Sunday, March 18, 2018

3rd Passiontide 2018, Dark Woods

3rd Passiontide
March 18, 2018
John 8: 1-12

Halfway through his life, the poet Dante finds himself in a dark forest, not quite knowing how he got there. He is threatened by three beasts who impede his path. In his despair, he appeals to one who guides him further along his way by offering to take him along another path.

We too, sometimes find ourselves ‘in a dark wood’, not quite knowing how we got there, lost and imperiled. If someone were to approach and judge us, criticize us for being hopelessly lost, it would not help—we already know that. What we need is a guide who takes us under his care and shows us another path, a way through.

Christ did not come to earth to pronounce judgment on human lives. By becoming human, he came to understand the human condition from the inside. He came to offer his strength, his clarity, his guidance. He can extend our clouded vision. He can help us recognize that we need to take another path, go in another direction. To the soul who had adulterated her true life’s path, he said, ‘Go. Go elsewhere; walk another path that does not send you to the beasts’.

For us too, Christ appears in our extreme need. He comes to give life’s light to us. Christ is here as a guide. He is here as light along the path in the darkness in which we all walk. In the words of Hafiz:

pours light
into every cup,
quenching darkness.

The proudly pious
stuff their cups with parchment
and critique the taste of ink

while God pours light
. . .  
pours like rain
into every empty cup

set adrift on the Infinite Ocean.*

Sunday, March 11, 2018

2nd Passiontide 2018, Ground Under our Feet

2nd Passiontide
March 11, 2018
John 6: 16 - 26

When evening came, his disciples went
down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off over the sea for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the sea; and they were terrified. But he said to them, "I AM, have no fear" Now when they wanted to take him into the boat, immediately the boat was at the land, at the place where they wanted to go.

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, the truth I say to you: You are seeking me not because you saw signs of spiritual power, but because you ate of the bread and were satisfied.

2nd Passiontide
March 11, 2018
John 6: 16 - 26

We are in rough waters. The wind of events are howling; the seas of emotions are running high. We are making efforts toward our goals, but are being pushed back. Fear is rising.

This is the moment when our hearts can call on our awareness of the spirit. We know that there is an over-arching divine consciousness. Our awareness of the trust, and the radiance of love. For we have eaten of the bread and were satisfied.'
spirit becomes a Presence; it can itself be terrifying at first. But in compassion, the Presence says: Fear not. I AM. And immediately we are at our goal. We find the ground under our feet. We experience calm

The heart’s song did not sound in vain,
for many now can hear again
the word of angels: Do not fear!
New light and sound in us appear
for strengthened heart and wakened ear.*

*Lent Song, German folk song, translation from Camphill

Sunday, March 4, 2018

1st Passiontide 2018, Our True Self

First Passiontide
Luke 11: 14-35

Jesus was driving out a demon from a man who was mute. And it came to pass that as the demon left, the man
Ottheinrich Folio
who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. However, some of them said, “He drives out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.” Others sought to test him by asking for a sign from heaven as proof of his spiritual power.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself will be desolated, and house will fall against house. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? And you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub? Now if I were to drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers do it? Therefore, they shall be your judges.
But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, it follows that the kingdom of God has already come to you.
When a strong man in full armor guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, the victor takes away the armor in which the man had trusted, and divides it up as spoils.

He who does not unite with my being is against me, and he who does not gather in inner composure with me [work for inner composure with me] scatters.

When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it wanders through waterless places seeking a place to rest; and if it cannot find it, it says, ‘I will return to the dwelling out of which I have come.” When it returns to this dwelling it finds it cleaned and adorned. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself and enters and dwells in that man. And his final state is worse than the first.”

As he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, “Blessed is the mother who bore you and nursed you.”

But he said, “Truly blessed are those who hear the divine word in their hearts and tend it there.”

1st Passiontide
March 4, 2018
Luke 11: 14 – 35

Dig a hole deep enough and

eventually you will find water. On the beach near the tideline, the hole fills immediately. Further inland you have to dig deeper.  If you want to use the water, you have to keep the well clear of debris, and keep drawing the water up.

Our capacities of thought and speech are some of the hallmarks of our being human. In today’s gospel reading, the adversarial spirit is hindering the man from the expression of his full humanity. It is Christ who removes this hindrance.  One can imagine the event in the words of the poet:

At the spring
we hear the great seas traveling
giving themselves up
with tongues of water
that sing the earth open.
We have stories
as old as the great seas
breaking through the chest,
flying out the mouth,
noisy tongues that once were silenced,
all the oceans we contain
coming to light.[1]

But driving out a hindering spirit leaves a hole, a space in the human constitution. And Christ makes it clear that just being rid of the spirit is only a first step. What will be drawn into the now empty space?

Christ removes the opposing spirit in order to make a space for our true self, who is Himself. Yet he does not impose Himself. He waits to be invited, to be drawn in. When we invite Him, He says, ‘Truly blessed are those who hear the divine word in their heart and tend it there.’ Luke 11:28 We need only keep the well free of debris and keep drawing the Living Water.

[1] Linda Hogan, “To Light” in Seeing Through the Sun

Sunday, February 25, 2018

4th February Trinity 2018, Creation's Hour

February Trinity
(5th Sunday before Easter)
Matthew 17: 1-13

After six days, Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James and led them together up a high mountain apart from the others.
There his appearance was transformed
before them. His face shone bright as the sun, and his garments became white, shining bright as the light. And behold, there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, conversing in the spirit with Jesus.
And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be in this place. If you wish, I will build here three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them and suddenly they heard a voice from the cloud that said, “This is my son, whom I love. In him, I am revealed. Hear him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces to the ground in awe and terror.
And Jesus approached them, and touching them said, “Rise, and do not fear.”
And raising their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them: “Tell no one what you have seen until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”
And the disciples asked him, “What is meant when the scribes say, ‘First Elijah must come again’?” He answered, “Elijah comes indeed, and prepares everything [restores all things]. But I say to you, Elijah has already come, and the people did not recognize him but rather have done to him whatever they pleased. In the same way, the Son of Man will suffer much at their hands.”
Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

4th February Trinity
February 25, 2018
Matthew 17: 1-13

The sun sings. Most of us do not hear the song; it is part of what the ancients called the harmonious music of the spheres. The poet Goethe, in Faust, has the archangel Raphael say:

The sun-orb sings, in emulation,
Mid brother spheres, in his ancient round:
His path predestined through Creation
He ends with step of thunder-sound.

Today’s Gospel reading enables us to 
see how the sun orb sings. Christ, the great out-pouring Spirit of the Sun, descended from the Cosmos. In this reading, He now shines in radiance from within Jesus. Two others, like planets circling, are with Him; one is Moses, the great leader of his people down into spheres of earth. The other is Elijah, the prophet, half angel, who works in sun, wind, and air. They are joining together with Christ, as past, present and future come into existence. A fourth voice joins them from a cloud, the voice of the Father. ‘This is the son of my love; My love is visible in Him. Hear Him; take him in.’ (Matthew 17: 5). Raphael continues:

The angels from his visage splendid
Draw power, whose measure none can say;
The lofty worlds, uncomprehended,
Are bright as on the earliest day.

We have come to a time in human history when we must begin to hear, to see, and to understand what happens next. Today’s reading is a wake-up call - keep your eyes and ears and hearts open. Christ says, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’ (Matthew 17:7) and then He comes down the mountain, down from the heights, and walks the path toward his death, his own transformation and resurrection.

Goethe’s poem goes on and now it is the archangel Michael who speaks:

And rival storms abroad are
Aivasovsky, The Ninth Wave
From seas to land, and land to sea.
A chain of deepest action forging
Round all, in wrathful energy.
There flames a desolation, blazing
Before the Thunder's crashing way:
Yet, Lord, thy messengers are praising
The gentle movement of Thy day.

Around us, there is desolation and frantic action. On Good Friday the sun’s light will go out. All will be wrapped in the silence of the tomb. But on Easter Sunday, the joyful sounding light of a thousand suns will burst forth. The light will scatter and each human being will receive a spark of new life. The archangels will sing:

Though still by them uncomprehended,
From these the angels draw their power,
And all Thy works, sublime and splendid,
Are bright as in Creation's hour.*

*Goethe's Faust, Part 1

Sunday, February 18, 2018

3rd February Trinity 2018, The Great Intangibles

3rd, 4th February Trinity (also children)
(Sunday after Ash Wednesday)
Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the loneliness of the desert to experience the tempting power of the adversary.

After fasting forty days and nights, He felt for the first time hunger for earthly nourishment. Then the tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, let these stones become bread through the power of your word.”

Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘The human being shall not live on bread alone; he lives by the creative power of every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and
had him stand on the parapet of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Again a third time, the devil took him to a very elevated place and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give to you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me as your Lord. “

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan!
For it is written, ‘You shall worship [pray to] God your Lord who guides you and serve him only.’”

Then the adversary left him, and he beheld again the angels as they came to bring him nourishment.

3rd Feb Trinity
February 18, 2018
Matthew 4:1-11

The story of Christ’s temptation is the archetype of the three areas in which all of us human beings are tempted, simply by virtue of living in a body.

The devil tries to tempt Christ into magick-ing stones into bread. The first temptation is to concentrate on the material aspects of life. Christ’s answer points to the fact that the magic is already there, in the food; it is God’s creative power that bids what we eat, and thus we ourselves, to live. It is the divine life in the food that nourishes us, not the mineral.

The second temptation is to imagine that we can do anything we want and that God will save us. Christ’s answer: No arrogance: God’s love is unconditional; nevertheless, we human beings will ourselves have to bear the consequences of our own deeds.

The third temptation is to misunderstand where true power comes from. True power comes from freely and voluntarily letting ourselves be guided by the divine. Divine guidance will ultimately lead us toward the kind of sacrificing of personal power out of love of others. This is something that the devil, the prince of this world, cannot comprehend—the power of sacrifice.

Christ’s answers to these three temptations are all linked by one theme: to remember the divine world from which we come; to volunteer in humility to take the creative guidance and sacrificial power of God’s realm into our thinking. This has become all the more urgent in our time, since we Westerners have essentially been nourishing ourselves on the stones of usury, worshipping our own prowess and testing the limits for far too long.

The poet David Whyte says:

We shape our self 
to fit this world

and by the world 
are shaped again.

The visible 
and the invisible

work[ing] together 
in common cause,

to produce 
the miraculous….

So may we, in this life

to those elements 
we have yet to see
or imagine, 
and look for the true

shape of our own self 
by forming it well

to the great 
intangibles about us.  *

* David Whyte, “Working Together”, in House of Belonging

Sunday, February 11, 2018

2nd February Trinity 2018, Span the Chasm

Feb. Trinity (also for children)
(Sunday before Ash Wednesday, 7th Sunday before Easter)
Luke 18: 18-34

One of the highest spiritual leaders

of the people asked him, “Good Master, what must I do to obtain eternal life?”

Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One—God alone. You know the commandments, you shall not destroy marriage, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not speak untruth, and you shall honor your father and your mother!

He said, “All these I have observed strictly from my youth.”

When Jesus heard this, he said, [Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said… Mk 10:21] “One thing, however, you lack: Sell all of your possessions and give the money to the poor; thus will you achieve a treasure in the spiritual world—then come and follow me!

He was sad about these words, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw him thus, he said, “What hindrances must those overcome who are rich in outer or inner possessions, if they want to enter into the kingdom of God. Sooner would a camel walk through the eye of a needle than a rich man be able to find the entrance to the kingdom of God!”

Those who heard this said, “Who then can be saved?”

He said, “For man alone it is impossible; it will be possible however through the power of God working in man.”

Then Peter said to him, “Behold, we have given up everything to follow you.”

He replied, “Amen, the truth I say to you. No one who leaves home or wife or brother or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in earthly life, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Then he took the twelve to himself and said, “Now we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything which the prophets have written about the Son of Man will fulfill itself: He will be given over to the peoples of the world; they will mock and taunt him, they will spit upon him and scourge him and kill him, but on the third day he will rise up from the dead.”

Yet his disciples understood nothing of all this. The meaning of his words remained hidden from them, and they did not recognize what he was trying to tell them.February Trinity

February 11, 2018
Luke 18: 18-34

Day follows night; spring follows winter. In cycles of time, the seasons follow one another, inscribing a great spiral.

In our lives too, there are seasons; youth, maturity, age; illness, health; life and death—greater and lesser cycles that carry their own greater meaning.

Christ asks those who believe in Him, trust in Him, to follow Him; to walk where He walks, to go where He goes. He asks us to engage our will, and our willingness. For He wishes to lead humankind into an ascending spiral, into a new kind of spring, a new kind of youth. But paradoxically this path leads Him, and us, first through winter, through illness, and through death.

And herein lies the problem; for everything in us strains away from suffering and death. And so His plea, that we follow Him, is a plea that we overcome our antipathy for the hard things. For suffering and illness can only bear fruit if we are willing. There is no resurrection without death; no love without sacrifice. Death can be inhabited by Life only if we love Him and are willing to accompany Him there. Only through the working of God’s power in the human being is the great spiral of ascent even possible. Rilke said:

As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood's dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions ... For the god
wants to know himself in you.*

*Rainer Maria Rilke, in Ahead of All Parting, ed. and translated by Steven Mitchell 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

1st February Trinity 2018, He Reaches for You

1st or 2nd February Trinity
Luke 8:4-18

And as a great crowd had gathered, and ever more people streamed to him out of the cities, he spoke in a parable:
A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some seed fell on the path. It was trodden upon, and the birds of the sky (air) ate it up.
The Sower, van Gogh
Other seed fell upon the rocks, and as it sprouted, it (the sprouting green) withered, because it had no moisture. Still other seed fell under the thorns; the thorns grew with it and choked what came up. And some fell upon good soil, grew, and brought forth fruit a hundredfold. When he had said these things, he called out: 
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

His disciples asked him what this parable might mean. And he said: To you it has been given the gift of being able to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to the others, it is given in pictures and parables, for they see and do not yet see, and hear, although they do not yet understand with their thinking. The meaning of the parable is this:
The seed is the Word of God. That which fell upon the path are those who hear it; afterward, the tempter comes and tears the Word out of their hearts so that they cannot find healing through the trusting power of faith working in them.

Those on the rock are those who, when they hear the Word, take it up with joy; but they remain without root. For a while, the power of their faith works in them, but in times of trial, they fall away.

What fell under the thorns are those who hear the Word from the spirit, and as they go on their way, the sorrows and the riches and the joys of life choke it, and they bring no fruit to maturity.

And the seed which fell in the good soil are those who hear the Word, and take it up into their hearts, feel its beauty, become noble and worthy and patiently keep it alive, tending it there until it brings forth fruit.

No one lights a light and hides it under a vessel or under a bench; instead, he places it on a lampstand so that all who come in see the light. For nothing is hidden which shall not be revealed, and nothing is secret which shall not be known and proclaimed.So attend to how you listen. For he who has enlivened in himself the power to bear the spirit, to him more will be given. He however who does not have this power, from him will be taken that which he thinks he has.

2nd February Trinity
February 4, 2018
Luke 8: 14-18
In spring the soil in a garden is turned, opened, so that seed can be sown into the worked earth.
The ground in the garden of the heart also requires periodic turning. Hearts opened through turns of destiny, hearts opened through the will’s conscious intent, are fertile ground. The seed of the living spirit, the word funneling into the heart through the ear, received through intentional listening, germinates in the prepared ground of the soul.
But germination is just the beginning. The gospel makes it clear that this is only a first step. The Spirit Word wants to grow, to develop strength, to blossom and ripen. Keeping the Spirit Word alive and growing in the garden of the heart takes some effort on our part. It takes tending, patience, time.
In a simpler age, reading from the Good Book, hearing the Word of the Spirit at the end of the day was one way to keep it alive in the soul. This allowed the Word to take root. The “riches” of modern life tend to crowd out such a practice. But many find helpful the practice of refreshing the Sunday reading at home during the week.
Once the Spirit’s Words, the mystic trees that grow mankind’s future, are sprouted, the soul garden houses living beauty. The soul becomes a noble and
Alfred Soord
worthy place. As Rilke says:

The deep one, whose being I trust,
                …breaks through the earth into trees,
and rises,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance
from the soil. *
Our tending helps to ripen His trees’ shining fruits. The fruits that feed mankind’s future are the light of understanding, the continuing life of our souls and spirits, the nourishing of love. His fruits, ripening in our hearts, nourish us. They nourish all whom we encounter. And our fruits of soul, ripening in our hearts, nourish—Him.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.**
* Rilke’s Book of Hours, pg. 101
**, pg. 96