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Archive for April, 2016

Leading
Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2016
For Beloved Community
Vernon K. Rempel, 2016

Lectionary Reading
Revelation 21:6
Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

What is a pastor?
We are all invited to the work
of being true to our best selves
our God-selves, our inner teachers, our finer angels

When who we are in the world – our role –
is in better harmony with who we are gifted to be – our soul –
then the world is better blessed

Spiritual leaders are people who
because of calling and inclination
have their lives set aside to attend to this work as a life career

What shall we call spiritual leaders?
I always ponder this a bit:

Minister – okay but sounds a bit like the minister of agriculture

Pastor – care for the sheep of the pasture, but are faith community members best described as sheep in a flock? Baa!

Leader – but that sounds like North Korea – Dear leader, or organizational – team leader, or like Star Wars – red leader

Shaman – better – one vested with ritual & healing powers through duress & study – but tough to put on the business card

All good titles, but for truly descriptive purposes, I kind of like, at least for today:
Soul Porter
Verbs with porter from the dictionary include: assists, guards, carries, waits, cleans up, makes up, attends, has charge of the door

Okay, probably still can’t put it on a business card, or maybe you can?

In Cole’s case we could call him Cole Porter (which is not how or why I came up with “soul porter”!)

In any case, a porter of the soul, one who is dedicated to carry, guard, attend to the soul.

 

Three souls

Attend to three souls, perhaps:

All souls
The souls of each one who draws near
It does not matter who
With gifts, with wounds
Every day is All Souls’ Day

It is an unspeakable privilege and gift
The office of moving with people in joy and grief
Sharing and holding people’s shame and pride with them
The angel
The soul of our faith community
John calls this faith community soul the Angel of the church

Spiritual leaders, soul porters, attend to the soul of a faith community
The deep heart longing of a community,
What it wants to become
Listening for, stepping out and risking for the sake of the community as it seeks to be a great people of peace, love, and justice.
The alpha and omega
Our lectionary reading for today
Again: Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

Teilhard de Chardín, the French Jesuit, paleontologist and cosmologist
called God the Omega point – the center toward which
all of creation moves and from which it flows

This grand soul of the universe
this heart of creation

The beginning and the end
not as some monstrous disembodied head
like the wizard on the Wizard of Oz

But simply the ineffable and amazing joy
at the core of all that is,
all creation sings.

The divine soul,
which is crucified and glorified among us
The one who suffers with us in our horrors and injuries
The one who lifts us up in joy because joy is always the last word.

The spiritual leader cares for, sits in the presence of,
stands amazed in the presence of
this divine soul.

And acts as a vessel as wholeheartedly as possible,
acting to remove all reservation
and letting the divine flow flow like a river of life
for the sake of the community.

The Soul Porter take care of these three souls:
All souls
The soul of the faith community
The grand divine soul – the alpha and omega
Tikkun
Finally, a pastor, leader, soul porter
looks after “Tikkun”

A Hebrew word which can be translated as
Healing, repair, transformation
Rabbi Michael Lerner has written about this.

It is the heart of our all our work
Spiritual leading is to do this and to encourage so that all may thrive
To seek the healing and wholeness of the world.

I heard Shane Claiborne speak this morning.
He spoke about how early Christians
learned a different story than the war-like Roman Empire.

Caesar was called God, savior and Lord,
the one who brings order

The calendar began with Caesar’s birthday.

The church took these words of the Emperor of war and order
and applied them to the one who came preaching peace

And it occurred to me that when we follow the Christian calendar,
it continues to be an anti-empire calendar.

We are celebrating the birth and the seasons of grace and peace
rather than war, victory, dominance, and order.
Our calendar begins with Advent and Christmas
peace on earth good will to all
And moves through Easter
What can separate us from the love of Christ?
Neither life nor death (Romans 8)

Claiborne told a couple of stories of
churches living out this alternate story

Pentecostal church & homelessness
Wanted to open a shelter for the homeless
City said no
Prayed (watch out for Pentecostals praying!)
Went back to city – we’ve heard your concern;
we’re not going to have a shelter, but we are going to have a revival
Everyone will be invited, and it may go on for days.
So they did, prayers, preaching, singing
All were invited, including the homeless
Then pastor said, okay, that’s the end of this part of the revival, now we will have 8 hours or so of contemplative prayer.
And this went on day after day.

Communion at the border
Church went to the border
Sisters and brothers from Mexico came to the border
Couldn’t cross.
But sang and prayed together.
Then they decided they wanted to have communion.
Winged the bread over the wall!

Imperial calendar versus Christian calendar
Spiritual leaders
Soul porters – give their lives to that alternate story
for the sake of community.
for the sake of joy.

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That which grows secretly
Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 17, 2016
For Beloved Community
Vernon K. Rempel, 2016

Lectionary Reading: Psalm 23 KJV
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Reflection
First of all, us personally.
all politics is personal
let’s start with us in our bodies, our soft and longing selves

How are you protected?
what makes your life safe enough
what allow you to find a “brave space?”

Community
Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy – the three women following you.
weak joke
arising from long practice in community
where the Bible is read as if it matters
lots of time for weak jokes and strong jokes
in a strong, functional community

“Discover what you love and your tribe will show up.”
also, there were tribes who were there before us
who showed us things; who loved us

I have been protected by a thousand eyes watching,
creating, caring, judging, keeping boundaries
while I rode my stingray bicycle on the streets
while I ate jello at church potlucks
while I danced in a basement with friends

That is the outer. There is also the inner.

The Hidden
The vast silence which carries us like a hidden ocean:
John O’Donohugh writes:
“It is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone. Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits. A world lives within you.”
Anam Ćara prologue

The inner teacher, the true self
I call it the place where my heart meets God’s heart

Neither life nor death can separate me from these things
from the lived experience of community
from the hidden teaching silence that is always there for me

Yea thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

Or enemies
thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies

Shared thoughts

Sing There is a balm in Gilead

Lectionary Reading: Psalm 23 ( vkr paraphrase)
Holy of Holies, you are our shepherd, we shall not want.
You make us lie down in green pastures;
you lead us beside still waters;
you restore our souls.
You lead us in right paths
for your name’s sake.
Even though we walk through the darkest valley,
we fear no evil;
for you are with us;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort us.
You prepare a table before us
in the presence of our enemies;
you anoint our heads with oil;
our cups overflow.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us
all the days of our lives,
and we shall dwell in the house of the Holy
for all our days.
Reflection
Collective protection
what makes us safe enough?

I do not think it is guns
more guns in schools, churches, theaters
Not even on battlefields
Killing and the intent to kill just spin the cycle of violence

I think it is the shared watchfulness
Of family and neighborhood eyes
The shared work of a million hands building
The fabric of connections and and mutual balancing
And needing each other to moderate and check us and teach us

That is God’s work
That is how we are protected
We still get sick, hurt, die
But we do so, we may do so, in this envelope of love
The grand and small projects of love all around us

Shared thoughts

Sing There is a balm in Gilead

Lectionary Reading: John 10:22-30 (vkr paraphrase)
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the religious leaders gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Maker’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Maker has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Creator’s hand. The Creator and I are one.”
Reflection
Intimacy is the word for John’s gospel, I think
The Creator and I are one
My sheep hear my voice

When our goal is ego, power, dominance, controlling others
then we step away from intimacy
and that is a world of hurt, of loneliness,
giving in to fear rather then taking one step for love

This is another way of saying “protection”
intimacy, the God within and around me
in the presence of my friends – a table too!

Shared thoughts

Sing There is a balm in Gilead

Additional reading: The Seven Of Pentacles
Marge Piercy

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.
Reflection
Finally, this
in a safe enough place, a brave space
we may grow and flourish, and even find harvest

At the speed of the internal clock
living with all the “ifs”
for long seasons of tending and growth

Then the bud, then the flower and fruit
rhubarb pie! honey from the hive!
Beloved Community around us

Shared thoughts

Sing There is a balm in Gilead

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Anger is compassion

Easter 3

April 10, 2016

For Beloved Community

Vernon K. Rempel, 2016
Lectionary Reading

Acts 9:1-6

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’
And I’m adding this reading as well:

Mark 3.5

He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
In our Bible reading for this Sunday,

Saul was breathing threats and murder.

He is beside himself.
He’s going around, riding his ego horse,

high on his own sense of rightness and righteousness,

finding problem people and dealing with them.
He is quite willing to countenance and use violence,

quite willing to see people put away,

incarcerated, even executed.
When you’re right you’re right.

Anger is on your side.

It clears a swath, baby.
I’m willing to do all that and worse, Saul might have said.

Take ‘me out.
Have you ever had this experience?

(Enact talking on phone, saying “let me send you the email address”

Hang on; let me find my phone.)
We sometimes get beside ourselves.

It may be through sheer distraction,

a common feature of smart phones.
It may because of anger.

We become dissociated.

This other voice comes from our mouth,

these other feelings boil over.
We are beside ourselves with anger.

This often happens, and we say the word

that we wish we hadn’t said.
And then the toothpaste is out of the tube,

and can’t get back in, and bridges are burned,

and now there’s a story that will

come back to haunt us on the campaign trail,

or our next job, or in our long relationships.
We get beside ourselves.

But what if we are ourselves with anger?

What if there is a natural and clear expression

of anger that is ourselves,

that expression in which we are not

beside ourselves?
What happens when anger is not a mixed thing,

a distorted eruption, but rather a mindful

flow of energy?
That is what David Whyte has for us, I think,

in the quote that is in our worship outline for today,

and that we pondered in our silent moment.
I’ll read it aloud:
ANGER is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for. What we usually call anger is only what is left of its essence when we are overwhelmed by its accompanying vulnerability, when it reaches the lost surface of our mind or our body’s incapacity to hold it, or when it touches the limits of our understanding. What we name as anger is actually only the incoherent physical incapacity to sustain this deep form of care in our outer daily life; the unwillingness to be large enough and generous enough to hold what we love helplessly in our bodies or our mind with the clarity and breadth of our whole being.

–David Whyte

http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/05/15/david-whyte-consolations-anger-forgiveness-maturity

I would highlight just a couple of notes from this paragraph.
First

“Anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for.”

 

Who among us will not get fierce for the sake of our children,

for the sake of our loved ones,

for those we know and care about.
When the homeless become not that stranger the corner,

but our friend, and then they are hassled by

the nexus of business, law-enforcement,

and public disconnection,

it feels very toxic.

We get angry.
Not in some way of lashing out.

But in a deep longing to make better community ourselves

with the vulnerable folks,

and to struggle energetically to change the system

so that all may find dignity.
Second,

when we are ourselves in anger,

instead of being beside ourselves in anger,

it is because of – to quote David Whyte –

“what we love helplessly in our bodies or our mind with the clarity and breadth of our whole being.
It is not simply something that is a good idea for us.

It is not just what we are annoyed with,

or offended by.
This are all other layers,

and by and large not very deep layers of anger.
The real depth and the real truth,

and the real golden flow of anger,

arises from “what we love helplessly in our bodies.”
And we often get beside ourselves,

so we don’t even quite remember what

we “love helplessly with our bodies.”
We think that what we love helplessly

is shopping or alcohol or food

or a myriad of distractions.
But when we let ourselves listen to that

which we deeply love in our heart of hearts,

with our body-selves,

in the rock-and-roll soul of things
then we may discover and fine anger

a compassion that flows with bright warmth

that let’s us engage and address the world

hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
Not my righteousness of being right while others are wrong,

but righteousness as that great good thing

that means life for everybody,

“peace on earth, good will toward all”

to quote the angels.
Now let’s pause for a moment and consider these questions:

When have you been breathing threats and murder?

When have you wanted to heal a hand, even on the sabbath, all objections notwithstanding?
(Invite congregational reflections)
We pondered anger at our

Thursday reflection circle this week.
I am no painter, but I painted a water-color

as my reflection about David Whyte’s paragraph.

I didn’t know exactly what I was painting,

but here’s how I would comment on it.
The great yellow center is the goodness for all people.

The steel strength of anger is the dark line

that spirals out.

There’s some force there.
But it is surrounded by warmth.

This is fire and light spiraling out into the world, perhaps.

Saul is on the road to Damascus when

suddenly he comes to himself.
He has been beside himself,

but now the light dawns,

and it is the light of the peace of Christ.
It is the light of his true self breaking through.

And after this, Saul becomes Paul.

His not-beside-himself name is “Paul.”
And now instead of binding and incarcerating

and executing bad people,

he becomes a community maker.
Now he’s working to hard so that others

can also come to themselves,

so that there is more of that thing

where people are actually being themselves

with each other,

not beside themselves.
He makes community among Jews and Greeks,

among women and men.

He lays the groundwork for sexual and racial

diversity in community.
Anyone who wants to make community like Paul

is going to be breaking through boundaries

that will seem unbelievable..
Taking sexual offenders into our homes.

Working for the healing of young men

whose brains have been distorted by ISIS dreams of violence.
Exposing the fraud of international economies

that care nothing for the poor,

and loving the poor themselves,

and loving ourselves in our poverty.
And note that when Saul became Paul

he did not give up anger.

Instead, his anger was on behalf of community:
“How dare some of you eat and drink while others go hungry!”

I Corinthians 11:21
I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Galatians 4:20
These are some milder and simpler examples.

Paul reserves some real ferocity for religious leaders

who he thinks are being unduly exclusive.
Again, to reference David Whyte:

“ANGER is the deepest form of compassion…, for what we love helplessly in our bodies or our mind with the clarity and breadth of our whole being.”
On the road, Saul comes to himself,

and that fiery flow is transformed

into a blessing for many.
How might that be for us?

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