Father Mark, Reflections

In the course of one moment…

I am not a “bright eyed and bushy tailed” type of morning person.  It takes me awhile to get my mind the the rest of me moving.  I was Divinely helped this morning while looking out of our kitchen window at the bird bath in our back yard, when all of a sudden, a female Cardinal dashed in a blur to the bird bath.  The Cardinal drank from the water of the bird bath, remaining there only a few seconds before darting off.

The Cardinal’s unexpected immediacy of arrival caught be by surprise.  The suddenness of the arrival of beauty and energy caused me to gasp–in a pleasant way.   Revelation is like this:  happening in the immediacy of a moment and then lasting for years in our memories.  That one moment set my spirit in alignment.   I thought for a moment: what if I had not looked out that window and missed such a theophany (a “God revealing” moment)!   We are given hundreds of windows each day to receive the unexpected visit from the Holy One who manifests the Spirit in a multitude of ways.

What’s showing outside your window?

Peace,

Fr. Mark

 

Father Mark, Reflections

Duh!  Why didn’t I think of that?

Blessings on Annunciation Day, the day Gabriel visited Mary with the Good News and Mary said, “Yes!”

I was walking on my alternate C-19 Route this morning and it “dawned” on me, on this special day, let’s enact Gabriel’s visit to Mary by a visitation to the homes of our members.  So as I passed the Ward’s, Clark’s, McVea’s, Bullock’s, Robbin’s, and Wallace’s on my walk, I stopped and pronounced a blessing upon them.

Our Book of Occasional Services has a prayer in the Blessing of a Home which I believe is most appropriate for us at this time: 

Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live here with the gift of your love; and grant that they may manifest your love [to each other and] to all whose lives they touch. May they grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen them; and preserve them in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen 

Perhaps this prayer might be a benefit to say together with your family or friends on the phone.

 This morning and afternoon I will be walking through town and stopping on your sidewalk to offer this prayer and a blessing to you.  For those of you further away, I will either drive out or pray the prayer for you from the church.  This may take me a couple of days.

This is a good time to reflect on the above title of this journal entry.  I didn’t think of this idea.  It was revealed to me.  Another way of defining what prayer is that we spend our time emptying our mind of the “stuff” that keeps us from hearing the still small Voice (I Kings 17) attempting to reach us.  My thinking isn’t transformational.  God’s Voice is.   The best my thinking can do (on a good day) is to remember the past history of Divine Wisdom imparted in God’s revelations and attempt to align my thoughts with them.  Every day we make hundreds of choices automatically, sometimes without reflecting on the source of the criteria by which we make these choices.  Ideally, we can receive fresh revelations which are more finely honed to meet the new situations of the present day.  We never know when Gabriel or Michael, Raphael, Uriel (the Archangels), or the Holy Spirit will stop by for a visit to birth the Word in us anew.

Father Mark, Reflections

A Leisurely Ride

I remember my younger years.  We’d pile up into the car and go for a Sunday afternoon drive in the country.  We might stop by an A&W Root Beer stand while we ventured into the country to see what mysteries we could find.

5-theballadofjedclampett

It’s Wildflower Season in Texas and if there isn’t anything more telling of creation’s beauty it’s a field of Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Indian Blanket, Mugwort and other beauties for the eye to behold.  Children can count up how many kinds of flowers they see, look them up and for the really adventurous who want to practice their math skills, try counting the number of blooms on a flower.  For older children, have them count the blooms on three different flowers and then have them divide by three to find out the mean, or average number of blooms on a flower.

What we focus on has much to do with the creation of our mood.  The stimulation of something live with color and form does much to refresh us.

The psalmist on one of his more sensual days said, “taste the Lord, for he is good.”

But don’t eat the flower!

Father Mark, Reflections

Waiting . . . . . . . . . is anything but . . . passive

Kathy and I have a ritual late in every Advent season to watch the movie, “The Star,” about the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The reason I like it is because the sentimentality factor that sugar coats the Birth of Jesus is almost non-existent. The story is earthy, bringing to life as much as can be possibly imagined about the human element that the Divine led Mary and then Joseph through in order that we might read, “And it came to pass….”

Mary’s response to Gabriel, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” later becomes Joseph’s response as both of them work together attempting to follow the vision of God. While waiting for the child to be born they are centering their attention on the presence and direction of God. Like Mary and Joseph is not our challenge the same: centering our attention on God in the midst of all the surprises that come our way. Here we find out how God works: waiting is an individual experience and yet it can be shared corporately.

Mary’s visitation by Gabriel: a solitary experience. Whom would she tell? Waiting to see her cousin Elizabeth 65 miles away near Jerusalem. Who is the person you would trust most with your innermost important secret? Then the family. No one would understand. Have you ever been blamed and misunderstood for something you didn’t do and had no way to prove it?

Then there’s Joseph: How to trust Mary’s word in spite of evidence against all odds? Then the dreams. Have you ever had a dream vivid enough that you remembered it? Did the dream mean anything? How did Joseph trust his dream? Does God still speak to us in dreams or are dreams superstitions of the old ways?

So much to be attentive to. But then the government takes its turn. Just weeks to delivery and Mary and Joseph must journey on foot and the backside of a donkey to Bethlehem 70 miles away. Rocky, dry terrain, filled with highwaymen. No exits for fast food on the way. No Motel 6 meant camping out. Vulnerability of the highest order.

So many details and diversions during the waiting period. How did Mary and Joseph maintain their attention on their highest purpose of all: The birth of the Chosen One? What could have happened within them that they risked everything – their very lives to give birth to the Holy Mystery within Mary’s womb? Surely the words of Psalm 137 crossed their memories: “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” ‘Foreign’ can also mean people, places, experiences, situations and challenges that are foreign.

Christmas back then and Christmas now are different. Back then, the birth was manifested to the world. Now, the birth of Jesus is waiting to be born within us. We are waiting to be born. Something within us is yearning to be born. I have a hunch that that “something” is Some One.
How do we pay attention to the presence of God during the harried moments of our daily lives? How is it that we are able to hear, read, see or feel God’s signals? Do we act on
impulse, thought or do we wait for direction?

Waiting with awareness is extremely active, demanding our full attention.

Wait well, my friends.

May the Peace from Above be planted within you.

Fr. Mark

Father Mark, Sermons

Christ The King Sunday; Last Sunday of Pentecost; John 18:33 ff. November 25, 2018

Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year otherwise known as Christ the King.  Saturday night in a sense is New Year’s Eve.                                  

I ponder why did the Standing Liturgical Commission chose the Jesus-Pilate narrative before Jesus’ crucifixion for the last Sunday of the Church Year?   The movement from death, resurrection to the Holy Spirit creating apostles out of disciples and then the time warp back to the crucifixion.                                                

And so what does all of this have to do with anything, especially on Monday morning?  Plenty.

Jesus’ last words to Pilate were: Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.   Confused, Pilate asks Jesus:  What is truth?  Jesus remains silent.  If Pilate had to ask, he didn’t get it.  

What is truth?   Truth is like gravity—an unchanging reality.  I remember in my younger years, the term, defy gravity, was used a lot, as it was during the early NASA days and previously in the Wright Brothers era.  

Gravity is a part of the human condition.  By flying, some are duped to think that gravity has been defied.  

Gravity is still in force.  As long as the engine and wings work within the gravitational field to lift the craft off the ground, it flies.  Once it doesn’t, as my Marine Corps veteran friend in Tennessee always used to say: You’re running out of airspeed, altitude and ideas.   

Gravity is still gravity.  We are a part of it.  Just as gravity is not abstract, neither is truth abstract, but is grounded in Reality. 

Truth is much the same thing.  Truth is something we belong to.   Truth in the Biblical understanding is defined as firm, solid, reliable, faithful, tested and a reality that is firm and unchanging.  I am reminded of the collect in Compline which prays for us to rest in God’s eternal changelessness.  Changeless doesn’t mean static but the identity of God’s being which is consistent and intact—like the sun shining whether we see it or not.  

Truth designates the quality of God’s nature and will.  Truth is living in the presence of God’s Being—in the words of Paul: In him we live, move and have our being.  We are animated by the presence of God in a holy mystical union in a way that can only be known and not explained. The intrinsic being of God moves through us and creation.  Like gravity, we belong to this whether we are conscious of it or not.  We may choose to walk out of step with this presence but the presence always remains present.  

Truth is not arbitrary nor is it limited by pragmatic sensory experience.  A philosopher may dabble in the subject and place truth on a dualistic continuum with falsehood.  The Biblical understanding of the opposite of truth is not falsehood but fickleness—not being true—not aligning oneself with reality.  Dostoevsky wrote from his Marxist prison cell:  “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” 

Truth contains and establishes fact yet transcends it.  Truth is a Dynamic living energy pervading all who receive its presence that shapes the receiver into the same traits and character of being as the sources of that energy.  It is like when you see yourself as spontaneously and automatically acting in similar ways as your mother or father—you just pick up on the mannerisms, as ways of being. 

Summing up:  Truth is the movement of Divinity moving through creation and its people. We belong to this living truth, this Spirit moving over and through the creation and created.  God is truth simply Being Himself.  

Back to Jesus’ statement: Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. When Pilate then asked Jesus, What is truth?  Jesus could not verbalize what Pilate could not see.  Pilate was looking at truth incarnate in Jesus and did not realize it.  

Truth is not a proposition but a divine impulse which is realized directing and working through us.  Truth is not impulsive.  Impulsivity comes from a lack of rootedness in truth. 

Perhaps the whole purpose of the church year can be summarized in learning how to allow the Source of our being to be the source of our being—receiving the Divine Impulse and living in the heartbeat of God.

Listen for the heartbeat of God within you this week.