Friday, May 27, 2011

The Mystic Way

The Mystic Way opens our soul to “abide” in God. To abide in God is for the Spirit of God to be in our spirit and our spirit in the Spirit of God.

It’s like this. Two lovers gazing eye to eye in the intimate stare, hands locked, fingers interlaced, palm to palm – as if nothing in the world can come between the two lovers. Time stands still. God and I, face to face, my consciousness connected at the unconscious level to the very consciousness of God – deep intimacy – pure contemplation. Nothing can come between us.

But, alas, it seems that something is trying to pry our hands apart. Is it evil? No. Worse, it’s something that is insidious – it the well-meaning, the good, that which is most seductive, something that convinces us that the sacrifice of our soul’s energy is worth the cost – it could be the “anything” of doing good deeds. And this well-meaning function will break our contemplation of the true calling of God to our specific “work” and purpose in life, and that, indeed is worth the “cost of discipleship.”

The Mystic Way teaches us to be in the intimate state of contemplation, which is fed by the Eucharist, the Communion of and with the Holy and with the community. We are nourished by the Sacrament, which we must faithfully attend to in order to be sustained through the frenetic onslaught of the “good demands of the functions of life.”

The Mystic Way teaches us that in our contemplation, nourished by the Eucharist in community, we will hear the fetching of the Holy to our true “work,” our real “purpose,” into the action of our life.

The Mystic Way is a difficult journey - walk slowly, allow the integration of being to be with the Being, it is a Holy pilgrimage, hold it lightly and be held.

Monday, May 16, 2011


We are a Resurrection Community. Our vision is one of prayer, discernment and hospitality. Evidence of being a Resurrection Community and living out our vision surround us.

At Lent One we began three Sunday morning services. In 2010 our average Sunday morning attendance was 120 and before Lent One we were running slightly ahead of that number. Not counting Easter Sunday, which by the way this year we had 50 more than in 2010 – we have averaged 140 – now that’s pretty amazing. Over the last five years our attendance has increased ten percent each year – and this year we are on pace to exceed that rate of growth.

While numbers aren’t everything - they are the measuring stick often used to determine how we are doing. For a frame of reference the average Sunday attendance for an Episcopal Church is 66. And the average age is 62. While I haven’t done an exact calculation, my guess is our average age is in the mid-thirties.

That leads me ask two questions, 1) what good things have we done to create this growing environment and, 2) what’s next?

This morning’s readings from the Acts of the Apostles contain the answer to both of those questions.

The early days of the Church were held together by a tiny band of women and men, including the Apostles, Mary and Mary Magdalene. These people were a radical Jewish sect, a new spiritual movement that lived a subversive life.

In one sentence (Acts 2:42) their strategic plan and vision statement is outlined for us. “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers.

First, they devoted themselves – this kind of devotion to the apostle’s teachings created an inner transformation in the lives of those who devoted themselves to the practice of studying the scriptures. Their devotion to the scripture transformed their souls and changed their actions. These people were so devoted to the apostle’s teachings that before they were called Christians they were known as “The people of the Way.”

Second, they devoted themselves to hospitality. In verses 43-47 it tells that these people shared all that they had with each other. They gave what they had for the benefit of others. They were good stewards of their resources.

Third, they devoted themselves to a Eucharistic life. The Eucharist was the center of their worship life, which was the model for living their life out in the world. They followed Jesus Christ who emptied himself for the sake of others and they worshipped Jesus by breaking the bread and they worshipped Jesus by modeling his life.

Fourth, they devoted themselves to the prayers. There is strong evidence that these followers of the Way memorized the Lord’s Prayer, the psalms and other pieces of scripture they used in a very liturgical style of worship. These people prayed together as a spiritual practice of life.

And when they devoted themselves to these four spiritual practices, scripture, hospitality, Eucharist and prayer – God added to their number.

From the birth of the Church, devotion to these four spiritual practices have been the marks of every successful Christian community.

1. The community studies the scripture.
2. The community is hospitable.
3. The community life is Eucharistic.
4. The community prays together.

I think our growth can be attributed to our “commitment” to these four spiritual practices.

But, now the question is, “What’s next for us?” Do we go around congratulating ourselves about how successful we are? Hardly. While we can be proud of our commitment – I have a hard time thinking we stand up to the measure of the early church being filled with awe because “many signs and wonders were being done by the apostles.”

I think what’s next for us is to move from being committed to being devoted.

Committed means, we do what we do because we think that whatever we are doing is good for us, or that it’s the right thing to do.

Devoted, however, means, we do what we do because, despite the cost and the sacrifice, we know it will transform our soul and the soul of our community.

We are on the cusp of being awed by the wonders and signs of what God is going to do in our midst. But, to go from the cusp of the experience to being in the center of an actualized experience, I believe we have to move from commitment to devotion.

Together, we must discern and hear where God is calling us into the spiritual practices. Trust God’s calling – we will know it is God’s calling when it has the feeling of being fetched into something that is awe inspiring, filled with the wonders and signs of God’s Presence in our midst.

What’s next? What’s next is something that is awe-inspiring. I can feel it. I can hear it coming.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

I found something

My first trip to the Clergy Leadership Project held in West Cornwall, Connecticut was October 2009. I came on the recommendation of a colleague that I trust and knew that if he thought it was good for me to be here – then it must be so. However, I wasn’t sure why else I was here. The people I have met are wonderful and the facilitators and mentors are superior to any other program. But, still, I was unsure that first week why I was here. You see, this group of 25 priests is the future bishops, deans, movers and shakers of the Episcopal Church. I am the oldest person here by ten years and one of the priests here is the same age as our children. I am not called to be bishop (thank God), dean of a cathedral, not a mover, and probably not a shaker, though, at the moment I will hold out on that one.

Painfully, though, the first week I lost something dear to me. While on a stroll through the woods I lost a ring that Cathy bought for me in Ireland – my anam cara ring. More importantly than the monetary value of the ring, the sentimental value – well, is indescribable. I was heartbroken. Cathy reminded me that it was just a “thing,” but still, my heart aches.

By the time I got home, I understood the loss of the ring to be a sign – but, I was torn as to a sign for what – did it mean I was not to return to Connecticut for another CLP class because if I came back I might lose something worse, or did it mean I needed to return to look for the ring? I took a risk, because I enjoyed the program, and came back.

I did look for the ring – obviously, to no avail. It was worse than searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack – good grief, it was six months later following the New England winter.

Honestly, I knew it wasn’t the ring I was supposed to look for – but I wasn’t sure what it was I needed to find – so I trusted that if I kept my soul’s eyes open it would find me.

Two years and four classes later, I found it Monday. I found a part of my voice yet undiscovered. For the first time in my life, I was able to speak out in a large group of peers, and to a celebrated Harvard economist (the founder of Mother Jones Magazine and architect of Greenpeace for the love of God) without halting, with passion (that didn’t come across too harsh) and without the needed crutch of swearing. (Yes, I have also discovered that cursing has always been my thinking and space defense.) I spoke out in critique, with compassion, yet in control, calling for the powerful voice of the Church to be the powerless voice of God in the margins. That was met with an expectation of explanation and then a challenge – and shocking myself, I could do so – without being self-defensive and in a persuasive way. More importantly, I didn’t recognize this myself until a colleague pointed it out to me later that evening.

How did that happen? I don’t want to analyze it – I just want to live into it. My soul has found another layer of its voice. My soul and my voice have become one and I am along for the joyous evolutionary ride. It is frightening and something I must be aware of and use with intention and caution – but I have found the potential of my holistic voice.

What does this now mean? Well, I just found it – and I’m not sure yet – I think it’s a maturation, discovery, evolutionary thing, most likely. And I intend to lean into that with full harmony. Maybe, now, I’ll stumble across my ring in the space between.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Response to the killing of Osama bin Laden

A Response to the Killing of Osama bin Laden

Jesus said love your enemies. We acknowledge, that at times, this seems
to be an impossible task. We have compassion for and pray for our
leaders who have made difficult decisions, that would drive us
to our knees. The hard work of building a more just, peaceful and
equitable world continues. We pray, therefore, that "God's holy and life giving
Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us
may crumble, suspicions disappear, and barriers cease; that our
divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through
Jesus Christ our Lord."

I have spent the day in deep prayer, discernment and conversation with my sisters and brothers at the Clergy Leadership Project. The death of Osama bin Laden and our Church's appropriate response has consumed our attention. As sisters and brothers of Abraham and followers of Jesus, we are called to a path of love, justice and peace for the citizens of the globe. It is most appropriate that we spend our time in prayer, as guided by our Book of Common of Prayer and studying the teaching of Jesus in our Holy Scripture to determine how we should respond. Those teachings are clear, "we are to love our neighbors as ourselves - and we are to love our enemies." These are the hard teachings of Jesus and our common prayers. Let us be willing to take the risk of building our souls by being true to who Christ has called us to become.