Inspiration 2018-12-15

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” — Luke 1:30-33 (NIV)
Food for Thought: All Things New, November 28, 2018

Food for Thought: All Things New, November 28, 2018

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Video Link:  Here is a link to the video that goes with this discussion.  It is the first video on the page.   https://cac.org/faculty-advent-messages/

Behold, I make all things new. —Revelation 21:5

As I’ve recently faced my own mortality through cancer once again, I’ve been comforted by others who have experienced loss and aging with fearless grace. Over the next few days I’ll share some of their thoughts. Today, join me in reflecting on this passage from Quaker teacher and author Parker Palmer’s new book, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old.

I’m a professional melancholic, and for years my delight in the autumn color show quickly morphed into sadness as I watched the beauty die. Focused on the browning of summer’s green growth, I allowed the prospect of death to eclipse all that’s life-giving about the fall and its sensuous delights.

Then I began to understand a simple fact: all the “falling” that’s going on out there is full of promise. Seeds are being planted and leaves are being composted as earth prepares for yet another uprising of green.

Today, as I weather the late autumn of my own life, I find nature a trustworthy guide. It’s easy to fixate on everything that goes to the ground as time goes by: the disintegration of a relationship, the disappearance of good work well done, the diminishment of a sense of purpose and meaning. But as I’ve come to understand that life “composts” and “seeds” us as autumn does the earth, I’ve seen how possibility gets planted in us even in the hardest of times.

Looking back, I see how the job I lost pushed me to find work that was mine to do, how the “Road Closed” sign turned me toward terrain that I’m glad I traveled, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to find new sources of meaning. In each of these experiences, it felt as though something was dying, and so it was. Yet deep down, amid all the falling, the seeds of new life were always being silently and lavishly sown. . . .

Perhaps death possesses a grace that we who fear dying, who find it ugly and even obscene, cannot see. How shall we understand nature’s testimony that dying itself—as devastating as we know it can be—contains the hope of a certain beauty?

The closest I’ve ever come to answering that question begins with these words from Thomas Merton, . . . “There is in all visible things . . . a hidden wholeness.” [1]

In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight. Diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites: they are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.” In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other—they cohabit and co-create in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, just as our well-being depends on breathing in and breathing out. . . .

When I give myself over to organic reality—to the endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising—the life I am given is as real and colorful, fruitful and whole as this graced and graceful world and the seasonal cycles that make it so. Though I still grieve as beauty goes to ground, autumn reminds me to celebrate the primal power that is forever making all things new in me, in us, and in the natural world.

Advent, Femininity, Rebirth, and listening to each other 

VIDEO: Questions and discussion

 I grew up in a Christian tradition that provided subtle whispers (or sometimes outright declaration) that the veneration of Mary was “idolatry” and to be avoided at all costs. What might be lost when these feminine expressions of the Divine are suppressed?

 

Mary, the “mother of contemplatives” (she pondered these things in her heart)—Is it fitting, perhaps, that the art of contemplation be nurtured by a mother figure?

This “richly feminine and gentle time of annunciation, gestation, and child-birthing”—how much of your experience with spirituality has been “richly feminine and gentle”?

How do poets say things better than theologians? Do you have any examples to share?

”God waited”—for her “yes”, her consent

“co-creators”—How does Mary’s fused “compassionate and intelligent” yes come in to our lives and hearts during Advent or at any other time?

What are you willing to say “yes” to? In prayer? In new modes of worship or understanding?

Does it help to know that God waited, and did not move without consent?

 

Seeds of Rebirth:             Birthing is decidedly feminine. The bible talks of a God with a womb.

How are fall and winter anticipation of rebirth?

Is it significant that the birth we celebrate as Christians is in the dead of winter?

Can the core ideas of a faith reach outside of that faith and inspire and/or include those of other persuasions? Where do we find the ideas of rebirth and renewal outside of Christianity?

 

A professional melancholic—I had to laugh at myself when I read this in Richard’s meditation. I am thankful that the Psalms are predominantly “laments” (turn on those sad songs!). The “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart” people were always difficult for me to handle.

 

READ:  All Things Newa meditation that came at the perfect time (back of this page)

 

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