Sunday, September 18, 2016

9th August/September Trinity 2016, Vertiginous Clarity

9th August Trinity
Matthew 6; 19-23

“Do not save up your treasures on the earth, where moths and rust eat away at them and thieves tunnel in and steal. Save up your treasures in heaven, where no moth and no rust consumes and thieves do not tunnel in and steal. Because where you have gathered a treasure, there your heart will bear you.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. So if your eye is wholesome, your whole body is lighted; whereas if your eye is bad, your whole body is in darkness. So if the light inside you is dark…what great darkness!

9th August Trinity
Sept 18, 2016
Matthew 6; 19-23

We know, at least intellectually, that we cannot take our physical possessions with us across the threshold of death. We even make ironic jokes, like ‘he who dies with the most toys wins!’ But even if we could somehow bring them with us, they would eventually disintegrate because they belong to the world of the transitory.

We are encouraged to store up heart-treasures, treasures that we can take with us through death. One such heart treasure is reverence and wonder toward God, toward our fellow human beings and toward the living being of nature. The health and vitality of our soul, indeed of our whole organism, depends on the manner in which we look at the world. If we look at the world through eyes open in wonder, filled with awe, then seeing through such eyes generates light, both inwardly and outwardly. Through wonder and awe, we gain the light of knowledge and the light of wisdom. Our eyes will shine. Lacking reverence before God, man and nature, our souls begin to darken. Even our bodily organism becomes darker and harder, less translucent. Awe enlightens. 
The poet says:

Never between the branches has the sky
burned with such brilliance, as if
it were offering all of its light to me,
to say – what? what urgent mystery
strains at that transparent mouth?
….the air
suddenly arches itself like this into infinity,
and glitters.

This evening, far from here,
a friend is entering his death,
he knows it, he walks
under bare trees alone,
perhaps for the last time. So much love,
so much struggle, spent and worn thin.
But when he looks up, suddenly the sky
is arrayed in this same vertiginous clarity.*

For, as Christ says, ‘Where you have gathered a treasure, there your heart will bear you’.**

*Jean Joubert, “Brilliant Sky,” Trans. by Denise Levertov in The Gift of Tongues, ed. by Sam Hamill
** Matthew 6:21

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

8th August/September Trinity 2016, The Food that Fills

8th August Trinity
Luke 17: 5-10

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Strengthen our faith!”
And the Lord said, “If you had faith as full of life as a mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine [mulberry] tree: be uprooted and be planted in the sea!  And it would obey you.

Van Gogh
Who among you who has a servant for plowing or for herding sheep, who will say to him when he comes home from the field, “Come at once and sit down at table?” Rather you will say, “Prepare the meal for me, put on your apron and wait on me until I eat and drink; afterward you can eat and drink too.” Does the servant deserve special thanks for doing his duty? Think of yourselves like that; when you have done all that you have been told to do, then say: “we are feeble servants, we have only done what we were obliged to do.”

8th August Trinity
Sep 11, 2016
Luke 17: 5-10

There is a children’s story about a lazy young woman, freshly married. Instead of sleeping in, she needed to step up and take hold of the running of a large household farming enterprise.  Other household workers were waiting for her orders. She had to learn to direct the household servants so that the whole enterprise, including the servants, would thrive and be fed.

Perhaps today’s reading is awkward for us. We don’t have servants. And we want to be kind. But perhaps we can look at the servant/master relationship as parts of ourselves that need to come into a healthy hierarchical relationship.

There are parts of our souls that are meant to serve us. Our desire life serves best when it serves the inner master, when it is harnessed for work and caring for others. The soul’s inner master is the I, that part of us which focuses and makes decisions about the work and the caring. Desires in and of themselves can’t be allowed to take precedence, like the lazy wife who desired to stay in bed.

Christ’s use of this metaphor, of course, goes further. It points to our own relationship as servants to the Master of the Universe, to the Lord of Karma. Our task is to offer him food first – then we will be fed. 

The Act of Consecration is the pattern for this. We offer him our noblest and purest thoughts and feelings, our loving devotion. He then has something to transform, to offer us in return as nourishment and strengthening. We bring these offerings because we need to offer him something positive in compensation for our natural errors, weaknesses, and failures. We are feeble servants, only doing what we are obliged to do. But we can have faith and trust that when we do our poor part, when we do our inner and outer work, when we serve Him first, we will, in turn, be nourished and strengthened. 

Albert Steffen wrote*:

Nicole Helbig
I walk through the tilled red land:
The seed sleeps.
I walk through green crops:

The stem shoots up.
I walk through golden fields:
The grain ripens.
I find the miller
And the miller says:
The earth is the face
Of the Son of Man,
And ‘he who eats my bread,
Sets his foot upon me’**
I kneel down
And he offers me the food
That fills, permeates, me
On my earthly journey.


*quoted in Rudolf Steiner's Gesamt Ausgabe (Collected Works) Vol. 36, p. 200 (in German)

** 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me,' Jn 13:18, Psalm 41:9


Sunday, September 4, 2016

7th August Trinity 2016, God's Hands

7th August Trinity
Luke 10:25-37

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when
Van Gogh
he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

7th August Trinity
Sept 4, 2016
Luke 10:25-37

Corinne Vonaesch
Love manifests not only in thoughts and feelings but most importantly in deeds.
The man who was robbed and beaten represents that part of all of us traveling on life’s path -  a part of our soul has been robbed of our spiritual wealth and beaten down until our souls are half-dead. There also lives in each of us a priest and temple servant who serve the first part of the commands of the law, the part about serving God with one’s whole heart, mind, and strength. It is a holy office, requiring that one show up at the appointed time, ritually clean, for a service performed on behalf of the whole people. And we all have an inner Samaritan, a foreign stranger traveling through life, who is under no tribal obligation to help a Hebrew from Jerusalem. And yet help he does, purely out of human compassion. He fulfills the second part of the commandment, the part about loving whoever one stands next to. He does so not only by  ministering personally to the wounded but also by paying someone else to continue his efforts.

Charalambos Epaminonda
What Christ is saying is that our ritual observances toward God are only a part of what serving God means. We also need to fulfill the second part of the commandment, the commandment of love for our fellow human beings. We need to find within ourselves healing ways to serve the God within others. This does not necessarily have to be dramatic. But we need to be able to inwardly pause and help others we encounter along the way. We can comfort with a kind word or even a smile. We can offer something that helps heal a wounded soul. We can help someone in whatever way we can toward their own healthier future. We can even make it possible for someone else to do it for us. And we can always pray for others.
We turn towards God with all the strength of all our soul’s capacities. And we turn toward our fellow human beings with the strength of our love. For we are God’s hands on earth.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

6th August Trinity 2016, Hand That Loved Me

6th Trinity August
Mark 7, 31-37
As he was again leaving the region around Tyre, he went through the country around Sidon to the Sea of Galilee in the middle of the region of the ten cities of the Decapolis. They brought to him one who was deaf and who spoke with difficulty, and asked him to lay his hands on him. And he led him apart from the crowds by himself, laid his finger in his ears, and moistening his finger with saliva, touched his tongue, and looking up to the heavens, sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphata, be opened.” His hearing was opened and the impediment of his tongue was removed and he could speak properly. And he commanded them not to say anything to anyone. But the more he forbade it, the more they widely they proclaimed it. And the people were deeply moved by this event, and said, “He has changed all to the good: the deaf he makes to hear and the speechless to speak.

6th Trinity August
August 28, 2016
Mark 7, 31-37

A wall separates two spaces. A doorway is an opening between the two. And the door itself opens or shuts. It regulates the flow between them.

Our senses are the doors between the inner life of the soul and the outer life of the world. In sleep, the doors of the senses are closed.  Upon waking, all sensory doors open. They will remain open or close, depending on where we choose to direct our attention. Being absorbed in the activities of the world, all doorways are open; being absorbed in the inner life can close the doors of the senses, making us oblivious to noise, for example.

The deaf mute’s sense organs for hearing and speech had become permanently closed. An exchange of words had become impossible. His friends bring him to Christ, the Logos, the Living Word. At Christ’s intimate and loving touch, at His fiery word – Ephphata! Be opened! – the closed doors open. The man can hear and speak again. He can fully engage with the world.

At the same time, Christ has opened the same doors in the crowd. And though He tries to tell them not to proclaim the event far and wide, they will talk. They represent that in us which cannot yet regulate our speech, which cannot yet recognize when to close the door.

Christ said of Himself: My I AM is the Door. He is that capacity in us that is able to choose to open or to close, and to know when it is time to do which. Both capacities, opening and closing, are necessary for the soul. It is only the extremes – always open, or always closed – that are unhealthy. Christ, the Door, helps us to know when we are to open and when to close.
The deaf mute’s experience of Christ is expressed in a poem by Antonio Machado:

Tissot
From the door sill of a
dream they called my name…

It was the good voice,
the voice I loved so much.

“—Listen: will you go
with me to visit the soul?…”

A soft stroke reached
up to my heart.

“With you always”… And
in my dream I walked

Down a long and
solitary corridor,

Aware of the touching
of the pure robe,

And the soft beating of
blood in the hand that loved me.*



*Antonio Machado, translated by Robert
Bly, from the book


Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado (Wesleyan Poetry in Translation)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

5th August Trinity 2016, Looking Upward

5th Trinity August
Christ Heals the Blind Man, Gioacchino Assareto, WikiCommons
Luke 18, 35-43

It happened as he approached Jericho: a certain blind man was sitting by the road begging. Hearing the crowd going by, he wanted to know what was happening, and they told him Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. He cried out in a loud voice: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Those leading the way threatened him and wanted him to be quiet. But he cried all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and had him led to him. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want that I should do for you?”

He said to him, “Lord, that I may look up and see again.”

And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight. Through your faith and your trust, the power for healing has been awakened in you.” (Your faith has healed you.)

In that moment his eyes were opened. He followed Him and thus revealed the working of the divine within the human being--and all who saw it praised God.


5th Trinity August
Brian Jekel
August 21, 2016
Luke 18, 35-43

In today’s reading, a human being, blind and begging, hears Christ Jesus passing by. He recognizes an opportunity for healing. What he asks for is to be able to ‘look upward and see once again.’ This implies that he wants to ‘raise his sights’. It implies the restoration of something lost.

We can perhaps remember a time in our own lives, perhaps in childhood, when everything we looked at was kissed by the ineffable. Everything sparkled with a kind of gentle magic. Part of the underlying sorrow of adolescence is due to the loss of the numinous. A kind of blindness sets in that makes everything now seem common and ordinary, colorless.

What created the magic was a child’s lingering relationship to the living world of the divine spirit.  We still partially saw through heavenly eyes.

It was part of the course of human evolution that we should lose this kind of connection in order to gain our freedom and self-awareness. The sense of being cut off and blind is a necessary step on the way to seeing again in a new kind of way.


Now we have the freedom to ask for a healing of our vision. Christ gives us the capacity to look up and to see everything through the eyes of love. Our eyes can be saturated with wonder and awe; they can radiate gratitude and compassion. This is the renewed working of the divine within. This is the holy, healing spirit that drenches our beholding with spiritual light. We can see the healing spirit, shining in all that we behold. 

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

4th August Trinity 2016, Kingdom of Angels

4th Trinity August

Luke 9: 1-17

He called the twelve together and gave to them potent authority and formative power, so that they could work against all demonic mischief, and heal all sickness.  And he sent them out to heal and to proclaim the Kingdom of God, appearing now on earth, the kingdom of human beings filled with God’s spirit.

And he said to them, “Take nothing with you on the way: no staff for support, no bag for collecting, neither bread nor money, no change of clothes. If you enter a house, remain there until you go further. And where they do not accept you, leave their city and shake the dust from your feet as a sign that they have refused community with you.”

They left and walked through the villages of the country, announcing the joyful message of the new working of the kingdom of the angels and healing everywhere.

Meanwhile Herod the Tetrarch heard of all that was happening and he was very perplexed, for some said, “John is risen from the dead,” and others said that Elijah had appeared, and yet others, “One of the Prophets of old has risen again.” And Herod said, “John I have had beheaded; who now is this, about whom I hear all these things?” And he wished to see him himself.

Kenneth Dowdy
And the apostles returned and reported to Jesus everything that they had accomplished. So he gathered them to himself and retreated with them to a city called Bethsaida for special instruction. But the people became aware of it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them of the Kingdom of God of the future, of the human kingdom on earth filled with the divine spirit, and he healed all who had need of it.

But the day began to decline. The twelve came up to him and said, “Send the crowd away so that they can reach the villages and farms in the vicinity and find food and lodging, for here we are in a deserted place.” He, however, said to them, “From now on it falls to you; you give them to eat.”

They answered, “We have nothing but five loaves and two fish. Or shall we go and buy food for all of them?“ There were about five thousand people.

Then he said to the disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of fifty”. And they did so, and all reclined.

Then he took the five loaves and the two fish and, raising his soul to the spirit, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. And they ate, and all were satisfied. And they took up the pieces that remained: twelve baskets full. 

4th Trinity August
August 14, 2016
Luke 9: 1-17

We are approaching the middle of a ten-week path toward Michaelmas. This fourth reading in the series is itself a kind of path.

First Christ gives his disciples the power to heal and to announce a new kingdom from the angels. This new kingdom is arising in human hearts. And then he tells them to shed what is unnecessary, to separate themselves from certain external supports – no bag, no bread, no money. They go out, and when they return, they report back to him joyfully. And at the end of the day, He feeds them all from the spiritual nourishment of the stars.

We can see this as a pattern for our days. We can begin the day by receiving a measure
M. Woloschina
of inner strength and the power of love from Christ. We can remind ourselves not to become too dependent upon outer supports. We can demonstrate the new kingdom in human hearts by the quality of our interactions with others. And at the end of the day we can report back to Him, and in sleep receive our nourishment from the cosmos of the stars.


Doing this day by day builds something. With Christ’s help, we are creating the kingdom of the heavens within. And working actively, day by day, from within, we are also helping create a new kingdom of the angels on earth. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

3rd August Trinity 2016, All Shall Be Well

3rd August Trinity
Rembrandt, Wiki Commons
August 7, 2016
Luke 15:11-32

And he said further: “A certain man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Give me the share of the estate which falls to me.’  And he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey to a far country and squandered his estate in the enjoyment of loose living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine came over the land, and he began to be in need. So he went and attached himself to a citizen of the country who sent him out into his fields and let him herd swine. And he longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, but no one gave him anything.

Then he came to himself, and said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here of hunger. I will rise up and go to my father and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against the higher world and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me one of your hired men [workers].’

So he rose up and traveled along the road to his father. When he was still a long way off, his father saw him, felt his misery, ran toward him, embraced him and kissed him. And yet the son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against the higher world and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me one of your hired men [workers].’

But the father called his servant to him. ‘Quickly! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet, and slaughter the fattened calf. Then we shall eat and be merry. For this my son was dead and is risen to life. He was lost and is found again.’ And they began to celebrate.

Meanwhile the older son was in the field. When he returned home and came near the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him and asked him what it meant. He gave him the news: ‘Your brother has come home again. So in joy your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back again safe and sound.’

The son grew dark with anger and didn’t want to go in. But his father came out and pleaded with him. He however reproached his father saying, ‘Look! For so many years I have been with you and have never neglected one of your commands. But you never gave me so much as a goat that I might be merry with my friends. And now comes this son of yours who has eaten up your wealth in scandal, and you offer him the fattened calf.’

The father however said to him ‘Child, you are always with me and all that I have belongs to you too. But now we should be glad and rejoice, for this your brother was dead and lives; he was lost and has been found again.’


Lacquered Box Depiction of Story of Prodigal Son
3rd August Trinity
August 7, 2016
Luke 15:11-32

We are complex beings. Our souls are populated by many different aspects of our personality. One way to read today’s beautiful parable is to regard each character in the story as one aspect of a single human being.

We all have an inner, fun-loving son who is eager for what the world has to offer. In pursuing the
Turning Point, Frostad
world one-sidedly, he finds himself cut off from the Source, alone and starving.

We all have a loving Father within, who encourages our explorations and welcomes our return with compassion and joy. And we all have a law-abiding, jealous brother, who is keeping accounts, prone to anger. He feels himself short-changed but is missing the point.

This triad, Father, son and brother, is an image of the human will. We see the Father’s good will, the brother’s ill will, the son’s self-will.

And the most important moment in the story comes when the lost son ‘comes to himself’. In that moment, he recognizes that what keeps us alive is not merely food, but relationship. In coming to himself, he has found his own singularity, and at the same time he recognizes that he needs to re-establish a healthy relationship with his origins in the Source. In coming to himself, he comes to direct his own will.

Return of the Prodigal Son, Charlie MacKesey
Life brings us moments of coming to ourselves. Often it is illness or tragedy that brings us this opportunity. But we can also deliberately create moments of silent listening for our own, true voice, the voice that urges us to return to the Source. In such moments we receive the Father’s kiss. We receive the mantle of peace, the ring of unity, sandals of free power. We partake in the celebratory feast which keeps us truly alive. T. S. Eliot said,

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well…*


*T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”.

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