A couple of weeks ago, I made a list of things I want to get done before I head off on vacation. Things like clean out my e-mail inbox, catch up on correspondence, update our parish record of weddings and funerals; generally clean up my life. So the last few days I’ve been on something of a tear—I deleted or filed about 2500 old emails. I cleaned out the bag I carry my stuff in, and tidied my desk. I’m not done, but there’s some order emerging from the chaos!
I don’t know about you, but these days I find myself craving silence. In the midst of the din of distractions, disturbing news, and the daily noisiness of our on-the-go, accessible culture, I seek silence. Of course I love many sounds: music, birdsong, the voice of my granddaughter or other loved ones, but I yearn for silence. I love the waves breaking on the shore and the cry of the gulls, yet, I long for silence.
“O hear my song, thou God of all the nations; a song of peace, for their land and for mine” (This is My Song, words by Lloyd Stone). Who among us doesn’t need more peace these days? Among the nations, of course, but also in our own lives. Who among us doesn’t need more hope, more understanding, more reconciliation?
We began our service this morning singing about “The Sweet June Days,” and these days I’m finding myself particularly struck by beauty of this season—stopped in my tracks by the sight of a flower or the song of a bird or the warm light of summer. Perhaps it’s because I’m also struck, these days, by a heightened awareness of all the pain and suffering in our world. The other night, my heart was heavy with the stories of those children and parents arrested and separated at our southern border. I sat alone for a while and tried to just hold that pain and that sadness, and not turn away from that suffering.
It has been such a joy and a blessing for me to be singing with our choir these past few months. It feels my soul. A few weeks ago, Lisa introduced us to the piece we just sang, and I loved it’s invitation, in the midst of pain and strife, to let peace flow down like rain.
A couple of weeks ago I was in the car, listening to a conversation on the radio about the trouble at our Southern border, where people fleeing violence and poverty, some of them having walked over a thousand miles, are trying to get into this county. And our government’s response is this new policy of separating children from their parents, in a effort to discourage them from trying to come here at all. One of the people on the radio asked, “Where are the faith communities?” And I said back, “We’re coming!”
I come from a family of happy criers. We trace it back to my Grandpa Bobby, who used to just gaze across the lunch table at my Grandma Lou, tears streaming down his face. It seems that I, too, have recently joined this club, and I really love my newfound ability to just weep with joy when the time is right. I love how in-the-moment it lets me be and how connected it helps me feel to the Mystery.
Every now and then, we don’t invite you to come forward and light candles of joy and sorrow in our prayer time. Instead, we ask you to speak aloud the names of people and the things you’re praying for, and thinking of, and grateful for, from where you’re sitting. Sometimes, like today, we do this because of timing—with the Veggie Cafe and our annual meeting today, it would be good for the service to end sooner rather than later, and with spoken candles, you never know how long that can take.
But have you noticed, that when we invite you to say aloud your joys and what you’re grateful for, there are fewer of these than when you name sorrows and concerns?
Our worship theme this month is transcendence. Early on, Josh Goulet preached about the transcendent as that which is beyond our ability to adequately name or describe, but still, available to people across the theological spectrum. Last Sunday Jason Shelton shared with us the transcendent power that comes through music and singing. Today I’m thinking about our Transcendentalist forebears, those women and men who, in the early 19th century, broke from what they saw as the stodgy religion of their day, encouraging people to trust their own experiences and find the Holy not just in church, but in their lives, and out in the world.
Sermon given by Rev. Jason Shelton, May 20, 2018
Can you remember a time when something happened that changed your perception of things? When your eyes were opened, and you saw with a deeper understanding or more nuance or greater clarity? Maybe it was one Sunday here, when you realized, “Hey, church can be uplifting and even fun!” Maybe it was in a relationship, with someone who’s always bugged you, but something shifted that helped you to see them as worthy of your care and respect. Maybe it was something that caused you to see the world in a whole different way, that caused you to start redrawing your map.