Loving Redemption

The Liturgy of the Palms: Luke 19:28-40 | Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

The Liturgy of the Word: Isaiah 50:4-9a | Psalm 31:9-16 | Philippians 2:5-11 | Luke 22:14-23:56

From the invitation into the observance of a holy Lent on Ash Wednesday, we knew that it would culminate in our observance of Holy Week. But what are we observing, exactly? Heretofore, our primary focus has been on ourselves, focusing on our experiences, especially in regard to our sacrifices or additions that bring us to mindful attention to God’s presence in our lives. In Holy Week, given our cultural tendencies, we might place most of our focus on the crucifixion, the betrayal that led to it and the violence of it. But we are given a holy week to take in the story, even if we try to cram as much of it into today as we can in case you don’t come back until next Sunday. When we focus on the holiness of this week, let us turn our attention to the acts of love shown to us by Jesus.

  • We begin this week with our palms raised high with our cry of “Hosanna!” (“Save us!” or “Savior!”) We look to Jesus as Savior, the one who will save us, deliver us. He willingly goes before us, knowing that we hope but don’t fully understand.
  • Monday’s gospel lesson revisits the account of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet, which he lets her do and chastizes Judas for chiding her. Love often looks like calling out truth, be it beautiful or painful.
  • On Tuesday, Jesus’ words almost implore his followers to understand who he is and what is about to happen; he’s trying to prepare his followers, to give them understanding and insight as the time draws near. As frustrated as he may be, Jesus never forces anyone into understanding or submission.
  • Wednesday night, at the last of our Lent Soup & Study events, we will again have an agapé meal, a simple Eucharist around the table preceding our meal together. For us it’s a way we draw close to the experience of a meal between Jesus and the disciples, a feast rooted in love. In the gospel lesson that night, Judas betrays Jesus, yet Jesus continues to affirm that God has been glorified in the Son of Man. Jesus doesn’t prohibit Judas from doing what he has chosen to do, but many of us know the betrayal of a friend or loved one and how hard it is not to be attached to what they are doing, especially if it is destructive; it’s an extreme act of love.
  • Maundy Thursday we begin the Triduum by receiving the great commandment from Jesus to love one another, and we practice by washing one another’s feet as Jesus showed us, ending the service with the stripping of the altar. In our timeline, this might be the night Jesus was arrested, neither resisting nor condemning anyone.
  • Good Friday we observe the crucifixion of Jesus, from which he neither flees nor complains. Some of us will walk the Stations of the Cross to encounter more moments along the way when Jesus interacts with others, silently though it may be. Some may choose to make their confession as we, like Peter, realize that we have denied Jesus in thought, word, or deed. We will gather Friday night for the service that includes the recitation of Psalm 22 — “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We will have a cross before us, and we can choose to bow before it in veneration, recognizing that Jesus’ ultimate act of love was his death.

What does it mean for us that we recount Jesus’ acts of love and remember that our redemption comes after a great suffering?

If we pay attention to our dreams, some of us have recurring dreams. They might be the exact same dream or some variation on a theme. I’m not trained in Jungian psychology or even in dream work, but the little I have dappled in both, dreams have something to teach us, something that is often nestled deeply in our subconscious. A recurring dream could suggest that we are experiencing a similar situation over again–like stress expressed in a dream of being in high school again and not finding your locker or schedule or being late or unprepared for a test (yes, that’s one of mine). A recurring dream could also indicate an insight that we’re being offered but haven’t given it enough attention to discern what it is that we have to learn.

Holy Week for me–increasingly so since I’ve been ordained–is much like a dream, and this year the words of Paul resonate with me like the voice of the narrator in a dream. Maybe it has something to do with the Bible study, where we’re taking our time reading Romans. (The more time you spend with anyone, the more they can grow on you, right?) Again, Paul is writing from prison, and he sends this letter to the Philippians. Someone described the portion we read today as a love song since it shows some of the characteristics of love songs from the time. There’s union, a union not to be exploited, and an emptying of self, all of which are ideals in a mutually loving relationship.

But this isn’t a romantic love, the love between Jesus and God or Jesus Christ and us. Paul tells the Philippians to be of the same mind as Christ Jesus. If we are of one mind with Jesus, our thoughts, words, and deeds will present in tender love and humility, in an endurance of suffering, and in enduring hope–all characteristics present in Jesus’ acts throughout this week. In all that we do, can we have Christ’s mind about us? Can we be at one with Christ? As Jesus emptied himself to experience fully the human condition even through suffering and death, is there something we need to empty ourselves of so that we can be faithful to God, follow Christ, and be who God created us to be? This kind of faithful obedience underscores the prayer from the Gospel according to Luke where Jesus says, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Giving ourselves to obedience to God and God’s will doesn’t mean we don’t make conscious decisions.

The invitation to a holy Lent and even into Holy Week is just that, an invitation. We could, like many others, not observe a thing, and our lives would continue. But for those of us who have given thought and awareness to the presence of God in our lives, meeting that with the recognition of Jesus’ acts of love might illumine for us how we can further reveal to others the presence of Christ in our lives, in all our suffering and all our hope.

 

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Non-striving, Full-feeling

This past weekend, our church hosted another insightful McMichael Lecture, with guests Bishop Larry Maze and Rev. Susan Sims Smith (more info).  Both speakers are influenced by Jungian psychology and their personal inner work.  Their topics this weekend focused on such inner work, relying heavily on dream work, but offered an insight into my own behavior and dreams, too.

I’m in a Jeep being driven by my (male) priest.  He’s driving fast, and the gravel road is rough and bumpy.  But he’s happy, smiling, assuring me nonverbally that it’s fine.  I’m holding on to the bar above me.  (The top and doors are off.)  It’s a sunny, beautiful day.  Finally he pulls off to the side of the road where there’s a gravel pull-off area.  We’re standing outside the Jeep but elevated enough to look out.  He motions his hand across our panoramic view of the lush, green, tree-covered hills and the beautiful expanse of lake.  He says, “Here it is.  The presence of God.”

Understanding that we all have masculine and feminine sides, our dreams share as much and often illustrate for us how balanced or out of balance we are.  Our masculine side is usually the task-manager, the goal-oriented aspect of ourselves that gets things done.  But think for a minute about the masculine side getting things done in a “non-striving” manner, as Sims Smith proposes, as my priest does in the dream.  Our masculine steps back and opens the gate for the feminine wisdom to come through, for intuition to speak.

In my dream, I think my masculine was telling me to listen, to be aware of God in the beauty all around me.  My gate was open to receive, and in the time since the dream, I’ve been working heavily on listening to the feminine energy — even if I’m just now realizing it.

Now, it’s time to listen to the dreams again (the above dream was from a year or more ago), to awaken early enough not to have distractions so that the dreams are fresh and present.

What are your dreams telling you?

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Importance of Dreams

First of all, I hope everyone has a chance to recall why today we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I also hope that you take some time today to reflect on what your dreams are, at all levels.

Can you remember what you dreamed last night?  What have your night dreams shown you about your life and lessons?

What are your dreams for yourself and your family in the future, near and far?

What are your dreams for humanity, for our world?

Not all of us will have dreams like Dr. King.  Not all of us will have a hope so intense, a will so driven, as to devote our lives to a Cause.  When the fuel for our work is grounded in a passion, based on a dream, a hope, it takes a special person indeed to follow through.

Think of your dreams again.  Are you working to fulfill those dreams?  Are the dreams already fulfilled and you living the dream?

If your dream were for all to be created equal, would you say we are living the dream, or is there still work to be done?  Surely, Dr. King’s life was not in vain . . . and neither is yours or mine.

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All in a Dream

On the radio today I heard two African American mothers suggest that their son could be the next president; one of the sons actually made the suggestion that he could be president.  Perhaps this is part of the hope and change that Obama seeks to revitalize in the USA.

No matter which side you voted for, we have to trust that our nation will move forward, that as a people we can join together, agreeing to disagree on some points, compromising on most others.  Personally, I believe that if we are to make things better for our children, we have to embrace a paradigm shift.  We have to leave our “look out for No. 1” mentality behind and take the “servant-leader” role.  We have to learn how to lead and live with compassion, with awareness and consciousness.  We have to make our homes safe, help people find a right livelihood and genuinely take care of one another.

Do thoughts like these increase the profit margins?  Will it guarantee that we’ll be able to buy all the best and newest things out there?  No, but do we need those things anyway?

If we can take off the layers of messages we receive from corporate media, the layers of expectations built upon us from issues of the past and set forth with a new dream, who knows what can happen.

As Obama did, we can try.  Hope.  Change.  And in the sing-song of Disney’s Pixar Robinsons, “Keep moving forward!”

Martin Luther King, Jr., proudly said he had a dream.  He dared to share his dream.  Look what he sacrificed.  Look how far we’ve come.

What do you dare to dream?

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Falling into Reflection

bridge_autumn_fall_234841_l.jpgThe air gets cooler every morning now, and while it’s not officially autumn yet, the leaves in places on our cherry tree are turning a deep red.  Being a fall baby, I always feel like I’m coming home as it turns cooler and the skies are gray.  It’s a time to be honest with myself and others, a great time for reflection.

In a dream night before last, I was talking with my midwives about my new pregnancy.  (Just in the dream was I pregnant, so no one needs to get concerned about me having 5 kids!)  Of course I’ll be having “pregnant” dreams now; I’ve just started two new journeys — one the women’s spirituality group (which meets Wednesday nights) and the other a Servant Leadership course (which meets Monday nights).  Also right now we’re having rehearsals for the play “Birth” by Karen Brody for our local BOLD events.  The time is ripe for potentiality even though the light will be less and the earth will be retreating into slumber.  It’s a good time to go inward.

For a reality check, where are you in your journey of life, of spirit, of health?  It’s time to be open to new discoveries, to be aware of what Spirit might reveal.  O, if only that could be how I live every day!

Blessed be.

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I Died Last Night

After a particularly grueling day of parenting, my husband and I enjoyed several minutes of drowsy pillow conversation, quietly over the babe nursing/sleeping between us.  I vented.  We pondered and wondered how best to discipline, how best to exemplify the behavior we hope for them to embody.  We fell asleep before any epiphanies.

I know I am dying.  Sitting up in bed, I see it in my husband’s face.  Our younger sonmoon.jpg lays his head across my tummy.  While I’ve been strong up till now, as I run my hands through his unruly hair, my resolve breaks; my heart aches.  I love him so much.  No.  I’m not ready to die yet.  The bright white light comes.  No.  I need to see my older children first.  They have to know, have to hear me tell them I love them.  They’re here.  It’s okay now.

I awoke with that sense of breathlessness near panic.  I wasn’t dead, no matter how real it had seemed.  It was a short dream for me, one who tends to have the epic variety, but its strength and clarity remain with me still.

I’m not proficient at dream interpretation, but I’ve experimented enough myself and have been with others enough to know that dreams speak to us in ways we might not otherwise understand.  I’ve been fortunate to be in groups to facilitate dream work.  At a meeting recently, one of my spiritual teachers was there, too.  We had been in a dream group together, and I admire her immensely.  “In dream symbology, what does it mean when you die?” I asked her.  “Usually it’s the ego,” she answered.  (We could have been asking each other about the weather.  It’s good to have friends you can talk to without the small talk.)  It clicked into place, as it will when you get your right understanding of a dream.

I had fallen asleep wondering how best to deal with my children.  I must have offered my query to the Divine, for it was received and answered.  To best relate to my kids, I have to get out of the way and let love lead.  That doesn’t mean I am a pushover and let them run wild.  Kids need boundaries for what is acceptable or not, and there are consequences for inappropriate behaviors and actions.  What’s important, though, is that I shouldn’t completely freak out just because something isn’t done the way I think it should be done.  These kids may come from my womb, but I believe they’re designed by and for God.  Heaven forbid I mess that up.

So I’m grateful for this dream that reminds me to let go and to love as if this were my last moments.  It sounds so simple.  The lesson is so easy.  It’s the homework that’s hard.

The other morning, not long after my dream of dying, my husband told me that when he awoke the older kids to get ready for school, they both said the same thing.  “I had the most wonderful dream.”  I wonder what lesson they were given.  May they remember their dreams.

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