There is One (May 30, 2013)

…Opening To…

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me save that thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping thy presence my light (Ancient Irish Hymn)

…Listening In…

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6; context)

…Filling Up…

It’s the second to last day of our Guitar Case series, and, as luck would have it we have two more verses. Today’s verse comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, but I encountered it originally in the Episcopal service of baptism. Indeed, these are some of the first words you hear when you attend a baptism in an Episcopal Church.

Baptism, which comes from the Greek word that means “to wash,” is the outward sign (getting wet) of the inward grace of claiming the identity of a member of God’s family. Therefore, it’s pretty wonderful to say these words from Ephesians before we get to the watery part. These words are all about One-ness. We may each be individual units with brains and appendages and many layers of skin, which separate us one from another. But this surface-level autonomy masks a greater truth, which Paul uncovers with these words. We are not discreet units. We are not autonomous individuals. We are pieces of a vast network of interconnections (The Internet? No, but close.)

The spiritual truth that underlies all reality is that we are connected through the love of God, which is a connection that cannot be severed or disrupted by anything in all Creation. We are part of the one body. The one Spirit connects us. We subscribe to the one hope, which is fulfilled by the one Lord. We share the faith, we proclaim our sharing with baptism. And the One God is the presence that binds all this one-ness together. So rejoice that you aren’t alone. You may feel like an autonomous, isolated unit. By you’re not. None of us is. We’re one. (Hey, I think U2 said that in the early 1990s…I guess there are worse folks to crib from!)

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are the source of all unity in this world. Help me to recognize my connection to other people and live into the responsibility that such a connection entails. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, but I take with me your word, which settles deep in my soul and speaks life into my being.

The Feather Duster (May 8, 2013)

…Opening To…

Once I heard and answered all the questions
of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying
flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers…
How did it go?
How did it go? (Shel Silverstein, “Forgotten Language”)

…Listening In…

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21; context)

…Filling Up…

As we grow up, we lose access to many faculties we had in early childhood. One of these is Imagination. Now, of course, we do not lose this faculty fully; the ability to imagine can stick around for a lifetime. But the imagination of early childhood is special. There are no bounds associated with it because the child doesn’t know what a boundary is. There are no inhibitions that halt the display of such imagination. Whereas an older child or an adult might feel foolish chatting to imaginary people, the small child sees it as the most natural thing in the world.

There need be no prompting or stimulus. The imagination carries the child into new worlds that seem just as real as the real world because the real world hasn’t been explored yet. Exploration of the real and imagined worlds happens simultaneously, much to the bewilderment of parents, who see their children fascinated by the most ordinary things. Of course, to the child, the feather duster isn’t a feather duster – it’s a rare bird migrating home to Antarctica.

Because the imagination of early childhood is so untamed, it is much better at communing with the source of imagination. We are made in the image and likeness of God. Because we are made in God’s image, we have the ability to imagine. Just as God imagined and then spoke creation into being, our imaginations help us see and celebrate all the amazing links between our world and our world’s Creator. By accessing the imagination of early childhood, we can unleash ourselves from the oppression of words like “impossibility.” We can imagine ourselves into God’s presence and discover that we were there all the while.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you created me in your image and likeness. Help me to create in response to your great creation, and help me to love in response to your great love. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, joyful that I have been in your presence for my whole existence, whether I remember or not.

Giving Back (May 14, 2012)

…Opening To…

The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the church into the dimension of the Kingdom. (Alexander Schmemann)

…Listening In…

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2, and an “Offertory Sentence”)

…Filling Up…

Our ninth moment is easy to miss because in the Book of Common Prayer there is no bold heading that says the “Offertory” and no dialogue between the leader and the people. The leader can say a sentence from scripture to trigger the beginning of the offertory, but the suggested words are tucked away in a different place in the book. Often, the choir sings a beautiful anthem during the passing of the collection plates, so unless you are aware of the plate sliding by you, you are liable to miss the whole thing.

But the offertory is just as important as any other piece of our service. In a symbolic action, representatives from the people bring to the altar the gifts of bread and wine and money or other gifts. In most churches the gifts of bread and wine come up first and then a few minutes later the money comes up, thus severing the intimate connection between the two. So let’s imagine for a moment that all the gifts arrive at the altar at the same time. What would we see?

First we would see the bread placed before God, a symbol of the bounty of the earth that the Lord has made. Human hands took that bounty and molded it into the bread that we bless. The same goes for the wine, a symbol of celebration that also comes from the fruit of the earth, pressed and fermented by human hands and feet. Then we see the monetary offering placed before God. In juxtaposition with the bounty of the earth that most certainly sprang up because of God’s goodness, we see our financial gifts given to the glory of God. And we realize that we are simply giving back to God what God has blessed us with.

All of our offerings to God are really our giving to God what is already God’s – sort of like when your parents give you five dollars to buy them a birthday present. The money is theirs, but you’ve taken it and used it for their joy. That is what happens in the offertory.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you give to us out of your abundance, goodness, and love. Help me to have a generous heart, that I may give back to you of the first fruits of all you have blessed me with. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, nourished by the bread of life that you sent to the world, Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.