November 2010


One of the things I usually read daily with the offices is the daily excerpt from An Almanac for the Soul — Anthology of Hope — by Marv and Nancy Hiles.  This is really a collection of brief spiritual readings (arranged by the seasons of the year) from the Iona Center ($25.95 plus shipping. To order: Iona Center, P.O. Box 1528, Healdsburg CA 95448; ionacenter@comcast.net; or 707.431.7426).  It’s given me a lot of food for thought.  Two readings, recently, really caught my attention.

The first reading is from First You Have to Row a Little Boat by Richard Bode:

Where a friendship once existed there was now a void, and I was filled with sadness, knowing I couldn’t bring it back to life again.  My Sorrow, she was there with me, and I gave myself the sacred right to mourn, not by forgetting but by remembering; not by suppressing events or pushing them into oblivion but by calling them forth from the tangled roots of memory.  I remembered the people and places I knew:  the blue sloop pointing into the wind and the friends and mentors with whom I sailed, and I knew that I missed them all.  I think most of us are afraid that if we let ourselves feel our sorrow for the passing of the life that was, we will never regain our composure again.  But the fear is misplaced; what should truly frighten us is the possibility that we might lose the power to recall the life we lived, which gives us our connections to ourselves.  Our most terrifying diseases aren’t the ones that take our life; they’re the ones that cast us adrift on an empty sea by depriving us of our connections.

The second (which I’ve abbreviated) is from A Tagore Reader (edited by Amiya Chakravarty):

To be able to love material things, to clothe them with tender grace, and yet not be attached to them, this is a great service.  Providence expects that we should make this world our own, and not live in it as though it were a rented tenement.  We can only make it our own through some service, and that service is to lend it love and beauty from our soul.  … Civilization is waiting for a great consummation, for  an expression, of its soul in beauty.  This must be your contribution to the world.

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Well, if I understand correctly, today would have been a second class feast for James Otis Sargent Huntington.  Except that today is Thanksgiving Day, which takes precedence, so the feast is transferred to tomorrow.  He is the founder of the Order of the Holy Cross, the first permanent monastic community in the Episcopal Church (and very concerned with putting the spiritual life into action in daily life — one of the reasons the Episcopal Church has been so involved in stuff happening in the world).  But what caught my eye is a reading from his “Bargainers and Beggars,” on gifts and giving (Grace), which connects in my mind (though it feels a bit archaic to me) with my last piece (“Free In Christ“).  Here is what he said:

It belongs to God to give; it is our part to receive.  That is a very simple and primary truth.  Let us not on that account despise it.  It is the truth which our Lord began in teaching his disciples, that is, in teaching the world, including ourselves. (more…)

Again, from the writer’s group; we were working on (the Lutheran’s) Reformation Sunday “If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.”  Here’s my response:

How free am I in Christ?

What does it even mean to be free in Christ?

I’m clear that I cannot earn and will never deserve my salvation.  It’s simply a gift offered and received.

But maybe something needs to be said about the receiving?

I’ve probably said this before.  But the controlling image in my mind for grace is marriage.

I don’t deserve (and could never have earned) Anne’s love. But the gift of her love was offered and (so far) has been something I received.

But the receiving changes me.  If I love Anne, I live differently.  I choose to do, some things at least, because I know they will please her.  And I avoid doing other things I know will hurt her.

I do this as myself.  A real turning point in our relationship [as I remember it] came when she broke up with me, I think right after I asked her to marry me, and we reconciled (within a couple of days).

What she told me was, “You are not my Prince Charming …” — which was why we broke up.  “But,” she continued, “I love you anyway.”

So I was free to be me, and still be loved.

Maybe God has created me to be someone in particular.  Maybe I am most fully myself as I become that person.  But it isn’t primarily about rules and expectations.  it’s about love and relationship.

And I’m free to be me.

I’m free to become myself.

At my own pace.

Lived out in a loving relationship.

I’m thinking that’s what it might mean to be “free indeed in Christ.”

 

Can’t remember the cartoon (about bankers) that was the genesis for this.  But this is from my last participation with my clergy writing group:

What is it about bankers and other “owners” of finance and production?  They seem to feel that their well-being supersedes and is necessary to the well-being of others.  So rules and justice and fairness simply don’t apply to them.  And their importance is such that they need to be rewarded on a scale that they would never consider applying to other people.

Or is this just human nature?  I could argue that there are may Christians, and even people of other religions, who may play on a different, non monetary field, but who also see themselves as outside of the normal rules with spiritual recompense due them that would never apply to others outside their special group.

And I would bet I could say the same thing for champions of the underdog, whether we’re talking animals or the poor or the unborn.

So maybe the question to ask myself is this:  do I want to apply this expectation I have across the board to everyone?  Could I live with this?

So, I’m using their Breviary.  And today is the day they celebrate the founding of their order (said celebration started last night with first Vespers, but as I often do, I missed that).  I’ve been impressed by all I’ve seen so far.  So I thought I could at least share the collect for this celebration:

O gracious God, through whose Beloved One we are able to know ourselves also as beloved, we thank you for the nine women whose vision and trust in you brought this community into being:  Clothe us, who have been called together by you, with the garments of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; let the message of Christ in all its richness inform our lives, that true forgiveness, gratitude and love may grow among us and show forth in our lives and service; through Jesus Christ who has taken our humanity into your divinity and lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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