Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Devotional Life is one lived in the Presence of the Lord

“A devotional life is one lived in the presence of the Lord.” (author unknown).

There are many ways to practice devotion. For some, it is finding a quiet place in which to pray; for others it is taking a pilgrimage to some special place in which to connect with God, nature, or one’s self; for yet others, it is listening to (or playing) music that brings one into harmony and peace.

Whatever your method (and believe me, we all engage in acts of devotion whether we know it or not), they are a sign and symbol of how we are connected to God, the Divine, or even the “Force. “

Even atheists and agnostics have a devotional life. Not believing in God, they ARE their own higher power, and so they devote their time and energy to the worship of that in which they DO believe, whether it is power, influence, or the pleasures of a hedonistic life. They know there is life beyond themselves, and so they do those things that cultivate their relationship to that higher power, however they define it.

That’s because we are spiritual beings. We can’t help but express ourselves mysteriously and in ways we can’t always explain. The point is that a devotional life often brings us inner peace.

The ball player who rubs his team-mate’s hair before hitting the field is engaged in an act of devotion. One might call it superstition, and yet their act is an effort to reach beyond themselves – to honors the gods, so to speak – and obtain a good reward in return.

Everything is linked to something else. The air we breathe in is a gift from the world around us, and the air we exhale is needed by the world in return. We nurture one another in just being, and even when we die, we return to the earth from which we were created so that nothing is lost.

One of the things we gain from our acts of devotion is self-discipline, by which I mean our ability to learn and grow. It allows us to see life in relationship with our world as well as with ourselves. When we stop and examine what we really believe in (as revealed by our various acts of devotion), then we are able to see better how our lives impact people, places, and things around us for good or ill.

If you want to be a force for positive results, then there are certain steps you can take to help make that happen.

First, cultivate your garden of devotion. Tend the soil. Remove rocks and obstacles to healthy living. The Bible tells us we are here to take care of our world. That is what “stewardship” means. We pay attention to what needs doing, and we do it.

The second step is to choose what seeds we want to plant, cultivate, and have thrive. Do you want love, joy, peace, and such? Then you need to plant those virtues in your garden. They won’t spring up on their own. Weeds spring up when we do nothing, but tasty and nutritional fruits and vegetables grow when we take care to plant them. So choose and plant your seeds wisely.

Thirdly, water your garden. Your garden needs water when joy begins to turn brown with dullness, when peace begins to crack with cantankerousness, or when your love begins to wilt with apathy. What kind of water do our gardens need? Kindness.

Kindness makes joy bright, makes peace supple, and brings love into full flower. So be sure to water your garden with much kindness.

And finally, be sure to rotate your crops and add a wide variety of virtues to your field. God did not give us a world of black and white, but full of color and variety. Try new things; stretch your imagination; invite friends to participate – to share and grow their devotions alongside you, and see if that doesn’t please God and neighbor (and even yourself).

Remember, you are one of God’s wonderful acts of devotion in this, our world – and in you God is well pleased!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Role Call - Proper 16

We finally reached the end of the Bread of Life Discourse found in the Gospel of John (Chapter 6). It is at this point in Jesus' ministry that many disciples begin to wander off. It is not because they don't understand his "You must eat my body and drink my blood" metaphor; they were plenty sophisticated to understand Jesus was not promoting a form of cannibalism. Rather, they understand Jesus clearly to be talking about discipleship as an All-or-Nothing dynamic, of which most people are afraid. Twelve people remain standing, and Jesus asks them, point-blank: "And how about you? Will you also leave me?"

Spend a few minutes with me as we explore this story and see how the response may affect us and our journey of faith.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Pharisee and the Publican

This morning I had the great pleasure of celebrating Holy Communion using the service from the 1789 Book of Common Prayer (at St. Paul's in Virginia City). The town is celebrating local heritage days and we wanted to participate by conducting a service as close to what Bishop Tuttle and the early pioneers in Virginia City would have experienced.

I celebrated in Cassock, Surplice, and Preaching Scarf (i.e. Tippet) and preached a sermon using my closest approximation of a mid-19th century preaching style as I could (without going on waxing eloquently for an hour or more). I transferred the Gospel from the 1789 propers for the day (Luke 18:9ff)

Unfortunately, I did not have a camera operator at Trinity, so if you want to know what I talked about, I am attaching a copy of my sermon. It was delivered as written, at St. Paul's,while I delivered it more "off-the-cuff" at Trinty.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fine Dining Changes Everything

This week's Gospel reading is from John 6. It is the continuation of the narrative regarding Jesus' feeding of the 5000 (which was related last week). The people want miracles and proofs, but Jesus suggests that what they need is for God to come close. What God has for us that which brings lasting pleasure, because it is not molecular, but spiritual.

Sermon preached August 5, 2012 can be found at:

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Finding Life Outside the Rut

Every closed eye is not sleeping, and every open eye is not seeing – Bill Cosby

Things are not always as they seem. We know that about life. We know that about ourselves. Sometimes the inner me and the outer me are in harmony, while at other times they aren’t on the same page – and may not even be in the same book.

We are in the dog days of summer, and most of us have gotten into a routine that works. I’ve finally gotten the watering schedule down around the house to where the grass has greened up and needs to be mowed far more often than I had expected I would need to do it. Mowing is a chore, and I haven’t got my lungs adjusted to the higher altitude (another way of saying I think I am out of shape – although I have been told I have the body of a god – probably Buddha).

The point is that we often find comfort in our routines. We get used to doing things a certain way or at specific times and we have no desire to change those things. It is like the age-old adage: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

The problem with routines, though, is they can lead to complacency. We become attached to our routines, and we lose flexibility – our ability to change as conditions or situations change. We begin to slide from a life of vitality, to just plain living (or getting by).

It isn’t that just plain living or getting by is bad (sometimes that’s an improvement over a life that is chaotic or uncertain – it is amazing how an ill-timed rain can turn a crop of rich horse hay into generic cow feed). On the contrary, routines are good as they provide predictability and order to our lives, which promotes peace and reduces anxiety.

However, as good as those things are, routines can also dull the senses and blind us to interesting things going on around us. They can inhibit us from reaching out and stretching our faith. They can prevent us from growing and adapting to life as it changes. Routines can box us in and keep us from ever developing to our best potential.

So what might we do?

A good place to start is simply asking yourself how you’re doing. Find a quiet time and space away from all distractions. Sit upright (as if on a plane preparing to land) with feet on the floor, all electronic devices stowed away, and eyes either closed (so you can concentrate on your other senses) or open (so you can focus on something that holds special meaning for you, like the flame of a candle, or a cross, or picture of a loved one, or something you connect with the “holy”).

Once you’re comfortable and quiet, ask yourself how you’re doing. How do you feel? Alive? Sad? Bored? Satisfied? Confused? Fulfilled? Empty? Connected? Isolated? Peaceful? Anxious?

Once you have a sense of how you feel – or how you’re doing – then stay there for a while and become acquainted (as with a friend). If you’re not happy with where you are, then what changes can you make that might help you move out of that funk or predicament? What might you do to become more alive or responsive to the world around you? You can’t necessarily change people, places, or situations around you, but you CAN change yourself.

You may not be where you want to be, but you are where you are. If one wants to go anywhere in life, one must start from where they are. It only makes sense, and having a sense of where you are can’t help but give you a stronger foundation for making changes that will move you out of a life-dulling rut and into a life-giving routine.

May God grant us all eyes to see and ears to hear – for that is Good News in this, our valley.