July 12, 2015- Rev. Jan Hryniewicz
Text: Psalm 29 & 1 John 4: 16 – 21
Two little boys, ages 8 and 10, are excessively mischievous.
They are always getting into trouble and their parents know if any mischief occurs in their town, the two boys are probably involved.
The boys’ mother heard that a preacher in town had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her boys. The preacher agreed, but he asked to see them individually.
The mother sent the 8 year old in the morning, with the older boy to see the preacher in the afternoon. The preacher, a huge man with a deep booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, “Do you know where God is, son?”
The boy’s mouth dropped open, but he made no response, sitting there wide-eyed with his mouth hanging open.
So the preacher repeated the question in an even sterner tone, “Where is God?! Again, the boy made no attempt to answer. The preacher raised his voice even more and shook his finger in the boy’s face and bellowed, “WHERE is GOD?!”
The boy screamed & bolted from the room, ran directly home & dove into his closet, slamming the door behind him. When his older brother found him in the closet, he asked, “What happened?”
The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied, “We are in BIG trouble this time!” “GOD is missing, and they think WE did it!
Frequently we may feel like God is missing from our personal lives and from the planet, especially when we are tuned into all the tragic news and violent, negative energy which is available to us if we choose to allow it to take up space in our mind and spirit.
A little boy wandered away from his mother while she was shopping in the mall. A security guard found him wandering around by himself and took him to the mall’s main office. There the guards bought him ice cream and told him jokes to keep him amused. Finally, his distraught mother showed up. Sobbing, she gathered the child in her arms. He blissfully kept eating his ice cream. In response to her questions the boy simply said, “Gee, Mama, I didn’t even know I was lost until I was found.”
Could it be that we aren’t aware that we are lost….or that something really beautiful is missing from our lives?
I have been incredibly blessed this past week by the poetic renderings of Deborah Burke and Jen Comeau, as I have been for the past 15 years …by all the creative gifts this remarkable congregation has offered to us all for inspiration and reflection. I treasure the poet’s mind and heart which dares to dive deeply into the soul and awaken what is lingering there. It’s wonderful! I asked both Jen and Deborah if I could sit with their work and use it as a starting point for my sermon message this morning. They graciously gave me permission.
The Woods at Timber Point
with breezes like assurances from a gentle god
and skies as fair as my eyes
through her woods
working hard to slow my pace
holding a question
and searching for signs
aware that each step
whether on crushed stone
or wood chips
landed like an assault
of her solitary loveliness.
with fog draping the coast in a sudden mood swing
and winds extinguished like a candle
slow and quiet
through her woods
intent only upon this
with each shift of my gaze –
a sinking, a deepening, an honoring
this holy place
and the wisdom I had so desperately sought –
everywhere. Jen Comeau
The earth wisdom and deeply spiritual reflection of Jen Comeau.
How the Holy loves
to disguise itself.
A bright red,
scurrying bug no bigger
than the dot of a pencil point
suddenly ran from the crease
in the pages of a book about,
of all things, the incarnate God.
How long had the red god been
stranded in that creased world? Was
it hungry for sun, for food, for a
breath of fresh air?
I took it out to the Dahlias,
carefully brushed it into another Holy,
this one bright yellow and shining
in the morning sun.
Deborah Burke, June 30, 2015
I love Deborah’s red bug poem, picturing a cute and colorful lady bug making the journey from her book to the Dahlia in her garden….thinking about it as access to the Holy we can discover in the ordinary. I shared this poem by email with my pastor son Scott, and with my friend and favorite author, Roland Merullo. This was Roland’s response:
Thank you, Jan. Exactly what I needed this morning, and exactly how I feel. Why should/how could it be otherwise? How could a bug not be God?
Those who are blessed to know Merullo’s work, know that he weaves a spiritual thread through all his novels which reflects his personal struggle with organized religion and his deeply spiritual quest for the holy in his life. Indeed, how could a bug not reflect the genius and creativity of its creator?
This was my son Scott’s response which he included, along with the poem in his online weekly update to his congregation:
I was struck by the opening words … “How the Holy loves to disguise itself.” As I pondered the line, I wondered … does the Holy disguise itself? Or, was the Holy there all along and we simply failed to see or recognize it?
How often we fail to recognize the holy. It is easier that way. If we recognize the Holy in someone or in something, then we have to also recognize its value and worth. We have to treat it with respect and dignity and honor. If we ignore the Holy, we can simply dismiss it and go about our way. The Holy is not going to run up to us, tap us on the shoulder, and say, “Hey, look at me! I am the Holy!” The Holy does not force itself upon us. We must bring ourselves into the relationship.
Interesting and wonderful , isn’t it ?…… how the reflections of one, or in this case, two, can influence a multitude. The power of words….. the influence of poetry ….and music…..and art and nature……on our inner wonderings. …on our spiritual journeys.
How many God moments do we experience in the midst of our daily activities and relationships? Where and when do those moments happen for us?
Author, poet, workshop leader, spiritual midwife, Joyce Rupp writes in her book Out of the Ordinary, “ As I seek to relate to God through prayer, I do not step out of the reality of my life. Rather, I step into it more fully with a keen sense of where my spiritual transformation occurs. Whenever I create a ritual or prayer I am constantly finding symbols and metaphors from my physical surroundings, from my mental and emotional world, and from the events and experiences that are part of my life as a human being.”
And…what do these God moments feel like? When we encounter the Holy….. is there a warm feeling of calm and well being, an exciting flash of awareness and insight or a startling moment of challenge? Or all of the above!?
Golfer,Lee Trevino was involved in a humorous incident in a PGA tournament sometime back. Lightning struck a tree very near to where he was standing. Someone asked Trevino what he thought when lightning struck that tree. He replied, “I learned that when God wants to play through, you had better let him.”
Is that how a God moment might feel…..like a bolt of lightening, piercing the darkness of our mind?
Pico Iyer is not a spiritual teacher or even, he says, a spiritual person per se. He says he does not meditate in the traditional sense! ( and neither do I, so I can relate!!) But he has become one of our most beloved and eloquent translators of the modern rediscovery of inner life. As a journalist and novelist, he travels the globe from Ethiopia to North Korea, and he lives in Japan. But he also experiences a remote Benedictine hermitage as his second home, retreating there many times each year. An intimate interview with him that I discovered on the Daily good, explores the “art of stillness” he practices — not in order to enrich the mountaintop, he writes, “but to bring calm into the motion of the world.”
Pico Iyer studied at Eton, Oxford and Harvard. He had an early successful career as a journalist with Time magazine in New York City. But he left and moved to Japan to create a modest, quiet, nearly-technology free life.
He said in this recent interview: I think sometimes “mystery” is a word I use as an equivalent to spirituality. I think our relation with the Divine is a love affair, and it’s a passionate love affair, and it’s also as tumultuous as any affair that we have in the world with somebody we care about a lot. And so it’s not all sweetness and light and probably shouldn’t be because the sufferings and the demons are often what instructs us much more than the calm radiant moments.
I’ve been really lucky to see many, many places. Now, the great adventure is the inner world that I’ve spent a lot of time gathering emotions, impressions, and experiences. Now, I just want to sit still for years on end, really, charting that inner landscape because I think anybody who travels knows that you’re not really doing so in order to move around — you’re travelling in order to be moved. And really what you’re seeing is not just the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall but some moods or intimations or places inside yourself that you never ordinarily see when you’re sleepwalking through your daily life.
I was struck by the wisdom of his words, which really resonated with me. Of course, we experience the Divine Presence in the incredible beauty and magnificent diversity of the universe….and our souls deeply nourished by it. The exquisite artistry of the Creator is evident in the little red bug, in glorious garden flowers, in the silence of woodland trails, on a fog drenched beach, in the awesomeness of the Grand Canyon….. in times of loving intimacy with family and friends. Yet, as Pico states, we may be “sleepwalking” through our days and the artistry and beauty cannot penetrate our souls. Is it not true that the Holy is in all things, accessible to us if we pay attention…..and honor it. How many God moments do we miss every day?
One of the reasons that I love the Psalms so much, is not only the beauty of the language, but also, the expression of the powerful connection…and ongoing interaction of the Divine Creator with all of creation.
It seems to be the general opinion of modern scholars, that Psalm 29 that Marti read this morning is meant to express the glory of God as heard in the pealing thunder, and seen in the raging tornado. Just as the eighth Psalm is to be read by moonlight, when the stars are bright, as the nineteenth psalm needs the rays of the rising sun to bring out its beauty, so this psalm can be best rehearsed in the midst of tempest, by the glare of the lightning, or amid that dubious dusk which heralds the war of elements. The verses march to the tune of thunderbolts. God is everywhere conspicuous, and all the earth is hushed by the majesty of the presence of the Divine Creator .
Surely, if we are aware of and connected to the amazing creative energy of the Divine Spirit, we will be motivated by love and compassion, to accept the responsibility to co-create with God, a more harmonious, love-filled world…for all life in the universe…..human, animal, plant and mineral!
There’s a pretty little ditty which was part of a coke commercial, which may have been a God moment for the planet!: I’d like to build the world a home and furnish it with love, Grow apple trees and honey bees, and snow white turtle doves. I’d like to see the world for once all standing hand in hand, and hear them echo through the hills for peace throughout the land. ( It’s the real thing, coca cola is!!!)
Well, why not? Why not a life furnished with love? We have been given this incredibly beautiful world…. with exquisite diversity of form and matter… with a powerful, ever evolving energy of goodness and creativity flowing through it. It seems that our responsibility as beneficiaries of this universe, must be to furnish it with love!
Author, poet, spiritual mystic, Philip Newell writes: “Eriugena, the ninth-century Irish teacher, says that if goodness were extracted from the universe, all things would cease to exist. For goodness is not simply a feature of life; it is the very essence of life. Goodness gives rise to being, just as evil leads to nonbeing or to a destruction and denial of life’s sacredness.”
Newell affirms the essential goodness of creation and our capacity to glimpse what he calls the shafts of divine light that penetrate the dark places of our psyche. This is the presence of the Holy…. God incarnate in the universe…. available to us always and everywhere.
Love is not an attribute of God. Love is the essence of God. God is love. God creates in love. How can our response not love as well?
Pastor Dr. Harold Olds shares this story of the depth and breadth of God’s love for humanity: “ It’s been years ago now, but I will never forget going with a mother to visit her teenage son in a county jail. He had done some things that he ought not to have done, and then made the mistake of running from the police which landed him in jail. The next day we walked into that dark, dingy, hole in the ground, to visit him. I watched in silence as that brokenhearted mother walked slowly up to the bars, then, putting her hands through them, pulled the face of her son as close as she could. Then, leaning against his cell she said, “Son, no matter what you have done, I want you to know that I love you, and I want the best for you.” Then, both of them began to cry. God loves us like a mother loves a child.
Because of God’s unconditional love for us, we are able to love others…… in fact it is our mandate. The passage from 1st John states that if we claim to love God, and do NOT love our sisters and brothers, then we do not really love God. For the Divine Spirit is in all things…..in each of us. ….even in those we have chosen to call our enemies. Jesus showed us the way….. lived the lifestyle of love we are called to love. When evil assaults our universe as it has done so many times through the ages, including most recently, it is even more critical that we are witnesses to the love of God. …that we model the love that Jesus did in the face of his enemies.
Eco-justice advocate, Colin Beavan, also know as the No Impact Man wrote: Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.
However, because it is so incredibly difficult to love at times, we need to be attentive to the Divine nudges that help us along the way…..with glimpses of the goodness and beauty and power of the Divine Spirit….which surrounds and encourages us every moment.
Beauty is as necessary to our souls as the air we breathe is to our bodies? Nurturing beauty is a way to see beyond and within, to envision other possibilities, to dare to give care and attention to wholeness that we and the universe need.
Petrarch, Italian scholar and renaissance poet wrote: “Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us to duty and truth, the redeeming principle that chiefly reconciles the heart to life, and is prophetic of eternal good.”
This, I believe is the Holy in disguise, if you will…..the Holy Presence of God at work in the universe as Love and beauty….. in each of us, creating an energy of goodness and peace that is ever evolving and eternal.
As we journey together through another beautiful Maine summer by the sea, let’s make a conscious, prayerful effort to make a note of the daily God moments that nurture and nourish us. I’d love to have you share them with me…. with all of us. Let’s see how much goodness energy we can absorb and generate. It’s so good for the soul.
Too often in our taming and claiming of Earth, we have forgotten to listen to its voices….to feel its natural energy….and we have wounded it….failed to see the Holy.
as Jen Comeau suggested, we might enter it gently….on tip toe…. listening…. and respecting. As Scott said, if we see the Holy in all things, including in each other, we will have to respect it…to honor it. Deborah was able to recognize the Holy in that precious little red bug moment….and to honor it and grant it life. …in several forms.
I tip-toed, intent only upon this, with each shift of my gaze –
a sinking, a deepening, an honoring this holy place
and the wisdom I had so desperately sought –revealed itself