking a class on discernment this fall as part of a graduate certificate program in spiritual direction. Up until now I had always considered discernment as the process of making big life decisions and was startled to discover that discernment is best when it is an intentional part of daily life. I say “intentional” because many of us engage in discernment without conscious thought. However, think of the possibilities if we were to all intentionally seek out what God desires for us in every day. I don’t mean in a ritualistic way that can become rote practice. I mean in a way that takes us deep within ourselves to discover the Holy and allows us to draw that holiness out into our daily lives. We would be better equipped to care for our neighbors, ourselves, and the planet.

In the context of discernment, Paul’s words to the church in Philippi make far more sense. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:4-7). If we are reaching for the Holy that lies within us every day, then it is easier to connect with the Holy around us. Rejoicing in the Lord always becomes a very real possibility. Then we can pray with gratitude and open the way for peace to flood our lives. It’s not as easy as it is simple, of course. Yet, this speaks to a yearning of my spirit and maybe to yours as well.

These days it is not easy to find peace, and if we find it, it is fleeting. This is likely because we think peace and passivity are linked. However, it is possible to act out of peacefulness. It is possible to be guided by passion and cling to the peace that Paul wrote about. Even in pandemic, it is possible to seek peace in our lives and offer peace to our neighbors. The key is to avoid getting caught up in the fear and chaos that abounds.

Remember the Israelites in their desert wanderings? As soon as Moses was gone from them for a few days they demanded that Aaron make a god they could see and touch. While I don’t think many of us are creating golden calves, we are often lured away to worship gods of our own making. These are the gods that thrive on fear and chaos and gain power in our distress. The path to worshiping these demanding gods is much easier to follow than the path of the God who desires us to be at peace in ourselves and in the world. Is it possible for any of us to sit still long enough to (re)discover the holiness that is our very core? Is it possible for us to pull away from the chaos and fear that so easily grasps our attention and focus on what is good and kind and beneficial to all?

I think so. Jesus certainly believed it was possible. Why tell the parable of the wedding banquet if Jesus didn’t believe that we are capable of seeking what is good? We have been invited to a feast and we often fail to attend. When we are summoned, when we feel the pull of the Spirit, it is best we follow. There is a seat at the table for all. However, we cannot go clothed with our ego and our own desires. We must go with clothed with the peace of Christ, with humility, with love. It is better we ignore the invitation than go without the proper clothing.

Discernment, looking for the pull of the Spirit, seeking the banquet invitation, is a daily activity the deserves more of our attention. We might find ourselves in strange company if we genuinely ask what God would have us do on a daily basis. We might discover that we have a whole new wardrobe to wear as we offer ourselves in service to our neighbors, to God. Isn’t it time we leave behind the ways of idol worship? We need not wander in the wilderness of fear, anxiety, hatred, or violence any longer. There is truly a better way. I intend to seek it out. Will you join me?

RCL – Year A – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – October 11, 2020
Exodus 32:1-14 with Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 or
Isaiah 25:1-9 with Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

Photo: CC0image by Dariusz Staniszewski

Categories
Poetry

A Conversation with Jesus

Image of face overlaid with shadows of trees on a background of red, rippling water
in a Roman stronghold, You asked your first disciples
     a seemingly simple question
yet You asked them to put their lives on the line for You
their answers could be, should be
      treasonous to the ears of the Empire

Who do you say that I am?

a worthy question, even now, especially now
we live in another Empire with a Pharoah who does not know Joseph
and would enslave us all, try us for treason if he could
Your question hangs in the air, awaiting our answers

Who do you say that I am?

You are the Messiah, of course
the One who sets us free
and saves our souls
Messiah

what does this mean for children in cages, families torn apart?
what does this mean for immigrants, refugees, assylum seekers,
all who come with hopes and dreams for a life of freedom
and are met with white supremacy, racism, and rejection?

Who do you say that I am?

You are the Prince of Peace
the One who guides our feet
in the ways of justice
Prince of Peace

our lips may speak these words
our actions say otherwise
there is no peace without justice
ask George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmoud Arbery
     and counteless others

Who do you say that I am?

You are the Great Physician, Healer of the Nations
the One who makes us whole
and unites us in love
Great Physician

there is no evidence of this truth
in a nation that values perfection over wholeness and wealth
     over people
where is unity for those on the edges, devalued and dismissed
     by Empire?

Who do you say that I am?

You are the Living Water
the One who quenches thirst
and brings new life
Living Water

then why are so many so very thirsty
in Flint, at the border, on our streets?
why withhold water for the poorest
when we have more than enough

Who do you say that I am?

Lord and Savior
the One who saves us from ourselves
and frees us to love without condition
Lord and Savior

again, where is the proof?
we act as if Love were a precious commodity
and hoard it for ourselves because Empire tells us
there is not enough for those who are undeserving

Who do you say that I am?

Light of life
the One who shines with hope
chasing away our despair
Light of Life

then why not wear a mask to show our love for our neighbors?
why not welcome all with grace and mercy?
suicide rates are climbing and we refuse to share our hope
perhaps our trust, our faith, is not up for the task at hand

Who do you say that I am?

Wonderful Counselor
the One who guides life
offering wisdom, healing, grace
Wonderful Counselor

is it not Empire that guides our choices?
is it not Empire that teaches us to hate?
is it not Empire that divides us from our neighbors?
when will we listen and actually care for the vulnerable among us?

Who do you say that I am?

Mighty God
the One who loves without condition
waiting patiently for us to believe
Mighty God

Love knows no limits
hatred, destruction, division, violence, war are purely human
perhaps now is the time for transformation
paying heed to the prophets among us

Who do you say that I am?

be careful how you answer
do your words match your deeds?
do you love your neighbor as yourself?
do you follow the ways of Empire
rather than care for the vulnerable among you?
will you put your life on the line
for the sake of love?

Who do you say that I am?

RCL – Year A – Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – August 23, 2020
Exodus 1:8-2:10 with Psalm 124 or
Isaiah 51:1-6 with Psalm 138
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

Photo: CC0image by Gerd Altmann

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

Good News for Reluctant Hearts

I gave up trying to be happy and joyful just because it’s the holiday season a long time ago. Growing up, I thought I was the only one who didn’t have the perfect Norman Rockwell (or, these days, Hallmark) family. Nearly every year I would end up in tears on Christmas day because it was a disappointment in one way or another. Christmas left me with an empty, lonely feeling more often than not. While it has been years since I’ve felt that aching loneliness during the holidays, I am finding it more than a bit challenging to enter into all the “feels” of the season this year. Heaven knows, I’ve been trying. But I am caught in a colossal disconnect between what is and what God has promised.

Full disclosure – I had pacemaker surgery a few days ago. I’m recovering just fine after some complications during the procedure itself. Mostly, I am grateful for access to the healthcare and technology that has sped up my reluctant heart. Honestly, though, I’m a bit angry that I need a pacemaker at the age of 52. You know, the unfairness of the cosmos and all that. I don’t think it is God’s will that I have dysautonomia or that it is a punishment for my sins or anything like that. I understand that stuff happens that God does not intend or want for anyone. Asking “why me?” accomplishes nothing. Why not me? I am fortunate enough to be able to get the medical care I need. Still, in a perfect world, my heart would beat as it should without electronic encouragement.

My illness is one small thing that points to the gap between what is and what God has promised. In the grand scheme of the universe, its not a big deal. However, these days in particular, it is almost a metaphor for all that is broken in the world. Our collective heart, if you will, doesn’t beat as it was intended. With every act of hatred, violence, dehumanization, and failing to care what happens to any of our neighbors, the heartbeat of humanity slows a bit more.

Into this we hear the Baptist’s cry to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” How do we make a way for God in a world that seems bent on destruction? How do we make visible the power of Love in a world where politicians cut benefits without considering the people who receive them? How do we make space for God in a world that blames people for their circumstances instead of genuinely seeking ways to alleviate suffering while maintaining or, better yet, elevating human dignity? Wolves and lambs, calves and lions, and cows and bears are not going to be lying down together any time soon. And if they did, who would notice?

The despair and hopelessness that consumes innocent lives on a daily basis threatens to engulf us all. Unless, by grace, we are willing to pay heed to what God has promised to the whole of creation. When we focus on what human beings have done, and continue to do to destroy each other and the planet, our attention is taken from things that could save us. To only see the brokenness is to fail to see what God is doing right this minute to reveal the beauty and awe and wonder that is still afoot in the world.

I’m not suggesting that we live in denial. That won’t change anything or help in anyway. Just like I could not ignore my ridiculously slow heart rate, we cannot ignore the suffering all around us. On the other hand, we cannot focus on it either. If we are really going to prepare the way for God to break into the world once more, we have to look for the sacred amidst the suffering. We have to choose hope when the world hands us despair. We need to seek peace when we encounter chaos. We need to foster a sense of joy when anger shouts at us from every direction. And we need to embody love while the world embraces hatred. It’s about the choices we make. We can choose to seek out God’s holy ways and those places where it is possible for enemies to unite and the hungry to be fed in spite of the ugliness all around us.

If each one of us chooses to seek the Holy in spite of the helplessness and hopelessness all around us, some valleys might rise up and some mountains might sink down. None of us is likely to be cured of disease or illness just by changing attitude and perspective. Yet, I can’t help but think that intentionally seeking out God amidst the anger, the despair, the chaos, the suffering, the ignorance, and all that the world’s heart labors under, we might discover the spiritual pacemaker that will allow us to experience the promises of Christmas in new ways. We might even discover some of the hope, peace, joy, and love that the season promises, or realize that it has been there all along.

Where we choose to put our attention and our energy matters. God is still at work in the world. God’s promises of love, wholeness, forgiveness, and healing haven’t been revoked. They are out there waiting for us to live into them, and thereby, embody them for all our neighbors. Advent is an opportunity for a strange and wonderful journey from what is to what God promises. May our reluctant hearts find the spiritual encouragement they need in the days ahead.

RCL – Year A – Second Sunday of Advent – December 8, 2019
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7,18-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

Photo: CC0image by prawny>

Categories
Bidding Prayer liturgy Prayer

Bidding Prayer for Advent Love

candle-2874569_1280.jpg

With hopes that we, like Mary, may find favor with God, let us join together in praying for all who share the sacred journey to Bethlehem.
People may quietly or silently voice their prayers
God who leads through example, be with all who seek the Christ-child who waits for us. Remind us that road is long and wide enough for all who endeavor to see you. As we prepare to offer our gifts to the newborn king, open our hearts. Open our hearts to make room for the extravagance of your love for us and for the whole of creation. May the love we celebrate this day, flow through us into the world.
Restore us, O God;
Let your face shine that we might be saved.

As we move through these last Advent days, let us pray for those who are in need of shelter, sanctuary, or safety.
People may quietly or silently voice their prayers
Holy One whose light proclaims the way of love for the whole of Creation, guide us to the day when hatred, fear, and oppression have no place in our lives. Mary and Joseph found safe harbor in a stable and Christ was born into these humble surroundings. You tell us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. May our love for our neighbors be demonstrated in our actions – building homes, welcoming refugees, and protecting children who dream of a life of safety and possibilities.
Restore us, O God;
Let your face shine that we might be saved.

As we remember the joyful meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, let us pray for all who gather in worship this day, near and far.
People may quietly or silently voice their prayers
God who broke into the world to draw us closer to you, unite us in our love for you. While we rush from one holiday activity to another, pass judgement on the celebrations of others, and forget the beauty and wonder of your love, remind us. Remind us that you are more Mystery than we can possibly know. All our traditions may lead us to you, but they separate us from one another. Let us see the gifts others bring and may our hearts leap with joy in recognizing you in everyone we meet.
Restore us, O God;
Let your face shine that we might be saved.

Remembering the promises of old, promises of the One who would bring peace. Let us pray for all who work to bring peace into the world
People may quietly or silently voice their prayers
God of steadfast love, you love us even when we forget to love you, our neighbors, ourselves, or creation. We have heard your call to love and we find it so much harder than it ought to be. We justify our wars, our violent ways, our fear of change, our racism, and all the ways we perpetuate systems built on oppression. You wait for us to remember your holy ways of love and justice. As we enter Bethelem this year, shine your love into our broken fearful places, those in ourselves and our churches, and those in our country and our world. Call us once again into wholeness, peace and love. And may we have the courage to respond.
Restore us, O God;
Let your face shine that we might be saved.

Anticipating, once again, the gift of the Christ-child, let us give thanks for all the blessings we have been given.
People may quietly or silently voice their prayers
God who loves without limits or conditions, we praise you for true gift of your love for us. A Child born so long ago leads us in your holy ways. In our gratitude, may we have the courage to embody your love with joy and faithfulness so that Child may never be forgotten. Hear our prayers of gratitude and praise for all the ways in which you fill our lives with hope, peace, joy, and love.
Restore us, O God;
Let your face shine that we might be saved. Amen.

RCL Year C – Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 23, 2018
Micah 5:2-5a
Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 80:1-7
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]word

Photo: CC0 image by Gerd Altmann

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

Seemingly Impossible Joy

person-110303_1280

Rejoice in the Lord always. Always and everywhere. Was Paul kidding? The world is too challenging a place to be full of joy always, isn’t it? I mean look at what is happening around the world – war, hunger, sickness, climate change – and in this country – murder, incarceration, tear gas, hatred, fear – and in my neighborhood – isolation, anxiety, desperation. Who can find joy in all of this? Funny thing, Paul’s world wasn’t all the different. He was imprisoned, not for the first time when he wrote to the Philippians. He was no stranger to oppression, war, violence, hatred, fear, and other such soul-destroying things. Yet, he found joy in the Lord.

And we are supposed to do the same no matter what is going on around us or in our own lives. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. However, joy is not the same thing as happiness. Joy is a more mature, deeper, transforming emotion than happiness. Happiness is dependent on one’s circumstances. Lots of things can make us happy. Joy is built on the connection between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit. Joy does not end when the moment has passed. This is how Paul could rejoice even when circumstances were not in his favor.

Where is the joy for today’s Christian? To be perfectly honest, I spent a good portion of my younger years feeling anything but joy. It was so hard to see through the pain of the past and the precarious balance of the present to any kind of lasting joy. It’s also hard to feel joy if one does not experience love. Only when I began to see myself as someone worthy of love, someone whom God loved deeply, did I notice joy blossoming in the depths of my being.

Zephaniah’s and Isaiah’s call to sing God’s praises even while still captive and filled with shame, make much more sense when considered in the context of God’s steadfast love. I don’t know why or how, but God continues to love humanity no matter what we do. When we engage in war and violence, God’s love remains. When we are filled with fear and hatred for our neighbors, God’s love holds fast. When we are lost to anxiety and despair, God’s love abides. Nothing we can do to ourselves, each other, or creation can change the fact that we were created in Love for love. For reasons beyond my capacity to fathom, God still loves all of humanity and waits for us to grasp hold of this truth.

When we understand ourselves to be God’s beloved, then joy becomes possible. The shame gives way to hope and the fear gives way to peace. Suddenly the world holds more beauty than violence and all our neighbors are God’s beloved. No, I don’t think it’s possible that any of us live in this truth 100% of the time. We are still subject to the emotions coursing through our bodies and the pressures of living in this chaotic world. The difference comes into play when we sit still long enough to sink into the very center of ourselves. When we allow ourselves to become conscious of the truth that resides in the depths of our being – we belong to God and nothing can change that. When we embrace this truth, then joy grows and becomes something that nothing can remove. Yes, joy can grow dim in the face of hardship. It can be masked by depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness. It can fade in the face of grief. Yet, it remains, always. A light in depths that cannot be extinguished.

Of course, this joy might require we do some odd things. We might have to write letters of hope and promise to churches from a prison cell. We might have to proclaim the power and presence of God to a people lost in shame and fear. We might need to preach release, salvation, to captives. We might have to sing while those around us weep, sing of God’s promise of hope, peace, joy, and love.

So, yes, let us rejoice always, trusting that peace that truly passes all understanding to keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. It might just get a little easier to stand with John the Baptist in the wilderness and prepare the way…

RCL – Year C – Third Sunday of Advent – December 16, 2018
Zephaniah 3:14-20
Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

Photo: CC0 image by Gerd Altmann

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

The Way of Peace

candles-168011_1280.jpg

I genuinely like this time of year. The Christmas lights and the menorah candles shine out as a reminder that there is more to the world than we usually allow ourselves to see. I laugh out loud at the lawns crammed full of over-sized holy family members side-by-side with inflated snowmen and moving reindeer. I’m filled with awe at strings of simple white lights over a doorway, or single candles in the windows, or the visible menorah with it’s flickering candle light. These brave attempts to keep the despair of the world at bay and remind us that no night lasts forever give me glimpses of hope that maybe someday we will truly prepare the way for the One who is, who was, and who is to come.

We need to celebrate and light up the nights in the coldness of this season. We need to find hope and peace enough to want to get through another day. Last week a Minneapolis police precinct put up a Christmas tree adorned in racism. A rabbi friend received hateful threats against her and the Jewish community in her New Hampshire town. The majority of people (87% according to one poll) don’t hear or don’t care about the overtones of rape and misogyny in a popular holiday song. These are just three examples of hate and apathy that have touched my life in the last week. I don’t doubt that more could be added to this list.

When did we become so willfully oblivious to our neighbor’s pain? There is nothing in “Prepare the way of the Lord” that says to do so by trampling over others. Making paths straight doesn’t mean ignoring racism and just moving along. We are not supposed to be filling the valleys with hatred or lowering the hills with fear. Nor do we make smooth the rough places by ignoring the cries of those who have been victimized. Justifying oppression, hate, and violence and maintaining the status quo do not prepare us in anyway for the coming of Christ.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. What if we prepare the way for Christ by straightening out some of the mess we have created? What if we make it easier for people to have safe, affordable housing, healthy food, reasonable wages, and accessible healthcare? Wouldn’t that straighten out a few paths? How about if we fill the valleys of fear that systemic oppression has created? What if we reach out to our neighbors and see them, hear them, welcome them as God’s beloved and stop feeding our xenophobic fears? How about leveling the mountains and hills made by fear-mongering, self-centered, power-hungry politicians that do not care who they hurt? We could begin by enabling every person who lives in this country to live in safety and be sure that refugees and immigrants have what they need to seek citizenship and be full members of society. While we’re at it, maybe we can straighten out the kinks in theology that legalism and archaic understandings have created? Maybe we could achieve some unity in Christ if we stopped judging who was right or wrong and sought more actively to follow Jesus command to love one another. Let’s start listening to voices not our own so that those rough places  created by the pain of being dismissed, devalued, and discarded can begin to heal.

One candle can’t do much to hold back the night with its cold, despair, and isolating darkness. However, if we bring our candles together, we create warmth and light. Together we can bring peace and truly prepare the way for the coming of the Holy One. Isn’t it time we validate those who cry out in response to racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and all the other isms and phobias that keep us from seeing the humanity and the sacred in all our neighbors?

May God guide our feet in the way of peace.

RCL – Year C – Second Sunday of Advent – December 9, 2018
Malachi 3:1-4 or Baruch 5:1-9
Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

Photo: CC0 image by Hans Braxmeier

Categories
Musings

Come Away…

ocean-2203720_1280.jpg

Last night I had one of those dreams that is more than a dream. It began with me standing in a crowd waiting for a subway train. The train station was both familiar and odd. My subconscious created a blend of a modern station in Boston or New York and something that would be more at home in Harry Potter or Star Wars. The crowd pushing in on me from all directions was made up of every kind of person and more than a few who were not exactly human.

This crowd was anxious and grumbling and wanted me to explain why the train was late and how I expected everyone to fit on said train when it arrived. While they expected me to answer them, they didn’t give me an opportunity. The pushed and shoved and spoke in more languages than I could imagine. There was nothing between them and me, and I started to be concerned about safety, mine and some other smaller creatures within this straining group.

Out of nowhere (as can only happen in dreams), someone strong grabbed my hand and said, “Come away with me to a quiet place.” Not liking the crowd and not knowing what train I was waiting for or why, I happily allowed this stranger to pull me through the crowd. It seemed that I was guided through the unhappy crowd for hours. And then it was gone.

My companion had brought us to a beach that stretched for miles to our left and to our right. Out in front of us the ocean reached to the horizon with Caribbean blue waters. I took a breath so deep that I floated up off the ground, tethered only by the hand that still held mine. Letting out the breath, I slowly sank back down to the sand, like a leaf fluttering in a gentle breeze.

“Breathe,” said a voice that was in my head and all around me. “Breathe in and out and be still. You know that I am and you are and all shall be well.” This strange statement seemed perfectly normal and I did what I was told. I kept breathing deeply, floating up and down to the rhythm of the waves.

As I breathed, tears flowed down my cheeks in tiny rivers to the sea. “Why am I crying?” I asked in bewilderment.

“You cry because you know we are all one. You know what others do not. More importantly, you care. You want to change the world to be as beautiful and peaceful and just as it was intended to be. You cry because you cannot change what doesn’t know it needs to be changed. You cannot change fear into love. You cannot convince anyone that there is enough of all that is to meet the needs of all. You see what is meant to be, what yearns to be, what might never be. You cry because you are tired and in need of rest. You cry because there is so little time for rest. You cry because you forget to come here, come to me, come away when the crowd pushes in on you.”

The next thing I knew we were flying high above the earth and hearing the cries of all the people who needed food, shelter, medical attention, safety, hope, help, community, faith, and so much more. The voices were both distant and insistent. I turned to my companion only to find myself alone in the sky with the earth growing closer. Before fear could take root, I heard the voice call in me and around me once again.

“They are you. You are them. I am with you. I am with them. I am with all. You are mine. They are mine. They are yours. Find your place in the crowd. Do all that you can.”

I felt exhaustion reaching for me as the clamoring of the earth grew louder. “Remember to breathe. I am the Breath of Life. I am enough to sustain life, even yours. And remember to come away with me every now and then. Come away and be still and remember what you know. I am in the crowd but I am easier to find in the deserted places.”

The whispers of “Come away” became the cries of sea birds as I came to myself in the sun-warmed sand where I stayed to watch the ocean flow and breathe… just breathe.

RCL – Year B – Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – July 22, 2018
2 Samuel 7:1-14a with Psalm 89:20-37 or
Jeremiah 23:1-6 with Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Photo: CC0 image by Public Co