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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"To"


Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. ~ Genesis 18:27

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

~ from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer burial service


We are stardust. We are golden. And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden. ~ Joni Mitchell


Incarnation is already redemption...Christmas is already Easter because in becoming a human being, God already shows that it's good to be human, to be flesh.   ~ Richard Rohr


Today is Ash Wednesday, the day in the Christian Tradition when we are ritually reminded of human mortality and frailty by having ashes placed on our foreheads in the shape of a cross.   Liturgically, we listen to, read, and recite biblical passages about sinfulness and the need for penitence and redemption.

But what if the ashen cross reminds us, as Richard Rohr says, that "Incarnation is already redemption?" What if our salvation is in finally discovering who we really and already are.  

And, who are we?  According to one blunt description I recently read on the internet: "We are ghosts driving a meat covered skeleton made of stardust riding a rock floating through space."  The humbling imagery of Ash Wednesday is even more blunt:  We are dirt - we live - then we are dirt again. Dust to dust.

However, between the "dust" of birth and death is a tiny preposition expressing motion toward a particular destination.  In the "to" we are amazing creatures with intelligence, imagination, desires, emotions, hopes, dreams, and so much more!  The "to" is awareness of the mystery and wonder of it all, mystery and wonder that infuses all of creation and especially humans, eternal mystery and wonder that many of us call God. But not a God over and apart from creation, rather, God with us, in us, and through us.

Ash Wednesday is a day to contemplate mortality in order to remember immortality.  The awesome (in the true sense of the word) "to" we call life is our destination, now and always!

As on recent past Ash Wednesdays, I invite those of you in the Clearwater area to join in a different kind of observance that captures some of my thought above.  If you can, please join us!  If not, then wherever you may be, I encourage you to, in some way whether attending a formal service, sitting in silence somewhere or going for a walk, take a few moments today and reflect on your immortality - your "to".

 “Stardust to Dust
--a Deep Time Creation Liturgy
for Ash Wednesday”

Wednesday, Feb. 10, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Trinity Clearwater Presbyterian Church sanctuary

A multi-sensory, multi-media, contemplative liturgy of humanity and the cosmos through a guided, self-paced station to station pilgrimage that connects the miracle of creation with the wonder of life, seeking new dimensions & understandings of our presence and responsibility in God’s creation.
You may begin the pilgrimage anytime within the designated times.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Believe It or Not?

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe. ~ Thomas, John 20:25

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. ~ Jesus, John 20:29

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. ~ Hebrews 11:1


"I'll believe it when I see it."

The absurdity of this statement really hit home early this morning.  You see, I've been hoping to see the current alignment of 5 planets in the early morning sky.  Unfortunately I'm learning that here in "sunny" Florida this time of year early mornings have a tendency to be cloudy or foggy, evolving into clearer skies later in the day.  This was the case again today.

As I gazed into a cloudy horizon I couldn't see the planets but I knew they were there and believed they were aligned just as scientists and friends who have see them say so.  I couldn't see the alignment but I believed it was there.  If I saw it, belief would have become null because then I would have known it.

I wonder how much of of our understanding of beliefs (whatever those may be) is distorted because what we really want is verifiable knowledge?   Then, if we don't have proof we don't believe it.  This is belief leading to knowledge, and this kind of belief could be just another word for hope.

I could also say, "I know the planets are there and aligned," but only through the stories or testimony of others whom I trust.  This kind of knowing is what I think of as "faith."  Faith is knowing something is true (but not necessarily factual), even when you don't have verifiable proof, because you trust your source of information.   Faith is belief that grows from trust.

Without going too far down this rabbit hole, because it only leads us to absurd questions about the sound of trees falling in the woods and God creating rocks too big for God to move, for me it all comes down to belief becoming faith built on trust. This leads me to the question: Could "trust" be just another world for love.

Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. ~ Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:13


By the way, even though I didn't get to see the planet alignment, I did see this (clouds are good for something - believe it!):










   

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Embrace the Mundane

It's just another day
Slipping into stockings, stepping into shoes
Dipping in the pocket of her raincoat
It's just another day   ~ Paul McCartney, "Another Day"

If you're holding heaven, then spread it around
There's hungry hands reaching up here from the ground
Move over and share the high ground where you stood
So heavenly minded, you're no earthly good    ~ Johnny Cash, "No Earthly Good"


Earlier this week I heard a podcast interview (The Right Kind Of Crazy) with Adam Steltzner a NASA engineer who helped develop and land the Mars Rover.  One of the things Stelzner shared was the importance of embracing the mundane of one's work and life.  Even landing a rover on Mars is not all adrenalin and cheers.  Actually the process took (and continues to take) years of day to day tedious work by many people.  

Our culture of got-to-have-it-now information and entertainment creates the illusion that we should be doing or being something exciting and extraordinary all the time.  The Internet even allows us to enter this illusion by allowing us to continuously share our "exciting" lives with others via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

The truth is the majority of our lives are mundane.  However I want to suggest that instead of mundane being ho-hum and boring, we recapture the word's original sense, meaning "of this world, earthly," as opposed to other-worldly and heavenly.   Actually by embracing the mundane and becoming aware of each and every moment of our lives is an amazing thing.  Just "being here" and being aware of being here is truly wonder-filled and miraculous.

So, the next time you think your life is ho-hum or boring, think of it as mundane - grounded in an amazing process of existence and awareness that is extraordinarily ordinary.  Maybe this is what the Psalmist says with, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." 

Have a mundane day! 







   

  

  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

We Know What We Know

"The truth you believe in and cling to makes you unavailable to hear
anything new."   ~ Pema Chodron

Within recent days three celebrity performing artists have died.  It has been interesting to read, watch, and hear on social and traditional media the many different tributes to David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Glen Frey. There have been memories of first albums, concerts and movies. People have shared stories of how one of these people influenced, and in some cases changed, their lives.

What I find curious about this is not that these people's lives have had profound influence others, but not necessarily on me.  I'm familiar with David Bowie's major hits, but never intentionally listened to his music.  I've seen a number of films Alan Rickman was in and enjoyed his acting abilities.  I'm much more familiar with the music of The Eagles, but could not have told you the name of any individual member of the band, until Glen Frey's death.

All of this leads me to reflect on just how limited each of our perspectives of life are, how the sphere of our knowledge, experiences, interests, and influence is much smaller than we imagine, Perhaps living  in an age of instant connectivity and information has created an illusion that we are more informed, connected, and involved in the world than we really are, even with and perhaps especially those closest to us.

One of my seminary professors use to say, "We know more than we know we know,"  However, the opposite is probably truer, "We don't know nearly as much as we think we know."

Paul Simon put it this way in his song "The Boxer,"  "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

For now, I think I'll stop my rambling and go listen to some David Bowie music and see what all the fuss is about.