To experience holy silence

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What an amazing picture. A little child in the midst of an ancient practice. So intent, even to the detail of his fingers. It is hard to imagine what kind of world surrounds this child’s experience.

This picture reminds me of the many times a young one has stood before me, hands open to receive communion or to reach for a blessing. They watch and listen as if the meaning of this worship is clear. With imaginations, fresh and unencumbered, children instinctively know the importance of these words and actions. They may fidget, create art on paper with crayons and speak out in a moment of silence but they are paying attention. In a flash, they express their own faith throwing us off balance–reminding us that we are in a place where the unexpected happens.

During times set aside for worship, we (yes, even clergy) often are distracted by thoughts of our schedules and activities for that day and beyond. These thoughts become our fidgets, our coloring activities, our own shout-outs in the midst of holy silence. To become quiet in mind and spirit is not easy task. With all the stimulus that fills our lives, finding a time for quiet is a challenge on its own and sometimes just not possible.

I look again at the picture of this child. Not only does it bring a smile but it can bring a moment of stillness and peace. What brings a moment of calm when noise and chaos surrounds you? No one image works for all people but we can find something that will carry our holy silence until we can hold it once again. It may be a picture, a memory, a person or a prayer. Whatever you ‘see’ – let it travel with you through your busy days. May it offer a moment that calms and quiets you in mind and spirit.

The Path of Palm Sunday

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I offer a previously written reflection as it remains true for today. Welcome to Holy Week.

This day is always filled with confusion and inspiration. Its chaos and its strange, awkward flow – always challenge liturgists who strive to ‘connect the dots’ between triumphal entry and brutal death. Too much for one service we try to create a flow of worship, where it appears none was intended. Frustrated – we force this story and its impact to fit our form and time.

It is chaos — and yet, when I step back from the function, I sense a possible reason. Was it not chaos for all involved during that week? Who knew – disciples and all the hopeful – that this glorious entry into the city of all that was sacred, an entry that sung of victory and God’s blessing – who knew all would turn so horrible and tragic. The chaos must have been overwhelming. Packed into a week – they went from certainty to despair. Packed into an hour and a half we share that sense of wrenching confusion – we enter with palms waving and exit in silent awe. Exhausted we leave – wondering how all of these moments can happen so quickly.

Our time of wonder is as long as a life. We walk the road this next week, feeling the connection, the compassion and the violent shift. May there be insights in these days, hours and moments. May we realize all creation’s role as God enters our own sacred places.

For Palm Sunday, a poem by Mary Oliver

The Poet Thinks about the Donkey

On the outskirts of Jerusalem

the donkey waited.

Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,

he stood and waited.

*

How horses, turned out into the meadow,
leap with delight!

How doves, released from their cages,

clatter away, splashed with sunlight!

*

But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.

Then he let himself be led away.

Then he let the stranger mount.

*

Never had he seen such crowds!

And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.

Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.

*

I hope, finally he felt brave.

I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,

as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.

 

Easter is coming!

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How long have we waited? 40 days, 40 years… the importance of this wait begins to fade. Distracted – we lean toward the lures of this world. Then in our exhaustion we remember – there is more to living than fear of danger, the hoarding of possessions and isolation.

In the still quiet of Holy Saturday surrounded by darkness, we gather. With the host of all who came before us, we await the coming of light and life. Through the practice of a liturgy passed to us from the early moments of our faith, we gather because we know the importance of waiting. We know that waiting does not mean passive living. No, our wait is filled with acts of mercy and compassionate work.

In the dark we join together because we know there is more and our hearts long for renewal. In the songs of Alleluia we remember – Easter is coming.

Easter is coming! (a video to be shared)