02 October 2017

blessing of the critters

The feast of St. Francis of Assisi will be in a couple of days.

When I was an undergraduate, I took a class called the Medieval Experience.  This was during a time when my faith eyes were being opened.  A prompting of the Spirit can be blamed!  Also playing a small role were my experiences with the “sweet leaf.”  I realized what it felt to have one’s mind opened.  But I’m in danger of digressing.

Our professor spoke about Francis and how he preached to the birds.  My reaction was “what a waste of time.”  Why preach the gospel to animals who don’t understand what you’re saying?  Safe to say, I didn’t get the point of the sermon.

But in time, I became aware of creation spirituality and Francis’ role in it.  His love of animals—and all of creation, including his enemies—made me recognize my previous misunderstanding.

One of my favorite hymns is “All Creatures of Our God and King,” which he wrote shortly before his death.  Of course, there are the familiar verses.  (The wording is slightly different, depending on the hymnal.)  “All creatures of our God and King…”  “Thou rushing wind that art so strong…”  “Thou flowing water, pure and clear…”

Banu and I spent a year in Tennessee, staying with my mother who had some health issues.  During that year, we mainly worshiped with Episcopalians.  I discovered verse 6 in their hymnal:

“And even you, most gentle death, waiting to hush our final breath / O praise him, Alleluia! / You lead back home the child of God, for Christ our Lord that way has trod: / O praise him, O praise him, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”

It seems Francis was both prescient and definitely embracing his mortality!  He knew he was about to go the way of all creation, loving the path the Lord has trod.

We will be blessing the animals, who have no qualms about their own mortality.

29 September 2017

voice of rebellion

“There is a voice of rebellion deep in the heart of the wicked; there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  That’s how the Book of Common Prayer renders Psalm 36:1.  (Pardon the gender exclusive language!)

I find that voice of rebellion within myself.  How often during prayer do I refuse the call to go deeper?  Too often, I fear.  Much too often.

It’s insane.  And it is wicked—it actually does speak of a lack of fear, a lack of reverence, of God.  “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”  I deprive myself and I deprive others of what I could be.  I turn instead to the “monkey mind.”  I’m thinking about everything in the world…  Wait, I need to write that down…  I need to fidget with that object on the table…  Who’s that walking outside?

Anything but where and when and how I am.  The present.

But the psalmist makes a discovery.  In verse 9, the psalmist realizes.  “For with you is the well of life, and in your light we see light.”

In this moment, life quenches our thirst.  Here and now, light fills the world.

04 September 2017

labor on

In worship yesterday, I noted a holiday that is not on the church calendar, which is Labor Day.  Having said that, it is entirely appropriate to thank God for the good gift of work.

We give thanks for work that edifies the human spirit and does not crush it.
We give thanks for work that builds the earth and does not destroy it.
We give thanks for work that leads us to praise and does not become a curse.

Today I was reminded of how appropriate the Monday morning prayer is for Labor Day.  This comes from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship:

We praise you, God our creator, for your handiwork in shaping and sustaining your wondrous creation.  Especially we thank you for
the miracle of life and the wonder of living…
particular blessings coming to us in this day…
the resources of the earth…
gifts of creative vision and skillful craft…
the treasure stored in every human life…

We dare to pray for others, God our Savior, claiming your love in Jesus Christ for the whole world, committing ourselves to care for those around us in his name.  Especially we pray for
those who work for the benefit of others…
those who cannot work today…
those who teach and those who learn…
people who are poor…
the church in Europe…

I especially like the themes of giving thanks for “gifts of creative vision and skillful craft” and “the treasure stored in every human life.”  How dramatically different we would be if we truly took that to heart.

And then there are prayers for “those who work for the benefit of others,” and “those who cannot work today.”

Indeed, the entire prayer is shot through with giving glory to God for the ability to serve creation, to serve the part of creation that is us, and to serve the Lord.

(The photo is posted with a nod to my wife's excellent work in the kitchen!)