There’s been a lot of news about what happens when an airline overbooks a flight or needs to get a crew member from one place to another on a full flight. There have been videos of people being pulled off of planes. But what about when we ‘overbook’ our own selves – scheduling ourselves to be in two places at the same time?
After being invited to speak at the Yale University Institute for Sacred Music’s Congregations Project this summer, I excitedly scheduled my flight to LaGuardia at the same time I am supposed to be at our church staff picnic in beautiful Tower Grove Park in St. Louis.
I’ve spent all evening last night berating myself for being so careless and not paying attention to my calendar. While not as violent as what we’ve seen in the news lately, I realize this morning that I’ve been doing violence to my soul by haranguing myself all evening and again this morning. And so I sit, in stillness, and try to offer myself grace. I breathe deep and exhale all the anxiousness I can. I light a candle and remind myself that, I too, am loved, just as I am… just as I am.
Yesterday I preached on one of my favorite passages of Scripture, the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24. I used this passage for my first major public act of ministry, giving the closing talk at a student retreat at Seattle University. At the time I thought I was on my way to becoming a Jesuit, so ‘preaching’ at a student retreat was a big deal. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and look back fondly at my first ‘sermon’.
In the Luke story, I love that the two travelers, unaware, invited Jesus to join them for a meal. This morning I find myself still wondering about the emphasis of the church being wrong with regard to the Lord’s Supper. Throughout the Christian tradition, a lot of energy has been placed upon ‘the bread’ and what becomes of it. Is it ‘the Body of Christ’ – literally, spiritually, figuratively, all of thee above? I’m still sitting with and wondering about what might have been in the church if the emphasis had been on the meal or the rather than the bread. I wonder what church would be like if we focused on the compassionate act of welcoming and feeding the hungry rather than what happens to the bread.
In the Easter story as told in the Gospel of John (20:1-18) there is a lot of running around. Mary runs to find the disciples, the disciples run to the tomb, then they run home – run, run, run. And it is precisely due to their running around that the disciples miss the opportunity to meet the risen Jesus.
The story pivots (this word now makes me cringe due to its use in politics) at verse 11, “But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping.” In the midst of all the running, Mary stopped running and stood still.
In my version of the Bible, I would have translated verse 11 as: And yet, (in spite of all the running around) Mary stood firm outside the tomb. She was weeping. I’m convinced we will never be found by God if all we do is run around. Like Mary, we need to learn to stop running and stand firm – even, or especially, in the places of death – in order to hear our named called by the Unrecognized One.
The celebration of Easter (which was spectacular with choir and brass) often seems so out of character with the Biblical story we read. Much of the reading from the Gospel of John (20:1-18) is filled with intriguing elements that seem counter to the joy we experience in worship. While Mary does get to meet the risen Jesus and witness to the disciples: “I have seen the Lord,” much of what builds to those dominant moments is worth a contemplative consideration.
The story begins at my favorite part of the day “…while it was still dark.” I write this, latte nearby, while it is still dark. I’m convinced the Spirit whispers much more often in the darkness of the early morning (at least to me).
While I was at a conference on the Sabbath, I learned that according to the people of the Jewish faith, the day begins at sundown. (I probably learned this in seminary but promptly forgot.) One of our first acts of the new day is to go to bed and sleep. This means that the period of darkness early in the morning is actually the midpoint of the day. The latency of the day, building throughout the darkness of the night, is now ready to emerge in the light of day.
I believe that because Mary is up and attentive while “…it was still dark…,” that she has a contemplative bent. She is someone attuned to the whispers of the Spirit. She obviously did not know what was about to unfold, but she was receptive and present and courageous enough to not run away like Peter and the beloved disciple. Rather than the darkness scaring her, she had learned to befriend the darkness. She would never have seen Jesus otherwise and we wouldn’t be celebrating Easter the way we do.