We Are All Just Walking Each Other Home

We are all just walking each other home,”  Ram Dass [2]

This pathway and vista off into the distance offer an image of the Pilgrimage of Compostela, which in English is the Way of St James.    A network of paths or pilgrim ways leads to the shine of the Apostle St. James the Great, in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.    Along with Jerusalem and Rome, the route along the Camino de Santiago is known as one of the three great pilgrimages of Christendom.

Wrote the spiritual teacher and author, Ram Dass, “We are all just walking each other home.”   While all of us are on a spiritual journey, Dass perceived that each of us (whether consciously or not) is on a path leading us back to our source.   Wrote another, “Even if you do not believe in life as a spiritual journey or take solace in the notion of an afterlife, the concept of walking each other home is important.   It’s what holds us together.” [3]

Emerging from the isolation of a two-plus-year pandemic, compounded by economic uncertainty, political unrest, unleashed aggression, and the unraveling of our planetary home, is it possible to hold one’s self together?  Or, as evidenced by the centuries-old practice of pilgrimage and communicated by spiritual teachers, writers, and poets, we’re not meant to take all this in alone.   What if instead, despite the brevity of our lives and the frailty of creation, we’re summoned to accompany each other on life’s way, bringing out the best in one another while doing all that we can in the time given us?

Prayer: Divine Maker, In the wake of so much loneliness and despair, open our eyes to see others on the road before, alongside, and behind us.    Teach us that holiness (wholeness) was never intended a private, super-religious affair but one that asks that we look to the welfare of the other….wherever on the journey they may be.  Remind us, that we are all just walking each other home.   We ask this in all the holy names of God.  Amen.

[1]  Photo courtesy of Patrick Mills.  The photo was taken on June 5, 2017, near O Pino, Spain on the Camino de Santiago.

[2] Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush, Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying, September 2018

[3] Carol Cassandra, https://sixtyandme.com/how-life-is-a-journey-of-just-walking-each-other-home/, adapted

Seeking Refuge: A Reflection & Prayer for the Peoples of Ukraine

 

“In scenes reminiscent of the Blitz, adults, children, and dogs hide from airstrikes, seeking refuge in bomb shelters and subway stations.” [2]

During World War II, an intense bombing campaign was waged against the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany.    For eight months, the Luftwaffe dropped bombs on London and other strategic cities across Britain, from September 7, 1940, through May 11, 1941.    Remembered as Black Saturday, on the first day of the Blitz alone, 430 people were killed and 1,600 were badly injured.

Wrote organizer, educator, and reformer, Saint Boniface, “O God, you have been our refuge in all generations.”  But what of those fleeing war’s aggression?  Or for those unable to take flight from the encroaching chaos and mayhem?    When wanton cruelty and its destructiveness encroach upon and violate the land, what recourse does the most vulnerable, human and creature alike, have?

Martyred in 754 by an armed group of robbers, the aged Boniface was murdered along with 54 others who accompanied him.     Still, his words attesting to God’s faithfulness in the face of aggression and terror remain: urging us to continue to demand justice and mercy for the oppressed, exercise unfailing advocacy for those distant as well as near, while praying that all of God’s children and creation itself, be afforded refuge’s blessing.

Prayer: God who dwells in places of refuge, be with the peoples of Ukraine, we pray.    Yet for those not in destruction’s path, compel us to be nothing less than fierce advocates and champions of the oppressed.   So that together with those distant and near, all may savor your refuge, under the shadow of thy wings and within the hallowed gates of sanctuary.   Amen.

[1] Image from Daily Mail Online

[2] Adapted from CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, Clarrisa Ward

As a Fragrance That Infuses Our Senses

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet
sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” [1]

There is no rationale for forgiveness.
It violates every norm of self-justification.
Eludes retribution.
Levels knee-jerk responses.

Hollowing out preconceived ideas of right and wrong,
it challenges exaggeration,
dispenses with easy answers,
daring to move into dimensions of ourselves we’d prefer to forget.

Forgiveness neither insists on its own way
nor does it condemn the path that others choose to take.
Instead, it creates what may not have existed previously:
the willingness to let go of grudges’ satisfaction
while knowing that what you’re undertaking may not be understood.

Yet you are not left empty-handed.
Nor does the bereavement that had held you tight in its clasp last.
Rather, having chosen a different way and
a new frame of reference…

A spaciousness emerges,
and the violet within that had given up its fragrance,
now flourishes, infusing your senses.
And what had been only loss and even humiliation,
can become a place of freedom and newfound joy.

[1] Mark Twain

Gathering Prayer for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Mark 5:21-43

Gathering Prayer: You who take us from the shores of Galilee to the byways, zoom sessions, and the post-vaccinated sphere of common life, we praise your name.   Though relying heavily on electronic communication and physically separated from loved ones these past sixteen months, You, in your majesty, You, in your glory, invite us to stand in the light of your countenance.   Even when overcome by the darkness and uncertainty of it all, You, in your audacious love assure us, saying, “Do not fear,” and “Go in Peace”

God of all Solidarity, during this worship hour, we beseech you to open our hearts and minds to hear your word of restoration and hope, so that by your grace, we may be empowered to live out a new story.

Giving thanks that You staunchly refuse to give up on us, let us pray as Jesus taught us saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

When saying “yes” changes everything…

Divine Interuper, what were you thinking? Surely you knew that having Gabriel show up unannounced and speak openly to an unchaperoned fifteen year old girl would place her at risk? You knew, did you not, that she was already betrothed to another? You knew that the society Mary inhabited was rigidly patriarchal and would never tolerate any deviation from this norm.

Yet when Gabriel informs her that she will be impregnated outside of the only acceptable option at the time, she responds by saying, “I am a servant of the Lord,” But then this is what sets her words apart. Given a frightfully risky endeavor, a ‘mission impossible’ nevertheless, she consents. “May your word to me be fulfilled,” she then adds.

Have you ever regretted saying, ‘no?’ Have you wondered if your life would have take a different path if you had not clung so closely to the expectations of others and yourself? Have you pondered what it may have been like, if you took that ‘leap of faith’ and in spite of everything put your trust in God?

Advent Prayer-December 13

Holy One, we are a people mired in the land of mourning. Not merely hundreds or hundreds of thousands have perished, but almost two million globally. Many, who only weeks or months ago were making plans for the morrow, were consumed by a predator virus that shows no sign of abating. Fear has overtaken us, invading our waking hours and haunting our dreams.

Yet you have promised your people beauty instead of ashes, the balm of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of stumbling and faint spirits. In reclaiming those who are bent down with grief, torn asunder by fear, consumed by anxiety – you transform weary souls into mighty oaks of rightfulness. You do this, so that all may see this as revelation of your radiance.

So in your mercy, in your steadfast love where the fullness of grace in Christ Jesus abounds, deliver and restore us, we pray. So that through your Spirit, we may build up whole communities torn asunder by contagion, and raise up a people devastated by hatred and division. By your audacious Spirit, equip us once more to repair what was devastated and even ruined:

rundown urban centers and neglected national parks,

decimated reservation outposts and ravaged inner city neighborhoods,

struggling small towns and migratory farmhands,

fragments of civil discourse and frayed legislative bodies,

vacant seats at the dinner table and traumatized families,

overrun hospital wards and exhausted care providers.

In this Season of Advent, hear our prayer, O God. In your mercy, let your light once again shine in our darkness. In your steadfast love, let your garland of gladness brighten our days. Amen.

From Isaiah 61:3-4, “…to provide for those who mourn…to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

And they shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
” Isaiah 61

Mercy and truth have met…

“Mercy and truth have met; justice and peace have kissed.” Psalm 85:10

Mercy. Truth. Justice. Peace.

Mercy, as in showing compassion when it is within your power to punish.

Truth, as in what is genuinely based in reality.

Justice, as in righteousness or moral rightness.

Peace, as in Shalom, signifying completeness, wholeness and wellbeing.

Here mercy, truth, justice and peace not only belong together but as declared ty the psalmist, they meet and embrace.

In this Season of Advent but in the wake of an escalating pandemic, economic peril, perpetual chaos and disquieting uncertainty – if seemingly oppositional qualities of mercy AND truth, justice AND peace were brought together – what might that look like or be?

When reflecting on this, I kept fast forwarding from when this psalm was written to the time of the Gospel of John’s composition, centuries later. This particular Gospel does not open quietly. If anything, the writer begins by making an audacious if not thunderous claim, unequivocally stating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In other words, if you and I sought to come up with one element of speech or writing that would be the culmination of all that is merciful, all that is true, all that is just and all that is peaceable – it would be this singular WORD.

“The Word became flesh,” wrote John’s author and then added a few verses later, “…from his fullness we have received grace upon grace.” Perhaps even as we long for the coming of the Beloved One of God – we will discover rest in the singularity of this wondrous WORD that became flesh and dwelt amongst us. That through his fullness, we can at last taste the unfathomable riches of mercy, the assurance of truth, the equimity of justice and the sweet splendor of peace.

May it be so.

[1] Image from Crosswalknapa.org

Awaken Us, a prayer…

A Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent

Advent One, awaken us from our self-induced slumber, we pray.  Numb from uncertainty and isolation, our senses have dulled. We confess it is easier to nurse diminished hope, than respond to the suffering of our neighbors, or the hurt lodged deeply within.

Yet we know that just as you came before, you will come again.  You who seek to awaken our innermost self. You who come to us in the inconspicuous, the marginalized and the forgotten. You who know our fear of being released from this numbness. Yet in love you urge us on, saying, “My children, keep awake!”

So, God of All Awakening, in your mercy awaken us, we pray. Rouse us from this deadened slumber. Sharpen our senses and set us on our feet. For we want to prepared when we see you – be it in glory or in the least of these.  

So we may be counted, as blessed, once more. Amen.

[1] Image from Kekovacs.blogspot.com

[2] Based on The Gospel of Mark 13:37, “And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

A Thanksgiving Prayer for the Weary

Grateful for this sheltered place
With light in every window
Saying, “Welcome, welcome, share this feast
Come in away from sorrow”

from the Thanksgiving Song, by Mary Chapin Carpenter

As we continue to shelter in place, O God, will we ever be able to sing your praises?   Will these anxious hearts weary and heavy from sorrow be lifted?   Can Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas even be celebrated this year, when we’re separated from those we love?  

Before you and you alone, we acknowledge these painful uncertainties.   Loss of employment, housing and health, are ravaged further by inequality.   Loved ones lost are unable be mourned.   Events that once sustained us have been put aside.   Deep divisions and threats to our democracy persist.   Our planet and her peoples crumble under the weight of injustice and exploitation.

So, we cry out, when will we be able to throw our doors wide open, O Lord?   When will lighted windows signify the sharing of the feast?  When will the Thanksgiving Song be joyfully lifted up even as we clasp hands with others?

Yet you remind us that you are always in the face of the least of these.   You come as the ignored, the marginalized and the hungry.   Yours is the face lined with sorrow.  Yours are the eyes who have seen too much.   You come as the one who is incarcerated, the one who is sick but without adequate health-care, the one who stands outside a food bank wondering if there will be enough.

Great Redeemer, in our searching and longing for you, be with us in the light of your countenance and shine through the windows of our hearts.   Let your welcoming affirmation accompany us when we bring food to the shelter, make a phone call to the lonely and write a message of cheer to the imprisoned.  So that all your children – through your unfathomable grace – may come away from sorrow, seeing one another not as strangers, but as long-lost brothers and sisters who together share in the feast of gladness.   May it be so.  Amen.

[1] Photo image from Goodfon.com

Darkness Has Lifted…

Comfort thru Creation - God of All Comfort

“If I say [in my despair], ‘Surely this darkness shall engulf me and what remains of light will become as night,’ even gloom’s obscurity is no match for you; for its darkness is as light to you.”  Psalm 139:11-12, paraphrased

It has been said that the late Howard Thurman, black activist, theologian and Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University turned daily to Psalm 139 during the course of his lifetime.   What was it about these words that kept this theologian and activist going?   And what advice would he give us in the wake of a joyful, historic and momentous victory – yes – but knowing full well that we face a challenging and hazardous road ahead?I

Injustice and weariness were not unknown to Thurman.  He witnessed firsthand depravity’s cruelty and was no stranger to the viciousness inflicted on the marginalized and most vulnerable.  Yet it was because of these things, that he could unwaveringly make the case for God’s proximity even when feeling acutely alone.  Indeed, he was convinced that grief, heartache and being cast into utter darkness – especially for those in the trenches and on the frontlines of seeking justice –  will not or cannot diminish this intimate connection with the transcendent One.   

Such was this daily practice that sustained him through the years.   Thurman’s legacy radically affirms God’s proximity whenever any of us finds ourselves in the throes of darkness.  A darkness that is lifted whenever we turn to the psalmist’s profound and undefeated words, day after day, month and after month and year after year. 

[1] image from http://stephintaize.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

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