Thursday, August 07, 2008

Embracing Mindful Living

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Cindy G preached a great sermon last Sunday while Pastor Cindy was on vacation. Here is a marvelous, powerful excerpt. She was preaching on the Acts story of the miraculous release of Peter from prison.

A few weekends ago on the evening of a full moon, we were up at Patoka Lake and went night-sky stargazing. The bright lunar landscape commanded most of our attention, but as we turned to go back inside, we noticed a small point of light that hung beyond the tall firs, and decided to explore further with a small telescope.

What to our naked eyes first appeared to be an ordinary star was the massive planet Jupiter, with a band of swirling gases around her and four moons in orbit. Sometimes, when I’m watching clouds during the middle of the day, I think in awe about the whole other worlds and galaxies that are happening beyond my vision, spinning without us noticing…

I wonder if much of the time I’m missing out on so much of God’s activity in the world and in my life because I am just not attuned to seeing it…

We live in a culture that trains us well for mindless living. For example, we don’t have to think about where our food or clothes or other products come from. If I want, I can open the fridge, take out a can of soda, and drink it without ever thinking about the laborers in Ghana who mined the aluminum ore for the can, or the sea merchants who shipped the ore to the US factories, or the farmers in Central America who grew the corn to make the syrup to sweeten my soda, or the Appalachian Mountains that were demolished to extract the coal that gives me the electricity to run my refrigerator that keeps my soda cold. In fact, the culture that we live in counts on the fact that we won’t be mindful of our consumption and of all the people that are affected by our mindless consumption.

American culture creates masters at thoughtless living.

Mindlessness is the stance of the Empire. Don’t pay attention to what’s going on. Don’t stop and think, don’t question authority, don’t wonder why the social order is the way it is.

Don’t contemplate how things could be different!

Fill all the silences, stay busy, work longer hours, BUY MORE STUFF!
We become so accustomed to life as we know it that we have a hard time envisioning a world apart from the Empire.

When even Peter, one of the most zealous of the disciples, requires an angel to poke him awake and when even THEN he still doesn’t get what miraculous movement God is doing right in plain view, how much more do WE have to work to stay awake and live in a posture of openness?

It was difficult for Peter to be attentive to what God was doing because he was chained down by the Roman Empire. Peter had seen miracles, performed miracles himself, and again and again been witness to God’s power of deliverance. Yet the Powers that held him captive had the power to shadow his hope and belief in God’s miraculous work in the world…

If mindlessness is the way of the Empire, Mindfulness is the way of Shalom, of the Realm of God. The powers of the world would rather we stay asleep. How can we be awake to God’s presence?

…If we take the time to pay better attention, and if we block out some of the noise of the Empire, I think we are more likely to be surprised by God every day. Perhaps we’d be stunned in disbelief at the many moments we are invited to co-create with God. Perhaps we’d reel in incredulity at the many ways we are invited to embrace freedom from this world, from earthly restraints, from the evil powers of the Empire that seeks to imprison us. And we would instead become attuned to the Spirit, we’d expect miracles, we’d believe in the possibility of God’s deliverance.

Perhaps if we lived in mindfulness, we’d fin d more occasions for holy amazement, shock at God’s movement…

[Kathleen Norris quotes a modern Benedictine who says] “the classic sign of our acceptance of God’s mystery is welcoming and making room for” the stranger, the other, the surprising, the unlooked for, and the unwanted. It means learning to read the world better, that we may better know our place in it.

May we all be granted these gifts:
The hospitality of the desert Benedictines,
The mindfulness of the Buddhist monk,
The attentive eye of a nature writer,
And the imperfect belief of the disciples of the emerging church.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Listening as Prayer

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
A sermon excerpt from Michelle L, who served as a pastor at a youth camp this summer...

At camp we began the week by listening to nature, and listening for God in nature and in ourselves. And we talked about how the act of listening is a form of prayer.

I often feel closest to God as I am walking through the woods, listening to the birds, or watching the clouds float by on a crisp, blue day. The other day at the farm, I walked with our dog, Iglook, out to the pond very early one morning. I sat on the bench and listened.

I heard about eight different bird calls. I heard the twang of bullfrogs in the cattails, and the plop of little toads hopping into the pond as Iglook’s curious snout sniffed a little too close to them. In the distance I heard a rooster crowing, repeatedly, though the sun had been up quite a while.

I listened harder, and I heard the breeze rustling the leaves. I listened farther, and heard the white noise of the interstate. That was the farthest sound I could hear.

Then I heard the mystery sound of the morning. It was a knocking sound -- too uneven to be a woodpecker. Just coming two at a time, then four, then three knocks. I craned my neck, sure I could get a glimpse of who or what was swinging that small hammer. I couldn’t see a thing, but the knocking continued. I imagined a child building a fort in the woods, or a bear trying to knock a bee’s nest out of a tree with a creekstone.

Okay, we don’t have any bears, but my imagination got the best of me.

I finally walked back to the house, amazed that such a symphony plays constantly only a two-minute walk from my back door, and yet I am usually completely unaware of it. Listening as prayer. Listening as a way to become aware of all that is around and in us...

Go forth in peace, be led out in joy. Let the mountains and the hills before you break forth into singing. Let the trees and fields clap their hands. Join the celebration of life in the whole creation.