Preparing for Lent

In Christian Meditation or what is also called Centering Prayer, we rest in what I think of as alert relaxation. The mind, of course, is always buzzing with plans for the future or worries about the past. The mind loves to be in control and it can be tiring trying to keep up with it. However, in meditation, it is possible to become aware of the mind’s wanderings and gently bring it back to the present with a simple mantra. Yes, the mind will soon be off and running again, but again, we say the mantra and gently bring it back, much like the movement of a gentle wave. The mantra I generally use is peace. I envision returning to peace. It is only in the present moment when we can experience the peace of Christ. Despite what the mind tries to tell us, we have only this present moment, and this moment is all that is needed to experience God.

Many cultures and traditions practice meditation, including our secular society. What sets Christian meditation apart is our intention to make room for Christ in our lives and in our hearts. In our time of meditation, we simply sit with God and one another. Over time, we find we can carry that Presence into all aspects of our lives, relationships, and in our work. This Lenten season I invite you to join me for meditation via Zoom. In our time together we will start with a short reading to help focus our intention. We will then sit for no more than twenty minutes, and conclude with a few minutes of discussion and spoken prayer. I am envisioning that we will be together for about an hour. If you are considering joining me, please let me know what days and times may be best for you. Do you prefer afternoon or evenings? I am not adverse to holding two sessions a week, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, if there is interest. Also, please consider inviting those not part of our community to join us. Since we begin anew in every session, those unexperienced in meditation as well as the experienced are welcome.

Questions? Just let me know. I look forward to sitting with you.

Love and Blessings

,Rev. Sue Ann

God is a mystery and our own life is a mystery. In the presence of mystery what we must do is let the mystery be. Allow the mystery the fullness of its own being. Allow it to reveal itself. When we meditate that is exactly what we do. We allow God to be God. We allow ourselves to be in [God’s] presence. That is the extraordinary power of it.
Moment of Christ (copyright 1984, page 62), Father John Main, OSB

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Take a Moment

There is so much going on. Fires, Covid-19, racial inequality, economic disparity, 9/11 rememberances. It is hard to know where to begin with our prayers. However, I did find this prayer in a sweet book entitled “When I Talk To You, a Cartoonist Talks to God” by Michael Leunig. I know we want to rush through these difficult times, however that may not be what God has in store for us. Let us be willing to walk the slow walk, learning as we go. Let us pay attention to one another. May this be a calming meditation for us all.

“Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build a highway and in so doing we have lost our footpath. God, lead us to our footpath; lead us where step by step we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts. And lead us where side by side we feel the embrace of the common soul. Nothing can be loved at speed. God, lead us to another way of being.”

Let us continue to try to walk the path of following Christ together.

Rev. Sue Ann

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In The Times

Let us pray for all who are on the move from the fires: humans and all the creatures of the land, sea, and the air. Let us pray for those who are fighting these fires and their families who are keeping vigil.

Holy One, We pray your mantle of peace and protection will surround all of those who work in harm’s way, who are injured, sick, afraid, or worried about their home. Help us to know how to reach out. Thank you for keeping watch on us all. We lift these beautiful words from Psalm 139 to you:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139:7-12

We pray for Tanya and her home. We pray for the school children and their families. We pray for one another. We pray for peace in our nation and the world.

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Good Vision

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”*

 I woke Tuesday morning with this refrain running through my mind. I was grateful for two reasons. First of all, I love this hymn. Secondly, I went to bed the night before with the question, “What can I write about this week?” Emboldened by this hymn’s words, I shall plunge into this week’s meditation.
I chose the word plunge intentionally. This week’s Gospel lesson comes from Matthew 14:22-33, the story of Jesus walking on water. It is also Peter’s story. He sees Jesus on the water, and he decides he wants to give it a go. He does pretty well until he takes his eyes off Jesus. He then starts to look around and begins to note the choppy waters, the wind, and the pre-dawn darkness. In that moment, he becomes aware that he is out of his depth, and he begins to sink. Jesus is right there, and as he extends a helping hand, he asks, “Why did you doubt?” We do not hear Peter’s answer, but I think we know what happened. He forgot to believe that he could do such a thing. He forgot to keep his eyes on Jesus.
There is much fear and worry in our world right now, and I do not think any of us are immune to that sinking feeling that this pandemic can bring. Yet, when we risk being swamped by our worries, we can look for Jesus among us. In an answer to prayer. In the reminder to breathe and keep going. In the voice of a friend or loved one who tells us we are not alone.
I have always believed that when Jesus asked Peter about his doubt, he did so lovingly. That, to me, is the grace offered to all of us. Like Peter, let us hear the invitation to step out of our unsteady boat into the unknown. Let us know that Christ will be there, guiding us and extending a gentle, loving hand. We will never be asked to go without Christ. Never. Let us turn and see this beautiful truth for ourselves.

See you Sunday,

Rev. Sue Ann  

*From the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” (also known as “Heavenly Vision”) written by Helen Howarth Lemmel in 1922.

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Time to Celebrate

The photograph of our building is out of date, but I have always loved this picture. I like the fact that the most notable word is “Celebration.” These days, when we watch, read or listen to the news, much of what we are receiving is serious. Very serious. It seems that being able to celebrate is a long way off.

However, God’s love is always with us, and that can be celebrated. We have been given the gift of the Living Christ and we have been given the gift of Scripture. We have been given the gift of prayer. We can celebrate the gift of one another. These are blessings we can count and more importantly, take part in every day. We even have been given the gift of Zoom. I know all too well that Zoom can be frustrating. Yet, every Sunday afternoon when I can see the faces of those who gather, I give thanks. Our prayers and conversations inspire me to embrace and celebrate my own struggles. God has given us the gift of community. Let us not take that for granted. Let us count our blessings.

See you Sunday,

Rev. Sue Ann

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I have been pondering the Rule of St. Benedict, and I hope I will be saying that for the rest of my life. In the preface of the 1980 translation of the Rule, Rev. Timothy Fry, OSB writes: “In the unsettled, strife-torn Italy of the sixth century, Benedict’s Rule offered definitive direction and established an ordered way of life that gave security and stability. He sought to ‘lay down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome,’ but was intent on encouraging the person entering the monastery.”

We all know people who delight in passing on bad news, often without even checking to see if that news is true. The first word of the Rule is “Listen.” This practice is important for us to heed. We can pause ask ourselves: “What is the source of our news? Will it actually be helpful for me to share this? Will the sharing actually be of encouragement to others?” We then listen for the answer to surface. Sometimes what we will hear is a quiet “No.”Let us always tend to one another with care. Within each of us is a beautiful pearl of great price. We will hear about this pearl on Sunday as we read, and hopefully listen to parts of Matthew 13. It is my belief that pearl is our very soul. This beautiful pearl is the light that we should not bury, but rather let it shine. There is nothing more valuable than the Christ within each soul.

May you dedicate some listening time to God today and always,

Rev. Sue Ann

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A Thought for These Times

“This much I have learned:

within the sorrow there is grace.

When we come close

to the things that break us down,

we touch those things that also break us open.

This is the healing point:

when we have told the story,

we can leave the story behind.

What remins is hidden wholeness,

alive and unbroken…”

Wayne Muller, How Then, Shall We Live

as published in Thin Places, Year Twenty-One, Issue 4

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Crossing the Threshold

This morning when I checked my emails, I found several from a south bay environmental group that I had completely forgotten about.  The string of messages began with a member expressing hope, in one simple sentence, that the group would start meeting again.  Another suggested contacting a particular church to see if they might have meeting space available.  A third member wrote that while she was in favor of the group reconvening, she preferred to leave religious institutions out of it.  She did not want to risk putting people off.  She further explained that not everyone, including herself is Christian, and despite the fact that she could hang out with Christians, she did not want the group risk becoming a Christian group.

I deleted the email string, but shortly retrieved it. I could not help but respond in the spirit of trying to remind everyone that all sorts of groups, both Christian and non-Christian meet in church buildings, and I encouraged them to investigate the church mentioned, as well as New Community of Faith.  I also added that everyone should try to come together over our pressing environmental issues.  While no one responded directly to my email, several of the postings that followed left me pondering how we can be good neighbors in this time of such diversity.

I did find it interesting that in one of the later emails, what surfaced is that the first church mentioned is actually pondering some important questions about how to turn their lawn into gardens, and then donating the produce to various agencies trying to address hunger issues in the south bay.   Maybe if that information had come out sooner, a few emails, including some that were a bit troubling, could have been avoided.  However, this string of messages has reminded me how critical it is to try to remain open to one another.  I will never believe that walling ourselves off in separate camps will prove to be a viable solution.  Most of us simply live in too close proximity to one another. We need one another. Some Christians do put people off – I am sure I have.  However, most of us are simply trying to learn how best to live in community, serve God, tend to the earth, and serve the living body of Christ on earth today.  Numerous people of other faiths or no faith are trying to do the same thing, but may use different words.  That is okay.  Let’s just remember that we are all trying to find our way, and we all have work to do.  And part of that work is learning to do it together.

I leave you with a poem I received through a colleague’s newsletter:

God Hunger by Michael Ryan

When the immutable accidents of birth–
parentage, hometown, all the rest–
no longer anchor this fiction of the self
and its incessant I me mine,
then words won’t be like nerves in a stump
crackling with messages that end up nowhere,
and I’ll put on the wind like a gown of light linen
and go be a king in a field of weeds.  

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Searching for Sanctuary

From our good friend, Rev. Evelyn Vigil.   Good to ponder in the midst of our Fourth of July celebrations.

Here is a short meditation for my church on all the sorrow around the church shooting in Charleston. No place to rest in this world.

July 1, 2015


Rev. Evelyn Vigil

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;

but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20 NRSV)
A recent report said there are more refugees on the seas, on the highways, crossing the deserts than ever before, and they are finding no place to lay their heads. Turkey has taken in more than 1 million Syrian refugees; Australia is paying smugglers to return their human cargo to the place they picked them up; and we are spending millions of dollars locking up women and children who headed north to escape the drug violence created by our hunger for heroin and cocaine.

The world keeps turning as human beings seek safety, a better life, and sanctuary for themselves and the people they love. And they find no place of peace, it seems.

The shooting in Charleston, S.C., of nine black men and women in prayer meeting shocked me because it took place in the sanctuary, the place where we live our lives in common. We marry in church sanctuaries; we baptize babies in church sanctuaries; we remember our dead in church sanctuaries; and we pray, sing and worship God in church sanctuaries.

I remember a Jewish friend of mine who told me she learned early that no matter where she traveled, she could always find a home at the synagogue in that town. I would like to think that we are the same way. A church should provide us sanctuary, a place to rest from the business of the world, giving us time and quiet to remember what really counts in our lives. For too many people, though, churches have proven unsafe, because they were gay or divorced or poor or any of the ways we discriminate.

For black people in our nation, church sanctuaries are rarely as safe as we would hope. They have been bombed, burned and threatened as long as white men are afraid of losing whatever privilege they think they hold because of the color of their skin.
News reports moved quickly to link the suspected shooter at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church with white supremacist groups, where he probably found meaning for his life that seems so aimless until last week. His father bought him the gun for his birthday. My mother did the same with us. I understand that culture, but I cannot live it because it believes guns can level the playing field and keep us safe. The family of the shooter believed that myth, not realizing how powerful a gun can make a powerless person feel.

Because of the easy access to guns and the sense of power they provide, there is no safe place in this world, not really. Our safety is with the love we show each other and with God’s love and care for each of us. Emanuel A.M.E. Church reopened with a worship service because, in our words, “God is still speaking” and we must listen.

People are still moving, still looking for a place to call their own, still hoping for places of peace and respect and love, still seeking sanctuary. Some people think stronger doors, more security, bigger guns, and tougher treatment of other human beings will bring us peace. That path of fear has been trod again and again and found wanting, because in all that confusion and pain and sorrow, we are called to remember the words of Hebrews 13:2 (NRSV): Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
May it ever be so.

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Psalm 17

Psalms for Praying 
Nan C. Merrill 
Open my heart that compassion may
be my companion; 
Where I meet pride, humble me,
Where I meet anger, calm my fears; 
Where I meet injustice, cause me
to act in love’s way.  
For I shall behold your face 
in Truth,
when I am fully awake,
I shall dwell in the house 
of love and peace and joy!   
I think I am beginning to see why the ancient monks used to write out the psalms, and lovingly embellish them with drawings and color; why they they would recite them day in and day out. In the book, Care for Creation, Ilia Delio, Keith Douglass Warner, and Pamela Wood write, “In the early church those who went out into the desert to live the gospel life lived in profound silence so that when words were spoken they could be readily received as actions in their lives.  For the desert fathers [and mothers] the Word of God carried authority and burst forth into events of revelatory power(10).”   As election fervor gathers momentum, we will be hearing far too many words. How to live love in the onslaught of words too often spoken to distract, cajole, ridicule and even mislead? The psalms may indeed help us. 
May we all be open to hearing God’s revelatory word today. 
Psalm 17 (Open my heart)  
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