Category Archives: Anticipating Sunday

Anticipating Sunday, February 21st

We worship this Second Sunday in Lent with focus on the sense of sight.  We will dedicate a framed puzzle painting of St. Francis for the elementary classroom, hear a magnificent “visiting piano” and engage the practice of Visio Divina — praying with art.

Our focus scripture is the story of Abram’s encounter with G-d in a vision.   Abram is led out into the night to view the stars.  Upon receiving the vision, there is a shift, a growing trust,  in a future determined by Sacred Possibility, rather than his own frustration, worry, and suspicion.   He’s asked to divide livestock for the torch of fire and pot of smoke — representing G-d — to pass through.  The Holy Covenant-Maker initiates and commits in this ritual act while Abram watches.

It took me a number of months of courage in practice to receive and act upon the invitation.  The invitation comes from Jewish mystics, and others.  I received it primarily through one of Tilden Edwards’ books of practices (Living in the Presence).   So one afternoon I thought I might be ready.

I placed a chair several feet from a large mirror.  Breathing deeply in and out, I began to follow the invitation to gaze softly but steadily into my own face.  At first I simply wanted to giggle at the awkwardness of it.   How silly!   As I continued to breath, I followed the guide to gaze intently into the reflection of my own eyes, as if one might gaze into an icon.  Watery, itchy eyes gradually relaxed, opening to the light of the fixture above.

Over time,  my sense of warning, discomfort, and judgment, began to melt, replaced by a sense of warmth and affirmation.  Deeper into the meditation, I had a sense of those who’d gone before being present through my eyes, as if to say, “thanks for visiting.”

The power of the intent filled me, overwhelmed me.   No longer at an intellectual level, but at a soulful, cellular level it became clear:  we are vibrant, living bodies, so transient and mortal.  Yet, we carry  something of beyond-ness, and in-ness, and  titillating union.  The loving harmony keeps flowing through us.  We get to have the attention to see it.  We get to gaze through our irises, and those of others, including other creatures, into its gorgeous expanse of intimacy.    We, they, all sentient beings, are more than meets the eye!

Try it.  Pray about it.  Work toward it.  Sit in front of a mirror for a few minutes (up to 30 minutes), and see what you might see!

 

Anticipating Sunday, February 14th

This First Sunday in Lent we will focus on the experience of offering first fruits of the harvest and sharing food with the widow, orphan and sojourner as prescribed in Deuteronomy 26: 1-11.  We will focus on the sense of TASTE.  There will be opportunity following worship to take pictures with a large poster of Kalvin Michael Smith calling for justice in his case.  (Information will be provided in the service.) We will share in Holy Communion at the close of worship.

Certainly the Bible is filled with references to the sweetness of God’s Word, the sweetness of the Holy One’s goodness.  Manna in the wilderness is described as having the taste of coriander seed with honey.  John of Patmos is instructed to put down his pen and rip into the Word with tooth and tongue, a taste sweet to the mouth but bitter to the stomach.

I ponder a life of seeking to follow Jesus of Nazareth — in all his gracious up-ending attention to unity and inclusivity — as perhaps the taste of umami.  Umami can be overwhelming, but it is sort of the leavening taste, bringing color and interest to other flavors.  Maybe it’s be20150725_094118 (1)cause I’ve spent fall crocking kraut and cucumbers.   Or loving the sprinkle of nutritional yeast on popcorn.  Maybe it’s because I’m enjoying the latest gift of homemade kimchi from one of our community members.   But it strikes me we are called to be the umami of the earth: humble, tenacious, texturing servants of love.  Perhaps a counter-palate to the saccharinizing of so much of what is sold as spiritual.

Something about umami takes me to the backyard of my childhood and the irresistible pica urge to taste fertile loam.  Perhaps there is something deep inside us, covered over by so many other flavors, calling us home.  Perhaps it  calls us back to be the earth-creatures we are created to be.  With a pop of glutamate to zap us to attention, we turn toward our connection to all the sweaty essentials of life.

 

 

Anticipating Sunday, February 7th

As we move to the end of the Season after Epiphany, here are some of the Parkway light longings that have been  twinkling overhead throughout this season in our narthex:

  • Creator, enliven me with a portion of your creative Spirit, that I may be a solution in the making and not a problem to undo;
  • Civility in this election year;
  • Gentleness;
  • May peace fill our minds, hearts, and journeys
  • Prayer to find God’s will for my life in terms of vocation;
  • Less judgement; more gratitude;
  • Prayers for peace, just wages, tolerance, and patience;
  • Acquire respect, love, and patience for each other

This Sunday, Mardi Gras Sunday, we’ll have jazz guitar, sax, piano.  The story is the Transfiguration (Luke 9:  28-36) but also the story of the only son with a convulsing spirit whom Jesus heals after coming off the mountain.

labyrinth walkJesus took three of his community up to the mountain to pray.  No bones about it: prayer is work, hard work … sometimes frightening work… of listening to the truth about ourselves, even truth of our own Beloved-ness.   Richard Rohr wrote in his blog last week,  when asked “How long should I pray?” he’s said, “As long as it takes you to get to yes…If your heart and emotions are still saying No! to the moment in front of you, you’re not ready.”

So prayer prepares us to see and hear the beauty as well as the suffering in the world.  Mountain light prepares us to hear the convulsing cries in the valley.  Overshadowing cloud prepares us for sacred attention in the murk and mundane.  Stilling the cacophony of our own ego chorus prepares us for the whispers of wonder tucked inside the world’s noise.

 

 

 

 

Anticipating Sunday, January 24th

This week, we submit our listening ears to Jesus’ interpretation at Nazareth in Luke 4: 14-21. Five weeks ago we heard Mary singing of the “mighty from their thrones and “filling the hungry with good things.” Now we hear the hometown boy read similar words from Isaiah.

Largely, we are not the people of Nazareth. They, subsisting in a Galilean peasant goat-town, were the poor, the captives, the oppressed. These ancient words were the butter on their bread of hope. Nothing particularly new. What was new was the shocking little commentary he adds to the haftorah portion (perhaps even the appointed portion of the day). “This has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  It’s already on the launching pad and there is no turning back.

Imagine the possibility that Jesus himself had no particular intention of saying such a thing. Imagine the time it took for him to unroll that scroll, read, re-roll that scroll. There must have been a weighty mantle of eyes bearing down upon him. Imagine him looking out and into the eyes of one of his dear Torah teachers, or the bowed figure of the apprentice who showed him how to square a corner even before he could read. Imagine him looking at the worn little spot in the floor where he first felt the floating warmth of Holiness as they sang the psalms of “protection in the shadow of Your wing”.

Maybe it could have only happened there in little Nazareth in the synagogue — tugged, even yanked, out of him by the gaze of the very community who raised him, and yet now is shocked by him.

Anticipating Sunday, January 17th

We will hold an extended period of stillness in worship this Sunday and share in communion and healing prayers with anointing oil. Our focus scripture this week is the story of the wedding feast at Cana (John 2: 1-11). 

What would it be like to hold the phrase from our story “filled to the brim” in our heart and mind, sort of as a mantra, as we move about our day? Long line at the DMV?  “Filled to the brim.” Less money in the checking account than we thought? “Filled to the brim.” A child who’s melting down before our eyes upon arriving home from school? “Filled to the brim.”

It’s not that so many in our world don’t experience heart-breaking scarcity. It’s not that we ourselves don’t fundamentally have what we need sometimes. It’s just that alongside that material, truth is another: In every way possible, Holy Wine Steward is filling us to the brim with sacred breath, with every spiritual resource we need to participate in and enact the Household of Shalom.

Try it today and see what might shift within you: “Filled to the brim.”

 

 

Anticipating Sunday, January 10

What a humbling, mud-caked longing which drove Jesus of Nazareth out to the edge of life at the Jordan, with the hope-parched throngs following John.  (Luke 3:15-17, 21-22)

In this very day, when he is named Beloved, we are named Beloved.  The dove-diving, droplet-rainbowing, heavens-opening,  ear-unplugging melody of that name lilts through the centuries into our lives, our souls, our possibility-making.

Make a list of everything you have been called — your roles, your nicknames, your sweet-nothing-whispered love-name, your identities.   Make a long list that makes you remember, laugh, even shed a tear at all the monikers you’ve had hung around your  neck. Even the most life-affirming labels cannot hold a vibration to this name given by Love Divine.    The name given while we were knit in the womb, the over-the-moon embrace of every iota of our becoming, pours out every other name, and then pours it back into a vast, multi-verse-connecting identity.    We have lost ourselves and our identities so that we might truly claim who we are as Whose We Are.

 

Anticipating Sunday, January 3rd

We celebrate Epiphany Sunday this week, attentive to the story of the visit of the Magi under the cloud of imperial threat from Herod.   Following worship, we will gather for Epiphany lunch of soup and bread and family activities.   We will recognize our new interim education team of Mamie Murphy, Emily Long, and Carolyn Gerber in worship.

The question we focus on from our Epiphany story is what does it mean for us in our lives to return home by another way, having been warned in a dream?

Anticipating Sunday, December 20th

This Fourth Sunday of AdventRose on December 16 we’ll have lots of music and congregational song.  We’ll put a new twist on the traditional Lessons and Carols service. Our focus will be the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Passage of Mary’s Song of Praise (Luke 1:46-55) so we will intersperse our carols with four contemporary poems about the Magnificat. We will also offer gratitude and farewell to our long-time Christian Educator, Conner Evans and her family.

We might not consider ourselves the proud or the powerful or the rich of whom Mary sings. Yet in the global community it would be hard not to see ourselves exactly as such. Still, her praise is also Good News for us — the proud, the powerful, the rich.  When our thoughts are scattered in our hearts we might just become aware of a centrifugal Holy delight  surging into the vacuum. When our private imperial construction projects are dethroned, we might see ourselves as magnificently tapped into Mightiness connecting us to all things. When we are sent empty away, the hollowing out experiences might just allow us to savor the morsels which come to us wholly as grace rather than by our merit or planning or striving .

What embryonic pulse beats within you, ready to upend, scatter the old priorities, and cause you to fall in love like you never quite have before?

Anticipating Sunday, December 13th

This Third Sunday of Advent, Women’s Group representatives will light the candle of hope.  Our focus scripture is the message from John the Baptist prescribing what to do while waiting (Luke 3: 7-18).  Mamie Murphy will be the preacher.  We will continue to receive gifts to the special offering, Christmas Fund.

fireThe image of fire shows up three times in the passage from Luke.  It’s a disturbing image. There’s no question what’s pruned or separated from grain is destroyed.   Still, it’s a cleansing image, a mesmerizing image.  It signals good stewardship of the resources available by removing what no longer bears fruit.  It signals a lightening from what has been sapping energy.  It is the image of the Holy Spirit, refining.  It’s  dancing tongues.  It’s an energy sometimes unpredictable and untamed.

Perhaps it’s helpful to think of a time when we’ve had the urge to toss artifacts of former lives and selves into the fire to feel free from what once held us down.  God-with-us comes always with Holy Spirit and fire to renew.

The pragmatics are an ethic of release:  giving away our excess to those who need it, giving away what we thought we’d claim that is more than ours, releasing our control of the situation when it will only do harm.   Not as law, but just because it brings joy and makes room for Holy Presence to dwell with us in fresh ways.

 

 

Anticipating Sunday, December 6th

2015.11.29_Candle_of_HopeWe rummage around the Word with us this Sunday from Zechariah’s Benedictus  in Luke 68-79.  We light the Advent candle of Peace, and receive a visit from St. Nicholas.

What would be the first thing I said or sang with unleashed tongue after nine months of muted attention?   Fasting from words, what would be the one thing most needing to be said?    Would it align with the benedictory song of Zechariah?

Rendered speechless by defying an angel, Zechariah’s silence becomes the amphitheater for others’ songs:   Elizabeth’s songs  while feeling fetal cartwheels.  The new songs of Mary.  The duet of the two women of different generations.  The Shabbat and Shema songs now vibrating within him rather than beyond him.   Bird song and breeze song.   And how would his listening to the trampling imperial songs of the foreign occupier change in his silence?

Holding baby John, first word and melody is an eruption of praise, resonant in a new intimate political theology.  In the silence, Zechariah has heard the tummy churn, the vibrations of longing within the soft innards of Holiness.   The one who once retorted to holy messenger, “How can this be?” is now utterly convinced that tender mercy — the soft organs within the Realm of All that is Possible — responds to the cries of the peoples.   Swaddling child,  it is clear to him, maybe even to us, that the only path is to serve without fear.