Episcopal priest, author and contemplative retreat leader Cynthia Borgeault tells a story about Fr. Thomas Keating teaching a class on centering prayer. One of the central aspects of practicing this type of prayer focuses on calming the mind as it does what the mind is wont to do: jump manically from thought to thought to thought. Centering Prayer involves sitting in silence, acknowledging each and every thought as it emerges, and then simply (!) letting it go….
This Sunday we will mark the beginning of Advent, the time of preparation for the impending celebration of Christmas. As we continue to navigate our way through this time of Covid, we might have fewer parties or gatherings to attend this season. It might be an opportunity to embrace a quieter Advent, a more introspective and spiritual season. Putting together an Advent Wreath for your home might particularly help you to reorient your focus, or you can even simply light a candle in the evening and say a prayer or two….
One of the anecdotes that gets trucked out when churches ask for money describes someone who has died and approaches the pearly gates with great expectations. The deceased sees St. Peter standing sentry, and immediately launches in on a list of their virtues. On and on they go, including every good deed, every generous thought. Finally, St. Peter has had enough. “I don’t need to hear any of this,” he says. “Just show me your bank statement and I will have all the information I need.”
We are often reminded that the subjects of money, possessions, and allocation of resources are mentioned twice as much as any other topics in Scripture. One third of Jesus’ parables have something to do with making right use of our gifts—all of them, financial and otherwise. And “right use,” in biblical terms, is always connected to our trust and faith in God as well as our commitment to justice and support both of those we love and those among us who struggle….
We’re getting closer to the end of our church year. In fact in a few Sundays, it will be the beginning of the Advent season. The Church’s New Year.
In our Gospel lesson for this Sunday Christ disciples make reference to the large buildings, temples if you will, to which Christ tells them “not one stone will be left here upon another, all will be thrown down.” The end of things as they see them or as some would say the end of times as you know them….
In her book Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Benedictine author and contemplative Joan Chittister works through an alphabet of words meant to open up reflection on holy living day to day. Each short meditation offers a word, followed by a story from the Desert Fathers and Mothers, followed by an application of the word and the story to modernity….
On a Sunday morning when Peter’s mother lay struggling for breath on a hospice bed in her living room in western New York, we called her Episcopal priest, who came to her between services. He took her hands and assured her she was going from love to love. She visibly let go, and she passed away soon after….
In the sermon I preached a few weeks ago, you might remember that I encouraged us to notice where we were holding onto things in our lives so tightly that we weren’t able to open ourselves to God’s love. I definitely need to learn this lesson as well, which is why I was glad to be reminded today of the old story about how to catch a monkey.
The technique involves using a hollowed out coconut that has a small hole cut into it just big enough for the monkey’s hand. Then you slide a small banana inside, and wait for the monkey to do the inevitable — to reach inside and grab the banana…
I was recently on Amtrak going upstate to visit friends, and when I travel by train, I love love love the quiet car. Not every train offers this little moving oasis of silence, but when possible, I always choose to sit there. On this particular trip, it was, and I did. I settled in by a window, put my phone on silent, and prepared for two centering hours without conversation or sounds from electronic devices….
We are called to a life of Servanthood….
…Being a Christian is not about being better than someone else, having a more superior position, nor is it about having power over someone else. Jesus said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whomever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43-44)
Following Jesus we are led into a life of serving others, no matter who we are. It is a special type of service. The type of service Jesus is encouraging us to live out is one of really serving others, so they benefit….
Being a Christian is about serving others and serving them in the right way, which is with love.
Comedian Steve Harvey has a moment in one of his routines where he talks about being “old school” when it comes to music. He describes how much he enjoys the R and B soul singers of the 1960s and 70s who insisted on love as the focus of their songs. And then he launches into an appreciation for the syncopated dance moves of groups like the Temptations; how smoothly they worked together, and how remarkable it was that they produced such beautiful vocals using just one microphone.