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:

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”.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

2nd August Trinity 2016, Protect the Holy

Matthew 7, 1-29
2nd August Trinity

“Do not judge your fellow man, so that your judgment will not someday be visited upon yourself. For with the judgment that you pronounce you also speak your own judgment, and the measure by which you measure will be the measuring rod for your own self. Why do you look to the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not become aware of the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother: “Wait, I will pull the splinter out of your eye”. But mark it well, there is a log in your own eye. You hypocrite, first remove the log from your own eye, and then you may be able to see how to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Do not give what is holy to dogs, nor throw pearls to the swine, for these will tread them underfoot, and then turn upon you and tear you also to pieces.

Ask from the heart and it will be given to your heart; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you; for he who asks in uprightness will receive; he who earnestly seeks will find; he who knocks, to him will be opened. Or are there among you those who when his son asks for bread would give him a stone; or when he asks for a fish would offer him a snake? If then you who in spite of wickedness know how to give good things to your children, how much more goodness will your Father in the heavens give to those who earnestly ask him for it.

All that you want that men should do for you, do first for them. This is the true content of the Law and the Prophets.

Walk through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the path is easy which leads to ruin [the abyss] and many are they who walk it. But narrow is the gate and difficult the path that leads to Life, and it is only the individual who finds it.  

2nd August Trinity
August 31, 2017
Matthew 7, 1-29

Today’s gospel reading takes us on an inward spiral. This spiral clears a path for Christ to enter our hearts.

The first step inward is to notice our tendency to criticize and judge others. By focusing on others, we can fail to notice how such faults live within us. Critical judgment of others blinds us to what needs correcting within our own souls. It creates a closed door, a barrier to inwardness of heart. We need to pay attention to the direction in which we focus our attention.

The next step is to learn to protect the holy, to refrain from letting the profane overwhelm what is sacred. That which is holy is that within us that connects us to the divine. It must be protected from destruction. One way we profane inner holiness is by talking it to death. So this step suggests we enter an inner silence, and create a well-guarded inner treasure-chamber.

The third step is to bring our practice of prayer into the deepest part of our heart. We are not to treat the divine world as a kind of cosmic vending machine to satisfy our material wishes. Rather we are to offer our deepest needs, our deepest heart to the Father. We submit our hopes to his greater will and wisdom. He knows even better than we do what would truly benefit us.

And lastly we are to choose to treat others with respect and with wisdom.

A critical attitude of mind, a profaning of the sacred and a demanding heart; they operate within us as powers of diminishment and destruction. They eat away at our true, wise discernment, our inner relationship with God and with our fellow human beings.  John O’Donohue said,

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.

“The Inner History of a Day,” John O’Donohue, in To Bless the Space Between Us

Sunday, July 24, 2016

1st August Trinity 2016, Unimaginable

Mark 8, 27-Mark 9-1 (Peter’s Confession)
1st August Trinity

And Jesus went on with his disciples into the region of Caesarea Philippi (in the north of the land at the source of the Jordan where the Roman Caesar was worshiped as a divine being). And on the way there he asked the disciples (and said to them), “Who do people say that I am?”

They said to him, “Some say that you are John the Baptist; others say, Elijah, still others that you are one of the prophets.”

Then he asked them, “And you, who do you say that I am?’ Then Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

And Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them: “The Son of Man must suffer much and will be rejected by the leaders of the people, by the elders and the teachers of the law, and he will be killed and after three days he will rise again.” Freely and openly he told them this.

Tissot, Get thee behind Me
Then Peter took him aside and began to urge him not to let this happen. He, however, turned around, looked at his disciples, and reprimanded Peter, saying to him, “Withdraw from me; now the adversary is speaking through you! Your thinking is not divine but merely human in nature.”
And he called the crowd together, including his disciples and said to them, “Whoever would follow me must practice self-denial and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever is concerned about the salvation of his own soul will lose it; but whoever gives his life for my sake and the sake of the gospel, his soul will find power and healing. For what use is it to a human being to gain the whole world if through that he damages his soul, which falls victim to the power of an empty darkness? What then can a man give as ransom for his soul? In this present humanity, which denies the spirit and lives in error, whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the shining revelation of the Father among his holy angels.”

And he said to them, “The truth I say to you, among those who are standing here there are some who will not taste death before they behold the kingdom of God arising in human beings, revealing itself in the power and magnificence of the spirit.”

1st August Trinity
July 24, 2016
Mark 8, 27-Mark 9-1 (Peter’s Confession)

Tissot, The Blind Leading the Blind
Our hopes and expectations can blind us. We picture for ourselves how we hope things will be, how
we want them to be. But these imaginings can cast a veil over what actually is and what will be. They can blind us to what is real.

The people of Jesus’s time had built up images of how the Messiah would be. He would be a great political leader, a new King David to overthrow the Romans. He would be a prophet, the voice of God. He would be a priestly mediator of the divine.

Peter indeed recognizes in Jesus the Christ, the anointed and expected Messiah. Immediately Jesus tries to tell his disciples what his real mission, his real plans are. He tries to clear away the false hopes and expectations. He will not be a political leader. Although he is the voice of God, he will not be an old style prophet only of the folk. He will be a priest, but of a new order. He will be both priest and sacrifice.

C. D' Herbois
He tries to tell Peter that what will be most important is that he will suffer, die, and resurrect – live, die, and live again. He will mediate Life itself, so that we too can live again.

But Peter’s earthly hopes get in the way. His expectations become an adversarial force, an obstacle that Christ must reject. And it is Judas’s false expectation that hand Jesus over to the executioners. Christ’s task is so other, so radical, so unimaginable that even to this day hardly anyone fully understands it.

Yet even though we may not understand Him, Christ is still able to work on his mission, as long as we are open to him; as long as we don’t harbor false expectations of what he can do for us. He works in our hearts to heal; he works in our communities to unite; he works in the world to give peace. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

4th St. Johnstide 2016, Garland of Beautiful Deeds

St. Johnstide
Matthew 11: 2-15
John in Prison, Cornelius de Galle the Younger

When John heard in prison about the deeds of Christ, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are awakened, and those who have become poor receive the message of salvation. Blessed are those who are not offended by my Being.”

When they had gone, Jesus began to speak about John. “Why did you go out into the desert? Did you want to see a reed swaying in the wind? Or was it something else you wanted to see? Did you want to see a man in splendid garments? Those in splendid garments are in the palaces of kings. Did you go to see a man who is initiated into the mysteries of the spirit, a prophet? Yes, I say to you—he is more than a prophet. He it is of whom it is written:
John Baptist, Roumanian 10th century
  Behold it well: I will send my angel before your face;
            He shall prepare the way of your working in human hearts
            So that your being may be revealed.

The truth I say to you: among all who are born of women, not one has risen up who is greater than John the Baptist; and yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist, and even more now, the kingdom of heaven will arise within human beings through the power of the will; those who exert themselves can freely grasp it. The deeds of the prophets and the content of the Law are words of the spirit that were valid [worked into the future] until the time of John. And if you want to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

4th St. Johnstide
July 17, 2016
Matthew 11: 2-15

Sometimes one hears a parent telling a child not to do something which the parent him/herself is doing. It is a case of “Do what I say, not what I do.” This is not very effective because children imitate, and we have to set a good example. We need to model and be the change we wish to see.

In the reading today, Christ lays emphasis, not on talk, nor on affirmation, but on deeds.  John asks if Jesus is the Messiah, the expected new political leader, or great prophet. Christ Jesus does not say, ‘Sure, I am the Messiah’. He does not point to great teachings. He points to deeds accomplished on behalf of others. Through Him, human beings are cleansed, strengthen, and elevated.

Christ further emphasizes that it is our own activity of will that moves humanity forward. Through energetic inner activity, the kingdom of the heavens will arise within human hearts. It is through the kingdom within that we ourselves are healed, strengthened and elevated. It is through the kingdom within that we can strengthen and elevate others.
The Buddha said,

The perfume of sandalwood,
the scent of rosebay and jasmine,
travel only as far as the wind.

But the fragrance of goodness
travels with us
through all the worlds.

Like garlands woven from a heap of flowers,
fashion your life

as a garland of beautiful deeds.